Masters 1000: Madrid And Rome Will Increase Draw Size To 96 Players From 2023 - UBITENNIS
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Masters 1000: Madrid And Rome Will Increase Draw Size To 96 Players From 2023

Madrid and Rome will switch to the enlarged formula next year whereas Canada and Cincinnati will adapt this from 2024. Many other details have yet to be settled to define the calendar.

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Article was first posted on ubitennis.com – translated by Alice Nagni, Michele Brusadelli and Kingsley Kaye

There’s no doubt that Andrea Gaudenzi’s tenure as ATP-president has been one of the most tumultuous in tennis history so far: it began with the five-month interruption due to the pandemic, then he had to deal with the growing protests of the players on the prize money division and the creation (without too many consequences so far) of the PTPA. In January 2022 the Djokovic affair in Australia, then the “China problem” (the autumn tour is still in troubled waters despite being formally confirmed) and now the implications of the war in Ukraine with Wimbledon’s recent decision to ban Russians and Belarusians from the Championships.

Even the most hyperactive leader may feel overloaded. However, Gaudenzi’s main focus during this period has laid on the development and the implementation of his strategic plan to lay the foundations for building an increasingly sustainable tour in which players can finally get their fair share of the earnings. Masters 1000 profits can represent the backbone of the future sport sustainability.

The most significant change in Gaudenzi’s strategic plan is the extension of all Masters 1000 tournaments to 11-12 day joint tournaments with 96-player draws. The tournaments structured in this way, with their greater revenues, will be able to include a series of smaller events, from the ATP 500 to the ATP 250 and to the Challenger Series, so that they will be offered logistical support and allowing a reduction in expenses through economies of scope and scale.

Last October, during an interview to the Sports Business Journal, Gaudenzi confirmed that the strategic plan was already 70% approved and that only the final pieces were missing to move on to the operational phase of the project.

During the last tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, the ordinary meetings of the ATP executive were held as usual and, according to what Ubitennis has found out, they definitively approved the passage of most Masters 1000 to longer events with a 96-player draw. In particular, the Mutua Madrid Open and the Italian Open should start with the new format in the 2023 season, while the Canadian Open/Western&Southern Open in Cincinnati should switch to the extended draw only from 2024.

It is not clear, at the moment, how the calendar will be reorganised to allow for the expansion of these Masters 1000 tournaments, which in the case of the “Internazionali BNL” of Italy will also need to solve some logistical problems in order to provide support to the additional players (and most likely men and women) who will be arriving in Rome owing to the new extended draw.

Traditionally the back-to-back of the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open monopolises the entire month of March, with four weeks entirely dedicated to just two events. It has not yet been confirmed how the Madrid and Rome tournaments will be held, considering the new configuration: in the past years there was discussion, also at the ATP Board level, about the possibility of joining the two events in a “ying-yang” mode by compacting them into three weeks only and dividing the 23 days available (including the weekend before the start) between two tournaments of 11-12 days each. This would have involved playing the finals of the Madrid tournament on Wednesday, an option firmly opposed by the former owner of the Madrid event, the volcanic Romanian Ion Tiriac. Now that Tiriac has been replaced by IMG, which has acquired the Mutua Madrid Open, in addition to the Miami Open that they have already owned for many years, the situation may be different, but no statement on such matter, neither official nor unofficial, has been released.

Another option could be to replicate the Indian Wells / Miami model, scheduling in the second week of the two ATP Masters 1000 a “satellite” tournament at ATP 250 level, which players who have been eliminated from the main draw of the Masters 1000 could participate in. In this way it would be easier to bring these ATP 250 events under the protective wing of the corresponding Masters 1000, and the calendar would not be disrupted, allowing the smaller tournaments that are currently scheduled to find an attractive placement.

The official announcement is expected quite soon: Gaudenzi was harbouring the not too secret ambition to define the 2023 calendar in the Indian Wells meetings, and even if all the details have not been defined, it is likely that we will soon have a much more solid idea of what the 2023 season will be like.

