Grass party, a snub, and a resignation

Grass season started with a bang, Murray's retirement looms while Raducanu snubs the Olympics and Tsitsipas gets dumped

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Welcome back to this new edition of the Tennis Sweet Spot! We’re seeing green everywhere, and not only because it’s still raining in France like it’s November.

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On the menu today:

  • Grass court season started like a charm

  • Andy Murray’s looming retirement, a snub and a resignation

  • You might soon treat injuries virtually

  • Sports documentaries fatigue, says nobody

  • Tips for the overpackers

GRASS SEASON
What A Start!

There’s been no warm-up for this grass season: everybody is already at full speed!

WHAT WE LOVED: That Bianca Andreescu Energy
How much does tennis need Bianca Andresscu? A lot. The crazy good game with all the tools in the box, the personality, the fighting spirit: Bianca Andreescu is a walking blockbuster. She made the week of the Libema Open in 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, even if she didn’t get the fairytale ending as she lost in the final. But this one match against Naomi Osaka in the quarter-finals was worthy of a trophy, and it reminded everyone how much tennis needed to see these two back at the top.

I’d go as far as to say that Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff need them too. Imagine how they could push each other to new heights… Andreescu came back to competition only three weeks ago and is basically already back to a Top 20 level. As usual, the only doubt comes from her body as she still has to manage that back condition and had that left thigh taped during the final.

WHO WON BIG: Jack Draper
How good is that lefty paw? Very. Jack Draper, 22, got his hands on his first ATP trophy on Sunday in Stuttgart after beating Matteo Berrettini in the final of the BOSS Open (3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4). Draper, as every tennis observer knows, has everything to make it big in the game. It’s only a matter of his body agreeing to it. Now ranked #31, he becomes the new British number 1: the youngest to do so since Andy Murray in 2009 and, as The Times also notes, the first male player from this country other than Murray to win a grass-court tour title since Greg Rusedski at the 2003 Nottingham Open.”

I’ve been working so hard behind the scenes,” he told the press after the final. “It’s a testament to my perseverance and the people I have around me. Belief in tennis is a huge thing. To come and win against top players is so important. I think this will give me a massive confidence boost. Hopefully I can keep going and be tough to beat.” It was a great weekend for British tennis by the way, as Katie Boulter won the title in Nottingham for the second year in a row, defeating Karolina Pliskova (4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

He didn’t win, but still, this final in Stuttgart has to feel like a victory for Matteo Berrettini, who shows again that he’s among these players who can get back to their top level in no time after an injury. If only he didn’t have to prove it again and again… Massive props to Australian Alex De Minaur, who clinched his second title of the year after Acapulco in 's-Hertogenbosch after beating Sebastian Korda (6-2, 6-4). He’s now #7 in the rankings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sinner and Alcaraz get started
Jannik Sinner will have a tough task when he starts his grass season in Halle this week. The Italian will play his first tournament as the World No.1 and will face Tallon Griekspoor, who reached the semi-finals in 's-Hertogenbosch, in his first match.

“The first day you have to get familiar with the movements on the surface and it is difficult, especially when you play the first rounds against players who have already played on grass. They have a little more benchmarks, but it’s a place where they believed in me, they gave me a wild card in qualifying at the time (in 2019). So I’m happy to come back here and I hope I can show good tennis from the start,” he said.

Carlos Alcaraz will be back at the Queen’s, where he won the title last year before his Wimbledon triumph. This time, there will be a big difference as he lands as the new Roland-Garros champion. He’ll face Francisco Cerundolo to start and could then cross Jack Draper’s path.

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MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO 
VR Therapy for Injury Recovery

Can your mind help your body heal? And can virtual reality help your mind heal your body? It seems so! Scientists have started to incorporate VR into their tools to help people—and so athletes—recover better from injuries and avoid relapses. As the use of VR is in its infancy, it’s too soon to say how well it can or cannot work in the long run, but the potential is there.

