INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The day after the rather controversial announcement that ATP Tour chief Chris Kermode would be gone at the end of the year, the three biggest names in tennis happened to be within three feet of each other on the practice courts.
It was lunchtime Friday.
And for the second straight day, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had practiced next to each other.
(They had been scheduled to do it again on Saturday at 11 a.m. in an early version of the schedule. But as of late Friday night, Federer’s name was gone).
But this time – a twist.
Replacing Nadal and Andrey Rublev on Practice Court 1 was … Novak Djokovic, the president of the Player Council. Nadal had some strong words for the world No. 1 after the Kermode news.
And in his press conference Thursday, Djokovic retorted in kind.
Through all this, Federer would not weigh in publicly.
It’s been crazy on those front practice courts for the last few days.
But here’s the scenario: Federer has said he has not had an opportunity to speak to Djokovic, as he planned to do in Australia. He wouldn’t weigh on on whether he thought Kermode should say or go.
Nadal has said that Djokovic has not spoken to him about this fairly significant issue of who will lead the ATP. He came in firmly in the “Keep Kermode” camp.
Djokovic, who has significant power both as the president of the Player Council and the best player on the planet right now, is the single most valuable spokesman about WHY some on the council decided Kermode had to go.
But he won’t own it, citing confidentiality issues in terms of his duties to one of the sport’s governing bodies.
But there they all were on Saturday, within spitting distance. Once Nadal and Federer cleared the area (Federer had been hitting with Daniil Medvedev), Djokovic and Fognini took over the court.
Fellas, can we talk?
Tennis.Life arrived at the tail end of this superstar megadose. So there was no way to confirm if they were cordial (as they usually are), ignored each other, had words, or it was business as usual on the practice court.
Probably the last option. There’s a pretty big tournament about to get started for them on the weekend.
We can say with relative certainty that Camp Rafa isn’t particularly thrilled with Camp Djoko.
There’s a fair amount of behind-the-scenes drama going on in the mens’ game at the moment.
So if these guys won’t practice with each other (the fans might not survive that, to be honest; it’s hectic enough that they’re even next to each other), they should probably at least find a private room and have a chin wag, right?
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Roger Federer is feeling so good, he scheduled a practice doubleheader Thursday at Indian Wells.
And the first leg, at 10 a.m., was a special treat for the fans – many of whom would rather watch the big guys practice than take in a terrific, actual match in one of the stadiums.
It doesn’t happen that often that Rafael Nadal and Federer practice side by side. But it happened on Thursday.
It was unfortunate for Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, who was playing his first-round match at 11 a.m. inside the main stadium. Let’s just say that the number of fans just outside around Practice Courts 1 and 2 was exponential compared to those who went inside to watch one of the game’s rising stars.
Nadal was hitting with everyone’s favorite practice partner, Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.
Federer was hitting with a player who took some time to place. It was the Italian Thomas Fabbiano, another undersized player who lost in the first round of qualifying.
Two Goliaths, and two Davids
Fabbiano, age 29 and listed at 5-foot-8, is currently ranked No. 83.
And no, while he and Federer seemed to know each other, we don’t really know how that came about. They probably don’t hang out at the same restaurants.
Like two ships passing in the night
The funniest thing about these meetups on the practice court is that for the most part, the players everyone would like to think are great buddies generally ignore each other.
That’s true even when they are sitting back to back on the benches during the changeovers. It’s not like they’re gabbing like besties during water breaks.
That would be SO amazing, wouldn’t it? But they’re working. It wasn’t the time for two of the game’s giants to talk about the ousting of their CEO, Chris Kermode.
Even better? That some day, they’ll actually practice together. Obviously their practice pace and methods couldn’t be more opposed. But still, it would be a major occasion.
Or, barring that, play dubs together at Indian Wells or Madrid – or somewhere that’s not an exhibition where the main purpose is drumming up ticket sales.
The “nightcap” with Monfils
At 2 p.m., Federer was back out on the practice court with another unusual practice partner.
It was Gaël Monfils, who is having a great 2018 so far.
