Roger Federer: Ivan Ljubicic opens up on ‘privilege’ of working with Swiss star

Ivan Ljubicic has described his four-year coaching relationship with Roger Federer a ‘privilege’. Ljubicic and Federer were once rivals and played each other 16 times over the course of their careers.

Federer led their head-to-head 13-3 and had won 10 times in a row before Ljubicic’s retirement in 2012.

But after amicably splitting with Stefan Edberg in 2015, Federer decided to bring in Ljubicic to work alongside Severin Luthi.

And their link-up has proven to be extremely fruitful with the Swiss star winning 22 titles in that time and only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal winning more.

Currently, Federer is out injured with a knee injury, with the target of returning to action in June.

The break has given Ljubicic time to focus on his other endeavours including mentorship and his two sports agencies, who represent Borna Coric among others.

But working with Federer remains Ljubicic’s biggest role and speaking in an interview with Swiss publication Tages Anzeiger, the former world No 3 spoke highly of his time with the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

He said: ”I am grateful for the opportunities that this gave me and none was greater than the privilege of working with Roger.”

Ljubicic also hailed his relationship with Luthi and fitness trainer Pierre Paganini as ‘valuable’ to their success with Federer.

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“We have a good time with each other, and that’s valuable because we spend a lot of time together,” he added.

Federer is hopeful of making his comeback from injury at the Noventi Open in Halle, where he has won 10 times.

And former British player and ATP commentator Naomi Cavaday feels it would be ‘ridiculous’ to expect him to return and quickly get back to his usual level.

“He is very good at being able to pick up his level quickly,” Cavaday said.

“But that has become more difficult as he has got older. Those periods of times out have become a little bit longer because he’s been playing a reduced schedule for quite a long time.

“He’s chosen to miss the clay-court on a few occasions so this one is a bit more of a forced break.

“But I think he will come back just fine, maybe not his absolute sharpest but that would be a bit ridiculous. I’m sure he is going to be very very good.”

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John McEnroe compares Tom Brady and Roger Federer during Laver Cup launch in Boston

Tennis legend John McEnroe was in Boston on Tuesday promoting the fourth edition of the Laver Cup, where he compared sporting greats Roger Federer and Tom Brady.

The rest of the World team captain was introduced to Celtics forward Gordon Hayward before the game as the excitement of the Laver Cup builds up in Boston.

McEnroe then watched a thrilling NBA contest as Caris LeVert scored a career-high 51 points, 37 from the fourth quarter on, as the Brooklyn Nets rallied from 21 points down to stun hosts Boston Celtics 129-120 in overtime.

The three-day team competition pits six of the best players from Europe, captained by Bjorn Borg, against six of their counterparts, led by McEnroe.

7 grand slams, 77 singles titles, 78 doubles titles, one @Celtics jersey.

Thanks @gordonhayward @celtics pic.twitter.com/rGJgyzaDen

  • Djokovic shipshape ahead of Indian Wells
  • VOTE: Will Novak Djokovic overtake Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in Grand Slam stakes

I’ve admired watching Tom Brady because he makes players around him better.

John McEnroe on Tom Brady

McEnroe says he does not think tennis has seen the last of Roger Federer playing at an elite level following the 38-year-old’s recent knee surgery.

He said watching Federer competing has parallels to another dominant athlete in Boston.

"I feel like my coaching chops are on the line a little bit so it would be awesome to be able to win one in Boston this September." – John McEnroe, Team World captain. #LaverCup Boston 2020 pic.twitter.com/MP3zctvoRy

“It’s like asking the same question on Tom Brady. You know, it’s the exact same thing,” McEnroe said. “I mean, how they keep doing it would be the first thing at their age. It’s phenomenal, right? I mean, how in the world are these guys still playing at such a high level?

“I’ve admired watching Tom Brady because he makes players around him better. But you’re out there on your own and you’re 38 and you could be turning 39 on a tennis court with the wear and tear. That’s really tough. It’s already amazing he’s made it this far.”

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Heather Watson sets sights on WTA big guns after ending title drought at Mexican Open

Heather Watson says she is determined to push on and crack the world’s top 30 after winning the Mexican Open on Saturday. Watson has struggled for form in recent years but has been on the rise since October last year when she reached the final of the Tianjin Open.

In January, she made it through to the semi-finals of the Hobart International and then over the weekend her improvement was rewarded when she beat Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez.

It was the fourth title of Watson’s career and saw her jump 20 places in the world rankings to 49.

Watson’s career-high is 38, back in 2015, but another strong performance in Monterrey this week could see her beat that mark.

