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Fognini, Djokovic, Nadal In Monte Carlo Milestone Moments

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2020

Fognini, Djokovic, Nadal In Monte Carlo Milestone Moments

Celebrating 30 years of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, relives some of the key moments from 1990 to 2019 in Monte Carlo

With no action from the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters this year, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, has taken the time to reflect on some of the greatest moments in the tournament’s history as we celebrate 30 years of ATP Masters 1000 tennis.

From 1990 to 2019, here are some of the key milestones from Monte Carlo:

One Year Ago, 2019: Fognini’s Dramatic Run
It was almost a flying visit to the Monte Carlo Country Club for Fabio Fognini in 2019. The Italian, born in nearby Sanremo, trailed Andrey Rublev 4-6, 1-4 in his opening match before an impressive comeback. It proved to be the start of a dramatic, career-defining week for Fognini.

The 13th seed, who also rallied from 1-6, 0-2 down against Borna Coric, stunned then-World No. 3 Alexander Zverev and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets to set up a surprise final against Dusan Lajovic. After falling behind an early break on Court Rainier III, Fognini raised his level in front of a pro-Italian crowd to become the first man from his nation to win a Masters 1000 trophy.

“I just feel happy because I won a big tournament that was always my goal in my career,” said Fognini. “I think everybody, when you’re growing up and you start and you decide to play tennis, you are dreaming to win a big tournament.”

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Five Years Ago, 2015: Djokovic Makes History
Two years after ending Nadal’s eight-year reign as Monte Carlo champion, 2013 winner Novak Djokovic collected his second title in the Principality. The Monte Carlo resident moved past Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Andreas Haider-Maurer and Marin Cilic to book a fourth ATP Head2Head meeting against Nadal (1-2) at the event.

Djokovic broke his great rival’s serve on four occasions to reach the championship match with a 6-3, 6-3 victory and become the only man to beat the Spaniard on multiple occasions at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. Djokovic was pushed the distance by Tomas Berdych in a rain-interrupted final, before clinching the trophy 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 after two hours and 43 minutes. As a result of his final win, Djokovic also became the first man to win the opening three Masters 1000 events of the year after completing the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami earlier in the month. At his next two events, the Serbian claimed his fourth Masters 1000 trophy of the year in Rome and reached the Roland Garros championship match.

10 Years Ago, 2010: No Stopping Nadal
When Rafael Nadal hangs up his racquet, he may look back at the 2010 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters as the most dominant tournament of his career. The Spaniard entered the event on an 11-month trophy drought, dating back to his 2009 Internazionali BNL d’Italia title run, but dropped just 14 games across five matches to capture his sixth successive Monte Carlo crown.

Nadal beat Thiemo de Bakker, Michael Berrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer to book a final clash against Spanish No. 2 Fernando Verdasco. The five-time defending champion produced his best tennis against his countryman, dropping just one game to take the title after 86 minutes. Nadal won an Open Era-record eight consecutive titles in Monte Carlo between 2005 and 2012.


20 Years Ago, 2000: Pioline’s Greatest Triumph
In 2000, Cedric Pioline became the first French winner of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in the Open Era. After runner-up finishes at the event in 1993 and 1998, the 6’2” right-hander produced his best level to capture the biggest title of his career in the Principality.

Pioline dropped just one set en route to his third Monte Carlo championship match, where he faced first-time Masters 1000 titlist Dominik Hrbaty for the trophy. The 30-year-old Frenchman held his nerve throughout the two-hour, 40-minute final, defeating Hrbaty 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(6). It proved to be the final trophy of Pioline’s career.

30 Years Ago, 1990: Chesnokov’s Maiden Masters 1000
In 1990, Andrei Chesnokov arrived in Monte Carlo seeking his first Masters 1000 title. The Russian, who entered the event with four ATP Tour crowns, did not drop a set en route to a semi-final clash against World No. 8 Emilio Sanchez. Chesnokov was down a set against Sanchez, who had beaten World No. 3 Boris Becker in the quarter-finals, before clinching his place in the championship match with a final-set tie-break triumph.

In a meeting of first-time Masters 1000 finalists, Chesnokov defeated 22-year-old Thomas Muster in straight sets to claim the trophy. Three weeks later, Muster overcame Chesnokov to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. The Austrian captured three Monte Carlo titles (1992, ’95-’96) during his career.