Naturally there are various other relevant aspects to be defined: in the first place it will be necessary to understand if the WTA Tour will implement the same changes, so as to align the joint events. This year the Mutua Madrid Open has featured quite a bizarre discrepancy: the WTA event will start on Thursday with a 64-player draw (no byes for the top seeds) and rest days will be introduced in the second week. As a result, the third round of the men’s draw will be played on the same day as the women’s semifinals. 

The part of the season which follows the US Open is still shrouded in doubts. China has not yet relented its zero-Covid-policy, which has led to a harsh lockdown for Shanghai, and immigration laws are still extremely strict. Travellers coming from foreign countries are subject to a three-week hotel quarantine. It’s unlikely tennis players will accept such terms after almost a year of “normal life”. Therefore, the situation, also as far as 2022 is concerned, appears to be rather fluid. 

Neither can the Bercy issue be overlooked. Scheduled at the end of an exhausting season and just before the Nitto ATP Finals and the Davis Cup Finals, the Paris Masters 1000 often appears as an earthenware pot amid iron vases. A few years ago ATP had considered moving the event to February, and such an option could be pondered on again. 

Great changes ahead for the Tennis Tour Calendar, which over the next two seasons may find a better balance in dividing profits between tournaments and players as well as an improved sustainability for facing the future with greater confidence.      

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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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Carlos Alcaraz And Novak Djokovic Wouldn’t Yield To Medvedev And Musetti At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz seemed to be on his own against a vastly improved Daniil Medvedev. The defending Wimbledon champion appeared to be out of tricks.

And Medvedev sensed it.

Alcaraz still scored a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Medvedev. It may look rather easy on paper, but there was nothing easy about Alcaraz’s victory. The young Spaniard just came through when he needed it to advance to what he hopes will lead to his fourth Grand Slam title.

MEDVEDEV APPLIED ENDLESS PRESSURE

Medvedev was always there, ready to pounce on any mistake by Alcaraz. But mistakes didn’t happen that often after Medvedev took the first set in a tie-breaker.

Alcaraz hadn’t served that well in the first set that Medvedev had taken in a tiebreaker. But it was a different story once Alcaraz found the mark on his serves. He just kept holding service until the match was his.

Remember, he’s only 21 years old. But now he faces someone in this Wimbledon final almost twice as old in 37-year-old Novak Djokovic.

NOVAK DIDN’T LET INJURED KNEE STOP HIM

Early in the match, Djokovic looked like he might have problems against Lorenzo Musetti. He appeared to have a slight limp in the right knee that was covered by a band. Of course, it’s been less than six months since Novak underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in that knee.

Djokovic didn’t always chase after balls in situations where his service game wasn’t in jeopardy. He just hit winners when the opportunities came along, and his serve was always ready to win a point, a game or the match.

MUSETTI WASN’T THE SAME

Young 25th seed Musetti had been so strong and talented in his quarterfinal upset of Taylor Fritz. The 22-year-old Italian had looked like he might be a threat to the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz in the last two rounds in London.

Musetti appeared to be able to run down everything against the speedy Fritz, until Fritz seemed to grow tired in a fifth set that Musetti won easily.

The Italian wasn’t the same against Djokovic.

Djokovic was just too good and too consistent to allow Musetti to stop his bid for another title.

NOVAK THE VIOLINIST

The setting was completely different this time with Djokovic looking questionable at the start. But Musetti could hardly push Djokovic, and ended up losing by a 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Once Novak charged through the second set tiebreaker, dropping only two points, Musetti couldn’t get back into the match.

And then Novak came out pretending to play a violin on his racket for his precious 6-year-old daughter Tara, whom Novak said has been learning to play the violin for about six months.

Some fans apparently didn’t like this, but then there probably were others who became Novak Djokovic fans. Novak obviously is a great guy and dad these days.

After all, Novak has just played his 97th Wimbledon match, and he’s hoping in his 37th Grand Slam final to tie Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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