Federer: It Would Be ‘Very Difficult’ To Play In Empty Stadiums

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

In an interview published by Brazilian sports website GloboEsporte.com in Rio de Janeiro on Friday (and translated from Portuguese), Roger Federer said it would be “very difficult” for him to play big tournaments in empty stadiums when professional tennis returns from its Covid-19 lockdown period. He believes crowds are fundamental to helping create emotions for players to feed off during a match.

“In my view, I can’t see an empty stadium,” said Federer. “I cannot. I hope that doesn’t happen. Even if most of the time we are training there is no one, everything is quiet, in silence. For us, of course, it is possible to play without any fans. But on the other hand, I really hope that the circuit can return as it normally is. May we wait for the appropriate time to return to normal mode again. At least a third of the stadium or half full.”

Federer made his comments while speaking in support of former World No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten’s “Winning Together” initiative to raise funds to help more than 35,000 Brazilian families during the global coronavirus crisis.

“If Guga calls, I am always there to help,” said Federer from his residence in Basel, Switzerland, during an internet conversation he shared with the Brazilian Hall of Fame great. In praise of Kuerten, Federer said, “You have always been one of my favorite players. You have always been one of the most receptive players on the circuit. Maybe you don’t remember why you were nice to everyone, but you were also nice to me. And I think that was so important, when I was arriving at the circuit. You were one of the guys who made me feel welcome. So, thanks Guga. That’s why I’m here and very happy to help.”

Federer has been active during the tennis lockdown period, suggesting now may be a good time for the ATP and WTA to consider merging together; helping contribute to the Players Relief Fund; and making donations to families in need in Africa and his home country of Switzerland.

“I think the most interesting thing about this moment is that we are doing things together,” said the World No. 4 Federer. “Usually, you have a problem that is in a country or even on a continent, in certain places. But now, the whole world is involved in this pandemic and virus problem. I think regardless of whether you are from Brazil or Switzerland, we will share similar problems. I hope that people in Brazil will be affected as little as possible to experience this problem with the virus. And, also, that everyone can – together – find a way to go through this because it is not really easy … I hope that people in Brazil, but also in the whole world, are at their best. Let it come out better. Perhaps, it is the restart that many people in the world can have.”

Back on court – Rafael Nadal 

Great One: An appreciation for Andreescu 

NHL Hall of Fame great Wayne Gretzky remembers watching fellow Canadian Bianca Andreescu play at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, and immediately realizing her dedication to tennis. The “Great One,” as Gretzky was known throughout his pro ice hockey career, recalled during an interview for this week’s episode of Tennis United, “I remember watching her first match (at Indian Wells) and thinking that’s one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

“She went on to win the tournament and then, at the US Open, to play in front of all those fans and everyone cheering the American girl (Serena Williams) – and one of the greatest athletes of all time – was pretty special. My hat goes off to her for how she handled herself and how she handled the pressure.”

What impressed Gretzky most about Andreescu, beyond her talent and work ethic, was how she handles herself with the media. “She handled herself with such poise, she was so humble, so appreciative. 

“I don’t think we could have a better hero in our country for young kids. She’s truly remarkable and deserves all the credit she’s getting.”

Roland Garros – A new look 

Person of interest: Venus Williams

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, future Hall of Famer Venus Williams shared with Laura Regensdorf how she’s been spending her hiatus from the WTA Tour.

“In the past couple months at home, Williams is embracing the good and reevaluating everything else. ‘French fries are probably my favorite vegan food,’ she says slyly, ‘but you can’t do that every day.’ She describes how things got really weird during the early phase of quarantine, with a glut of time and strange foods – canned cranberries one day, pie the next. She has since done a wholesale reset, pivoting to clean drinks, protein powders (she calls out Tom Brady’s formula), and plenty of greens. As for the good? Let’s just say it’s helpful she makes athletic apparel, between her livestream fitness sessions, strength training in the gym, and hours with the racket. ‘I just did an Instagram Live workout,’ she tells me. ‘You try to look presentable, but I was just sweating to the point where my right eye shut. My mom threw me a towel!’”

Turning 33: Happy Birthday Novak!

Behind The Racquet – Hubert Hurkacz

Twenty-ninth-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland admits he’s just been lucky to have people around him that push the boundaries of thinking. In a first-person essay he penned last December for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, the 23-year-old Hurkacz, who turned professional in 2015, wrote: “I honestly don’t spent much time thinking about life after tennis or what I will do. This is basically my first year on tour, so I am trying to enjoy each and every tournament and continue to get better.”

Hurkacz reached a career-high ranking of No. 28 in February and before the coronavirus grounded all pro tennis in early March, the native of Wroclaw, Poland, had compiled an 8-5 win-loss record. His best results came when he won all three of his ATP Cup matches in Australia, then reached the semifinals in Auckland, New Zealand. Two weeks ago, he won third place in the UTR Pro Match Series exhibition in Florida, where he has been shuttered working out with his American coach Craig Boynton.

“I do try to focus my mind solely on tennis but sometimes being stuck on one thing doesn’t work out,” Hurkacz wrote. “There are more than a few times where you have to reset your mind. As of now, early in my career, there are enough things I need to organize, so that is taking up most of my thoughts. I hope Federer has a few more years in him to help improve the sport of tennis. What he has done for tennis has been amazing. I can only hope there will be some more players like him that will affect the sport. I am doing what I can to make the sport a little bit better, even if it is just through great sportsmanship right now.”

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“I grew up in Poland. I truly enjoyed my childhood back then, playing basketball and a little gymnastics. I was pretty busy for a kid, after school I would start with individual lessons followed by more group practice. My love for tennis came from my mother. She used to play all the time and became a national champion. Funny enough, I fell in love with the discipline required by a tennis player. As I was playing junior tournaments, I knew this was what I wanted to do. There were definitely times when I was young where I questioned if I was good enough or if I could make it. You just don’t know what to expect or what you’ll encounter. There is always something new to learn and always a player better than you, so it is a must to constantly improve. For some it may seem strange that I am working with an American coach but it just clicks. The knowledge that he brings to the table has been crucial to my development and a different voice than I have had before. You sometimes have to look outside of your own country to get a unique voice and different perspective. I guess I have just been lucky to have people around me that push the boundaries of thinking. I honestly don’t spend much time thinking about life after tennis or what I will do. This is basically my first year on tour, so I am trying to enjoy each and every tournament and continue to get better. I do try to focus my mind solely on tennis but sometimes being stuck on one thing doesn’t work out. There are more than a few times where you have to reset your mind. As of now, early in my career, there are enough things I need to organize, so that is taking up most of my thoughts. I hope Federer has a few more years in him to help improve the sport of tennis. What he has done for tennis has been amazing…” @hubihurkacz Read full story at behindtheracquet.com (link in bio) @behindtheracquet

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What they’re writing

Simon Briggs, The Telegraph of London tennis correspondent, from “The Tournoi de France: An event that tennis would prefer to forget, even after 75 years”: “The jasmine will be flowering at Roland Garros this week, but there is no one there to see it. The French Open, which should have started on Sunday, has been postponed until mid-September at the earliest. The courts will stand silent throughout the Parisian summer, for first time since 1940.

“It is an odd date, 1940. This summer’s Wimbledon cancellation broke a run of 74 straight events, stretching back to 1946. But while London ducked for cover amid the Blitz, Parisian tennis continued throughout the German occupation. It was only during that first year, which would otherwise have delivered the 45th French Open, that the clay of Roland Garros went unmarked.”

​In memoriam

Cathie Sabin, Great Britain / Former LTA President