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The Good, Bad & Emergency One: Meeting The ‘Three Gorans’ At Wimbledon

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2020

The Good, Bad & Emergency One: Meeting The ‘Three Gorans’ At Wimbledon

Long-time ATP Tour consultant shares memories from his favourite sporting press conferences

That’s a match up even Ivanisevic can win (say that fast 10 times).

Press conferences for athletes (and the media) can be pretty dull affairs on occasion, but given a bit of thought and flare they can be winners for both the players and the media involved. There were few better than Goran Ivanisevic at spicing up the day.

Ivanisevic gave what is arguably the funniest tennis press conferences in history at Wimbledon in 2001 and that off court performance still brings smiles to the faces of anybody who was lucky enough to be in the room at the time.

During his amazing run from wild card to Wimbledon winner in 2001, Ivanisevic revealed for the first time, that there were two Gorans that he had to manage during his matches. The Nice and Nasty, the Good and Bad.

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The Bad Goran wanted him to argue with the umpire, break a few racquets, get fired up. The good Goran disagreed and wanted to concentrate on winning his matches by focusing on the game at hand. Ivanisevic said things got so bad at times that the two Gorans would start arguing with each other during points and he would just freeze up.

“Guys, guys… one has to be under control, but they both, they were going,” he said in one Wimbledon interview. “One was rushing, the other one was rushing even more.”

It got so bad that during a third-round match with Andy Roddick, Ivanisevic had to call in a secret, and as yet undisclosed THIRD Goran.

“The third one came and said, “Guys, relax. It’s a lovely court, relax. Just calm down.’”

“The third one had to come. I had to call him. He’s the emergency one. Emergency 911 call. That’s the one who just comes when [there is] a very emergency situation. He is nowhere you know, he is like behind the scenes, you know. He is like the brain man. He’s controlling.”

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The good news is all three Gorans went on to win one of the most emotional and exciting Wimbledon finals, seeing off Australian Patrick Rafter 9-7 in the fifth set of a classic match carried over to a third Monday. The bad news is there was only one trophy to present.

The three Gorans have recently be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I am not sure which one of the three is actually inducted but you could ask former US powerhouse Todd Martin, the Hall of Fame CEO. He recently met all three Gorans at an induction function at the Australian Open in January. He’ll know. My bet is it is Good Goran.

As a 40-year-plus veteran sports journalist and ATP insider, I must have been to a million pressers (okay, so a little journalistic licence there – it’s probably only 756,000 at best) and most of them went in one ear and out the other.

But there are a few that stand out for me as a reporter.

I always thought the Australian golfer Greg Norman had the right attitude in the press room. For him, the conference was his as much as the media’s and he was always looking for ways to give a good story and grab a headline. One of his better efforts in my book came many years ago at the World Matchplay Golf championship in London.

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After a particularly dreary day, Norman came into the interview room late in the day and sensing the flat atmosphere said, “So do you guys have a story for today?”. The answer was a resounding no, so Norman took charge.

“I’ll give you a story,” he said. “I am going crocodile hunting in the Australian outback next week.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?,” somebody asked.

“You bet it is,” Norman said. “My wife is insisting I take a satellite phone and check in twice a day.”

The story got bigger and bigger as the interview went along and the next day everybody ran a version of “The Shark hunts Crocs” story. It led most sports pages. Norman had taken the opportunity not only to give a great story, but also to promote his swashbuckling brand. The media got an entertaining yarn. Everybody was happy.

As far as I am aware, no crocodiles were hurt in the production of that story.

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While on golf, I can’t pass without mentioning the Merry Mex, Lee Trevino. For him, press conferences were more like stand-up comedy. Always a full house when he came in, no matter what score he shot. Every golfer knows a million Trevino stories, and some of them are even true.

Here are three of my favourites:

“I’m in the woods so often I can tell you which plants are edible.” Good line, but a Trevino embellishment. He was one of the most accurate players to ever pick up a club.

“One of the nice things about the Senior Tour is we can take a cart and a cooler. If you’re game is not going well, you can always have a picnic.”

“Columbus went around the world in 1492. That isn’t a lot of strokes when you consider the course.”

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I covered the Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988 and finished up working the downhill skiing out in Banff. The mixed zone interview area, where media meet the players for quick comments after competition, was a gently sloping snowed area and for the first few days with plenty of snow it was hard to catch much from the athletes as they slid gracefully by.

