The UTS players who justify (or not) their nicknames

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After three weeks of competition, some UTS players have shown that they match the nickname given to them perfectly. Others still have everything to prove.

“The Greek God uses his winner counts three UTS card.” “12-10, The Virtuoso.” At Ultimate Tennis Showdown, the umpire takes the liberty of having fun with the players’ assigned names. In addition to time-outs, interviews between 10-minute quarters, bonus cards and a relaxed code of conduct, each player is given a nickname to call his own. It is assigned by the organization at the start of the tournament – with each players’ agreement, of course. 

With that in mind, we now take the time to rank the UTS players according to the relevance of their nickname, based on what they have shown on the court.

The Hammer, Matteo Berrettini

  • Level of nickname relevance: 10/10

Matteo Berrettini is certainly the player who best bears his nickname at UTS. Since the start of the tournament, the world No 8 has relied on destructive forehands and explosive first serves (35 aces) to suffocate his opponents. “Bombs everywhere!”, exclaimed Richard Gasquet last Saturday, after his heavy defeat against the Italian (4-0). Berrettini tripled his points gleaned in three exchanges, climbing quickly on the fly thanks to good first serves. 

Second in the standings thanks to four wins in six matches, “The Hammer” must strike while the iron is hot. He will have the opportunity on Saturday evening against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world No 6.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: There is none. The Hammer is perfect. Or, if he is in the final against Tsitsipas, “the Roman God”.

Richard Gasquet, UTS 2020The Virtuoso, Richard Gasquet

  • Level of nickname relevance:  9/10

The Virtuoso Richard Gasquet has enjoyed himself since the start of UTS. The World No 50 surprises and enchants with his level of play. First by defeating the world number 3, Dominic Thiem, during the second week. The Virtuoso had frustrated the Austrian, partly with two one-handed backhands that left Thiem stranded on the back foot. Great art. The next day, Gasquet struck down an impotent Dustin Brown, who suffered beneath a barrage of forehands from the Frenchman.

The latter even took the lead in the UTS rankings, which had been abandoned the previous weekend. But Gasquet is still in the top four and playing breathtaking tennis at 34 years old. He repeated it several times: “I can’t dream of better than being here!”

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Card Player. Claimed Belote player, Gasquet has a lot of fun with the format of UTS and the use of cards. A trick up his sleeve to climb into the Final Four.

The Greek God, Stefanos Tsitsipas

  • Level of nickname relevance: 8/10

From the first weekend of competition, the Greek God admitted that this nickname was “hard to wear” and that he should “assume it on the court”. Mission accomplished. With five wins in six games, Stefanos Tsitsipas leads the UTS rankings. Above all, the world No 6 captures all the attention.

He is just as capable of blasting past Feliciano Lopez, who led two quarters to zero against him on Saturday before losing in sudden death (3-2), as he is to be seen humming “Apologize” in the middle of his match against Alexei Popyrin. Tsitsipas must now show that he is just as divine against the Top 10. He lost to Dominic Thiem (3-1), and has yet to face Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Rebel Son. A fan of Justin Timberlake, Tsitsipas does not hide his annoyance at each coaching time-out taken by his father, and he sometimes conspicuously sulks, like a teenager in search of emancipation.

El Torero, Feliciano Lopez

  • Level of nickname relevance: 8/10

Concerning Feliciano Lopez (38), semi-retired and a late replacement for Félix Auger-Aliassime, the question was whether the Spaniard would get used to the challenging and innovative format on the French Riviera. The answer is a big yes. Lopez, thanks to an impeccable mastery of the use of cards and time-outs, appears to be some sort of seer. A legit UTS master. 

He never concedes to being beaten in a quarter and always hangs on until the end, regularly ending up having the last word. As if he was playing with his rivals to better punish them at the right time. El Torero often uses his precise and powerful service in conjunction with the “winners count three” card. He is the UTS ace leader through six matches with 48. Far ahead of Matteo Berrettini, second, with 35. The Italian, an overpowered Taurus sponsored by Red Bull, was also rolled by the Matador (4-0). A symbol, perhaps.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Spanish Curry. There is nobody better than Feliciano Lopez at making the “winners count three” card bear fruit, like Stephen Curry, the benchmark for three-point shooting in the NBA. The Spaniard took three points six times in two shots against Benoît Paire, who ended up melting down in front of so much ease.

The Rebel, Benoît Paire

  • Level of nickname relevance: 8/10

Benoît Paire lives up to his reputation. Helped by a relaxed code of conduct in this UTS, the Frenchman flies off the handle in every match. During his duel against Matteo Berrettini, when the Italian had just won several points by kissing the lines, “The Rebel” yelled: “All my life I will have a lack of ‘chaaatte!'” (meaning “bad luck” in French slang) An expression that has become mythical, and one which he had already uttered at Roland-Garros 2019. 

Last Sunday, when he met Feliciano Lopez, Paire put the umpire under constant pressure, when he felt that the strikes of the Spaniard were landing out (and not being called). When the umpire begged him to calm down,  Paire retorted in French: “You too, calm down!” Later, he made it clear how he felt: “I get fucked every time,” he said. Grandiloquent phrases that never leave us wanting. Not a broken racket, as he has done so much on the circuit, or a shorted fuse in the middle of a match. Encore, Benoît!

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Paranoid. Paire is a persecuted athlete. At least, that’s what he believes. “I get fucked every time, it’s always the same thing,” he said several times during his matches. Really too unfair, as Calimero would say.

Benoît Paire, UTS 2020

“Domi”, Dominic Thiem

  • Level of nickname relevance: 7/10

“Domi” is the nickname that accompanies Dominic Thiem for his weeks on the ATP circuit. “Efficient, simple and clean like my baseline game,” he said in his tournament presentation video. After an opening loss against Richard Gasquet (3-1), he honored his status as world No 3 by winning against three Top 10 players back-to-back-to-back.

