Opelka Criticizes ATP’s Handling Of Covid-19 Shutdown

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

During a telephone interview with Racquet magazine’s Giri Nathan published Friday, UTR Pro Match Series champion Reilly Opelka was asked “How do you think the ATP has handled this crisis, and what would you like them to have done differently?” The 39th-ranked American, who earlier this year won the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open, didn’t hide his dissatisfaction about the state of tennis in quarantine.

“The ATP? I think they couldn’t have handled it much worse,” he said. “We’re completely left in the dark, we don’t know what’s going on. And the execs haven’t taken pay cuts. You know, the WTA execs are taking pay cuts, the WTA have gotten first-round prize money at Indian Wells. I rented a really expensive house for two weeks there. Way in the red there. I don’t think it’s a good look when the ATP execs are gonna be making more money than Roger Federer’s prize money this year. And again, I don’t know what the reasoning is. We’ve been left in the dark completely as players so we don’t even know what they’re really doing right now.”

Also, Opelka thought it should not be left up to the players to have to organize and contribute to a player relief fund.

“Players should never pay other players,” he said. “But given the mess that we’re in, it seems necessary, it seems like it’s their only hope. So I somewhat support the Player Relief Fund. I think there’s plenty of guys that are 115 in the world that are paying for a coach and physio, trying to do things the right way, extremely professional, that are hurting the most, actually. I don’t think paying a guy 650 in the world or 700 in the world, giving them a $10,000 check – I mean this in no disrespectful way at all, but guys ranked below 500 are saving money in this time period. They’re actually saving money by not traveling and playing. I think protecting the guys from 100 to 400 should be the number-one priority. I don’t think, as an ATP exec, you should be supportive of asking your players to pay for other players when you haven’t taken a pay cut yourself, when us players have taken a 100% pay cut. That’s completely wrong. It’s actually shocking that it hasn’t been address more. The PGA (pro golf) execs took pay cuts right away, the WTA, the ITF, the USTA.”

On a brighter note, Opelka was asked to describe the upsides of having so much time off the tour. He said:

“You know, it’s really nice to be at home and situated in one place. It never happens. I’ve been able to hang out with my friends a lot, you know, I’ve been living with Tommy Paul. My house definitely looks the best it’s ever looked. I enjoy collecting art, and I’ve been able to somewhat get into that more—obviously, with things being closed, it’s hard—but when things open back up, I have a lot of things lined up. I’m going to Antwerp in September, assuming the tour’s gonna be shut down. I’m planning on going to an art gallery to see a few artists that I really wanted to see. And I’m also planning on going to L.A., there’s another artist there that’s showing. Things that I usually can only do in the month of December, now I get to do throughout the year. And usually in December, it’s vacation and you don’t want to do anything. So these are completely different. I’m planning these like they’re not vacation, but it’s not business, it’s like a mixture of both. I’m doing things I’ve never really done before and it’s nice to have some time at home to let the body regroup. Like I said, as long as I’m strong and healthy, and I’m still eager to compete, then it was a successful little break. If I’m 0 for 3 on those, then that’s 100% on me, it’s my fault, and that means I didn’t do it the right way.”

Murray and Kyrgios share memorable InstaLive chat

One of the pluses or minuses to come out of the extended hiatus of the pro tennis season has been an upswing of players chatting among each other on Instagram Live, providing a plethora of off-court bantering. In recent weeks, fans have been treated to one-on-one chats between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as well as between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – even Stan Wawrinka and Chrissie Evert.

On Saturday, when it was 3 p.m. in Great Britain but midnight in Australia, Murray and the often mercurial Nick Kyrgios got together for what Simon Briggs of The Telegraph described as “Andy Murray endured a drunken love-bombing on Saturday from his friend Nick Kyrgios, in the latest example of the increasingly bizarre trend for celebrity chats on Instagram Live.”

Ouch!

Mind you, Murray, at times looked a tad embarrassed, but he played the sober one in this get-together while Kyrgios was clearly enjoying himself, thanks to a having consumed more than a few glasses of red wine along the way.

Andy: “How many glasses of wine have you had?

Nick: “About as many games as you gave me at Wimbledon that year. About six.” 

Andy: “Oh dear.”

Cue the rimshots.

One of the memorable takeaways came when Kyrgios told Murray that he was “better than the Big Three.”

More rimshots.

Kyrgios went on to say to Murray: “I think you should have one of the best careers ever. I said that to you many times. I think you are better than Djokovic. Djokovic was playing dodgeball on my serve and you were slapping it for a winner. He was trying to dodge it, you were on it like a light.” … The Aussie said to Murray: “You returned my serve, which Rafa couldn’t . … I knew I was in trouble.”

