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Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray among ATP & WTA stars in domestic events

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

With the professional tours on hold until at least August because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s top players are looking for alternative ways to keep match sharp.

The future – in the short term at least – appears to be domestic and regional exhibition tournaments between players based in the same part of the world.

With fundraising, trash-talking and changeover chats with online fans, tennis is back with a twist.

Where are they being held? And who is playing?

Britain

Seven-time Grand Slam doubles champion Jamie Murray has organised a Battle of the Brits exhibition event for the leading British men, with Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund also taking part.

In the singles, the eight players will be split into two groups for round-robin matches, leading to semi-finals and the final.

“This is the first time these guys have come together to compete against each other,” Jamie Murray told several UK newspapers. “They have been trash-talking about this for quite a few weeks.”

The event, which hopes to raise at least £100,000 for the NHS Charities Together fund, will be televised on Amazon Prime.

Dates: 23-28 June. Venue: National Tennis Centre, Roehampton

The Lawn Tennis Association has organised four separate tournaments for men and women over consecutive weekends in July.

Sixteen players will compete in each knockout singles tournament, with matches being played over two sets and a deciding match tie-break if needed.

They are open to the highest-ranked players with LTA membership, although British women’s number one Johanna Konta is not expected to enter.

Dates: 3-26 July. Venue: National Tennis Centre, Roehampton

Balkans

Serbia’s world number one Novak Djokovic is behind a tournament also featuring world number three Dominic Thiem and world number seven Alexander Zverev.

An initial 1,000 tickets were sold in seven minutes for the first leg of the Adria Tour which takes place on clay in Belgrade this weekend, with strict health and safety measures in place.

The eight-man, round-robin tournament will raise funds for charitable causes, including childhood development and education programmes run by Djokovic’s foundation, with further events set for Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia.

Dates: 13 June-5 July. Venues: Belgrade, Zadar, Montenegro, Banja Luka

France

With many players based in the glamorous surroundings of the French Riviera, leading coach Patrick Mouratoglou is using his training academy near Cannes to bring together several well-known faces to compete in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown.

Greek world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas is one of three top-10 ranked players, alongside Italy’s Matteo Berrettini and Belgium’s David Goffin, signed up to the five-week event.

Mouratoglou says the players have been chosen “because of their personality” as well as their ability, with the event promising to create a unique digital experience for fans.

That includes players wearing microphones and subscribers asking them questions at changeovers.

Dates: Starts 13 June. Venue: Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, Cannes.

Czech Republic

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and world number three Karolina Pliskova headline a charity team tournament featuring five players in the WTA’s top 50.

The Elite Trophy will run over four weekends, with two teams of six players facing off in three singles and one doubles match each weekend.

Dates: 13 June-27 July. Venue: Prague.

Spain

A men’s tournament between the “best Spanish players in the world rankings” was announced last month – but Rafael Nadal is not expected to be among them.

Members of the victorious Davis Cup team, including world number 12 Roberto Bautista Agut, are expected to play in a league format over four weekends.

A women’s event was announced shortly after, although it is thought Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza will not take part.

Dates: 15 July-9 August. Venue: Various.

United States

Up to 500 fans (20% of the stadium capacity) will be able to watch Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, along with former Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters and Sloane Stephens, take part in the World Team Tennis event.

Nine teams representing American cities, including New York and Chicago, will play in the mixed gender event.

A 63-match season will be played over 19 consecutive days, with the semi-finals and final to follow.

Dates: 12 July-2 August. Venue: The Greenbrier, West Virginia.

Germany

With Wimbledon and the British grass-court season cancelled, the first event of the year on the surface will be held in Berlin.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and German world number seven Alexander Zverev are the star attractions on the men’s side, while Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and Dutch world number seven Kiki Bertens lead the women’s field.

“I am curious to see where I stand with my tennis,” said Zverev.

The competition will be held on grass at the Steffi Graf Stadium from 13-15 July, then switch to hard court in a hangar at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport from 17-19 July.

Dates: 13-19 July. Venue: Berlin

What is it like to play in these events?

Several regional events have already been held, including a smaller tournament in Prague which was won by Kvitova.

“The fact that there were only Czech girls in the tournament wasn’t unusual for me,” said the world number 12.

“It was very unusual to see people wearing gloves, face masks, towels not being handed over by ball girls, not shaking hands, but most importantly, that it was without spectators.