Sports scientist Shelby Baez, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explains how VR therapy can be used to recover from ACL injuries. “There’s a lot of apprehension when you come back from an injury like this,” Davis says. “You’re very timid because you’re scared you’re going to tear it again,” she said. To help them, she started to combine sports psychology and VR through VR-guided mindfulness meditation.

“Using VR may be an effective and engaging way to improve upper or lower extremity coordination and balance during physical therapy. (…) Any neurological injury that causes difficulty with normal movement may benefit from the use of VR in physical therapy,” explains Brett Sears, physical therapist. He then lists orthopedic conditions that could benefit from using VR devices through rehab, and you can see where it should be interesting for tennis players. Ankle sprains, shoulder pain and impingement, after ankle, knee, or hip surgery, back pain, neck pain, chronic pain management: sounds like a professional tennis player near you?

Visual motor training, taken a step forward

“As part of a wider rehabilitation therapy package, VR has the potential to help address the multiple challenges athletes face by reintroducing them progressively to situations where they need to perform to a high level under extra mental and physical pressures, overcoming anxiety, isolation, and the side effects of sometimes prolonged immobilization and recovery periods,” said Victoria Reboredo, a clinical specialist and physiotherapist.

Visual motor training has long been used in sports, including tennis, to work on and train the nervous central system. The overall goal is to challenge the sensorimotor system. VR would come as another tool that would push the training even deeper. Visual motor training has been used to target adaptations to the central nervous system and to drive sensorimotor and neuroplastic adaptation. Eyes open/eyes closed, blinking and the use of strobe glasses have been traditional strategies used by clinicians to manipulate visual stimuli to challenge the sensorimotor system. The VR system takes this a step further by providing a highly immersive environment where visual training can be manipulated to assist or challenge movement and motor planning”, explained Jonny King, 1st Team Rehabilitation Physiotherapist at Leicester City Football Club, who has started using it in his rehabilitation strategy. And we’re just at the start of that virtual adventure…

BUSINESS / MEDIA 
Murray’s retirement has never been closer

Andy Murray Wtf GIF by Tennis TV

Gif by tennistv on Giphy

The denial bubble will soon burst: tennis will definitely lose Andy Murray this year, and maybe even earlier than hoped. Some might have wondered if Murray would want to play the US Open one last time, as it’s the first Grand Slam title he won, but chances seem to be slim now. My plans haven't really changed. I'm not planning to playing much past this summer,” he told the BBC.

The former World No.1 and the infamous Big 4 member revealed that Wimbledon or Paris might be his last career stop. “Probably if I was going to finish my career I would rather finish at Wimbledon or an Olympic Games - to me that would probably be more fitting. (…) "To get a chance to compete at a fifth one is a reason to stay motivated and continue playing. A lot of it is based on results and physically how I'm feeling as well.”

As far as retirement is concerned, Murray seems to be in the Nadal camp: doesn’t want that but has no more choice now. “I think in lots of careers, retirement is something you celebrate and people really look forward to that day – that's not something I feel. I love playing tennis.”

Federer and S. Williams attended the Tribeca festival as sports become integral to streamers’ strategy

Serena Williams and Roger Federer at the Tribeca festival

Serena Williams and Roger Federer at the Tribeca festival

This year, the Tribeca Festival became a tennis festival, as Roger Federer and Serena Williams premiered their upcoming documentaries there. “Federer: Twelve Final Days” will be released on Amazon Prime on June 20th, while the docuseries “In the Arena: Serena Williams” will land on ESPN+ on July 10th. And next year, let’s not forget, it will be Carlos Alcaraz’s turn to release his own documentary on Netflix.

That confirms that sports documentaries are now important to streamers’ strategies. It's tough not to see there the impact of the success of The Last Dance and Drive To Survive on Netflix. “Indeed, some major streamers and their cable counterparts—including Amazon, Netflix, ESPN, HBO, Discovery, and Peacock—collectively commissioned 65% more sports documentary content in 2023 globally compared to 2020, according to Ampere Analysis’ Nursall,” reports The Current. 

