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As Tour Resumes, Gilbert Predicts 'I Didn't See That Coming' Moment

  • Posted: Aug 17, 2020

As Tour Resumes, Gilbert Predicts ‘I Didn’t See That Coming’ Moment

Former World No. 4 discusses his thoughts on the return to tennis

Brad Gilbert, the former World No. 4, isn’t positive which players will shine as the ATP Tour returns in New York for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open. But if he has any advice for fans, it’s this: Expect the unexpected.

“It’s a little bit like the NCAA Tournament in basketball. You might get somebody who is a really low seed to make the semi-finals or a deep run,” Gilbert told “I just have a feeling that without a crowd, without a couple guys who are always there not being there, the opportunity is there.”

The former coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick among others, Gilbert says you can wrack your brain about who will get off to a quick start to the Tour’s resumption. Seven of the Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings are poised to come out of the gates firing and reestablish themselves. But given nobody has competed in more than five months, it is tough to predict. The stakes will be high, since the first tournament back is an ATP Masters 1000 event.

“Who’s going to take advantage of a situation where maybe we get an opening in the draw to a semi-final where nobody’s made a semi or you have nobody who’s ever made a final?” Gilbert wondered. “If a couple upsets happen maybe there’s a section where nobody’s won before. There is going to be opportunity.”

Listen To Gilbert’s New Podcast, Winning Uglier

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will have a chance to tie Rafael Nadal’s record of 35 Masters 1000 titles at the Western & Southern Open, which is being held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center due to COVID-19.

“There are a lot of unknowns, but if he is 100 per cent healthy, on this surface, he’s a huge favourite,” Gilbert said.

Who else could be in the mix to start the return to tennis off on the right foot? Will players with a certain playing style be able to adapt quicker after more than five months off?

“It’s a tough call, it’s just really hard to know. Maybe [it will benefit] someone like a big server. All of a sudden if someone like John Isner, if his serve is fine, the guy can hold serve and you never know,” Gilbert said. “It’s hard to put your brain around it. Especially if someone plays a tough five-setter, how will they recover and manage it? That part I’m most curious about. I’m not sure who it helps the most or hurts the most. But I do think there’s going to be somebody who I say, ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming.’”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Gilbert likens this situation to when a player returns with a protected ranking following an injury. Except in this case, everyone has been off. There will also be added elements like not having a crowd, which could potentially reduce nerves for players competing on big courts like Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis-only stadium in the world, during the US Open.

“I do think we’re going to see some crazy results,” Gilbert said. “But let’s say even if the Big Three was playing after all this time, I just don’t think that after something like this you’d expect it to be business as normal… I do think somebody’s going to make a semi or final who is going to be a real surprise. I do think the biggest surprise is going to be somebody who maybe you don’t think about and doesn’t play that well on a big stadium or a big crowd.”

Since this is an unprecedented moment, it’s impossible to isolate exactly what will be most important for the players to succeed. But according to Gilbert, one of the most critical things will be to simply get off on the right foot.

“Sometimes after a long period of time, you come back and you seem like you have no confidence when you haven’t been playing. I do think a lot of people will be in the same boat, so I do think winning that first match, just boom, getting that out of the way [will be key],” Gilbert said. “It’s the same for everybody because everybody’s been missing this time, but the main thing is what you did during this time. Did you make an improvement in your game?

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Matt Little's Physical Guide To Returning To Action

  • Posted: Aug 17, 2020

Matt Little’s Physical Guide To Returning To Action

Andy Murray’s strength & conditioning coach provides his thoughts on the physical keys to a successful return

Editor’s Note: Andy Murray’s strength and conditioning coach, Matt Little, shared his thoughts with players and coaches in the weeks leading up to the return to tennis to help them physically prepare safely and successfully. Below we share Little’s advice.

With ATP players expecting to return to competitive action, it is vital for them to prepare for this in the correct way. Returning to elite-level competition after having several months’ layoff is something that is common in tennis players who have been injured, but for those who have been fully fit for the majority of their playing career, getting the balance between preparing in the correct way and not injuring themselves before the tournament is an important balance to strike.

On-Court Volume
The first aspect of a players’ on-court training that needs to be built-up is the volume of hitting that is going to be required to play a best-of-five set tennis match. This isn’t just with regards to the duration of a five-set tennis match, but more the actual loading on the player’s body. The loading can be measured by GPS devices. You may be surprised to hear that it only takes between two and a half and three hours of tennis practice to replicate the same loading on the muscles and joints of the body as a best-of-five set match. Given that there are practice days in between matches at Grand Slams, you may want to consider having a light day after you’ve had a day of two and a half to three hours, if you are looking to replicate this loading.

This for me is the number one factor in whether or not players get injured when they return to competition. We know that it is impossible to replicate match scenarios in practice, purely because the intensity is not the same. In the Battle of the Brits [exhibition] tournament, we noted high-intensity changes-of-direction more than 100 times during two-set matches, therefore tennis players need to perform at least 100 to 150 high-intensity change of directions in order to replicate three-set matches and so on.