Now these two go way back. But we don’t recall ever seeing them practice together. Although surely it must have happened before.
On the next court were Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem.
So it was another nice meeting of top tennis talent in the same area code.
These are moments that happen regularly on the men’s side at Indian Wells. For the most part, the boys don’t seek refuge on some of the back practice courts (No. 8 and No. 9, notably), where the security cordons off the fans and they try not to let anyone in there.
Serena Williams, sister Venus and Maria Sharapova are fairly notorious for choosing to be back there.
It’s just one reason the men have a higher profile than the women do at a joint event like this one.
But it’s not as though anyone is going to go to the women and say, “Hey, it would be great for the WTA if you guys would practice right up there, front and centre.”
The return to the locker room from those practice courts basically takes all the players right by the big bullpen, where fans wait for autographs. It’s harder to walk right by them and not sign than it is when you leave the courts at the other end of the player’s field and stay wide of the area.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – For a fellow who was undecided about playing Indian Wells, Fabio Fognini has put in plenty of practice time the last few days.
On Tuesday, he had a day session and a brief one in the evening.
Wednesday, he hit the main stadium with Rafael Nadal at 10 a.m., before another session in the afternoon at 1 p.m.
For Nadal, the Acapulco event didn’t quite go as planned, as the No. 1 seed lost a fairly dramatic match to Nick Kyrgios in which he did everything right BUT win.
Kyrgios, of course, went on to win the tournament.
By Friday, Nadal was already in the desert.
Early matchups for Nadal and Fognini
Reports were that Nadal had considered skipping Acapulco entirely because of some issues with his left wrist. So given that, and given he hadn’t played a match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he played fairly well.
There have been reports out there that Nadal might skip Miami and even Madrid (his least favorite clay-court tournament, although it is in his home country) to lighten the load. We’ll see what happens.
Here are some pics from this morning’s practice.
Meanwhile, after his first-round bye, the Mallorcan will play the winner of wild card Jared Donaldson or a qualifier in his Indian Wells opener. The first seed he could meet is No. 25 Diego Schwartzman.
As for Fognini, he gets either Romania’s Marius Copil or a qualifier. Beyond that, he could face Oracle Challenger champion Kyle Edmund or perhaps Frances Tiafoe.
And, after all, Fognini will play doubles with Novak Djokovic.
They drew Canadian Milos Raonic and France’s Jérémy Chardy in the first round.
Nadal, who has often played doubles in the desert in the past, is passing this year.
Bug killin’ Nadal?
At one point in the practice, it looked as though Nadal committed bug-icide.
It’s not quite clear what was going on over there. But we’d like to think that the very large insect was close to expiration with no hope of rallying, after Dr. Nadal examined it closely.
And Nadal merely used his sports drink bottle to put the poor thing out of its misery.
And you thought those bottles were just for arranging.
The BNP Paribas Open announced Monday that Rafael Nadal will headline a Tie Break Tens event ahead of the main Indian Wells Masters 1000 / Premier Mandatory tournament.
It’s a winner-take-all event, with $150,000 US going to the winner.
Also confirmed are Dominic Thiem, Gaël Monfils and Milos Raonic. Two spots remain in the six-man field.
(We say “six-man field”, of course, because it’s a men-only event).
The Eisenhower Cup
It will be called the “Eisenhower Cup presented by Masimo”, and held on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. during the Indian Wells qualifying. They’ll use fabulous Stadium 2 to play it.
The format is two pools of three players, playing a first-to-10 match tiebreak. The winners of the two pools will square off in the final.
It’s a great addition to the first couple of days of the event.
The tickets, which go on sale Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST on the BNP Paribas Open website, will be $25. Proceeds from the event will go to four local charities: Masimo’s Patient Safety Movement, Eisenhower Health, Bighorn Golf Club Charities; and Family YMCA of the Desert.
Who will the final two be? Do you think they can convince Djokovic, Federer or del Potro to sign on? Tune in.
Speaking of Tie Break Tens, wasn’t there supposed to be a similar event at the Australian Open during the qualifying week? Whatever happened with that? It just … disappeared.
