It has been a while without tennis and a while without a blog from me as a result. I thought it was time for a brief round-up. Quick-fire? Here we go.
First Dominic Thiem, then Guido Pella and now Matteo Berrettini have questioned the Player Relief programme led by Novak Djokovic. Though the general reception seems to have gone done very well with most professionals and seen a fair amount of generosity. This was set up to benefit the lower-ranked players and to help fund them in these times of need. Obviously, this is a very good deed. Thiem’s comments that players act ‘unprofessional’ at times on the ITF circuit have come across as arrogant to many. The Austrian said players are not starved and he would rather help less fortunate people. I would assume Thiem is talking about certain players in his remarks as that cannot be aimed at everyone. This hasn’t gone down too well in most parts of the tennis world. This has now been partly echoed by Guido Pella, who says no tennis player is starving and he would rather help elsewhere. Berrettini has said that he acknowledges it’s good to help fellow professionals but he feels the money is needed much more elsewhere. Thiem set the tone with his comments in a big way though and as a result, is taking the most grief. Rightly so.
Ines Ibbou, the 21-year-old Algerian has responded to the Austrian on Twitter and the post has been getting a lot of attention. It is a very moving piece and makes Thiem’s comments look nothing short of disgraceful. What I find bizarre is that any tennis fan knows of the general struggles for the lower-ranked players on the ITF circuit. How has Thiem been so brazen in his comments? It is very disappointing from him. For Ibbou, there are many additional costs and struggles that she faces on a daily basis and her piece is well worth watching. I have attached it below for you.
One of the possible solutions to the US Open conundrum that I read was moving it from New York to Indian Wells. It does sound from official sources that this is a possibility but probably the last resort. My initial thoughts are I don’t think it will get to that stage. I still think it will have to be cancelled. I just can’t see how players will want to or be allowed to travel freely between continents, countries and states etc. You could easily see there being a lot of withdrawals. Time will tell but I just can’t see it. The USTA is saying they still plan to go ahead as normal, with fans, but remind us all of the ever-changing times due to COVID-19. We will find out the official outcome in mid-June.
We have also seen the Australian Open speak about the possibility of cancellation for 2021. Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said “the best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”
Tennis has been pretty much ongoing in Belarus and Russia with some low key stuff being played. There have also been exhibition events in Germany and now the States. These have attracted bigger names with Yannick Hanfmann defeating Dustin Brown in the Tennis-Point Exhibition Series in Germany. There were some big names at the event in Florida, this was effectively played in someone’s backyard. Reilly Opelka won the event with Miomir Kecamanovic finishing runner-up. Players having their own tents here being one of the precautions, also no handshakes, no Ball boys etc. This is about as much as we can expect at the moment, local tennis and we all know that. There have been noises that Rafa Nadal, Patrick Mouratoglou and Jamie Murray are looking to stage exhibitions of similar ilk. There will be a women’s event in Florida along the lines of the men’s which will include Alison Riske, Amanda Anisimova, Danielle Collins, Ajla Tomljanovic. So a pretty high level. As good as we might see for a while realistically.
Dan Evan’s has appointed South African Kieron Vorster as his new fitness coach. Once employed by Tim Henman, this is a decision that naturally raised the eyebrows and one I look forward to hopefully seeing some results from. From the outside, there doesn’t look to be a lot to lose by this appointment. Good stuff.
Finally, Andy Murray and Kiki Bertens won the Virtual Pro in Madrid. Muzza hammered Nadal on the way, Rafa had the cheeky look of someone who was getting battered. Murray then beat Goffin in the final. Bertens beat Fiona Ferro for the title and afterwards said her hands with hurting due to the amount of time she had put in practicing. All good fun at the end of the day. I also really enjoyed the video of Murray practicing at home against the wall, ended with a classic bit of Muzza language.
Take care of yourselves.
Andy Del Potro.