Oz Open promo missing some stars

Save

The Australian Open has its 2018 tournament promo out.

And while there’s big-time face time from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters – even from Stan Wawrinka – there definitely are key faces missing in the short, 30-second clip.

The most obvious omission is Novak Djokovic.

The likes of Gaël Monfils and … Denis Istomin made the cut.

But the tournament’s six-time champion is nowhere to be found.

It’s true that the public’s institutional memory is short and that Federer, Nadal, and the Williams sisters were were finalists a year ago. So they’re front and center in the fans’ memory.

But a few shots of the winningest Australian Open champion in the open era can’t be that much to ask, can it?

If it was a concern about the revamping of the logo for the 2017 event (and not showing older logos or older sponsors’ boards) they could find some Djokovic footage where they found Istomin.

The Uzbek upset Djokovic in five sets in the second round.

The promo understandably features Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova.

But there is no sign of WTA Tour No. 1 Simona Halep. No. 2 Garbiné Muguruza also goes missing. Even the top-ranked Australian, Ashleigh Barty, is MIA.

Six-time champ invisible in promo

There’s another promotional video, narrated by Jim Courier. The American former player and current Davis Cup captain is a lead analyst on Australia’s Channel 7 television coverage, and also does a lot of the post-match, on-court interviews.

That one is airing during the tournament’s streaming of the current wild-card playoff tournament.

There’s a brief shot of Djokovic walking down the Hall of champions on his way to a match. Very brief. But that’s it.

They should probably give that a re-think going forward. 

A six-time champion – no one has won more men’s singles titles in Melbourne in the Open era – deserves a lot better. 

Djokovic announces coach on Insta live

Save

It was, without a doubt, one of the more original ways to announce a new coach.

A whole lot more entertaining than a dry press release or a quick Tweet.

Former No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is getting ready to return to action in a month after a long absence due to an elbow injury, decided to try out the latest thing, Instagram Live.

He looked pretty excited about the new toy. And he looked in great spirits overall. And why not. He looks to be preparing for a return after so many months during which he didn’t even hit a tennis ball.

As Djokovic toured his gym, he decided to try out the feature that allows you to call up anyone who is watching the live stream.

The first connection, with a woman in Argentina, had technical issues.

The second caught another Argentine Djokovic fan at school. And she just couldn’t even believe it.

And then – the kicker.

Djokovic “noticed” his friend Radek Stepanek was among those making comments. So he called him up.

ND: “What are you up to?  What’s your next step?”

RS: “I’m enjoying the time that I don’t need to wake up in the morning, go to practice. Don’t have to discipline any more. Just looking around what comes next.

ND: “Really!”

RS: “So you have something for me, or what?”

ND: “I’m actually looking for another coach. I don’t know what you have in mind. But if you have nothing better to do, maybe we can give it a shot. What do you say?”

RS: “Why not? Let’s give it a shot.

ND: “This is amazing.  You didn’t even hear anything I had to offer but you accepted.

RS: “What do you offer?”

ND: “I can offer some real, real special things. Green juice every Wednesday – every first Wednesday of the month. I can offer you some acai balls on overseas fights – only one way, not return. It’s too expensive. And thats all, for the beginning.”

RS: “I think your offer was pretty generous to start with, so if I get some extra coconut on the acai balls, than I’m in.”

ND: “Give me a second please … coconut …

“I would love to give you a straight answer now. I have my manager here …

“So my answer is yes, but I have another question. It’s already 30th November. We have to be on the court literally tomorrow. So I don’t know how we’re going to make this happen.

RS: “I’m ready to go.”

And then, Djokovic opens the door to an office – and there’s his new coach.

It really was a fun way to get the fans involved in the announcement.

“Radek is one of my very close friends on the tour and I was always impressed with his level of determination, passion and love for the sport. The fact that he just recently retired at the age of 37 speaks volumes of his love for the game. He has lot of experience and knowledge, and he has played on a high level for many years. I am excited to join our forces together and cannot wait to compete again having a new team to back me up,” Djokovic said on his website.

“On Andre’s suggestion I pursued Radek, therefore I am sure the two of them will work well together. The new season is about to start and there is a long way to go back to where I left off. We are aware that I need to go step by step, not hurrying anything. I feel much better now, and I can’t wait to play matches again.”

Stepanek – Agassi a tag team

The moment veteran Stepanek announced his retirement – and even before that – the speculation began that he might begin working with Djokovic.

