Tennis Prose



De Minaur Fires Up In Brisbane ATP Cup

By Louise Belcourt

As Australia battles the worst fires in recent history, the diminutive Aussie has lifted the Aussie spirit by capturing a hard fought, come from behind 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2 win over Alexander Zverev.

In the inaugural ATP Cup event in Brisbane, the 20-year old had a sluggish start admitting he struggled with nerves being the first match of the season as well as playing for his country.

Indeed, the matchup between the two couldn’t have been any starker. The 6 foot 6 German had won all 4 meetings between the pair, with the last 3 wins coming in easy straight sets. Zverev is ranked 7th in the world and holds a notable name in the glitz of the tennis world. Then there is 6 foot De Minaur ranked 18th, only last year marking his presence in the tennis world by winning 3 titles.

During the first set and half the German was impressive, overpowering and outplaying the Aussie from the baseline and being aggressive at the net. But there was one thing you know about De Minaur, like his mentor and captain Lleyton Hewitt, is that he would never give up. Down 4-2 and 15-40 on serve, De Minaur would turn the match around with his dogged determination and speed around the baseline and return of serve. Of that critical moment Hewitt said with pride “was a couple of massive points and a lot of guys would have given it away at that stage. He was able to dig deep and then regroup and be positive and use that positive energy to be able to turn the match around.”

The likeable Aussie even showed the flair of Kyrgios, who was sitting (when he wasn’t jumping in the air, lying dead on the floor, or doing push ups) in the stands. At one point the ball dropped short bouncing high near the net for an easy put away for Zverev, but De Minaur would not lie down and leapt high into the air hitting a cross court winning pass that Nick would have been impressed to pull off.

The German did help the situation by throwing in 14 double faults, and true to past form, his racket was no match for his frustration smashing it after losing the second set tiebreaker. Zverev admitted “I’m not feeling my serve. That’s no secret. But I think I just didn’t practice enough, to be honest. I’m on, what day? Seven, day eight of tennis. It’s tough. Even though that the match could have gone 6-2, 6-2 my way, to be honest.”

Of learning that Kyrgios was doing pushups after every one of his 14 double faults Zverev responded that he didn’t care about it but that “I know that Grigor almost had a fight with him and Jack [Sock] in 2018 [during the Laver Cup]. Yeah, I mean, he can do whatever he wants. If he wants to do pushups, that’s fine, as long as he doesn’t offend anybody.”

Post match, De Minaur acknowledged Hewitt’s input had been critical in turning the tide.

“[Hewitt said] to stay in the moment. That I was really close to turning that match around, even though I was probably borderline getting a bit frustrated“.  The importance of the win was not lost on the Aussie, “So it’s just about getting in my head that I’m good enough to match it with these guys. And every sort of top-10 win and high level opponent win I get, it’s a bit more confidence in myself and just trying to back myself.”

Even though this was the first match of the year, it was good to see where De Minaur’s game is at against a top 10 player. There has been a lot of talk in Australia about him reaching the top ten, and even the great Ken Rosewall said he is “Australia’s great hope to win a grand slam” like fellow down to earth Aussie world number 1 Ash Barty. We all know his size (at 152 pounds or 69kg) is something that will hinder him, unlike Kyrgios he cannot rely on any easy points on serve, but his serve and shot placement as well as change of pace will rattle players, and his defence at the baseline could eventually be nearly as good as the great Novak Djokovic, but it is his work ethic and never give up attitude of his mentor Lleyton Hewitt that is his greatest asset.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · January 4, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Anybody who competes like De Minaur, with that level of determination desire and belief, you can’t put a limit on him. Agree with Rosewall, this kid can win a major. This kid is a nightmare to have to play because he never ever stops coming at you. Shocking revelation by Zverev about Nick getting into a fight with his best buddy Sock and even the usually passive Dimitrov.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 7:10 am

    There was a similar scenario with Alex’s win over Shapo. Alex was down a set and Shapo led 4-2 in the 2nd when Alex went on a tear, won the set and then the third 6-2. His incredible fighting spirit truly is something else.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Canadian tennis reporter Mike McIntyre put it well:

    “Mike McIntyre

    Sign me up for a Grand Slam final one day between Denis Shapovalov and Alex De Minaur.