“The atmosphere wasn’t what we are used to, but I think all went well. After all that happened it was an amazing tournament.”

How have these events been made safe?

Although national guidelines to safely playing tennis differ between countries, there are a number of common rules which are likely to be followed across the world:

  • No spectators, no line judges or ball kids
  • Stay at least two metres away from other players, during play and changeovers
  • No shaking hands or high fives between players

However, some events – including Djokovic’s Adria Tour and the World Team Tennis event – are allowing a small number of fans who will sit apart at safe distances.

How do these events affect the ATP and WTA tours?

Prize money is available at some of the events – including the LTA-organised one in Britain – which will provide much-needed income to many players.

No ranking points are available as they are classed as exhibitions outside the ATP and WTA tours.

Both tours are broadly supportive of domestic tournaments, providing they meet health and safety requirements.

“We understand these are attractive opportunities for our players to play some competitive matches and earn some income,” said the ATP.

“We welcome the opportunity for live sports and live tennis to resume as it has certainly been missed,” added the WTA.

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Five Things To Know About Hubert Hurkacz

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

Five Things To Know About Hubert Hurkacz

Learn about the Pole’s career achievements, social media activity and more

Hubert Hurkacz is a Top 30 player with one ATP Tour title and five Top 10 victories.

ATPTour.com looks at five things you should know about the 23-year-old.

1) He Ended A National Title Drought In Winston-Salem
At the 2019 Winston-Salem Open, Hurkacz became the first Polish man to win an ATP Tour singles title since Wojtek Fibak in 1982. After coming from a set down to defeat Duckhee Lee in his opening match, the third seed overcame 16th seed Feliciano Lopez, 10th seed Frances Tiafoe, second seed Denis Shapovalov and top seed Benoit Paire to claim the ATP 250 trophy.

“That is a lot of time [without a Polish champion]. I am so glad that I have been able to win an ATP Tour event,” said Hurkacz. “I hope many more guys will join me soon and that I will win some more. It means a lot to me and I am glad that I won this tournament here.”

Hubert Hurkacz is the 14th first-time champion on the ATP Tour this year.

2) He Began 2020 In Top Form
Hurkacz made an impressive start to the 2020 ATP Tour season, winning his opening six matches of the year.

Despite holding the lowest FedEx ATP Ranking of the No. 1 singles players in his group, the 23-year-old finished the inaugural ATP Cup with a 3-0 record in singles. Hurkacz recovered from a set down to beat Top 15 stars Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman, and he dropped just four games against Borna Coric.

The Pole continued his run of form at the ASB Classic in Auckland, beating Lorenzo Sonego, Mikael Ymer and Feliciano Lopez to reach the last four in New Zealand.

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

3) He Enjoys A Social Media Challenge
During lockdown, many ATP Tour stars have used some of their free time to participate in social media challenges. Hurkacz is no exception.

After being nominated for the #thefloorislava challenge, Hurkacz got creative. The Polish No. 1 posted his attempt on Instagram, showcasing his tennis skills while travelling around his apartment without touching the floor.

 

View this post on Instagram
 

Thanks @oskimichalek for nomination #thefloorislava 😃 I nominate @zielaczekk @steviej345 @klimekinc @atptour @wojtek_marek_ @zuniotennis @michal_przysiezny @johnrisner #tennisathome @grupa_lotos @emocjedopelna @yonex_tennis @tennistv

A post shared by Hubert Hurkacz (@hubihurkacz) on

4) He Found Immediate Success With Coach Craig Boynton
Hurkacz began working with Craig Boynton, former coach of Jim Courier and John Isner, at last year’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Prior to that event, Hurkacz owned an 0-2 record at ATP Masters 1000 events.

In their first event together, Hurkacz defeated three consecutive Top 30 players to advance to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final.

“To work on new things together for the first time at tournaments is really difficult, but he was amazing at [processing] the information we went over,” said Boynton. “He put it to work very quickly and one thing led to another. The snowball got a little bigger and a little bigger and it was just something that kind of happened.”

In his second event alongside Boynton, Hurkacz beat Matteo Berrettini and Dominic Thiem in straight sets to reach the Miami Open presented by Itau third round.

5) Everyone Is Welcome In His Kitchen
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurkacz gave his fans an inside-look at one of his typical breakfast meals. The Pole, who made the decision to become a vegan over two years ago, used strawberries, cashews and a number of other ingredients to create the dish.

