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Challenger At Home: Brayden Schnur

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Challenger At Home: Brayden Schnur

Today’s ATP Challenger Tour stars discuss how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an exclusive glimpse into life at home.

In our sixth episode, the birthday boy Brayden Schnur reflects on quarantine life at home with his family in Canada and reveals why he decided to move to California to continue training. The 25-year-old also takes questions from fans in a special Mailbag edition…

How do you celebrate a birthday in such crazy and uncertain times? Brayden Schnur kept it simple.

“There’s not much to do, that’s for sure,” said Schnur. “We made a reservation in a nice restaurant and we were lucky that they had a big patio, so they kept full service. I’m training and playing some exhibition matches in Newport Beach, California, and my girlfriend and sister came down to celebrate with me. We had a great dinner, had a few drinks and saw some fireworks. It was the best way to spend a birthday. We also rented an Airbnb for the week in Laguna Beach. Great view and great people. Can’t ask for much more.”

When the tour was suspended in March, the Toronto native took the opportunity to return home and spend some quality time with his family. Having competed at the University of North Carolina for four years and now four more on the professional circuit, he admits that he cherished the three months spent relaxing with his mom, dad and sister. It was a much-needed break to not only refresh mentally, but also physically after struggling with injuries to start the 2020 season.

But Schnur also admits that practising in Canada when it’s snowing and sub-freezing outside did not allow him to get the most from his training. Last month, the 25-year-old made the decision to relocate to the warmer climate of Newport Beach, California, to train with his fellow competitors, including Jason Jung, Ernesto Escobedo and Brandon Nakashima. With the ATP Challenger Tour nearing its restart, Schnur understands the importance of high-quality training sessions to put him in the best position to succeed.


“I spent a good solid two months doing drills, not really playing points, but a lot of volume and repetition. I was finding my range, but there comes a point where you need to put yourself in match situations. Just to come here and play with these guys, who are an incredible level, feels good. It’s been months since we’ve played with something on the line, so this is much-needed.

“Back at home in Canada we were playing in the snow and then the next day it was 22 degrees out. It was the craziest thing ever. At that moment I said that I needed to go somewhere to get into a routine every single day. I made my way to Newport Beach and here I am.”

Schnur is hoping this fresh approach will produce his first champions’ trophy. The Canadian reached his first ATP Tour final a year ago at the New York Open and has finished runner-up in four finals on the ATP Challenger Tour.

After battling on the Challenger circuit for three years, finding his form and steadily climbing the FedEx ATP Rankings, Schnur enjoyed a breakthrough 2019 campaign. In addition to reaching the New York championship as a qualifier, he also competed in his first Grand Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open and cracked the Top 100 at a career-high No. 92 in August.

Schnur’s success at the Challenger level gave him the confidence to translate his success to the next level. Runner-up finishes in the U.S. in Newport Beach, California and Charlottesville, Virignia, was accompanied by a run to the championship match on home soil in Winnipeg.

“I’ve been telling my coach and my family that I’m match ready. I’m fit and playing at a better level than prior to the pandemic. I feel much stronger and I’m just ready to go out and compete again. If someone said that we’re going to have tournaments next week, I’d be ready. There’s no question about that.”

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Pete Sampras: My Perfect Day… Remembering 1999 Wimbledon

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Pete Sampras: My Perfect Day… Remembering 1999 Wimbledon

The legendary Americans speaks exclusively to about playing the best match of his career for the sixth of his seven Wimbledon titles

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Wimbledon would now be underway. During the next two weeks will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the grass-court Grand Slam. This story was originally published on 11 July 2019.

The serve was struck out wide to the forehand of Andre Agassi, the first volley steered into the open Ad court. Pete Sampras, not quite close enough to the net, had a split second to anticipate the exact pace and direction of the response: a flicked, improvised backhand, hit crosscourt and low over the net. Agassi, who had sprinted to his left, watched on as Sampras dove full length to pick a backhand drop volley that fell gently over the other side of the net. Agassi, now with his left arm on his waist, stared in disbelief as Sampras rose from the turf, inspecting a huge scab that had opened up on his left forearm. Having dusted himself off, the next two serves were 130 miles per hour aces from Sampras, who, in a seven-game blitz, produced an irresistible storm and carried the 1999 final at The Championships out of the hands of Agassi, who had been riding on the crest of a wave to his second Wimbledon final [1992].

From 3-3, serving at 0/40 in the first set, to the middle of the second set, memories remain vivid today, 20 years on, of one of the single greatest passages of play in the long history of the sport’s oldest championships. For Sampras, it was his perfect day. “People ask me what’s the best match I ever played? It would be that one,” the legendary American told “I played perfect grass-court tennis — moving well, returning and serving well against the best returner in the world. I was playing as well as I could and I got into the zone a bit.”

