EXCLUSIVE: Ex-No.1 Ana Ivanovic Backs Jannik Sinner To Wins More Slams - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-No.1 Ana Ivanovic Backs Jannik Sinner To Wins More Slams

The former tennis star shares her thoughts about Italy’s new sporting sensation with Ubitennis.

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

Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open was ‘incredible’ in the eyes of fellow Grand Slam winner Ana Ivanovic. 

At Melbourne Park Sinner became the first Italian player to win the tournament after staging an epic fightback against Daniil Medvedev in the final where he clawed his way back from two sets down to win. Something that has only been achieved in a title match at the Australian Open once before by Rafael Nadal. Earlier in the tournament, he also scored wins over fifth seed Andrey Rublev before ending Novak Djokovic’s 33-match winning streak in the semi-finals. 

The triumph of the 22-year-old has been hailed by Ivanovic who was two years younger than Sinner when she won the 2008 French Open. Ivanovic was one of the stars of women’s tennis during her playing days, winning 15 Tour-level titles and spending 12 weeks as world No.1. She was also runner-up at the 2007 French Open and 2008 Australian Open. 

It was incredible,” Ivanovic tells Ubitennis of Sinner’s latest achievement. “The way he played the whole tournament. He really showed mental strength and endurance. The way he strikes the ball with such a sweet spot was great to watch.”

One of those guiding Sinner on the Tour is experienced coach Darren Cahill who has also coached Ivanovic as part of the Adidas Player Development Program. Cahill has worked with some of the biggest names of the sport with his past clients also including Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt and Simona Halep. 

While the Australian is known by many in the sport, what is it like to work alongside him?

I always enjoyed working with Darren because he is so knowledgeable about tennis,” Ivanovic explained. 
“He was always giving me the best advice in the moments when you are the most under pressure. He always found words to calm me down and to point me in the right direction. 
“I was very happy when I saw him in Jannik’s box.”

Besides Cahill, Sinner’s team also includes co-coach Simone Vagnozzi, physio Giacomo Naldi and fitness trainer Umberto Ferrara.

Fame and the future 

Sinner was already a popular figure in his native Italy with thousands cheering on his run to the final of the ATP Finals in Turin last November. Shortly afterwards, he led his country to the Davis Cup title which was celebrated by a visit to the Quirinale Palace (residence of the Italian president) where he and his team mates were greeted by President Sergio Mattarella. 

However, his popularity has surged following his Australian Open win with his Instagram following reportedly increasing by around 800,000 to a total of 2.4M. To put that into context, the only active ATP players to have a larger following than him are Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Nick Kyrgios. 

He has held a one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister of Italy, received congratulations from the Pope and visited the historic Rome Colosseum alongside two government ministers (Gennaro Sangiuliano and Daniela Santanché). 

It is fair to say that the tennis star’s profile is exploding which itself could pose a new challenge. Fortunately, Ivanovic has some advice for Sinner to follow in the coming months.  

“Now it is a different time with much more assent on social media vs in 2008 (when Ivanovic won the French Open),” she said. 
“I think the most important is to follow his path and his training, but I am sure he is doing that. He has a good team and support system behind him, so he can focus on his goals and rhythm.”

Should he stay on his path, the question remains how good could he become in the future? He is only the fifth Italian player to win a major singles title and the first man to do so since 1976. He also has 10 other ATP titles to his name and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year. 

“He has a really good overall game style. He is mentally and physically super strong,” Ivanovic commented.
“If he just keeps doing what he is doing there are many more Grand Slam titles for him. I really enjoy watching him. He seems like a very nice person, which is very beautiful to see.”

Ivanovic, who married former football player Bastian Schweinsteiger and has three children, attended the Linz Open in Austria last week as a guest of honor. She recently announced a partnership with haircare company Schwarzkopf and has served as a National Ambassador for UNICEF Serbia since 2007. 

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French Open Player Avoids Disqualification After Striking Fan With Ball

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Terence Atmane - photo by Ubitennis

Officials at the French Open opted not to default a player from his match after he hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan on the first day of the tournament. 

Terence Atmane, who received a wild card into this year’s draw, was involved in a tough five-set battle against Sebastian Ofner on Sunday evening. During the fourth set, Atmane found himself down 1-4, 30-30, when the incident unfolded. After hitting a shot that landed out, the Frenchman blasted a ball which unintentionally hit somebody in the crowd.

As a result of the incident, the match was halted for 15 minutes while the umpire and tournament referee addressed the situation, which included speaking to the person who got hit. Following the lengthy discussion, it was decided that Atmane would be issued with a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct but would not be disqualified. Prompting surprise from Ofner who went on to win the match 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 7-5.

“For me, it was a bit surprising, because if you do something like that on a small court, you have to be punished, you know?” The Associated Press quoted Ofner as saying after the match. “Because it’s not like you hit the ball normally. It was full power. The ball was so fast. Straight in the crowd. There were people disqualified for less.”

In the past players have been disqualified from a match for similar actions, including Novak Djokovic who was defaulted from his fourth round match at the 2020 US Open after hitting a lines judge with a ball. More recently, at last year’s French Open, doubles player Miyu Kato and her partner were defaulted after she accidentally but a ball girl. 