    The Aussie prevails in a highly entertaining match 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2 to secure the tie against Canada at the @ATPCup.”

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Great matches take place every day on tour. It’s a failure of the sport not to highlight this.

    Players don’t need to win slams to make their mark. I am afraid this era of the big three has pushed many people to mistake the slams for the entirety of tennis.

    To me the slams are a big deal and have become seen as the only deal (see Djokovic, Nadal, Federer obsession over the history books). In the past this wasn’t the case – Dr. Fischer MADE it the case by emphasizing to young Sampras that he was nothing unless he could pass Laver etc in the record books.

    It’s high time to move away from emphasis on slams. I recognize I am contradicting myself entirely by saying this – I think emphasizing the slams has been wrong. McEnroe wasn’t great because he won slams. He was great because he chased Borg to the ends of the earth, and he was great because he played an outstanding brand of tennis. He was also a royal pain in the bleep but that just came with the territory, can’t separate the nutcase from the artist in McEnroe’s case.

    I believe a whole generation of players has grown up believing that it’s slam or nothing, and I think this has ruined or tainted the careers of many players who should have challenged for more of them.

    While I don’t believe that some parts of the season are as valuable to players in terms of prestige (e.g. any tournament played after the U.S. open in Asia – this is just one big fat money pit) or any indoors tournament in Europe after the US Open (all those indoor events are similar to the Asia event, but players need to work), I do think some events like the Miami Masters and some of the clay swing in Europe are important.

    Here’s the argument. If Murray didn’t win the Olympics in 2012, he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon in 2013. You need the other events to make sense of a player. Same for Agassi, if he didn’t lose in the final of his hometown tournament in Las Vegas in 1998 (or to Hewitt earlier that year) he wouldn’t have made much of a comeback in 1999.

    Those matches don’t happen, the slams don’t happen. The tour depends on the other elements.

    So going back to De Minaur: in and of itself this is a nice win and a way for De Minaur to say to himself great, I beat the up and coming Shapovalov, who is ranked higher than I am and has been a hot player. This is a good result for me and I have been playing well since the US Open. What matters is the context, the fact that he has proven to himself he can come back from the big upset that Sinner had in him.

    What if that Sinner match had been regular sets? I am sure De Minaur might believe you know what, regular match, tough player, I like my chances and can’t wait to play him (rivalry).

    Keep in mind that whatever is brewing for these guys is good stuff. I think the other side of it is whether their placement of serve, knowledge of the game has grown enough where they can make inroads at the bigger tournaments. My guess is no – I don’t believe anyone outside of the top three guys has the kind of mindset to learn from mistakes and add to their games sufficiently to slay the dragon next time around.

    But if they are confident that may mean they are ready to unnerve the big guys and that confidence could make a difference. They’d have to play intrepid, brave, bold tennis that bewilders the big guys. I haven’t seen it yet, which is why I prefer just to say, this is good playing and keep it at that.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    I’d like to see the young guys chase the big guys to the ends of the earth (honestly, send them into retirement and make them feel, as Agassi did when speaking about Federer, that he couldn’t beat Federer again). I just don’t believe they have it in them, and they are as Tsitsipas said, waiting either to beat them (which Tsitsipas keeps hedging and saying ‘may or may not be possible’) or for them to retire (which Tsitsipas suggests is what he hopes for).

    Maybe I am getting this wrong. Such a cop out. These guys are too nice. I noticed it when in Laver Cup Nadal and Federer had to talk sense into Zverev to rev him up against Raonic. They woke Zverev up, but the revival of Zverev’s inner beast was short lived – a few tournaments. We have to recognize that Zverev doesn’t have that inner fire. Some coaches will have to start messing with the players somehow to wake this up more regularly.

    Raonic I think has the kinstinct in him. Shapovalov has some of it, especially when playing his peers (it’s been nice to see a little “Andreescu” in Shapovalov). Still not liking that they aren’t a little tougher.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    De Minaur “competes well” but his “game betrays him”. I have noticed a few times where he goes for the wrong shot – this is something that Brad Gilbert worked on with Agassi (right shot at the right time). Maybe players need some more resourceful coaches who give them some obvious advice (hit a ten cent shot that wins the point rather than the million dollar shot, and walk away with enough energy to then slam home an ace).

