EXCLUSIVE: Tennys Sandgren On Humility and Music To Get Back To The Top - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Tennys Sandgren On Humility and Music To Get Back To The Top

“Political correctness is everywhere, not just in tennis. But it’s impossible to try to live without offending anyone”. Tennys Sandgren, one of the most outspoken players on the tour, in an exclusive interview with Ubitennis, speaks about his ambitions to work his way back into the top 50, his first music album and his views on “politically correct”



Tennys Sandgren at the 2020 Australian Openb (Image via twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

By Marco Lorenzoni

2022 has been tough for Tennys Sandgren, a former world No.41. Just three years ago he had seven match points against Federer and was ever so close to reaching the semifinal at the Australian Open, his first in a Slam. Due to injuries, he missed most of the last season and his ranking has dropped. A few weeks ago he won a Challenger event in Las Vegas and he is still eager to compete and succeed in a comeback to the top.


With 2022 being your first year in a while since you played only challenger events, what are the main differences in the level between the challenger tour and the ATP tour?

I feel that when I was playing the ATP tour the draws were a little bit more unpredictable because you could play guys like Felix (Auger-Aliassime), Holger (Rune), or Shapovalov that out class you, but at the same time you can face players that are not particularly motivated that day because they are not trying to feed their family with that tournament. I feel that the guys that are ranked generally between 40 and 80 are very consistent in their results week after week and they wait until there is a hole in the draw to get in and make a semi-final or a very good result. Challengers are hard, but even if the top guys are not present there are a lot of good players and you have to bring a mental level. If you don’t you are not going to be able to win. Every match is a dog fight.

In the last few years, you’ve played a lot on the ATP tour. You’ve reached two quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. Is it difficult for you to find motivation in these challenger events when there can be five spectators during a match and the prize money is a lot lower?

Sometimes it is hard, but I feel it is more difficult when you are ranked around 100 and you are going back and forth between challengers and ATP events. One week you are playing for $10,000 and 30/40 points per match, while the week after you’re playing for $500 and seven points. For me right now this is where I am and so I have to be hungry, and there is no way around going back to the place I want to be. I have to play well in these types of events and progress and get my ranking back up, otherwise if I am not motivated and not humble enough I should just retire. I can say I had two careers, for years I played futures and challengers and for years I was able to play in the biggest tournaments. Even if I made some good runs in slams I am used to playing in this context and I know that this is part of the sport. 

I know that you like to drive from one Challenger to the other when you play in the US, so I wonder if you enjoy the more intimate atmosphere of these smaller events?

When you go to the US Open for example, you have to plan for a lot more time. The strings are over here, practice courts are in a different area and everything is spread out. It is awesome because playing grand slams is one of the best parts of the sport, but it is a different atmosphere to come here. I am able to park right out here, I walk to the practice court, the nice lady is giving me balls and water to go on the court with and it definitely feels more intimate. It is a more personal version of the sport. Actually some challengers can get a decent amount of people, 4-5 hundred, but most get an average of 10-100 people per night. The intimate atmosphere is pretty cool, I am from Tennessee and like to drive to Columbus, Charleston, etc. It reminds me of when I used to play Junior tournaments and you have to drive a lot around the entire country. When you become a professional you drive way less, even if in Europe the distances seem closer. There you drive two hours and here you drive 7 because everything is a lot more spread out here. But at the end it is so easy. You grab a cup of coffee, listen to some nice music and enjoy the scenery. 

A few months ago you and Mikael Torpegaard (former ATP 166) released a music album called “dystopian melancholy”. How do two professional tennis players get the idea of making an album and which were your musical inspirations?

He is a really good guitarist and he was part of a death metal band.  We were living together for the first six months of the year and travelling a lot. We wrote lyrics inspired by life on the road, for how fun it can be it is also very tough with all the losses and the other difficulties. Normally when we had a little bit of time we would grab a pack of “TRULIS” and then you can really start to write.  We put in the album the five or six songs that we usually liked to play and being in Nashville there are so many places where you can record. We both agreed on putting it out, it was a lot of fun. One of the songs that I wrote was “shadow theatre”, it was during the pandemic when people were forcing others to do things without an apparent reason. What stuff the government can make you do, at what point you say no to live in modern society. There were places like in Australia that if you didn’t get vaccinated you would have lost your job. In fact, I wasn’t able to play the Australian Open but luckily where I lived things were more normal. The songs that we wrote were a good outlet to express what we were going through. Right now it is harder to make more music because Mikael is not on the road right now but we are still working on some stuff. 

I appreciate that you are a player who is more outspoken about your ideas. Do you think there is too much political correctness in modern-day tennis, especially with the top-ranking players?

