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Tennis Unfiltered

Author: Tennis Unfiltered

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Tennis Unfiltered is a weekly podcast where we try to make sense - tactical, ethical, emotional sense - of the tennis world. And we don't hold back.

290 Episodes
Calvin Betton, George Bellshaw and James Gray go through all the big tennis stories from the last seven days, including... Iga Swiatek becomes the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the same WTA title three years in a row, beating Elena Rybakina to win in Doha Maria Sakkari has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in two years Jannik Sinner continues his unbeaten 2024, winning the title in Rotterdam and beating Alex De Minaur Carlos Alcaraz loses to Nicolas Jarry in South America PLUS we answer your questions on: The I formation in amateur doubles Andrey Rublev - the new David Ferrer? Felix Auger-Aliassime's ceiling LINKS The death of the one-handed backhand in The Times (£): Gay doubles player Demi Schuurs talks about she has to go to Saudi Arabia because if she doesn't, someone else will: Jelena Ostapenko's "handshake" with Victoria Azarenka: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
It's the Middle East swing and James Gray, George Bellshaw and Calvin Betton are back home in the UK, picking the bones out of the action. They answered your questions too, including: What does British tennis get from players switching allegiance to play under the Union Flag? And why does Kazakhstan do it? (Thanks to Matthew on email for that one) Can you remember anyone doing such a good job of improving on their weaknesses, at least so quickly, as Aryna Sabalenka has on second serve? (Nikos via email) Danny asks "What's the deal with the ITF events held in places like Monastir and Sharm El Sheikh, how do they afford to host tournaments every week of the year without the backing of wealthy federations, at the bottom tier of the sport with no TV or gate money?" And in this week's news Elena Rybakina wins the title in Abu Dhabi Naomi Osaka talks about failure - but then gets the best win of her comeback so far over Caroline Garcia in Doha Emma Raducanu is beaten by Anhelina Kalinina in a one-sided encounter And so much more! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Thanks to everyone who voted for us in the Sports Podcast Awards. We came SECOND, a one-place improvement on last year, but still losing out to Dan Kiernan. We shall overcome! We're back as a trio this week, a little later after James took the slow boat home from Australia, answering as many questions as possible from the bulging mailbag. Justin Cerny on Twitter/X asked: “Thoughts on the variety of surfaces & locations for events during weeks like this? (ATP, Challengers, WTA tour & 125s) Does it help bring opportunity & exposure or does it lack a uniform brand for professional tennis? Something in between? Keep up the good work” John Williamson on Twitter/X wrote: “After a joyful 2 weeks of loads of televised #tennis games courtesy of a month’s UK Discovery subscription, the potential spectre of Sky Sports thin pickings is appearing over the horizon – any chance of bluer skys?” Fab Miss Ana asked on Twitter/X: “What are possible penalties for (WTA / ATP) players for complaining about tour or tournament? Have they ever been enforced? Asking as Daniela Hantuchova (now appointed the infamous Madrid WTA director?) criticised players for complaining and asked for penalties to be enforced." Andy Lee on email asks: “Looking at the results from the Davis Cup this weekend, including a shock for Serbia (will that affect Novak's plans post US Open this year?) and to a lesser extent Croatia I noticed the finals group stages venues haven't been announced. I'm completely biased being from here but do the panel think Manchester should be a permanent finals venue as per last year? Yes, there were attendance problems at say Switzerland v Australia but the GB games were bouncing. Fill the other games with schools and club tickets if necessary. We suffer from a lack of top class tennis in the North, we have the Ilkley Challenger and then it's down to Nottingham/ Birmingham pre Wimbledon. This would fit the bill very nicely in my opinion.” We also discussed... Andy Murray's savage reaction to an article questioning whether his current form threatens to "tarnish his legacy" Emma Raducanu is one and done in Abu Dhabi, but with no added injury concerns and a win under her belt Heather Watson is back in the headlines, making a run at AD to return to the top 150 Holger Rune has got rid of Boris Becker and Severin Luthi, and signed for IMG Saudi Arabia is going to offer eight top players up to £5m to play an exhibition there later this year, more on the story here from Simon Briggs of the Telegraph: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
That's it! The Australian Open is in the books once and for all. Jannik Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka are the champions (the first men and women's champion at any slam since the early 1990s to share the same first letter of their surname) and James, George and Calvin have (almost) caught up on their sleep. They ask... Having broken his duck, how many grand slams will Jannik Sinner go on to win? Will Daniil Medvedev ever add to his solitary US Open victory? What's going on with Andy Murray? Can anyone stop Aryna Sabalenka? What else has the women's game got to offer? Will Emma Raducanu get back to her US Open heights? Remember to leave us a positive review if you enjoy the podcast - and if you want to ask Calvin a question, email us at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us in the Sports Podcast Awards. The results will be revealed later this year and we look forward to seeing the fruits of your endeavours. To review both singles finals, George Bellshaw in London joins James Gray in Melbourne to discuss... Jannik Sinner beat Daniil Medvedev 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3, coming from two sets down to become Australian Open champion and win his first grand slam title Medvedev has now lost five of his six major finals, and twice been two sets up in a final in Melbourne before losing Aryna Sabalenka dominated her Australian Open final, losing just five games to continue her streak of 14 matches unbeaten at Melbourne Zheng Qinwen would rather her first grand slam final had gone better, but does she have what it takes to sustain a lucrative Chinese presence in the top 10? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US. We have once again been short-listed for a Sports Podcast Award in the tennis category - but now we need YOU to help us win it. Time is running out as voting closes on January 28th. Vote for us NOW: Novak Djokovic lost at the Australian Open for the first time in six years, with Jannik Sinner not facing a single break point along the way. (James's analysis with input from Boris Becker, Darren Cahill and both players is here: Daniil Medvedev went two sets down to Alexander Zverev but fought back to win in five and reach his sixth grand slam final Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US. We have once again been short-listed for a Sports Podcast Award in the tennis category - but now we need YOU to help us win it. Time is running out as voting closes on January 28th. Vote for us NOW: Coco Gauff was beaten 7-6 6-4 by Aryna Sabalenka, who won her 13th straight match in Melbourne and reached the final for the second year in a row, the first female player to reach back-to-back slam finals since Serena Williams in 2017 Gauff served eight double-faults and has been attacked on second serve by almost all her opponents at this year's Australian Open. James wrote something about why, and what Roddick did to try and fix it: Meanwhile, Zheng Qinwen became the first Chinese woman since Li Na here in 2014 to reach a grand slam final, beating Dayana Yastremska 6-4 6-4 in a nervy encounter On Friday Novak Djokovic will play Jannik Sinner, hoping to avenge the three match points he failed to take (remember that match here: The winner will face Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev, two players who really don't like each other. Here's why: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
TIME IS RUNNING OUT - both existentially but also in terms of voting for us in the Sports Podcast Awards. Please do it, do it now: (Apologies for the sound issues here: Calvin's laptop charger got torched by Doha airport so he had to record on his phone on this occasion. Back soon we hope!) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Vote for us! Seriously. Please. We need your help. Badly. Calvin and James discuss... Calvin's overall impressions of the Australian Open - and a run-in with security Alex de Minaur, hot or not? (Tennis-wise...) Can Taylor Fritz stop Novak Djokovic? Previewing Alcaraz vs Kecmanovic, Norrie vs Zverev and Hurkacz vs Cazaux Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Vote for us! Calvin and James discuss... Novak Djokovic finding his best form Cameron Norrie turning into peak Tim Henman Nuno Borges and Arthur Cazaux making shock runs to the fourth round Emma Raducanu trying to tag her opponent on match point Aryna Sabalenka or Coco Gauff Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
RIP Mike Dickson