A high-intensity change-of-direction can be defined as when a player is running into a shot fast, then decelerates and runs back out of the shot. For example, if a player volleys into the forehand corner of their opponent and then volleys immediately into the backhand corner, their opponents would have to execute a high-intensity change-of-direction — in the forehand corner — to do this.

Players need to make sure that their practice sets are as close to Grand Slam match intensity as they can possibly be. in order to have exposed themselves to the level of intensity that this level of competition would bring. I would suggest increasing intensity at a moderate rate so as not to cause too much muscle soreness as they build up to tournaments. This would look like taking three weeks from starting practice sets, to playing your first match. Whilst this may seem like a longer time than you would usually take, it is really important to build up slower than normal because the break has been longer than normal.

Planned Agility
Tennis players need to replicate movements at extremely high speeds in practice. The best way to begin doing this is with planned agility exercises where the player knows exactly where they are going to move to and how they are going to change direction. Because this is predictable movement, they can execute this at higher speeds than they could do if it was an unpredictable movement and know that they are going to be safe in doing so. This would be the first type of speed movements that I would introduce to the tennis player who is building up to competition. An example of this type of drill would be the fan drill.

Reactive Or Open Agility
These are the most intense forms of movement on the muscles and joints of the tennis players body because of the reactive nature and unpredictable nature of the muscle contractions. These would cause the most damage to muscle tissues and the bodies joints because of the fast, reactive contractions muscles and connected tissues are having to withstand. These would be the last element of speed and movement training that I would introduce to a tennis player. An example of this type of movement would simply be points play or points-based drills.

Maximum Speed
Players will also find it beneficial to do some very simple straight-line maximal speed sprints on the baseline to the net. This will have benefits not only for the speed that their neuromuscular system can operate at, but also it will expose again the muscles and connective-tissues of the body to fully explosive maximal movements. Players won’t experience these movements very often in a tennis match, but they will experience them occasionally, therefore this must be added in to the training program to get some exposure.

Lockdown Training History
A key factor in how quickly a player will be able to build up to maximal intensity training will be how much training that they continued to do whilst being in lockdown. Players who chose to recover and relax during this period should take longer and be more cautious in building up both the volume and intensity of training. Players who maintained a good level of fitness and movement whilst they were in lockdown should be able to return to this type of activity a little quicker. There are no set rules or guidelines as to how players should build up but, common sense suggests that the less active you have been, the slower you should build up. The more active you have been, the faster you can build up.

One of the key risk factors that I have already seen from players returning to tennis from a period of sedentary activity has been the risk to injury of the shoulder girdle and the surrounding muscles and soft tissues. If players have not been serving or performing this type of action with their arm during lockdown, they should build up the number of serves that they hit very slowly. Even simple muscle soreness is very high when returning to serving having had a break. I believe this is purely down to the violent and complex action of the serving motion on the joints and its muscles which are all very small and interconnected.

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Wawrinka Passes Opening Test In Prague

  • Posted: Aug 17, 2020

Wawrinka Passes Opening Test In Prague

Swiss advances to Round of 16

Stan Wawrinka was made to work, but the former World No. 3 completed a successful return to competition at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague. Wawrinka resumed his 2020 campaign with a gritty 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win over Roman Safiullin on Monday afternoon.

In his first competitive match since the professional circuit was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swiss needed one hour and 51 minutes to move past Safiullin. He converted six of 13 break chances and fired five aces to prevail.

After nearly six months on the sidelines, Wawrinka acknowledged that while it wasn’t easy, he’s happy with his performance in the deciding set.

“It was as expected, after six months being out,” said Wawrinka. “I came here to find some rhythm and check where I am. I’m happy for the victory for sure. There’s a lot of work to do, but the most important thing was to win the match, so I can play again here.”

The World No. 17 has returned to the ATP Challenger Tour for a pair of tournaments in the Czech capital. In search of form and confidence, he admits that getting back in the competitive mode again is a critical first step.

“I think he played better [in the second set],” Wawrinka added. “I was moving slower and wasn’t aggressive enough. Again, I’m here to play as much as I can. It’s different from practising all the time. I’m far from where I want to be, but that’s the reason I’m here. It’s a process and it takes time after so many months away from the competition.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

Wawrinka entered the I.CLTK Prague Open by Moneta with an 8-3 record at the tour-level this year. He opened the season with a semi-final run in Doha and reached back-to-back quarter-finals at the Australian Open and ATP 500 event in Acapulco.

The 35-year-old will next face Germany’s Oscar Otte in the Round of 16, after Otte earned a 6-2, 6-3 win over 13th seed Arthur Rinderknech on Monday. The World No. 217 dropped his only previous meeting with a Top 20 opponent, falling to Roger Federer at Roland Garros last year.

