Yes, We’re Ready! Phased Reopening of Pro Tennis Begins With Universal Tennis Match Series Next Week on Tennis Channel
UNIVERSAL TENNIS AND TENNIS CHANNEL PARTNER TO BRING PROFESSIONAL TENNIS BACK WITH THE UTR PRO MATCH SERIES FEATURING TOP ATP & WTA PLAYERS
May 1, 2020 (Palo Alto, CA) – Universal Tennis today announced the UTR Pro Match Series presented by Tennis Channel featuring top ATP and WTA players in tournament play. The UTR Pro Match Series presented by Tennis Channel will be broadcast live on Tennis Channel and will be the first top tier professional tennis events televised internationally since the global health crisis put a halt to tennis in March.
For fans like you and I, this is a godsend. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself watching sims play tennis on twitch.tv and, just like the player-controlled “Virtua Mutua” Madrid Open, it doesn’t even compare to the real deal of human competition. The last event I covered was the New York Open in February, and it feels like a year’s gone by since Kyle Edmund hoisted the hardware on Long Island. A big thank you to Universal Tennis and Tennis Channel is in order.
The UTR Pro Match Series showcases a vision for how tennis can be played locally and safely through one-on-one matchplay and counts towards a single global rating and ranking with UTR.
The first event of the series will be held May 8-10 with a four-player men’s round-robin event beginning at 12:00 noon ET each day with 3 hours of live coverage. The line up of competitors is as follows:
Matteo Berrettini – 2019 US Open Semifinalist, ATP #8, UTR 15.71 (#12)
Reilly Opelka – 3rd ranked American, ATP #39, UTR 15.51 (#25)
Tennys Sandgren – 5th ranked American, ATP #55, UTR 15.32 (#53)
Tommy Paul – 6th ranked American, ATP #57, UTR 15.31 (#58)
A top-tier professional four-player women’s event follows May 22 – 24. The line up of competitors is as follows:
Alison Riske – 4th -ranked American, WTA #19, UTR 13.19 (#14)
Amanda Anisimova – 5th ranked American, WTA #28, UTR 13.04 (#33)
Danielle Collins – 8th ranked American, WTA #51, UTR 13.07 (#28)
Ajla Tomljanović – 2nd ranked Australian, WTA #56, UTR 12.85 (#68)
All matches will be held at a private court in the West Palm Beach, FL, area with no spectators or public access.
“We are excited to bring back the game to tennis fans and give players the opportunity to compete in a safe, competitive environment,” said Mark Leschly, Universal Tennis Chairman & CEO. “The world has changed and we must adapt and innovate. Local, individual and small group play will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. The UTR Pro Match Series showcases how tennis can be played locally, safely and have results count toward the UTR global rating.”
These are the first two events in what will be a continuing US and international series. UTR is partnering with others around the world to deliver UTR Pro Match Series events for players according to local guidelines as restrictions are lifted.
UTR Pro Match Series events are prize money competitions, not exhibitions, and have been reviewed by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) to ensure strict compliance. Results from all Pro Match Series events will be included in a player’s Universal Tennis Rating (UTR), the most accurate international tennis rating system that provides real-time head-to-head rating comparisons based on performance.
UTR Pro Match Series events will follow enhanced safety precautions, going above and beyond the USTA health and safety guidelines, and implement strict screening, cleaning and social distancing measures for players, officials and staff. There will be no spectators, no handshaking, no ballkids and no line judges. One chair umpire will oversee the match, and the court and facility will be professionally disinfected before and after play. Each player will be provided with their own set of marked balls for use during the match. Players will provide their own drinks and towels, and each player will have their own separate area off the court.
“We’re excited to work with our longtime partners UTR to bring professional tennis and high-quality live sports coverage back to millions of tennis fans in the United States and Europe during this uniquely challenging moment,” said Ken Solomon, president, Tennis Channel.
