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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'The Last of Us' movie stuck at a standstill says Sam Raimi

BY JIM VEJVODA I attended a press lunch today for the upcoming home video release of Don't Breathe, during which time I was able to ask producer Sam Raimi about the status of the big screen version of the hit video game The Last of Us. And what he had to tell us wasn't very hopeful.

The movie was formally announced in March 2014 as being a Screen Gems release. The screenplay was penned by Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director for the game, who is also a producer on the film along with Raimi and his Ghost House Pictures company, Naughty Dog Co-Presidents' Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra, and Game Director Bruce Straley. In the ensuing years since that announcement, there were rumblings of Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams being courted to star and subsequent comments from Druckmann that the movie would boast "big changes" from the game's story.

Then this past April we learned some bad news about the film adaptation. During our chat with Neil Druckmann, he told IGN, "I know I said in an interview a while back we had a table read, got the script to a good place and it kind of entered development hell like these things tend to do. ... There hasn't been any work done on it in over a year and a half."

I asked Raimi today about Druckmann's comments and what the current status of the film was, which led to a dissection of how the film appears to have stalled over at Screen Gems' parent company Sony Pictures.

Said Raimi, "Well, unfortunately that one -- when we went to Neil with Ghost House Pictures we were hoping to get the rights like we do any project and then we'd take it out and sell it but we'd control the rights. With this one he went to Sony -- who I have a very good relationship with -- but they have their own plans for it and I think Neil's plan for it -- I'm not trying to be political -- Neil's plan for it is not the same as Sony's. And because my company doesn't have the rights, I actually can't help him too much. Even though I'm one of the producers on it the way he set it up, he sold his rights to Sony, Sony hired me as a producer by chance, and I can't get the rights free for him so I'm not in the driver's seat and I can't tell you what Sony and Neil together will decide on. If they do move forward I'd love to help them again."

When I pressed if Raimi was still attached to help produce the Last of Us movie, he replied, "Yes, I'm attached to it. I'm not too sure what that means. Right now it's just sitting there. They don't want to move forward, and it's not my place to say why, and Neil, I think, is in a slight disagreement with them about how things should go so there's a standstill. And I don't have the power to move it."

Damn it Sony, quit being stubborn and just let Neil Druckman do his thing already.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Roger Federer's former coach Stefan Edberg thinks he can still win a Grand Slam

Johannesburg: Former world number one Stefan Edberg believes Roger Federer, who has fallen outside the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2002, is still capable of beating the best and winning another grand slam title.

The Swiss ended his season in July in a bid to recover fully from knee surgery, although he is aiming to be fit for the Australian Open in January.

Ever since then, there have been significant changes at the top of the ATP Rankings, with Andy Murray rising to World No.1 replacing Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Meanwhile, the 17-time grand slam champion has slid to 16th spot in the men’s rankings.

But, Federer’s former coach believes that the Swiss legend can win at least one more grand slam.

“I thought in the past years he would have won one, he was so close,” Edberg was quoted as saying by Sport24.

“It becomes even tougher, he is not young anymore but there is still hope. If there’s one who can do it, it’s Roger, but it will be an emotional challenge for him to come back next year,” he added. (ANI).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Roger Federer wins ATP Fan Favourite Award for the 14th consecutive year

Roger Federer Tumblr tag

The ATP Awards for 2016 were announced on Thursday and as expected, Roger Federer was the pick of the lot.

The Swiss, who cut short his season after Wimbledon in July, bagged the honour as the Fans’ Favourite over Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal that’s voted by fans. Federer won 56% of the votes cast. This is the 14th consecutive year that Federer has won this award, since winning it for the first time in 2003.

He also won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award that’s voted by his peers, over Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal who were also nominated in the category. Federer won this award for the first time in 2004 and except for 2010, has won it across all these years.

Federer winning these awards has elated his fans, even as it has raised scepticism about him being picked as the winner since he didn’t play half the season, while the other nominees did.

In the other categories, the Bryan Brothers won the Fans’ Favourite in doubles extending their domination as the audiences’ favourite doubles team for a dozen successive years.

Magnus Norman, Stan Wawrinka’s coach won the inaugural ATP Coach of the Year award. Under the Swede, with whom he has been working since 2013, Wawrinka has won a Major in each of the last three years and peaked at a career high of No. 3 in the ATP singles rankings.

Juan Martin del Potro was selected as the Comeback Player of the Year. The Argentine was ranked outside the top-1000 at the start of the year, battling wrist injury but after a string of good performances has entered the top-40.

