Goodbye Roger Federer, best wishes for your second life - UBITENNIS
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Goodbye Roger Federer, best wishes for your second life

I watched hundreds of your matches. Yet, five minutes would have just been enough.

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By Ubaldo Scanagatta

 

We all understood his talent was endless. Tennis fans could not help but fall in love. Every match, everywhere, he was always playing before a home crowd. Today I’m writing about the classiest player ever. Tomorrow I may write about the man. We all had a dream: if only we could hit just one of his shots.

Five minutes would have just been enough and…  The great champions of sport are the only human beings who are allowed to die twice.  Today grief is unanimous, universal. Universal because… our world is far too small. Eulogies and personal, nostalgic memories are pouring in from all over.  Everyone is shedding tears. Not just the champions of a generation. Even those of the previous eras. And far beyond the narrow boundaries of the Tennis Planet, a microcosm.

There is no media or social network which hasn’t published the most inspired obituaries of the greatest writers.  Even – especially? – of those who have never watched an entire match of his… but the news that Roger Federer’s first life, the most eternal, has come to an end blasted out yesterday. It is a chronicle of a death foretold. But, unlike Santiago Nasar, he decided to end it.

The event is sad, ever so sad.  Roger will not have the funeral honours of the Queen of England. Yet King Roger will no longer be stepping out onto the tennis courts. It’s not a Swiss custom. But there will be many of us mourning him. Millions. When I say that everyone is weeping for him… it’s true.

The funeral must be celebrated. Pages and pages in the newspapers dedicated to mourning, reports on the various networks, relishing a first, inevitable docuseries.

De Profundis shall envelop in a shroud of sadness even the most ardent fans of Rafa Nadal, Nole Djokovic and Andy Murray, the three of the Fab Four who are still doggedly attached to their first life. Until their last breath. Hopefully not before turning 41 (Roger’s age).

His first 40 years – let’s be honest and not exaggerate with hyperboles…his last year is not to be counted – have been extraordinary. As far as champions are concerned, records speak for themselves. They cannot be questioned.

Many friends asked me to evoke a personal memory about Roger Federer, knowing that I first saw him play when he was 16 and a half years old and won the Easter Junior Tournament at the Florence TC in 1998 beating Filippo Volandri 64 64. Then I saw him when he made his debut in Davis Cup at Neuchatel on 2 April 1998, aged 17 years and 8 months, and defeated Sanguinetti. I was in Milan when Roger won the first of his 103 tournaments, just after turning 19. At that time someone could still doubt he would become such a phenomenon, even though today many boast they had immediately understood it.

Believe me if I tell you that when, on 2 July 2021 – he wasn’t even twenty –  I saw him beat Pete Sampras in his private garden at Wimbledon, in a five-set match which lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes (he won 190 points, Sampras 180 and no fewer than 20 were outstanding, unbelievable), I couldn’t help writing “I reckon I have just witnessed the official changing of the guard in the United Kingdom: this kid is endowed with such an extraordinary talent that I have no doubt I’ll be writing a countless number of articles about him in a very near future.”

Indeed I was surprised he took one year more than I expected, almost all 2002, to prove I was right. He was less precocious than Nadal and Djokovic. Has his career lasted longer? We’ll see.   

I was not in Basel, his hometown, when, after having met the world of tennis there as a ball boy, he won his 103rd tournament. But I saw it on TV. And I remember writing that it wouldn’t really be fair if he stopped at 103 titles when Jimbo Connors had won 109. It wouldn’t be fair because several of those 109 were fake tournaments. Tournaments organized by Jimbo’s manager, Bill Riordan, and Jimbo’s mom, Gloria. The 103 tournaments that Roger won were won in a different way. And how many more would he have won if he had “humiliated” himself and played those of a lesser status? He could have done that, but he was too proud to… bow his head.

He wouldn’t have been chic. And, come on, let’s forget the lengthy and tedious GOAT debate: who is the most chic tennis player ever, the one who has never been seen sweat, the most elegant for the way he play and dresses … whoever his sponsor was? At first his sponsor was American, Nike, at only 16 years of age. Then Japanese in recent years, Uniqlo. There are also discussions about who was the strongest. But there is no arguing about who has always been the most chic! Maybe even in pyjamas, but we should ask Mirka.