    Again, lamentable the bad strategy out there. As always, more prevalent on the women’s tour with the exception of super champs like Serena and of course Miss Andreescu, who if she is healthy should be giving everyone nightmares again.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    OK – De Minaur/Shapovalov – good stuff. However: match more exciting than it should have been. These gentlemen need to do more with the ball (or less with it).

    Serve placement – I’d like to see them go for more on their serves in terms of placement if they can’t do so for speed. A nice example is Nadal in one of his big hard-court years (2008, 2010, 2013, 2018). Went for more on his serve, saved the legs.

    Predictability: Many shots they hit in their exchanges were predictable. Those points should have been over a lot sooner. Could be that hey they are anticipating well – but if they are anticipating well there’s a problem with the opponent ball. In sum, play like Medvedev, where no one knows what’s coming next and every ball is unpredictable.

    Depth of shot and placement: not sure why either of them didn’t go more down the center and deeper. That would’ve prevented the opponent from opening the court as much as it was opened. It’s a good way to frustrate a hot player.

    Probing: No real probing for weaknesses, a little sad. These guys are a little too much of the school of see ball, hit ball. No mastery type of playing where you see something worth picking on and exploit it mercilessly. I would’ve liked to have seen De Minaur exploit the Shapovalov movement, make him go into the court a bit and then punish. Or Shapovalov hit down the center and give De Minaur a steady diet of backhands.

    The De Minaur game looks “slightly” better than it was in November/December. The Shapovalov game looks a little bit worse. I like these guys, but I am not so confidant in whatever they’re working on these days. Doesn’t seem to match up with what’s needed to move through draws.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    “Too much playing around”. More going for jugular please.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Andrew, there is a lot to digest from your posts. I totally agree about the Slams, and think there are many important tourneys, including most of the Masters. Those with a relatively small field mean that nearly all of the players are ranked in the top 50, along with a few who got in through WCs or qualies. That means there should be many competitive matches.

    I like the way Rafa is very clear that a tourney is important in its own right. Every year he is asked about the Rogers Cup being a warmup for the USO, and every year he says it is an important tournament, one he wants very much to win, and not a warmup event.

    One reason I like the smaller tourneys, like the 500s, is that we get to see players outside of the Big 3 in the later rounds. And I am very annoyed with my sports channel for not carrying the 250 tourneys.

    As far as players developing their skills, I think they do work on that, but it takes time. Milos worked on improving his net game for several years. I know you like Jon Wertheim’s “Mailbag” and several years ago Milos was the guest editor. I asked him about his net game, and he was frank about how difficult it was to learn it, especially knowing he could lose points and matches while he tried to improve that skill.

    Shapo has made a couple important changes. One is using a chip return more often, not going for the big, risky shot that he loves. He is more patient, staying in rallies longer instead of going for a big winner too soon. And he has improved his net game substantially. It looks like playing so much doubles last season helped.

  • catherine · January 5, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Andrew – Grand Slam tournaments have always been important, always the gold standard, believe me. I don’t honestly think any players have failed to reach the highest level because Grand Slams existed. Maybe it’s unfair but your career is ultimately measured in the number of GS you won. Serena knows this. And why THE Grand Slam remains what it seems – almost unattainable. Even Serena missed that one – she blew it out of sheer nerves.

    You say ‘in the past this wasn’t the case’ – yes, it was. Being a GS winner sets you apart. It’s what you aim for. Same in other sports and occupations – no one wants to spend their careers in the Corps de Ballet, not if they’re honest.

    Why did AK slump so badly after her GSs ? Because she knows she’s done it. Up a level, same with Federer, Nadal. They want to do it again and again. In the end no one cares which Premier Mandatories etc you won. The circuit has to exist otherwise there’d be no places to play but in the way of things some will stay at the top longer than the others because they are the best.

  • Harold · January 5, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    . In the past this wasn’t the case – Dr. Fischer MADE it the case by emphasizing to young Sampras that he was nothing unless he could pass Laver etc in the record books.

