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Felix On Uncle Toni Controversy: ‘It Didn’t Bother Me In Any Way’

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2023

Felix On Uncle Toni Controversy: ‘It Didn’t Bother Me In Any Way’

Canadian speaks to about moment featured in Break Point

A key storyline at Roland Garros last year was the ‘Uncle Toni controversy’. Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach of all-time great Rafael Nadal, coaches Felix Auger-Aliassime. Before the pair clashed on the Parisian clay, Uncle Toni told the media he wanted his nephew to win.

That caused drama in the media, where some wondered how Auger-Aliassime would feel about the situation. The moment became a central theme in the fifth episode of Netflix’s new tennis series, Break Point.

Although dramatic on the show, Auger-Aliassime told that there was no controversy on his side.

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“I had been working with him for a while. It’s a discussion that we had from day one about potentially playing Rafa… [that]normally that he might sit it out and not be in the box or just watch from a neutral place,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was still nice to see him at the match, though. Of course I saw him in the front row.

“It was nice to see him there just to know he was in the stadium watching the match, watching over us. So he’s been an important part also of my success in the past two years. I was happy that he was there, actually. But no it didn’t bother me in any way.”

Auger-Aliassime pushed Nadal to five sets in an epic encounter at the clay-court major. Thoughts about Uncle Toni, where the Spaniard was sitting and whom he was supporting were far from the Canadian’s mind. Auger-Aliassime was not concerned about who was across the net from him, either.

“I was really just locked in on the idea of winning. You know as a player that in order to win it’s more about how you’re going to play, and the choices you’re going to make and also how well you’re going to execute your game plan that’s going to make the difference,” Auger-Aliassime said. “After the match is done then you can look back… then you can appreciate the moment or what you’ve been able to do, but when the match is not over yet, you’re really just trying to find a way to win.

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“That’s what I remember, just taking it game by game and trying to see if I can give myself a chance to win.”

Despite his loss, Roland Garros proved a confidence-booster for Auger-Aliassime, who later in 2022 soared to the highest heights of his career. He climbed to a career-high No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.

“The French Open was a special tournament for me this year. It was a tournament where I struggled to win any match in the past. I was injured one year and then I was actually 0-2. I thought, ‘Okay, this time around I need to win my first match’,” Auger-Aliassime recalled. “I ended up playing Rafa on centre court in the Round of 16 on Sunday. It was a special day filled with of course tension and a lot of emotions before, but in the end the fact that I was able to push it to five sets kind of showed also that I could play well on any surface at any tournament.

“It was a big deal for me and it gave me a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the season. Now looking back at it, I think showing up again at the tournament this year I’m going to feel better about my chances.”

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Flashback: Berrettini's First Grand Slam Final At Wimbledon

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2023

Flashback: Berrettini’s First Grand Slam Final At Wimbledon

Italian carried 11-match win streak into championship match vs. Djokovic 

Matteo Berrettini has always excelled on grass courts, his big serve and booming forehand at their most dangerous on the slick lawns. But it was at the 2019 US Open where the Italian made his Grand Slam breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals before a defeat to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

With that experience in his locker, in addition to a run to the 2021 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Berrettini was hotly tipped for another deep run at Wimbledon in 2021. His title triumph on the grass at The Queen’s Club in London, just before the year’s third major, lifted him further up the list of favourites at the All England Club.

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At Wimbledon, Berrettini dropped just one set in his first four matches as he cruised into the quarter-finals for the first time. A pair of four-set victories against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz sent him through the the final, where World No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was waiting. By reaching the championship match, he became the first Italian man to reach a major final since Adriano Panatta in 1976.

Berrettini looked back on the final, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) defeat played at the highest level from both men, in the Netflix docuseries Break Point. For added perspective, caught up with his brother, fellow tennis player Jacopo Berrettini, for his own reflections.

“I told sometimes to [Matteo] and my parents that the final at Wimbledon was probably the first match that I was really, really nervous before the match,” he said. “Every time I’m really calm and I have energy to give to him, but calm. At that time I [left] the stadium at Wimbledon to eat something and I couldn’t eat anything. It was the first time I felt something like that.