Then came a Canadian chinook, and that melted the snow in the mixed zone and the skiers became bogged going though and, suddenly, had a lot more to say. The winners though, always came into the interview room and through a translator would do their pressers in a variety of languages. One that stood out for me was a Swiss skier, Peter Mueller. I can’t remember what medal he won and I’m too lazy to look it up now, but if you’re reading this I know you have time on your hands, so you look it up.

Anyway, being Swiss he was automatically multi-lingual, so he dismissed the translator and started to work his way through various languages and seemed to going pretty well until he got to Japanese. I’m pretty sure the combination of “Suzuki, Toyota, Mitsubishi …san” wasn’t quite cutting it, but a gold medal from me for trying. The Japanese press loved it.

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Monfils, Fognini To Compete At Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2020

Monfils, Fognini To Compete At Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro

Event to take place from 27-30 April

As the starting date draws nearer, the organisers of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro announced on Wednesday that Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini will take part in the pioneering tournament, which will replicate the tennis event in a virtual format where the best tennis players in the world will square off from their homes from 27 to 30 April. The players will swap their racquets for a PlayStation 4 to clash in a Manolo Santana Stadium that has been recreated in exquisite detail in the Tennis World Tour videogame (Nacon Gaming).

World No. 9 Monfils enjoyed a spectacular start to the season, winning two titles (Montpellier and Rotterdam), giving him a total of 10 ATP Tour titles in his career. Now, the 33-year-old Frenchman will start out as one of the favourites in the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro thanks to his love of video games.

“I have been playing a lot of video games during the lockdown, so I will be glad to meet up [with] my fellow players again during the Tennis World Tour tournament organized by the Mutua Madrid Open,” said Monfils. “We will be back in competition mode but more importantly we will play for a great cause.”

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Fognini, last year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion, will also have the chance to help the tennis players most in need at this time, those that have no income to help them through these months of inactivity and those affected by COVID-19 in the pioneering online charity competition. The tournament will include a purse of €150,000 in both draws (ATP and WTA), from which the winners will be able to decide on how much they donate to the tennis players currently suffering economically, and €50,000 that will all go towards reducing the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m very curious about this new event. I will try to do my best to win it, but I have heard some of my colleagues are very good and are practising hard,” said Fognini. “Let’s see who will come up on top! [It is a] great idea and initiative from the Madrid organisers.”

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The format for the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will be as follows: 16 singles players in each of the two draws (ATP and WTA) initially divided into four groups. The champion of each group will progress to the quarter-finals, which will also include the runner-up of each group. From there, the tournament will be played as a knock-out. In addition, in parallel with the official competition, there will be a series of benefit matches that will see some of the biggest content creators in the gaming world take on the professional tennis players to raise funds to help those affected by COVID-19.

All fans will be able to follow the tournament online, on television and on the Mutua Madrid Open’s social media, with a spectacular production that will include commentary on all the matches, analysis and highlights programmes and interviews with the winners after each match.

Eight ATP Tour players have confirmed their participation so far: Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Monfils, David Goffin, Fognini, Karen Khachanov, John Isner and Lucas Pouille. The WTA draw includes Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, Kristina Mladenovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Victoria Azarenka, Fiona Ferro and Eugenie Bouchard. The organisers of the Mutua Madrid Open will soon reveal the remaining participants, as well as other news of the competition.

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Rafa Reigns Supreme, Tears For Pioline, Fognini: 10 Memorable Monte Carlo Moments

  • Posted: Apr 15, 2020

Rafa Reigns Supreme, Tears For Pioline, Fognini: 10 Memorable Monte Carlo Moments

Celebrating 30 years of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, looks back on 10 memorable moments from Monte Carlo since 1990

Normally at this is the time of season, the Tour heads to the glitz and glamour of Monte-Carlo. But due to the global COVID-19 pandemic this year, reflects on some of the magic at one of the ATP Tour’s gems, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments.

First held in 1897, the tournament was contested at the La Festa Country Club (now named the Monte Carlo Country Club) for the first time in 1927. One of the most spectacular venues in world tennis, overlooking the Mediterranean, the tournament was a combined event until 1980. looks back on 10 memorable moments from Monte Carlo since 1990.

