Tennis Great Chris Evert Says Player Mental Health Must Be Addressed After Series Of Incidents - UBITENNIS
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Tennis Great Chris Evert Says Player Mental Health Must Be Addressed After Series Of Incidents

Evert, who won a outstanding 154 singles titles during her career, says she is ‘worried’ by recent events.



Chris Evert at Wimbledon 2017 (photo Art Seitz)

18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert says recent incidents of players losing their cool on the court has elevated her concerns about their welfare in the sport.

The former world No.1 called for more action to be taken by tennis’ governing bodies after claiming officials are receiving more abuse than any other sport. This season has already been marred by various incidents with the most notable of them involving Germany’s Alexander Zverev. Zverev was disqualified from the Mexican Open after repeatedly swearing and hitting the umpire’s chair with his racket, narrowly missing his foot. He was later fined and placed on a year-long probation period.

Last month Nick Kyrgios was docked a total of $60,000 for violating the rules at tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami. The offences he committed included unsportsmanlike conduct, swearing, verbal abuse and nearly hitting a ball boy after smashing his racket on the ground following his loss to Rafael Nadal. Another player, Jenson Brooksby, was also fined $15,000 after throwing his racket which almost hit a boy.

On the women’s Tour the most notable incident involved Victoria Azarenka in Miami where the two-time Australian Open champion abruptly retired from her match against Linda Fruhvirtova whilst down 2-6, 0-3. She later issued a statement saying she ‘shouldn’t have gone on the court’ due to recent issues in her personal life.

Speaking about the series of incidents on the Tour during an interview with Eurosport, 67-year-old Evert says one of the explanations could be linked to the toll the sport is taking on the players mentally. She says there should be more discussions surrounding mental health.

“I don’t know any other sport where the athlete abuses the official as much as tennis,” said Everet. “I worry about the behaviour of players and I even worry about breaking down emotionally on the court and walking off in the middle of a match and I worry about the emotional and mental relapses or breakdowns that these players are having.
“I worry about the players. I’m not making any judgments on the players, but it’s an area of concern: why are players losing control and breaking racquets and putting others in harm’s way?
“Why are they breaking down on the court emotionally? It’s something that needs to be addressed. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Tennis is a sport and it’s not life. I mean even since I’ve had some health issues, I realize it’s a sport. It should be viewed with a different perspective.”

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the ATP intends to crack down on player misbehaviour by ordering officials to take a ‘stricter stance’ when it comes to enforcing penalties on those who break the rules. Andrea Gaudenzi, who is CEO of the ATP, has also ordered a review into the code of conduct. Although there was no mention of addressing anything related to player mental health.

Evert has welcomed a growing trend in players on the WTA Tour collaborating with sports psychologists. One of the most notable being that of world No.1 Iga Swiatek who says a big part of her development has been linked to her work with Psychologist Daria Abramowicz. Another example is Naomi Osaka who recently revealed that she is seeing a therapist. The former world No.1 confirmed in 2021 that she suffers from depression and social anxiety.

“I noticed that now a lot of the women tennis players have sports psychologists. And have therapists and that’s a growing occurrence and I think it’s great because they’re addressing their issues and it’s not easy. It’s not easy living the life of a top player,” she said.
“There are a lot of pressures that people have no idea that you face. Your identity starts to melt in with winning or losing. You’re either a winner that day or you’re a loser that day to the whole world.
“And that has consequences on you emotionally and mentally. We as players and former players understand that better than the public understands that.
“So there’s something emotional going on in the tennis world that needs to be addressed.”

In recent years, both the ATP and WTA Tour’s have set up programmes designed to support players’ mental health.

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing



Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai



Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro



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One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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