Thiem outlasted Stefanos Tsitsipas (3-1), thanks to lethal passing shots, then floored David Goffin (3-1) who never led in the first three quarters. On Sunday, he smothered Matteo Berrettini (3-1), covering the whole court. “Domi” as we said.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Negative one. Asked by commentators on Saturday about the eight COVID-19 screening tests he had been subjected to in recent weeks after attending the Adria Tour in Belgrade, the Austrian replied: “I think that I’m the most negative player on the Tour! ” A more shocking name than Domi, that’s for sure.

The Tornado, Corentin Moutet

  • Level of nickname relevance: 7/10

Corentin Moutet has brought a breath of fresh air to UTS since entering the tournament. Young, hyperactive, grumpy: the Frenchman lives up to his nickname. He is also the author of the tournament’s best exchange with Dustin Brown, on a net rush followed by several tweeners and a mad scramble to finish the point. Moutet also stood out in his loss to Richard Gasquet on Sunday (3-1). First, shouting “I don’t wear one today, it’s unreal!” Then by crying: “I am completely null!” A few minutes later: he did his best Mike Tyson impression, boxing the back fence to vent his frustration. The Frenchman, who replaced Lucas Pouille when he went down with a right elbow injury, has an average record: two wins in four matches. The Tornado is going in gusts for now. But his “storm” could well intensify by the end of the regular phase.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Rapper. In addition to his tennis career, Corentin Moutet produces rap music. He composed a track, “Petite Frère”, and has engaged in several freestyles on social networks. But he doesn’t want to mix genres. Pity.

Corentin Moutet, UTS 2020

The Wall, David Goffin

Level of nickname relevance:  6/10

The reserved David Goffin sticks to his nickname, with his excellent ground coverage and his ability to play one more shot. But he doesn’t always seem comfortable at UTS. The world No 10 does not have the game style that best matches the atypical format of matches, which reward offensive players who are prone to attacking the net. 

On the contrary, The Wall uses a defense-oriented game. From the first weekend, the Belgian was trapped by Gasquet (3-2) and Berrettini (3-1), players capable of playing fast. By accelerating the pace since then, Goffin obtained results and moved to sixth place in the rankings. But the real Goffin quickly resurfaced. Sunday, the Belgian renewed his long exchanges against Benchetrit (3-1). 

  • The nickname that Tennis Majors would give: The Original. David Goffin was the first member of the Top 10 to accept to play UTS and give international credit to the event. Forever. It would mark the occasion.

David Goffin, UTS 2020

The Underdog, Elliot Benchetrit

  • Level of nickname relevance: 6/10

Elliot Benchetrit looks like the new student who arrived in the middle of the school year and slowly takes his place. The Frenchman replaced Dominic Thiem during the first weekend of the UTS. He was defeated by Popyrin (3-1), then dominated Lucas Pouille (3-2), before falling back into oblivion. The Underdog resurfaced Sunday to face David Goffin after Dustin Brown’s injury. He lost to the world number 10 (3-1), but displayed good resistance. 

The world No 208 will be able to continue UTS, following the early withdrawal of Dominic Thiem. Outsider is a label he would like to get rid of over the next two weeks. It is up to him to confirm his participation by making his presence felt more deeply before all is said and done.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Enthusiastic. Even though he has only played three matches thus far, Elliot Benchetrit is a real fan of the UTS format. “I’m having fun here, it’s good to be back,” he said with a smile to Tennis Majors on Sunday.

The Sniper, Alexei Popyrin

  • Level of nickname relevance: 6/10

The “Sniper” is trigger happy, but he may have forgotten to remove the safety from his weapon of choice. 7th in the UTS rankings, Alexei Popyrin has been defeated three times in six games. The Australian has been noted more for his ability to lose confidence when his matches take a bad turn than for his clinical forehands and the quality of his service (“only” 24 aces since the start of UTS). Popyrin has slipped into the habit of grumbling on the court, as against Corentin Moutet (4-0) two weeks ago. Helpless against Stefanos Tsitsipas (3-1) last Sunday, the Sniper’s face gradually decomposed, his mouth shivering and his gaze lost in space. Far from the hunter’s instinct.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Impatient. When frustrated, Popyrin tries to finish the points with two shots and rushes, even if it means regularly making mistakes. Not necessarily the right option to regain confidence.

Popyrin - UTS

The Artist, Dustin Brown

  • Level of nickname relevance: 6/10

The Artist’s tour is not a great success for the moment. Not a single victory in five games, a right ankle injury that forced him to miss Sunday’s action, where he was replaced by Elliot Benchetrit for his match against Goffin. The Artist is not ridiculous, however, and it is no coincidence that he took part in discussions that marked this first UTS. He’s an inspirational player, and he breaks free of the chains and plays a unique brand of tennis. His unorthodox style brings a welcome dose of unexpected. 

Some highlights: The German took pleasure in his winning, feathered volley against Benoît Paire; a successfully used “Winners count three” card. Brown accomplished the most beautiful exchange of the UTS with Corentin Moutet. After placing a dropper, the French responded with another of his own, between the legs … Following a lob from the German, Moutet finally took “The Artist” in the opposite direction. Brown’s potential is there. He must now turn it into a victory.

  • The nickname Tennis Majors would give: The Unlucky One. In addition to the accumulating defeats, Brown injured his right ankle last Saturday and had to give up his match against David Goffin. He also has a problem with his back. It’s not easy to reverse the trend in this physical state, but it does give us a glimpse into his character that he’s playing at all.

 

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