July 12, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Another … potentially challenging day in tennis Valhalla as Wimbledon will have to slog through another dodgy forecast.

Things improved overnight and there was no delayed start as there was Sunday., But there is the possibility of a number of interruptions.

That said, good news! They finally got a mixed doubles match done. But that was only because of Grigor Dimitrov’s unfortunate retirement on No. 1 Court, after which they moved a match involving a British pair there.

Here are the orders of play.

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Canadian Content

The Canadian singles odyssey is concluded, with Leylah Fernandez, Denis Shapovalov and Chilean-Canadian Alejandro Tabilo all making the third round.

On the doubles side, the Cana-Kiwis Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe, after multiple interruptions, finally got their second-round match done Sunday. They’re off today; Leylah Fernandez and partner Ena Shibahara, who followed the Cana-Kiwis onto the court, never got it done and will be down a set in their match when they (hopefully) resume on Monday.

There isn’t a single Canadian kid entered in the junior event, unfortunately.

There was one, Nina Lagaev, in the girls’ qualifying singles, but she lost in the first round.

It’s not a surprise. There aren’t any Canadian boys ranked in the top 100 of the juniors and the only boy who has ever played at the Grand Slam level, Keegan Rice, is still junior-eligible but is playing pro events back home. Rice did play last year, but lost in the second round.

Victoria Mboko (left) and Kayla Cross, who made the Wimbledon junior girls’ final in 2022, are the last Canadian girls to play at the All-England Club. Mboko has since left the Tennis Canada fold and is training in Belgium, still of junior age but playing pro events when healthy. Cross, 19, was to join the Vanderbilt tennis program this spring. But it doesn’t appear that happened. She’s currently at No. 259 in the WTA doubles rankings.

The only girl in the top 100 of the ITF rankings is Lagaev, at No. 88. There were no Canadian girls at Wimbledon last year, either.

It’s fairly slim pickings at the moment, despite all the money being spent on development and high performance.

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Here we go again with the towels

If you didn’t see the post about this this morning, the tours are going backwards with the towel issue.

The news that the ATP has decided ballkids will go back to handling the gross, unhygienic player towels isn’t just an ATP issue. @OpenCourt looked into it over the weekend when we first learned of it, and the ramifications go well beyond the ATP.

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The “New Mousquetaires”

The two new Mousquetaires in 2021, when whey were 16 and 17. (FFT)

We live in an era where the only thing that “seems” to matter is how many Grand Slams you win.

Which of course greatly denigrates the accomplishments of the last big generation of French players. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon (two of whom are now retired) all reached the top 10. That none picked off a major has at least something to do with the generation they were up against.

And as the French bemoaned the “failures” since then, a new generation has quietly emerged.

Perhaps none of them will win a major.

That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t get excited about Arthur Fils, Giovanni Mpetschi Perricard, Arthur Cazaux, Luca Van Assche et al.

Two of them are in the second week of Wimbledon and playing on Monday. Arthur Fils just turned 20. Giovanni Mpetschi Perricard, in as a lucky loser, turns 21 – today, as he met Lorenzo Musetti for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Neither got through. But they’re just getting started.

Just three years ago, Fils lost to Van Assche in the Roland Garros juniors boys’ singles final. And he and Mpetschi Perricard teamed up to win the boys’ doubles title.

When you look at the players they met in that boys’ doubles draw, you realize almost none of them have made any sort of breakthrough yet. Which makes these kids all the more impressive.

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From Centre Court to … centre ‘Peg

Mark Lajal will make a serious pivot this week, after his great Centre Court moment. (BBC)

It was less than a week ago that Estonian player Mark Lajal was impressing on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Not only did he give reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz an excellent tussle, he introduced the “Pineapple” to Centre Court.

But the reality is that the 21-year-old Lajal is still ranked No. 269 in the world (he’ll move up about 20 spots next Monday, but that won’t measurably change his life beyond the 60,000 British pounds he’ll earn for having qualified and made the main draw).

