Better late than never, the French Open kicks off on Sunday four months later than usual. As with any clay court tournament…
English capital to host fifth edition of unique team event
The Laver Cup will be held in London in 2022, with organisers naming The O2 as the venue for the event that will take place from September 23-25, 2022. London will host the fifth edition of the competition, following Laver Cup 2021 which will be held next September at TD Garden in Boston.
“We’re so excited to be bringing the Laver Cup to London, a city steeped in tennis heritage,” Laver Cup Chairman and CEO of TEAM8 Tony Godsick said. “The British fans love their tennis and the Laver Cup is like nothing they have seen before. Over one amazing weekend we bring together today’s greatest players as teammates, alongside legends and rivals from previous generations to create a truly unique spectacle that has thrilled fans around the globe.”
“London has always held a special place in my heart and it’s going to be incredible to bring the Laver Cup to one of my favourite cities in the world,” Roger Federer, 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “I know the British fans will love the way the Laver Cup brings together the top players in the world while paying respect and recognition to the legends of our game.”
Named in honour of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, the Laver Cup is played on a dramatic black court that will be constructed within The O2, a 20,000 seat arena. The three-day team competition pits six of the best players from Europe against six of their counterparts from the rest of the World.
Since its debut in Prague in 2017, the Laver Cup has been staged in Chicago in 2018, and Geneva last year. Boston will host the 2021 edition and 2022 will mark the third time Team Europe has held the ‘home advantage’.
The O2 has welcomed more than 70 million people to music, sports and entertainment events since opening in 2007. No stranger to tennis, The O2 has been home to the hugely successful Nitto ATP Finals since 2009.
“London’s The O2 is one of the world’s most iconic music and entertainment venues,” Laver Cup CEO Steve Zacks said. “It is a destination unto itself, with spectacular scale, design, technology and amenities. It is the perfect setting for the Laver Cup to create an unrivalled fan experience.”
“We are delighted The O2 will host the Laver Cup in 2022 and look forward to welcoming the tournament to London and bringing the excitement of tennis to the British fans,” Gael Caselli, VP of Sport, AEG Europe said. “The O2 has held a multitude of world class sporting events since opening in 2007 and will continue this tradition with the Laver Cup, which will no doubt be a must-see event in the sporting calendar.”
The city of London has also thrown its support behind the event. “It is a great honour for London to play host to the Laver Cup in 2022,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan.
“Londoners are fanatical about sport and have missed the thrill of live events during the pandemic. The capital is proud to have hosted major international sporting events over the years. To add the prestigious Laver Cup to our portfolio is incredibly exciting and we can’t wait to welcome the event to town.”
Ticket information will be released in due course with fans encouraged to register their interest in the event at LaverCup.com.
Twelve-time champion Rafael Nadal says the colder weather at a delayed French Open will provide the toughest conditions he has faced in Paris.
Will Novak Djokovic finish his career with more weeks atop the FedEx ATP Rankings than anyone in history?
After breaking a tie with Pete Sampras on Monday for second-most weeks at World No. 1 by reaching 287 weeks, the Serbian now has his sights set on Roger Federer. The Swiss star has spent a record 310 weeks in the top spot.
“Of course I’m aware of the amount of weeks,” Djokovic said after winning a record-breaking 36th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. “I’m getting closer. I’m in a very good position, I feel like. I have also been playing really well and been healthy, which is great.”
If he does not relinquish World No. 1 between now and then, Djokovic can pass Federer’s mark on 8 March 2021. He currently has a 1,410-point lead over World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who under the current 22-month system can’t gain any points at Roland Garros because he won the tournament last year.
Making history has long been one of Djokovic’s greatest motivators, and reaching Federer is on his mind. However, he is staying in the moment and focussing on what is under his control.
“The historic No. 1 ranking goal is something that is on the horizon,” Djokovic said. “I’m going to give my all and very best that I can possibly give in the next period to achieve that.
“I can’t [look] too far [ahead] and I don’t know what years to come will bring for me and just tennis and the world in general.”
