All Things Tennis 2023

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New year, new tennis season!

In one of the opening warm-ups for the Australian swing, Seb Korda will face off against Djokovic in the Adelaide final.
 

Also, Gauff will be playing in the final in Auckland.
 

I think we all agree, there needs to be much, MUCH more of Rachel Stuhlmann in this thread. I'm here to help, you're welcome.

Tennis Influencer Rachel Stuhlmann Agrees With German Study: Staring At Boobs Good For Your Health

Rachel Stuhlmann And Paige Spiranac Are Doing Their Part For Humanity

That is a hot start to 2023 for pro tennis. As Paige has done with golf, Rachel has played a part in elevating the sport of tennis. Thanks to a German study, we now know they’ve both also elevated the health of millions.
 


Osaka is one of my least favorite players ever:


Go USA!!
 


Great start to 2023 for Coco!


Go Coco!!
 

Sebi put up a big time battle:


Go Sebi!!
 


Four-time major champion and former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka announced she is pregnant and indicated she will miss the entirety of the 2023 season.

"I realize that life is so short and I don't take any moments for granted, everyday is a new blessing and adventure," Osaka tweeted Wednesday, including a picture of an ultrasound. "I know that I have much to look forward to in the future, one thing I'm looking forward to is for my kid to watch one of my matches and tell someone 'That's my mom,' haha. 2023 will be a year that'll be full of lessons for me and I hope I'll see you guys in the start of the next one cause I'll be at [Australian Open] 2024."


Go USA!!
 



Per Front Office Sports:

On the eve of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of 2023, tennis finds itself at a crossroads.

In August, Serena Williams rocked the sports world when she announced she would retire following the 2022 U.S. Open. One month later, Roger Federer announced his retirement.

It will be the first season without both of them since 1999.


The absence of those two titans creates a seismic shift in the dynamic of the sport — from both a competitive and business standpoint.

“It’s an incredibly exciting turning point,” says the ATP and WTA’s SVP of Brand and Marketing Dan Ginger. “It’s the old guard departing the sport and this new guard entering the sport. And for us, it’s just a pure opportunity for a sport which we all truly believe has so much to offer for millions of fans around the world.”

Tennis’ rebranding party in Melbourne will boast the current game’s most marketable names, but three very notable ones will be absent.

  • After winning the 2022 AO in her home country, Ashleigh Barty stunningly announced her retirement at the age of 25.
  • Naomi Osaka — winner of the 2021 AO and 2022’s highest-paid female athlete, per Forbes — could miss the entire 2023 season after announcing her pregnancy.
  • Rising star and winner of the men’s 2022 U.S. Open Carlos Alcaraz will miss the tournament with an injury picked up in training.
Thus, the door is wide open for the sports’ deep roster of young talent to stake their claim of the marketing opportunities — and a share of the record $67.35 million in total prize money.


And while it’s all going down, Netflix’s cameras will be eagerly capturing everything: The first five episodes of the streaming giant’s new series, “Break Point” — which documents professional tennis’ 2022 season — went live on Friday.

It’s a game-changing opportunity for tennis — one that it will attempt to capitalize on in the coming weeks.

Getting To Know You​

When Box to Box Films — the production company behind smash hit “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” — began its quest of documenting professional tennis for Netflix, it did what it does best: evoke, and showcase, the athletes’ personalities.

“Tennis players are emotionally reflecting on every point of every game at every time, and that’s what makes them fascinating,” Box to Box co-founder Paul Martin says. “Tennis is a process of mental torture in some ways.”


“A good story is ultimately a good story,” says “Break Point” showrunner Kari Lia. “There’s more story on a personal level, I would say, than just games. That was really important for us, that it felt like it was relatable.”

The show accomplishes this through its signature technique of following the current players through their personal and professional lives.

It also brings in some of tennis’ most hallowed names to provide insight into the psychology of the sport. Interviews in the show include:

  • Chris Evert
  • Martina Navratilova
  • Andy Roddick
  • Maria Sharapova
“What we’re seeing now, particularly with the next generation of fans who are coming into our sport, is that it is much more athlete personality-driven,” Ginger says. “Winning is always going to attract headlines. … But when we look beyond that, the task that we have at hand is how do we build more affinity and personal connections.”