If you weren’t quick on the keyboard at 10 a.m. Geneva time (4 a.m. EST) this morning, you’re out of luck for September’s Laver Cup.
Unless your level of disposable income is off the charts, of course.
All the tickets available for the upper and lower bowls for the three-day, five-session event at Geneva’s 17,000-seat Palexpo sold out in two hours this morning.
In the upper bowl, prices ranged from $250 to over $1,500 for the five sessions.
In the lower bowl, they ranged from $1180 to $2820 US.
Unless they held back some single-session tickets for sale closer to the event (doubtful, but you never know), you had to buy the entire five-session package or be left out.
Get out your wallets
The premium “Hospitality” ticket series are the only option remaining.
And even the cheapest of those are already gone – the three “lowest” levels in this category. Also gone are the “Legends Cup 2” tickets – which are front row along the east sideline and probably don’t even offer the best viewing.
And obviously, having this edition in Switzerland, with national hero Roger Federer still a top player, was a slam-dunk.
Still, you get the sense that they need to strike while the iron is hot.
This edition has confirmed Federer and Rafael Nadal. But the event is more than nine months away. Recent history has not favoured Nadal, health wise, during the post-US Open part of the season.
Federer will be 38 by then. He seems in good form now. But at that age, there’s little certainty there even if he has proven remarkably resilient.
Post-Federer, a harder sell?
But what about “A.F” (after Federer)?
The territory is far less certain at that point, because there’s no doubt Federer’s presence and promotional capabilities drive this particular event.
It will be fascinating to see how it will “survive” without him even if as an investor, he’ll likely still be fully engaged in promoting it. But when he’s no longer stepping on court, that’s a game-changer.
It’s a fantastic event – well-staged, top class. The players who have taken part seem to enjoy it for the most part (as well as the nice cheque they get for showing up).
As a television event, beyond the fact that the commentators and analysts are still trying a little too hard to “hype” it as a “real competitiion”, it’s topnotch. But television viewers don’t pay those premium prices for tickets.
After two years, we’re told, the event is still in the red because of the high startup costs. You’d have to think this third edition will put it in the black – to match the distinctive court.
MELBOURNE, Australia – The tennis that Novak Djokovic imposed upon Rafael Nadal Sunday night in the Australian Open men’s singles final was of all-world proportions.
And the bell that sounded when it was over after barely two hours sounded like this: “Roger and your 20 majors? Rafa and your 17? I’m coming for you.”
In Nadal’s case, that might even be this season, if Sunday’s combination of motivation, desire and execution is any hint.
Djokovic surrendered just eight games and made just nine unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory. His eternal rival, in their 53rd meeting, was at times made to look as though he had never faced this particular Serb before.
“Obviously back to back semi-finals and finals and make 15 unforced errors in total, in two matches, is quite pleasantly surprising to myself. Even though I always believe I can play this way, and kind of visualize myself playing this way, at this level and under the circumstances it was really a perfect match,” Djokovic said.
It took 33 minutes, through more than four service games, for Nadal to win a point on Djokovic’s serve. They were 53 minutes in before he won his second. It took an hour and 46 minutes for Nadal to get his first break opportunity on Djokovic’s serve. Some 15 minutes after that, it was over.
Quick start the key
The victory wasn’t a shock, based on their hard-court resumé. But the jokers were a little wild on that score. It has been nearly three years since they met on a hard court.
Since then, both have had physical challenges. Djokovic went from the nearly-unbeatable player he was then into a downturn exacerbated by both ailing elbow and bruised psyche. After winning so much, for such an extended period of time, he needed to find new purpose and new motivation for this chapter of his career.
Still, Nadal hadn’t won a hard-court set from Djokovic since the 2013 US Open final. And he’d played little hard-court tennis at all over the last 12 months: only the Australian Open (where he retired against Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals), the Roger Cup (which he won) and the US Open, where he retired against Juan Martin del Potro in the semis.
So form held true, in that sense.
Defense didn’t answer the call
Beyond that, Djokovic had extra mustard. He kept the ball deep, as he always does. But he took it so early, so often, he gave Nadal no time to settle in, no room to breathe. He rattled him from the start.