Insta
Djokovic and Stepanek (along with former coach Boris Becker) have a good time on the practice court at Wimbledon in 2014.

The two are friends. They have practiced together often, and have remained pals despite the Serb’s overwhelming 13-1 record against the Czech.

They have squared off on a lot of major occasions – at all the Grand Slams except the French Open, and in the Davis Cup final.

InstaAnd Djokovic has been looking for a day-to-day coach to supplement the weeks he’ll have mentor Andre Agassi by his side.

Stepanek obviously knows all of Djokovic’s opponents, and has played them all.

The all-court game and canny court sense that allowed him to squeeze the most out of a long career contains a treasure trove of possible options Djokovic can add to his own game.

What Djokovic already has in his game has been more than enough to dominate men’s tennis for extended periods over the last few years.

Still, everyone out there is looking to get better – or get left behind.

And the company will be entertaining. He also will have a coach who can hit with him on the practice court – an added bonus.

The most positive thing is that Djokovic is out hitting balls and training. Only a month remains before he heads to Abu Dhabi for the six-player exhibition that will mark his first official time on the court since Wimbledon last July.

After that, a quick hop over to Doha for his first ATP Tour event. And then, the Australian Open.

Berdych, Kyrgios end their seasons

Save

It became a trend some time ago.

On Thursday, the latest to join the “end your season early” gang were Tomas Berdych and, later in the day, Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios had appeared hobbled by a number of issues in recent months – his shoulder and his knees. But mostly, a hip issue he has carried since Queen’s Club, just before Wimbledon.

He said awhile back that he would probably need surgery on it some day.

But he doesn’t want that day to be now.

“I have played a huge amount of tennis since coming back from my hip injury in Washington and unless I want this to escalate to an injury that requires surgery, I need to listen to my body and my team,” Kyrgios said in a statement released on Twitter.

“This year hasn’t been as successful as I would have liked, especially at the Slams although it has been positive in some other areas. It’s been no secret that I have had some sad moments to deal with away from the court which have added to my disappointments throughout the year.”

Berdych

Berdych’s back woes

Berdych, who began the season in the top 10, is currently down at No. 18 and announced  he’s skipping the final two weeks of the season because of persistent back pain.

It had been fairly evident in recent months that he was a mere shadow of his former self.

“I have been playing matches with back pain since Wimbledon and in my last match in Beijing I felt like it was not getting better,” Berdych wrote on Twitter.

“And I was advised by my medical team to give it a few weeks of rest, and to have treatment, in order to be completely (healthy) and pain free and to be ready to compete at the start of 2018.”

Early-birds club membership full

The two players join an ever-larger group of top-20 players on the men’s side who have called an early end to their season.

Berdych

Novak Djokovic: Retired after the first set of his quarterfinal match against Berdych at Wimbledon, announced July 26 he was shutting it down for 2017.

Stan Wawrinka: After reaching the French Open final, lost first round at both Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Announced Aug. 4 he was having a procedure on his knee and would be out for the remainder of 2017.

Kei Nishikori: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, then felt a “pop” in the wrist while practicing in Cincinnati. Announced Aug. 16 he was out for the season with a wrist issue, but was opting not to have surgery.

Andy Murray: Lost to Sam Querrey in five sets – the last two went 6-1, 6-1 – in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Pulled out of Beijing and Shanghai Sept. 6, and out of the Paris Masters Oct. 13, which basically ended his season.

Milos Raonic: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, pulled out of Cincinnati and the US Open. Underwent a procedure on his wrist, then returned for the ATP Tour event in Tokyo. Won his first match with a one-handed backhand, then withdrew before his second match with a calf issue. Raonic  withdrew from the final two events of the season earlier this week.

Djokovic-Agassi pairing to return in ’18

Save

Novak Djokovic will be back next season.

And when he does return, Andre Agassi will once again be by his side.

In a press release, Team Djokovic announced the return, and also the composition of Djokovic’s new team.

The Serb divested himself of his longtime team – coach Marian Vajda, fitness coach Gebhard “Phil” Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic after the Monte Carlo tournament last April. Supercoach Boris Becker left after the 2016 season.

Replacing them are another rather international group. Physiotherapist Ulises Badio (an Argentine based in Italy who worked for the ATP Tour for four years through last May) and fitness trainer Marco Panichi (an Italian based in Monte Carlo) will join Agassi.