    Huh? Pass Laver at what record?

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Hartt, yes, these gentlemen are very fine players. And yes, it takes time to deploy new strategies and shots. However, that’s the job – compete, re-group, compete.

    As for the “time” part of things, I say all this with respect to the capital T for Time, as in players have developed a bit of a mental laziness with regards to how much time they actually have. Careers are shorter than anyone wants, and time passes more quickly than anyone wants to admit. Many of our now elderly champions (yes, 31 plus is old for men’s pro tennis – Sampras, among best ever and used to be GOAT) were winning huge tournaments in their teens and 20s. I don’t remember the line “just give them time”, “sooner or later” etc and so forth. They had to shred their own doubts and figure it out. I rarely see that now.

    I don’t want to lay it on too thick here because players have to take care of themselves and not take anything too seriously, and take to heart what Stefanki once said, you’re never playing as well or as poorly as you think you are.

    I’d like to point out though that Andreescu used impatience to her advantage and struck while the iron was red hot, carving up the WTA tour so that she was driving her matches and everyone else was responding. Of course on of the most brilliant displays since Serena Williams used to do the same thing repeatedly, so too Justine Henin when she had her chance.

    It’s never too soon to turn the apple cart over. As it stands with Raonic I believe back in 2011 he wasn’t completely aware of how amazing his Australian Open run was becoming and that he let David Ferrer back into that match. He had him on the ropes. I also don’t think Raonic was quite ready to handle the summer of 2011, so he missed a big opportunity to break things open a little more. Raonic only recaptured this “magic” a few years later. He’s a guy who has always had the right instincts, but wasn’t always quite ready to assert himself to his capability.

    I think the same for other players – Roddick in 2003 at the Australian Open (should have dispatched El A, sooner in their epic QF), or in 2002 facing Sampras at the US Open (should have played better). Young guys respecting their elders and not respecting fundamentals of preparation, unpredictability enough.

    I’ll leave it there. Final example, Sampras vs McEnroe, 1990 Semifinal US Open. Sampras had no right even to be there, but no one could have told him differently. He served Lendl out of the tournament in five heady sets, and then dispatched McEnroe “clinically” in their semifinal. That carried over into the finals, where Agassi seemed not to care about scouting much and appeared to believe his junior wins were sufficient, that Sampras wouldn’t well, do what he did.

    That’s how it’s done. Don’t respect the elders while playing, praise them before and afterwards. Ms. Andreescu suggested as much recently, where she admitted that beating Muguruza at Indian Wells made her believe that she had what she needed to take most players out. That sensation drove her to upset everyone else in sight.

    That’s missing from these guys. Too much deference, too much waiting around.

    I’m glad that there is a sense that other tournaments count a lot for the sport. I think they do, and don’t believe anything that happens at majors comes from nowhere.

    All that said there is a caveat and that’s the young guys are playing better and the old guys are playing slightly worse – that was clear from the US Open onwards. I’d like for the young guys to say “enough is enough” and demonstrate that against their regular, everyday opponents, and then bring that ferocity into their matches. Medvedev showed this by going toe to toe, even though I understand Medvedev was out of his mind.

    If these guys can get there, play a little more out of their mind, giving a different look, being more chess players than pawns, I think it will be a fun year for them.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    Harold, yes I see what you are saying. I think Dr. Fischer was a pretty messed up mentor and the way he drove Sampras was bizarre! Somehow it worked, with Sampras believing his competition was “Laver” and the record books rather than whoever was on the opposite side of the court.

    I think eventually Sampras said, you know, Fischer, just get out of my life. I don’t know if Fischer ever got out of his head! Sampras of course showed a lot more awareness of every and any opponent, he knew Agassi’s capabilities, knew Chang’s capabilities, and knew how to beat them (even if Sampras also lost to them – that’s tennis).

    You’re right, Dr. Fischer was bizarre, and it wasn’t normal for a player to think about Laver (especially when he’d retired so long ago). Fischer made this important to Sampras, and Sampras bought into it (until he’d had enough).

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Harold, I think Fischer wanted Sampras to play like Laver and win like Laver. I should read more about it. He emphasized to Sampras I think that the competition was the record books rather than whoever he was playing.