If Nadal’s legs looked a bit frozen, if he looked nervous, Nadal said that was all credit to his opponent.
“It was not about being more nervous. I (had) normal nerves, like final of Grand Slam. But the things started so quick. He was pushing me to every ball. What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position. That’s not nerves. That’s things that happened quicker than what happened the previous days,” he said.
“I don’t like to say he played unbelievably well, because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things (that are) very difficult unbelievably well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick. I really believe that he was able to work very hard on the off-season on his movement. He was moving unbelievably well. I felt that good shots came back with offensive position for me, after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position (instead).”
Quick start required
Djokovic said he needed to rush out of the starting gates with a flourish.
“It’s exactly what I intended to do. I want do step out on court and bring the intensity. Because I knew intensity was waiting for me on the other side. He makes you play every shot from the very first point, brings a lot of energy in the shots,” Djokovic said. “I definitely needed a good start, because we both were playing well coming into the match. I knew I have a good chance if I’m in the court dictating play.”
The Mallorcan had looked impressive in getting to the final. More than that; he had looked devastating.
But his draw was well set up. He dismissed the Next Gen – Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas – with a few swats of his mighty Babolat. He took care of a resurgent contemporary, Tomas Berdych, with all the might his 19-4 head-to-head against the Czech would suggest.
Djokovic was a next-level challenge, compared to those who had come before. Perhaps two levels above.
An as Nadal explained it, he didn’t have that “extra thing” he needed to put up more resistance.
Nadal said he was able to win his first six matches with his offense. But against Djokovic, he knew he needed his defence to also be up to the task.
Lack of practice, lack of perfect
This was his first official tournament since the US Open last September. And the player who builds so much of his confidence on how much, and how well, he practices had been woefully short in that area. So when he needed it, it wasn’t there.
“I have been lot of months without having the chance to practice, without having the chance to compete. And have been two positive weeks. The only thing probably that I need is time and more matches. … Of course, he played better than what probably he played during the rest of the tournament. Being honest, I saw him the tournament more or less. He probably played the best match so far. Playing that well, is so difficult for everybody, for everyone, when he plays that level, is so difficult to fight for victories against him,” Nadal said.
“But if I am able to run 100 per cent and to resist every ball, then you find ways. The things that looks easy for him become little bit more difficult when you have to do it one more time, one more time and one more time. I was not able to push him to do it one more, one more, one more every time. That’s my feeling,” he added. “I believe the level of tennis have been great. Probably the only thing that remained a little bit more to me was normally the best thing that I have (the defense). Is something that I am not worried much.”
Nole Slam nears again
A year ago in Melbourne, Djokovic was just weeks away from surgery on his elbow. He was defeated in straight sets by Hyeon Chung of Korea in the fourth round.
He returned – perhaps too hastily – and lost in the first round of both Indian Wells and Miami. But by Wimbledon, he was back.
“Not impossible, but highly unlikely. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I always believe in myself, and that’s probably the biggest secret of my success, or any other athlete,” Djokovic said about Sunday night’s win, looking ahead from where he was a year ago.
An imperial challenge
Djokovic has now won the last three majors. If he can win the French Open in the spring, he would hold all four Grand Slams at once for the second time in his career. And he will have won them in the same order: starting with Wimbledon, ending with Roland Garros.
“We’ll see. Obviously it’s just the beginning of the season. I know there’s a lot of tournaments to play before the Roland Garros, so I have plenty of time to build my form slowly, obviously staying on a hard court first with big tournaments, Indian Wells and Miami, then starting the clay,” he said. “Obviously I have to work on my game, my clay court game, a bit more, more specifically than I have in the last season. I need to play better than I have last season. I am already playing better. But, I mean, clay specifically in order to have a chance and shot at the title.
“The ultimate challenge there is to win against Nadal. Then you have Thiem and Zverev, Roger is probably going to play. You have a lot of great players that on clay can challenge me or anybody else.”
Is 20 in sight?
He now has seven Australian Opens. And he has 15 majors – two short of Nadal, five short of Federer.
