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An uncertain Australian summer of tennis, Ash Barty finishes as #1, and remembering an agile Russian—Ti #28
"Since Australia has handled the coronavirus pandemic relatively well compared to other nations around the world, I know that many tennis fans were hopeful that we'd all get to witness an amazing Australian summer of tennis. That idea seems to be in peril now..."
19 Nov, 2020

Do you struggle to compete well against players you “perceive” as better than yourself? Have you lost the match before the first ball has been struck? ICYMI, on Tuesday I released an article that tackles these common mindset mistakes—by encouraging you to adopt a one point at a time mentality. Read it here, and as always, please let me know what you think! In the 28th issue of Tennis inbox: lead-up events in Australia could be in peril, Ash Barty finishes as #1—even though she hasn’t played in 10 months, more on Zverev allegations, and remembering Nikolay Davydenko. Read on to find out more.

An uncertain Australian summer of tennis

The news a few days ago was that all events during the Australian summer of tennis would be moving to Melbourne. The plan was to create a huge bubble a la Western & Southern Open and US Open, and have players arrive from all over the world in mid December for a two-week quarantine period. To reflect that change, I was going to call this story, “From an Australian summer of tennis to a Melbourne summer of tennis.”

Now, however, we’re hearing that this plan is in jeopardy: Tennis Channel broke the news that Victoria (the state which Melbourne is in) is not going to allow international athletes to arrive in Australia in December, as Tennis Australia had hoped. The decision is a blow to Tennis Australia’s plans to move all lead-up events to Melbourne, as players would only be able to exit quarantine a few days before the start of the 2021 Australian Open (slated to begin on January 18th).

As Paul Annacone said when breaking the news, “Everything is in limbo.” So we don’t know what will happen exactly. Premier Daniel Andrews, the man at the helm of the state of Victoria, said on Monday that “The notion this [of the Australian summer of tennis being moved to Melbourne] is all tied up with a bow, it’s a done deal, that’s simply wrong. The public health team needs to sign off on all of these arrangements and they are just not settled.” A few days later, Andrews clarified his position:

“Whether (players) need to be here in December… I don’t know that that necessarily means there isn’t an Australian Open. Whether there are lead-in tournaments, that’s to be worked through.”

Since Australia has handled the coronavirus pandemic relatively well compared to other nations around the world, I know that many tennis fans were hopeful that we’d all get to witness an amazing Australian summer of tennis. That idea seems to be in peril now, as we all wait and hold our breath on what Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government can decide on.

Note to Australian readers: most subscribers to Tennis inbox are in the United States, hence the explanatory details.

Ash Barty finishes as… #1?

If that caused you to do a double-take, you’re not alone. Ash Barty’s last match was in late February, but because of the pandemic, and because of how the WTA reorganized its ranking structure, 2020 end-of-year rankings were calculated in an entirely new way. From the WTA press release:

“A player’s ranking is comprised of her best 16 results in singles and best 11 results in doubles based on the points earned between March 2019 through December 2020….”

So how did Ashleigh Barty end up on top of the world rankings? Simply because no player was able to accrue as many ranking points as her. In the traditional system, ranking points roll over every 12 months. Due to the revised system, a player can earn ranking points for their best 16 results in singles and best 11 results in doubles between March 2019 and December 2020. And even though Ash Barty hasn’t stepped onto a match court in more than 10 months, her 2019 results were stellar enough to grant her the top spot on the WTA ladder.

It’s a bit of a strange occurrence—that a player who hasn’t played a competitive match in nearly a year will finish as the world #1. French player Alize Cornet (career-high #11) pointed this out to the WTA Twitter account, too:

Though the result might not make sense, it is what it is. When the new ranking system’s debuted, a few commentators smartly pointed out that this could result in players making decisions that tennis fans would not be happy with. On this front we saw Rafael Nadal pull out of the 2020 US Open and Novak Djokovic be candidly honest on his poor performance in Vienna.

Barty’s decision not to play this year seemed to be more with the coronavirus and not wanting to jeopardize her team’s health than any ranking-related calculations. And it’s not like WTA players weren’t afforded chances to play tournaments and overtake her. Barty’s performances between March 2019 and February 2020 were just too good.