Still in the works is the hiring of a second coach who will be involved in much of the day-to-day work and travel. Agassi – busy with many endeavours – has never been interested in or intrigued by a full-time gig.

Djokovic had a full coaching team with  Agassi and Ancic at Wimbledon. Also already on board was Ulises Badio, announced Tuesday as Djokovic’s full-time physio going forward. Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Ancic not in the plans

It sounds as though former world No. 7 Mario Ancic, who joined Team Djokovic for Wimbledon but obviously wasn’t needed beyond that, isn’t part of the plans. Ancic, a lawyer who has a full-time job in New York, obviously is neither qualified for, nor available for, the main coaching job. 

Djokovic ended his 2017 season after losing in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. He had been carrying an elbow/arm injury for more than a year, and he felt it was time to finally resolve an issue that was clearly affecting his performance.

In an appearance at a basketball game last week in Greece, Djokovic said he hasn’t started playing tennis again.

He and wife Jelena welcomed a second child, daughter Tara, at the beginning of September.

Djokovic will not open his 2018 season in Doha, as he has done each of the last three years. He is the two-time defending champion having beaten Rafael Nadal in the final in 2016, and Andy Murray this year.

The press release indicates a return at the Australian Open. But of course, Djokovic may well enter a tuneup event before that. There’s plenty of time.

Throwback Thursday – Djokovic, 2011

Save

He’s not around at the moment. But he’ll be back.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday with Novak Djokovic, all the way back to the Rogers Cup in 2011.

Djokovic, then 24, went 70-6 that season, winning 10 titles and more than $12 million in prize money.

Coming off a win at Wimbledon, Djokovic won the Rogers Cup that year.

He defeated Nikolay Davydenko, Marin Cilic, Gaël Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish in the final. All were top-30 players.

And he had a few things to say.

 

Another tennis baby: welcome Tara Djokovic

Save

NEW YORK – Who could have imagined, in the space of 24 hours, that two legendary champions would become parents?

In Novak Djokovic’s case – for the second time.

Less than a day after Serena Williams gave birth to a baby girl, Novak Djokovic’s wife Jelena had a baby girl of her own. There’s already a name: Tara.

Maybe, two decades down the road, there will be two little champions making their moves at the US Open, as the both turn 20.

Serena’s little girl, of course, will always be able to brag that she’s one day older.

Congratulations to the Djokovics, and to Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian.

With all the crazy news happening on court this week, it kind of brings a sense of wonder and normalcy to things, doesn’t it?

Novak Djokovic out for the season

Save

Ahead of a scheduled press conference in Belgrade, Novak Djokovic went on Facebook Live, with some beautiful clay courts in the background, and made a personal announcement to his fans.

He will be out for the rest of the season, and plans to come back even stronger in 2018.

It is exactly a year, to the day, that Roger Federer made a similar announcement in the wake of Wimbledon. That break seemed to work out pretty well.

Here’s what Djokovic said:

“Hello from Belgrade, I have a little announcement to make today.

Just wanted to share the news with you, After obviously a year and a half of carrying the injury of the elbow that has culminated the last couple of months, I have made the decision to not play any competition, any tournaments until the rest of the 2017 season. Unfortunately this is the decision that had to be made at this moment. Wimbledon was probably the toughest tournament for me in terms of feeling the pain that has escalated.

Only time can heal

I have consulted many of the doctors and specialists and various people from both ends of the medicine in the last 12 to 15  months, and especially in the last couple of months when I felt the injury was getting worse.

They all agreed that I need rest, that I need time. This is one of those injuries where nothing can really help instantly. You just have to allow nature, natural rehabilitation to take its course.

Professionally this is not an easy decision for me. But I’m trying to look from the positive side everything. I believe everything in life happens for a reason.  I’ll try to use this time as best as I can.

Obviously spend quality time with my family.  In about a  monthmonth and a half’s time hopefully Jelena and I, with Gods’ help, will become parents again. And obviously I will take this time to heal, do all the different suggested methods of healing processes so I can get back on the court ASAP.

A couple of months off the court

It will take a couple of months at least without the racquet. And then I’m hoping I can start after that, to train. I’m looking forward, to be honest, I can build my body, my game, my team as well.

I’m happy to share that Andre Agassi is committed to staying with me next year. I’m looking forward to getting back on the practice courts with him and of course having him in the box for any big tournaments.