Marin Cilic was awarded with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian award as an acknowledgement for the support his foundation provides to support promotion of education.

Lucas Pouille was awarded as the Newcomer of the Year, while Taylor Fritz was awarded as the ATP Star of Tomorrow. The 19-year-old American is the youngest player in the top-100 of the ATP rankings.

The awards for the year-end No. 1 singles player and doubles team will be determined next week, during the World Tour Finals. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are bidding to finish the year ranked in the first place. Jamie Murray and his partner Bruno Soares are meanwhile are engaged in a fight to the finish with the French team of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who are currently the top-ranked doubles team.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Roger Federer & Belinda Bencic to play Hopman Cup together next year

It wasn't a remarkable 2016 season for Belinda Bencic. The Swiss had aimed to be in the top-10 of the WTA Rankings and instead had to leave the top-40, as injuries kept affecting her season. 'I dealt with it for the whole summer', Belinda said to Blick

'It wasn't easy, you don't know how much time it takes and you are afraid that it's returned. It has been a very difficult moment but you have to look forward. I am already working to prepare for the new season, no holidays for me this year.'

2017 season will start in a special way for her, at the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer. 'It's a dream come true. I can't believe I will play with Roger. I mean, me, Belinda Bencic. I am so happy, not many people can say they played alongside Federer in doubles. Hopefully I am not too much nervous!'.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

'Santina's' unsuccessful Singapore reunion provided a glimpse of why they broke up

The reunion of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis for the WTA Singapore finals was highly awaited, a shade more than the prospect of watching the other seven teams compete in it.

The first team to qualify for the finals as early as May, lack of results mid-season saw them decide to part ways and begin newer associations: Mirza with Czech Barbora Strycova and Hingis with American Coco Vandeweghe.

The digressing roads taken also had digressing results for the former partners. Mirza continued to build upon her success with Strycova and came close enough to securing another place for herself in the Singapore finals with her new teammate. Results however did not go Hingis’s way as she would have wanted to, despite a strong start to her partnership with Vandeweghe, in Cincinnati and at the US Open.

Extended expectations

Coming back together at such a juncture to play this one last tournament then meant that Mirza and Hingis, known erstwhile as SanTina, would be playing under pressure. Of having to rekindle their on-court cohesion that had made them near-flawless for a year-and-a-half. And then, to try and defend their title with a changed format.

In 2015, the eight doubles teams, divided into two groups of four, played out round robin matches. The two leading teams from each group qualified for the semi-finals, which then saw two finalists. This year, the format was essentially a knock-out, with the teams starting off by playing the quarter-finals. Thus, while last year, there were a couple of opportunities for the teams to reach the penultimate stage of the tournament, this year they only received one chance to go ahead in the draw.

Mirza and Hingis did well in their quarter-final, defeating the Chan sisters from Chinese Taipei in straight sets. It wasn’t an easy match. Nor was it expected to be, since the two needed to get re-acclimatised to each other. The 7-6, 7-5 outcome did, in the end, prove that separated or not, the Mirza and Hingis teamwork camaraderie still worked.
Throwback to how it went wrong

Their 3-6, 6-2, 10-6 loss in the semi-final to the eventual champions Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, however, was a recapitulation of what had started to go wrong in their partnership causing an abrupt truncation.

Since their loss in the Doha quarter-final that ended their 41-match victory streak, Mirza and Hingis struggled to sustain their rhythm across matches and tournaments. It would be wrong to say that they had not fallen short in tournaments in 2015 or that they were invincible all throughout the season. Between last year and this year, what had altered was their approach to tackling their losses and upsets.

Until the 2015 US Ope, which set the precedent for their long winning run, each defeat saw them sort out their difficulties with an inspired zest. This year, then, marked a reversal of this attribute of theirs, prompting them to call time on their collaboration, seemingly unseeing of the time, right before the US Open where they were previously expected to defend their title.

The tournament that saw the beginning of their domination then also went on to become the swivel for their careers. Not only as a team, but also individually. The US Open became the benchmark of what each had come to expect of their tie-up. Not being able to match up to themselves became the catalyst of their irrevocable ending.

Playing in Singapore was a transient interjection and a fitting endpoint to their association. After last week, Santina belong solely to the past. The future is about two distinct entities, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis.

A sad but fair summation of their rightful split. 

It was fantastic to watch while it lasted though.  

I have no doubt that Martina will find magic with someone else, as she has many times before. 

It's just a matter of time.