Shark in the Water​

Box to Box rolled into Melbourne last year confident it would capture the rise of one of the men’s game’s young, marketable stars.


Instead, it found Rafael Nadal, one of the old guards, standing firmly in the way.

“Paul [Martin] and James [Gay-Rees] at Box to Box described Rafa as the shark in ‘Jaws,’” says ATP Media’s Chief Strategy Officer Nick Bourne. “We’re connecting with all the characters that are swimming on the surface, and there’s this terror of the deep that’s sort of lurking there.”

Despite being the No. 1 seed, Nadal comes into Melbourne in poor form — setting him up for either another storybook run or a disappointing exit.


So, this year’s shark in the water is Novak Djokovic.

Unlike Nadal, Djokovic is in excellent form, having won two consecutive tournaments in November’s ATP World Tour Finals and early January’s Adelaide International 1.

After missing the 2022 Australian and U.S. Opens due to his lack of vaccination, the 35-year-old could enter Melbourne on a warpath, looking to build on his legacy and add the $2.98 million prize to his already impressive career earnings.

  • Djokovic has made $164.8 million from winningsin his career — by far the most all-time and over $30 million more than the second-highest earner, Nadal ($134.5 million).
  • He has won a record nine Australian Opens and 21 Grand Slams, trailing only Nadal (22) for the most ever.
  • The Serbian comes into the 2023 AO as a massive -110 favorite to win it all.
All the same, the new crop of young players will be looking to dethrone Djokovic and Nadal in Melbourne. Among them are Daniil Medvedev(+550), Stefanos Tsitsipas (+1400), Taylor Fritz(+1700) — and controversial Australian hometown hero Nick Kyrgios (+1600).


The ATP will be ready to market them.

“Every sport has to have a succession plan, as it were,” says Bourne. “It’s about that next generation of players, enabling different fans to connect with different players in different ways, and just offering that variety to new audiences.”

The Post-Williams World​

Since 2017, only three men not named Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal have won a Grand Slam.

In contrast, since 2017 — the last year Serena Williams won a major — 15 different women have claimed a Grand Slam title.


“Serena, for me, she’s the best female athlete ever, not just tennis player,” world singles No. 6 Maria Sakkari says. “We were kind of waiting for it because she was on the tour for so many years, but at the same time, you don’t want these people to leave and wish they could stay forever.”

Williams ($94.8 million) has earned over $50 million more in prize money in her career than the second-highest-earning women’s player — her sister Venus ($42.4 million).

With the women’s side of the sport enjoying competitive parity for years, there’s no shortage of young stars trying to compose the new group.

  • Iga Swiatek (21) — the 2022 U.S. Open winner — comes into Melbourne as the betting favorite (+225).
  • Aryna Sabalenka (24, +750) will try to finally break through with her maiden Grand Slam victory after being one of WTA’s most consistent players.
  • Coco Gauff (18, +1600) has remarkably been on the major cusp for years since turning pro at 14.
  • Elena Rybakina (23, +2200) will look to shock the world again after she became the first Kazakhstani to win a Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2022.
Swiatek, the No. 1 player in the world, was the highest-earning player on tour in 2022 ($9.9M) and has 11 titles and three majors to her name — but her career winnings are at a distant $14.7 million.


However, as Evert says during “Break Point,” “Women tennis players are still striving for equal prize money to men.”

Although all of the Grand Slams have committed to equal pay, many smaller tournaments will still pay the men more.

Alcaraz, the No. 1 men’s player, has five fewer titles and two fewer majors than Swiatek but trails her by less than $3 million ($11.8M).


Women also have to contend with another disadvantage: In the fourth episode of “Break Point,” Ons Jabeur talks openly about only wanting to have children after her career, and the show notes that only three women have ever won a major after having kids — something not even Williams could accomplish.

“I can’t remember how many kids Andy Murray and Roger Federer have, but I think they have quite a few, and they didn’t skip a beat, they were able to go right back to work,” says Lia. “That’s not the case for women.”

Outside the Lines​

Despite playing only 11 tournaments last season and ranking just 20th all-time in career earnings ($21.2M), Naomi Osaka was still Forbes’ highest-paid female athlete of 2022.