1995: Muster The Ironman
It was a second serve that missed; a double fault that let Thomas Muster escape and saw Boris Becker ultimately fall short for the fifth time in a clay-court final. Becker went for an ace on his first match point, because it was his natural game, but years later, when he ended his career, the German was left to rue one of the toughest losses of his career. Muster saved two match points from 4/6 down in the fourth-set tie-break and ultimately prevailed 4-6, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-0 in three hours and 16 minutes. “I don’t know how I won the match,” said Muster, afterwards. “After what happened yesterday, I didn’t think I could be able to play today. I would like to thank the medical service that got me ready to play.” It was all the more remarkable as the Austrian had experienced fatigue, dehydration and a lack of sugar in his blood in his semi-final victory over Andrea Gaudenzi, the current ATP Chairman, the day before. Muster extended his clay-court winning streak to 22 matches with his second Monte Carlo crown.

2000: A French Champion, At Last!
Cedric Pioline ended a 37-year wait for a champion in Monaco by claiming the biggest title of his career. In testing conditions, with steady rain falling throughout the final, the 30-year-old battled past Slovakian Dominic Hrbaty 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(6) to the delight of a capacity crowd. “It was very tough because Dominik played really well,” Pioline said. “I am running like when I was 20. I am really enjoying what I am doing. That is why I am still playing. I am really proud to win because there is a great tradition here. I am a bit old but I will be back.” Pioline was the first French player to win the Monte Carlo crown since Pierre Darmon in 1963. The 22-year-old Hrbaty had beaten top seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov and 1997 finalist Alex Corretja en route to the final. Since Pioline’s title run, Gael Monfils is the only Frenchman to reach the final in 2016.

Nadal, Federer

2006: The 100th Edition, First Part Of Nadal vs. Federer Trilogy
It was only fitting that the 100th edition of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters culminated in a final between two great players, World No. 1 Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the defending champion. At the height of their rivalry, Nadal and Federer met 15 times over a three-year period (2006-2008) that cemented must-see matches for fans globally. In the 2006 final, certainly the highest quality of their three Monte Carlo finals, Nadal needed to dig deep to extend his clay-court winning streak to 42 matches, beating Federer 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(5) over three hours and 49 minutes. Nadal raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set, but Federer regrouped in the second set after losing his serve to love in the seventh game. Federer broke back for 5-5 and won the tie-break. The Swiss also led 3/0 in the fourth set tie-break, but Nadal recovered to seal the 14th title of his career. “It was a very unbelievable day for me,” said Nadal. “It’s special to begin the clay season like this. Beating Roger in the final is even more special, it’s great.” The Spaniard would also beat Federer 6-4, 6-4 in the 2007 final and 7-5, 7-5 in the 2008 final, for his fourth successive Monte Carlo crown.

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2007: Monte Carlo’s Status In The Spotlight
The status of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters had come into question in 1997, but the then-Tournament Director Bernard Noat fought tenaciously to maintain the event as a Super 9 (now ATP Masters 1000). Ten years on, and now under the direction of Zeljko Franulovic, the 1970 champion, Federer and Nadal held a joint press conference to denounce the ATP Tour’s move to reduce Monte Carlo’s role and the number of Masters 1000 tournaments from nine to eight for a planned restructure of the 2009 calendar. The decision was revoked in July 2007 and the tournament, with His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco as the Patron of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, remains on the Masters 1000 rota as a ‘ninth’ event, without the mandatory player commitment. Last year, 14 of the Top 20 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings competed at the tournament.

2010: Nadal Loses 14 Games!
When Nadal steps onto Court Central at the Monte Carlo Country Club for the first time, every Wednesday afternoon each year, close your eyes and listen to the crowd’s approval. In 2010, spectators could only gasp as five-time defending champion Nadal, without a title for 11 months, ripped through the field for the loss of just 14 games in five matches. “Last year I did not play well [here] but I won,” said Nadal, after his 6-0, 6-1 victory over fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the final. “This year my level is completely different. This year is really special for me because I had a little bit of a hard time for the last year. I was back to my best level on 1 January. I was ready to win before this tournament.” The 23-year-old beat Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-0 in the first round, Michael Berrer by the same scoreline in the second round, two-time former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals and David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 in the semi-finals. Nadal became the first man to win six consecutive titles at the same tournament in the Open Era and joined Federer on 16 Masters 1000 crowns, one behind the then all-time leader Andre Agassi (17).

