Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Player Relief Fund Announced; French Open Moved Again?; Rajeev Ram on UTR All Access

The six million dollar commitment from the ATP, WTA, ITF and the four slams to help players affected by the Covid-19 disruption of tennis was officially announced today, after the initial release that it was in the works two weeks ago. There are no real details on the amounts for each player, how it will be distributed and who will get it beyond this paragraph:

In addition to contributions of their own, the ATP and WTA will administer the financial distributions of the Player Relief Programme, which sees respective contributions from the four Grand Slam tournaments and ITF split equally between men and women. The Player Relief Programme will target a total of approximately 800 ATP/WTA singles and doubles players collectively, in need of financial support. Eligibility for the Player Relief Programme will take into account a player’s ranking as well as previous prize money earnings according to criteria agreed by all stakeholders.
That criteria for eligibility will remain a mystery for now, although I expect once players are notified they are eligible (or not included), more specific numbers will come from them.

Although the French Open website is still giving the dates of its 2020 edition of September 20 to October 4, tennis.com is reporting that it will move to the following week, with the qualifying now taking place in the week that was previously set as the first week of main draw play:
"After discussions with the different international tennis authorities (ATP, WTA and ITF) and subject to any health and safety obligations linked to COVID-19," read the update, "we are currently analyzing the option to slightly modify the dates of Roland-Garros 2020 in order to host the tournament over three weeks, from 21 September to October 11, 2020."
Whether it happens at all (Rafael Nadal is skeptical) is another question that probably won't be decided for some time.

2020 Australian Open men's doubles champion Rajeev Ram was today's guest on the UTR All Access, and because host Prakash Amritraj is a contemporary of Ram's, there was banter about their junior days.

"We used to call you 'Rajeev Ram To The Tower' because at Kalamazoo they would always call the players to the tower...for media interviews," Amritraj said. "You would just get called up all the time. Everybody loved you there, and your sportsmanship was really something that stood out....you would win the sportsmanship award year after year."
Ram and Timon Corwin at 1999 Kaplan Sportsmanship Award Ceremony
(photo by Helen Handelsman for USTA Nationals Program)
Ram, who was indeed a popular player with the Kalamazoo fans, media and officials, won the Bobby Kaplan Sportsmanship Award in 1999, and claimed Allen B. Stowe Sportsmanship Award for 18s in 2001. In between he won the 16s singles title and the first of his three consecutive doubles titles in Kalamazoo, all with Jonathan Stokke (who recently announced he is leaving his position of associate head coach at Duke after ten years).

In 2001, as the top singles seed, Ram lost to No. 9 seed Amritraj in the round of 16, and in 2002, as the No. 3 seed, Ram lost to No. 20 seed John Isner in the round of 32. Ram went on to the University of Illinois, where as a freshman he won the NCAA doubles title with Brian Wilson, while the team, coached by Craig Tiley, won its sole NCAA team championship. He then turned pro, saying today that one of the reasons he left was that he felt he wasn't able to do justice to either his tennis or his studies with that split focus.

Asked what he would tell his 18-year-old self now, Ram said this:

"Just to have a bit more belief in what I do. If what you do well isn't good enough, then that's ok, but don't try to go away from who you are. Stick to the person and player you are. That's ok, just because it doesn't match the current player that's world No. 1. I remember pretty clearly, when I turned pro, or slightly before that, Lleyton Hewitt was the best player in the world. I'm absolutely nothing like Lleyton Hewitt. I literally couldn't be more of an opposite player. But that doesn't mean what I'm bringing to the table isn't good enough for a certain amount of success. Just because the people or person at the top of the game don't do what you do, that doesn't mean you can't also be successful. The biggest No. 1 thing I would say would be that."

Probably the main takeaway I have from these fascinating All Access conversations with top pros is how often they emphasize that everyone's path is different, and how recognizing and accepting that is part of what allowed them to continue to improve and ultimately find success.

Thursday's All Access webinar features Shelby Rogers. I am not sure I will be able to watch that one live, but if you have an opportunity, register for the ones that fit your schedule. I think you will appreciate their insights on the lessons they've learned during their careers. UTR is now starting to feature many other webinars by coaches and experts, with registration for those at this link.