ATP responds to Zverev allegations

Last week I covered the allegations of domestic violence against World #7 Alexander Zverev and the silence surrounding them from the ATP. The update to that situation is that the ATP issued a statement on November 14th, which said:

Taken from Simon Briggs

There is the obvious condemnation of domestic violence from the ATP, which is to be expected. But what the ATP in effect is saying is that it cannot do anything unless charges are filed and legal authorities investigate those charges. Since Olya Sharypova, Zverev’s ex-girlfriend, does not want to press charges, it seems like nothing more is going to happen on this front. I wrote last week:

“So what’s going to happen? Probably nothing. Unless Sharypova decides to press charges, the rumors and allegations will continue to swirl around Zverev.”

That seems to be more and more the likely outcome of all the reporting on this topic. I was wrong, though, when I speculated that the ATP could be investigating behind closed doors. They have essentially said that nothing will be done unless charges are filed. These allegations, then, will remain a black mark on Alexander Zverev as he continues his career on the ATP Tour; the whispers will follow him wherever he goes.

Remembering Nikolay Davydenko

Since the Nitto ATP Finals are moving to Turin, Italy next year, we might as well remember their first iteration in London. And a good player to remember them through is Russian Nikolay Davydenko, who won the inaugural event in 2009. The small, agile player (5’10″—tiny for professional tennis) was something of an enigma; though he was at the top of the game for many years, he struggled to attract a well-known sponsor and instead sped around the court in simple Prince gear (there was a Chinese company involved somewhere in that journey, too).

Why? Here I’m going to speculate: Davydenko wasn’t the best-looking guy. Small, skinny, balding (I’m balding, too, so I’m allowed to point this out!), I don’t think sponsors were jumping out of their seats to sign him up. And in a sponsorship market driven by image, I think that worked against him. It probably didn’t help that he was also the subject of a year-long investigation by the ATP for match-fixing. (He was cleared after that investigation.)

On the tennis court, Davydenko was astonishing to watch. He hated to give up the baseline and tried to control play by taking the ball earlier and earlier to the point where you thought he couldn’t be any more aggressive than he was possibly being. I want to clarify here: Davydenko wasn’t aggressive because of how hard he hit the ball; he was aggressive for the decisions he made with his court positioning. Watching him you sometimes got the impression that he was right on top of the ball.

From 2005 to 2010, Davydenko was a consistent feature inside the ATP’s top 10, achieved a career-high ranking of #3, and finished his time on tour with earnings of $16,186,480. Normally, we could factor in additional money from endorsements and sponsorship deals into his earnings but in Davydenko’s case, I’m not sure there’d be much there.

Though he never picked up a Grand Slam, I don’t think that anyone would argue that Davydenko wasn’t a talented and consistent performer.

To remember Davydenko, I’ve linked the highlights from his ATP Finals championship run in 2009. On his way there, he beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Robin Soderling, and Juan Martin del Potro. Hopefully, you’ll see what I mean by referring to his main form of aggression as his court positioning.

Happy Thanksgiving to American readers!

As the holiday season nears, Tennis inbox will be taking a few weeks off. The first of these is next week, where the majority of our readers will have their thoughts occupied with Thanksgiving. You’ll receive the next issue of Tennis inbox on Thursday, December 3rd.

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Getting out of your comfort zone—Ti #38

Getting out of your comfort zone—Ti #38

“It seems you can’t go a day or two without some self-development guru or wanna be Simon Sinek telling you that ‘you have to get out of your comfort zone to improve!’ It’s a tried and tested truism in the space of self-improvement. But how does this idea work when it comes to playing tennis matches and competing?”

Is your mental game holding you back?—Ti #37

Is your mental game holding you back?—Ti #37

“Tennis Australia consequently announced that all matches scheduled on Thursday would be postponed a day to give casual contacts—which could be up to 600 people (players, coaches, support staff, etc.)—a chance to get tested. The postponement of play will also give Tennis Australia and the Victorian government a chance to get a handle on just how bad the situation is.”

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