It’s not just in tennis but it’s everywhere. If you say the wrong thing or you offend somebody, sponsors don’t want to touch you because they are trying to sell their products. At the end of the day it’s only a small percentage of people that get upset about this political correctness. Everyone else doesn’t really care because they have jobs, families and lives. It’s impossible to try to live without saying anything offensive because someone somehow would always disagree. It’s not a fun way to live, you can’t live controlling every word that you say. At the end of the day, if people spoke their mind more there wouldn’t be so much of this culture. I have heard a top player saying that it would be nice if other top players would speak their mind more. When I heard that I just laughed, it would be nice but it would be tough if a top player couldn’t get sponsors or make money out of their career. Also during a press conference if you misstep people are ready to twist your words. When you talk sometimes you may have something else in your mind, you are trying to formulate your thoughts but nobody is perfect. I don’t blame anyone for not trying to go out of the normal because if you play a tough match and you go to a press conference it’s so easy to just say the normal things because you know what they are. As soon as you start talking about how you feel or controversial stuff you need to be careful.  If I had contracts worth millions I don’t know if I would be that outspoken, I was never in that position so I don’t know how I would act.

What are your goals for 2023?

I would really like to play again in the main draw of grand slams, I would love to have that opportunity again. That means that I have to have a good stretch of wins in Challenger events so I can get my ranking back up. After that it would be interesting to see if I can make it again into the top 50. If that should happen I’d be impressed with myself because I know how much it takes to fight every week in these types of small events. I feel that the general level of players is higher.


Lorenzo Musetti: “A Year with Few Peaks, but I’ve Improved as a Tennis Player and Physically” [Exclusive]



Lorenzo Musetti – ATP Sofia 2023 (photo: Ivan Mrankov)

Our correspondent in Sofia interviewed Italian talent Lorenzo Musetti, who is taking on Jack Draper this afternoon


Lorenzo Musetti is  the top seed in the ATP  250 that together with Metz closes the season of “regular” tournaments, just before the ATP Finals in Turin. Exempted from the first round, he’s waiting to make his debut in the Bulgarian capital where last year at the beginning of October he was halted in the semifinals by Marc-Andrea Huesler, the future winner of the tournament.  With our correspondent in Sofia, Ivan Mrankov, he compared this season with 2022, but also about the Davis Cup, and Jannik Sinner.

Greetings from Ubaldo. It’s the last tournament, how do you rate your season? Was it maybe less positive than last year when you won two tournaments? But there are improvements in all areas of your game and it’s also normal for younger players to have a less rewarding year after their first breakthrough. Do you feel improved, do you think it was a positive season?”

“It’s not been an easy season, but as you said, it’s also been a season in which I have been settling in. In the middle part I was able to find a very good continuity in terms of results. Of course, it started off a bit badly.  As I had played so much at the end of last season, it was perhaps more complicated to start the new year in high gear. So it took me a while to get going, I played very well from Monte Carlo. Let’s say it was a season with few peaks. Last year, the weeks in Hamburg, Naples, Paris-Bercy were very high in terms of level.”

For sure I feel improved in terms of tennis and physically, I’m working hard, even if people sometimes only see the results but not what’s behind them. It was a season of firsts. Even if we consider the example of Jannik, last year he had a season of adaptation, different from the standards he has displayed on court this year. And I also hope next year to be more focused, more concrete in terms of results, attitude and everything.”

You’re part of the Davis Cup team again this year, so your season will end pretty late. Do you think you’ll be able to prepare better than last year as you have the same amount of time to rest and train? And last question, what do you think your chances for Davis are? Since the USA, Russia, Spain are missing… Our editor wrote that Italy is the favourite along with Djokovic’s Serbia.

“I think other teams as well, like Australia and Canada who won last year. The Davis Cup is a unique event, not always the team with the best ranked players comes out the winner. And the doubles rubber is fundamental. Having Jannik in our team gives us a great hand. I think he’s playing his best tennis right now. I wish him all the best in Turin and that he can join us as late as possible. It’s a huge boost for us.

In terms of preparation, almost all the players have a month, December, to prepare for Australia. Unfortunately, when we all play so much, we have to adapt. We could do with more days off and obviously more weeks to load, work and prepare for the season. But you have to be good at making do with what we’ve got. And also, during the year, we have to specially focus on maintaining injury prevention.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Coach Gilles Cervara On Medvedev’s Vienna Defeat, Sinner’s Rise And The Future




Daniil Medvedev and Gilles Cervara - ATP Rotterdam 2021 (via Twitter, @abnamrowtt)

By Federico Bertelli

At the end of the final, once the confetti had settled and the staff began to dismantle the court, Ubitennis exchanged a few words with Gilles Cervara, the coach of Daniil Medvedev, following the conclusion of the Vienna Open. Medvedev was ousted 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3, by Jannik Sinner in a thrilling final. 


