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Kohlschreiber: ‘I Go Away With A Big Smile’

  • Posted: Jul 07, 2022

Kohlschreiber: ‘I Go Away With A Big Smile’

Eight-time Tour titlist reflects on retirement

For Philipp Kohlschreiber, 1 August 2018 is a day that sticks in the memory.

In the morning, he married his long-term girlfriend, Lena Alberti. In the afternoon, he was in Kitzbuehel, tearing around the court in a second-round match against Denis Istomin. The story is a reflection of the German’s commitment to a 20-year career on the ATP Tour, which he brought to a close at Wimbledon two weeks ago.

“[It was] very unique,” said Kohlschreiber of his wedding day when speaking to about his retirement this week. “I had been a little bit sick, so I couldn’t play the day before. I needed to get a little bit more rest to get ready for Kitzbuehel (where he was the defending champion).

“When you’re a professional guy, everything you do is for your sport… But you have to make a good date for your wedding, so it is easy to remember. 1 August 2018, it is always very simple for me. In that case, the wedding was a little bit more important!”

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Kohlschreiber’s retirement announcement came out somewhat spontaneously after his first-round qualifying win at Wimbledon against Gregoire Barrere. For the 38-year-old it was simply a reflection of how comfortable he was with the decision.

“The funny thing is, I really didn’t plan to announce it,” said Kohlschreiber. “I was asked, ‘What is next for you?’ I just said, ‘There is no next, it’s going to be my last tournament.’ I didn’t plan to go to Wimbledon and say maybe, maybe not. It was just that day I felt, ‘OK, it’s time.’”

After so much time spent on Tour, Kohlschreiber may have been tempted to prolong his career by a few weeks for one final hurrah in front of home support at July’s Hamburg European Open. Instead, the lower-profile occasion of his second-round clash against Mikhail Kukushkin at Roehampton proved to be his final professional match. The German wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“If people know me, I am not a really a big fan of having a big stage and saying goodbye,” he said. “I am more a person who likes to [keep to] himself. I’m not a big celebration guy, and it would be much harder to finish in Hamburg with all the friends, family, and maybe some fans there cheering for me.

“I already had tears in my eyes in the last couple of games during the [last] qualifying match, so it would be another level if people are cheering for you, and you look at your box and also see your wife and friends. So, I think for me it was a good decision.”

<a href=''>Philipp Kohlschreiber</a>

Kohlschreiber waves goodbye to his home fans in Munich after his final appearance there in April. Photo Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Kohlschreiber proved himself one of the most consistent players after making his ATP Tour debut in Munich in 2002. He notched 478 tour-level wins and was a constant presence in the Top 100 between March 2006 and February 2021, much of which was spent in the Top 50. He attributes that longevity to a combination of good fortune, hard work, and smart scheduling.

“Of course, the first factor is health,” said Kohlschreiber. “I was very fortunate to have never had a surgery in my life, just minor things. I was a very consistent worker, maybe also made some right decisions. Sometimes it’s better to stop.

“I also think I have a very good structure for tennis. I am not too big, I am a lightweight player, and I would say I am very blessed with great movement. So that helped me to stay there so long.”

Consistency may have underpinned Kohlschreiber’s career, but the German also enjoyed some standout moments. He won eight tour-level titles between 2007 and 2017, reaching his career-high of No. 16 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in July 2012, and also regularly competed against some bona fide legends of the sport. It is a combination of achievements that makes it hard for the German to nail down any one specific highlight.

“Winning at home [three times] in Munich, playing Andy Roddick in a night match on Rod Laver Arena, and also playing in maybe the most competitive era in tennis so far, with the big names of Rafa [Nadal], Roger [Federer], [Novak] Djokovic, [Andy] Murray,” said Kohlschreiber. “I was very fortunate to play in that time. Maybe I would have achieved a little bit more if three or four guys weren’t there, but it was also a great honour to play with them.”

Ukraine crisis relief

Kohlschreiber’s three Munich crowns were just one part of his success story at home tournaments. He won ATP Tour titles in Halle and Dusseldorf, lifted the trophy twice in his former residence of Kitzbuehel in Austria, and posted a 20-14 record in singles from 23 Davis Cup ties for Germany. Kohlschreiber was an expert in channelling home support, a situation in which many top players struggle.

“The pressure gave me good focus and concentration,” said Kohlschreiber. “You have the pressure situation, but you also have the support, so you just have to figure out how you can deal with the pressure and take all the good energy.

“[I also liked] the conditions,” he acknowledged. “In Munich and Kitzbuehel they are quite similar, and I have to say I am more of an altitude player. Since I was 14, I practised in Munich, so I’m almost perfectly used to it. I sometimes watch some highlights from Munich and it’s great to see how I played on my best days of the year.”

<a href=''>Philipp Kohlschreiber</a>

Kohlschreiber celebrates winning his maiden ATP 500 title in Halle in 2011. Photo Credit: Thomas F. Starke/Getty Images

Despite an initial shock to the system, Kohlschreiber has adjusted quickly to the idea of life away from the Tour.