The 27-year-old plays experienced German Tatjana Maria on Tuesday afternoon and the British ace says she’s keen to keep up the momentum she’s gained.

“That’s why I’m still playing,” she told PA.

“I wouldn’t keep playing just to be average. I want to get the most out of myself and my career.

“This won’t be forever, it won’t be for much, much longer, so I want to make the most of it, bring more titles and definitely get a new career-high. I feel like 38 is not good enough for me.

“Moments like this are the reason I put so much into my tennis day in, day out. To hold a trophy and have another title next to my name, for me that’s the best feeling.”

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On Monday, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova caused an upset when she beat Venus Williams in the first round.

Schmiedlova dropped the first set to the former world No 1 but the Slovakian fought back in fine style to complete a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win.

“It’s one of the best wins of my life,” she said. “I’m very happy it happened here in Monterrey.

“I came here from qualifying, just to be here to play someone as great as Venus Williams, so I’m very thankful.

“I haven’t had an easy last year and beginning of this year, so I’m grateful for every win.

“I started with a lot of respect, which is something you can expect when you’re playing someone as good as Venus.

“I needed to get a little more confident and calm. Then, I started to play better at the end of the first set.”

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Rafael Nadal: Seyboth Wild reveals admiration for Spanish star after maiden ATP title win

Seyboth Wild has opened up on his admiration for world No 2 Rafael Nadal after capturing his maiden ATP Tour title in Chile over the weekend.

After a dream week in Santiago, the 19-year-old capped it off by beating in-form Casper Ruud 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the final.

Wild becomes the first teenager to lift a tour-level title since Australia’s Alex De Minaur in Sydney last year.

He is also the lowest-ranked tournament winner from Brazil in ATP Tour history.

Wild started the event ranked 182nd in the world rankings but has now moved up to a career-high of 113th.

After the match, Ruud had high praise for the teen saying: “He played amazing tennis all week. I can’t be too upset about my loss.

“He proved that he deserved his wild card and took very good care of his opportunity.

“Even though I’m not that experienced myself, I can see that he’ll be around for many more years. Hopefully, we can play many more finals together in the future.”

Given his age, it is no surprise that Nadal is Wild’s favourite player and the young Brazilian said he aspires to have a similar career to the 19-time Grand Slam champion.

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He told ATP: “His passion on the court. The way he plays, keeps himself on court and fights for everything is just amazing.

“It made me dream about everything he’s done and if I could accomplish 20 per cent of what he’s done in his career, that would be great.”

As the second seed and recent winner of the Argentina Open, Rudd was the heavy favourite heading into the final but Wild says he grew in confidence as the tournament went on and that gave him the belief to win the final.

“As the matches went by and I was feeling myself on court, I felt like I could go step by step,” he added.

“When I got to the final, I needed to play it just like another match, like I had been playing the whole week and take my chances.

“It’s an incredible achievement. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about.

“I need to just take the best from the week and keep on going for the rest of the season.”

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Roger Federer retirement warning fired by John McEnroe after injury blow

Roger Federer must have been deliberating retirement after suffering another injury blow which will keep him sidelined for three months. However, John McEnroe has warned the world not to write the Swiss star off.

At 38 years old there are big questions over how much more of the ATP tour Federer’s body can handle.

The world No 4 has already stripped back his schedule to the bare minimum as he aims to focus solely on the Grand Slam events.

With no competitive action under his belt ahead of this year’s Australian Open, Federer sustained an injury which hindered him in the latter stages – where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.He has since needed an operation which is never a positive for somebody so late into their career. 

But the 20-time Grand Slam champion has been compared to six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, who also continues to defy Father Time.

“It’s like asking the same question on Tom Brady. You know, it’s the exact same thing,” McEnroe said.

“I mean, how they keep doing it would be the first thing at their age. It’s phenomenal, right? I mean, how in the world are these guys still playing at such a high level?

“I’ve admired watching Tom Brady because he makes players around him better. But you’re out there on your own and you’re 38 and you could be turning 39 on a tennis court with the wear and tear.

“That’s really tough. It’s already amazing he’s made it this far.”

Federer has underwent knee surgery last month and will not return to action until the grass season.

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He last underwent the knife in 2016 in a setback many thought he would not bounce back from.

McEnroe was coaching Milos Raonic that year when the Canadian beat Federer at Wimbledon.

“Then Roger limped off the court and didn’t play for six months,” McEnroe explained.

“And I thought, you know, that’s pretty much it. That’s four years ago.

“And he came back after not having played for six months and managed to win the Australian Open (the next) year, winning three best-of-five set matches, which is virtually unheard of to begin with.

