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'Jet lag sorted, temperature drops sorted… now bring on the Fed Cup'

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

British number two Heather Watson writes in her BBC Sport column about preparing to lead Great Britain’s Fed Cup team for the match against Slovenia on 7-8 February.

This time last year I was watching the Fed Cup from my bed – it was a really bad experience for me.

It was such a shame – after playing Fed Cup for all those years I had never been part of a home tie. And then we were finally at home in Bath but I was literally bed-bound for the whole week with illness, even afterwards as well.

I was live-streaming all the girls’ matches every day, they just did so well. Then in April I was part of the team that won the tie against Kazakhstan at the Copper Box in London, and that was an amazing experience.

A year on from Bath, I am coming into this week’s tie against Slovakia feeling really happy. It will be my 32nd tie and if we win, we will get through to April’s first ever Fed Cup Finals in Budapest.

This time round I am playing as the number one player for Great Britain because Johanna Konta won’t be there. I’ve played number one before a few times so it doesn’t feel too different, and I’m just really excited about the matches this week.

I know the girls in the team really well. We’re all equal and we’re good friends, so being number one doesn’t make it any different in that sense.

Jo is a really good friend of mine so I was sad when she said she wasn’t playing this year but I totally understand her reasons. From a selfish perspective I would have loved her here but all the other girls are great and there’s a brilliant atmosphere in the group.

Since August-September last year I have been playing some really good tennis, I’ve just been consistent with my results and have been climbing the rankings again. I’m really happy and I’m really enjoying my tennis and I think it is really showing.

I’m 74 in the world at the moment and I’m feeling super confident. I’ve had a lot of matches this year – including reaching the semi-finals in Hobart last month – and on the practice court I am hitting the ball well.

I feel like I’m on a good run and I hope I can carry it into our matches on Friday and Saturday.

Jet lag, lost bags and temperature drops

As a professional tennis player you do a lot of travelling and are away from home a lot, but that’s one of the sacrifices you have to make.

I’ve just come back from Melbourne, which is 12 hours ahead of Bratislava where I am now. The jet lag hasn’t been too bad though. In fact, when I come back from Australia I am always super tired at night and I wake up fresh as a daisy in the morning because I’ve had an early night.

It was nearly 40 degrees in Melbourne and now I’m in around eight degrees here, but even that is fine.

We are just so used to it, we bring all the right clothes and we’ve got a really good support team here from the LTA, who do a brilliant job on the physio, strength and conditioning and medical side of things, so we know we’re going to be in the best possible shape for the matches.

I didn’t lose any luggage this time round but it has happened to me quite a few times where my bags haven’t arrived.

One year I flew to Australia, they lost my bag and I had to borrow my friend’s clothes for the next two days. Luckily, it was just over Christmas so I just had those two days off and didn’t need to find any tennis clothes. They’ve never lost my racquets which is lucky, it’s always just my case.

Apart from the time zone and the temperature, we’ve also had to get used to playing on a clay court instead of a hard court, which is what we were playing on in Australia.

It’s hard to adjust in a short space of time but it’s the same for everyone and I’m sure the matches will be really tight come the weekend.

We hit on clay a few times in London before we got here which was a good start, but the clay is different here. The court is really nice, I like it more, so that’s a good thing.

Team spirit and Craig David

There’s a good team spirit naturally within the group but we do also play games in Fed Cup weeks to keep everyone laughing in the team room.

This morning we filmed a feature for LTA’s social media channels where we were shown some old social media posts and we had to guess which player had posted them.

There were some shockers in there so it was really funny – apparently you could hear us laughing from next door! The best one was a picture Annie K posted from when she met Craig David a few years ago. It was very corny, so we knew it was her.

We all have a good time on the court during practice as well – the warm-ups are always good fun and get people going well. Anne has been really positive and she’s been motivating us all week, so everyone’s feeling good and looking forward to getting started.

We always get great support at Fed Cup both in the arenas and at home, so I’m sure we’ll get that again and hopefully we can give you all something to shout about.

Heather Watson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Sonia Oxley

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Berankis, Vesely Advance To Pune QFs

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

Berankis, Vesely Advance To Pune QFs

Vesely edges Caruso

Second seed Ricardas Berankis recovered from a slow start, saving two set points at 4-5 in the first set, before beating Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 7-6(2), 6-1 in one hour and 42 minutes on Wednesday for a place in the Tata Open Maharashtra quarter-finals. He’ll next challenge fifth seed Yuichi Sugita, who advanced without hitting a ball when qualifier Viktor Troicki pulled out due to a fever.

