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Home   News   Tebbutt: All about Roger

Tebbutt: All about Roger

Oct 15, 2019
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

Roger Federer is not the oldest player in the top 100. That distinction belongs to the 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic, currently ranked No. 87.

But the No. 3-ranked Swiss, 38 and two months, is the oldest in a 35-and-over group that includes Feliciano Lopez (38), Philipp Kohlschreiber (35), Fernando Verdasco (35) and Andreas Seppi (35).

So far in 2019 – and not surprisingly – Federer has not played anyone older than himself and has won 47 matches and lost eight. Of those eight – two were to fellow thirty-somethings Rafael Nadal (33) and Novak Djokovic (32) and one to 28-year-old Grigor Dimitrov. The other five were to 25-and-under Dominic Thiem (then 25) twice, Stefanos Tsitsipas (then 20), Andrey Rublev (21) and Alexander Zverev (22).

At the Masters 1000 in Shanghai last week Federer defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 7-6(5) and David Goffin 7-6(7), 6-4 before coming out on the short end of a tempestuous 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3 quarter-final against Zverev.

The latter match was noteworthy for the five match points that Federer saved in the second set – particularly his brilliant play trailing by a set, 6-5 and 40-love (triple-match point) on the Zverev serve (see above). And there were two more match points in the eventual tiebreak.

It looked like a comeback might be in the making until he lost serve trailing 1-0 in the third set. Thereafter he was involved in some testiness with umpire Nacho Forcadell of Spain (below) about not being advised about an impending ball change and especially regarding a point penalty for hitting a ball into the stands. That had followed an earlier first-set warning for a ball bash into the crowd.

Photo: TennisTV.com

After the match Federer was unusually chippy in his media conference when asked a question about the point penalty by The Times (of London) tennis correspondent Stuart Fraser. Here’s the video of his reaction.

It was a legitimate question by Fraser and just showed that even the generally imperturbable Federer can sometimes get a little cantankerous after a loss.

That came at the end of a week full of Federer information as he returned to the regular tour for the first time since the US Open.

He got to Shanghai well ahead of the event and explained how outside commitments factor into his planning.

“Look, (if) I’m playing in Beijing or Tokyo the week before, I have no time to do sponsor appearances,” he said. “But I chose to do it this way. I’m happy to travel here early anyhow – almost like to a Grand Slam if you like. Because I’m only here once a year, I want to make the most of it for my partners, for the fans, for me, for the market.

“If I arrived on here Wednesday evening and then all of a sudden they would have said, ‘okay, you’re going to be doing this, this, and this every day now,’ I would have said, ‘I’m not in the mood right now so I’m leaving again.’

“But knowing ahead of time solves any issue for me, and I enjoyed myself.”

Photo: TennisTV.com

There was a large block of red-wearing Federer supporters high in the stands at the Qizhong Tennis Center last week and he talked about his relationship with his fans in general following his second match.

“I don’t take it for granted,” he said. “This is not football where you get whistled when you’re away and not on home soil. We don’t have that really in tennis.

“From that standpoint, I always really feel like I have the crowd at my back, which has been amazing to have that for so long.

“If I either look to them or I pump myself up, I know they will react to that. And I really never try to abuse it either, because I know players in the past a long time ago used to abuse the fans and rally them up against the opponent. I told myself I will never do that. I will just do it so they support me and stay fair towards my opponent.”

Photo: TennisTV.com

The week after his season ends with the ATP Finals in London from November 10 to 17 – and Switzerland has not qualified for Davis Cup the following week – he and Zverev will play Latin American exhibitions in Santiago (Chile), Bogota (Colombia), Mexico City and Quito (Ecuador).

That comes after he had an exhibition in Tokyo on Monday against John Isner, later announcing that he will play the 2020 Olympics in that city. Probably not totally unrelated to that is the fact that Uniqlo, his clothing sponsor, is a Japanese company.

At the end of this year, Federer and Zverev, together with Bob and Mike Bryan, will play an exhibition in Hangzhou, China, from December 27-29 before heading to Australia for the ATP Cup from January 3 to January 12. The Swiss team will be playing in Sydney.

And then post Australian Open, Federer and Nadal will have a rapidly sold-out exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 7, five days after the Australian Open final.

