July 11, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

It’s Wednesday. And in a shocker, play began on time and there’s a lot to catch up on.

But the first bit of awful news is that Alex de Minaur has withdrawn, ahead of his expected quarterfinal clash with Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.

De Minaur appeared to injure his hip at the end of his fourth-round match, grimacing after match point even though he had just dispatched Arthur Fils in four sets on Monday.

It’s terrible news for the likeable Aussie – not only at Wimbledon, but just 2 1/2 weeks ahead of the Olympics.

“I’m devastated, but I had to pull out due to a hip injury, a little tear of the fibre cartilage that kind of is at the end or connects to the adductor. I felt a loud crack during the last three points of my match against Fils, and got a scan yesterday and it confirmed this was the injury, and I was at high risk of making it worse if I was to step on court,” De Minaur said in an unexpected press conference Wednesday morning at Wimbledon.

“It’s no secret that at this stage of my career it was the biggest match of my career. I wanted to do anything I could to play. I knew what the [scan] results were yesterday, but I still wanted to wake up today and feel some miracle, and not feel it while I’m walking. The problem with me going out and playing was that one stretch, one slide or one anything, I could make this injury go from three-to-six weeks to four months, so it was too much to risk.”

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Catchup time

Gauff and Pegula, both out of singles too early, waited a long time to play their doubles match on Wednesday. A lot longer than it took them to be eliminated.

Notably, there are still first-round matches in mixed doubles going on.

And teams like No. 1 seeds Matthew Ebden and Ellen Perez, and Sara Errani and Andrea Vavassori, will have to wrap up their interrupted first-rounders and then stay on court and play their second-round matches immediately.

As much as people talk about the roofs on the two stadiums, the reality is that even if you played from dawn to midnight (which can’t happen on the grass) there would be only so many matches you could fit into a day.

And you’re no further ahead if a player or a team’s next opponent(s) didn’t get THEIR match in.

At least the singles is now home free. Miraculously.

So play began on the junior courts a half-hour earlier, at 10:30 a.m. And there are as many as seven matches on some courts (some of them suspended ones).

Here’s what’s on tap, with the legends finally starting as well.

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New collab for Maria Sakkari

In the wake of Maria Sakkari’s rather abrupt dismissal of veteran coach David Witt (she was loyal to previous coach Tom Hill for years despite seemingly hitting a career plateau, but dispatched Witt after a few poor results), she has someone new on board.

According to Vicky Georgatou, the only Greek media to regularly cover tennis, Sakkari has begun working with … former French Open champion Sergi Bruguera.

Bruguera on the practice court with Arthur Fils at Roland Garros. Their collab didn’t survive the tournament.

Whether that’s because the Olympics coming up are on clay remains to be determined. Bruguera is a former Roland Garros champion, and the tournament is playing played there.

But it’s not a brand-new collaboration; they worked together a little bit during the leadup to the 2024 season.

Bruguera had been working with Arthur Fils, until the end of Roland Garros, when he was let go as Fils already had a second coach in Sébastian Grosjean (who is also his agent).

Tennis’s musical chairs never end.

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Djokovic NOT having it

Depending on whose version you prefer, a group of fans during Novak Djokovic’s easy-breezy win over Holger Rune in the fourth round were either chanting “Ruuuuuuuune” (as happens at various tournaments, and indeed in sports around the world with similar-type names; or at any Bruce Springsteen concert).

Or, they were taking advantage of the chorus of “Ruuuuuuuuuune”s to slip in some “Booooooooo”s directed towards the Serb, who was to meet No. 9 seed Alex de Minaur in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

At any rate, Djokovic believed it was the latter. And he spent much of his post-match, on-court interview lecturing those supposed Djoko non-fans about how they were wasting their time trying to get into his head.

Later, in a one-on-one interview with the BBC during which the subject – which, we should emphasize – HE brought up in the first place, Djokovic also was not having it. To the point that he even decided to exit the interview prematurely.

The problem is that fans can be terribly unoriginal. And now that they’ve seen that the Djokovic non-fans – if that is indeed what they were (opinions vary on that) – did get his attention, they will take their cue and try to recreate the experience.

This type of crowd … participation … has sadly become almost the norm in tennis these days. We’re just catching up with the rest of the sports world, really. Those days of gentility, if they ever existed, are long gone. Just ask anyone who played against a French player at Roland Garros.