Jiri Vesely battled hard to overcome seventh seed Salvatore Caruso 7-6(5), 6-4 in one hour and 51 minutes. He awaits the winner of third seed Stefano Travaglia and Ilya Ivashka in the last eight.

In first-round action, Taro Daniel, the winner of an ATP Challenger Tour title in Burnie (d. Hanfmann) on Sunday, knocked out wild card Sasikumar Mukund 6-2, 7-6(7) in one hour and 40 minutes. He will next challenge sixth seed James Duckworth.

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ATP & Tennis Europe Join Forces For Tennis Europe Junior School

  • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

ATP & Tennis Europe Join Forces For Tennis Europe Junior School

Helping to prepare athletes for professional tennis careers

The ATP and the European Tennis Federation have announced plans to collaborate on the Tennis Europe Junior School, the pioneering educational program designed to prepare young athletes aged 13-16 for life as professional tennis players.

The School content is available online for all players. Interactive live classes will also be held at 10 of the biggest European junior tournaments in 2020, where boys and girls can learn about topics including:

  • Anti‐Doping
  • Safeguarding
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Agents and Sponsorship
  • Media and Social Media
  • By supporting the project, the ATP can now contribute to the selection and creation of content tailored specifically for young male players, send experts to Junior School classes, and advise on a wide range of topics in the Junior School curriculum.

    Ross Hutchins, ATP Chief Player Officer, said: “Expanding our player education programmes and reaching the world’s best players at a young age is a key priority for the ATP. We look forward to working with the Tennis Europe Junior School with the objective of ensuring that emerging talents are as well‐equipped as possible to deal with the future demands of life on the professional Tour.”

    Tennis Europe CEO Thomas Hammerl initiated the project in 2018 and commented, “We are delighted to have the collaboration of the ATP for this project, which means we are now working with both governing bodies, the ATP and WTA. Education is a vital part of our strategy and with this agreement we ensure that players receive consistent and correct information on important topics for their professional careers. The feedback from players, parents, coaches and federations has bee fantastic and motivates us to continue to invest in this area.”

    The Tennis Europe Junior Tour consists of more than 400 tournaments held in 48 European nations for the 12, 14 and 16 & Under age groups, and celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2020. Over 20,000 registered players are eligible to compete on the Tour, with the top 8 qualifying for the season-ending highlight, the Junior Masters in Monte‐Carlo.

    The Junior School adds an educational aspect to formative on‐court experiences provided by the Tour. All scheduled classes in 2020 can be found here

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    After 29 Years, Paes Ready For One Last Roar

    • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

    After 29 Years, Paes Ready For One Last Roar

    Indian doubles specialist to conclude ATP Tour career this season

    All good things must come to an end, but some of them thankfully take much longer to reach their conclusion.

    Twenty-nine years after playing his first ATP Tour event, Leander Paes is bringing his storied career to a close this season. The Indian doubles legend will play select tournaments throughout the year as part of a farewell tour that he’s calling ‘One Last Roar’.

    The first ATP Tour stop in his swan song takes place this week at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune. Paes isn’t content to merely wave goodbye to his fans at home, though. The 46-year-old, partnering Matthew Ebden, upset second seeds Divij Sharan/Artem Sitak 6-2, 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

    ”I’m trying to go through this year without getting emotional. I don’t think I’ll succeed,” Paes said in a video posted on the tournament’s Facebook page. “Knowing this will be my last [ATP Tour event] in India will not be easy. I’ve won this event several times, done well in singles and doubles, played with many partners. I’ve played in stadiums that were packed and screaming my name. I really am very appreciative for all the years of support.”

    ”Coming to Pune is a really emotional tournament for me… In this farewell year, I will call it ‘One Last Roar’. I hope I can roar really loud for my fans and all the tennis lovers out there in the country.”

    Paes has been a staple at the highest level in doubles for four decades. He’s spent 39 weeks at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings, racked up 768 tour-level victories and won 55 ATP Tour doubles titles, including eight Grand Slam men’s doubles crowns. Paes has also picked up 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, in addition to completing the Career Grand Slam in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles.