On Monday, Lajal will go from the exclusive, historic environs of famed Centre Court to … the Stadium court in Winnipeg, to play a first-round qualifying match against American alternate Ryan Seggerman (and a second match if he wins).

Centre Court at the Winnipeg Challenger.

Lajal will be in for another shock, too. As cool and rainy and awful as it was at Wimbledon, he’ll be arriving in “Winterpeg” and playing in 27C (and sunny) weather, with the forecast set to rise to 30C and up by Wednesday.

Also: hard courts.

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Pospisil comeback begins in Winnipeg

(Tennis Canada/Tyler Anderson)

As expected, Canadian Davis Cup hero Vasek Pospisil did receive a wild card into the Winnipeg Challenger this week (as he did for the Granby Challenger next week).

Currently ranked No. 626 and off the court since April, he’ll play Bu Yunchaokete of China, 22 and ranked No. 197.

If it makes him feel any better, the 34-year-old won’t be the only 30-something in the singles draw. He’ll be in the company of Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan (31) and the venerable Illya Marchenko of Ukraine (36).

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Green, green grass

You can see from the “time-lapse” quality of this Tweet by British doubles specialist Ken Skupski how the wear patterns on the grass courts have changed over the years.

And that’s one of the reasons why (just one of many) that there are SO many slips on the court these days.

And most of them aren’t minor slips – ask Grigor Dimitrov, and Hubert Hurkacz, and Emma Raducanu, and many more.

If the players stray anywhere from that worn strip near the baseline, they encounter lush, slippery grass even in the second week of the tournament.

And down they go. With a thud.

There has been a lot of tennis. There were, through the third round, a total of 34 five-set matches on the men’s side this year. Already, that number tied the Open era record, set back in the first year of the open era, 1969.

(In those days, of course, there were no tiebreaks, either).

So they’ll surely break it before they’re done.

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Big Mac throws himself back

Despite Pepperstone being … pushed out of their rankings sponsorship of the ATP Tour by the Saudis, it looks like they’re still in tennis.

They’ve just signed Argentine No. 1 Francisco Cerundolo to a brand ambassador deal.

And during Wimbledon they put out this epic video.

They did this one during the spring, as well.

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Brasov Challenger carnage

Rain, rain and more rain. And it was fair to think that last week’s Brasov Challenger wouldn’t ever get finished.

But somehow, it did; the semis and finals of both the singles and doubles were played on Sunday, with No. 5 seed Murkel Dellien winning the singles title.

One first-round doubles match, plus the quarterfinals of both singles and doubles, went on Saturday.

But the doubles draw was total carnage.

There was one retirement (Dellien/ Olivieri) – Olivieri’s right adductor.

And five withdrawals: Nijboer/Orlov (Nijboer – illness), Echargui/ Weis (Echargui – illness), Ficovich/Heide (Ficovich – lower back), Boitan/Pavel (Boitan – stomachache) and Cretu/Tomescu (Tomescu – stomachache).

There was only one alternate pair and so there were a lot of walkovers. Which, in the end, might have been a blessing for the tournament to finish on time.

There’s another Challenger in Romania this week, in Iasi – about 300 km, or a five-hour drive away.

The Brasov Challenger, OF COURSE, ended in brilliant sunshine – a far cry from the rain-soaked mess it was most of the week.

Amazingly, a number of those players have made a miraculous recovery!! Those stomach troubles abated.

Ficovich, Olivieri, Boitan and Cretu are in the main draw there. Tomescu and Pavel are in the qualifying. Several of them are in the doubles as well.

Echargui managed to make it to Trieste, Italy to get into the qualifying at a Challenger there. But he lost in the first round.

All of this is not to call b.s. on their reasons for withdrawing. They need to have an official reason. But in the week-to-week grind that is the Challenger circuit, none of them could afford to hang around for days, without even being sure they could play.

They would earn a grand total of … 440 Euros for getting to the quarterfinals of the doubles at that event. Echargui would have earned 600 Euros just for winning one round in the singles qualifying in Trieste.

And this week’s Challengers are at a higher level, and offer more prize money, than the one in Brasov.

In short, it’s a long way from Wimbledon.

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