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New Fan Essay Winners: Changing History

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2020

New Fan Essay Winners: Changing History

Fans 18-and-under show off tennis writing skills

The ATP editorial team has enjoyed reading alternate endings to some of the most memorable matches in recent history, as part of the fourth instalment of our Fan Essay Contest.

Writers aged 18 and under were asked to write an essay of 500 words or less on the topic: ‘If you could re-write history and turn one defeat of your favourite player into a win, what match would that be and why?’

The winning entries are featured below:

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The Bulgarian’s Fighting Spirit (Australian Open 2017: Nadal v Dimitrov)
By Harold Brent Ho, 13, Malaysia

If I would change one part of the history of my favourite tennis player, Grigor Dimitrov, that match would be the Australian Open classic semi-final encounter between Rafael Nadal and Dimitrov.

The reason behind why I would change that match is because of the intensity put into the match, both players back and forth like a hardcore table tennis match or a close soccer match. The passion and never-giving-up spirit from Grigor mixed with the fiery attitude from Rafael always makes it an intriguing match to watch. The most excruciating pain that I ever had in front of the TV, sweat dripping down both players’ faces, stamina shooting down lower and lower, and intensity exceeding the limit. I was devastated when Grigor lost.

I imagine the ending being this – Dimitrov and Nadal tied down to the very last minute in the tie-break, Grigor is 15/16 down to the match point of Nadal. It’s Dimitrov’s turn to serve, he hits the ball over the net and unleashes an ace with the utmost topspin ever, now the score is tied 16/16.

Now it is back to Nadal to serve, he hits a good serve, Grigor is able to hit it forward, Rafa hits the cross-court all the way to the right, Grigor hits the ball straight down the line, Rafa goes full speed ahead all the way to the ball to return the ball, and then out of the blue, Grigor unleashes a super backhand swing down the line, Rafa is unable to get back in time.

At first, Grigor was down 15/16 and now he’s leading 17/16. Now on-screen, the big bold letters, MATCH POINT. Now it’s Grigor’s match point and serve, he smashes the serve down to Nadal, but Rafa doesn’t return the ball and the serve is called out.

Grigor challenges it, everyone in the stadium looks onto the challenge screen, as the ball flies in the replay, nerve-racking emotion from everyone around. The short suspense and silence are momentarily turned into loud cheers and celebrating shouts. The ball has caught a little glimpse of the line, Grigor has won the tie-break, and that is how I imagine the ending being like, subsequently Grigor goes on to win the final too.


Wimbledon 2019: Federer v Djokovic
By Joaquin Ramirez Kakarieka, 17, Santiago, Chile

Throughout Federer’s tennis career there have been many painful defeats, included in those, many finals and matches that could have changed the course of history on many of these occasions.

I choose the final of Wimbledon 2019, because of how recent, key and painful that match was. Federer, 37 years old and almost 38, was returning to a Grand Slam final, at an excellent level and beating Nadal in the semi-finals.

It was a very good and long match, where Federer’s level was always higher than Djokovic’s, but that at decisive moments, the Serbian showed his best level. The match was lived with tremendous intensity, where the Wimbledon public all they wanted was to see Federer succeed again in the cathedral of tennis. I lived each point with a passion that you can’t even imagine, and more than anything in that fifth set. My hands were sweating and trembling, my heart was beating at 200 an hour, as if I were the one playing there on the Wimbledon court against Djokovic.

We all knew it was a historic match, because Federer was going to win the 21 and consolidate as the best in history, or Djokovic was going to win and get closer and closer to Nadal and Federer. And perhaps Roger missed one of the last chances to win a Grand Slam.

My alternate ending is clearly watching Federer convert one of the two match points he had on that 8-7 in the fifth set, watching him cry and the crowd jumping with excitement. Telling the world that he is the only king of this sport.

If Federer won this final, clearly everything changes, the whole world of tennis would be talking until today, about how incredible the final was that Federer beat Djokovic with almost 38 years of age. Roger didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. For me, it would have earned the GOAT title.

It was an incredible game and where I saw Roger play one of his best matches. It was amazing to see his agility and ability to move so fast on the court, beating Djokovic in every aspect of the game. After this defeat I did not cry, but because I was in shock. He did not know what he had lived, what he had seen. Those 2 match points, and those 2 break points that escaped him on 11-11 of the fifth set … all that has stuck in my head until today. It is a difficult game to overcome and clearly that a Federer victory would have changed the history of tennis.

