[EXCLUSIVE] Monte Carlo Tournament Director Franulovic To Step Down After 18 Years - UBITENNIS
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[EXCLUSIVE] Monte Carlo Tournament Director Franulovic To Step Down After 18 Years

Zeljko Franulovic’s career from player to ATP Tournaments Representative to Tournament Director in Monte Carlo. The two main contenders for the vacant position

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Zeljko Franulovic - Monte Carlo 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

On Sunday morning, during the traditional end-of-tournament press conference at the end of this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, it will become public that Zeljko Franulovic will step down as Tournament Director, a position he has held since 2005. During his days as a professional tennis player, Franulovic won the Monte-Carlo Open in 1970 when he defeated in the final Manolo Orantes 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and he was still playing under the Yugoslavian flag – he is from Split, Croatia, although he was born on the island of Korčula.

 

Born in 1947, Franulovic, who will turn 75 next June, has been the Tournament Director in Monte Carlo since 2005, when the tournament was won by Rafael Nadal for the first of his 11 triumphs in the Principality. His best ranking was n. 6, but it would have been higher had the ATP ranking existed before August 1973, because he obtained his best result prior to the introduction of the computerized ranking. In particular, he was a finalist at Roland Garros in 1970 when he lost to Jan Kodes, and during the same year, he also won the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires defeating in the final the favorite of the draw Ilie Nastase.

Roland Garros was certainly his most successful Major, mainly thanks to how his slice backhand remained low on clay courts. He had already reached the quarterfinals in 1969 and would advance to the semifinal also in 1971, the year after the final he reached as an outsider since the first eight seeds of the tournament were Gimeno, Hoad, Taylor, Riessen, Pasarell, Meiler, Drysdale and Nastase. That year he defeated Bartlett, Eischenbrioch. Barthes, Phillips-Moore, Nastase (in 4 sets) and Orantes in the semifinals.

Franulovic is conversant in several languages: in addition to all the languages spoken in the Balkans, he is also fluent in Italian, French and English, and he speaks also a bit of German. He was Captain of the Croatian Davis Cup Team between 1994 and 1997. He also held the role of Representative for the European tournaments on the ATP Board of Directors, where he served between 2007 and 2009.

I happened to play against him a couple of times in doubles: he was playing with Boro Jovanovic (born in 1939) while I was coupled with Beppino Bonardi at the two international tournaments in Florence and Viareggio, Italy where we crossed paths. During our first match, Bonardi and I were leading 4-1 in the deciding set, but we ended up losing. Jovanovic, originally from Zagreb, Croatia, had been a finalist at Wimbledon in 1962 when he had played with Niki Pilic. Franulovic and Jovanovic were obviously better players: maybe they had just underestimated us during our first match, but the second time around we had no chance.

The main candidates to replace Franulovic as Tournament Director in Monte Carlo are two English men with an ATP background. The first one is Chris Kermode, who was the Chairman of the ATP for six years before Andrea Gaudenzi took over at the beginning of 2020, and is now Vice Chairman of the Professional Triathletes Organization. The other candidate is David Massey, who is currently the Adjoint Director for the Monte Carlo Country Club and seems to be the slight favorite in the race because he has been living in Monaco for some time, he is married to a French lady with whom he has three children and he has an excellent personal relationship with Baroness Melanie de Massy, daughter to the late Baroness Elizabeth-Ann de Massy who has been President of the Monte Carlo Country Club and the Monegasque Tennis Federation for many years until her death on 10 June 2020.

 Of course, Melanie could have a great influence over the final decision. The Principality of Monaco is very close to the ATP, which has its European offices in Monte Carlo. However, even if the Principality would like to maintain its privileged relationship with the ATP, it would probably be inclined to maintain some kind of independence, and from this point of view Massey, who has been Vice President for Europe of the ATP between 2010 and 2019 would be a better candidate than Kermode, whose allegiance may appear more questionable, given his previous role within the men’s tour.

I spoke to Massey a few times in the past few days and I was favourably impressed by him: he attended the University of Bristol, England, for four years and he started his career at the ATP as an unpaid intern.

Kermode is more of a politician, and I don’t like politicians too much, especially when they take you for a ride with half-lies and half-truths in the attempt to convince you that pigs might fly. He became CEO and Chairman of the ATP in November 2013 following the untimely death of his predecessor Brad Drewett, who prematurely passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). On 7 March 2019, the ATP announced that Kermode’s contract would not be extended beyond the end of the year. An article from ESPN suggested this was the result of a “coup” orchestrated by Novak Djokovic. He had been a modest tennis player between 1985 and 1988 before becoming a coach and then being appointed Tournament Director at the Queen’s Club Championships. He was the Director of the ATP Finals in London between 2008 and 2014.

Despite being favoured by Federer and Nadal, Kermode was sidelined by the players led by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil who later founded the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA). Kermode admitted that “the creation of PTPA is the result of a lot of frustration. It often happens that Players Representatives in the ATP Council make proposals that are important for all the players, but tournaments do not agree and vote against the motion, with the result that nothing gets done. This gives the impression that players are not listened to, so they are using the word ‘independence’”.

During Kermode’s tenure, the ATP grew considerably from a financial standpoint: in 2014, his first year in charge, the total prize money for the Tour was slightly above $90 million; in 2018 it had increased to $139.4 million. However, he could benefit from a very favourable environment that his successor Gaudenzi did not find, as he had to deal with the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic after just a few months in the driving seat.

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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