QUESTION: It was an incredible match, one of the best of the year, what are your immediate feelings?

CERVARA: I’m really disappointed and somewhat angry. However, Sinner played an incredible match. I mean, to score a point against him today was very difficult because at any moment he could hit a winner with one of his “laser shots” as I call them; and even when Daniil managed to hit well and make him run, you got the feeling that he could send the ball back; he managed to defend very quickly and deeply and then turn the momentum of the exchange. And even when Daniil managed to serve good first serves, Sinner responded very well. Daniil was very brave to come back into the match and he also had his chances to win and he really pushed Jannik to the limit; unfortunately, though, in the end, the match went in Jannik’s direction.

QUESTION: It could have really ended with either Jannik or Daniil’s victory; if you had to say, were you more impressed by Jannik’s improvement in the offensive phase or the defensive phase? 

CERVARA: I would say that there have been improvements in every aspect of his game. I’m really happy for him and his team. It’s always a nice thing when you see someone who manages to improve so much and works so seriously. I see them every week for many months and to see the level they are reaching is remarkable. In general, it is rewarding and significant to see the results when one has worked so hard. Then in general, Jannik is good both in defense and in attack. He manages to put so much speed to his shots effortlessly and now he is playing without making the mistakes he did before (the same observation was also made by Medvedev in the press conference). Playing against him now is really a great challenge and even his first serve now is faster. He’s playing better and better in every aspect and winning finals gives great confidence for the future. And in general, it’s good for tennis that there are so many players capable of reaching such a high level.

QUESTION: Can we say then that Jannik has now reached the same level as Daniil, Novak, and Carlos?

CERVARA: Yes, definitely, he’s just started to reach these levels and to win consistently, in big events against top players; the challenge for him will be to confirm himself at this level and in the Grand Slam tournaments; I just hope it doesn’t happen against us (smiling).

QUESTION: This year has been excellent for Daniil, even though there have been some difficulties at the beginning; for example, in Australia, he lost to Korda and for a few weeks even dropped out of the top ten; but then what changed? Was there something that clicked?

CERVARA: That period was difficult; after the Australian Open, it was complicated as a coach; I told Daniil at the time that it was not a disgrace to lose to Korda, who was playing well and perhaps Daniil at the same time was not at 100% and was not able to beat that day’s version of Korda; but in any case, there was nothing to be ashamed of, the important thing was to remain calm and analyze why we had lost against that type of player, what had put Daniil in difficulty and work on it to rebuild confidence. But it’s not automatic, otherwise, it would be easy. At those times the challenge for a coach is precisely to rebuild the player’s confidence; this is something you do day by day, and every day was a challenge and it was not easy. You need to maintain a fighting spirit, look for solutions, and accept the moments of difficulty. I am happy to have remained strong, to have maintained trust and inner calm to try to be the best version of myself and the best possible coach at that time. Daniil is someone who wants to fight, find solutions and win, even when he goes crazy on the court. We both tried to do our best and since he has great talent and has the ability to reach a high level, so in the end he found the way back to winning and to being “on fire,” a bit like Sinner now who is putting together a series of victories.

QUESTION: One last question, from a physical standpoint Daniil this year has had an extraordinary season and will end up playing more than 80 matches; in the coming years do you think he will reduce his commitments (curiously, this was also an aspect touched upon by Medvedev in the press conference)?

CERVARA: It’s a good question, and it’s a question that only top players when they have more experience can afford to ask themselves. A bit like Novak who now does not play all the tournaments and focuses only on the most important ones. But you can afford to make these considerations only if you win and it’s a question we will start to ask ourselves also with Daniil; he is now 27 years old, runs a lot, has a taxing tennis game. He has already won the most important tournaments and consequently, he will have to focus on those and perhaps set aside some lesser ones.

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(EXCLUSIVE) Bryan Shelton, Father And Coach Of Ben: “A Break After Tokyo? He Didn’t Even Consider It”

“A win gives you confidence. A loss teaches you something more about yourself,” says the father-coach of the young American. “Sinner? A genuine and smiling person.”




Ben Shelton and Bryan Shelton (photo Instagram @benshelton)

by Federico Bertelli

If Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are increasingly establishing themselves as the present of men’s tennis, there are already those who are eager to challenge them. And the name on everyone’s lips right now is Ben Shelton. The 21-year-old American, fresh from winning his first tournament in Tokyo, has risen to the world’s number 15 spot with a powerful and effervescent game, and he recently also had the satisfaction of beating the Italian number 1 Jannik Sinner (in Shanghai).


Earlier this week at the Vienna Open Ubitennis had an exclusive interview with Bryan Shelton, Ben’s father and coach.