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ATP Coaches Launch Fan Experience

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

ATP Coaches Launch Fan Experience

Experiences include private coaching sessions with legendary ATP coaches

Members of the ATP Coach Programme in collaboration with ATP have launched a series of exclusive fan experiences in support of coaches affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative, hosted on fundraising platform Givergy, gives tennis fans the opportunity to bid for once-in-a-lifetime experiences through auctions and prize draws. Experiences include private coaching sessions with legendary ATP coaches including Paul Annacone, Boris Becker, Darren Cahill, Brad Gilbert, Goran Ivanisevic, Ivan Lendl, Ivan Ljubicic, Carlos Moya, Patrick Mouratoglou and Marian Vajda. Sessions will take place onsite at 2021 ATP Tour and Grand Slam events and include a combination of match tickets, premium hospitality and unique behind-the-scenes access. Exclusive merchandise will also be made available on the platform.

The initial three-week bidding window will take place from 8-29 June 2020, with future rounds and experiences to be announced. Funds raised will be allocated by the ATP Coaches Committee to support the members of the ATP Coach Programme, whose ability to work has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic. In addition, a part of proceeds will be donated to a global COVID-19 relief fund.

“It is great to see coaches and tournaments offer some truly incredible and unique experiences to our fans,” said Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the ability of many people to work and coaches are no exception. The fact this initiative also helps fellow members of the tennis family during this uncertain time shows the unity and innovative spirit of tennis.”

“Coaches play a huge role in our sport and we wanted to do something creative to support the wider coaching community. I am proud so many tennis icons and tournaments are getting behind this,” said Dani Vallverdu, ATP Coach. “I am really excited for fans to enjoy these unique tennis experiences and hopefully leave with some unforgettable memories.”

For more information on available experiences and merchandise or to donate to the initiative please visit the Givergy website.

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Dan Evans says Novak Djokovic concerns over US Open restrictions only valid for top players

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

Britain’s Dan Evans has dismissed Novak Djokovic’s concerns over players having just one member of their team at the US Open as “not such a big deal”.

Organisers are considering restrictions so they can stage the New York event behind closed doors from 31 August.

World number one Djokovic thinks some of the safety protocols are “extreme”, and having only one person on site with him would be “really impossible”.

But Evans, 30, said: “There has to be a bit of give and take from the players.”

The British number one told BBC 5 Live Breakfast: “I don’t think having one person of your team only allowed is such a big deal – the majority of the draw would only travel with one coach.

“Not everyone’s travelling with physios and fitness trainers like Novak said, so I think his argument there is not really valid for the rest of the draw, apart from the real top guys.”

Defending champion Rafael Nadal says he currently has little desire to travel to New York, and does not think tournaments should resume until all players are able to travel freely and safely.

“It’s great what the ATP did with the Relief Fund but there’s nothing better than the prize money of the Grand Slams for the players to be receiving,” Evans continued.

“This is the point where I think the players should really come together and Novak and Rafa should really be looking to help those players with lower ranks so they get a good pay day.

“It’s obviously not all about money, it’s health involved here, but if it’s safe enough I don’t think having just a coach is a good enough reason not to be going to a tournament.”

The ATP is currently seeking the views of the players, with the United States Tennis Association likely to decide in the second half of June whether the US Open can go ahead this year.

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Federer, Nadal Lead Rich History In Stuttgart

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

Federer, Nadal Lead Rich History In Stuttgart

Learn more about the MercedesCup, an ATP 250 event

Alongside tournaments in Hamburg, Halle and Munich, the MercedesCup in Stuttgart is one of four German events on the ATP Tour calendar. The ATP 250 tournament, held at Tennis Club Weissenhof, switched from clay to grass in 2015.

The 2020 edition of the event would have been held this week, if not for the Tour suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the tournament.

1) A Week To Remember
After missing 11 weeks of the 2018 ATP Tour season, Roger Federer made a successful return to action in Stuttgart. Making his third straight appearance at the ATP 250 event, the Swiss defeated Mischa Zverev, Guido Pella and Nick Kyrgios to reach the final and guarantee a return to World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. In the championship match, Federer saved both break points he faced to beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3) for his maiden Stuttgart trophy.