“And to win three majors post-surgery. So you never can count him out.”

Federer is due to return to action at the Halle Open, which commences on June 15.

He will then take a week off before attempting to win a ninth Wimbledon title.

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Hewitt bullish about Davis Cup prospects

Australia's Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt has a blunt message for his depleted team: sink or swim.

And he's confident Australia's makeshift cup squad will thrive in troubled waters – a tie against against Brazil without injured aces Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur.

Australia’s Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.Credit:Getty Images

"You can either sink or swim in Davis Cup and playing for Australia, and I have got a lot of confidence in these boys," Hewitt told reporters on Tuesday.

"They are going to put in a hell of an effort."

With his top-ranked players de Minaur (abdominal) and Kyrgios (wrist) sidelined, Hewitt could blood two cup debutants, James Duckworth and Alex Bolt.

John Millman, Jordan Thompson and John Peers round out Hewitt's team for the tie against the South Americans starting in Friday in Adelaide.

"It's not like I'm looking at this week as we're coming in as underdogs," Hewitt said.

"I'm very happy with the guys I have got in the team and I have full belief in what they can do.

"I think all five of them will play well for Australia, even the guys that haven't played before.

"All these guys, especially Ducks and Bolty, have been around a lot of ties – they have been hitting partners, orange boys and done a lot of work for the team.

"And I love the story that goes with those guys … these guys have come and made and effort on numerous occasions to go out of their way to help everyone else.

"What I have installed into them is that this is your time now, boys."

Hewitt said he would settle on his combinations later this week, with Friday's two opening singles matches followed on Saturday by a doubles match and reverse singles.

The winner of the tie advances to the cup finals in Spain in November.

AAP

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Johanna Konta chalks up first win of 2020 in Monterrey

Johanna Konta chalks up first win of 2020 as she spoils Kim Clijsters’s return to action but Heather Watson goes out of the Monterrey Open

  • British No 1 Konta beat Belgium’s Clijsters 6-3 7-5 in Monterrey tournament
  • Clijsters was playing in just her second match since retiring back in 2012
  • It was Konta’s first victory of the year and she will face Tatjana Maria next
  • Maria defeated another Briton, Heather Watson, over three sets on Tuesday 

Johanna Konta has thwarted Kim Clijsters’s return to the court as the Briton claimed her first win of 2020 at the Abierto GNP Seguros event in Monterrey.

Belgium’s Clijsters, playing in just her second match since retiring at the US Open in 2012, took it to the British No 1 before eventually falling 6-3 7-5.

Konta earned the first two break points of the match before sweeping a forehand winner off Clijsters’s serve to end the first set, with the second set tighter as the pair held their serves until the Briton claimed the win from an unforced error.

Johanna Konta celebrates winning a point as the British No 1 defeated Kim Clijsters in Mexico

Clijsters, playing for only the second time since retiring in 2012, was no match for the Briton

Konta will next face Tatjana Maria who earlier dashed Heather Watson’s bid for back-to-back titles in Mexico.

Watson won her fourth WTA title and first for four years at the Mexican Open in Acapulco on Saturday, beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez in an exciting final.

The victory lifted Watson to 49th in the rankings, her highest mark since the summer of 2015, but Germany’s world No 91 Maria came out on top on Tuesday, winning 7-6 (4) 3-6 7-5 in a hard-fought contest which lasted two hours 39 minutes.

Former world No 1 Venus Williams also bowed out in the opening round, the 39-year-old beaten in three sets by Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Heather Watson couldn’t repeat her success last week in Acapulco as she exited in Monterrey

Meanwhile, second seed Kristina Mladenovic recovered from a nightmare start and a break down in the decider to beat Chloe Paquet in an all-French first-round tie at the Open 6eme Sens in Lyon.

Mladenovic needed two hours and 12 minutes to overcome wild card Paquet 1-6 6-2 6-4 and faces Anna-Lena Friedsam in the next round. The German won 6-2 6-2 over Russian qualifier Anastasiya Komardina.

‘It was definitely not an easy match to face a countrywoman and also a friend, even though I don’t know as much about how she plays,’ Mladenovic said.

Venus Williams went out in the first round at the Monterrey Open, losing to Schmiedlova

‘It was very far from being perfect today, but I’m just pleased with how I stayed calm and composed and how I fought through to find solutions to get the win today.’

Elsewhere in Lyon, sixth seed Jil Teichmann defeated wild card Clara Burel 6-4 6-3, but fellow seeds Daria Kasatkina and Viktoria Kuzmova needed three sets to get the better of Pauline Parmentier and Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove respectively.