Sampras extended his seven-year record at the All England Club to 46-1, with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Agassi in one hour and 55 minutes on Centre Court. He’d hit 17 aces, lost just seven of his first-service points (49/56) and had made light of Agassi’s rise to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings on the back of his historic Roland Garros triumph, one month earlier. “He walked on water,” said Agassi, in the aftermath. On 4 July 1999, U.S. Independence Day, Sampras was the world’s best player.

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Coming in, Sampras had lifted his first tour-level trophy for eight months at The Queen’s Club, when he beat Goran Ivanisevic, 18-year-old Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman in a 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-6(4) victory in the final. But walking through the Doherty Gates at the All England Club was enough for 28-year-old Sampras to know that a shot at a sixth Wimbledon crown — which would additionally equal the then all-time Grand Slam championship singles tally of Australia’s Roy Emerson (12) — was a distinct possibility.

“There is always pressure at Wimbledon, I felt like it was the Super Bowl of our sport,” says Sampras. “But quite honestly, my form didn’t really matter coming in. I had years at Wimbledon where I came in not doing well at the French and maybe not even winning at Queen’s or a sub-par year coming into Wimbledon. Everything turned around for me at Wimbledon, I felt good, Centre Court inspired me and the tournament would always turn around my year.

“Physically, mentally, it was the perfect match. Sure, you’d love to be winning and lifting trophies coming in, have confidence and let people know you’re playing well, but I didn’t feel like it was that important that I won Queen’s. I knew that once I got going to Wimbledon and through the first couple of matches, I’d be off to the races. The surface, what the place meant to me, I’d had, I always knew I’d do well.”

For all of Sampras’ success at The Championships, which would include a seventh trophy in 2000 with a final victory over Patrick Rafter, the Californian still experienced butterflies, a nervous energy heightened by the anticipation to do well. Twenty years ago, Sampras swept through the first three rounds with wins over Australia’s Scott Draper, the 1998 Queen’s Club champion, who’d beaten Boris Becker two weeks earlier, when one break in each set was enough for a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory; hit 17 aces in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 second-round encounter against Canada’s Sebastien Lareau and produced a serving masterclass against qualifier Danny Sapsford, playing his last match before taking up a coaching position with the British LTA, in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Sampras remembers, “In the first rounds you’re a little nervous, trying to find your groove and rhythm. You’re maybe not as sharp and you get through a few tight sets, finding a way to break or win a tie-break. Once you get into the third or fourth round, the first weekend, you had passed the hard part and now it was time to peak and you were ready to go. The first two rounds were sometimes a little uncomfortable and you just wanted to get through them. Get it off your plate, the grass is a little slippery too. You wanted to stay on your toes, not take your foot off the pedal and win these matches handily. If I got through the first week, I knew I’d want to begin playing well and peaking. It seemed to work for me.”

Ten years away from Centre Court having a roof, the heavens opened and a four-day wait ensued for Sampras to play his fourth-round match against Canada’s Daniel Nestor — an ace-laden 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over 80 minutes — that stretched to the second Wednesday. “I remember it vaguely, long break can be good, but other times it feels like you’re starting the event over again,” says Sampras. “Without that roof, those years, you could play a match and then not play for three or four days. Players have it a little better today. It was a little unsettling.” At his rented house near Wimbledon village, Sampras whiled away the days with his coach, Paul Annacone — who, in 2019, is helping another American, Taylor Fritz — and his trainer, physio, masseuse, Todd Snyder, who’d worked for the men’s tour for 13 years, before joining the team in March 1995.

“It was all about tinkering with the engine, making sure your body was right,” recalls Sampras. “You were stretching and warming up on the days off: breaking a good sweat, but nothing you’re working on technically. Just taking care of your body and making sure you were ready for the next match. On my days off, I would hit for 45 minutes to an hour, I would stretch and might do a little 20-minute cool down, make sure the legs were loose, but nothing more than that. Just staying fresh. Get some good food and rest.”

With matches at the end of The Championships stacking up due to the weather, there was little Sampras could do to fine tune his game — only hope he could get through three matches in three days for Wimbledon glory.

First there was the ‘Scud’, Australia’s Mark Philippoussis, the US Open runner-up the year before, who clinched the first set 6-4, before Sampras was able to regroup prior to an untimely ending. “Early in the second set, at deuce in the third game, I hit a backhand passing shot down the line and when I landed I sort of fell awkwardly,” says Philippoussis. “That’s when I heard the click and grabbed it. I thought nothing of it until I jumped forward to return another serve and my left knee just gave way and there was a huge click that time.’ The World No. 11 knew his time was up after 52 minutes, when he heard another click on the next point.