He recalled in his farewell message that he had played over 1500 matches. Being crazy as I am about tennis and great tennis shows, watching Federer play has always been a guarantee of a great show – and I was lucky I didn’t have to pay for the ticket … but I would have paid for it in any case! – I’d love to reconstruct my past to find out how many matches I’ve seen live. And on TV. Just for a silly and useless personal satisfaction. I had so many great moments watching him, that’s for sure. How many ohhs of wonder did he elicit from me, until I got used to it and resolved not to yield to surprise anymore.

I have certainly seen all of his 20 Grand Slam triumphs, across three continents and not just his 8 Wimbledon titles. And his victory number 1251, the last, against our Lorenzo Sonego, before the last defeat, number 275, the one with Hubi (with H … it wasn’t me) Hurkacz. Yes, even Federer has lost a lot more tournaments than he has won, 103. Gentlemen, this is tennis. King Roger has also lost a lot. Even one of the most successful tennis players in history has had to learn how to cope with defeat. On the other hand, without losers (I personally know this category very well) there would be no winners.

Continuing the description of the Federerian paradoxes, the ones you will read about everywhere, Roger has been many more weeks without sitting on the tennis throne than the 310 weeks in which he reigned.

I do not believe – and not because of the openheartedness we feel for those who … no longer exist – that we should give importance to the fact that in 40 duels against Nadal, Roger won only 16 (40%) and in 50 challenges against Djokovic, 23 out of 50 (46%). It is a bit of the same story with Connors’ 109 titles and Federer’s 103 titles. But it is not fair to compare pears and oranges, to compare players of a different age, a 5-year gap with Nadal and a 6-year gap with Djokovic in different periods and with battles that took place on different surfaces (the reference to Rafa Nadal and his indisputable superiority on clay is anything but coincidental).

Instead, I believe that If I had just meant to write what many have written better than I have about the tennis player Roger Federer, there would have been no need to watch him hundreds of times like I did. Except for the pleasure, the inexhaustible enjoyment of course.

It could have really taken just five minutes to… “discover” all his incredible repertoire. In five minutes we would have immediately noticed the fluidity and elegance of his serve and of all his shots, yes, all of them, forehand, backhand, volley, half volley, dropshot, blocked return of serve, sliced backhands, top spin backhands (post Ljubicic), delicate touches like McEnroe (“If I were  more gay I would let myself be caressed by touches like those ” Gianni Clerici used to say about SuperMac but he could also have said that about Roger), aggressive attacks, sneaky attacks (sneaky attacks returning serve with a chip and charge) played with the speed of a pop up, as someone wrote. And what about his tweeners? He hit them in all the possible ways, forehand, backhand, down the line, winning lobs.

We all wished we could play just one of the shots he had. I was racking my brains to think of a shot he has never, not even once, managed to come up with in his magical repertoire. In the end, it came to my mind: the tweener smash! But…nobody is perfect.

Yes, there was no need to follow him in hundreds of matches. Five minutes would have just been enough . Thanks for giving me thousands of those five minutes, Roger. And best wishes for your second life, to you, to Mirka, to the four twins, to everyone. A part of my life as a journalist also goes away with you. And it is not a legend. It was history, true history.  Beautiful. Thanks Roger.

Translated by Massimo Volpati

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Carlos Alcaraz Faces Rune Test In Astana

Carlos Alcaraz leads a stacked field in Astana next week.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz returns to the ATP tour next week in Astana next week where he faces Danish talent Holger Rune.

 

The world number one plays his first ATP tournament since winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and becoming the youngest world number one in history.

Having qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, Alcaraz will now look to build momentum over the coming weeks for the event in Turin.

First up for Alcaraz is the ATP 500 event in Astana next week where the Spaniard faces a tough opening round in the form of Danish talent Holger Rune.

The Dane reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros earlier this year but had struggled for form since then.

However Rune has reached the semi-finals in Sofia this week and is hitting form at the right time so this will be a big test for Alcaraz.

Should Alcaraz get through that test than a potential second round meeting with Stan Wawrinka could be on the cards with the Swiss wildcard facing Adrian Mannarino in his opening match.

Andrey Rublev is the player that could face Alcaraz in the last eight with the eighth seed facing a qualifier in his opening round match.