 

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Six-year-old tennis prodigy goes viral

Watch out Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, this youngster is coming for the throne of best looking one-handed backhand in tennis.

A shot that is incredibly hard to master with only a handful of professional players on the mens tour actually using it, has been made to look easy by a six-year-old.

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A video of the supremely talented youngster, Ethan, shows he has mastered the art of the one-handed backhand.

The footage shows him absolutely rocketing several balls back with form that puts him alongside Federer, Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem.

6 YEARS OLD 😯

What do you think of this, @rogerfederer & @stanwawrinka? 😏
.
🎥: @davidlax_ (IG) pic.twitter.com/TMzl7ss915

Social media simply couldn’t get enough of the diminutive tennis prodigy with more than 1,000 retweets and 8,000 likes on the video alone.

It even captured the attention of tennis racquet company Babolat and current world number 35 Sloane Stephens.

“MIND … BLOWN. Who is this kid?! At this rate we’ll see him on the tour in no time,” Babolat tweeted.

“YO!! That backhand though! #tennis,” ESPN reporter Michael Eaves wrote.

🤯 https://t.co/QT2I1g1Zbm

At the rate this kid is going, we’ll be seeing him on the professional circuit smashing backhand winners in no time.

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Rotterdam Open conditions ‘favour’ Fabio Fognini

Tournament director, Richard Krajicek very kindly offered us a tip ahead of the Rotterdam Open he supervises this week.

After switching to the slower Proflex surface for this year's championship he advised: "Our surface is not super fast and that is in favour of Fabio Fognini.”

Despite Krajicek's well meaning advice, you can get a big 40/1 with thepools.com on the Italian to triumph. But after withdrawing from Montpellier last week and failing to win a single title on this surface you'd have to be an optimistic punter to follow Richard's guidance.

Daniil Medvedev heads the betting at 14/5. The Russian has a straightforward route to the later stages with Andrey Rublev likely to be his first real challenge in the quarter-finals, but that price is very short.

Young Canadian Denis Shapovalov at 16/1 is a much better value punt.

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Yes he was beaten by fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil in France last week, but that has given a few extra days to recover. He has to overcome the out of form Grigor Dimitrov in his first round tie – still no easy feat – but if he can come through that a run to the later stages is very possible.

Bookies thepools.com, meanwhile, are offering 66/1 on Hubert Hurkacz and after starting the year well that's worth a modest E/W stake. He does, however, face second-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round – and the Greek youngster has won four of his five matches against Hurkacz. But their past three clashes have all been tightly contested, with Tsitsipas needing a final-set tie-break to triumph at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

Argentina Open

While home advantage proved decisive in Cordoba last week, Diego Schwartzmann living up to his favourite's billing to reach the final (he was playing Cristian Garin in last night's final at 10pm so we may be able to change this to 'triumph'), playing in Buenos Aires appears to be a burden to Argentine players.

There hasn't been a home winner of the Argentina Open since David Nalbandian in 2008, and when home players have reache the final, none has won a set since 2011.

As a result Guido Pella and Juan Ignacio Londero are best avoided.

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Maria Sharapova confirms retirement from tennis in emotional statement

Tennis legend Maria Sharapova has confirmed her retirement from the sport in an emotional statement.

The Russian, 32, won five Grand Slams during her career including Wimbledon glory as a teenager in 2004 but says she lost her battle with injuries.

In an exclusive essay written for Vogue and Vanity Fair, Sharapova said: "How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?

"How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

"I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye."

The statement concluded: "Tennis showed me the world – and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth.

"And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing."

Sharapova burst onto the scene with her Wimbledon victory aged just 17 and followed it up by winning the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.

The latter of her major victories both came at the French Open in 2012 and 2014.

She wrote: "Wimbledon seemed like a good place to start. I was a naive 17-year-old, still collecting stamps, and didn’t understand the magnitude of my victory until I was older – and I’m glad I didn’t.

"My edge, though, was never about feeling superior to other players. It was about feeling like I was on the verge of falling off a cliff—which is why I constantly returned to the court to figure out how to keep climbing.

"The U.S. Open showed me how to overcome distractions and expectations. If you couldn’t handle the commotion of New York—well, the airport was almost next-door. Dosvidanya.

"The Australian Open took me to a place that had never been a part of me before—to an extreme confidence that some people call being “in the zone.” I really can’t explain it—but it was a good place to be.

"The clay at the French Open exposed virtually all my weaknesses—for starters, my inability to slide on it—and forced me to overcome them. Twice. That felt good.

"These courts revealed my true essence. "

Although she represented Russia, she lived in the United States where she was a permanent resident since 1994.


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