Sampras may had dodged a bullet, trying to find his A-game after the enforced break, but 20 years on, told, “Going in against Mark was an unsettling match. I didn’t feel like I was in danger of losing, as I was only one set down, but he then got injured [with a left knee injury].”

There was little time to ponder as Sampras came up against Henman, his golf partner and friend, 24 hours later in the semi-finals, for the second consecutive year. “I remember starting the match with Tim a little rusty — the match with Mark being quick,” says Sampras, who served three double faults in his opening service game and received treatment on his right thigh midway through the second set. “Playing Tim there was always tricky, not only as a very solid player, but also the crowd. I had a few different things that I had to deal with. By the end of the match, I remember I was starting to feel my game a little bit. Your heart rate goes down and you start to feel comfortable.” With a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over the World No. 6 and British favourite, Sampras now deliberated over Agassi, one of the sport’s greatest returners.

“I had to take care of my service games and pick my spots,” remembers Sampras. “I remember using the body serve a bit with Andre that would take away the angle. On return games, it really was about not letting Andre dictate, doing something on the second serve and putting him on the defensive. I didn’t want to hang back, chipping the backhand and have him move me around. I wanted to dictate on grass and for it to be on my racquet. I didn’t want to get into long rallies or get content staying back and rallying with him. When I had my opportunity to go for it, I was going to go for it. Just set the tone early on and give Andre the impression that this final was going to be dictated by me. That was my mindset: be aggressive, even more aggressive than usual. He was a tough opponent.”

The 29-year-old Las Vegan, who had beaten Rafter 7-5, 7-6(2), 6-2 in the semi-finals, had won his first major championship for four years at Roland Garros, so the 1992 Wimbledon champion was in top form ahead of their Independence Day clash. Sampras had a 4-2 upper hand in their Grand Slam championship meetings, including victories in the 1990 and 1995 US Open finals, but baseliner Agassi had beaten Sampras at the 1995 Australian Open title match. The atmosphere was muted when they both walked out onto Centre Court on 4 July 1999, following compatriot Lindsay Davenport’s three-set win over Steffi Graf in the final Wimbledon match of the German’s trophy-laden career.

“Paul [Annacone] was always good at reminding me before I went out there of key points,” remembers Sampras, of what was discussed ahead of the first all-American Wimbledon men’s singles final since his victory over Jim Courier in 1993. “Picking the spots on my serve at the beginning of the match, when I needed to hit all the spots in the service box, as Andre was so good at picking up repetition and he’d pick you apart. It was about taking care of service games and reminding me when I was up 40/0 that I should really close out the game, rather than give him a chance. The more you hold serve, the more pressure he feels on his service games.

“In return games, I kind of knew what Andre wanted to do, but Paul always said to be aggressive and take your chances on second serve. Stay back with him, but don’t rush and wait for your opportunity, because that’s what grass-court tennis does. I loved playing baseliners, because eventually you’d get a short ball and I’d love coming up and getting to the net.”

Sampras set the tone early on in the 24th meeting of their careers, striking his backhand return — a shot that Agassi would often look to expose — with conviction and playing confidently from the back of the court. “Andre has just won the French, so he was coming in quite strong into the event,” says Sampras. “I was playing well, then I played Andre – which meant there was a little more to it than Boris [Becker] or Goran. Everything clicked, which is hard to do in a major final as there is always nerves. We got to 3-3, 0/40 in my service game, and from that moment on, and for the rest of the match, I played as well as I could.

“Andre had a chance and didn’t break me, and then I felt like I got out of a little bit of a hole. He might have gotten a bit tight, as he had those chances. It was a combination of the two that enabled me to get on that run. I let my shoulders down and just played. I had to as he was playing well, but I knew if I played well on grass, the way my game was, I felt virtually unbeatable. It was a big moment to win, more about how I played than beating Andre.”

Having recovered from 0/40 at 3-3 in the first set, Sampras broke Agassi for 5-3 with the help of a double fault, then served out the set — and en route to 3-1 in the second set, he’d won 23 of 27 points. Sampras completed the final by hitting his 16th and 17th aces. Agassi, who had won 13 straight matches to take away the World No. 1 ranking from Sampras, later admitted, “He has a knack for doing things like that. He’s a champion. He has proven that… I feel mentally and emotionally a little beat up. I didn’t feel like I was No. 1 today.”