Federer, Djokovic

A Small Slip, A Great Fall (Australian Open 2010: Nadal v Murray)
Ediz Bostanci, 11, Frisco, Texas, United States

I watched eagerly as Nadal began his title defense at the year’s first major. Seeded second, he breezed through his first four matches and finally met his match against fifth seed Andy Murray for a spot in the semi-finals. Nadal was the favourite, but the rallies were always long and pleased the crowd.

After back-to-back exchanges of breaks, Murray consolidated his and won the first set 6-3. The second set was the same; both men held until Nadal broke and served for 5-2. He was broken back immediately, and at 5-5, Nadal tumbled to the ground after a serve, but it didn’t seem important. I worried that the end was near for Nadal, but nevertheless, he went on, and the set was to be decided in a tie-break where Nadal ultimately succumbed.

The pain from the fall resurfaced at 0-1 in the third set when Nadal took a medical timeout. He was able to play for two more games, but eventually made the understandable decision to retire, which led to a heartfelt exit. I felt horrible for Nadal, but if you told me he would go on to win the three remaining majors that year, I wouldn’t believe you.

He was so close to joining Rod Laver as the second man in the Open Era to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, a feat nearly impossible. He would also be one step closer to being the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam twice, something Federer and Djokovic, arguably the best players of all time have not done.

In addition, if he won his quarter-final match, he would face Cilic, the lowest-ranked player in the semis, against whom he owns a 6-2 record on hard courts. Nadal was the on-paper favourite, and there is no stopping him once he is deep in a Slam.

If he had some more luck during his career, he could have avoided injury and won the 2010 Australian Open, and carry his form into Roland Garros where he has had endless success. That could put him in the lead for the most Grand Slam titles. But, you have to accept what has happened, and perhaps pretend that what you wanted to happen is actually what did take place.

Nadal was down two sets to love against Murray, but Nadal, if anyone, is the player that can win even from a deficit such as this one. Murray seemed to be checked out mentally, but Nadal gathered himself to win the third set 7-6, and then the next two 6-1, 6-0 with a bang.

In the semis, Nadal made no mistake en route to beating 14th seed Marin Cilic in straight sets. On finals day, the world waited for two of the world’s best players to go head-to-head. Just like their 2008 Wimbledon match, it went on for hours until Nadal clinched victory 7-6 in the fifth. Another titanic battle between two legends in the history books.

(I wished so)!

<a href=Rafael Nadal lost his only Grand Slam match of 2010 against Andy Murray in the Australian Open quarter-finals.” />

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Norman On Wawrinka: ‘He’s A Little Bit Underestimated’

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2020

Norman On Wawrinka: ‘He’s A Little Bit Underestimated’

Norman gives insight into the Swiss’ game and discusses the lesson he will provide with Wawrinka and Vallverdu to raise money for ATP coaches in need

Magnus Norman first began working with Stan Wawrinka in 2013, and since then the Swiss has proven himself one of the best players on the ATP Tour. He has reached No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, won three Grand Slam titles, and competed in the Nitto ATP Finals four times. However, Wawrinka has had to compete against the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for the spotlight.

“Stan is one of the best players to ever play the game, if you look at his record, if you look at winning three Grand Slams, winning three different Grand Slams in the era where he had the Big Four playing,” Norman told ATP Tennis Radio. “He’s a little bit underestimated for sure, and he’s been in numerous semi-finals as well, another Grand Slam final. He’s had an unbelievable career.”

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It hasn’t all been easy for Norman and Wawrinka. The Swiss is still on the road back to his top form since undergoing two left knee surgeries in August 2017, which sent him as low as World No. 263 in 2018.

“It’s been a little bit up and down. He doesn’t have the same stability as Andy Murray or Novak or Roger or Rafa, but in his best moments, I think he can beat all of those names on a very good day,” Norman said. “That’s what makes him a little bit special, also. You don’t really know which Stan to expect on the day or on that occasion, and that’s why I think a lot of people really like him.”

Norman admitted it could be frustrating when Wawrinka has ups and downs, which in part comes from his aggressive play. But those same traits make the Swiss as dangerous as he is.