“I like to play in new places,” Federer explained. “That’s always been a big thrill for me. That’s also why I’m going back to South America – Asia and South America for me have been places I have nearly not played enough for my liking as a professional tennis player.

“Africa… never really played there except for Morocco back in 2002, so that’s also why I’m incredibly excited to go to Cape Town with Rafa. So I’m really trying to make the most of it at the back end of my career, to go to places I’ve never been to and where I can also promote the game.

“Hangzhou was just something I thought would be good preparation this year for the Australian Open.

“And exhibitions were something that were completely normal back in the ’60s, ’70s. Everybody were playing 20, 50, 100 exos a year.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration – five to 10 would have been the max for top players back in the day.

Photo: TennisTV.com

Surveying the current landscape of men’s tennis, Federer remarked, “I remember when I was coming up and I had (Marat) Safin and (Andy) Roddick and (Lleyton) Hewitt and (Juan Carlos) Ferrero and everybody. You don’t want to be the last guy of that group.

“I think it really creates good intentions to actually want to improve faster, and I see that right now.

Photo: TennisTV.com

“We didn’t think that Tsitsipas was going to come up as quick as he did. He had an unbelievable year from a year and a half ago. And too (Daniil) Medvedev (below) now, his run is crazy. (Karen) Khachanov winning (2018) Paris, that was unexpected.

Photo: TennisTV.com

“Each one of them has really shown some really good matches and some great runs – same with Shapo and Félix and Rublev also. Obviously Sascha (Zverev) was there before. Nick (Kyrgios), we know too.

“I think really it’s a lot of guys, which helps for them to really make a move now. They’ve got our attention, no doubt about that. I think it’s going to be a very exciting year-end now also with a few guys going to be at the World Tour Finals. And then next year it’s going to be hard to keep on winning all those slams between the best guys right now.”

True to Federer form, he shows his respect for, and knowledge of, the emerging generation, making sure not to forget anyone. But who among them is about to make a major move? It’s best to remember that exactly year ago Medvedev was ranked No. 21 and the only 6-foot-6 player with Russian ancestry that anyone believed was about to make his mark at the top of the game was not him – it was Zverev.

LORNE MAIN: 1930 – 2019

Photo: Peter Figura

One of the truly legendary figures of Canadian tennis, Lorne Main, died on Monday at age 89 in Vancouver.

He had an remarkable career as a tour player and later as a senior competitor – winning 12 International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles titles in age categories ranging from over-55s to over-80s. In 2012 at the ITF’s World Champions dinner in Paris, he was honoured for his peerless accomplishments in senior tennis.

Main still owns the most prestigious singles title ever won by a Canadian man – the 1954 Monte Carlo tournament.

Photo: BC Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

He is also recognized as being the first international player of note to play with two hands on both forehand and backhand – pre-dating more modern era two-handers such as Gene Mayer, Monica Seles, Fabrice Santoro and Marion Bartoli.

Main, who was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, ranked No. 1 in Canada in 1951, 1953-54-55 and had a 10-11 singles record during a Davis Cup career as a player from 1949 to 1955 and was also Davis Cup team captain from 1958 to 1961 and again in 1977.

A self-confessed alcoholic after his playing days, Main stopped drinking for good in 1974 and also stopped playing with two hands on the racquet once he began his highly-successful senior career.

A man with an infectious, good-natured personality, Main achieved all he did in tennis at 5-foot-8 and weighing less than 150 pounds.

He is pictured at the top here with Milos Raonic in 2012.

CONGRATS TO COCO

There’s nothing like the first time, and 15-year-old Coco Gauff will remember her first title – defeating Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the final in Linz, Austria, on Sunday. The genuine joy of victory comes through in this brief video she made following her victory.

Her ranking is already up to No. 71 and she doesn’t turn 16 until March 13. No one is going to want to play the unseeded Gauff in the first round of the Australian Open come next January.

This week she’s in Luxembourg and will play No. 66-ranked Anna Blinkova, 21, of Russia in the first round on Wednesday.

OLD-FASHIONED INGENUITY

This technique used during the WTA’s Tianjin Open last week was of debatable efficiency. But it had a couple of things going for it – it was ecologically friendly and had a decibel level well below that of some other methods currently employed to dry wet hard courts.