Sampras equalled Emerson’s all-time record Grand Slam singles championship tally that day and went on to add a further two trophies — 2000 Wimbledon (d. Rafter) and the 2002 US Open (d. Agassi), which was the final match of his career — for 14 overall. Sampras says, “Wimbledon defined who I am and what I could do and play. I miss it.” Since his playing retirement in 2002, he did not return to The Championships for seven years, when he and his wife, Bridgette, took a 12-hour red-eye flight from Los Angeles to witness Roger Federer break his all-time titles’ record with a 16-14 fifth set victory over Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final. But now, with Sampras’ youngest son, 13-year-old Ryan, developing a passion for the sport, and his elder brother, 16-year-old Christian, “asking plenty of questions and watching YouTube clips”, the American hopes to visit the All England Club in the “next year or two”.

Sampras adds, “Both my kids now know what I did and they know I was good at it. I try to give them examples of how to work hard and what it takes to be a champion. You have to work in life, nobody is going to hand it to you. That’s what tennis did to me, it gave me many life lessons and I want to teach my kids that. You’re out there on your own and you’ve got to make it happen yourself. There is no question in tennis, as an individual sport, you have to go out there and earn it.”

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Wimbledon, Silverstone & Cricket World Cup: 'Afterwards, all you wanted to do was play, watch and talk sport'

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020
One Day: Sport’s Super Sunday
Sunday 12 July, 20:30 BST on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer

There are summer days as a child when all you want to do is play sport and watch sport and talk sport.

Days when the sun shines and feels like it’s going to shine forever. Daylight from before you’re awake and long after you should be asleep.

And then you grow up, and time shrinks and the opportunities fade. Other things become important. Those days slip away. You still care, but the narratives lose their simplicity. There is too little to watch, or too much.

It barely even felt like summer in the early morning of Sunday 14 July 2019. Rainy in north-west London, where England were meeting New Zealand in the World Cup final, drizzly in south-west London before the Wimbledon men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

In the Midlands, where Lewis Hamilton was aiming for a record-breaking sixth win at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, the thousands who had camped out overnight were crawling out of tents in anoraks and wellies.

And so you were ready to watch, but to turn over too. To dip in and then go and do something else. Keep an eye on it, have it on in the background.

Except the clouds went and the sun broke through and the golden afternoon began.

You couldn’t turn over, except you had to, to be in three places at once. You dipped in and then dived. The background faded away until it was just you and those who think the same way – and the noise and drama and stress.

All three of those great venues felt the same but different. Wimbledon on finals weekend is simultaneously emptier – all those outside courts covered and unused; the spectators quieter, the haves and the have-mores – and more concentrated, all the focus and drama on one small rectangle of grass.

Silverstone, for that weekend, turns into a festival, a gathering, a pilgrimage. Lord’s was a favourite old relative in bright new clothes. It was your dad with a hipster beard. It was all the comforting old traditions about to be made inconsequential.

And the narrative, for most people, appeared straightforward once again. Centre Court wanted Federer, mainly. Silverstone wanted Hamilton, completely. Lord’s acknowledged its pockets of beige shirts and its natural soft spot for Kiwis and then cracked on with bellowing for England.

Straightforward? Maybe on the surface, for Hamilton, although not if you understood how difficult it is to drive as he does, as relentlessly as he seems to. But never at Wimbledon, and as never before on that great grassy oval, seven miles or so across the capital city.

There are vantage points in Wimbledon where you feel like you can see across the whole of London. From the top of Henman Hill; on your way down Church Road, through the big trees and past the bigger houses. From Lord’s you look south beyond the cranes and see landmarks and history.

As mid-afternoon became early evening and Federer and Djokovic swapped sets and England chased down New Zealand and staggered and slowed, you could almost feel the invisible threads connecting the two arenas starting to tighten and pull. The distance shrinking, the pressure taking over.

It crept up on you, first slowly and then with a grab on the shoulder: this is not normal. This is like it used to be. This is summer’s sporting day of days, and I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.

Those other things that mattered more fell away and went forgotten. You couldn’t watch and you couldn’t look away. You hated it and you loved it and you lost yourself completely to it.

Rallies slowed down and stretched to become epics in their own right. Overs picked you up, dumped you into despair and then dragged you out again.

It was Roger’s, it was Novak’s, it was Roger’s. England were in control, faltering, alive, dead again.

At various points you tried to drag your eyes away, only to see other people who couldn’t watch at all. The women in summer dresses burying their faces in their hands as Federer flopped away two championship points. The men with red jeans and redder faces, leaving their seats at Lord’s and ploughing lonely laps of the concourse out back, shaking heads, puffing their cheeks, checking their phones and running back in.