Although Djokovic is closing in on the major milestone, he knows how difficult it is to maintain not just the top spot, but a place among the world’s elite.
“Being a top player of the world, top five of the world, it requires a lot of consistency, requires a lot of determination, a lot of sacrifice throughout the year,” Djokovic said. “It’s not enough to play well one month a year, two months a year. You have to play well the entire year in order to be one of the best players in the world.
“So that’s probably the ultimate challenge we have in our sport, to be No. 1 in the longest season in sports.”
Djokovic is the top seed at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday. The Serb is chasing his 18th Grand Slam title, which would move him within one of Rafael Nadal’s haul of 19 and closer to Federer’s record of 20. Nadal seeks a record-extending 13th Roland Garros crown. Federer will not play again in 2020 following two surgeries this year on his right knee.
Djokovic won Roland Garros in 2016 when he defeated Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals and Andy Murray in the final.
Andy Murray says his preparations for the French Open were slightly delayed as he awaited the result of a coronavirus test.
Russian to face Humbert or Ruud
Andrey Rublev wore down one of the most consistent players on the ATP Tour, Roberto Bautista Agut, on Friday for a place in the Hamburg European Open semi-finals. Fifth seed and 2019 runner-up Rublev played with great aggression on the slow Hamburg clay to triumph 6-2, 7-5 in one hour and 31 minutes.
Rublev, who hit 20 of his 30 winners off his forehand wing, improved to a 23-6 match record on the 2020 season and will next challenge Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud on Saturday at the newly renovated Am Rothenbaum, venue of the ATP 500 tournament.
“Roberto is one of the most consistent players on Tour, it’s really tough to beat him,” said World No. 14 Rublev, in an on-court interview. “You need to play at an amazing level and be really fit. He never gives you an easy match. I am really pleased as I played well, even in the first set — in spite of the score — there were long games and I’m happy to get through the second set.”
Rublev’s backhand stood up well in the opening exchanges, and it was fourth seed Bautista Agut who faltered in the opening game as he missed a backhand down the line. Rublev broke once more for a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner, before Bautista Agut started to step in and take the ball earlier to make inroads. Rublev broke for a third time, for a 5-2 advantage, with a barrage of aggressive forehands and completed the 34-minute opener with a backhand volley — one of 12 winners. Bautista Agut had won eight of his 23 service points.
Rublev twice appeared to have made a decisive breakthrough in the second set — breaking in the third and fifth games — but Bautista Agut found a way back, muscling his way in with his own aggressive play to lead 5-4. Rublev, playing at his very best, did so well to maintain his composure in their fourth ATP Head2Head meeting and broke Bautista Agut at 5-5, 30/40 with two aggressive forehands on approach to the net, which forced a backhand error. The 22-year-old secured his spot in the fourth ATP 500 semi-final of his career, in the next game, when Bautista Agut hit a backhand return into the net.
The French Open, which starts on Sunday, will now only be allowed to have 1,000 fans a day after new coronavirus restrictions were introduced in the country.
Rafael Nadal returns to Grand Slam tennis, Andy Murray is back on clay and Serena Williams goes again for a 24th major when the French Open starts on Sunday.
Thirty years ago, Andres Gomez lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros. On Thursday his son, Emilio Gomez, guaranteed that he will play in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time at the same venue.
The 28-year-old Gomez rallied past Kazakhstani Dmitry Popko 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1). The Ecuadorian trailed 0-3, 30/40 in the deciding set and faced two match points while serving at 4-5, before recovering to triumph after two hours and 31 minutes.
“It was a roller-coaster of ups and downs… It was crazy,” Gomez said. “It was the first time I was in a situation like that, [with] that much nervousness during a match. It was really a big deal for me to get through it.”
This was Gomez’s eighth attempt to qualify for a Grand Slam. He had only previously reached the final round of qualifying once (2014 US Open). The 2019 Tallahassee ATP Challenger Tour champion beat top-seeded Thiago Seyboth Wild in the first qualifying round, but not everything went according to plan on Thursday in Paris.