The Way Back Machine – Alexander Zverev cracks Top 100 

In 2015, Alexander Zverev breaks into the Top 100 with an ATP Challenger Tour title at Heilbronn.

Behind The Racquet – Robin Söderling

Robin Söderling ​will always​ be remembered for his fourth-round upset of Rafael Nadal at the 2009 French Open – the first player to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. Söderling stopped Nadal’s string of four straight Roland Garros titles with his 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory. The Spaniard has since won eight more French Open crowns. Söderling’s career was cut short by illness. The tall (6-feet-4) native of Tibro, Sweden, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 2010, played his last match at age 27 and retired at age 31.

Last month, in a first-person essay he wrote for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, Söderling shared his thoughts about his 2009 upset of Nadal. “Of course it was a great feeling. I don’t think anyone in the world expected me to win that match. It was difficult because right after shaking hands I realized that it wasn’t the finals. I thought to myself, ‘Okay, don’t be too happy, don’t relax too much’. I didn’t want to be that guy to beat Rafa but then lose in the finals. I just wanted to stay focused because if you relax even a little bit you lose a match, like a grand slam final, easily. At the time I did not realize how big of an accomplishment it was. I remember getting back to the locker room and having about 350 texts messages. It kind of started to hit me that this was a big thing. I appreciate all the support I got that day and still get for winning that match but the bigger story is Nadal. We will never ever see someone winning 12 Roland Garros’ again.”

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#LegendaryBTR- “I tried to make a comeback, from mono, three separate years, which all failed. This all grew on me and took a major toll on my mind. I accepted that maybe I could never come back. When I made the decision to finally stop it was hard but also a bit of a relief. I didn’t have to fight to come back and live in this uncertainty. After making the decision I could finally accept it and figure out how to live my life again. It was a weird feeling during my first six months after my career because I didn’t care about tennis, it was a nice break. I almost didn’t care if I were to come back. When you get really sick you start to realize your health is most important. It’s crazy because during my career tennis was the only thing I cared about. At this point I only cared about getting better, it was simple. After some time I was watching tennis on TV seeing players I was playing against. I was wishing to just be on the court again, competing. It was mentally tough. My first year out I didn’t do any physical activity because I didn’t want to aggravate anything. It has taken about five years for me to get back to a point where I could train however I wanted. At this time I felt like it has been too long a period for me to return to tennis. I didn’t have the energy to do so either. I don’t blame it specifically on anything I did. Being a top athlete in any sport is not easy. There are times where I blame myself. There were moments in my career where I wish I would have been able to take a step back or not take it as seriously. I was living in this bubble where everything was tennis. As the years went on, and as I became better, I took away more and more of the things I enjoyed to do. I thought this is what I needed to do to be the best I could be. It was all worth it if I won my matches and ranking improved, but if I didn’t it felt as if everything was f**ked. I see it now as just a sport. My biggest issue was not having that on and off switch. Tennis doesn’t make it easy to ‘turn it off’ and you have to find ways during the season to take care of yourself and just rest.” @rsoderling Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcasts and merch.

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What they’re writing

Ben Rothenberg, Racquet senior editor, from “Two Kings Call For One Realm”: “‘People always listen to men more than women,’” Billie Jean King told me days ago as we chatted on the phone from our respective quarantines.

“The blunt statement, in context, was somehow a hopeful one: A tweet by Roger Federer had given new energy to the idea of bringing men’s and women’s tennis together under one umbrella, a cause she had been championing for a half century.

“King had wanted to unite men’s and women’s tennis as soon as the sport became open to professionals more than 50 years ago, but had been stymied for decades.

“‘And then Roger comes out with his statement; I just started laughing, it’s just hilarious,’” King said, ruefully.

“Federer’s tweet had been pseudo-casual but its impact was real and immediate. Scores of players, particularly on the women’s side, immediately grabbed on to the trial balloon that Federer had floated. Curiously, these endorsements included one from Rafael Nadal, who had shown little warmth toward notions of gender equality in the sport previously and balked at the suggestion of a merger as recently as 15 months before.

“King, whose own Twitter account has been an increasingly active piece of public profile, added her own blessing, and was soon on the phone with Federer to tell him about her years of futile efforts for unity.”

Read the entire article at racquetmag.com.

What they’re sharing on social media

Happy 50th birthday to Hall of Fame great Gabriela Sabatini

Andy Murray / How I spent my birthday …

Jamie Murray volleys with his brother Andy / The next Bryan Brothers?