Very few of us actually remember enjoying it. Not in the moment, when you were convinced the thing you really didn’t want to happen was certain to happen. Not when you felt so powerless to exert any sort of influence over something that mattered to you so much.

The cool assessments were for later, the sober context: a Wimbledon men’s final longer than any that has come before, a World Cup final that might just be the greatest game of cricket in history.

You just knew it was never going to be easy. Not with Federer raging against the dimming of his light, never with England’s cricketers. You just didn’t know it was going to be this hard.

There were moments when you were certain it was over. Federer’s match points. England needing 21 runs from five balls.

There were points when none of it made sense: Ben Stokes hitting a six which wasn’t a six at all, but a two and four; a final over that turned out not even to be the penultimate over; a game that ended in a tie to produce a tie-breaker that also ended in a tie.

And when 7pm came and went and the skies began to grow a little darker once more, it was a very Djokovic way for Djokovic to win Wimbledon, and a very English way to win a World Cup.

Pulling yourself through when all around want the other guy; finding a strength on the points that matter more than all the others. Extra time at Wembley in 1966, extra time in Sydney in 2003, a champagne Super Over in London.

So much happened that one day in July that you struggle to hold on to it all. And afterwards, all you wanted to do was play sport, and watch sport, and talk sport.

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Cabal/Farah’s ‘Dream Come True’ At Wimbledon 2019

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Cabal/Farah’s ‘Dream Come True’ At Wimbledon 2019

Colombians reflect on their first Grand Slam title run

“We won Wimbledon! Can you believe it?,” Farah asked Cabal while they were locked in the most emotional embrace of their sporting lives.

“You’d better believe it because we just did it!,” answered Cabal, still not completely aware of what he was saying.

The quick exchange between Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, moments after defeating Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a four-hour and 57-minute final, perfectly sums up the Colombians’ achievement when they won their first Grand Slam title in July 2019. Neither of them could quite grasp the magnitude of what they had just done on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

“We were in shock,” said Cabal. “It was pure joy, ecstasy. It was a dream come true, a goal we had been pursuing for a long time. But in that moment, when we did it, we didn’t really understand the impact of our achievement.”

With a backhand cross-court volley, Farah sealed a 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3 victory that made the pair the first Colombian team to win a Grand Slam men’s doubles title. After that point, they both fell to the ground. They were both laughing nervously. They got up amid the applause, hugged each other and then asked themselves if what they were experiencing was real.

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Their disbelief came from the fact that they had forged a path through a very demanding draw. The pair had to survive an 11-9 fifth-set in their quarter-final against Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau. But it was also because they did not think their first Grand Slam title would come at Wimbledon, on their least favourite surface.

“We thought we were more likely to win our first major at Roland Garros, because it’s on clay, which suits us best,” said Farah.

“But the good result in Paris really gave us a boost for the grass swing,” said Cabal. “And winning our first title on the surface in Eastbourne gave us enormous confidence.”

Even so, their surprise at fulfilling their dream at SW19 was inevitable. Not only did they win the only Grand Slam event where they had never before made it to the quarter-finals, they also climbed to the top of the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings.

“That made it much more unforgettable. It was a double triumph,” said Farah. “That day, for the first time, we achieved both our goals, that’s why it will be special for the rest of our careers.”

But it would take two days until the impact of their win, particularly in Colombia, would completely sink in.

“I remember that we were at the club until very late, and then we went to our friends’ house to celebrate,” said Farah. “But the president [of Colombia, Iván Duque] wanted us to be in Bogota on Monday to receive an award so we had to go to the airport early. We didn’t have time to celebrate.”

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When they got to Colombia, greeted by a packed crowd, they found more clues as to what they had achieved. A large part of the country — where the most popular sports are football and cycling — had come to a standstill after their achievement.

“When I saw the welcome from the people, I thought ‘Wow, what has happened here?’ We never imagined that our title could have caused such euphoria in Colombia,” said Cabal.

Once they were home, they were finally able to celebrate. But two weeks later they were competing again in Washington, with their ambition intact.

“We are still the same, working just as hard. Winning Wimbledon made us hungry for more titles,” said Farah.

They soon qualified for their second successive Nitto ATP Finals, and would later win the US Open, extending their hot streak.

But it was on the lawns of Wimbledon where they sewed the seeds of their greatness.

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Flashback: Ivanisevic's Date With Destiny On 'People's Monday'

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Flashback: Ivanisevic’s Date With Destiny On ‘People’s Monday’

Wild card defeats Rafter in 2001 Wimbledon final

Goran Ivanisevic needed a wild card just to get into the main draw of 2001 Wimbledon. Fifteen days after the start of play, the three-time finalist (1992, 1994, 1996) completed the most improbable run to the title in tournament history.

