July 12, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

The Daily Drill – Wednesday, June 12, 2024

No Wimbledon for Nadal, who is on the Spanish team for the Olympics in Paris.

Welcome to the Daily Drill.

It’s a new feature wrapping up all the tidbits of the day that you might have missed.

A mix of exclusive news, hot takes, social-media updates and heads-ups to news articles of interest in various languages around the tennis ecosphere (with full credit AND links, if course. Because we’re not THOSE guys).

We’re going to try to have it up at the end of the day – every day – at least through the end of Wimbledon. And then evaluate to see how it goes. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. But one thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of material. (We might tweak it to come out first thing in the morning, to set up the tennis day). And we’ve got a new sponsor to help on the journey.

If you like it, make sure you click on an ad or two. More revenue means we can get more help to create more content. It’s been absolutely great lately, so many thanks. And we will never have our virtual hand out for money .

Hi AELTC – Give Milos a WC

It will be a similar dynamic to Roland Garros, as a lot of former top-ranked players will need wild cards to get into the Wimbledon main draw.

On the plus side, Wimbledon has tended to be less … provincial than the French Federation in terms of seeing special cases for what they are.

Raonic at Wimbledon in 2019, practicing with Rafael Nadal. Nadal won’t be there; Raonic needs a wild card.

Case in point is Milos Raonic. The 2016 finalist has made the secondn week five times in his career, including two other quarterfinals.

His protected ranking is No. 33, which he can use to enter the Olympics. But it can’t be used this Wimbledon, because ATP players are not allowed to use the protected ranking for the same Grand Slam tournament more than once (deep rulebook dive alert).

Raonic, who will play Roberto Bautista Agut Thursday in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, has an actual ranking just inside the top 200. Which will easily get him into the qualifying. But of course he ideally wouldn’t want to risk the fragile body on having to win three matches at Roehampton to get in.

The Canadian has actually never played the qualifying there. In 2011, he was already No. 45 and got straight in. The previous year, he was barely inside the top 300 and played a hard-court Challenger in Winnetka that week.

Also needing a WC? Naomi Osaka. Her protected status can only be used for two Grand Slam tournaments – and she used those in Australia and in Paris.

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Historical non-Brit WCs at Wimbledon

Raonic isn’t super-hopeful he’ll get a wild card. But recent history shows that he’s … more than deserving compared to a lot of the players who did get one. Notably, they’ve dispensed non-British wild cards far more to the men than the women.

2023 – Venus Williams, Elina Svitolina, David Goffin

2022 – Zizou Bergs, Tim Van Rijthovan, Stan Wawrinka, Daris Saville, Serena Williams

2021 – Carlos Alcaraz, Alex Bolt, Liudmila Samsonova, Venus Williams

2019 – Marcos Baghdatis, Feliciano Lopez, Monica Niculescu

2018 – Denis Kudla, Sergy Stakhovsky, Ons Jabeur, Tereza Smitkova

2017 – Denis Shapovalov, Tommy Haas, Marton Fucsovics, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Zarina Diyas,

Spanish Olympic team announced

The Spanish Tennis Federation announced its planned team for the Paris Olympics.

And while it’s no surprise that Rafael Nadal (protected ranking at No. 9) is on it and that he’ll team up with Roland Garros champion Carlos Alcaraz for an absolutely can’t-miss passing-of-the-torch doubles, there’s certainly no guarantee Nadal will make the date for singles and doubles.

The team will include those two, plus Pablo Carreño Busta (protected ranking), who hardly played for a year but is just getting back now. And Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Carreño Busta’s first-round loss to Mariano Navone in Paris was his first match at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2023 Australian Open.

Carreño Busta struggled through 2023 with an elbow issue, before finally having surgery last November.

On the women’s side, only Sara Sorribes Tormo and Cristina Bucsa were selected.

Paula Badosa has opted not to use her protected ranking to play the Olympics, because there are no WTA ranking points on offer.

It’s a tough one for players like Pedro Martinez and Jaume Munar, who’ve both played 30 tournaments in the last 52 weeks and worked hard to be eligible. Carreño Busta lost in the first round of Roland Garros two weeks ago to Mariano Navone of Argentina in four sets.

But no one ever said tennis federations were fair.

Since the 2023 Australian Open – so more than a year and a half, Carreño Busta played one match in Feb. 2023, and three more in Challengers last October. That’s it.

Caroline Garcia engaged

It was a whirlwind romance that notably included a trip to … Antarctica during the last off-season.

And now France’s Caroline Garcia and partner Borja Durán have made it official – they’ll tie the knot. Duran has been a fairly consistent presence courtside this season. Sometimes even ON the court.

Duran, a Spaniard, was described in a Tennis.Com blurb among others as the “co-host of her podcast”. Which is incredibly reductive, not to mention lazy.

(📸: Instagram)

Duran, per his LinkedIn bio, is a part-time professor of e-commerce and marketing at the University of Barcelona, and the founder of an early-stage venture capital fund. He’s also a board member of Born to Learn, an NGO working to expand opportunities for underserved people in Tanzania. He also has a company that converts classic cars into modern, electric vehicles. AND the podcast.

So, you know, he’s not leeching on her renown in the tennis world.

Olympic machinations

There are a lot of ways to get into the Olympic draw: protected rankings, past Olympic glory. And oh, of course, your actual ranking.