Djokovic

I just want to say, lastly, that I’m very grateful. And that’s probably the strongest emotion I’m feeling lately even though, as I said, professionally, it’s not an easy decision, not an easy decision to swallow.

Obviously I have never faced this particular situation before in my life. I haven’t skipped any big tournaments. I’ve played all the Grand Slams and probably 90 per cent of the Masters 1000 events. I was blessed to have a lot of success. I’m very grateful for that. I’m also very grateful that I’ve kept my body very healthy throughout the years. I haven’t had too many injuries, especially no big injuries like this one that would keep me away from the tour for longer than a month, month and a half.

Plans to come back better

It’s completely a new experience or me, new circumstances. But I’m trying to look at it from a brighter side. I have time where I can dedicate to healing, to building up my body, and strength and obviously focusing on some aspects and elements of my game that  I really never had time to work on.

Now I have time to perfect it and to build a foundation for the next five years or more – God knows. I really want to play professional tennis for many years to come.”

UPDATE: Click here to see the press release after Djokovic’s Belgrade press conference. He said that Agassi was with him in Toronto as he consulted specialists. And that he would return in 2018 by playing a warmup tournament before the Australian Open.

How about Hopman Cup? It worked for Federer. 🙂

DCup doc says Djoko out 6 – 12 weeks

Save

Caveat: There has been no official word from Novak Djokovic himself.

But according to Serbian media, Davis Cup physician Zdeslav Milinković, who also is an orthopaedic surgeon and a friend of the former No. 1, has examined the country’s star player and said he will need six to 12 weeks off.

Dr. Milinković said Djokovic, who made a trip to Toronto, Canada last week to be examined by a specialist, has a bone bruise in the elbow. He considers it an overuse injury. He also said that the symptoms had calmed down somewhat from Wimbledon.

Djokovic can do fitness, but not put a racket in his hand while he undergoes treatment. Dr. Milinković added that the next examination would either maintain that time frame, or modify it.

Djokovic
Djokovic’s arm issues in Rio were probably the most heartbreaking. He was a rockstar down there, and his devastation after a first-round loss to Juan Martin del Potro was tough to watch. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Big tournaments upcoming

If this is accurate – and a Djokovic press conference in Belgrade is to take place this week – the current world No. 4 not only would miss the Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati, but also the US Open.

Serbia also has the Davis Cup semifinals against France right after the US Open.

The bad news can’t be considered a surprise.

Retiring during a match at a Grand Slam isn’t something a top player does without careful consideration and a fair bit of pain.

And Djokovic’s arm issues have been visible, off and on, at least as far back as the Summer Olympics in Rio a year ago.

Is he gone until 2018?

The question remains, if the recommendations are accurate and Djokovic expresses his intention to follow the medical advice, will he simply decide to pull the ripcord on 2017?

To do all that work and come back for a few big late-season tournaments in Asia (granted, they are among his favorites and he’s hugely popular there) and risk compromising the start of 2018 is a dilemma Djokovic will have to wrestle with.

The Serb is currently No. 7 in the race to the ATP Tour Finals. But if he misses out on a potential 4,000 ranking points between Montreal, Cincy and the US Open, that point likely will be moot.

The stories in Serbian media are here, and here. They use the same quotes.

Berdych is wearing Djokovic’s shoes!!!!

Save

The Djokovic model of adidas tennis shoes is nothing new for Tomas Berdych. 

He wears them all the time.

But the Internet and the tabloids discovered it during his Wimbledon semifinal against Roger Federer on Friday.

And so it became a pretty big deal for a few hours.

The tabloid headline writers clearly didn’t quite grasp how low the odds were that Berdych would be paying tribute to another tennis player who had not, to our knowledge, passed away or otherwise suffered great trauma.

It was definitely not a Jack Sock – Bethanie Mattek-Sands situation.

The Telegraph blared:

“Tomas Berdych pays classy trainer tribute to injured Novak Djokovic”.

The Express yelled:

“TOMAS BERDYCH wore a bizarre tribute to Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer!”

When you think about it, it was pretty ironic.

shoes
Berdych wore Djoko shoes in Indian Wells and Miami, too. They didn’t have a Djoko-face. But they did sport the Djoko-logo.

Novak Djokovic was the man who theoretically should have been standing across the net from Federer in this semifinal. 

But the three-time champion retired after a set and two games against Berdych in the quarterfinals with a chronic elbow issue.

And so, the Czech, who reached the singles final here in 2010, benefited from a somewhat free pass.