Ivanisevic, No. 125 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, had his final with Patrick Rafter pushed to Monday because of rain. It became known as the “People’s Monday” as it was played in front of 10,000 fans who queued up for unreserved tickets the night before on a first-come, first-served basis. They brought a boisterous level of energy and enthusiasm that included waving handmade signs, singing during changeovers and chanting both player’s names.

In typically demonstrative form, Ivanisevic sat on court, looked up to the sky, screamed and fought back tears — and this was before he won the match. On his fourth championship point, the 29-year-old collapsed to the ground and sobbed after clinching his first Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 win.

“This is so great, to touch the trophy. I don’t even care if I ever win a match in my life again. If I don’t want to play, I don’t play again. This is it. This is the end of the world,” Ivanisevic said. “This is what I was waiting for all my life. I was always second. The people respect me, but second place is not good enough.

“Finally, I am a champion of Wimbledon. I won. This is everything for me. My dreams came true. Whatever I do in my life, wherever I go, I’m always going to be a Wimbledon champion.”

<a href=Goran Ivanisevic at 2001 Wimbledon” />

It appeared that Ivanisevic wouldn’t get another chance to triumph at the All England Club. A right shoulder injury had prompted a ranking spiral and low moments for the former World No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, including losing in the first round of qualifying that year at the Australian Open.

But while his Wimbledon run initially started as an outer court spectacle, it quickly gained Centre Court momentum. He beat Marat Safin in the quarter-finals and Tim Henman in the semi-finals after coming within two points of defeat against the Brit.

Meanwhile, Rafter sought his own moment of vindication. The Aussie admitted that his loss in the previous year’s final to Pete Sampras had been eating away at him for 12 months. Rafter also came within two points of losing his semi-final against Andre Agassi before clawing back to prevail 8-6 in the fifth set.

After Rafter and Ivanisevic delivered four sets of high-quality tennis, the tension was palpable for both the players and crowd as the match moved deep into the decider. Ivanisevic went down 6-7, 15/30, but found big serves when he needed them to hold. The tension was too much for Rafter in the next game and he spun in a soft second serve on break point that the Croatian smacked for a winner.

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Ivanisevic reached match point at 8-7, but missed a second serve by three feet. His second championship point also sparked a wild double fault and collective groan from the crowd. A third attempt came and went after Rafter produced a perfect lob winner, prompting a wry smile from the Croatian. But on his fourth try, Ivanisevic found a big serve and Rafter hit a return into the middle of the net.

“I don’t know if Wimbledon has seen anything like that. I don’t know if they will again… It was just electric,” Rafter said. “He had a lot of support. The Aussies that were there were great. It’s what we play for. This is what it’s all about. It was so much fun.”

Rafter only played a handful of tournaments after his heartbreaking loss before retiring at the end of 2001. Meanwhile, Ivanisevic’s shoulder struggles ensured that Wimbledon would remain his final tour-level title. He fittingly retired at the event in 2004, but made it clear that his 2001 triumph erased any chance of regret.

“It’s an unsolved mystery how I won,” Ivanisevic said to CNN. “It was written somewhere that it was my time. Why do it easy if you can do it the hard way?”

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Francis Roig On 2008 Wimbledon Classic: 'One Of The Most Exciting Finals Ever'

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Francis Roig On 2008 Wimbledon Classic: ‘One Of The Most Exciting Finals Ever’

Nadal’s coach looks back on Spaniard’s epic clash with Federer

What is the greatest match of all time? Every era has enjoyed different milestones, records and unforgettable moments, making it nearly impossible to choose one match above the rest. However, there is no doubt that the final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 2008 Wimbledon holds a special place in the history of this sport.

“The standard was so high, but it’s difficult to compare different eras,” Francis Roig, Rafael Nadal’s coach, told “It was so exciting, really wonderful. If it’s not the best match in terms of tennis that you could see, in terms of excitement, it’s surely one of the best in history for everything it had: the time it finished, the flashes, the break, the match points.”

Any fan who watched this match would agree with Roig’s assessment. Everything that happened in the cathedral of tennis on 6 July 2008 is now part of legend.

The Spaniard was facing the No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings and defending champion for the third consecutive time in a Wimbledon final. The result had come out in favour of the Swiss in the previous two years. But this time it was different. Despite Federer coming close to turning the match around. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 after four hours and 48 minutes.

“It was clearly a turning point,” Roig said. “Nadal had played in two finals before. He had fewer chances in the first [2006], but I think the second was a lot closer [2007]. They then played a third final and winning it changed things. Beating Federer at Wimbledon, in a final, says it all.”