But there’s another way: if you represent a country that the Olympic deciders consider to be underrepresented, they can give you a free pass.

They call them “universality places”.

That’s how two player, Danka Kovinic of Montenegro and Benjamin Hassan of … Lebanon, will play in Paris next month.

But these are tricky calls.

Kovinic, 29, competed for Montenegro at the Rio Games in 2016, and had to withdraw from Tokyo in 2021 because of an injury. She’s played BJK Cup for her country in five different seasons.

But after the US Open (pictured below, losing to Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2 in the first round), she ended her season because of persistent back pain. And she hasn’t played since. So it’s a nice gift, looks great on her resumé. But it’s pretty unfair to the healthy player who won’t get to go because she got the spot.

Danka Kovinic at the 2023 US Open.

As for Hassan, a 29-year-old currently ranked a career-high No. 146 in singles, he’s another interesting case.

Hassan was born in Merzig, Germany. He’s played under the German flag his entire career.

In fact, he’s playing as a German this WEEK at the ATP Tour event in Stuttgart.

Except he’s also represented Lebanon faithfully in Davis Cup since 2018. And is listed as playing for Lebanon on the ITF site.

Obviously, as the No. 7 German in the rankings and a long way from the cutoff, there would be no chance he could qualify.

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Mid-season coaching changes, Part I

It used to be that players would make coaching changes at the end of seasons in which they struggled.

But that’s no longer the case. It’s a “what have you done for me this WEEK” kind of business these days – tough for coaches who don’t have the leverage to command locked-in contracts (which is most of them).

Already, during and after Roland Garros, promising French player Arthur Fils, who celebrates his 20th birthday today, has divested himself of one of his two listed coaches.

He had former Roland Garros champ Sergi Bruguera, and French player Sébastian Grosjean. Grosjean also is the co-founder of the agency, Tennium, which represents him.

Fils was ousted in the first round by Matteo Arnaldi, in four sets. It was … not a bad loss. And then Bruguera was out. L’Équipe has a good analysis of all the moving pieces in this one.

The player now had the entire “team” with the two all-star coaches, after leaving the warm heart of the well-funded French federation (and all their lovely free money) to go his own way. Also a dad who is all over the process. It’s … complicated

Mid-season coaching changes, Part II

Not to be outdone, former French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova also divested herself of her coach after Roland Garros, where she lost rather perfunctorily to Liudmila Samsonova.

Gone is Californian Marc Lucero, who only came on board for this year’s pre-season and who didn’t even have a chance to do much, because Anisimova missed big chunks of time during this first half of the season.

Back in Charleston, she seemed to like him just fine.

Auger-Aliassime joins Boodles crew

Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime will join the group of players at the posh “Boobles” exhibition before Wimbledon again this year.

(📸 Ben Hoskins for The Boodles tennis)

So far, here are the players confirmed to play the event, which takes place June 25-29.

  • Andrey Rublev
  • Hubert Hurcacz
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • Felix Auger-Aliassime
  • Nicolas Jarry
  • Sebastian Korda
  • Borna Coric

More players will be added. As posh as the whole thing is, it’s nice to see people dress up for the tennis. And as they proudly boast, no seat is further than 10 metres from the court. So it’s a pretty sweet way to watch.

The lowest price is about £100, going up to about £700 in the “Players’ Enclosure”, whut.

Post RG exho for Mr. and Mrs. Monfils

From the Paris clay to indoor hard as Gaël Monfils and his better half, Elina Svitolina, went to Herning, Denmark to play an exhibition with Danish tennis legends Holger Rune and Caroline Wozniacki.

It was called the “Champions Battle 2024”.

There was men’s singles, and women’s singles, and mixed.

It’s hard to know what Wozniacki is up to, career-wise. She hasn’t gotten wild cards lately. and it wouldn’t have taken much more to get straight into Roland Garros and/or Wimbledon, with her ranking currently at No. 117.

She received wild cards in all 10 of her tournament appearances since her return nearly a year ago, at the Canadian tournament in Montreal.

But she hasn’t played since losing, 7-5 in the third set, to Sara Errani in Madrid (a loss that doesn’t look nearly that bad in retrospect).

Fernandez playing Guadalajara

Canadian Leylah Fernandez is the lateset player to commit to playing the WTA 500 tournament in Guadalara this year.

That event and its owners – who stepped in twice to host the Tour Finals (in Guadalajara and Cancun) in tough circumstances, and also to host a WTA 1000 when China was still off the grid because of the pandemic, has found its fortunes considerably reduced.

It’s a 500-level event now. And not only that, even if the post US Open slot with the tour headed to Asia wasn’t ideal, it’s now the week before the US Open.

Fernandez in Guadalajara in 2022.

That’s been a theme this year, with Strasbourg now a 500-level event and played the week before Roland Garros, Et al.

It would be easier for players to choose the charming WTA 250 in Cleveland, which has similar conditions to the US Open the following week and also is a quick plane hop away. But with the new WTA rules about playing 250s when there’s a 500 the same week, they’re kind of shut from getting the top players (just look at the grass season).

That sad, they’ve also confirmed Victoria Azarenka, Danielle Collins and Maria Sakkari, who will defend her title.

If any other top-10 players want to play the week before the US Open, that will be their option (unless they’re American).

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