“I’m going to be honest, I was not feeling 100 per cent physically today. I had a sore back in the warm-up and I was not expecting that because I felt great during the whole week,” Gomez said. “Every time we stopped because of the rain [after the first set and the second set] it was bad for me… I think the will to win was stronger than all the pain I was feeling in that third set. It was well played by me. I played super aggressive and kind of forgot about everything [and] where I was. I was looking for my first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam, [which is] especially [important] here at the French Open.
“It took a lot of running and a lot of guts to pull it out after having two match points against me.”
Seven other players advanced to the main draw on Thursday, led by second seed Pedro Martinez. The Spaniard beat American Ulises Blanch 6-2, 6-3. Entertaining shotmaker Dustin Brown fell one step short when Italian Lorenzo Giustino beat him 6-3, 7-5.
Brit Liam Broady, who was supported by Andy Murray, advanced through qualifying at a major for the first time when he ousted Aussie 12th seed Marc Polmans 7-6(5), 6-4. The lefty will play a Grand Slam main draw for the fourth time, having competed at Wimbledon on three occasions as a wild card.
The other players to make it through Slam qualifying for the first time are Steven Diez, Aleksandar Vukic and Daniel Altmaier. Diez defeated Enzo Couacaud 6-3, 6-4, Vukic beat 15th seed Jason Jung 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and Daniel Altmaier eliminated Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. For Diez, it was his 16th major qualifying attempt.
Austrian Sebastian Ofner also moved on, ousting Swede Elias Ymer 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
To beat Nadal at Roland Garros, plan to break serve often
Sometimes it’s what doesn’t happen that catches the eye.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Rafael Nadal saving break points at Grand Slam and ATP Masters 1000 tournaments throughout his career uncovers that Roland Garros is one of only two events where he has saved more than 70 per cent of break points.
Nadal has saved an impressive 70.3 per cent (416/592) of break points from 95 matches at Roland Garros, heavily contributing to his record haul of 12 titles on the Parisian terre battue. The most break points Nadal has saved is 71.3 per cent (67/94) across 24 matches at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
Nadal’s Roland Garros metrics are particularly impressive when you stack them up against other Grand Slam and clay-court events he participates in.
Rafael Nadal: Saving Break Points (Grand Slams)
|Event||% BPs Saved||Matches|
Four clay-court tournaments on Nadal’s schedule are Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome and the ATP 500 event in Barcelona. Combined, Nadal has saved 65.6 per cent of break points at those four events, which is around five percentage points lower than the lofty heights he has achieved at Roland Garros.
Nadal has won all 12 finals he has played on Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris, saving break points at an even higher rate than normal. Nadal has saved a head-turning 73.4 per cent (80/109) of break points in Roland Garros finals, with the 2007 final against Roger Federer being the most memorable. During that match, Nadal saved a mind-bending 16 of 17 break points to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, while also breaking Federer six times from 10 opportunities.
The most break points Nadal has faced in a Roland Garros match was 20 in the 2018 quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman. Nadal saved 75 per cent (15/20) of them.
Nadal has been broken seven times in a match twice at Roland Garros. On both occasions, he was facing arch-rival Novak Djokovic. The Serb converted seven of 10 break points in the 2012 final, losing 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Djokovic also broke seven times (7/18) to defeat Nadal in the 2015 quarter-finals 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
In Nadal’s only other Roland Garros defeat, Robin Soderling converted five of six break point opportunities to beat the Spaniard 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2) in the Round of 16 in 2009.
Nadal has surprisingly not faced a break point in just four of his 95 matches at Roland Garros. Impressively, he has not been broken in 23 per cent (22/95) of his encounters at the event.
In the 2011 semi-final against Andy Murray, he saved 15 of 18 break points to prevail 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. The final score line looks somewhat routine but, like a lot of things about Nadal in Paris, there is a lot going on right beneath the surface that tells a more important story.
Rafael Nadal: Saving Break Points
|Event||% BPs Saved||Matches|