It goes to show just how the importance of building a brand: Because women’s prize money lags behind, attaining and maintaining marketability is vital to financial success. WTA accepts its role in that process.


“We have an objective to market our athletes, but only in the most authentic way,” says WTA President Micky Lawler. “The game will pave its own path of champions, and we are here to exercise the marketing arm as fate allows. Our brand mission is to champion women who compete fiercely and live fully.”

As “Drive to Survive” proved for individual sports, there are millions of consumers who may not even know they’re tennis fans yet, they just need access to these athletes at the right time.

All the same, the eyes remain on the prize.


“Sponsors and money, it’s important because it brings this financial security,” Sharapova says on “Break Point.” “You get a sponsorship and you think it’s forever, but guess what? It’s not. It’s not forever unless you keep winning.”

Go USA!!
 


What an amazing win for Andy Murray over Berrettini in 5 sets and nearly 5 hours. Murray was essentially retired a few years back, I give him a lot of credit for getting back into shape to win a match like that.

Great early start for the American's: Fritz, Tiafoe, Shelton, Brooksby, Paul, Wolf, Eubanks, Sebi, McDonald, etc. all get first round wins.

Really hoping an American male can breakthrough this season and get a Slam.

Go USA!!
 

The evolution of Frances Tiafoe — who was just a little too happy​

Winning makes it easy to inspire and Tiafoe did his share of that last season, climbing inside the top 20 in the world for the first time after reaching at least the quarterfinals in eight tournaments, including during a magical two-week run at the U.S. Open, where he knocked off Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev before falling in an epic five-set semifinal to eventual champion and current World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. In doing so, he became the first American men’s player to reach the final eight in New York since John Isner in 2018 and the youngest to do so since Andy Roddick in 2006. Roddick is also the last U.S. men’s player to win a Grand Slam title, which he did that year in Queens. Tiafoe doesn’t want that memorable run at Arthur Ashe to be his zenith. He wants much more, and he’ll try to end the American men’s drought again beginning this week at the Australian Open.

“I had some good wins [last year] but haven’t really backed them up, haven’t really went to that next level of being in semis and finals [of Grand Slams],” Tiafoe told The Post. “I beat a lot of good players [but] winning consistently gives you that confidence.”

It’s only taken a little while for him to get here.

“Frances was a happy kid who always loved being around a tennis court,” Benton told The Post. “I met him when he was about 5 years old. He lived to play tennis, and he smiled when he played.”

But in the early part of his career, Tiafoe was admittedly a little too happy. The story goes like this: After he finished the year in the top 100 in the world for the first time in 2017 — a season that included pushing Roger Federer to five sets in the opening round of the U.S. Open — he remarked how pleased he was with his play. Then someone asked Tiafoe who the hardest workers on tour are and he proceeded to rattle off the names Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

The message sunk in, eventually. According to some around Tiafoe, he had become accustomed to being treated like a star without having yet performed like one.

In 2020, Tiafoe hired Wayne Ferreira as his coach. The gritty, tough-as-nails South African who won 15 titles in a career that saw him reach as high as No. 6 in the world was exactly what Tiafoe needed.


Go Tiafoe!!
 



Big night for the American's, highlighted by the shocking Mackenzie McDonald upset over Rafa. I watched the first two sets, in the first McDonald's performance was no fluke. He got up a break early in the second and then Rafa was turning it around, up 3-2 and then got hurt. Rafa is such a fighter and tried to compete, but McDonald was too strong for a Rafa not at 100%. Regardless of the circumstances, a massive win for McDonald.

Tiafoe, Korda, Keys and Coco all won their second round matches.

Go USA!!
 

Several more upsets for the American men last night, including over the 2-seed!

Dang, wish I could catch some of these live.
 

I watched the Brooksby/Ruud match, this was no fluke. Brooksby was fantastic. On top of that, Wolf knocks off Schwartzman in straight sets, Mmoh with a shocking win over Shasha and Shelton continues to be one of the fastest rising American male tennis players in 20+ years!

Too bad Fritz was upset, this was a tournament he could have done some real damage.

On the women's side young American Katie Volynets knocked off the 9th seed.

Go USA!!
 

