(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal - UBITENNIS
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Interviews

(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal

Ubitennis has an exclusive interview with the legendary coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.

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When it comes to looking at the current status of men’s tennis Brad Gilbert is perhaps one of the best people to speak to. 

The American reached a high of world No.4 as a player, as well as winning 20 ATP Tour titles. After retiring from the sport in the mid-1990s he has become one of the most well-known coaches in the sport after working with an array of top names. Besides that, he is also an author and commentator on the sport. 

Ubitennis caught up with Gilbert at The All England Club where he spoke highly of Italy’s Jannik Sinner who led Novak Djokovic by two sets before losing in the quarter-finals. He also looks ahead to Nick Kyrgios’ semi-final clash with an injured Rafael Nadal. 

Interviews

(EXCLUSIVE) French Open: Alex Corretja On Alcaraz, Sinner And Comparing Swiatek To Nadal

The two-time Roland Garros runner-up shares his views about a group of players ahead of this year’s Grand Slam.

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The French Open is a place of fond memories for Alex Corretja who won more matches at the event than at the other three Grand Slams combined. 

Corretja, who peaked at a ranking high of No.2 in the world in 1999, twice featured in the title match at Roland Garros. He lost in the 1998 final to Carlos Moya before being denied the trophy yet again three years later by Gustavo Kuerten. Overall, he made 13 consecutive appearances at the tournament before retiring. 

The Spanish 50-year-old continues to work in the sport as a media pundit for Eurosport. Ubitennis managed to catch up with him shortly before this year’s French Open draw took place. In a brief exchange, he shared his views on how Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner will fare on their return from injury issues. Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue which made him miss a trio of events and Sinner has been nursing a hip problem. Meanwhile, in the women’s draw is the title Iga Swiatek’s to lose? 

UBITENNIS: You are a former Roland Garros finalist. So I guess you have some great memories of the tournament? 

CORRETJA: Yes, you’re right. Roland Garros is probably the most important tournament for me of the majors I played in my career. For at least five years I reached the later stages (of the draw) from quarter-final to final. At the same time, it hurts a little to feel that I was so close to winning the tournament. In the end, I didn’t but I gave 100% I had. I can’t say anything about my tennis. I didn’t do better because the others were better. 

I’m very happy with my collaboration with Eurosport, which gives me the opportunity to do interviews on the court. It’s a great satisfaction for me to talk about Roland Garros. 

UBITENNIS: I’m going to go back to this because I imagine that for Spanish players in general Roland Garros is the tournament of excellence. I want to ask you if Carlo Alcaraz is ready, in your opinion, for the tournament starting next week.

CORRETJA: If his arm doesn’t hurt, he’ll be ready because in Paris he’ll find all the good sensations he couldn’t get from playing during the clay season. 

The first week can be very important for him to build up his confidence, the rhythm that he couldn’t find in tournaments like Rome, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona that he didn’t play. He just played three matches in Madrid and it’s a shame because normally the clay court season is very important for him. But he has to adapt to what he has and I think he’s still in a process of evolution and improvement. He’s still very young, he turned 21 a few days ago and I’m pretty sure that if he doesn’t have any issues with his arm, he’s going to be one of the toughest protagonists to beat in Paris.

It is true that this (year’s) Roland Garros is the most uncertain. For almost 20 years Rafa has always been the top favorite but right now it’s quite unpredictable because no one knows which conditions of form Djokovic will arrive with, how Alcaraz will arrive, how Sinner will arrive, and even Rafa. But we know that these players are special and when they are able to play a little bit and get into a rhythm, they are very dangerous because playing the best of 5 sets with players like that is not easy. 

Roland Garros is very hard and mentally it’s not easy to channel all the emotions. Physically, it’s very demanding. You have to have a lot of patience with the playing conditions. One day it’s very hot, another day it’s very windy. You play night session, day session. Everything changes and then I think some are more adaptable than others.