    Some kind of sense that “you’ve got to be the best champion of all time, which means you have to be better than Laver, not these guys you are playing…standard is higher”, something like that. Some sense that whatever he was doing wasn’t as much as he should be doing, which would only motivate Sampras even more.

    I dunno. Some kind of odd way of firing Sampras up so that he was tricking himself into playing sick tennis as often as possible.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Andrew, Milos fell at Wimby in 2011 and injured his hip so badly he required surgery. Somehow he managed to go back on the tour in Sept., but wasn’t able to do much for the rest of the season. It was during his rehab that he saw many young children in hospital, and decided to start his foundation to help kids, even though he was still very young at the time.

    So an injury had a big impact even at the beginning of his career. He admitted that it took him some time before he could be more relaxed playing on grass.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    Catherine, yes. Slams matter. The blondie would be judged either harshly or not whatsoever were she to have a “zero” in the slams column.

    But as to slams = “all the marbles” – how do we consider the Australian and the fact players didn’t make the trek to Australia as they do now? Agassi didn’t play until the year 2000.

    If it’s say Guy Forget, a good player who excelled in Davis Cup but seldom elsewhere, maybe in that case we say: “good player, history will likely forget him”.

    I think that’s what I mean, they weren’t the end all be all. Now, they are. It’s “only the slams” and we live with this madness (…).

    But they shouldn’t be. The WTA in that regard is healthier, there’s a lot more going on (sadly a lot more of a lot more, which is sometimes too much).

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    The thing that strikes me about Milos is that for him to win matches he needs to play an aggressive style, and he is not a naturally aggressive player the way Shapo is. Denis often needs to rein in his aggressive style, while Milos often needs to increase it. I have become tired of hearing Milos say in press after he lost a match that he should have been more aggressive. Of the two scenarios, I think it is better to have the natural aggression and have to dial it back.

    Andrew, I think you are right about striking while the iron is hot. JMac said after Milos’ loss to Murray in the Wimby final that he’d wondered if he should have told Milos that this could be his one chance, or if that would simply increase the pressure too much. I think Milos always thought he would have other opportunities; of course no one could predict the impact so many injuries would have on his career.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Hartt, I stand corrected. Raonic had a huge 2011, came from seemingly nowhere. I forgot about him being hurt. His injuries have hurt his career.

    I still stand by striking when the iron is hot. I don’t think some players like Pouille have made the most of their opportunities. “Not being ready” to me is “the moment got the better of me”.

    This is why I have enjoyed seeing Ostapenko, Andreescu, etc grab a slam. Andreescu of course has way more range and ability and should outclass most players. The point is she decided hey, I can do this. I will do this. I don’t have to wait.

    I wish that impatience were more on display on the men’s tour. It isn’t. There’s a lot of caginess etc and not as much of the ferocity that’s required.

    As I think Harold said, the big guys haven’t just blocked the “next generation” of players – they’ve blocked “several next generations” of players, including the ones ahead of them in the early 2000s, and then everyone who came around since when they were supposed to be getting distracted.

    Never happened.

  • Anndrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Wow. Sorry about Australian. Agassi played first in 1995. It took a while for him to play his first one, which wasn’t in 2000! My memory.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    Mac should have said: “Milos, your time, want this match on YOUR TERMS.”

    Hartt, Raonic was fantastic in 2011. Really did what every player challenging the contenders should do. Should have won Memphis.

    Raonic’s greatest enemy has been injuries. I am also sad that he seems to be the guy coaches leave when they want more glory FOR THEMSELVES. My opinion of Ljubicic has gone down and others for leaving Raonic “at the altar” of future success.

    I would have liked to have seen Raonic beat Zverev at Laver Cup. If they play again and Raonic feels healthy enough I expect Raonic to remember that loss.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 5, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    I read the Pete book by Bodo, great book, Pete used three or four coaches in his teens, different coach each day for different skill. Pete Fischer was just one of the coaches but an important one. Then he got greedy and crazy, after Pete turned pro and started having good results, Fischer demanded a Ferrari. The Sampras family sensed he was a loony tune and did not agree to sign any paper plate contracts.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 5, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Fischer saw the talent and nurtured it and inspired it. But I interviewed a junior named Bill Behrens back then who Pete played once a week and he said Pete’s talent and athleticism was so obvious any coach could have developed him. Bill said Pete would have got there anyway no matter who was his coach. But Pete used a lot of different coaches for footwork, different skills.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Scoop, does every player you’ve written on have your book on them yet? I’d imagine S. Williams would feel like superpowered with your book. Or Shapo etc would find some kind of clarity when facing Murray, Nadal, Federer, Djoko.