Ofner, who is currently ranked 45th in the world, says he was told that Atmane avoided a big punishment because the person the crowd was fine and ‘saw the ball coming.’ 

“The referee said, ‘Oh, yeah, I was talking with the lady. The lady said at the beginning it was hurting but now it’s fine, and everything was OK. She saw the ball coming. So it’s not enough for disqualification.’ I think if he would see how it was, maybe he would decide different,” he said. “A little bit more unlucky and it’s going directly in the face. And then something can happen (like) a broken nose or whatever.”

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has so far made no public comment on the matter.

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French Open: Stan Wawrinka Beats Murray In Battle Of Former Grand Slam Champions

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Stan Wawrinka - Parigi 2022 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Stan Wawrinka produced a solid display to beat long-time rival Andy Murray in what could be the Brit’s final appearance at the French Open.

Wawrinka, who won the Paris title back in 2015, rallied his way to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1, win over former world No.1 Murray in what was the second-oldest match-up to take place at the tournament this century. At the age of 39, Wawrinka has become the oldest player to win a match in Paris since his compatriot Roger Federer did so three years ago. The Swiss No.1 hit 35 winners past his opponent in what was their 23rd meeting on the ATP Tour. 

“My first words were respect for a great champion,” Wawrinka said about the exchange the two had at the net afterwards. 
“I love watching him (Murray) play and fighting against him. We have had a lot of good fights in the last 15 years. A lot of emotion when we played here (at Roland Garros).”

Coming into the tournament, there have been questions raised about the current form of both players. Wawrinka had only won three matches in his four previous tournaments played and is yet to score consecutive wins this year. Meanwhile, Murray’s start to the clay swing was marred by an ankle injury and he has only played three matches on the clay this season before Paris. 

However, it was Wawrinka who managed to come out on top with the use of some of his signature backhand winners. Throughout the first two sets, he won 75% of his first service points without dropping serve and broke Murray once in each of those. 

Then at the start of the third frame, he pounced once again with yet another backhand winner to break as a lacklustered Murray continued to produce costly errors. Paving the way for Wawrinka to storm to a largely one-sided victory. He earned his first match point with a winner down the line before closing the clash out with an almost identical shot. 

“I love to work a lot in front of a crowd like this,” Wawrinka explained. 
“I’ve shared a lot of emotion with this crowd and they gave me a lot of energy to fight.
“In my head, I am still a young guy, I am still a kid. I just want to live this moment in front of this crowd.”

Murray’s loss occurs in what could be his last-ever French Open appearance. In recent months he has spoken about ending his career in 2024 but it yet to make a formal announcement. Should this be the case, he ends his Roland Garros career with a win-loss record of 39-12. His best run was to the final in 2016. 

This year is Wawrinka’s 19th appearance at Roland Garros and he is one of only two players in the Open Era to have won 11 five-set matches at the Grand Slam. The other to do so is Gael Monfils. It is the second time he has beaten Murray in the first round of the tournament after 2020. 

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French Open: Jack Draper Serves Up Trouble and is Upset by Dutch Qualifier De Jong

Brit Draper loses his longest ever tennis match in only his second five-setter of his career.

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Jack Draper crashed out at the first hurdle at the French Open after a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 3-6, 6-3 loss to world number 176 Jesper de Jong – a qualifier who had come through three rounds to reach the main draw – who next faces third seed Carlos Alcaraz. 

In a titanic tussle lasting over four hours, the British number two could not find any rhythm on his serve, getting just 50% of his first deliveries in while winning only 51% of his second serves – resulting in him being broken an alarming nine times over the five sets.

“My serve has been a problem this year,” said Draper after the match. “I’m trying to change it to make it better, and obviously I’ve made those changes in the last few weeks. So, it’s not comfortable, especially in a grand slam playing in a fifth set on a second serve. You know, the confidence isn’t there at the moment on my serve, and it’s a problem I’m going to have to work on with coaches and see where I can make it more consistent because, yeah, it’s really letting me down.”

Dutchman De Jong took the opening two sets and was heading for a surprising routine victory before Draper showed some admirable fight to win the third on a tie-breaker before taking control of the fourth to push the match into a decider after a one-hour rain delay.

Draper, still only 22 with huge potential, still has time to understand how to navigate the fluctuations of long five setters and will be disappointed with the outcome of the fifth when he threw in yet another double-fault at 30-40 down in the seventh game to hand his opponent the initiative.  “I battled my way back, started playing a decent level. There was a lot of ebbs and flows in the match. That’s five-set tennis. I’m kind of learning that the more I play,” he added. 

Elsewhere in other results, sixth seed Andrey Rublev dropped a set in a tough battle against Japan’s Taro Daniel and next faces Spain’s Pedro Martinez, while eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz survived going two sets to one down before coming through easily in five against Shintaro Mochizuki from Japan. 

Bulgaria’s 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov recorded a routine win against American Aleksandar Kovacevic and French veteran, and wildcard Richard Gasquet was arguably more impressive in his straight sets win over Borna Coric of Croatia and potentially plays second seed Jannik Sinner next. 

However, in perhaps the biggest upset of the day, French number one and 17th seed Ugo Humbert lost 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in a match close to three hours and in front of home fans on Suzanne-Lenglen stadium court. 

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