UBITENNIS: As for Sinner, if you were in his shoes, would you prefer not to risk, maybe looking more to the grass swing, or would you try in every way to step out on court?

CORRETJA: It’s up to him. If he’s fine and doesn’t feel pain, I think it’s normal that he wants to play and not think, “I’ll rest and see what I can do on grass.” 

It’s very difficult to say “No, I’m not going to play Roland Garros because I can take some time”. If he’s not hindered by injuries, it’s normal for him to try to play and then let’s see what happens.

For me, Jannik is a good guy, impressive and very professional, someone very serious who always tries to improve his game. He has a team that I really like with Simone and Darren and all the others. He is an example (for others to follow).

UBITENNIS: Finally, the men’s tournament is the most uncertain we’ve had in the last 20 – 25 years. However, the women’s draw has become like the men’s tournament of the past because we have a favourite (Iga Swiatek) who is like Nadal because she seems unbeatable. What’s your view?

CORRETJA: Well, Swiatek has her own personality and you can’t really make such comparisons, but it’s true that it’s a bit like when Rafa arrived, after winning all the other tournaments he had played before, then he used to come and win again. She’s won three times in Paris and she knows the surface perfectly. It’s going to be very tough to beat Iga because she’s very consistent. I think she’s playing a little bit more aggressively and let’s see how she does it. But she’s hungry to win again and that’s really to be admired because I think she’s a very young player. 

But she has a very strong personality and works a lot psychologically. Physically, I think she moves much better than the others. It was very important for her to beat Sabalenka in Madrid. In fact, after that, she also won the final in Rome. 

Sabalenka may have come up a little tired but at the same time, it was very important for her to endure fatigue and still reach the final because this means that she has also matured a lot and has found a nice system.  

NOTE: The original interview was conducted in Italian by Luca De Gasperi and has been translated into English by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

SEE ALSO: EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

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Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

The former world No.1 tells Ubitennis her favourites for this year’s title, what underdogs to look out for and speaks about Dominic Thiem’s farewell.

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Ana Ivanovic pictured with the 2008 French Open trophy (image via https://x.com/anaivanovic)

16 years have passed since Ana Ivanovic was the player lifting the French Open trophy. 

In 2008, the Serbian socred back-to-back wins over Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina en route to the first and only Grand Slam title of her career. At the French Open, Ivanovic won more matches (37) than at any other major event and was also runner-up in 2007 to Justine Henin. 

Now retired from the sport, the 36-year-old continues to keep an eye on what is happening on the Tour in both the men’s and women’s events. So what does she think about this year’s French Open? 

The women’s draw – Is the title Swiatek’s to lose?

Iga Swiatek is targeting a fourth title in Paris which would make her only the fourth female player to achieve this milestone in the Open Era. The Pole is currently on a 12-match winning streak after claiming titles in Madrid and Rome. As for those who are the biggest threat to her, Ivanovic has two names in her mind. 

“I think the biggest threat is Ayna Sabalenka – they (her and Swiatek) played an amazing match in Madrid. It was a very tight one. And Elena Rybakina even though clay is probably not her favourite surface,” Ivanovic tells Ubitennis via email. 

Another player Ivanovic tips as a dark horse is Danielle Collins, who is playing the last season of her career. Since January she already rocketed up the rankings from 54th position to 12th, winning the biggest trophy of her career in Miami. On clay, she won the Charleston Open and more recently reached the semi-finals in Rome. 

“Danielle Collins had an amazing tournament winning back-to-back Miami and Charleston and also playing well in Rome again. I think she is a dark horse for the French Open.” She said.
“She seems to play very freely and enjoy herself out there. She has been in very good form this year, winning a lot of matches. She has a big chance to come far into the second week of the French Open.”

The last player ranked outside the top 10 to win Paris was Barbora Krejcikova in 2021 and the last American to do so was Serena Williams in 2015. 

As for other contenders, Ivanovic hopes a rising star of the sport will perform well. 