Tennis Channel, partnering with Ross Mobile Productions, will show all matches live. Emmy Award-winning announcer Brett Haber will call play by play for Tennis Channel from the network’s Los Angeles studio during the event. He will be alongside former NCAA champion and professional tour player Prakash Amritraj. During coverage Friday, May, 8, former world No 1. And US Open champion Andy Roddick will also offer commentary via Skype. The four players competing in the tournament will have headsets and be able to interact with Tennis Channel’s studio during changeovers.
2020 @BNPParibasOpen Canceled Because of Global Nature of the Sport
The hard edge of the Coronavirus finally collided with the tennis world last night as the 2020 BNP Paribas Open was canceled by tournament organizers, citing the health of players, fans and volunteers. But let’s face it: this happened because of the international nature of our sport.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, as quoted in the 2020 BNP Paribas Open obituary released by the tournament. He may be right.
Over the weekend, hundreds of college and professional sporting events went on as planned in the United States. Also over the weekend, a university in Baltimore closed its doors to fans for four Division III college basketball games that were only expected to draw a few hundred spectators.
Overseas, a handful of professional soccer matches were canceled in Italy. They were the outliers, and given that Division III basketball tournament host Johns Hopkins University is known as an international vanguard on public health, there may have been some brand considerations to go along with that decision.
But to cancel the fifth most important tournament in professional tennis is a quantum leap. It is either the decision of a hyper-vigilant public health officer or a sign of much worse to come.
The Indiana Pacers boarded a plane to fly to Texas to play the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Like all other teams in US domestic leagues, the fans travel relatively short distances and the players do too. The only international flight for an NBA team over the weekend was the Toronto Raptors flying to Sacramento.
Compare this to the players preparing to travel to Indian Wells. They were planning to come from Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and many other countries. Think about those players and their teams with connecting flights at airports all over the world and you’ll quickly realize that the decision to cancel Indian Wells was about protecting Riverside County, California from so many possibly infected players and coaches.Embed from Getty Images
We love tennis because of its international nature, and that is why it is being treated differently. As tennis can’t change its international composition, this bodes horribly for the rest of the tour leading up to Wimbledon. It’s ironic that as the US has been isolating itself from the rest of the world at the highest diplomatic levels over the last four years, tennis has been filling that void of international camaraderie for its fans, and this sport has just become the first major casualty precisely because of its global flavor.
OPINION: As Much as Anything, COVID-19 Threatens Fan Experiences at 2020 Tournaments
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
The BNP Paribas Open today announced measures to cope with the somewhat-sensationalized threat of the spread of the latest coronavirus infecting humans and destroying retirement accounts. Among them are guaranteed refunds, hand sanitizing stations, no one but players touching their own towels, gloved ball people, and this one: “Organized player and fan interaction will be limited at the tournament.”
For those of us who haven’t been frightened to death by round-the-clock coverage of this flu, this news will be a setback for fans planning to attend. In the midst of the current occupant of the White House running the country into the ground and other bad news on television every night, I know I’ve been plowing into sports as a refuge and I suspect there are millions more like me.
Johns Hopkins University, located in Baltimore, is the host of the early rounds of the NCAA Division III basketball tournament. They made news yesterday by announcing that their games would be played without fans. If Baltimore was Beijing and if Indian Wells were instead Wuhan, I’d understand the drastic measures.
I suspect that the term “organized player and fan interaction” means more than a couple of autograph sessions. It is highly likely that the policy will curtail post-match, spontaneous “player and fan interaction” as well. Security guards love to boss around the teeming tennis masses as they ask for a selfie, and this will give the muscle another opportunity to exercise their snooty dominion over spectators and players. All of this portends for a poorer fan experience at the tournament, and the possibility that subsequent cities on the American mini-swing such as Miami and Charleston, will be forced to follow suit to prevent them being seen as insufficiently prepared.
