Sunday, December 04, 2016

Martina Hingis wins big for IPTL Tennis

The Swiss Miss has been a major contributor in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

Martina Hingis may be 36 years old and long retired from singles tennis on the WTA Tour. However, that doesn’t mean that the former World No. 1 doesn’t have her game together and it showed on the IPTL courts in Japan over the last few days.

Hingis is a part of the UAE Royals, a tennis team that competed in the four-team IPTL. The event combines singles and doubles sets to make up matches with Hingis making a major contribution to her team’s efforts. Here’s what she did in three matches that came from Japan between December 2nd and December 4th inclusive:

December 2nd: Hingis beat Kiki Bertens 6-1
December 3rd: Hingis, partnered with Daniel Nestor, won mixed doubles 6-4
December 4th: Hingis beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 and won mixed doubles 6-4

There were a couple lost sets not mentioned above as well. However, with a 4-2 set record she is a major part of the team’s overall success. Furthermore, it’s really interesting that Hingis was able to beat both Bertens and Flipkens straight up. Those are two strong players on the women’s tour and you can’t help but wonder if Hingis would be a Top-25 player in singles if she was so inclined to compete on the WTA Tour in a capacity other than doubles.

Following matches in Japan, the Royals are the top team in the league with Roger Federer’s Indian Aces in second place. The league won’t play on Monday, which looks like a travel day for the players as the venue switches over to Singapore. However, Hingis is a mainstay for the upcoming matches that will come on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. She is listed as part of all that match details and her presence in the tournament helps make the Royals a very important team in the overall event.

So far Hingis has carried the load when it comes to the women’s contributions for the Royals. However, in Singapore she will get some help as Ana Ivanovic is expected to join the team. My guess is that Ivanovic will play in the women’s singles sets while Hingis, who won a silver medal in Rio for doubles, will probably play in the mixed doubles sets. The Royals are looking dangerous, however Serena Williams is expecting in Singapore as well and her presence in the tournament could certainly shake up the standings.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

IPTL reduces teams for season adds Roger Federer to Indian Aces

Roger Federer is a prior participant in the off-season International Premier Tennis League.

The International Premier Tennis League (ITPL) has reduced its schedule for its third season, which will feature four teams competing in three cities. Roger Federer is scheduled to play for the Indian Aces team, which will mark his first appearance since Wimbledon.

The off-season league will hold matches in Hyderabad, Tokyo and Singapore, before a finals playoff scheduled for Hyderabad. A team from the United Arab Emirates will also compete, but only on the road.

The Philippines is not taking part in the league this season, with IPTL owner Mahesh Bhupathi citing political unrest in the country. He said the league plans to return to having teams in five cities, and played down suggestions it was being affected by economic problems.

The Indian team has changed locations, having been in Delhi a year ago. The league has not specified the amount of matches or which matches Federer will be playing.

The reduced field suggests that team owners have trimmed their previously generous budgets for attracting top players. Other than Federer, the biggest names scheduled to compete are Serena Williams, Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych. Other active pros participating include Nick Kyrgios, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco, Ana Ivanovic, Eugenie Bouchard and Jelena Jankovic, along with doubles specialists including Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza, Daniel Nestor and Rohan Bopanna.

Prior IPTL players Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are not participating this year, and the field is also thinner further down the ranks.

Teams consist of six men's and women's players, along with a retired player as captain.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Martina Hingis & Ana Ivanovic to play with UAE Royal in IPTL

The International Premier Tennis League will run in the first half of December. The female players on the UAE Royals are two former World No. 1s.

The 2016 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) season will start on December 2nd and it will run in three venues between then and December 11th. The league is different from either the ATP or the WTA in the sense that it invokes team-style tennis. It’s more like the Davis Cup than regular tour events, however a difference is that the teams are not based on international lines. Furthermore, the IPTL combines ATP players, WTA players, and legends’ players into the four-team event.

One team that features two strong female leads is the UAE Royals. Both Ana Ivanovic and Martina Hingis are a part of this team, two players that have each been ranked No. 1 by the WTA.

