ATP Chief Andrea Gaudenzi On Strategic Plan, Wimbledon, Events In China And More - UBITENNIS
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ATP Chief Andrea Gaudenzi On Strategic Plan, Wimbledon, Events In China And More

In a wide ranging press conference the head of men’s tennis spoke extensively about a wide range of topics. Including his claim that Russian and Belarussian players were willing to sign a document condemning the Ukraine war in order to play at Wimbledon.

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Andrea Gaudenzi (photo ATP Tour 2019)

The president of the ATP, Andrea Gaudenzi, held a video conference with the Italian press on Thursday concerning the presentation of the calendar reform. Madrid and Rome are expected to upgrade to 96 player draws over two weeks from 2023. The same pattern will be extended from 2025 to the Canada Open and Cincinnati… Here is the transcript of the press conference.

Gaudenzi: “I wish to express my satisfaction for achieving an important milestone which is the promotion of this calendar reform plan. Upon our arrival, two and a half years ago, we went through a series of serious issues: the fires in Australia, Covid, the war in Ukraine and more… We have been committed to making tennis survive in general. The fact that we have managed to pass such an ambitious plan makes us proud. We hope that this can be the first step towards a great future. But after two and a half years of negotiations and struggle, we perhaps deserve a pat on the back. I particularly like the upgrade of the Masters 1000 in Rome, as an Italian”.

Ubaldo Scanagatta, Ubitennis: “Will any tournament disappear?”

“No. There is a reorganization. Looking at the calendar you can see that there are two weeks that impact the 2025 calendar; The ATP 250 are moved. The idea is to enhance the Masters 1000 so as to reduce the gap that exists with the Slams, which of course is still very large. What everyone wants to see are the strongest players in the most important events. We want to give viewers a continuous story, from the beginning of the year to the end. We want to strengthen a model that already works, the one of Indian Wells and Miami, which have had this format for almost thirty years”.

Paolo Rossi, Repubblica: “Which was the greatest obstacle”?

“One could write a book about it. When we talk about general principles, we all agree, difficulties arise when we go into detail. There is a bit of fear on everyone’s side. And it was not easy to make compromises. All parties have compromised to focus on the long-term goal of enhancing our sport by putting selfishness and retaliation aside. Above all, there is a total lack of trust between players and tournaments. I believe it is partly justified because we are talking about a partnership in which players have never had the opportunity to access the economic accounts of the tournaments and are paid with prize money without knowing whether it is fair or not. This has always led to crazy quarrels. So the most difficult thing was removing individual egoisms, which are understandable, because it is an individual sport, and every player and every tournament thinks of itself; but there must be someone who thinks of the collective good, that is sport. It is difficult to find someone who does this and who has the trust and delegations from everyone.”

Riccardo Crivelli, La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Have you asked for guarantees for the enlargement of Rome? Have you seen plans for the roof? And then: has the idea of a Master 1000 on grass before Wimbledon been ruled out?”

AG: “Indian Wells is the only tournament that has had category protection for 50 years in 2003. And it was also the tournament that invested the most; it would be difficult to ask a tournament to invest millions if it could still be downgraded the following year. Hence a theme of accountability from standards point of view. There will be a committee made up of a representative of the players, a representative of the tournaments, and a third independent representative who will define – considering the unique peculiarities of each tournament, the reason why you cannot ask Monte Carlo to add four courts – standards aimed at raising the level, with larger stadiums, covered, more space for media and players. This is the direction. 

Ubaldo Scanagatta: “ATP points at Wimbledon. Is the decision taken definitive? The risk is that a false ranking will come out and without great value after Wimbledon… Maybe a compromise solution would have been better, is it still being studied?”

AG: “The reason why we removed the points at Wimbledon is known; it is a matter of fairness and discrimination in response to a unilateral decision of the tournament that we do not consider right. Such a decision should have been taken collectively involving all seven components of tennis. This story proves once more that we need a unique governance in tennis. Having said this, we would be very happy to return the points to Wimbledon if the ban on Russians and Belarusians, who have said they are willing to make written statements because none of them is in favour of war were lifted. From a ranking point of view, we want to have a ranking in 2022 where each player had access to the same number of points. This is the only way to have a fair ranking at the end of the year. If we gave protection to those who played well at Wimbledon in 2021 it would be even more unfair to those who play well in 2022, because the points would still expire after 52 weeks as always happens. We can’t protect seven or eight players by creating even more damage to everyone else. Unfortunately, Wimbledon points will be missing in the year-end ranking, but from our point of view it is the fairest choice and WTA agrees with us.”

