With Djokovic Committed To ATP Cup, Will He Defend His Australian Open Title?

Novak Djokovic (photo: Eva Matan)

WASHINGTON, December 8, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While 18 of the world’s Top-20-ranked players – all but Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – will descend upon Sydney, Australia in less than four weeks for the ATP Cup, one name of particular interest that stood out was Novak Djokovic.

At Tuesday’s launch for the third annual event, it was revealed that Djokovic had committed to the Australian Open warm-up event, which begins January 1. However, It should be noted that Tennis Australia, the governing body of the Australian Open, is yet to confirm whether the World No. 1 from Serbia will compete in the year’s first major in Melbourne, which starts January 17. Djokovic, who is the defending champion, has won the Australian Open a record nine times and is currently tied with Federer and Nadal for most career major titles. Each has won 20.

As recently as last weekend at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, Djokovic was asked during his final press conference about his upcoming status for the Australian Open. “I’m not going to give you an answer tonight,” he said. “… But you will be informed. … I cannot give you any date. Obviously, Australia is around the corner, so you will know very soon.”

There’s a big cloud of uncertainty that remains about Djokovic because he has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccination status – asserting his right to privacy – but all competitors in this year’s Australian Open must be vaccinated by mandate of the Victoria state government. Meanwhile, the ATP Cup requires players to submit to the same vaccination rules as the Australian Open.

In an interview with 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio on Tuesday, Australian doubles great Todd Woodbridge said that Djokovic’s participation in the ATP Cup was a positive sign that he would also compete in the Australian Open.

“He had the choice to enter or not enter so he’s put his name on the entry list and that means you’ve got to believe that he’s coming all the way through the summer,” Woodbridge said.

“That’s good for tennis, for Novak fans they’ll be rejoicing, and I think also for the Sydney fans.

“He knows all the government regulations about the vaccination, so that means, you would think, that he’s on top of it unless he pulls something that we’re not expecting.”

Joining Djokovic on Serbia’s list of committed players are: Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Nikola Cacic and Matej Sabanov.

Barty, Krejcikova lead 2021 WTA Player Awards

On Tuesday, the WTA announced the winners of the 2021 WTA Player Awards, as voted on by members of the international media. The awards recognize standout performers from this season in five categories: Player of the Year; Doubles Team of the Year; Most Improved Player of the Year; Newcomer of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year.

The winners:

• Player of the Year: Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

• Doubles Team of the Year: Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic.

• Most Improved Player: Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic.

• Newcomer of the Year: Emma Raducanu of Great Britain.

• Comeback Player of the Year: Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain.

Learn more about the award winners.

Forget resigns as tournament director of French Open and Paris Masters

Former top French player and Davis Cup captain Guy Forget has resigned as tournament director of French Open and the Rolex Paris Masters indoor event, citing communication issues with the new head of the French Tennis Federation. Forget’s resignation was first reported by L’Equipe, the French sports daily, on Tuesday.

The French Tennis Federation confirmed Forget’s departure and noted his contract was ending on December 31. In a statement, the FFT said Forget did not wish to renew his contract. A successor to Forget as French Open tournament director is expected soon.

Forget, 56, had been leading the Paris major since 2016 and the Paris Bercy event since 2012. Under his leadership, Roland Garros inaugurated the new Simonne-Mathieu Stadium in the Auteuil Greenhouse Garden in 2019, rebuilt Philippe-Chatrier Stadium and equipped it with a roof in 2020, and organized night sessions at the French Open in 2021.

Andreescu taking mental health break, will miss Australian Open

World No 46 Bianca Andreescu of Canada announced Monday that she will forgo playing in the next month’s Australian Open to “take some additional time to reflect, train and be ready for the upcoming 2022 tennis season.”

Andreescu went 17-13, reached the final of the Miami Open and competed in only 13 tournaments in 2022.

IMG acquires Mutua Madrid Open from Ion Tiriac

IMG, one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of sports and entertainment media, has struck a deal with Super Slam Ltd. and its affiliates to acquire the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament. The deal also includes the acquisition of the Acciona Open de España golf tournament.

The Mutua Madrid Open, a fixture on the ATP Tour since 2002, joins the Miami Open and other ATP and WTA events on the IMG roster. In 2019, IMG moved the Miami Open from Crandon Park in Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.

“The Mutua Madrid Open will be a strong addition to our global events portfolio and tennis business, which will now boast two of the three mandatory combined events on both tours,” said Sam Zussman, co-president of Media and Events for IMG, as quoted on the Mutua Madrid Open website. “We’re looking forward to leveraging Endeavor’s broader network to further enhance the fan experience and add value across production, media, brand partnerships, retail, and hospitality, just as we’ve done with the Miami Open.”

Swiatek parts ways with coach Piotr Sierzputowski

Just 20, Iga Swiatek achieved a great breakthrough when she won the 2020 French Open as a teenager under the tutelage of coach Piotr Sierzputowksi. On Saturday, Swiatek announced via her social media platforms that she had parted with her coach of five years.

“This change is really challenging for me and this decision wasn’t easy, either,” Swiatek wrote. “As tennis players, we meet on our path a lot of people who contribute great value into our work and, often, into our life too, because we spend almost the whole year on tour together. I found out that sometimes in our professional life we need changes to develop more, evolve and meet other people with whom we’re going to create a cooperation for the next stages of our development.

“I would like to thank you Coach for everything that you did for me. We gave each other so much and I hope that we’ll continue to grow and develop with this experience we’ve gained together. I owe you a lot and truly appreciate the time we’ve spent together.”

Happy 31st Birthday David Goffin

Remembering Tennis Hall of Famer Darlene Hard

American tennis great Darlene Hard, who won 21 major titles and was a standout doubles champion, passed away last week at age 85.

Hard, a member of the United States’ inaugural-winning Federation Cup team in 1963, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973. Her 21 major titles included 13 in women’s doubles, five in mixed doubles, and three in singles. She won the 1960 and 1961 U.S. National Championships (the predecessor to the US Open) and the 1960 French Championships. She was also a Wimbledon finalist in 1957 and 1959.

Between 1954 and 1963, Hard was a perennial U.S. Top 10 player and rose to No. 1 four times from 1960-63. She was ranked among the World Top 10 nine times and rose to No. 2 in 1960 and 1961.