Ivanovic, who recently turned 29 years old, did not enjoy a strong 2016 season as she finished the year ranked just 63rd in the world. The Serbian, who won the 2008 French Open, has not contested a match since losing in the opening round at Flushing Meadows. However, you have to go all the way back to Mallorca in June to find a match-win on tour for Ivanovic as she made the quarterfinals of that WTA event. Despite her abilities, she enters the 2016 IPTL season as a bit of question mark and it’s not clear what kind of contribution she will make.

Martina Hingis enters the IPTL season as a key doubles player. Her and partner Sania Mirza made the Singapore World Tour Finals, an event that was played in late October. Although the two players’ 2016 season was not their best, Hingis did play a lot of doubles matches in 2016. She won a title in Rome and a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Considered to be one of the best women’s players ever, Hingis promises to be a factor in the mixed doubles component of the IPTL, sets where she will probably partner with Canadian Daniel Nestor.

The exact pairings of players still aren’t known however the UAE Royals will face the Singapore Slammers on December 2nd. The two female players on the Slammers are Serena Williams and Kiki Bertens. Williams, despite finishing the 2016 season ranked 2nd, enters the event following injury. Bertens enjoyed a successful 2016, best highlighted by her run to the French Open semifinals back in the spring. If Williams is healthy, then I think the Slammers have the edge when it comes to the women’s contributions.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Martina Hingis to decide on continued partnership with Coco Vandeweghe after Sydney and Aussie Open results

Tennis - Former World No. 1 Martina Hingis says that she will partner with American Coco Vandeweghe in Sydney and at the Australian Open and will then take a call if they will continue to partner together during the rest of the season.

In an interview to the Blick, Hingis says that one needs to be realistic and that if the partnership is successful, they will continue else they will part ways like she did with Sania Mirza, when the duo started faring poorly during the middle of the season.

When asked if she was disappointed that Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic withdrew from the Olympics, Hingis said, "I could not influence it. I then immediately called Timea and I was very happy that she said yes. When we met in Rio for the first time, I felt immediately that she was looking forward to it. It was a great experience. One that will connect us forever. Through the Fed Cup and Rio, the relationship has become even more intense and tighter."

Hingis also said that she is looking forward to the new WTA event in Biel next year. "This tournament is great for Swiss tennis. Still, it is a bit difficult to imagine where the stadium will be It is also great that there will be a pure tennis stadium in Biel."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Roger Federer talks rivals and rankings as new season looms

Roger Federer has been missing in action since Wimbledon, but he had plenty to say when Baselinecaught up with him in April. Looking back, what he said was quite telling when you consider everything that has transpired since then.

At that time, he was ranked No. 3 and deciding whether to play Madrid as he eased his way back into the clay-court season after knee surgery in February.

"You could maybe see that [reaching No. 1] could spark motivation, [and] that would be an extra reason to play Madrid," Federer said. "But right now I think I’m in the part of my season ... at first I need to make sure I’m 100 percent. If it’s better for me to train for a week, I’ll do that over chasing No. 1, which honestly is less important to me."

The Swiss ended up entering Madrid at the last minute, before pulling out soon after with a back injury. He made no such indecisive moves after Wimbledon, choosing to end his season early after falling in the semifinals. His ranking began to slip until he exited the Top 10 for the first time since 2002.

"[My ranking] is not really a priority for me because I think it doesn’t matter if you’re No. 2, No. 3 or No 4—for me, anyway," Federer said in April.

Federer mentioned that being in the Top 8 is important for seeding purposes, but now that’s out of the question, at least for the Australian Open. There’s little chance that Federer imagined he would end up missing Roland Garros—the first major draw he didn’t appear in since 1999—and then the Olympics and the U.S. Open, falling to No. 16 after just seven tournaments and zero titles.

Federer is scheduled to return on January 1 for the Hopman Cup in Perth. There’s no telling what kind of shape—particularly match shape—he’ll be in for the season ahead. A lot has changed while he was away, and Andy Murray is the new king in town.

Even if his 2017 season goes poorly, the 35-year-old has already left his mark with a record 17 Grand Slams over a nearly 19-year career. His rivalries with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal cost him many more majors—he lost to one of them in nine separate major finals— but the Swiss doesn’t look at it that way.