He’s going to give it a go.
“I am aware that making history of the sport that I truly love is something special. Of course, it motivates me. Playing Grand Slams, biggest ATP events, is my utmost priority in this season and in seasons to come. How many seasons are to come? I don’t know. I’m not trying to think too much advance,” he said.
“I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall well-being that I have mental, physical, emotional, so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger’s record. It’s still far.”
MELBOURNE, Australia – The ATP Tour Player Council have voted on a majority against the continued leadership of tour CEO Chris Kermod, tennis.life has learned.
The vote took place as part of the annual players’ meeting held Saturday in Melbourne.
But we’re also told the 10-member council has put off making an official decision about its position.
Headed by president Novak Djokovic and vice-president Kevin Anderson, the council will postpone its definitive position until the Indian Wells tournament in March.
Kermode’s second term as head of the men’s tour ends at the conclusion of this season. He could be renewed for a third term by a vote of the ATP Tour board of directors.
The 54-year-old Brit was seen as a compromise candidate when he was appointed in Nov. 2013. The premature and tragic death of predecessor Brad Drewett the previous May led to the opportunity.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was preferred by some. In recent years, he has expanded the reach of his country’s tennis influence well beyond the Grand Slam it hosts,
Will board reps follow players’ lead?
According to the Telegraph, the ATP Tour board is to vote on this before the end of the month. The six-man board is composed of three members representing the tournaments’ interests, and three representing the players’ interests.
In theory, the three player reps would follow the lead of the Player Council’s position.
But that doesn’t always happen. Player rep Roger Rasheed voted to accept the offering of prize-money increases between 4-6 per cent for 2019, against the players’ wishes. He was ousted from the board shortly afterward.
Gimelstob, who has pleaded “not guilty” to a charge of felony battery stemming from an incident on Halloween night, often has been at odds with Kermode. The two have markedly different philosophies, it seems.
The ATP Board voted last month not to remove Gimelstob from the board, in the wake of the charges. Neither Gimelstob nor Kermode cast a vote, per the New York Times.
Until this very serious business in his personal life, Gimelstob had been mentioned as an potential, eventual successor in the top job.
Early vote goes against Kermode
The Telegraph reported that Kermode needs (at least) two of the tournament reps and two of the player reps to vote in his favor, to renew his deal.
Nine of the 10 players voted at the players meeting. And tennis.life has been told by a well-connected tennis source that five voted against Kermode. Four voted in his favor. The 10th vote is believed to also be a vote against him, although others maintain it was a pro-Kermode vote, which would knot the tabulation a 5-5. Let’s call that one “unclear”.
If “no” proves to be the final position, it will set off some interesting machinations inside the Tour.
Several players have publicly come out in support of Kermode this week.
Aussie Nick Kyrgios, in his pre-tournament press conference, also came out in support.
“I personally like Chris. I think the changes that tennis is having with ATP Cup and stuff, I think it’s going in the right direction. He’s trying to do the right thing. I really like him, so… ” Kyrgios said.
Pospisil urges player involvement
Canadian Vasek Pospisil, newly elected to the board last year, sent out an email destined for the players ranked 51-100, the demographic he was elected to represent.
All of this comes at a fascinating, crucial time in the tour’s history. The new ATP Cup is set to kick off in 2020. And it will be country-versus-country event that comes up almost in direct competition with the revamped Davis Cup format.
The announcement of the imminent retirement of former No. 1 Andy Murray. at age 31. is a bit of a wakep call. It’s a preview of what inevitably occur in the next few years.
The so-called “Big 3” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (in order of age from eldest to youngest) will hang up their rackets.
Their successor at the top level of the game – at least in terms of being marquee attractions – have yet to be determined. And so, the tennis landscape could look quite different in a few years.
Most importantly: do those who don’t want Kermode to continue in the job have a viable, qualified, available candidate in mind who would tick as many boxes and better defend their interests?
That’s a question still to be answered.