Rublev is one of a number of players who are chasing the remaining spots at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Also in the top half of the draw is Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz with Tsitsipas facing Mikhail Kukushkin.

While Hurkacz faces Francisco Cerundolo and a potential second round match against home favourite Alexander Bublik could await in round two.

In the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic will continue his search for a surge up the rankings against Cristian Garin.

Djokovic’s potential quarter-final is Jannik Sinner who begins against tricky serve and volleyer Oscar Otte.

Daniil Medvedev is also taking part in a stacked field in Astana as he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opening round match.

In the bottom quarter there is also an intriguing opening round match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Roberto Bautista Agut.

Here is the full draw with play starting on Monday:

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All-Estonian Match In Tallinn Headlines WTA Semi-Finals

Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi will battle for a spot in the Tallinn final.

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Anett Kontaveit (@usopen - Twitter)

An all-Estonian match between Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi in Tallinn headlines semi-finals day on the WTA side.

 

Estonian tennis history will be made on Saturday as Kaia Kanepi and Anett Kontaveit will take on each other in their home country in the semi-finals of Tallinn.

The atmosphere in Estonia has been electric all week and it will be even louder with a guaranteed Estonian making the final.

Despite a miserable season so far, Kontaveit thrives on the indoor hard courts and will enter Saturday’s semi-final as favourite.

However Kanepi is known for causing shocks and the world number 32 will fancy her chances when the two players meet at roughly 16:00 BST.

Speaking after her quarter-final win over Karolina Muchova, Kanepi told the press that she isn’t tired and admitted Kontaveit is favourite, “I don’t feel tired at the moment. I usually don’t feel it after a match,” Kanepi told err.ee.

“It was very even. In the end I tried to play with a lot of guts and, I succeeded, that’s why I won. For me it’s just like any other match. She’s ten years younger than me, there’s not really any question. Anett has a better record and she’s ahead of me in the rankings.”

This afternoon’s meeting will be the first of their career with a place in the final against Barbora Krejcikova or Belinda Bencic on the line.

Sakkari Aims For First Final For Seven Months

Meanwhile in Parma, Maria Sakkari will look to reach her first final since Indian Wells as she takes on Danka Kovinic in the last four.

Sakkari is the heavy favourite for the title as she looks to build up some confidence heading into the end of the season.

The other semi-final in Parma will see Ana Bogdan take on Mayar Sherif.

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Kei Nishikori Confirms Safety Amid Hurricane Ian, Sets Out End of Year Plans

Kei Nishikori is set to return to tennis in November.

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Kei Nishikori (@WSOpen - Twitter)

Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori has confirmed that he and his family are safe as Hurricane Ian continues to cause destruction in America.

 

Nishikori lives and is based in Florida, where Hurricane Ian is doing most of its destruction at the moment.

So far at least two million people are without power with a handful of people losing their life due to the hurricane.

Some of Nishikori’s fans were concerned about his safety but the former top ten player confirmed that he and his family are safe, “Hi everyone, just a quick note to say my family and I are safe,” Nishikori confirmed on social media.

“Thank you for all the messages. It was a scary day and hope things will be back to normal as soon as possible. My thoughts are with all the people facing the results of the storm. I hope everyone stays safe.”

It’s pleasing to hear Nishikori is safe as the storm continues to cause destruction on many people’s livelihoods in the US.

Speaking of Nishikori, the Japanese star has been fairly muted on the court with him not playing a single event this season.

Injuries have been the story of Nishikori’s career and it looks as if that trend has continued in 2022.

However Nishikori could be expected to make his return to the tour in November on the Challenger tour.

That’s because Nishikori has been confirmed to compete in the Calgary and Drummondville challenger events.

The two events take place between the 6th and the 20th of November with Nishikori looking to gain some match time ahead of next year’s Australian Open.

Tournament directors Alain Calle and Danny Da Costa had this to say on Nishikori’s participation, “We’re thrilled to have Kei at our tournaments,” they jointly said in a press release.

“He’s been one of the most prolific players on the Tour since the start of his career, and even though he’s coming back from a major injury, he remains a very talented player. We’re looking forward to seeing him play again in Canada, and there’s no doubt our fans will be, too.”

The events will be Nishikori’s first since Indian Wells in 2021 where he lost to Dan Evans in the second round.

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