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Albot Explains Why The ATP Cup Is Important For All Of Moldova

  • Posted: Nov 28, 2019

Albot Explains Why The ATP Cup Is Important For All Of Moldova

Albot has achieved more than anyone else in Moldovan tennis history

One of the final six countries to qualify for the inaugural ATP Cup was Moldova, led by World No. 46 Radu Albot. The 30-year-old, who claimed his first ATP Tour title this year in Delray Beach, is the highest-ranked player in his country’s history as well as its only titlist.

Albot speaks to about how important Moldova’s participation in the ATP Cup is for tennis in his country, what the opportunity means for his teammates and what he loves most about Moldova.

What would it mean to you to lead your country into the ATP Cup?
I think it’s pretty big for Moldova because bigger countries like Ukraine and Romania, which border Moldova, did not get in. It is cool for our country and for me also of course, being No. 1 in Moldova and playing matches against top players. It will be very interesting, so it will be good for the country, good for me. Only positive things to get from that.

Speaking of how important it is for you to start the year against top competition, so how much of an opportunity is it for you to face those tough matches right away?
I don’t mind. It’s good to play against the top guys. It’s good that you have a chance to get matches against them… I don’t mind to play with the top guys, for sure.

I guess I’ll be playing both matches – singles and doubles. You have to play and if I’m No. 1, I need to go on the court to compete.

You’re not on a team too often, so what will that experience be like for you?
I think I just need to focus on my matches, because my matches will be much stronger playing against the top guys in the world. From there, we’ll see who we’re going to play, how we’re going to play and so on.

What do you love most about your country?
I like that in Moldova, people are very simple. They are very hospitable. They will invite you in your house, invite you for dinner, for a glass wine, something like that. These two characteristics are for most of the Moldovan people. That’s what I like the most from my country and my people.

At a lot of your biggest tournaments you’ve said family and friends stay up through the night to watch you. Do you think the whole country will be keeping its eye on your team?
I don’t know how many people will be awake to watch. Maybe a lot, maybe not so many. But I think the people close to me like my family and close friends will stay up and watch, especially if I have a match against a big guy.

You’ve always said that you want to inspire people from your country, kids to become better than you one day. So how important is this to show your country competing against the best in the world?
I think it’s very important to be among the top countries in the world because of me, because of my [ATP] Ranking. That’s pretty good. I know for sure now that the kids are watching me, they are trying to play as me. I am a role model for them and I would say it’s pretty important that they are focussed, they practise and become better than me one day.

How well do you know some of your teammates?
I know all of them. I’ve even spoken with them about if they’re happy to participate in the ATP Cup, if they want to come.

How important is it for them to have this opportunity?
One guy was very excited. He was like, ‘Yeah, for sure I’m coming, no question.’ Straight away he gave a positive answer. For sure it’s something cool for them to be in such a big event because they play only Futures events.

To be right away with the top guys at a top tournament with top prize money, this will be a good experience for them and hopefully give them a a boost so they can improve, get better and compete at a higher level, not only Futures.

Growing up, when you would go to the tennis courts, what was the experience like since tennis isn’t huge in Moldova?
The first memory is you get a ball and you go to hit against the wall. And then there are 30 kids on one court and one guy hits the ball, one guy hits the other way and you run and you hustle and nothing happens. It’s like chaos everywhere.

Another thing I remember is you hit over the wall and you need to go around the fence to grab your ball because you get just one. So you practise hitting the wall for a few minutes, you hit it over and then you look for the ball for 30 minutes.

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Former Wimbledon champion Mirza to compete after maternity break

  • Posted: Nov 28, 2019

Former Wimbledon doubles champion Sania Mirza will return to competitive tennis in January, two years after taking a break to have a baby.

The Indian will play at the Hobart International in Australia alongside Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine.

Mirza, 33, gave birth to her first child with former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik in October 2018.

In 2015 she won Wimbledon with Swiss player Martina Hingis, then went on to win the US and Australian Opens.

Mirza became the first Indian to win a WTA singles title in in 2005, before injury forced her to concentrate on doubles.

A former world number one in doubles, Mirza also won three Grand Slams in mixed. She plans to partner American Rajeev Ram at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

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Struff On ATP Cup: 'I Think It’s Going To Be Really Great'

  • Posted: Nov 28, 2019

Struff On ATP Cup: ‘I Think It’s Going To Be Really Great’

World No. 35 hopes to help Germany through Group F in Brisbane

Jan-Lennard Struff enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019, climbing to a career-high No. 33 in the ATP Rankings, reaching two ATP Tour semi-finals and earning five wins against Top 10 opponents.

The 29-year-old will hope to carry that momentum into 2020, beginning the new season at the inaugural ATP Cup. Struff is Germany’s No. 2 singles player, and he will hope to help his country advance out of Group F, which also consists of Greece, Canada and Australia. Struff speaks to about his German idols growing up, what makes competing on a team special, and more.

Which countrymen did you watch growing up and what did you admire about them?
A lot of players: Tommy Haas, Nicolas Kiefer, really a lot of them. Those are the two biggest names, I would say. I liked the way they played, I liked the style they played.

Tommy was an inspiration for me. When I played him in Munich and in Kitzbuhel it was unreal to play him. It was just crazy because he played his last match against me in Kitzbuhel. Obviously I liked his intensity on court and the way he hit the ball. It was just unreal, I really loved that.

What are your early memories of playing tennis in your home country?
I started playing with my parents, who were both tennis coaches. I really enjoyed playing. When I was a small kid, I always loved to go out and I played soccer, as well.

I just loved to do something with my friends, playing the sport and travelling with some guys from my practice group. We just had a fun time, playing club matches in the youth area, under 12, under 14, like four guys. We are very good friends and we were just enjoying the matches and practice sessions together.

Of course I watched so many Grand Slams on TV, it was unreal. When I was in school, the Australian Open was on TV. They started at 1 in the morning. I was waking up at 5 or 6 with my mom, watching interesting matches.

What do you think will be the most fun part of playing on a team?
I love to be part of a team. It’s an honour to play for my country. I’ve always dreamed about that. When I first listened to the national anthem when I was playing [for Germany] I had goosebumps. I was just tight. Everyone is tight playing for their country for the first time. I had an amazing match. It’s unreal.

We [spend] most of our time on Tour playing for ourselves. We have a team with our coaches and a physio and a fitness coach, and we kind of play for them as well, for our team. But to play with other players is just a great feeling…. The ATP Cup, the new event, I think will be really good.

What makes you excited about it?
It’s something new. It’s a new event and it’s in Australia. Australia is good for tennis. [It is] such a nice time always in December going to Australia and playing the Australian Open.

I think that this event at the beginning of the year will be a great kick-off, start of the year. Playing a team event is just exciting because you don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I think it’s going to be really great.

If you could take one stroke from any one of your countrymen, what would it be?
I would take the backhand of Zverev. It’s so consistent. He plays so well from the baseline and his backhand is outrageous.

What is the best practical joke a compatriot has played on you?
We do some fun things when we’re on a team. In Australia… we went to an escape room together and did some great stuff to make good team-building. We don’t take it too seriously on the team. I think everyone is just sometimes [making] a joke for themselves.

What are three things you love most about your country?
It’s very tough to pick three, not the weather, though. I really like the stability of the rules system in Germany. I enjoy the people a lot. I like to see my family and I like driving fast cars. That’s one of the big things on the Autobahn! That’s one of the good things we have in Germany. I’m very proud of our country and I think we have good rules.

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