Patrick Mouratoglou and his staff have been tinkering with the format for the UTS2 in an effort to improve upon the success of the first edition, introducing 2 groups of players competing over 2 weekends, no lets, and two new cards and the way these are used amongst the new rules.
The virus was hard on me, I stayed home for about a month. Tired, all the symptoms, everything you could think, so it was no fun. I'm just trying to put effort every day right now. You're alone for about 20 days... We should not underestimate the power of the mental state. If we take the right precautions, things will get better. Grigor Dimitrov
One of the new UTS cards forces the opponent to serve-and-volley, while the other means that the next two points are worth double for the user.
More importantly, perhaps, is that players now need to switch their card choices between quarters, which ensures each player uses at least 5 of the 6 available cards during a match and provides for greater variety.
There were already no on-court warm-ups and a 15 second shot-clock, but now, to speed things up even further, no lets are being called on serve.
Although this is not particularly innovative, it does add an element of risk and drama, especially when a let occurs on a valuable card, such as a ‘Winner x3’.
A bigger team of commentators and music provided by French music producer and DJ, Bob Sinclar, helps with the atmosphere since there are no crowds present.
Grigor Dimitrov, a newcomer to UTS, is finding it all a bit daunting on top of struggling with his fitness as he is still experiencing physical effects after recovering from COVID-19.
The Bulgarian announced he had the virus following his appearance at the Adria Tour and has only just returned to play at the UTS2 in the south of France after having had breathing problems during the illness, and is still getting back in shape.
“The movement is getting better,” he told Tennis Majors. “Everything else is kind of going in the right direction, but still not easy to I think recover.
“The virus was hard on me, I stayed home for about a month. Tired, all the symptoms, everything you could think, so it was no fun.
“I’m just trying to put effort every day right now.
“You’re alone for about 20 days… We should not underestimate the power of the mental state,” he added, urging others to follow protocols. “If we take the right precautions, things will get better.”
He has also been impacted physically, dropping around 6 pounds and experiencing a sharp drop in cardiovascular fitness despite being a young, fit athlete.
“It’s not a question of what shape you’re in when you get infected,” said Dimitrov, who is is unlikely to play the US Open. “For everyone, there are a lot of questions, and few answers.
“For myself, there’s also the physical aspect. Mentally, I could. But to put back 3 kilos of weight in 3 weeks, play Cincinnati and the US Open, 5 sets… it seems to me that’s a little ambitious.
“There are days when I am good and where I can practice for a long time, and others where I’m tired a lot.”
Having lost 4-0 to Richard ‘The Virtuoso’ Gasquet in his opening match, Dimitrov was hoping to improve against Feliciano ‘El Torero’ Lopez, who came into the match on the back of a 3-1 win against Corentin ‘The Tornado’ Moutet and knowing another win would put him in pole position for reaching next Sunday’s semi-finals.
It was a see-saw encounter but the Spaniard prevailed 3-2: 17-10, 14-15, 12-16, 16-12, [2-0].
Lopez, thanks to two successful conversions with his ‘Next Point x2’ card moved up to 10-4 in the opener, and when a disheartened Dimitrov failed to capitalise with his ‘Winner x3’ the quarter appeared to be all but over.
Dimitrov held his own early in the second, however, despite his opponent’s aggressive play and hitting a barrage of winners.
A double fault allowed Lopez to level at 6-6 before he again used his ‘Next Point x2’ card to great effect, pushing on to a 10-6 lead, reminiscent of how things played out in the opener.
This time, though, Dimitrov fought back to 10-10 and managed to clinch the quarter 15-14, winning the last 2 points against the Lopez serve.
The Spaniard appeared a little rattled as he admonished himself at the baseline and immediately used his ‘-1 Serve’ card.
With 3 minutes to play, the score was 8-8 but Lopez had used both of his cards and Dimitrov still had both to play, which proved decisive as the Bulgarian took the third quarter 16-12 for a 2-1 lead.
The drama continued into the closing minutes when a pair of untimely double faults from Dimitrov gave Lopez a little breathing space and, with some solid play whilst using the ‘Next Point x2’ card, the Spaniard took the quarter, 16-12, to force Sudden Death.
Lopez began with an un-returnable first serve and another crucial double fault from Dimitrov handed ‘El Torero’ the win.
The result means that Dimitrov cannot progress to the semi-finals but Lopez, with a 2-0 record, has his destiny in his own hands.
Also in Group A with Lopez is Gasquet, who remained in ruthless form with a 3-1: 15-13, 19-9, 12-16, 13-10 victory over Alexei ‘The Sniper’ Popyrin on Sunday night.
The Virtuoso, who was a semi-finalist at UTS1, is one win away from also reaching the semis this time around.
In Group B, in his UTS debut, Fernando ‘El Fuego’ Verdasco picked up his first win by beating Benoit ‘The Rebel’ Paire 3-1: 17-13, 19-11, 17-14, 12-20, on Sunday night.
The Spaniard won almost all of the key points in quarters 1 through 3 before Paire managed to get on the scoreboard by taking the 4th frame.
That single quarter for Paire could end up being a factor in Group B even though The Rebel lost the overall match to Verdasco.
Earlier in the day, Dustin ‘The Artist’ Brown had beaten Moutet in Sudden Death, 3-2: 18-12, 13-17, 13-14, 19-9, [3-1], to keep his semi-final hopes alive after losing his opener to Paire on Sunday night.
All four players – Paire, Verdasco, Brown, and Moutet – all now have 1-1 records so a ‘quarters won’ tiebreaker among the players who finish 2-1 could end up deciding the group winner.