If the measures taken at the Tennis Garden are in fact, in place to protect players, then why wouldn’t the sport already limit player/fan interactions? Illness to a player, even for a week, can potentially cost them hundreds of thousand of dollars in lost income. Influenza A is far more common than COVID-19, and if a fan sneezes on a player while requesting an autograph, the results could be equally problematic.
I can only hope that this will be the last time these policies are put in place at a professional sporting event in 2020. For those who have died from or contracted COVID-19 or any form of influenza, I feel great sorrow. This, though, seems to be going too far and will cause unnecessary anxiety on the most vulnerable of groups: children and the elderly. Let’s hope the only hysteria we are left with by the end of 2020 is directed on court on a rising star, like Coco Gauff, Bianca Andreescu or Leylah Fernandez.
The tournament’s full statement is below:
“Following the direction and guidance of Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, and Martin Massiello, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Eisenhower Health, the BNP Paribas Open is taking action to continue prioritizing the health and safety of the fans, athletes, and everyone involved with the tournament.
First and foremost, any patron who has purchased tickets directly from the tournament may request a refund for the 2020 tournament, or a credit for the 2021 tournament. Patrons can visit http://www.bnpparibasopen.com/coronavirus to request a refund or credit.
Additional actions include:
More than 250 hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the facility
Players will be required to manage their own towel on court and ball kids will not touch or move player towels.
A chair will be placed at the back of the court for them to place their towel on for usage during the match.
Ball kids will wear gloves
Restaurant and food supply workers will wear gloves
Volunteers taking tickets at entrances will wear gloves
N95 masks are being secured for first aid and health personnel to be prepared for any circumstances that would necessitate the use thereof
Organized player and fan interaction will be limited at the tournament
All common areas throughout the facility will be cleaned daily with an antiviral application
Coordinating with local hospital and CDC approved testing for all individuals with symptoms
Further actions are being considered and evaluated on a daily basis in order to continue to ensure the safety of everyone associated with the event.”
Your First 2020 @NewYorkOpen Finalist is @Kyle8Edmund
Steve Fogleman from Long Island
Both Miomir Kecmanovic and Kyle Edmund have been burning up the indoor courts of the New York Open this week, so it seemed fitting that both players wore neon orange on Stadium Court today in the first semifinal at the New York Open.
Edmund double-faulted to begin the match. He held his serve in that game, then broke Kecmanovic in the second and consolidated it in a lengthy third game. Kecmanovic would be broken again as Edmund breezed to a 6-1 opening set win.in just under 35 minutes.
Kecmanovic opened the second set with a service win. After an Edmund hold, the young Serb faced a couple of break points but held. Both players settled in for exchanging service games and waiting for their opponent to make a critical mistake. That mistake finally came in the form of the ninth game, where Kecmanovic was broken at love for the 5-4 Edmund lead and the match on his racquet. Edmund gladly received the invitation and served the match out at love to advance to the final, 6-1, 6-4.
Before today’s loss, Kecmanovic beat Tommy Paul and Paolo Lorenzi in straight sets before his comeback win against Ugo Humbert in the quarterfinals.
Edmund’s run in New York began with him beating Yasutaka Uchiyamaand Dominik Koepfer in straight sets before outlasting Soonwoo Kwon in a three set quarterfinal match.
He’ll face the winner of tonight’s semifinal between Andreas Seppi and Jason Jung at 7:00 pm.
First @NewYorkOpen Semifinalists Emerge In Three Set Triumphs; @MioKecmanovic and @Kyle8Edmund Go Head to Head Tomorrow
Steve Fogleman from the home of the Long Island Nets
The wind kicked up and the cold came back to town in Uniondale, New York on Saturday for the New York Open. Inside the Coliseum, Ugo Humbert kicked up his service game and won a lopsided first set over Miomir Kecmanovic in the day’s first quarterfinal. Humbert won 94% of his first service points in the first set. Kecmanovic quickly regrouped and held the first game before breaking Humbert for the first time en route to the second set for the young Serb, 6-2.