Shoes are a tough fit

The Czech player has the same issue many players have when switching clothing brands. In his case, from Nike to H&M to adidas in a short period of time.

shoes
Djoko shoes, as worn by the real Djoko.

Djokovic wears the adidas shoes (the company he used to endorse) for a reason.

For one thing, when you find a comfortable pair of shoes, you stick with them. Blistered feet are painful, loser’s feet.

The Serb’s subsequent sponsors, Sergio Tacchini and Uniqlo, didn’t make shoes. And most of the players who wear clothes made by his new clothing sponsor, Lacoste, wear other brands of shoes.

(Tacchini used to be in the tennis shoe business. But there were always complaints about their footwear. Pete Sampras, who represented the Italian company back in the day, used to suffer from shin splints and was concerned the shoes didn’t do enough to protect his feet. So he had to negotiate his way out of his deal. Martina Hingis, back in the day, filed a lawsuit against them.)

Officially, Berdych endorses the adidas Barricade model. But he said in the press conference after his loss to Federer that he has to wear the Djoko-sneaks, the “Novak Pro” model.

“I’m wearing Novak shoes because the other shoes just doesn’t fit well to me, so that’s why I have to play in the shoes that they are fitting well and doesn’t hurt my feet,” he said.

If Djokovic couldn’t be there, at least he was representing. Which probably brought him no comfort at all.

Djokovic advances, criticizes scheduling

Save

WIMBLEDON – Novak Djokovic got the job done Tuesday under the Wimbledon Centre Court roof.

He completed the men’s singles quarter-final lineup with a 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

But the three-time champion will have to play his quarter-final match Wednesday on about 24 hours rest. Opponent Tomas Berdych will have had more than a day’s extra time to recover and prepare.

And that, Djokovic blames on the Wimbledon schedulers.

“We spoke with the referee, supervisors, trying to understand the thought process that they are having. I just think it was a wrong decision not to play us last night, because we could have played. I think the last match on the Centre Court was done before 7:00. Having in mind that Centre Court has the roof and lights, we could have played till 11:00,” Djokovic said. 

“We went to the referee’s office before 8:00. There was security reasons. That was the only excuse, that basically there were explanations that we were getting,” he added. “I just didn’t see any logic in not playing us on the Centre Court. If the Court 1 ticket holders cannot go to the Centre Court, only the second Centre Court ticket holders can go, which they were already at the hill. They could just make the announcement, move them in, and we could play.”

At least, Djokovic said, they were scheduled on Centre Court Wednesday, first up, on a day that was forecast to be interrupted by rain (as it turned out to be). So they were able to play it on time, without any interruption, and move on.

The postponement was in large part due to Wimbledon not having a fifth-set tiebreak, which meant the match scheduled right before Djokovic’s match on No. 1 Court, Nadal vs. Muller, went on and on until it finally ended at 15-13 in the final set.

Third-set tiebreak, please

Djokovic is in favour of a fifth-set tiebreak at Wimbledon.

“I just don’t see any reason why not. Because Isner and Mahut made a history with an 11-hour match once. Is that a reason why we’re keeping it?” he asked. “Yeah, it is great drama. But that player has to go out tomorrow. It is, for a spectator. But for a player to play a five-, six-hour match, then come back the next day or within two days and perform, it’s not really what your body’s looking for, to be honest.”

More than the postponement, Djokovic had issues with the lack of information he and Mannarino were getting, and the failure to make a quick, firm decision. 

“Obviously was not happy not to play last night. I wanted to play. I thought we could have played. We were kept for two and a half hours in the dark, in a way, without knowing what we are going to do. So you were on your toes warming up, cooling down. Referee’s office was completely indecisive,” he said. “Finally when the (Nadal) match was over, we thought, ‘Okay, we have two and a half hours, we can go to Centre Court.’ They said, ‘No, it’s going to take too long to get the crowd in.’

“It was frustrating last night, I must admit. But I quickly just turned the next page and just focused on what I need to do today. I’ve done it in straight sets. That’s all that matters,” he added.

Physical issue for Djoko?

Djokovic had a medical timeout in the third set to have his upper arm/shoulder area treated.

He said in his post-match interview with the BBC that it was something ongoing. With the enforced shortened turnaround before his match against Berdych Wednesday, that’s 24 fewer hours he has to get any treatment required to recover fully and play another best-of-five set match.

We’ll see on Wednesday if there’s a spillover effect.