“It’s crazy and I was really proud of him and he was fighting with Djokovic, against the injury that he had,” he continued, referring to the thigh injury which later forced Berrettini to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics. “He fought a lot and he did something crazy for him, for the family, for Italy too. For tennis in Italy it was the first time. I was really proud at that time and I am proud of him now too.”

Berrettini roared back from a slow start to claim the opening set against Djokovic, but ultimately fell victim to the Serbian’s steady, probing game. While he fell just short on that occasion, seeing an 11-match win streak come to a close, the Italian has used that experience to become a mainstay in the later round of Grand Slams. Dating back to Roland Garros in 2021, just before his Wimbledon run, he has reached the quarter-finals or better at each of the past five majors he’s played.

Though he is still seeking a second chance in a Grand Slam final, Berrettini has proven he is more than capable of delivering with the pressure on. His 7-5 record in tour-level finals includes two trophies in both 2021 and 2022, and he reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 6 after his run to the Australian Open quarters last year.

While his 2022 season was interrupted by a right-hand injury that required surgery, he returned in time for the grass-court swing, during which he won back-to-back titles at Stuttgart and The Queens’ Club. Once again, Berrettini entered Wimbledon among the shortlist of favourites, but his opportunity compete again the famous lawns was taken away by a positive COVID-19 test just before the tournament.

While Berrettini’s injury (and illness) luck plagued him last season, his brother sees the bright side in an injury of his own, which freed him up to be in London during Wimbledon in 2021.

“I was supposed to play one tournament that week, but I had an injury so I didn’t play that tournament,” he explained, discussing Berrettini’s run to the final. “I came back to home, and then when [Matteo] went to the semi-finals I went to London. Probably I was lucky I had an injury because I enjoyed that moment with him and all the family.”

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Kwon Denies Draper To Reach Adelaide Final

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2023

Kwon Denies Draper To Reach Adelaide Final

South Korean awaits Kokkinakis or Bautista Agut

Soonwoo Kwon delivered a high-quality display of baseline hitting on Friday at the Adelaide International 2, where he clinched a spot in the championship match with a 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 6-3 semi-final victory against Jack Draper.

The South Korean, who lost to Draper last week as a qualifier in Adelaide, was set to miss out on this week’s ATP 250 after a defeat to Tomas Machac in the final round of qualifying. But after finding himself in the draw, he immediately avenged his loss to Machac in the opening round before downing second seed Pablo Carreno Busta and Mikael Ymer to reach the last four.

“It was a very difficult match today,” said Kwon when asked about how he had kept going in his two-hour, 45-minute battle with Draper in the Adelaide heat. “I’m just really happy to win today… Last week he played very well, so I tried to just tried to enjoy this match and tried to be positive. I tried to be more aggressive.”

The key to Kwon’s victory in an engrossing semi-final encounter was his consistent clean ballstriking from the baseline, particularly off his forehand wing. The World No. 84 struck 44 winners to his opponent’s 36, and he also excelled whenever he came under pressure on serve — Kwon saved nine of 10 break points he faced en route to levelling his ATP Head2Head series with Draper at 1-1.

After gaining payback on Draper, he is through to his second ATP Tour final after his 2021 title run in Astana (then Nur-Sultan). Kwon is the first lucky loser to reach the final in Adelaide’s tournament history, with six editions of the event played since 2020.

Kwon awaits home favourite and 2022 Adelaide International 2 champion Thanasi Kokkinakis or fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in Saturday’s championship match.

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Streaking Norrie Advances To Auckland Final

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2023

Streaking Norrie Advances To Auckland Final

Briton will face Gasquet in Saturday’s final

Cameron Norrie still feels right at home in Auckland. After growing up in the city in New Zealand, he reached his first ATP Tour final there in 2019. Now, he hopes to go one step further by winning his fifth tour-level title at the ASB Classic.

The multinational Norrie, who plays under the British flag, was cheered on by his “home” crowd as he earned a 6-3, 6-4 semi-final victory against Jenson Brooksby on Friday. He will meet Richard Gasquet in Saturday’s final, after the Frenchman advanced via walkover when countryman Constant Lestienne pulled out with a pectoral strain.

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Norrie improved to 6-0 on the 2023 season with a convincing victory against the tricky Brooksby, who was making his Auckland debut. 