It’s a sentiment that Nadal fully agrees with.

“It’s one of the best matches of my career, without a doubt,” Nadal admitted in a recent report shown on #Vamos. “I had lost two finals. It was a big goal and a dream for me to win Wimbledon. I had two match points, one of them on my serve, and with a mid-court forehand that was comfortable enough to be able to do more. I did the minimum I could, safe, but getting the ball back is not enough against Federer. He produced a spectacular pass and we went to the fifth set.”

Roig sees that all-or-nothing fifth set as the key moment of the final. However, Nadal already knew what it was to win a Grand Slam. He had lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires four times at Roland Garros (2005-08) and Federer was his opponent in the final on three of those occasions. But he had never been so close to winning Wimbledon as he was in the fourth set of the 2008 final.

“When he missed the chance to close out the match and went to the locker room, rather than feeling beaten, he said that he wouldn’t lose the match. Roger would have to win it,” Roig revealed. “Rafa had a winning attitude and that gave the team peace of mind. It was an important moment. In the end, matches are not over until they are over.”

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As night fell in London, a forehand from the Swiss that landed in the net gave Nadal the title. Sprawled out across Centre Court, the Mallorcan was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Wimbledon men’s singles trophy was his.

“It was a very important achievement,” Roig said. “I think it really helped him believe that he could do the great things at Wimbledon that he has shown.”

Nadal had already beaten Federer on clay and hard courts, but now he had done it on grass. Besides the significance of that victory, Nadal’s coach also believes another match in their ATP Head2Head series was key.

“I think their first match was an important one, when he beat Federer at age 17 in Miami,” Roig said. “When you play a player who you theoretically have to beat to become No. 1, and you have a great match and win on the first try, it gives you a lot of confidence so that you believe you can win in the next matches.”

This is how Roig remembers one of the greatest stories in the history of tennis, 12 years on from that memorable tie.

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Francis Roig: 'Nadal Holds A Special Place In Wimbledon History'

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

Francis Roig: ‘Nadal Holds A Special Place In Wimbledon History’

Nadal’s coach speaks about the Spaniard’s grass-court success

When the lights go out at the All England Club and fans stream out of the gates in awe of a day’s play on the pristine lawns, it is likely that Rafael Nadal will be the subject of some of their discussions.

With two titles (2008, 2010) and three runner-up appearances (2006-07, 2011), the Spaniard has left an indelible mark on the grass of Wimbledon, characterised by his hunger for victory and a huge capacity to adapt. It’s clear that his grass-court magic isn’t just natural instinct, but rather the fruit of a life of hard work.

Few are more familiar with the work of the Mallorcan than Francis Roig, a permanent member of his coaching staff since 2005. The Mallorcan spoke to about Nadal adapting his game to grass, which has been an essential component in establishing his legacy.

“The first time I saw Rafa play on grass was around 2002 or 2003,” Roig recalled. “At the time, I was still coaching Feliciano Lopez and I hadn’t started working with Nadal. Rafa came to play in the juniors. He didn’t have anyone to rally with, so I played with him that day.”

The stories of Wimbledon that had been shared by his Uncle Toni were etched into Nadal’s mind and his determination to master the surface was evident in every shot. Inside the walls of the All England Club, steeped in history, was a wide-eyed young man who would do anything to progress.

“From the first moment, I could see that he was very capable of adapting to grass,” Roig said. “A few years had to go by before he would earn confidence and the knack for playing on it. But Rafa has a quality, among many, that I think is incredible and makes him different to the rest. He knows how to overcome adversity like no other.

“Little by little, he started to learn how to play on grass. I think that this is one of the things that sets Rafa apart, that he always finds solutions. These situations are where he has demonstrated that. People who thought he wouldn’t be able to play well on grass have seen that he did.”

As time has gone by, the Spaniard has become a revered player in London. With a 53-12 record at Wimbledon, Nadal has enjoyed a long history of success at the season’s third Grand Slam. From his first final just a few weeks after turning 20, to his assault on the title last year at age 34, he has consistently found a way to contend for the trophy.

“There was a turning point on grass for Rafa. At first, he played with huge intensity that intimidated his opponents. He played at a very fast rhythm and was able to move much better than now, as he was much younger,” Roig said. “Later, he showed such a huge evolution in his game that, to me, he practically played better on grass than on hard courts. I think he produces better tennis. He likes playing on grass when he has time to adapt, although it’s true that the grass and current balls are maybe slower than before.”

Nadal’s most recent showings at Wimbledon will make him one of the favourites to win at next year’s event. Few have doubted his ability to contend for another trophy in London and he’s provided plenty of evidence that he has more outstanding grass-court tennis to give.