Federer

2) One Last Victory For Haas
Tommy Haas may have defeated two Top 15 players en route to the 1999 championship match in Stuttgart, but the 6’2” right-hander’s biggest victory at the grass-court ATP 250 came in 2017. After battling past Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round, the wild card saved a match point to stun top seed Federer 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 in the Round of 16.

Haas withstood 23 aces and was forced to save nine of 12 break points to advance to his third quarter-final at the event. It proved to be the final victory of the German’s career, with Haas retiring from the sport at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel later that year.

“I’m a little bit speechless that I beat him today. It’s been a while since I have won back-to-back matches and to do it today against Roger is obviously one of my career highlights. It’s a very special feeling,” said Haas.

Haas

3) The Grass-Court Season Begins
Held the week after Roland Garros, alongside the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the MercedesCup provides ATP Tour stars with a first opportunity to gain grass-court match experience during the 2020 ATP Tour season.

Since the tournament transitioned to grass in 2015, three of the four Stuttgart champions have followed their title runs with success at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle. Federer, the 2018 champion, advanced to the championship match at the grass-court ATP 500 tournament, while 2016 winner Dominic Thiem and 2019 titlist Matteo Berrettini reached the last four in Halle.

Nadal

4) From Clay To Grass, Makes No Difference To Rafa
After a long tradition of clay-court tennis, the MercedesCup transitioned to grass in 2015 as part of an extended grass-court season. The change was welcomed by former World No. 2 Haas, who made seven appearances at the event during his career.

“I think it is great that they finally realised to make it a little bit of a longer grass-court season,” said Haas. “It is one of my favourite surfaces to play on, so that’s great, I think. It’s great for German tennis.”

Nadal twice won the title on clay before winning the inaugural grass-court event in 2015. In 2005, in his third appearance at the event, the Spaniard didn’t drop a set en route to the title, beating Gaston Gaudio 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in the final. After returning two years later and taking out Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the final, Nadal had won 21 straight sets at the tournament.

Eight years would elapse before Nadal would return to Stuttgart for the first grass-court edition. He survived tough three-setters against Marcos Baghdatis and Bernard Tomic before beating Gael Monfils in the semis and Viktor Troicki in the final to extend his winning streak at the tournament to 14 matches.

5) An All-Star Honour Roll
Since 1978, Stuttgart has crowned a number of high-profile champions. In fact, seven former World No. 1s have lifted the trophy in Stuttgart: Bjorn Borg (1981), Ivan Lendl (1985), Andre Agassi (1988), Thomas Muster (1995, ’96), Gustavo Kuerten (1998, 2001), Rafael Nadal (2005, ’07, ’15) and Federer (2018) have all triumphed at the ATP 250 event.

Lendl (1985) and Kuerten (1997) also claimed the doubles trophy in Stuttgart. Other doubles winners include Jan Kodes and Tomas Smid (1978), Colin Dowdeswell and Frew McMillan (1979, ’80), Paul McNamee and Peter McNamara (1981), Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez (1988), Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares (2017) and John Peers and Soares (2019).

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Frenchmen Find Success At ‘s-Hertogenbosch

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

Frenchmen Find Success At ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Learn more about the Libema Open, an ATP 250 event

The Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which began at the inception of the ATP Tour in 1990, is one of only two Dutch events on the ATP Tour calendar.

The 2020 edition of the event would have been held this week, if not for the Tour suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the tournament.

1) The Grass-Court Season Begins
Held the week after Roland Garros, alongside the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, the Libema Open provides ATP Tour stars with a first opportunity to gain grass-court match experience during the ATP Tour season.

Several champions in ‘s-Hertogenbosch have gone on to achieve success at Wimbledon in the same year. In 2000, when the event was held in the week before The Championships, Patrick Rafter advanced to the championship match at SW19. Former champions David Ferrer and Gilles Muller also built on their title runs at the ATP 250 event, reaching the quarter-finals at the All England Club in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

2) Formidable Frenchmen
In recent years, French stars have enjoyed consistent success in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The nation has accounted for five of the seven most recent champions at the tournament, with Nicolas Mahut (2013, ’15-’16), Richard Gasquet (2018) and Adrian Mannarino (2019) lifting the trophy. Since 2013, only Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and Luxembourg’s Muller have broken the French hold on the tournament.

Mahut

3) A Dream Destination
Surrounded by trees and a tournament lake, the ATP 250 tournament provides a tranquil break from the usual fast-paced lifestyle required on the ATP Tour.