It was hard to predict what was going to happen in the third set. Kecmanovic was flabbergasted by Humbert’s painting of the lines during the Frenchman’s service games. Kecmanovic lost a few close calls and after losing a challenge in the sixth game of the second set, he seemed to unravel, momentarily, and faced two break points. But he held.
In the eighth game of the final stanza, Humbert faced break point during his service. He held.
In the very next game, Kecmanovic found himself down 0-30.
Kecmanovic held from there and we all sensed a tiebreak was in order at that point.
We were wrong. Kecmanovic stunned his opponent by breaking Humbert at love to take the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Last week, I made some pre-tournament predictions and sadly, the only quarter I got right was Kecmanovic to play Humbert. They’re both still under the radar to many American fans and were virtually unknown two years ago.
It’s Kecmanovic’s second semifinal of the new year (Doha) and only the third semis showing in his career. In our interview, he said he’d like to finish the season in the top 30.
As for Humbert, he’s already won his first ATP tour title at Auckland in January, so his year is off to a good start as well.
Kyle Edmund will take on Kecmanovic in tomorrow’s day semifinal.
Soonwoo Kwon and Edmund also saw one player get off to a fast start. Kwon was up 6-3 and Edmund answered back with a 6-2 second set. Both players were firing on all cylinders for the third set. Like the third set before it, it also felt like an inevitable tiebreak. And this time, for once, we’d be right. Tragically, the match ended on a Kwon double fault at 5-6. Kwon’s third set tiebreak record is an abysmal 36%. Overall, it was a decent run for the 22-year-old South Korean.
Tonight, we’ll see Reilly Opelka try to take a step closer to defending his only title, while Jason Jung and Jordan Thompson try to get closer to their first ever tour level finals.
Favorites Advance in Tuesday @NewYorkOpen Action
Steve Fogleman at the Ancestral Home of the New York Islanders
A second day of rain did nothing but make you feel better about yourself for coming out to watch indoor tennis. And the weather outside did nothing to dampen the confidence of today’s winners.
Jordan Thompson played Ivo Karlovic’s game and beat him at it in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(2). While serving only 6 aces to Karlovic’s 11, the mustachioed Australian won an amazing 86% of his first service points and was never broken. From one big man to another, Thompson moves on to face American John Isner.
Soonwoo Kwon doused the hopes of qualifier Go Soeda, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3, after Soeda snuck up and took the second set tiebreak. Kwon nailed six aces in the third set after only four aces in the first two stanzas. Kwon’s service game will next have to match up against the tournament’s #2 seed Milos Raonic.
Paolo Lorenzi pulled a Pure Houdini today. He was down a set and a break to World #159 Danilo Petrovic, the lowest ranked player in the main draw. Petrovic, who was two games away from winning his first ATP Tour main draw match, disputed a call in the 8th game and continued to argue through the break and into the third set, where he was destroyed by Lorenzi, 6-0. Someone on twitter accused him of match-fixing, but I saw a guy out there who desperately wanted to win his first (at 28 years old) and he simply unraveled. Lorenzi, a quarterfinalist last year, faces Kecmanovic for a chance to return to New York’s Elite Eight.
You know that one match that you see on an Order of Play and you say, “that’s my match?” Me too. Yesterday, that match was Kecmanovic-Paul. And it disappointed. Today was no different. Today’s “my match” was Dominik Koepfer and Brayden Schnur. Schnur, a finalist at last year’s New York Open, clearly had the weight of history on his racket. He could not deliver a repeat performance of his 2019 run, and although the chants of “Let’s go, Canada” were louder in the second set, they did little to raise his game. For his part, Koepfer was consistent throughout the 6-3, 6-4 win. Earlier, Kyle Edmund eased past Yasatuka Uchiyama and will play Dominik Koepfer in the second round. That’s all for me until the quarterfinals on Friday here at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum. See you on Valentine’s Day from the Guy-land.