    Has anyone yet read any books by challenger players?

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Many talented players have failed where Sampras succeeded. He wasn’t going to be Sjeng Schalken, but his mentality was something else on court.

  • catherine · January 5, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Andrew – I think the Slams should be the top of the pyramid – ultimately that’s what brings the fans in. And as I said earlier, they have always been the ‘be all and end all’. As long as I can remember. Wimbledon first and then the rest.

    As for travelling Down Under, players stopped doing that when there began to be a lot more tournaments which overlapped and the surfaces began to move from grass. No one wanted to play on grass at that time of the year. So the Aust circuit changed, money went up and playes started coming back.

    Slams are the tournaments which focus everything, the longest and hardest to win. No wonder players want to win them. Ask Simona. For her and for Roumania this is the biggest title. Not Doha or Shenzhen. I see nothing wrong with that. Can’t see it’s bad for the game.
    And I can’t honestly see the connection between wanting to win GSs and what appears to be stagnation in the men’s game – which I would guess is more fiction than fact. No need to be in such a hurry. Not even Federer will last forever.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Andrew, yes Milos had a great start to 2011. He had turned 20 at the end of Dec., 2010. At the beginning of January he was ranked No.156 and he was No.37 by the end of Feb. He’d started working with coach Galo Blanco in the fall of 2010 and Blanco has to deserve a lot of credit for Milos’ sudden success.

    His parents, both engineers, put a lot of emphasis on education, and were disappointed when Milos decided to turn pro instead of going to university. But they said they would support him for a certain length of time, and if he did not make the top 100 in that time he would go to university. He also agreed to take some university courses. He did not quite make the deadline, but was close enough. As soon as he made the top 100 he sent back his university textbooks.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 5, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Andrew I believe they all do. I did give McEnroe his and next time I saw him he was very nice to me but didn’t say anything about it. Hewitt didn’t complain either next time I saw him but he’s always avoided a one on one with me for some reason. Rios liked his book at first but last year he suddenly told me at IMG that I shouldn’t have written it because you should know the person you are writing a book about. No player has come up to me and said they liked it but no flip side of the coin either, fortunately.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    I am not so sure that the young players are simply waiting for the Big 3 to retire. Several want to beat those top guys in big tourneys now.

    Zverev spoke about this in a recent interview with the Guardian.

    “Are we going to take over at some point? Yes! We have to! They’re not going to be there for ever… And anyway, I actually don’t want those guys to retire. I just want to be better than them. I’m not sitting at home and thinking, ‘OK, I still have, what, two, three years until they retire, and then I’m going to take over tennis.’ No, that’s not how it is.”

    He adds: “If we just wait for them to retire, all we’re going to hear for the rest of our careers is, ‘Yeah, but those guys were better than you.’ I don’t want to be the No 1 in the world because other people aren’t playing. I want to be No 1 because I’m better than everybody else.”

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Hartt, maybe so. Tsitsipas and Zverev have both beaten the big guys, and Medvedev scared Nadal half to death (reason for Nadal getting any win he can on the guy – Nadal now is 3-0 against Medvedev – Montreal, US Open, ATP Finals, and pleased to be 3-0!). I think the Tsitsipas “call to arms” for next generation to “take over” and “beat the big guys here and how” was heard loud and clear before Wimbledon last year, though it took Tsitsipas himself some time for his game, playing form to catch up (again) to his ambition.

    I generally think it’s a terrible idea to challenge players but I am warming to it as a way of letting better opponents know, “hey, I am trying to beat you and I want you to know I look forward to playing you”. It’s a lot better than “oh goodness me I sure hope I can play well” (although the latter is kind of what Nadal does! Publicly downplays the match and says well FOR SURE they are a good player, preparing like a bandit, then scalping the player during the match.