“It was an absolute battle with Jenson. A lot of long rallies and I know how well he competes, so it was nice to get it done in straight sets,” said Norrie, noting that he failed to close out his previous two matches in straights after claiming the opening set. 

“I’m glad the sun came out, everyone came out on a Friday,” he continued. “It was an amazing atmosphere and I really enjoyed it.”

After converting on his sixth break point of the opening set, Norrie found himself an instant break down at 2-0 in the second set before breaking straight back to love. The World No. 12 then erased two break chances at 2-3 to start a run of 11 consecutive points, including a second break at love. Back in control, he cooly served out the match in one hour, 38 minutes.

Norrie said the match felt much closer than the scoreline, and he was full of praise for Brooksby, who called for the trainer late in the second set with an apparent wrist problem.

“He puts the ball in such awkward parts off the court and I had to come up with a lot of really tough shots on the run and a lot of big passes,” Norrie said. “I was able to serve it out and stay really calm and get over the line, but he’s a great player.”

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After Seven Surgeries, De Loore Rebuilds Body & Career For First Challenger Title

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2023

After Seven Surgeries, De Loore Rebuilds Body & Career For First Challenger Title

The Belgian earned his maiden Challenger title this past week in Oeiras

In 2016, Daniil Medvedev and Joris De Loore met in the St. Remy Challenger final. While both men were ranked outside the Top 150 at the time, their career trajectories took very different paths.

Medvedev won that meeting on French soil and collected his lone Challenger title several years before winning the 2021 US Open and becoming the sport’s top-ranked player the following year.

De Loore’s journey has been a difficult, injury-plagued career that forced him to stop playing tennis for two years (2019-2020). The Belgian underwent seven surgeries on six different body parts.

“Over seven consecutive years, every year I’ve had a surgery,” De Loore said. “The last surgery was at the end of 2020, my left hip. If I had to tell you all my injuries, we’d be here for an hour!”

ATP Challenger Tour 

After surgeries on his left knee (two surgeries), wrist, hip, and right elbow, hand, and toe, De Loore didn’t just throw in the towel and call it a career. He spent countless hours doing physical training right next to a tennis court, which only fueled his fire to make a comeback.

“I never really thought about quitting,” De Loore said. “It must’ve crossed my mind, but I sort of knew it was still possible [to play professionally again]. After my left hip, I had mixed feelings, because that wasn’t a minor surgery but luckily everything went well.”

The past two seasons, the 29-year-old has been playing Futures and Challenger events. This past week, in his first tournament of 2023, De Loore advanced through qualifying at the Oeiras-1 Challenger. He didn’t stop there. The Bruges native dropped just one set all week as he collected his maiden Challenger title.

In his semi-final match against Turkey’s Cam Ilkel, De Loore kept his title hopes alive as he fended off a match point in the third-set tie-break before converting his sixth match point to advance to his second Challenger final.

<a href=''>Joris De Loore</a> earns his first Challenger title in Oeiras, Portugal.Joris De Loore in action at the Oeiras Indoor 1. Credit: FPT/Sara Falcao

De Loore became the oldest (29 years, 8 months) first-time winner on the Challenger Tour since 2015, when Italian Luca Vanni won his maiden title at 31.

“It feels really good,” De Loore said in his post-match press conference. “After quite a long time of not being able to play, this feeling is really good. Finally after all the work, I managed to win a Challenger.

“The title will give me a boost. I really feel physically good, playing well, and now it’s just a matter of trying to stay healthy. I think this year can be my year.”

De Loore’s determination has kept his career alive. While some may opt to retire from playing professionally and take up coaching or another position within the sport, De Loore has kept his head up and soaked in lessons learned along the way.

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“Less is more, not always wanting to do the maximum [is what I’ve learned],” De Loore said. “Sometimes it’s about being able to say let’s give it a rest, not always going over the limits, and listening to what your body is saying.”

Now that he has his first Challenger title under his belt, the 6’3” Belgian has his eyes set on another career milestone.

“I want to prove that I’m able to reach the Top 100,” De Loore said. “I still feel capable of it, doesn’t mean I’m going to make it for sure, but I still have the game to do it.”

<a href=''>Joris De Loore</a> triumphs at the Challenger 50 event in Oeiras, Portugal.

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