Is Changing The Person On Top Always The Answer, Or Is It More A Broken System? In My Experience U Can Change The Person In Charge As Often As U Want, If The System Isnt Changed, Nothing Is Changed… #JLTA🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/RQn8ENna3G
With Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Paris, Novak Djokovic was assured of returning to the No. 1 ranking for the first time since Oct. 31, 2016.
With Nadal’s withdrawal from the ATP Tour Finals in London next week, Djokovic also was assured of finishing as year-end No. 1 for the first time since 2015, and the fifth time overall (2011-12, 2014-15).
Not that the 31-year-old Serb wouldn’t have done it anyway. He has been by far the best of the top players on form, and results, since Wimbledon.
Still, it’s a great piece of (gluten-free) cake to end his renaissance season.
Going into the French Open, Djokovic was ranked as low as No. 22. There, he was shocked by Marco Cecchinato of Italy. But since then, the Nole train has been roaring down the track at warp speed.
Malek Jaziri (TUN): No. 55 ————> No. 46 (At age 34, the happy lucky loser in Paris reaches a career high).
Taylor Fritz (USA): No. 49 ————> No. 47 (The Next-Genner also reaches a career high).
Feliciano Lopez (ESP): No. 71 ————> No. 63 (The 37-year-old did yeoman’s work against a couple of kids in Paris, and nearly went further).
Andrey Rublev (RUS): No. 76 ————> No. 68 (A back injury did in his season a little, but the Next-Genner will be back up there before you know it).
Vasek Pospisil (CAN): No. 75 ————> No. 71 (At No. 108 to start the season, and in Slam qualifying, Pospisil has come back nicely).
Jordan Thompson (AUS): No. 87 ————> No. 73 (The Canberra Challenger champion has been outside the top 100 his season. But despite having gone just 1-11 at the ATP level, he has still managed to improve his lot).
Guido Andreozzi (ARG): No. 107 ————> No. 82 (The Argentine sets himself up for a payday in Melbourne).
Peter Polansky (CAN):No. 130 ————> No. 120 (Winning the Charlottesville final over Tommy Paul would have given him five more spots towards that elusive top-100 barrier. But he has two more events to go this year).
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB): No. 162 ————> No. 133 (The 19-year-old made another big leap to another career high by winning the Shenzhen Challenger).
Blaz Kavcic (SLO): No. 224 ————> No. 197 (Should get him into the Aus Open qualies).
Jack Sock (USA): No. 23 ————> No. 105 (Sock will have to sweat it out to see if he makes the Australian Open main draw. Even if he wanted to play a Challenger next week, he’ll almost certainly be playing doubles in London with Mike Bryan).
Rafael Nadal is definitely a little cursed when it comes to the ATP Tour Finals.
And once again this season, he will be forced to miss it.
The abdominal injury that caused him to withdraw from the Paris Masters last week isn’t sufficiently healed to consider playing the best in the world.
Not only that, Nadal is also having rather unexpected arthroscopic surgery Monday.
He will have a loose, intra-articular bone fragment in his right ankle joint removed, a condition called “synovial chondromatosis”.
Nadal announced the news in a series of Tweets Monday morning from Barcelona, where he will have the surgery.
“It has been a complicated year, very good at the tennis level when I have been able to play and at the same time, very bad as far as injuries are concerned. I have done everything possible to get to end of season in good condition, both to Paris and to London, doing things well and I really wanted to play,” he write.
“Unfortunately I had the abdominal problem in Paris last week and I also have a (floating) body in the ankle joint that has to be removed in the operating room today.”
Nadal added that the ankle issue had been ongoing and was an occasional, if not constant, issue.
But given the additional problem with the abdominal, which was reason enough to pass on London, it was the right time to have the fragment removed and resolve the problem once and for all.
“This way I hope to be in full condition for next season,” Nadal wrote.
The Mallorcan has qualified for the Tour Finals 14 times. This is now the seventh time Nadal has either missed the event entirely, or pulled out after it began.
Second withdrawal: first del Potro, now Nadal
American John Isner is the first alternate for the final eight at the Tour Finals.
And Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov, with that win, moves into the position of first alternate.
Already, Kei Nishikori qualified with the withdrawal of another popular, high-profile player, Juan Martin del Potro.