Other winners on Day 3 in Prague included sixth seed Sumit Nagal of India and former World No. 36 Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The Frenchman opened his restart with a comeback victory over Czech teen Jonas Forejtek. He prevailed 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to set an encounter with another Czech, Zdenek Kolar. Former World No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber punched his ticket to the last 16 as well, defeating Mats Moraing 6-1, 7-6(3).

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The youth movement is alive in the Czech Republic, with local teenagers Jiri Lehecka and Tomas Machac both earning straight-set upsets over seeded opponents. Making just his sixth Challenger appearance, 18-year-old Lehecka defeated Blaz Rola 6-4, 7-6(4), while 19-year-old Machac stopped Ilya Ivashka 6-0, 7-5. Machac is looking to build on his maiden Challenger title in February, having triumphed on the indoor hard courts of Koblenz, Germany.



Photos: Martin Sidorjak

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Altmaier, Stebe Dash Italian Hopes On Day 1 In Todi

  • Posted: Aug 17, 2020

Altmaier, Stebe Dash Italian Hopes On Day 1 In Todi

Challenger tennis returns to Todi for a 12th edition

After a two-year hiatus, the ATP Challenger Tour is back in Todi. The first round of the Internazionali Di Tennis Citta Di Todi kicked off on Monday under bright skies in the Italian hilltop town.

It was the Germans that stole the headlines on Day 1, with Daniel Altmaier and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe both advancing to the second round. Altmaier upset eighth seed and home hope Lorenzo Giustino 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, needing two hours and 18 minutes to advance. The 21-year-old, who has battled abdominal and shoulder injuries since reaching his first ATP Tour quarter-final in 2017 (Antalya), used his time in quarantine to work on his fitness and build a “more stable” body structure.

“I am happy with the result today, but not with my performance,” Altmaier told Tennis TourTalk after the match. “I didn’t start well and it was more of fight than a nice win. I served well and I opened the points in a solid way. When I started to improve my forehand, it felt easier to hit my backhand down the line. That was key today.

“The atmosphere is pretty nice. Of course you have to wear a mask but that’s good. During a tournament week, I usually do not spend too much time at the venue. It’s all about the right behaviour of our entire community.”

Stebe, meanwhile, needed just 65 minutes to defeat Italy’s Andrea Vavassori 6-1, 6-3. The fourth seed is just one year removed from his first Tour-level final in Gstaad. A seven-time Challenger champion, he will face Frenchman Elliot Benchetrit on Wednesday.

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Two days ago, men’s professional tennis made its long-awaited return at the Challenger event in Prague, and now it was Italy’s turn to enter the spotlight in Todi. Today’s Challenger stars resumed their 2020 campaigns after a five-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spain’s Mario Vilella Martinez set a second-round date against sixth seed Antoine Hoang after dispatching Andrea Arnaboldi 6-3, 7-6(3). The 25-year-old qualified for his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, before taking the opening set from Karen Khachanov in the first round.

“I’m very happy,” said Vilella Martinez. “He’s a tough guy to play with a lot of experience. He plays with very good tactics and I’m just happy to get the win. It’s good to be able to travel again and come back to the circuit.”

It was not to be for Vilella Martinez’s countryman Carlos Alcaraz, who succumbed to Gian Marco Moroni 6-3, 6-2 after qualifying for the main draw. Joined by coach and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in Todi, the 17-year-old is one to watch on the Challenger circuit. Moroni dismissed the Murcia native after one hour and 17 minutes and will next face Altmaier in the second round.

Other Italians advancing on Day 1 were Alessandro Giannessi after a 6-2, 6-3 over Maxime Janvier and third seed Federico Gaio, who rallied past countryman Matteo Viola 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Gaio, who opened his 2020 campaign with a title on the hard courts of Bangkok, concluded Monday’s action in Todi at 11pm.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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W&S Open Now Just Days Away…

  • Posted: Aug 17, 2020

W&S Open Now Just Days Away…

After more than five months, men’s professional tennis resumes

Get ready, the ATP Tour returns this week! After a 175-day suspension due to COVID-19, ATP Tour main draw action will resume on Saturday with the Western & Southern Open, and the US Open will follow soon after. Both events will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City.

Qualifying gets underway at the Western & Southern Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event, on Thursday, and main draw play — led by World No. 1 and 2018 titlist Novak Djokovic — is set to start on 22 August. Dominic Thiem, defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas also feature among 15 of the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Marin Cilic (2016) and Grigor Dimitrov (2017) are among the former winners in the field.

The start of the Western & Southern Open main draw on Saturday will mark five months and 22 days since the last ball at the ATP Tour tournament was struck competitively on 1 March at the Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago.

Of course, if you can’t wait to watch professional tennis again, tune into ATP Challenger Tour action that is already underway at the I.CLTK Prague Open By Moneta in Prague. Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka headlines the tournament, which includes Jiri Vesely, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

You can also follow play at the Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi this week.

Watch Free Live Stream & Full Match Replays: The New ‘Challenger TV’

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