“I would say now it is pretty much OK,” he said. “The thoughts to stop were there already, for a year or even a little bit more, but in the few days after, it was very emotional. A lot of people wrote and brought up old stories, memories. [But] I was not sad about the decision because I knew it was time and the final motivation to live a professional life wasn’t there. It’s just that one part of your life is ending.

“All the travelling, all the life that tennis brings was maybe not that enjoyable at the end. I’m turning 39 this year, and I can say it was a very long [career] and I was very happy with everything.

“I can stop and say I had a great time. I didn’t overdo it. I go away with a big smile.”

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Cam Norrie: A Horned Frog Who'd Rather Be An Underdog

  • Posted: Jul 07, 2022

Cam Norrie: A Horned Frog Who’d Rather Be An Underdog

Wimbledon semi-finalist represented TCU Horned Frogs from 2015-17

Cameron Norrie rallied to a five-set quarter-final victory against David Goffin at Wimbledon on Tuesday in a thrilling demonstration of why he is regarded as one of the mentally and physically toughest players on Tour. Yet the ninth seed’s will to win through to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final came as no surprise to David Roditi, the Briton’s former Head Coach at Texas Christian University.

“[I] just [remember] how competitive he was,” Roditi told this week. “Brutally competitive. Sometimes in practice, we had some great players like [World No. 310] Alex Rybakov, almost at the same level. I think Cameron beat him 21 times in practice, in 21 sets.

“Even when Alex could use a little confidence, Cameron would just beat him. We were kind of looking at Cameron going, ‘Hey, he needs a little confidence, let him take a set in practice’. He wouldn’t, he was just ultra-competitive. He doesn’t show it through his emotions a lot, but he is super competitive, and it’s like he doesn’t care how a person feels, he is just going to beat you.”

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Norrie competed for the Horned Frogs from 2015 to 2017. Despite the high level he regularly displayed on the court in Fort Worth, it was not all plain sailing for Norrie during his time at TCU. Roditi acknowledges that Norrie, like most 19-year-olds, had some growing to do when he arrived in the United States.

“He was still immature in some ways, he made some mistakes,” said Roditi. “But it was in an environment where we could work with him, he could learn from them, and we weren’t going to shame him or anything. It was just opportunities for him to learn. Obviously, there were some things on the court that he improved, but that was just part of the process, let’s say. Just that discipline, accountability, is what improved a lot.”

One story in particular demonstrates how Roditi nurtured the younger Norrie.

“I’m not a rules person,” said Roditi. “I don’t like setting a lot of rules because that just means more fighting, [but] we have a very simple rule with [our] uniform. You can wear any shirt that is grey, white, black or purple. He would wear this ugly shirt that had these long red sleeves. We’re walking and I’m like, ‘Cam, you know you can’t wear that.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I know.’

“We would walk all the way down to the courts, get to the courts and say, ‘Cam, you’ve got to go change.’ And he would walk all the way back, but he still did it like 10 or 15 times, and I think he was just testing us to see if we would one day just budge and let him wear this ugly red shirt. [It’s] just a dumb example, but I think he was just testing.”

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TCU is still a big part of Norrie’s life. His coach is Facundo Lugones, who was a senior at the university when he was a freshman. They have been a tandem since Norrie’s early days as a professional. They have also returned to campus from time to time to visit their college family and train. Assistant coach Devin Bowen, who did most of the on-court work with Norrie when he was a Horned Frog, still assists the Briton.

On Friday, the four-time tour-level titlist will don all-whites when he takes on 20-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic on Centre Court for a spot in his first major final. Roditi believes taking on a six-time champion and one of the favourites for the title is a situation his former charge will relish.

“I think he’s a great underdog,” said Roditi. “This will be his first match [in the tournament] he plays truly as an underdog, and he loves being in that role. It’s deep in the tournament where he feels very comfortable, he’s won a lot, and the crowd. It was funny, you see his reactions at 4-3 in the fourth set [against Goffin], screaming and getting the crowd going.

“That was pretty cool. It was almost like a college tennis reaction. You don’t see that a lot in the pros. That was the best part about this. He didn’t play that well [against Goffin]. He looked like he was just managing himself the whole time. What a confidence booster for him, that he didn’t even play his best tennis and he’s in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

“So, I think he’ll be a little more free, a little looser in this match with Djokovic.”

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'Two In A Row, Baby!' Krawczyk/Skupski Retain Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Title

  • Posted: Jul 07, 2022

‘Two In A Row, Baby!’ Krawczyk/Skupski Retain Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Title

American-British pair becomes first repeat champions since 1996-97

Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski successfully defended their Wimbledon mixed doubles crown Thursday by claiming the first trophy on offer this fortnight at The Championships. The American-British pair defeated Australians Matthew Ebden and Sam Stosur 6-4 6-3 to back up their 2021 title run on Centre Court.

“Two in a row baby, at Wimbledon,” Krawczyk said to her partner during the trophy ceremony.

Skupski, who was delighted to be playing in front of his parents at his home Grand Slam, revealed that the pair had not been planning on defending its title until just before the tournament.

“I got a last-minute call from Des to play,” he said. “We weren’t meant to play, so we’ve only been a team for two weeks. We’ll have to go for three next year, if she plays with me,” he added with a smile.

