The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Damien’s Spin: Federer changes plans on 2020 season

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October 31, 2019
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The inaugural ATP Cup has suffered its inaugural body blow.

The first competition, set for three Australian cities in early January, got the news this week that Roger Federer had decided to withdraw. Federer’s decision also means Switzerland is out and won’t be one of the countries competing in the team event.

Federer announced a month ago he was entering, but subsequently changed his mind.

“After much discussion with both my family and my team about the year ahead, I have decided that the extra two weeks at home will be beneficial,” he said in a statement. ““It pains me not to be part of the most exciting new event on the calendar, but this is the right thing to do if I want to continue to play for a longer period of time on the ATP Tour.

“I am sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment my withdrawal may cause for the fans, but I hope you can understand.”

Federer did say he intends to play in 2020 Australian Open, which immediately follows the ATP Cup. It’s an early reminder for this brand new competition that even if it’s the bright shiny new penny on tour, that won’t make it immune to the stars not being available.

The loss of Federer is particularly painful since his presence, although with that of Rafael Nadal, was such an important element to the success of the recent Laver Cup. Tennis Australia has been very supportive of that event, and it has to hurt to now lose Federer for the first ATP Cup.

Still, the 24-country event is expected to feature nine of the world’s top 10 players, $15 million US in prize money and ATP ranking points. Perth, Brisbane and Sydney will all host matches, with the final matches in Sydney.

Switzerland is also eliminated, meanwhile, because the rules say if the No. 1 player of a country that qualified at the first entry deadline withdraws before the second entry deadline, the team is withdrawn from the top 18 countries. Switzerland’s next best player who has entered is Henri Laaksonen, and he is currently ranked outside top 100.

If Bianca Andreescu’s meteoric rise up the rankings was one of the biggest tennis stories of 2019, the opposite was the fall into obscurity for American Jack Sock.

Sock, 27, retired in his match against Sekou Bangoura at the Charlottesville Challenger this week, which meant he fell out of the top 1,000 and no longer has an ATP singles ranking at all. That’s shocking for a player who was No. 8 in the world just two years ago.

Sock had thumb surgery last winter and his season never really got going, although he won two doubles matches at the Laver Cup and recorded his only singles victory of the year, an upset over Fabio Fognini.

Conditioning is clearly an issue for Sock, who two two weeks ago retired in the first round in Las Vegas and is carrying decidedly more body weight than he did during his best years. Against Bangoura, he was in obvious back pain before calling it quits.

Sock knows the tennis world is shocked at what has happened to his game, but said he feels he has the talent to fight his way back up the rankings.

“I’ve showed it for my whole career,” he said in a recent interview. “So obviously that’s in me and it’s not so far away.

“People still like to hate on me. . . I’ve still got a long way to go to be where I want to be.”

Jeremy Chardy was an unlikely candidate to stop the Daniil Medvedev locomotive at the Rolex Paris Masters.

After all, the veteran Frenchman had lost his previous 10 matches against top 10 opponents. Medvedev, meanwhile, had started a new hot streak, winning nine straight matches since losing to Rafael Nadal in U.S. Open final

But Chardy ended the 23-year-old Medvedev’s streak of six consecutive finals in hard court events with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 triumph. Chardy saved 14 of 15 break points to get the win.

‘It’s a beautiful victory,” said Chardy after winning in front of an appreciative Parisian crowd. “When you play a match like this on the central court in France, it’s a wonderful feeling.” Chardy hadn’t beaten a top 10 opponent since knocking off Dominic Thiem in the 2018 Miami Open. Medvedev, meanwhile, hadn’t failed to get to the final of any hard court even he had entered since this year’s Miami tournament.