Qualifiers Placed, @NewYorkOpen Main Draw Underway Monday
Steve Fogleman on the G’Island
On a rainy Monday on Long Island, Noah Rubin left the New York Open with a scowl on his face after winning just 37% of the points in a qualifying final loss. His conqueror was the 38-year-young Paolo Lorenzi, who advanced to the main draw at the New Yorker’s expense, 6-3, 6-1. And Lorenzi’s smile was Rubin’s frown turned upside down. The Roman citizen never has a poker face and is easily the Steve Buscemi of tennis.
Jason Jung also dispatched Mitchell Kruger, 6-2, 6-4, at about the same time that Lorenzi finished off Rubin. Jung draws 2018 tournament champion Kevin Anderson in the main draw. 35-year-old Go Soeda destroyed Bernie Tomic in a stunning 39 minutes to take the third qualifying spot in the draw. Soeda’s first round opponent is Soonwoo Kwon. The last qualifying final, between Bradley Klahn and Danilo Petrovic, was a close affair for most of the first set before the Serb pulled away, 6-3, 6-2. Petrovic is the lowest ranked player (#159) to qualify for the main draw. He’ll square off against Old Roman Lorenzi in the first round.
The players on the Grandstand Court are at the mercy of their noisy, partying neighbors next door on Stadium. At the commencement of today’s matches, the lights went down as Noah Rubin was introduced on the main court. That meant lights out for Jung and Krueger, who had unceremoniously already begun warm-ups. C’est la vie for them.
The tournament has an impressive multi-media display system. The only problem is that without a lot of fans filling up the arena, it’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. On the other hand, there’s nothing like hearing the tossed coin hit the black courts from 300 feet away so loudly that you think that you dropped some change.
2020 @NewYorkOpen Preview, Predictions, Upsets
Steve Fogleman on Long Island
The New York Open is back for another year in the Coliseum in Hempstead, New York and we’re back as well at this ATP 250 tour event. A 250-level tournament is tricky for marketing purposes: just a couple of months ago, organizers were selling tickets for “Kei Nishikori Night” for Wednesday night’s matches. Then, Nishikori withdrew (as he just did in Delray Beach) and Nick Kyrgios became the celestial focus. Alas, he dropped out with a week to go, leaving it all to John Isner and the top Americans left to showcase. Let’s look at the draw.
Top seed John Isner is still looking for his first NY Open title in three tries. Like the other top 3 seeds, he’ll have a bye, meaning he need only win one match to reach the quarterfinals. He’ll face the winner of the Karlovic-Thompson match. There, I am taking Karlovic to avenge his Roland Garros loss to the Australian. In the quarters, Isner’s likely opponent will be 5 seed and fellow American Tennys Sandgren fresh off of yet another successful Australian Open run. Sandgren should ease past Steve Johnson in their first ever pro meeting on hard courts.
Quarterfinal: Isner vs. Sandgren
Quarterfinal: Opelka vs.Anderson
Embed from Getty Images
4 seed Ugo Humbert probably has the most intriguing section of the draw. After a bye, he’ll face the winner of Marcos Giron and one Jack Sock. At this point, Sock’s level of play is anyone’s guess. Even if Humbert does advance to the quarterfinals, I don’t think he’s a lock to move on any further. That’s because some of the biggest momentum in this section comes from two players: Tommy Paul and Miomir Kecmanovic. I’m picking the Serb to win their first meeting today and to beat the qualifier he’ll face in the second round. It’s a shame that Paul and Kecmanovic were drawn to play each other in the first round, because these young guns are very dangerous, especially in a 250. Currently, Kecmanovic is the underdog at +125 despite being the seeded player in the match.
