Former cricketer and India’s team director Ravi Shastri has found a way to get involved with tennis – a sport he refers to as his “first love” – as he takes on the role of special advisor to the UAE Royals in the IPTL.
Shastri, 53, believes he can nurture team spirit as well as help build the UAE Royals brand in this second season of the league.
“Tennis was my first love before cricket. But I had no choice but to take up cricket because the facility was better in my school,” Shastri told Sport360 at the unveiling of the UAE Royals at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
“The concept of the IPTL fascinates me. It’s individual sport to team sport and I’ve been part of a team culture for 35 years. Just to see the enjoyment the tennis players have when they play in a team, it’s something new to them and it’s refreshing for everyone who sees it.
“Just seeing that bench, when you have Pete Sampras and Roger Federer sitting together, having a conversation when someone else is playing, it’s fabulous. It opens the eyes of team sport to them.”
Indeed, getting to experience the environment of a team is what many players regarded as a highlight from their participation in the first season last year.
“On a personal level it’s unbelievable. Sharing the bench with Pete Sampras. Having fun with Gael Monfils in doubles, playing mixed doubles which I never do. That’s cool and different,” said Roger Federer, who won the league with the Indian Aces in the inaugural season.
While the owners of the Royals believe the IPTL can one day be as successful as the Indian Premier League (IPL), Shastri would not go as far as agreeing with them, but sees huge potential in it.
“Different sports, different cultures, but for a concept that started last year, it caught the imagination of a lot of people,” Shastri said when asked to compare the IPTL’s potential compared to the IPL.
“Now is the time to drive home the advantage and when you have someone like Roger playing for the UAE Royals you don’t need anything more. And Virat (Kohli) being part of it as a co-owner. He’s a great guy when it comes to team culture, he’s captain of his nation, so it’s fabulous.
“I can help build a team culture, not just in the sport, but also in building the brand. Because I’ve moved around the world as a sportsman, as a broadcaster, now the director of Indian cricket, so I have that experience. I can help build the brand of the UAE Royals.”
Novak Djokovic says he didn’t expect the matches in the league to be as competitive as they were last season but Kohli, the co-owner of the UAE Royals, believes it can be even more competitive this year.
“When you’re playing in a team environment, the motive is obviously to make the team win and I think it’s that feeling that’s making it more competitive,” explained Kohli. “Hopefully I can come in and give all the positive vibes and positive energy to make the team win this season.”
Patrick Mouratoglou revealed he knew Serena Williams was destined to fail in her bid for a historic calendar grand slam from the “very first second” they met on Friday.
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Williams’ French coach was cool, calm and collected while the rest of Flushing Meadows was in utter disbelief after Italian Roberta Vinci produced one of the greatest shocks ever to send the world No 1 out and destroy her hopes of becoming the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to land all four majors in one season.
Williams was certainly well off her game and looked a shadow of the player who had rampaged her way through to the last four.
Mouratoglou, however, saw the warning signs flashing before him.
“She clearly played a bad match today, she was moving not as usual, very slow and there was no movement with her lower body so she was always in a bad position to be aggressive and play her attacking game,” said the Frenchman.
“It was clearly a bad day for her. I could see that from the very first second that I saw her in the morning. Usually at slams there are bad days but you need to find a way through and unfortunately she didn’t do that.
“I saw straight away that she wasn’t looking well. There are days when you wake up and simply don’t feel great. This was one of those days.
“It has nothing to do with her opponent, she just wasn’t moving well enough. Maybe playing a player like Vinci after coming up against someone like Venus took its toll because maybe she wasn’t feeling the same pressure, you don’t come to the court with the same intentions.
“She wasn’t feeling well and also she was not mentally aggressive. It’s not all about physical problems. Players sometimes don’t wake up the same way. They are humans.
“Was it the biggest shock I have ever seen? No because it all depends on what Serena does rather than her opponent. Tactically she wasn’t able to work it out and when that starts happening, it’s difficult to turn it around.”
Missing the chance to create history is sure to hurt Williams yet Mouratoglou reckons the agony suffered here will inspire the American, who turns 34 later this month, to go one better next season.
“In a way this could be good – there is still this high goal to achieve. Sometimes bad news is good news,” he added.
Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka set up an all-Swiss US Open semi-final on Wednesday night with comprehensive wins over Richard Gasquet and Kevin Anderson respectively.
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Federer was the first to advance with an outstanding 6-3 6-3 6-1 win over Gasquet in which he did not face a single break point over the course of the encounter.
The former World No. 1 was rarely troubled over the course of just an hour and a half, edging closer to another final and a shot at a sixth US Open title.
For Wawrinka, any fears of Anderson repeating the giant-killing heroics which ended Andy Murray’s Flushing Meadows run were quickly ended with an equally impressive 6-4 6-4 6-0 victory.
Having laboured past opponents in earlier rounds, the French Open winner found form to combat Anderson’s giant serve and ensure another high-profile clash with compatriot Federer.
In the other semi-final, pre-tournament favourite Novak Djokovic will face defending champion Marin Cilic for the chance to face one of the Swiss pair in Sunday’s final.