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“He has played stunning tennis in the past three editions. In 2017, he lost in the fourth round to Gilles Muller in a match that could have gone either way. He was playing well enough to do something big that year at Wimbledon. He came close in the past two years,” Roig reflected. “You have to expect anything from Rafa. It wasn’t his favourite surface, but he adapted by searching for solutions and he is great at that. He competes every day. You can never write him off in a match or for things in his career that seem difficult. You always have to expect that he’s capable of the best.”

History can attest to that. Nadal reached the Wimbledon final on five consecutive occasions between 2006-2011 (he withdrew from the 2009 event due to knee tendonitis), an achievement that only three other men (Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Roger Federer) have accomplished in the Open Era.

“Playing five consecutive finals at Wimbledon is quite a feat,” Roig said. “It’s true that a few years have gone by where he didn’t play well and injuries didn’t help him. In addition, he has always had the handicap of arriving on the grass somewhat depleted after Roland Garros. It takes a very big toll and you have to take that into account.

“But it’s not just his five finals. It’s also the semi-finals he has recently played. I would rate him very highly among Wimbledon players. It goes without saying that you’d have to place him among the best players in history on any surface.”

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From Novice To Centre Court: Nalbandian's Magical Grass-Court Debut

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2020

From Novice To Centre Court: Nalbandian’s Magical Grass-Court Debut

Argentine looks back on run to 2002 Wimbledon final

David Nalbandian speaks pensively and intensely. Although it’s been 18 years since he reached the Wimbledon final in his first main draw appearance at the event, the Cordoba native knows it was a turning point for him. When the Argentine arrived at the All England Club, he had never played a tour-level match on grass. Despite being inside the Top 40 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, he was still finding his feet.

“I remember that we arrived there without any great expectations. [It was] my first ATP Tour tournament on grass. We had trained for a week in Argentina, in Hurlingham, and it wasn’t going well,” the former World No. 3 told

But the Argentine had some prior grass-court success to lean on. He won the Wimbledon boys’ doubles titles three years earlier with Guillermo Coria and was a semi-finalist in the boys’ singles event before losing via walkover after he no-showed due to confusion over the start time of his match.

Just over two weeks after his difficult training sessions in Hurlingham, Nalbandian’s negative feelings were long removed after accomplishing a first among Argentine men. He played in the singles final, where he would lose to Australian Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 56 minutes.

“When I got there, I wasn’t feeling great. I was still returning badly… But as the matches went by, I gradually began to feel more comfortable,” Nalbandian recalled. “I really was surprised with how easily I started to feel better and better.”

He moved past Spaniard David Sanchez and Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in his first two rounds. Nalbandian admitted that he was “lucky to play against opponents who played from the baseline, so I was able to have rallies and find my rhythm.”

Nalbandian’s next match would have been against seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, but the American surprisingly lost to Swiss lucky loser George Bastl. Emboldened by his kinder draw. he swept past Bastl and shook off the tricky Australian Wayne Arthurs to become the first Argentine Wimbledon quarter-finalist since Guillermo Vilas (1975-1976).

After seeing off Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti and Belgian Xavier Malisse, Nalbandian shockingly found himself in the final.

“After the first week, I started to feel that I could win all the matches, even the most difficult ones,” Nalbandian said. “It was a change in mindset. It didn’t matter what their ranking was. I felt that I could be a favourite for the rest of the tournament.

“My route to the final was unusual. I never had to play on Centre Court. It rained a lot the second week and there were rescheduled matches. I was always on the outer courts and I only played on Court 1 in the semi-final.”

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Nalbandian made his Centre Court debut in the final against Hewitt. The atmosphere and the occasion were too much for the Argentine and he never fully relaxed against his in-form opponent.

“It was quite a thing to reach the final without having set foot on Centre Court. I think I was the only one they let warm up there before the match just to see how it was,” Nalbandian said. “Wimbledon’s Centre Court is pure history. It’s incredible for any tennis player. I think not having been on it or played a match there didn’t help me in terms of nerves and facing the situation at such an early age. Hewitt was World No. 1 and an experienced grass player, or at least much more used to it.”

Despite the defeat, Nalbandian burst into the highest echelon of the sport and sent a warning message to the Tour that his journey was just beginning. He would go on to win 11 ATP Tour titles and reach his career-high ranking of No. 3 in 2006.

“It was a change in quality in my game, my ranking, my responsibility as a player and, above all, my confidence. It was knowing that I was ready to square up against the biggest players, even though I was young,” Nalbandian said. “My runner-up trophy is in a room where I have all the other trophies. I also kept the clothes and the racquet. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I need to rummage through and see where they are!”

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