    There’s been plenty of success in singles as well. Paes earned a tour-level title in 1998 Newport and a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

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    Although the fact that Paes could remain in the Top 100 of the doubles rankings at age 46 is an achievement in itself, he started to ponder retirement at the end of last season. After consulting with friends and family, he decided on a farewell tour that he views as a way to show gratitude to everyone who helped shape his career.

    ”In September 2019, I started looking at the best way to retire,” Paes said. “I asked my whole team, my parents, to give me suggestions. They were all in unity that I need to do one last roar, that I need to play one more year… The majority of them said [it was] to go out there and have a chance to thank the other players that I’ve played with for four decades, thank the tournaments and fans all around the world.

    ”It’s been a very humbling experience to have such a long career. Whether it’s the 18 Grand Slam titles, the 97 Grand Slam appearances… It’s the people that have made the difference. The people I’ve interacted with through these 30 years have been really special. With tennis being such a global sport, to bring a little bit of happiness to people is something I’ve always strived to do.”

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    Paes said he isn’t certain of his exact schedule this year, but hopes to play the remaining three Grand Slams and reach 100 total appearances in major championships. It’s almost a guarantee that he’ll remain closely linked to the sport when his playing career ends, but for now, he’s focussed on getting the most out of his final events.

    ”I know there will be a whole second life for me to live, to build other champions, to do other great things and entertain in many other ways,” Paes said. “But for Leander Paes, the professional tennis player, this is where the train stops.”

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    Felix Pushed In Montpellier

    • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

    Felix Pushed In Montpellier

    Canadian seeking his first ATP Tour title

    Felix Auger-Aliassime was pushed but eventually held off three-time ATP Tour titlist Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday at the Open Sud de France.

    The #NextGenATP Canadian hit 11 aces and broke six times to reach the second round in Montpellier. Auger-Aliassime is the fifth seed at the ATP 250 and is looking to rebound after his first-round loss at the Australian Open to Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

    The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime will next meet Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who beat Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 7-5.

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    Swede Mikael Ymer avenged his 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals loss to Italy’s Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-4. Sinner beat Ymer last year in Milan in group play 4-0, 4-2, 4-1, but Ymer broke the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion four times to advance.

    The 21-year-old will next face seventh seed Filip Krajinovic, a 6-4, 6-4 winner against French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.

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    Five Things To Know About Emil Ruusuvuori

    Finland’s #NextGenATP talent Emil Ruusuvuori earned his first tour-level win of the season, beating Austrian Dennis Novak 7-6(3) 4-6, 6-2. The 20-year-old Ruusuvuori is projected to make his debut inside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.

    He will next play Slovakian Norbert Gombos, who beat sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta on Monday.

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    Ramos-Vinolas Up & Running In Cordoba

    • Posted: Feb 05, 2020

    Ramos-Vinolas Up & Running In Cordoba

    #NextGenATP Moutet advances on Tuesday

    Albert Ramos-Vinolas kicked off his week in style at the Cordoba Open in Argentina. The fifth-seeded Spaniard outlasted local qualifier Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 7-6(3) to reach the second round on Tuesday.

    Ramos-Vinolas let slip a match point on his serve at 6-5 in the second set, but recovered to advance after two hours. His next match will be an all-Spanish affair with Pablo Andujar, who cruised through Slovakian Filip Horansky 6-2, 6-2.

    #NextGenATP Frenchman Corentin Moutet continued his outstanding start to the year by defeating Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 6-4, 6-3. Moutet, who reached his first ATP Tour final last month in Doha (l. to Rublev), will now face second-seeded Argentine Guido Pella.

    Moutet Cordoba 2020

    Andrej Martin fought back from 2-4 in the opening set to move past home favourite Federico Coria 7-6(5), 6-4. Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez kept up his strong form by rallying to defeat Italian Federico Gaio 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The 22-year-old scored his maiden tour-level win last month at the Australian Open. He’ll play fourth-seeded Serbian Laslo Djere in the next round.

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    India’s No. 1 Gunneswaran Off To Good Start In Pune

    Eighth seed Juan Ignacio Londero looks to delight the home crowd when he begins his title defence in the night session against Italian Marco Cecchinato. The winner will face Argentine wild card Pedro Cachin, who raced past Bolivian Hugo Dellien 6-1, 6-1 in just 58 minutes.

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