Yet, like with all good things, there’s a risk of saturating the market. Especially if everybody decides to go the formula road instead of making something original. Are there too many sports documentaries in the pipeline for a project like “The Last Dance” to break through — or for fans to be able to keep up?” wondered the Los Angeles Times. That’s part of the challenge now for sports documentaries, as much as avoiding being turned into just another promotion and business tool by the athletes they cover in order to keep the authenticity that has fans watching. Netflix made Michael Jordan cry, I mean…

SOME BREAK POINTS
A snub and a resignation

  • Emma Raducanu is making waves these days, on and off the court. Well, maybe more off than on, actually. On the court from the great performances shown on clay during the BJK Cup and now by reaching the semi-finals in Nottingham. Off the court, by skipping tournaments: the 2021 US Open champion started by declining to play Roland-Garros from the qualifications, and now she has declined a wild card (available for former Grand Slam champion) for the upcoming Olympics in Paris.

    Clearly, she decided she was done with clay after Madrid, where she said she was exhausted and set up all her preparation for Wimbledon and the US Open. That’s quite the gamble, but if she makes it deep at both, she’ll be praised for her confidence. She’s also adding a lot of pressure on her shoulders as declining to play in the Olympics might not go down well with the general public and is a massive opportunity missed for her sponsors. The future will tell.

    “For me it was pretty clear,” Raducanu told the press in Nottingham. “I am very single-minded and I do things my own way and in my own time whenever I want, not in a diva way, but just prioritising my body and my health because I know if I am fit and giving my 100 per cent I know that great things are coming. I just don’t think there is any need to put any additional stress on my body or any risk, especially with my history.” Head of Great Britain’s Olympic tennis team, Iain Bates, said he was “very comfortable” with the decision. “It’s very clear how much being part of a British team at an Olympics would mean to her. I think she feels this isn’t going to be the right timing for her for this summer.”

    Snubbing the Olympic Games is something one would think impossible for an athlete, but Raducanu’s decision reminds us all that tennis players have had a different relationship with the event than most other athletes. Austrian Dominic Thiem declined to go both to Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021, as did Sebastian Korda for Tokyo. There are no points to gain at the Olympics. Yet, Thiem, in 2021, said he was young enough to hope he could play Paris 2024, and we all know how that ended. There is never a guarantee of being fit and eligible for the next Olympic Games. In the end, Raducanu declining the invitation is amazing news for the player who will get her spot in a draw that remains a dream for so many.

  • Usually, when there’s a change in a player’s team, you will hear that it’s after a mutual agreement and that they will still love each other for the rest of their lives. So let me tell you that reading what Christos Fiotakis told Greek media SDNA to explain why he was leaving the role of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ physiotherapist is a unicorn tennis moment. Fiotakis didn’t hold anything back and basically said he was done with what he saw as being his player’s lack of work ethic and ambition. He said the goals set were not reached and that tennis right now didn’t feel like a priority for Tsitsipas. 👀 👀 👀 👀 Fiotakis said all of his words were coming from still wanting to make Tsitsipas understand. Let’s see if that breakup lasts longer than the Tsitsidosa one.

EDITOR’S PICKS 

READ: The Housemaid Is Watching, from Freida McFadden. It’s the third installment of the author’s Housemaid series, but it can be read as a standalone. Scary drama in a quiet suburb, shady past, weird people? Listening…

WATCH: You’ve finished The Last Dance for the, what, ten times now? In need of the same but different? Stay on Netflix, but try the Redeem Team.

LISTEN TO: You Like It Darker, from Stephen King. A collection of twelve stories about fate and mortality by the Master of the genre.

SELFISHES: You said: “TSS show me the dream for an overpacker”, and TSS delivered. I mean, it even has a hanger. Obviously, you should also add all the packing cubes. Team Overpackers is here, so yes, we need to be able to weigh that suitcase at any time.

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These stories are presented thanks to beehiiv, an all-in-one newsletter suite built by the early Morning Brew team.

Fully equipped with built-in growth and monetization tools, no code website and newsletter builder, and best-in-class analytics that actually move the needle.

The top newsletters in the world are built on beehiiv, and yours can be too. It's the most affordable option in the market, and you can try it for free — no credit card required.