This is an absolutely incredible point in of itself, but considering the circumstances (down 2 sets to 0, coming off a 5 hour match previous round, playing against a home town hero, coming off years of injuries, etc...wow):


Go USA!!
 

Another night, another huge win for a young American, this time its Sebi over Medvedev in straight sets no less. I wish Tiafoe would have joined him in the American dominance but unfortunately he lost a tough one.

Go USA!!
 

Love stories like these, heck of a development for the American, per Axios:

"Lucky loser" Michael Mmoh upset No. 12 Alexander Zverev in Melbourne on Thursday to reach the third round, Jeff writes.

How it works: Lucky losers are players who lose in the qualifiers but still make the field after someone else withdraws.

What happened: When the 107th-ranked Mmoh lost in the final qualifying round, he packed his bags and prepared to leave Melbourne.

  • But hours before the tournament began, the 25-year-old American got news that David Goffin had pulled out and the spot was his. Now he's onto the third round after back-to-back wins.
  • "The past 48 hours has been a complete whirlwind," Mmoh said. "I was supposed to leave yesterday … Now I'm here, and I just had the best win of my career. It just doesn't seem real."
Go Mmoh!!
 

Watching some of the replay of Ben Shelton's win. Had to look up how old he is. He's apparently 20 but damn I bet he gets carded trying to get into r-rated movies
 

Watching some of the replay of Ben Shelton's win. Had to look up how old he is. He's apparently 20 but damn I bet he gets carded trying to get into r-rated movies

The Aussie Open is the first time in his life he’s left the country. He was in college 8 months ago and now he’s a win away from a Slam Quarters and will likely be Top 50 after this. What a story!!

Go Shelton!!
 





Australian Open Sets Attendance Record​


The first Grand Slam of 2023 drew better-than-expected attendance with record prize money up for grabs.

The Australian Open reported preliminary figures surpassing the event’s previous record of 812,714 in 2020, despite schedule disruptions due to rain and a heat wave.

“We thought there would not be as quick a recovery from COVID as there has been,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.

  • The Australian Open broke its single-day attendance mark with 94,854 fans on Jan. 21.
  • It reached the milestone without traditional visitors from China due to border restrictions.
  • Tournament organizers aim to attract 1 million fans per year.
The Australian Open generated $405.3 million in economic benefit in 2021 and 2022, per Nielsen Sports. Over the past decade, the event has made $2.71 billion for Australia’s economy.


Go Tennis!!
 

This is an amazing story:

Real estate professional Matija Pecotic beats former World No. 8 Jack Sock: I had to 'leave work early'​


Full-time real estate professional Matija Pecotic stunned former world No. 8 Jack Sock on his ATP Tour main draw debut at the Delray Beach Open on Tuesday.

Pecotic, who works as a director at a real estate investment firm, plays tennis part time and beat Sock 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 to set up a tie with American Marcos Giron in the round of 16 on Wednesday in Florida.

The Croatian said he had to "leave work early" in order to play his match against former top-10 player Sock.

"I had to leave work early today," Pecotic said. "I had to send an email to the whole team. [My boss] let me off. I'm going to have to ask for another day off tomorrow."

The World No. 784 had a career-high ranking of No. 206 in 2015, but his tennis career was dealt a blow as he suffered from complications following surgery. The 33-year-old refound his love for the sport when he went on to study at Harvard Business School.

He downed Sock in two hours and 10 minutes, rattling off 10 aces and 30 winners in the first-round match.

"You've got to be realistic," Pecotic said. "This is a former top-10 guy with an incredible amount of tennis experience and a huge serve. He came out serving 134 mph on the first serve. It would be arrogant to think I'm going to come out and expect to win.

"But I figured if I could sink my teeth into the match and work on the two or three patterns I prepared before, that I'm going to have a chance."

On his training schedule, Pecotic said he finds "creative ways to work around it."

"I absolutely love this game, and I know it's not forever and I'm 33," he said after qualifying for the main draw.

"I try to maximise each day. I try to train every morning if I can, five, six times a week. Sometimes I train with my boss, who is 70 years old. This week I trained with a guy who is probably in his late 50s. But you find creative ways to work around it."

Giron, Pecotic's next opponent, is ranked World No. 55 and beat Australian Open quarterfinalist Ben Shelton in the first round.


Go Tennis!!
 







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