"I truly believe that if they wouldn’t have been around, somebody else would have been around," Federer said. "Or maybe they wouldn’t have pushed me to be so successful. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think I still would have the same amount of titles with or without them."

After Djokovic lost to Murray in the ATP World Tour Finals title match, Boris Becker implied that Djokovic’s year was hindered by the absences of Nadal and Federer. (Injuries forced Nadal out of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and ended his season in October.)

"He didn't have any opponents anymore," Becker told CNN about his pupil, Djokovic. "His time was with Nadal, with Federer. [Murray] was always the fourth guy. So he lost a little bit of his opponents. Murray is showing something he hasn't shown before."

Becker also said that winning Roland Garros was a "pinnacle" achievement for Djokovic, and afterward he was a “bit off” since “he didn’t know what the next big goal would be.”

While the next big goal should have been obvious (perhaps the calendar-year Slam and/or a medal in Rio), the point about lacking rivals isn’t really that outrageous considering what Federer said.

Still, Murray has done more than his fair share of heavy lifting to earn rival status. In 2016 he won nine titles, including Wimbledon, Rio and the ATP World Tour Finals. While Djokovic leads their head to head 24-11, a closer look shows a 3-2 advantage for the Serb in 2016, compared to 6-1 in 2015.

Djokovic and Murray are sure to develop their rivalry and face off in more major finals in the near future. Federer’s future, meanwhile, is uncertain. But back in April, the Swiss wasn’t thinking about investing in a retirement plan just yet.

"Honestly, I don’t know," Federer said. "I spoke to [Stefan] Edberg. He announced [his retirement] at the beginning of the season and played the entire season … By the end of it, he was just exhausted. I honestly don’t know what it’s going to be for me. I just hope the body’s not going to call it."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Roger Federer to play Andy Murray in a match for Africa next year

Former World No. 1 Roger Federer and current No. 1 Andy Murray will be playing a charity exhibition match against each other in Zurich, in Federer’s home country Switzerland early next year, the Swiss has revealed. The proceeds will go entirely to the 17-time Major winner’s foundation to support children in underpriviliged nations. The Roger Federer foundation aims to assist the underprivileged with access to education.

In a video posted to his Twitter page, Federer insisted, tongue-in-cheek, that the cameraman stay “above waist level” while filming. “Andy, it’s so great having you in Switzerland, and to play the third Match for Africa together,” he said. The camera later panned to show the Swiss dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt and long socks, mock-playing the bagpipes.

The Roger Federer Foundation’s Match for Africa 2 was played between the Swiss and compatriot and longtime friend Stan Wawrinka, who was fresh off his debut Grand Slam that year, in 2014, at the same venue this year’s event will be held – the Hallenstadion in Zurich.

The first ever edition of this tournament was played in 2010 between Federer and friend Rafael Nadal; that event saw two exhibition matches, with one played in Madrid, and the other in Zurich. Proceeds from the former went to Nadal’s foundation, while that in Zurich went to that of Federer. That event raised in excess of US$4 million, with further proceeds from the sale of part of the court there also going to charity.

The pair each won one match at that exhibition, with Federer downing Wawrinka at the next.

2016 has been somewhat of a year of contrasts for the pair. Federer, who had the longest reign as World No. 1 – at 377 weeks, this year saw himself drop out of the top 10 for the first time in nearly 15 years while Murray has skyrocketed.

Ever the consistent player, the Scot, sitting on the World No. 2 title, spent the year playing incredibly consistent tennis, chipping away at Djokovic’s 8,000 point lead to take the World No. 1 title – and win his third Grand Slam title with the trophy at Wimbledon this year.

An early exit for Djokovic at the Paris-Bercy Masters meant that Murray would take the World No. 1 rank; he also won the title there, making him top seed at the ATP World Tour Finals, currently ongoing in London. Although Djokovic is the defending champion there, it is Murra who is the favourite to win; Djokovic has also had to reach deep for victories at the event.

Should Murray win the World Tour Finals, he will become the year-end World No. 1 for 2016; and in doing so, be the oldest first-time World No. 1 in the Open Era.

The pair last played each other at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters, with Federer taking a straight sets win, so this will be an exciting prospect for fans in the new year.