Vincenzo Martucci, Supertennis: “In the calendar system there are two critical issues: the overcrowded red clay season between the tournaments before Roland Garros with Madrid and Rome killing each other and then the one concerning Bercy, which has lost much of its significance”.

AG: “Madrid and Roma will become 96-draw tournaments over four weeks. Winning back-to-back Madrid and Roma today means winning ten matches in twelve days, an incredible and risky effort in terms of injuries. The 96-player draws instead allow for a longer rest. It is true there is an extra match, but there is a better scheduling and the players’ engagement is managed better. The other tournaments will be rearranged around these two events. In the future, keeping in mind the limit of 16 500 ATP events, we will try to join a couple of ATP 250. Even these tournaments would be glad if there were fewer tournaments of this category. We would also like to schedule 125 Challengers in the second week of the Masters 1000 for those player who lose in the first rounds. As for Monte Carlo and Bercy, the long-term idea is to have nine combined Masters 1000. They are two tournaments that have some problems in terms of infrastructure, but the idea is to make them grow too. As for Bercy, it is natural that at the end of the year the players will come to terms with fatigue and injuries, especially those who have already qualified for the Finals”.

Ubaldo Scanagatta: “Will there be tournaments in China this year? Doesn’t the WTA decision to cancel events from China create problems?

AG: “The first most important topic concerning tournaments in China is Covid. As for the WTA, the choice was made in relation to the case of Peng Shuai, and we took a different stance on this. However, there is probably a need to reorganize the calendar to find alternative solutions, as we did in the last two years. A miracle is required, because it is not easy to change dates when deadlines are so tight. We are trying to push the Chinese government to make a decision, and then we will make a decision.”

Piero Guerrini, Tuttosport: “When do you imagine a single governance in tennis? And about Turin, what do you expect in terms of growth this season?”

AG: “I hoped to close the matter in a year and a half, but there is an impressive number of details which need sorting out. There will certainly be a progressive solution, while in the meantime we have already started to collaborate in some details such as format, competition, rules, etc. … The unification of the tie-break format of the final set is also a result of this convergence. We will not go at a supersonic speed, despite being highly motivated to do so. You have to decide on the voting system, establish a starting point, etc… It is difficult to set timelines, even if it’s hard to imagine less than a couple of years. We hope to succeed, although it is not obvious that this process will be finalized. The first edition in Turin for me was extraordinary, also considering that we were still in the middle of COVID, which involved several ticket selling uncertainties. Then we hope to have an Italian at the Finals, who would certainly boost ticket sales.”

Riccardo Crivelli, Gazzetta dello Sport: “I saw that in the 2023 calendar the NextGen Finals will follow the ATP Finals. This year will be the last Italian edition. I was wondering if the call has been reopened and also if the scheduling after the Finals is not a bit demeaning for this event. Do you have any other plans for this event?”


AG: “The call has not yet been launched; we are still in reflection mode for NextGen. Since the event does not award points, it is not a big problem for the calendar, and scheduling the event in December could be interesting, since it is a fairly empty month and probably the young players still have a lot of energy and desire to play. We are considering various options, including merging it with a similar event for the WTA, because it would be nice to see the promises of the future all together. There is also the hypothesis of greater integration with the ATP Finals, although the logistical issue is not easy to solve, because it would imply having many matches in one day. We really like the NextGen format, they’re churning out the results of the future, and it’s a great format that allows to test innovative solutions.”

Ubaldo Scanagatta, Ubitennis: “Is some progress being made to unite the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup, perhaps returning to the old Davis Cup 3 sets out of 5 that had a different spirit and I think brought greater benefits to the tennis image? And then, a question that concerns journalists: it is not very clear what the ATP would like from journalists in the relationship with players. In Barcelona the mixed zone was in an area journalists could not access; in Acapulco there was a situation where first you could ask questions via Zoom and then they disappeared; in Indian Wells they all complained about how the mixed zone was organized, so I would like to know if you have also taken into account what Billie Jean King said at Roland Garros according to which it is also in the interest of players to have a human relationship with journalists, at least with those who live the tournaments the most,  because if we continue to separate journalists and players, we are not helping tennis and tennis players “.