Bryan, 57 years old and a native of Florida, has an impressive past as a professional tennis player, with two ATP singles titles under his belt (both on the grass of Newport in the two-year period 1991-92), a best ranking of world number 55, and even a mixed doubles final at the 1992 French Open, partnering with Lori McNeil. His best Grand Slam placement is the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1994, where he was defeated by the Swede Christian Bergström.

UBITENNIS: First of all, we appreciate your time and patience, Mr. Shelton. Well, I have many questions, but the first that comes to mind is this: For the first time, Ben played against a great player like Ruud on the clay in Barcelona, he showed a great attitude. He wasn’t afraid at all to face a Roland Garros finalist. What’s your perspective on his attitude? What has changed?

BRYAN: “I think he’s a great competitor; he loves to compete regardless of the level. Whether it’s a Challenger, ATP, or a Grand Slam tournament, he sees it as an opportunity to showcase his talent, his personality, and to have fun. And to challenge himself and get the chance to play against the best like Casper, Jannik, and others. He’s always excited. We left Tokyo yesterday (Monday), and we’ve just arrived here (Vienna). I must say he’s eager to play now. Many players, after a tournament, might think about taking a week off, but he never even considered a break. He wants to play again, you know? He loves the challenge. I like that he has that attitude because I think it’s special. Even when he’s not feeling 100%, he doesn’t look for excuses; he wants to compete. He wants to train; he wants to push. We just have to make sure he doesn’t push too hard”.

UBITENNIS: So, in terms of competitive spirit, you’ve never seen him be scared. For example, when he started college in the USA, did you ever see him be scared of some big player, or was he always like “Ok, go for it and let’s do our best”?

BRYAN: “I think he’s unique in that sense because he looks forward to those moments. Especially the more people watching, the better he plays. For me, it was the opposite. I’d see the big stadium and play a bit scared. One thing’s for sure; I know he’s very different from me. So my goal is not to set limits on him. To say everything is possible. And you just have to keep working hard. You need to keep learning from every experience, whether you win or lose. Both are positives. A win gives you confidence. A loss lets you learn more about yourself and your game and what you need to do to keep improving. So everything is positive, nothing is negative, I think that’s the mindset I want him to have every day; it’s like he always has something to gain. And if you think you have something to gain, then you’re not scared. For sure”.

UBITENNIS: Talking perhaps about the most important match of his career so far, the one against Djokovic at the US Open. After that game, how did he feel? Was it like, “I’m sorry I lost. I’m sorry I didn’t do this or that” or was it more like “I stuck to my plan. I did my best, and next time will be better”?

BRYAN: “I think it was the latter. He felt really good about the tournament. He accomplished some things there. Especially after a season where he wasn’t winning many matches. Coming there and winning all those matches (five) gave him confidence. And playing against Djokovic with confidence, I think was fantastic. He lost the match against a great champion. So I think he just learned from the match, went back to watch the video, really took time after the US Open to reflect on what he needs to do to keep improving so he can someday win that kind of match. Identifying things he can do better. And then get back to work.”

UBITENNIS: What do you think of Sinner this year? Because in my opinion, he’s really improving, starting to put something different in his game. He’s not just a big hitter, but sometimes he comes to the net, varies with drop shots, and is showing various new solutions.

BRYAN: “Yes, I think he’s an extraordinary player. An extraordinary person, you know, genuine. When you see him off the court, he’s always ready to greet you, to smile at you, and you have to admire his kindness, so we appreciate that. And then the tennis, for me, he’s definitely one of the top 5 in the world. He’s serving well, playing well from the baseline, returning well, and now he’s starting to come forward and execute at the net. I love seeing this in players because I want the same for Ben. I want him to continue developing to become a complete player. He’s a good example for Ben, someone young who’s also working to become complete. It’s a great opportunity, again, to play against one of the best.”

UBITENNIS: Last question: in a sport as competitive and individualistic as tennis, it’s hard to get along with other players and have friends. Because once you step onto the court, that’s your enemy. Which players does Ben get along best with? Does he have friends here? He’s relatively new on the circuit. He’s like a freshman.

BRYAN: “Oh, it’s funny. He has friends everywhere, you know. And I think his closest friends are the ones he knows best, like Maki McDonald, Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz. These guys have really welcomed him into the American tennis fraternity, and also Francis Tiafoe. All these guys have been very, very kind to him, welcoming him. So it’s been nice to see; then he has friends like Dan Evans, who treat him a bit like a little brother, you know. They put him in his place sometimes, but you know, in a playful and fun way. We’ve also met some nice coaches out here. For us, it’s essential to enjoy the time off the court as well as on it. It’s important to wear a smile, greet people, get to know them and learn more about them. I want him to go beyond just tennis.”

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