“I think now in women’s tennis we see more similar faces in the semifinals and finals. But I would really like to see Mirra Andreeva go far.” She commented about the Russian 17-year-old, who is currently ranked 38th in the world. 

The men’s draw – will Djokovic regain his form in time?

It can be argued with good reason that the men’s draw is the most open it has been in recent editions. Defending champion Novak Djokovic is still to win a title this year and experienced a turbulent time in Rome where he received a blow to the head during a freak accident. Meanwhile, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz have been hindered by injury setbacks in recent weeks with both of them missing the last Masters event. 

“There have been a lot of new players in the last few weeks reaching far in the tournaments and beating some top players,” Ivanovic said about the state of men’s tennis.
So we are going to see many new faces on the men’s side. Of course Novak is still the strongest contestant for the title, but also Alcaraz and Sinner.”
“Novak had a little bit tougher clay court season so far than usual, but I think he is for sure peaking his full form for the French Open.”

As for the ‘strongest contestant’, the former world No.1 picks Djokovic and Alcaraz. Although there is a chance of a new Grand Slam champion. So who would Ivanovic pick for glory out of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud?

“Out of the other 3, I would pick Zverev as the highest chance to win the French Open.” She replied.

Thiem’s Paris Swamsong 

Beside chasing for glory, one of the storylines of this year’s event will be the depature of Dominic Thiem who will play in Roland Garros for the last time before retiring later this year. The two-time finalist is playing in the qualifying draw after being controversially denied a wildcard. Whilst some ruled the decision as unfair, Thiem later said he has no hard feelings. 

“Honestly I had a long time to be in a good ranking,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I had enough tournaments and enough time to climb up the ranking and I didn’t do it, so I kind of didn’t deserve it and that’s fine. I had 10 main draw appearances in the last years so that’s more than enough.”

The former US Open champion has been praised by Ivanovic who says it is ‘always great’ to watch him play. Ivanovic played her last Tour-level match in 2016 which was the same year Thiem reached his first of four French Open semi-finals. 

“Dominic had a great career and it’s been always great to watch him play,” she said. 
“It has been very unfortunate with his injuries the last years so it has been tough years for him. I really hope he can do well at the French Open and has a nice farewell.”

During her career, Ivanovic played in 48 Grand Slam main draws and won 15 WTA titles. She held the No.1 ranking for 12 weeks during 2008. 

The French Open main draw will get underway on Sunday. 

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Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s longtime coach: “Sinner is the strongest, but Novak isn’t done winning yet”

Marian Vajda gives an exclusive to Ubitennis about the current state of tennis and his role at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.

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Novak Djokovic and Marian Vajda - Rolex Paris Masters 2018 (photo @Sport Vision, Chryslène Caillaud)

“After 15 years with Djokovic I lost my motivation, now I’m less involved when I watch him” Vajda tells us at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy: “I don’t miss the life I had before, I’ve found serenity with my non-profit organization. His split-up with Ivanisevic? I read about it in the papers, I didn’t expect it.”

by Margherita Sciaulino

Marian Vajda and Novak Djokovic, together, won 85 titles in 15 years, including 20 Grand Slams and 37 Masters 1000, and with the Slovak coach by his side, Djokovic was on the throne as world No. 1 for 361 weeks. When Goran Ivanisevic joined the team in June 2019, Vajda had taken a step back, saying he wanted to spend more time close to his family, then eventually quit the Serbian’s team for good in February 2022. He was starting to lack the energy required by such a demanding job and, still today, he does not regret his decision.

Vajda is currently at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy where he is following some of the talented young players mentored by his non-profit organization: “HRAJME TENIS SLOVENSKO”.

He is keen to point out that it is not an academy but an organization whose mission consists in financing and supporting children aged 10 to 15 who are interested in the world of tennis. It’s not just about talented kids, it’s also about less talented players. The second, but not least goal of the organization is to train new teachers to become all-round coaches. This project had kicked off when Vajda was still at Djokovic’s side, but today represents his life.