AG: “With regard to Davis Cup/ATP Cup, we have an agreement with Tennis Australia also for 2023, but we are having talks. I think I’ve always been honest enough to say that having two events like Davis cup and ATP Cup so close is not good for our sport. If Davis cup were to disappear it would not be good news for tennis, in consideration of the value of its history and for what it has meant. It is necessary to find a solution, and this is another proof that these decisions should all be made together, also because if confusion is created, the public usually tends to move away. With regard to the other issue, this is not a subject I am very familiar with, because I have been dealing with other things. However, I have always been a promoter of the importance of the media and the importance of communicating with our fans, especially about things that happen off-court. 50% of the focus is on non-live, as the Formula 1 documentary [“Drive to Survive”] has also shown, which has aroused great attention, and you are a little bit the “enablers” of this story. It must be said that COVID has really created a great revolution in the way we work, and this theme should be reviewed and discussed, especially by also talking to players, because they are the first to have a say. We will review the matter and give you an answer.”

Vincenzo Martucci, SuperTennis: “Me too I’d like to reiterate Ubaldo’s question about the relationship between players and journalists. But my questions are different: first of all, I would like to know exactly what this relationship with the WTA means, and when will we see the real effects at a journalistic level? Compared to you, the WTA is in a prehistoric situation: they deal exclusively with American journalists, and some English. All Europeans, Spanish-speaking ones, Italians, perhaps with the only exception of L’Equipe, are almost ghettoized, despite the fact that there are outstanding characters who could be analysed in depth and promoted. I also have a question about doubles: have you considered the idea of starting the doubles tournament 2-3 days after the start of the singles so as to possibly recover some of the eliminated players, especially the most popular, to boost attention on the doubles tournament?”

AG: “I believe that integration with the WTA could improve this aspect, because we want to have a single point of access for players. The team will be united: today we have one only marketing team, then we also want to have one only team of PR, social media, commercial and many other things. Integration is progressively under way. Then there is always a problem of supply and demand: the demand from you is always much higher than the time offered by the players. And also from this point of view we must succeed in changing the current perception of players who think that playing the match is the end of their commitment. This profit-sharing that we are promoting is aimed at showing tournaments as partners, not as enemies who ask you to spend further 20 minutes with the media. The idea is that even the players of the new generations should understand the reality around the tournament and around the match. There is a need to tell stories, and therefore there is a need to give access to those who tell stories. If the players understand that the more they give time, the more the ecosystem in which they live grows, a virtuous circle will be created. Agents always tend to reserve the player’s time for initiatives that benefit the player and agent directly, and not the tournament, which benefits the whole system.  As for doubles, it’s part of the problem we’re facing with Challenger prize money. The prize money is too low for those players who are struggling to survive, so we have to help them. And this negatively affects doubles, that indeed needs support. However this 96-player format for masters 1000 singles tournaments is definitely a help: if you see the Indian Wells doubles draw there are many more singles players who also play doubles. First of all because they have to go to Miami so they have to stay there waiting, but then there is also the question of the rest day. A player never wants to play two games on the same day, but if he can use the rest day to play doubles, it becomes interesting. We’re trying to work on the Challenger issue and the doubles issue over the next six months, to try to make both of them more interesting to the public. It’s not easy because some players want to leave after losing in singles and don’t want to stay, but that’s one of the aspects that we have to deal with.”

Emilio Mancuso, RAI: “Wimbledon without points is really bizarre: if there had been Gaudenzi at the head of the players’ union who knows what would have happened. Also, if you skip the Asian season, will there be possibilities for more tournaments in Italy since it has been proven that in Italy you can organize good events?”

AG: “As far as Wimbledon is concerned, we found ourselves in a situation where no one wanted to be. We responded to a unilateral decision by Wimbledon and we would have preferred to take this decision together with everyone else, also to have a uniformity of action. Now in a few days the USTA will make its decision, Roland Garros has made its decision, and everyone goes their own way. Another reason why governance should be brought together. From our point of view it would have been hard for us to look away when there were 60 players involved in this decision, players who from their point of view were willing to do so many things, and who have done nothing wrong and who are not supporting what is happening. I understand the propaganda theme and the arguments brought by Wimbledon, but at the end of the day, calculating everything, we are a global sport, and we must use our platform to unite, without discriminating people owing to their passport. Let’s hope it will never happen again, and I hope it’s an accident which will bring us to sit at a table to talk. Sometimes you have to break an egg to make an omelette…”

NOTE: press confrence was conducted in Italian and has been translatred into English by Ubitennis.

ATP

Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

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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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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