    Makes sense. The big guys want to protect their turf so they say for sure we welcome these players that are so good (blah blah blah) while privately prepping like fiends. Then the young guys want to take over the turf so they say they are ready and excited (while unsure themselves if they can pull off mission impossible). It’s an interesting game of cat and mouse and it’s not clear who is the cat.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    Hope Galo Blanco is prepping new players. Hartt you have mentioned Galo Blanco and Raonic for some time. He truly did a fine job with Raonic, who remains to me one of the most serious and “well prepared” players in recent memory (more so than Zverev and more so actually than Tsitsipas or any player that has come along since). Raonic’s game was shockingly complete in 2011, just needed some more consistency to accompany those nice ground strokes and cutthroat mentality, and some more courage in the big matches. He achieved all of that.

    There have only been a few players to me on the men’s side that have made good on their potential in this ridiculous era of super champions. Tops – Del Potro, Nishikori, Cilic, Berdych until he took his foot off the pedal, Raonic, Tsonga (perennial threat), Verdasco for a period, Feliciano Lopez for a stretch.

    Raonic is in rare air. I hope overall he ends up being considered one of Canada’s best players of all time and would like to cheer him on to some big titles. I’ll hope for at least a Masters from him.

  • Andrew Miller · January 5, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    Would REALLY like for even more players to come along so that Shapovalov, etc feel the pressure from below. If other youngsters are nipping at their heels it should keep them motivated. Felix AA should technically aim to steal as much thunder as possible. Sinner too, Tiafoe if he can get his game together and play for keeps (big IF). Opelka if he can stay intact. So many unknowns.

  • Hartt · January 5, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Andrew, my hope for Milos as well is that he wins a Masters. Then he would at least match what Ljubicic did – No.3 ranking and a Masters.

    I don’t know who Galo Blanco is coaching now, but he seems often to work with players early in their pro careers, and has coached both Khachanov and Thiem.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 4:13 am

    Tournaments: let’s get the rubbish out of the way first – Kerber gone 1st round in Brisbane to Stosur in 2 t/b sets. New coach Angie 🙂 More like her mind’s elsewhere.

    Konta out to Strykova; Riske bt Muchova SS – Muchova’s an attractive player but she’ll be swept away by power.
    Kasatkina bts CSN in Auckland; Gauff SS over Kuznova.

    Sabalenka hammers on in Shenzhen; Muguruza wins in 3 with O final set. Bit of occ ?

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 4:44 am

    WTA put up Gauff highlights within an hour 🙂
    Coco played mainly from the backcourt and the highlights slo/mo’d all her winning points. She looked good but not unbeatable. Kuznova didn’t offer much resistance.

    TBH – if Angie had had to qualify in Brisbane, she wouldn’t have. Her return % was dreadful v Sam, who hasn’t won a match since I don’t know when.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 5:08 am

    Oh – and Collins bt Svitolina 6-1 6-1. That’s not we expect. And in horse racing the officials would ask if Elena put in a ‘real, timely and substantial effort’.

  • Hartt · January 6, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Catherine, do you think this will be Kerber’s last season?

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 6, 2020 at 9:16 am

    Team Australia looks perfect. Even Guccione is chipping in, I don’t think he’s played a pro match in years. Only surprise is that Hewitt is not sticking his nose in the action as a player.

  • Jon King · January 6, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Kuznova looked to be hitting lollipop serves and a lot of sitters to Gauff with not much intensity. Interesting.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 6, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Jon you are saying Kuznova threw the match and I believe that’s very possible. They manufacture fake stars in boxing now and the establishment is desperate to make Gauff the new hero star champion moneymaker.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Hartt – yes, I think Angie will retire at the end of this year. That was more or less hinted in the piece about the new Bad Homburg tournament this summer where she is Tournament Director – I can’t imagine she would be doing that if she was going to continue as a full time pro. Angie’s not particularly good at doing several things at once, unlike Serena.

    Also, I can’t see her improving her game with a coach like Kindlmann. She didn’t play horribly v Stosur, just the same game which everyone knows. It’s not going to change. Fisette was the last throw of that dice and just a shame things ended so badly. But she’ll always have W’don.

