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#pounditThursday, August 6, 2020

Tennis

Andy Murray raves about his revival of his serve after hip surgery

Andy Murray

It was only a year and a half ago that Andy Murray said he would be retiring from tennis due to his injury. He underwent hip surgery in January 2018 but was in so much pain in the ensuing months that he did not think he could carry on with his career. The 33-year-old decided to undergo a second hip procedure last year that helped him feel better and allowed him to return to professional tennis.

Now, Murray says he has as much power in his serve as he did when he was in his 20s.

“For the two years before I had the operation I couldn’t extend my leg properly, so my right leg would always bend when I went to extend it and that was affecting my serve a lot. I had to change my ball toss and was not able to drive up properly,” Murray said in an interview for the “Andy Murray’s Greatest Hits” program on BBC One.

“But now, because it does extend properly, I am able to serve well again and am able to serve as hard as I was in my mid-20s, which given I didn’t know I was going to be able to play again has been really positive.”

Murray did not play in any majors last year after his hip surgery, but he did play some tournaments and even won the European Open, defeating Stan Wawrinka. Murray is planning to play in the Washington Open when the ATP Tour resumes next month. With his serve back up to his previous standard, some parts of his game may be close to what it was when the three-time major winner was among the top players in the world.

Rafael Nadal not sure if he will play in US Open due to ‘unrealistic’ schedule

Rafael Nadal

The ATP Tour has been on suspension since March, which has led to a complete change in the tennis calendar.

The US Open is planning to run from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York. Wimbledon cancelled the event entirely because they were able to cash in on an insurance policy. But the French Open, which typically runs from late May to early June, has been postponed to Sept. 26 to Oct. 11. That means there will only be two weeks between the majors, which puts a lot of pressure on the players.

First off, many players like to have a break between majors if they can. In the current schedule, there will be Masters events in between. Secondly, the majors are on two different surfaces — hard courts for the US Open and clay courts for the French Open. Many players who are not clay court specialists like to play in several clay court “tune-up” tournaments before the major to get used to it. This schedule doesn’t really allow that opportunity.

That’s why Toni Nadal, the uncle/longtime former coach of Rafael Nadal, calls the 2020 schedule “unrealistic” and says Rafa might miss one of the events.

“I have spoken to Rafa and he is doubting which tournaments to play,” Toni told ESPN Deportes.

“The schedule is unrealistic, especially for veteran players, who cannot compete for so many weeks in a row.

“I think it is a bit ugly what the ATP has done. This decision is totally against players like Rafa and Novak Djokovic.”

Roger Federer has the most majors in men’s singles tennis with 20, while Nadal is one behind and Djokovic is at 17. Rafa is the defending champion for both the US and French Opens and might not defend his title at one, which would be the US Open given his historic dominance at Roland Garros.

All three players are in competition to win the most ever, so this schedule is not anywhere near favorable to that pursuit.

Novak Djokovic tests positive for coronavirus, defends organizing charity tournament

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic revealed on Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, and the world’s top tennis player is now defending his decision to host a charity tournament in Serbia and Croatia.

Djokovic was criticized for organizing the exhibition series, which was canceled over the weekend after tennis players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki tested positive for the coronavirus. In a statement issued via his website Tuesday, Djokovic said he and his wife Jelena have also tested positive. Djokovic has not experienced any symptoms related to COVID-19.

“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region,” the statement read.

“The Tour has been designed to help both established and up and coming tennis players from South-Eastern Europe to gain access to some competitive tennis while the various tours are on hold due to the COVID-19 situation.

“It was all born with a philanthropic idea, to direct all raised funds towards people in need and it warmed my heart to see how everybody strongly responded to this.

“We organized the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met.

“Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with.”

Other tennis stars had questioned the decision to host the tournament, with Nick Kyrgios calling it a “boneheaded decision” after Coric tested positive.

Djokovic added in his statement that he is “extremely sorry for each individual case of infection.”

A number of prominent sports figures have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last several months, but none experienced serious complications.