Zimonjic, Benneteau

2013: A Tense Finale For Benneteau & Zimonjic
Such is the nature of modern doubles, where no Advantage is played in the first two sets and a first-to-10 Match Tie-break has been adopted on the ATP Tour since 2006, that the action is always entertaining and frenetic. In the 2013 final, Julien Benneteau and Nenad Zimonjic, in their first tournaments together, saved seven match points against World No. 1s Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in a 4-6, 7-6(4), 14-12 victory. The French-Serbian pair saved match points at 4-5 in the second set, then six — at 5/9, 9/10 and 11/12 — in the Match Tie-break, for a famous victory over the Bryans, the two-time defending champions. Benneteau admitted, “We were a little bit lucky of course. When you save seven match points, you need a little bit of luck. But we played very well on those points. We still believed in ourselves until the end and it paid off.” Zimonjic added, “It was unbelievable. They started unbelievable [after the rain break], without missing any shots. Julien had to hit an ace on the second serve at 5-4, and also had an unbelievable return of the first serve to save another match point.” The Bryans, who will retire from the sport in 2020, have captured six Monte-Carlo doubles trophies.

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2013: Djokovic Ends Nadal’s Eight-Year Reign
Such has been the dominance of Nadal that Franulovic, half-jokingly, said to the Spaniard during a rain delay in 2012, “‘Hey Rafa, it seems to me that our destinies are linked. As long as you keep winning, I should be okay as well. I count on you to win this event, otherwise I get fired!’” The following year, Nadal’s eight-year reign came to an end at the hands of Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 7-6(1), in the final. World No. 1 Djokovic, who had struggled with an ankle injury in the early rounds, admitted, “The first six, seven or eight games were unbelievable. It’s the best I can play on clay. This trophy could not come in a better moment. It was difficult the last two months. I’ve been through some ups and downs emotionally, physically. But I’m where I want to be.” The victory broke Nadal’s 46-match winning streak at the Monte Carlo Country Club that dated back to a third-round loss to Guillermo Coria on his debut in 2003.

2014: Wawrinka Takes His Chance
In the first all-Swiss final for 14 years on the ATP Tour, Monte-Carlo resident Stan Wawrinka took his chance to capture his first Masters 1000 crown after pre-tournament favourite Nadal lost in the quarter-finals. Wawrinka recorded a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Federer, who finished runner-up in the Principality for a fourth time (also 2006-2008). “I can see that when mentally I’m there and I’m fighting, I can play tennis, I can beat all the players,” said World No. 3 Wawrinka, after capturing his third title of the season. “When I came here, for me it was more like a test. I knew I was playing good tennis, but I didn’t expect to win because the draw was so strong.” Federer, who had beaten Djokovic in the semi-finals and had won 13 of his past 14 matches against Wawrinka, admitted, “I think he deserved it just a little bit more.”

2017: Nadal’s La Décima
Such has been Nadal’s dominance of the Spring European clay-court swing since 2005, that it was inevitable, yet no less astonishing, that the Spaniard would become the first man in the Open Era (since April 1968) to win a singles tournament on 10 or more occasions. His historic 6-1, 6-3 victory over fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the 2017 Monte Carlo final, gave Nadal a 50th clay-court crown (50-8), breaking the record he shared with Guillermo Vilas since 24 April 2016. “It really is unbelievable,” said Nadal. “To win 10 times at such an important event like Monte-Carlo is something difficult to describe my feelings. Every year has been a different feeling. At the same time, it is always a unique moment, every time, I have this trophy with me. [Of course] there is a little bit of luck, lot of things coming together to win this 10th title in an event like Monte-Carlo. I feel lucky to keep playing tennis [and] being healthy all those years, in order to compete in one of the most beautiful events of the year, without a doubt.” The following week, he subsequently went on to capture his 10th Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell crown.

2019: Tears For Fabio
Go down the honours’ roll of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and you’ll see it littered with Spanish names over the past 30 years, but no sign of any Italians. In fact, you need to go back to Nicola Pietrangeli, who won his third crown in 1968, to find the last Italian singles winner. But that changed in 2019, when the France-Italy border, only 30 minutes away by car from Monaco, witnessed increased traffic during the tournament week as Fabio Fognini worked his way to the title. Having entered on the back of a five-match losing streak, which left him contemplating surgery for ankle and elbow injuries, Fognini recorded wins over Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and three-time defending champion Nadal in the semi-finals. He got the cherry on the cake with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Dusan Lajovic to become the first Italian to capture a Masters 1000 title. “I’m really, really happy. Nothing to say,” said Fognini. “I have to keep calm, maybe take a shower, relax, and think about this, because it’s something incredible. I just feel happy because I won a big tournament that was always my goal in my career.”

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