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In the title match, the second seeds converted on all three of their break chances in the one-hour, 27-minute final. But it was Ebden/Stosur who had the better of the opening exchanges in both sets.

In a crucial early game, Krawczyk/Skupski battled through 10 deuces and saved two break points to move ahead 3-2 in the opening set. Their hard work paid off when they secured their first break of the match to snatch the opening set in its 10th game.

The Australians scored an early break in set two, but dropped the next four games after leading 2-1. From 4-2, Krawczyk and then Skupski held to love to close out the match.

Krawczyk/Skupski are the first team to repeat as Wimbledon mixed doubles champions since Czech siblings Cyril Suk and Helena Sukova in 1996-97. The last British man to successfully defend a mixed doubles title at The Championships was John Lloyd (1983-84); the last American woman to do so was Billie Jean King (1973-74).

Krawczyk won three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in 2021, including at Roland Garros and the US Open with doubles World No. 1 Joe Salisbury. 

Despite the mixed doubles loss, Ebden is still standing in the men’s doubles draw. He and partner Max Purcell defeated Skupski and Wesley Koolhof in the Round of 16, and the Australian pair advanced to the final with another five-set victory earlier on Thursday against top seeds Rajeev Ram and Salisbury. They saved five match points in that match and have now won four five-setters this fortnight.

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“It’s been an amazing two weeks for you and Max Purcell,” Skupski told his opponent. “I don’t know how you’re still standing. You’ve played about 700 five-set matches. Good luck in the final.”

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Nadal Withdraws From Wimbledon Ahead Of SFs

  • Posted: Jul 07, 2022

Nadal Withdraws From Wimbledon Ahead Of SFs

Spaniard struggled with an abdominal injury in quarter-final against Fritz

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon ahead of Friday’s semi-finals due to an abdominal tear, he announced in a Thursday evening press conference at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

“I have been suffering with pain in the abdominal… there is a tear in the muscle,” he said. “I made the decision because I don’t believe I can win two matches under these circumstances.”

The Spaniard struggled with the injury during his five-set quarter-final victory against Taylor Fritz, but said following the match that the problem started days earlier. Despite his father and sister urging him to retire early in that match, Nadal managed to twice come from a set down to advance 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(10-4) after four hours, 20 minutes. Nadal’s first-serve speed dipped significantly as he compensated for the injury, often dropping under 100 mph.

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He was set to take on Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals on Centre Court.

“Not only I can’t serve at the right speed, I can’t do the normal movement to serve,” Nadal explained. “I don’t want to go out there and not be competitive enough to play at the level to achieve my goal. And there is a big chance to make the thing much worse.”

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The withdrawal ends Nadal’s bid for the Grand Slam following his titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros earlier this season. Nadal owns a 35-3 record this season, including four titles. 

Nadal said that by resting now, he hopes to be able to resume his planned schedule within about four weeks. “My hope is in three to four weeks will allow me to do my normal calendar. In one week I will be able to play from baseline without serving. That’s a positive thing,” the Spaniard said.

Kyrgios, who beat Cristian Garin to advance to his first major semi-final, advances to Sunday’s title match with Nadal’s withdrawal. The unseeded Australian awaits the winner of the top-half semi-final matchup between Novak Djokovic and Cameron Norrie.

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Ebden/Purcell Save Five MPs, Stun Ram/Salisbury In Wimbledon Semi-Final

  • Posted: Jul 07, 2022

Ebden/Purcell Save Five MPs, Stun Ram/Salisbury In Wimbledon Semi-Final

Mektic/Pavic win fifth-set tie-break to edge Cabal/Farah

Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell’s hopes appeared all but over in their Wimbledon semi-final against top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury on Thursday, but the Australian pair turned things around in spectacular style to seal a championship match spot at the grass-court Grand Slam.

Ebden and Purcell fended off five match points for their opponents in the third-set tie-break, a pivotal moment in their 3-6, 6-7(1), 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-2 victory on No. 1 Court. The 14th seeds used the momentum from that third-set escape to dominate the second half of an enthralling three-hour, 59-minute encounter, breaking serve four times to reach their second major final of the season.

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It is the second time that Ebden and Purcell have beaten Ram and Salisbury in a Grand Slam semi-final this year, having also defeated the American-British duo in the last four at January’s Australian Open. Thursday’s win in London extended the pair’s Grand Slam match record to 13-3.

Awaiting the Australian pair in Saturday’s final will be defending champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, who also erased a match point as they went the distance against 2019 winners Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

The second seeds twice came from a set down to earn a 6-7(2), 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(10-4) victory after four hours, 22 minutes. Between the two semi-final matches, No. 1 Court saw more than eight hours of doubles action on Thursday.

There was just one break point in the final set, but it doubled as match point with Mektic serving at 4-5. The Croatian saved it with a big serve to ultimately force a 10-point tie-break to decide who would advance to the title match.

From 2-3, Mektic/Pavic won four straight points, including two on the Farah serve, to gain an advantage they would not relinquish. Despite losing one mini-break as their opponents closed to 6-4, the Croatian team won the final four points of the match to keep its title defence alive.

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