“The atmosphere here, I have to say, is almost like home,” said Marin Cilic. “I am just enjoying my time here and enjoying the nature.”

Tournament director Marcel Hunze also shared his memories of Michael Chang, who visited in 1989 after winning his maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

“The first time he came here, he liked it so much that he started fishing the whole day,” said Hunze.

4) Mannarino’s Moment
After losses in his opening six tour-level championship matches, Mannarino finally captured his maiden ATP Tour crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last year.

The Frenchman joined countrymen Gasquet and Mahut as recent French champions at the grass-court event, recording three consecutive comeback victories against seeded opposition. After a comfortable first-round win, Mannarino beat Fernando Verdasco, David Goffin and Borna Coric to reach the championship match. The left-hander saved six of seven break points to overcome Jordan Thompson in the final.

”People are going to stop talking [about my finals record]… This is a big achievement for me. I am not pretending to be Top 10 or anything. Winning a title on the ATP Tour level is already something amazing for me and I cannot be more thankful to all the people who helped me get to this title,” said Mannarino.

5) A Glimpse Into The Future
Since 1990, six future Wimbledon champions have appeared at the Autotron Rosmalen in the years before their success at SW19. Michael Stich, Richard Krajicek, Goran Ivanisevic, Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic all made appearances in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, as they attempted to sharpen their grass-court skills. In the year of their title runs at the All England Club, Stich, Krajicek, Ivanisevic and Hewitt each used the event as their final preparation ground for The Championships.

Lleyton Hewitt did not drop a set en route to the Libema Open title on his tournament debut in 2001.

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Don't Count Out Djokovic, Federer If They Drop First Set

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2020

Don’t Count Out Djokovic, Federer If They Drop First Set

Sampras, Djokovic, Federer top the list of fighting back to win best-of-three set matches

Pete Sampras, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the only three players that average winning more than 40 per cent of their matches after dropping the first set in a best-of-three-set match.

An Infosys ATP Insights deep dive into how players climb the mountain of winning matches after losing set one initially uncovers that no player wins more matches than they lose after stumbling in the opening set. The data set of 42,909 matches includes players that competed in a minimum of 100 ATP Tour matches in their career since 1991, which is when statistics in tennis were first recorded. The data set also excludes retirements and defaults.

The 241 players in the data set averaged coming back to win the match 21.7 per cent of the time (9301/42,909), making it approximately a one in five chance. Tennis is a sport that rewards getting ahead, whether it’s with points, games or sets. Playing from ahead activates the scoreboard as a potential opponent, oftentimes increasing pressure for the player trailing in the match.

The match win percentages of the three players to break through the 40 per cent threshold are:

1. Pete Sampras = 41.33% (62/150)
2. Novak Djokovic = 41.30% (76/184)
3. Roger Federer = 40.17% (92/229)

Within the data set, Sampras won 62 times after dropping the first set, including the following four finals:

•1994 Miami def. Andre Agassi 5-7, 6-3, 6-3
•1997 Philadephia def. Patrick Rafter 5-7, 7-6, 6-3
•1998 Atlanta def. Jason Stoltenberg 6-7, 6-3, 7-6
•1999 Queen’s Club def. Tim Henman 6-7, 6-4, 7-6

Djokovic has come back to win 76 matches after losing the opening set, including 42 times in an ATP Masters 1000 event, with the most being 12 in Rome at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. He’s twice won the championship match in Rome after dropping the opening set.

•2008 Rome: Djokovic def. Stan Wawrinka 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
•2014 Rome: Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3

Federer has won 92 best-of-three-set matches, including nine finals and 16 semi-finals, after dropping the opening set. He has come back to defeat both Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro four times each after dropping the first set throughout his career.

The other eight players in the data set who managed to push their win percentage to north of two wins out of three attempts (>33.3%) are:

•Lleyton Hewitt = 39.6%
•Rafael Nadal = 39.1%
•Andy Murray = 38.7%
•Kei Nishikori = 35.9%
•Stefan Edberg = 35.6%
•Boris Becker = 35.0%
•Michael Stich = 34.6%
•Jo-Wilfried Tsonga = 33.7%

Losing the first set gives you about a 20 per cent chance of victory. The best competitors in the game can double that ratio to around 40 per cent, but nobody has been able to push it up to a break-even record of 50 per cent. There is a lot to be said for a solid warm-up and being the first to break serve.

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