LeBron James impressed by Novak Djokovic’s jump shot

LeBron James

LeBron James might be able to get some tips on his shooting mechanics from another sports great.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic tweeted a funny video on Saturday showing off his skills on the basketball court, including some fancy dribble moves and a pretty smooth elbow jumper. Djokovic tagged James in the tweet and jokingly asked if he was ready for a one-on-one.

James replied by giving his stamp of approval and even said that Djokovic’s follow-through was “beautiful.”

For what it’s worth, the 33-year-old Djokovic does stands 6-foot-2. While that is above-average for tennis, it probably means that he would be more Steph Curry than LeBron on the hardwood though, and the jumper backs that up.

One of Djokovic’s biggest rivals did once compare himself to James, but when it comes to actual basketball skills, it looks like game, set, and match Djokovic.

Report: US Open planning to be played as scheduled without fans

US Open tennis

The United States Tennis Association plans to play the 2020 US Open as scheduled, but things are set to look very different if it does go ahead.

According to Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, the USTA is poised to announce this week that the US Open will be played as scheduled from Aug. 31-Sept. 13. However, the event will take place without fans, and numerous safety measures will be in place.

The plan also has to be formally approved by the government, but primary sponsors, as well as TV partner ESPN, are backing it.

Players will lodge together at a hotel outside of Manhattan as part of the plan, and will be subject to frequent coronavirus testing. The USTA also plans to limit support staff traveling with players to as little as one person, a major change for players who typically travel with large entourages of trainers, coaches, and family members.

Players were informed of the plan on a conference call last week. That call was described as “contentious,” with former champion Marin Cilic pushing for added prize money due to the risks of traveling and playing. Other players have publicly said they may not travel to play in the tournament due to the situation, while men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic decried the proposed restrictions as “extreme.”

There are many variables here, from progression of the virus to whether players even show up. This could all change very quickly. If you need evidence of that, it was only two months ago that the USTA’s chief of operations said a tournament without spectators was not even a likely option.

Novak Djokovic says he wanted to quit tennis after bad loss in 2010

Novak Djokovic

One of the most difficult but necessary parts of sports — and life — is bouncing back after a defeat. That is much easier said than done, as Novak Djokovic could tell you.

Djokovic conducted an interview with Sky Sports Italy that was published on Wednesday. In the interview, he talked about some highs and lows in his tennis career. One of the lows came after he blew a two-set lead in the quarterfinals of the French Open and lost to Jurgen Melzer.

“It was a bad moment, I wanted to leave tennis because I saw everything black,” Djokovic said. “It was a transformation, because after that defeat I freed myself. I had won in Australia in 2008, I was number 3 in the world but I wasn’t happy. I knew I could do more, but I lost the most important games against Federer and Nadal. From that moment I took the pressure off, I started playing more aggressively. That was the turning point.”

Djokovic of course stuck with tennis and became the No. 1 player in the world a year after that loss. He is currently the No. 1-ranked player in the world and has won 17 grand slam titles. Earlier this year, he captured the Australian Open for the eighth time in his career.

US Open ‘highly unlikely’ to hold tournament without fans

US Open tennis

The US Open has time on its side, but its outlook for this year is in question, much like everything else.

USTA chief of operations Mike Dowse told reporters on a conference call this week that they are hoping to hold the tennis tournament like usual, but they won’t make a decision until June.

According to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, Dowse said they are “highly unlikely” to hold the tournament without fans.

The USTA makes more of its revenue from tickets and concessions than TV money, which means their events will be hard hit if there are limitations on fans.

“Playing without spectators – we’re not taking anything off the table – but it’s highly unlikely,” Dowse said. “It’s not really in the spirit of the celebration of tennis. We really don’t see that as an option. Unless the medical experts comes back with: here’s a foolproof way of doing a safe tournament without fans, we may look at it at that point.”

The US Open takes place annually in New York and is scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13. It is traditionally the last major in the calendar year, but this year’s schedule is different. Wimbledon has already canceled its tournament to collect an insurance payout, while the French Open moved to mid-September.