Through this mission, Marian Vajda has found peace: he continues doing what he most loves, without stress and close to his family. Just as the Monte-Carlo Masters is about to get under way, just a few kilometres away from our table, we had a talk about what is happening among today’s top players.

Ubitennis: There’s quite a difference between coaching the world No. 1 and young guys. Do you miss being the coach of a top player?

Vajda:Yes, the difference is really huge. I had already started working with this non-profit organization while I was still working with Novak four years ago. So it’s not a novelty of the last year, I had been thinking about it for a long time. The 15 years together with Djokovic were very intense, I spent a lot of energy, when I parted ways with him I tried to continue for a year with Alex Molcan (top 50) but I realized that something was missing. I was less motivated, I wanted to be closer to my family and I preferred to help young boys enter the world of tennis in Slovakia, in Bratislava. With this organization I found my serenity. So today I can say that I don’t miss it. But I always enjoy following Novak, I stay up to date with all the news about him and I continue watching him. But obviously I’m not as involved as I was before.”

Ubitennis: Which was the hardest aspect of being Djokovic’s coach?

Vajda:We were always on the move, from one continent to another. I always had to say goodbye to my family without knowing how long I would be away and the pressure in tournaments was very strong, even for me. You know, in tennis, the coach is constantly under scrutiny. The pressure of this sport is exhausting even for the coach. In football when a team loses, it’s never the fault of a single individual, you don’t go and look at how the coach worked every time to prepare for that game. Whereas when a tennis player loses, the coach is immediately questioned.”

Ubitennis: How did you manage to find the right stimuli to start something so different?

Vajda:It happened in a very natural way. Seeing these guys get more and more committed and passionate made me so happy… the stimulus was simply that.”

Ubitennis: In your opinion, who is the strongest player today?

Vajda:I would say Jannik Sinner. In the last year he has played some really impressive tennis and he’s continuing to improve, keeping the level high. I think he’s the clear favorite to become No. 1 in the world. I also find Alcaraz is very strong, but Sinner at the moment is definitely the most likely to get to the top.”

Ubitennis: At first, everyone thought that Djokovic would find new motivation from players like Sinner and Alcaraz to keep winning, but in the last period the general impression has changed. Do you think Djokovic is taking a step back?

Vajda:I think Novak is trying to adapt and find the right balance. He can’t imagine playing all the tournaments like he used to. The ATP calendar is too intense, he has to make choices. The greatest motivation for him is the Slams and the Olympics. So he has to find the time to prepare, to train well, but he can’t put the same focus on the other tournaments as well. The real question, I think, is whether this new method will still succeed in making him win. Because if you play fewer tournaments, you may arrive less trained than those who have played more than you. But Novak knows how to do it, he’s very smart and none of the new top players have his experience, simply because of his age. Also last year he missed several tournaments such as Indian Wells and Miami but then he won Roland Garros, made the final at Wimbledon and won the US Open. So I don’t think he’s done winning and this year he’s going to prove it once again.”

Ubitennis: And what do you think about his split with Ivanisevic? Did you expect it?

Vajda:Well, no, I didn’t expect that. I read about it in the newspapers like everyone else, so my opinion is based only on what I have read in the last few days. I was quite surprised because in the last few years Novak has always been comfortable with him, he was totally part of the team. Maybe the pressure that coaches have to endure, which I mentioned before, has become too tiring for Ivanisevic as well. But I’m not sure about it.”

Ubitennis: At the level of the young guys you coach today, what do you think is the greatest difficulty for a tennis player in general?Vajda:It’s very important for a tennis player to be mentally relaxed, otherwise he can’t play his best tennis. But you have to find the right balance between being calm and working hard. Every day the training program is very intense, but it must be respected and carried out seriously. Finding a balance between working well, without getting stressed, is difficultin tennis, but fundamental.”

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