The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Damien’s Spin: A lot of movement on the ATP Tour

May 9, 2019

The wonderful thing about Wimbledon is the combination of grand tradition and an event that keeps resolutely marching forward.

To that end, tournament CEO Richard Lewis announced a few changes last month, including the likelihood of a serve clock for the 2020 tournament.

“Not a rule change, just a visible device on court to manage the rule,” he said.

Lewis also announced a 12 per cent increase in prize money. The men’s and women’s champions had been bumped to $3.05 million each, a 4.4% increase. Overall, the total purse is now $49.5 million

Finally, the new retractable roof on Court One is set to debut in July, giving the historic tournament two covered courts. The days of rainy fortnights in London threatening to scuttle the competition are, happily, over. We’ll miss the scrambling to get matches in, but not the gloomy concerns of not being able to finish the tournament on time. Just three years ago, organizers had to play matches on the normally inactive Middle Sunday because of terrible weather.

Sometimes, enough is enough. Or perhaps you’ve reached the end of the road.

Either way, a loss to Taylor Fritz in Madrid on Monday meant the conclusion of a productive working relationship between struggling Grigor Dimitrov and his coach, Dani Vallverdu.

“After my match (with Fritz) my coach and and I sat down together,” wrote Dimitrov on social media. “After three great years, we will be going our separate ways.”

Dimitrov’s best year with Vallverdu was 2017 when he won four titles and had a 49-19 win/loss record. The Bulgarian got as high as No. 3 in the world in early 2018, but has since plummeted and is currently ranked No. 46. Dimitrov, 27, has a 9-6 record this season.

For now, at least, the Justin Gimelstob affair is over.

But nobody would be surprised if Gimelstob returns to the tennis headlines again sometime in the very near future.

For now, he’ll be watching from the sidelines after deciding not to contest his seat on the ATP players council amidst a groundswell of disapproval after he pleaded no contest to rather ugly assault charges last month.

After several days of hand-wringing, and announcements that some prominent former players who prepared to run against him, Gimelstob announced would not run for council seat and soon after also resigned from the Tennis Channel as a commentator.

“Justin did what he had to do in my opinion and its good he didn’t put the players in a position that… the council guys didn’t have to vote against or in his favour,” said Rafael Nadal. “In my opinion, in that situation, it’s good what happened.”

Nadal called for greater diversity on the council in the wake of Gimelstob’s departure.

“It’s an opportunity to create some diversity and to have somebody there that represents some of the players who weren’t represented,” he said. “We need somebody who speaks Spanish… it’ll be easier the communication with all the Latin American and Spanish players.”

Novak Djokovic, a Gimelstob ally, created some confusion with seemingly contradictory comments. Djokovic said Gimelstob’s decision not to run for the council seat was a “wise decision,” but also said Gimelsob “has been probably the biggest asset that players had in the last 10-plus years.”

The likeliest scenario would be that Gimelstob steps back for a year, then quickly reinserts himself into the fray. The entire controversy has some calling for major changes in the way the ATP is structured, but with Gimelstob out of the picture for now, it will be business as usual for the forseeable future.

One small step for Greece, one giant step for tennis.

The diversity of the modern game took another step forward in early May when there were, for the first time in tennis history, simultaneous Greek champions on both the ATP and WTA tours.

Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Pablo Cuevas in Estoril, Portugal, notable as it was the second victory of the season for Tsitsipas and his first on clay as his young career continues to unfold.

In Rabat, Morroco, meanwhile, Maria Sakkari defeated Jo Konta on the dirt, coming back from a set down to win the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem event. It was the 23-year-old Sakkari’s first WTA triumph.

We continue to wait to find out when Andy Murray will test out his surgically repaired hip, the first step in seeing whether he’ll be able to continue his career after most believed he waved a fond farewell at the Aussie Open in January.

Murray has been given a wild card to play at Queen’s Club in the 2019 Fever-Tree Championships, which starts June. 17. Murray has yet to decide whether to accept as he continues to rehab from hip surgery in January.

Canadians Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Alliasime are all confirmed entrants for the pre-Wimbledon grass warmup.

Murray, meanwhile, has been given extra time to decide if he wants to accept a wild card to Wimbledon.

It’s been a long, long time since Feliciano Lopez wasn’t included among the top 100 players on the ATP rankings.

How does 877 weeks sound?

Lopez, 37, finally fell out of the top 100 in the last week of April after amassing the third longest consecutive weeks with that distinction in the Open era. Only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors had longer streaks. Lopez jumped into the top 100 for the first time after Wimbledon in 2002 and stayed there for more than 16 years.

Federer is now at 1,021, the longest current streak among active players, followed by Rafael Nadal (837) and Fernando Verdasco (791).

Lopez, meanwhile, will be taking over as the new tournament director at the Madrid Open next year, joining James Blake (Miami) as former top playing taking over high-profile events.

Madrid, happily, was the site for the return of a number of big-name players on the comeback trail.

Juan Martin del Potro first tried his repaired knee in doubles with Kei Nishikori, then returned for singles on Wednesday. It was Delpo’s first match since Delray Beach in February.

Richard Gasquet, meanwhile, played his first match of 2019 in Madrid after groin surgery in January.

“It’s over a thousand matches on the tour, you end up paying for it,” said Gasquet.