Hello and welcome to the 32nd issue of Tennis inbox. Let’s focus on the positives: 2021 is shaping up to be a better year for tennis fans and players all over the world. Read on to find out more.
All the Australian Open details you need
Your news feeds and screens have probably been inundated with tons of information on the Australian Open (AO), so I thought I’d try to cut through the noise and bring you only what is essential. Here goes:
- The AO will take place from 8th—21st February
- Tickets sales for Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena, and John Cain Arena are set so that each stadium will be at 25% capacity
- Tickets will be digital to avoid touchpoints and to aid in contact tracing
- Session start times will be staggered to avoid overcrowding
- Qualifying will be in the Middle East, with the men in Doha and the women in Dubai
- Total prizemoney pool will be the same as 2020: $71.5 million
- Adjustment to how much first-round losers receive: $100,000 AUD, which is “up 15 per cent on last year.”
- Roger Federer (a six-time winner) has withdrawn from the AO
- The WTA is hosting an event in the second week of the AO, presumably for players who have been knocked out of the Grand Slam
With Grand Slams come wildcards. Here they are:
Men: Christopher O’ Connell—Australia (#120), Andy Murray—Great Britain (#122), Marc Polmans—Australia (#124), Sumit Nagal—India (#136), Alex Bolt—Australia (#174), Thanasi Kokkinakis—Australia (#260).
Women: Astra Sharma—Australia (#109), Wang Xiyu—China (#123), Maddison Inglis—Australia (#130), Lizette Cabrera—Australia (#140), Destanee Aiava (#215), Arina Rodionova—Australia (#169), Daria Gavrilova—Australia (#450).
Both men’s and women’s draws have one more wildcard left to be announced.
Novak Djokovic’s statement and new ATP Council Members
If you haven’t been following this story, here’s a recap: Players on the ATP Tour, led by Vasek Pospisil and Novak Djokovic, have been in the process of creating the Professional Tennis Player’s Association (PTPA) to better look after players on tour. The ATP hasn’t been happy with this development as it believes an alternate association would risk the existing relationship it has built with tournaments around the world and their stakeholders.
On 22nd December, Djokovic released a statement on his nomination to the ATP Player Council and the subsequent rule which was passed which forbade him from being elected onto it as his intentions were to continue with the PTPA. In other words, according to Djokovic, when the ATP found out that he had been nominated as a potential ATP Player Council member, they passed a bylaw which would ensure that he could not be voted on.
Djokovic’s statement strongly emphasized that he believes there are strong conflicts of interest at play with the ATP, saying “I believe it is extremely important that we do not have conflicts of interest in our sport. I hope that, going forward, this is not only applied to the formation of new associations at the player level but further applied to all levels within the ATP structure.”
This is also a point that Djokovic’s PTPA partner, Vasek Pospisil made on the Tennis.com podcast, saying:
“[T]he tennis tour has tremendous conflicts of interest with everybody… it’s so intertwined. It’s like no other sport out there. It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point and it needs to be cleaned up. And unfortunately, the reality is that it’s hurting the players. A lot of times it’s dirty politics and players are being lied to and brainwashed. It’s really not good.”
On a related note, we found out on 29th December who had been elected onto the ATP Player Council until June 2022:
Change of Ends with Josh Wilson
What do you encourage your students to focus on when it comes to playing a match?
When my players are playing a match I always try to push one thought into their head as they go onto the court, and that is simply use your strength against your opponent’s weakness. This could be as simple as hitting a strong forehand to a weaker backhand, or maybe slightly more complex for example hitting a low slice down the line making sure the emphasis is on keeping the ball low, towards an opponent’s forehand who plays with a semi-western or full western grip, as they will struggle to pick that ball up. Identifying an opponent’s weakness, and using your strength to expose this, is a sure fire way of beating opponents who may on paper be better.
Speaking generally, what stops promising juniors from transitioning successfully to “adult” tennis?
What stops promising juniors from progressing into adult tennis, and also more importantly why there is such a high drop-out rate in teens, is that sometimes tennis can just be too serious. Performance camps, matches, tournaments, strength & conditioning—all of this takes over a teenager’s life, and I believe that they just burn out and want a break from the game. I understand to be a high-level athlete dedication and many hours of work are important, but at the end of the day it has to be fun, I think there should be more of an emphasis on fun as if it’s not fun, then really what’s the point?
If you could coach one professional player for one month, who would it be and what would you try to change in their game? (Technical, tactical, anything goes.)
If I could coach one pro player, it would be Gael Monfils. He is a supreme athlete, and also a really fun guy. One thing that I would change would be to make him more aggressive. Because he is such a supreme athlete, he can sometimes be passive in matches, stand really far back, and just use his athleticism to keep himself in the points. I feel that when he steps up closer to the baseline, takes the ball early, and plays on the front foot, that he is a better player, and I think he would win more matches if he applied this tactic more often.
Have a question you’d like a coach to answer? Are you a coach who’d like to contribute? Email me at email@example.com
Tennis is a global sport
But what does that mean? We have one way of visualizing this statement, thanks to Judson Wall’s detailed research piece on men’s professional tournaments around the world. In Cracked Racquets, Wall lays out where ATP, Challenger, and Futures level tournaments are played, and how many took place this year compared to 2019—with maps attached. Wall writes:
“Last year, there were 614 professional tennis tournaments at all levels. This year: 245 (14 of those weren’t finished due to the covid-19 pandemic). The pandemic cost men’s professional tennis 383 tournaments in 2020 as compared to 2019.”
Sam Querrey fined $20,000… kind of
After testing positive for the coronavirus during the St. Petersburg tournament in late September, Sam Querrey abruptly packed his bags and his family and flew out of Russia—in breach of the ATP’s coronavirus protocol. Now months later, the ATP has come to a decision in how they are punishing Querrey: a provisional $20,000 fine. Though the investigation concluded that Querrey’s conduct was “contrary to the integrity of the game,” the ruling states: “the fine is suspended and will be lifted subject to Mr. Querrey committing no further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period.” Why? Because Querrey has had many years of good standing with the ATP.
So, basically, Querrey tests positive, travels out of Russia on a private plane with his family, and months later is “fined” by the ATP. But the fine doesn’t apply as long as he doesn’t breach any ATP health and safety protocols again in the next six months. So… yeah. Think of that what you may.
Good riddance 2020. And a Happy New Year!
No grand reflection or soliloquy about 2020 from us at Tennis inbox. It’s been a difficult time for many of us and I’m hoping that all our collective 2021s will be better, whatever we have planned. Happy New Year!—Malhar