    I’m glad Angie was injured in Hawaii and didn’t face Collins. Danielle just blistered Svito. Over in under an hour.

  • Jon King · January 6, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Scoop, I guess there are ‘degrees’ to things like throwing a match or not giving max effort. Like was said before catherine, Kuznova did not offer much resistance.

    Is it something nefarious or was it that she knows everyone in the stands, the tournament organizers, the WTA, Nike, media, fans, wants Gauff not to lose in the 1st round?

    Sure Gauff is likely the better player, but when most highlights show softish serves right to Gauff’s forehand and a lot of hitting up the middle by Kuznova….like I said, interesting.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Scoop – from what I saw Kuznova didn’t throw the match – she just isn’t a strong enough player to present much of a challenge to Gauff. Can’t see players doing this kind of thing in such a public place. Coco is easily good enough to beat a player like Kuznova without outside help. I can see her getting to the s/f in Auckland. I find her game pretty efficient overall but not very inspiring. But I’m probably in the minority.

  • Jon King · January 6, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Correct that from Nike to New Balance. Anyway, Gauff won, and thats what the tennis powers want.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Jon – the highlights show mostly Gauff winners. She did lose a few points 🙂

    Gauff has weaknesses but Kuznova failed to exploit them. Her serve has definitely improved.

  • Jon King · January 6, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Okay, Gauff is the better player, I get that. I guess I am just suspicious of all the hype.

  • catherine · January 6, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Jon – I understand that. A nasty little part of me wants her to lose but apart from those feelings I’m sick of the hype too.

    It’s Kuzmova – my mistake.

  • Andrew Miller · January 6, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Riske is refreshing in that she plays like a sledgehammer, one of the least watchable games in the sport. Muchova has to get that you can’t run from Riske, you have to beat her and then fine. Remember: Riske is avenging her loss to Muchova for Muchova’s Shenzen match, where Muchova headed off Riske in three sets only a few months ago. Riske probably felt she had that match and made sure this time to put her away.

    Riske should definitely be an inspiration for players with home-spun games. She proves you can play ugly tennis and win big. Brad Gilbert’s game looks flowery in comparison. But the whole point is win a point more than your opponent, so no doubt about it, winning ugly is winning.

    Alas Muchova. Yes, she has to develop the firepower. One thing she can definitely do. I’d like to see Muchova do well, I love her game!

  • Andrew Miller · January 6, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Why everyone is so obsessed about throwing matches…

    It’s more like X player comes up against Gauff and believes they can put her away, then Gauff makes it harder because she is at heart a grinder that you have to beat using everything you’ve got.

    Then finding yourself losing, that’s when it sinks in oh my goodness I am losing to this kid!

    That’s when Gauff’s got you.

    Got to do what Osaka does, simply take the game to the Gauff and expose her lack of strategy and iffy tendencies and the match changes. But if you have to be Osaka to do that (which you don’t, we’ve seen that) then we have a problem.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 6, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Tennis is not growing in America. We have lost many WTA and ATP events. I was told the IMG offices had six floors of activities back in the 90s but then when business dried up they were down to one floor. American tennis desperately needs a Pete and Andre star and rivalry to jumpstart the sport. Serena is almost finished, maybe she is finished. A new star must rise now. By any means necessary. If Serena stops playing this year, what do we have? Fritz? Opelka? Isner? McHale? Collins? America desperately needs a major star to carry the sport in America. How many more tournaments can we lose? Which ones will die next like Memphis and San Jose? Atlanta? Newport? DC? NY Open? Delray? Gauff could be the jump start to get it going. Think of how important the American market is for ATP ITF. Boxing went though the same crisis and installed fraud pretender champions like Mayweather, Canelo, Wilder, who still doesn’t draw despite a 41-0 record with 40 KOs.

  • Andrew Miller · January 6, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    U.S. could use a few “people’s champs” and an expo in the middle of the street like the Agassi/Sampras rivalry of the 90s. One of the best tennis commercials in history with the bus driving through the makeshift court.

    Not so hard for Nike to re-do that commercial and update it. Fat chance though.

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