Francisco Cerundolo: Rising Up Through The Ranks, Humility And The Sinner Role Model - UBITENNIS
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Francisco Cerundolo: Rising Up Through The Ranks, Humility And The Sinner Role Model

Jannik Sinner’s last opponent comes from an Argentine tennis-playing family whose career path began with modest beginnings and a model to be inspired by.

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by Matteo Beltrami, translated by Giulia Bosatra

Francisco Cerundolo and his brother Juan Manuel’s fairy tale begins far away in Buenos Aires and is one of those stories of ITF Futures and humbleness, much humbleness.

Their father Alejandro (known as Toto) who trains them both, had a tennis-playing history of his own in the 80s. After hanging up his boots, he trained Josè “Chucho” Acasuso who battled his way to the final of the 2001 Buenos Aires Open at 18 years of age; since then no other Argentine of such an young age has reached a final until Alejandro’s son Juan Manuel, at 19, secured a victory at the ATP Cordoba 20 years later.

As for Francisco, who was born in 1998 and is three years older than his brother, his moment of glory arrived in 2021 at his home town tournament, the ATP 250 Buenos Aires. He quite unexpectedly made it to the final after starting off in the qualifying rounds. Having systematically left Benoit Paire, Pablo Andujar and Albert Ramos by the wayside, he succumbed in the final to his fellow Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

To think that the story of these two brothers might have come to an end during the pandemic in 2020. They were confined in Buenos Aires and cooped up in their house with the rest of their family. Francisco didn’t give up, but went on training, struggling with wrist problems and a troublesome tendinitis in his leg. Then in August he ventured on a tour in Europe with Tomas Etcheverry who also spent a month in Italy. Reflecting on this time, Francisco remembers: “We didn’t know what else to do. We traveled to Italy and were quarantined in Arezzo before starting to compete. The journey was hard, we were nervous and plagued with doubt. A few months into the tour, however, we were more relaxed.”

According to their father it was Sinner, Francisco’s recent opponent in Miami, that triggered it all off for them. Sinner was a real source of inspiration for his boys: “He wasn’t that great as a junior; he’s one of the weirdest cases of recent years – Cerundolo Senior’s verdict – Time and again we’ve said: if he can do it, then so can we.” Now they’ve just come up against each other in the quarter finals of the American tour. 

En route to his match against Sinner, Cerundolo collected illustrious victims like Reilly Opelka, Gael Monfils and Frances Tiafoe. His game is less structured than his brother’s, who is happier on red clay; Francisco, as shown in his match against Tiafoe, is endowed with a good service and a solid baseline game, particularly with his forehand.

The Argentine avenged his younger brother, who in the third round had been knocked out by  Tiafoe; this time the North American lost his early lead and was defeated 6-7(2) 7-6 (3) 6-2. He also suffered from a back problem during the final stages of the match. 

Before the match, Jannik said of him: “I don’t know Cerundolo (Francisco) quite as well, we trained together at Indian Wells and here in Miami. And then, we are also quite good friends. We’ll see, it’ll be a tough match, a difficult one, and I’ll prepare as well as I can for this one too.”

On court things turned out very differently from expectations. Francisco was leading 4-1 in the first set with Sinner, when the Italian was forced to withdraw after just 23 minutes due to foot blisters.

“I didn’t know anything,” Francisco commented during his on-court interview. “When I was serving at 3-1, 30/0, I saw him [Sinner] bending down. It was really strange. I didn’t see anything wrong and I hope he is ok, he is a great player. My run here means a lot. It is everything I have dreamed of.”

Francisco, who will now to face Norway’s Casper Ruud in the semi-finals, has definitely nailed a series of excellent performances, reaching his first semi-finals of a 1000 ATP Masters. 

However it goes today, it will have been a great week for the twenty-three-year-old Argentine who’s been dreaming of making it to the top 50 in the world one day: for now, he’s already gained 52 places, hoisting himself up to number 51 in the ATP ranking. A run-up that started from the bottom.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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