So even if Djokovic has received far more of his share of it in the past, he’s in pretty good company these days.

It’s a moot point against De Minaur, who unfortunately withdrew before their match on Wednesday. But it might make a huge difference if and when he plays someone like Carlos Alcaraz down the road.

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Zverev’s Olympic defence in danger?

After his tough loss to Taylor Fritz, in which he was up two sets to none only to fall in five, Zverev described the knee issue that had clearly hampered him during the match.

The injury originally occurred after a slip during his match against Cameron Norrie in which he crashed into the umpire’s chair. It’s been a familiar sight, this Wimbledon, to see big-time tennis players helplessly tumble to the turf.

The Roland Garros finalist had undergone an X-ray on the knee the previous day, when he said he couldn’t practice or even walk. And Zverev confirmed he had a bone bruise and also a laceration of the knee capsule. But he said then that it was expected to heal on its own, and that he didn’t expect his defence of his Tokyo Olympic gold, which begins in 2 1/2 weeks, to be compromised.

But on Tuesday, older brother Mischa said on Amazon Prime (in addition to being in little brother’s entourage, he also works as a television consultant) that it might be worse than that.

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Olympic Russians and Belarussians

What appears to be the final list of Russian and Belarussian tennis athletes going to the Olympics as “AIN”s – “Individual Neutral Athlete” in English, was posted on Tuesday.

The IOC’s panel apparently “was in a position to benefit from new information from various sources, in particular official lists of athletes affiliated with sports clubs of the military and the security forces published on official websites in Russia and Belarus.”

Despite that, just about every tennis player who would have been eligible by ranking was invited. Although many said no. Exceptions to that would be Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (a mixed-doubles gold medalist with Andrey Rublev in Tokyo and ranked No. 26 at the entry deadline) and Veronika Kudermetova (No. 34 at the deadline).

The most interesting case is Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, whom they report initially accepted the invitation, only to later decline.

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The hot, young French posse – and the Québécois connection

(Photo: ATP Challenger Tour)

The French Federation were busting their suspenders with pride the other day, as three of their young guns impressed last week.

In addition to 20-year-old Arthur Fils and just-turned-21 year-old Giovanni Mpetschi reaching the second week of Wimbledon, 18-year-old Gabriel Debru won a Challenger in Troyes, France.

Debru is about a year behind the other two, who made junior Slam breakthroughs in 2021. He won the 2022 boys’ singles at Roland Garros, and also made the doubles junior boys’ final a Wimbledon that year.

Where the Canadian connection comes in – Québécois connection, really – is that Debru’s agent is Félix Auger-Aliassime’s longtime agent, Bernard Duchesneau.

Duchesneau also handles Mpetshi Perricard – who has to be a hot commodity right now – and up-and-coming Canadian Gabriel Diallo.

Not a single one of these lads is under 6-foot-4; Mpetshi Perricard and Diallo are both 6-foot-8. Which, as Duschesneau is … considerably closer to the ground than that (as are most of humanity), it must make for some great “team photos”.

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Non-Olympians rush to D.C.

While tournament owner Mark Ein had to have legitimate concerns that his joint WTA and ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C. would seriously suffer being scheduled the very same week as the Olympics, it turns out that all no-shows in Paris have pretty much all decided to play his event.

The Citi Open announced its roster Tuesday. And it is going to be just fine.

Opelka
A clean-cut Opelka with his great pal Taylor Fritz at the Citi Open a few years ago. Opelka is entered to finally make his return from injury there in a few weeks.

Notably, after a long absence, it appears former top-30 American player Reilly Opelka is finally ready to return.

The women: Aryna Sabalenka, Ons Jabeur, Emma Raducanu, Madison Keys, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Veronika Kudermetova, Anastasia Potapova, Sloane Stephens, Liudmila Samsonova, Karolina Pliskova, Paula Badosa, Daria Kasatkina, Victoria Azarenka, Anna Kalinskaya.

The men: Grigor Dimitrov, Frances Tiafoe, Ben Shelton, Sebastian Korda, Adrian Mannarino, Karen Khachanov, Denis Shapovalov, Mpetshi Perricard, Borna Coric, David Goffin, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aslan Karatsev, Emil Ruusuvuori and Opelka are just some of them.

Basically, just about every player you’ve heard of who won’t be at the Olympics will be there. Which essentially means it’s arguably one of their best fields ever, all things considered.

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