Quarterfinal: Humbert vs. Kecmanovic
Milos Raonic, the 2 seed, also has to deal with a stacked quarter of his own. He starts play in the second round and Soonwoo Kwon will likely be his first opponent. Last year’s finalist is this year’s wildcard and Brayden Schnur would love to get back on track here in New York. Unfortunately, he’s drawn Dominik Koepfer in R1 in their first meeting and that match is going to be a tough out. However, with his 6-1 record on the black courts of the Coliseum, I would consider Schnur a value bet at +145. An all-Canadian quarter would be nice.
Quarterfinal: Raonic vs. Schnur
On a hunch, I think a Japanese player will advance to the second round, but I haven’t figured out which one yet. Yasutaka Uchiyama is a big first round underdog against Kyle Edmund. I will pick an upset of Yoshihito Nishioka today by Henri Laaksonen (+295). Or perhaps it will be top qualifying seed Go Soeda if he can get past Bernard Tomic today.
As always, this information is for amusement purposes only. And in just a few hours, the indoor main draw carnival begins.
2020 @AustralianOpen Week 1 Men’s Preview, Predictions, Long Shot R1 Picks
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It’s a new year with the same pressing question: Will a Young Gun will snatch a major from the Big Three? It’s never felt more in their grasp, and yet it still feels like Groundhog Day. Like floodgates after a massive storm, you know that when the day comes when a young’un lifts that fat hardware, it will become a regular occurrence.
Who is going to be the first? Zverev’s January form lends pessimism to his campaign. Daniil Medvedev tops his quarter with Zverev as the challenger-in-waiting. This is a shame for the youth movement. Assuming Zverev can get to a quarterfinal with the Russian, the winner should be exhausted enough to lose to #1 seed Nadal in the semifinal, unless fatigue has set in with Nadal as well. Nadal’s path is predictably easy into the fourth round. After that, he could draw dangerously unpredictable Nick Kyrgios and with another win, Dominic Thiem. Should he be forced to run this gantlet, Nadal may survive Thiem, but he will be a wounded warrior going after the winner of Zverev and Medvedev.
A wild card in Zverev’s section is Andrey Rublev, who has already picked up two titles in 2020. He’ll do well to advance to a fourth round match against Sascha, but the fatigue should have set in by then, allowing Zverev to advance to a Medvedev quarterfinal.
R4: Nadal d. Kyrgios
R4: Thiem d. Duckworth
QF: Nadal vs. Thiem
QF: Medvedev d. Zverev
Roger Federer never seems to have an easy draw, but he has to be pleased with this one. Young Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the fourth round would be his biggest test. On the other side of that quarter, I predict Berretini will be upset by Fabio Fognini, setting up a Federer-Fognini quarterfinal.
R4: Fognini d. Berretini
R4: Federer d. Shapovalov
QF: Federer vs. Fognini
Djokokvic’s quarter is counter-weighted by young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas, but before that quarterfinal match occurs, I’m taking Dusan Lajovic to meet the Serb in the fourth round. Roberto Bautista Agut will likely stand in the way of Tsitsipas in the fourth round as well. This is another quarter that should be upset-free, with the exception of Lloyd Harris taking out #14 seed Diego Schwartzman in the first round.
R4: Djokovic d. Lajovic
R4: Tstsipas d. Bautista Agut
QF: Djokovic vs. Tstsipas
So this is the moment where Elliot Benchetrit asks the ballkid to peel his banana. I’m glad the umpire (John Blom) stepped in and told him off. pic.twitter.com/TK1GET68pG
— Alex Theodoridis (@AlexTheodorid1s) January 19, 2020
And finally, it’s time for our new segment called “Potentially Worthy Picks”. These are big upset bets with big paydays. Remember that this is for amusement purposes only, and if you place a real bet and it doesn’t win, please don’t flame me on twitter. It’s not like I called you a liar on national television.
Potentially Worthy First Round Upset Picks
Lloyd Harris (+300) d. Diego Schwartzman
Elliot Benchetrit (+200) d. Yuichi Sugita
Yasataka Uchiyama (+300) d. Mikael Ymer