“Stan is a gambler. He plays with small margins. He’s the kind of guy that will put everything in red, do or die,” Norman said. “This is his personality a little bit, so I think it’s very tough to change his personality. But I also think that’s the reason why he won three Grand Slams. He can rise to the occasion. He can go for shots that normally someone else will play a little bit safe. That makes him that dangerous, I think.”

The Swede doesn’t like to discuss how he’s affected Wawrinka’s career; he’d rather the Swiss speak to that. But Norman has tried to get Wawrinka to rely on his physical strength — Norman calls him “super-super strong” — to challenge opponents. They also have a strong chemistry as a coach-player tandem.

“One of the things he mentioned is I made him a winner… everybody saw before he could play great tennis,” Norman said. “He told me that the words I’m telling him before a match calms him down a little bit and makes him believe that he could win in big moments.”

In addition to his duties with Wawrinka, former World No. 2 and 2000 Roland Garros finalist Norman is the co-founder and technical director of the Good to Great Tennis Academy in Sweden. He gets to work with one of the most talented players in the world in Wawrinka, but Norman says talent isn’t all that makes a great player.

“The most important thing is the passion, that they have the passion and drive that they want to become better. A lot of coaches, a lot of parents, they talk about talent,” Norman said. “Real talent for me is the ability to work hard on a daily basis, even if you lose sometimes, you lose some matches, but you don’t lose motivation. When you lose, you go out and you work even harder. That’s the real talent for me. That’s important, to look at the passion and drive, the coachability.”

At an ATP Tour event in Europe or the Americas between January and July 2021, Norman will have a new student who will be plenty eager to do whatever he says. Norman will conduct a private two-hour session alongside Wawrinka and fellow team member Daniel Vallverdu for the winner of an auction to support members of the ATP Coach Programme in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m going to give it everything I have. When the player comes on court I’m going to try to make the player as good as possible,” Norman said. “I think it will be a great experience… It’s going to be a great session and I’m really looking forward to it.”

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For now, Norman plans to meet Wawrinka in Monaco to prepare for the scheduled American hard-court swing. Although his charge is 35, Norman says they still have plenty of expectations.

“If he can play a good match, if he can play good tennis, it’s going to take a lot to beat him,” Norman said. “He’s that good.”

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Nadal's Memorable Marathon Win Against Djokovic In Hamburg

  • Posted: Jul 15, 2020

Nadal’s Memorable Marathon Win Against Djokovic In Hamburg

Nadal saved 15 of 19 break points to scrape past the Serbian

The ATP Head2Head rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has developed into one of the classic rivalries in tennis history. But early on in their careers, the budding stars typically played relatively one-sided matches.

It wasn’t until their 10th meeting — in the 2008 Hamburg semi-finals — that they went to a deciding set for the first time.

Djokovic was the No. 3 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and the Serbian led the ATP Race To London. Earlier in 2008, he had earned his first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open and his first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 title in Rome. Although Nadal had won their first three clay-court matches without losing a set, Djokovic was playing the best tennis of his career. The winner would leave Hamburg as World No. 2.

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The moment brought the best out of both stars, with Nadal ultimately triumphing 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in a three-hour, three-minute marathon.

“It was unfortunate it finished as a loss for me but I have to take the positives out of the match,” Djokovic said, according to Eurosport. “I feel that with this performance and the match in general I am getting closer to him on clay and hopefully next time I can get a win.”

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The final-set scoreline makes it seem like Nadal found another level — which he did — and simply ran away with the third set. But the 6-2 score is deceiving, as Djokovic battled until the very end. It was a back-and-forth affair, with the last game lasting more than 15 minutes and Nadal needing five match points to break through. The lefty saved 15 of 19 break points.

“It was an amazing match,” Nadal said according to Eurosport. “I am a little bit tired right now, so let’s see how I feel tomorrow.”

Nadal went on to beat Roger Federer in the championship match, avenging a loss against the Swiss in the 2007 Hamburg final.

Shortly thereafter, Nadal claimed his fourth Roland Garros crown and his first Wimbledon trophy, ascending to World No. 1 for the first time in August.

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Djokovic completed his breakthrough season by winning the Tennis Masters Cup and remaining World No. 3 through the entire year. After losing his first nine clay-court matches against the Spaniard, Djokovic finally beat Nadal on the surface in the 2011 Mutua Madrid Open final.

The Hamburg match was a sign of things to come. When playing well, Djokovic and Nadal bring the best out of each other, with grinding baseline rallies keeping fans across the world on the edge of their seats.

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