RIP Mike Dickson


Mike Dickson, the Daily Mail's long-serving tennis correspondent, has died suddenly at the age of 59. Mike was in Melbourne covering the Australian Open for the Daily Mail with his usual gusto and good humour. But on Wednesday, we were given the most awful news imaginable. James and George both knew Dicko, as he was to almost everyone, through working in tennis and have both separately tried to put into words what he meant to them. This obituary from Jonathan McEvoy, who knew Dicko for far longer, is a fitting tribute: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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VOTE FOR US, because time is running out to help us win best tennis podcast at the Sports Podcast Awards: ** Tonight, James is joined by Eleanor Crooks of the Press Association to talk through the day's play. Here are the highlights. ** Australian Open, Day 3 Jack Draper required five sets to beat Marcos Giron, needed his blood pressure checked mid-match and had to seek out a courtside bin to throw up immediately after sealing victory. "I kind of felt bad because I obviously just beat the guy, and I was saying, 'I need to shake your hand, mate, but I need to get to that bin'," Draper said. Iga Swiatek came through an opening test of fire in her hunt for a first Australian Open title on Tuesday. Poland's world number one Swiatek had been handed a stern opening draw in hot and blustery conditions that made things difficult for players across the grounds. But the four-time Grand Slam champion responded in style and twice fought back from a break down to win 7-6(2) 6-2. "It wasn't the easiest first round," said Swiatek, who is now on a 17-match winning run after triumphs in Beijing and the WTA Finals last year as well as her United Cup heroics where she won five successive singles matches. "I felt off in terms of the timing. For sure the temperature was higher than any match I've played here and I needed to adjust as the balls were flying in these conditions." Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz wrapped up the third day's play with an entertaining victory over French veteran Richard Gasquet on Tuesday. Alcaraz was spared the worst of the heat as he made his return to the tournament after missing it last year. Concluding a balmy night session on Rod Laver Arena against a man who won his first ATP tour match a year before he was even born, the 20-year-old Alcaraz won 7-6(5) 6-1 6-2. The young Spaniard, wearing a sleeveless vest top, was given a run for his money by 131-ranked Gasquet who produced some signature backhand winners to get within two points of taking the opening set in the tiebreak. But Alcaraz responded to reel off three successive points and once he had the first set in his pocket he cruised. "I didn't have good run the years that I played here but I felt really well today," Alcaraz, who is making his third appearance at the year's opening Grand Slam, told American former great John McEnroe on court. "I struggled a bit in the first set and Richard was playing great but in the end I think I played quite a good level." He will face Italian Lorenzo Sonego in round two. And former US Open champion Emma Raducanu made an encouraging return to the Grand Slam stage after surgery as she outplayed American Shelby Rogers for a 6-3 6-2 win. Double Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was made to work hard by Italian Camila Giorgi before the 18th seed from Belarus prevailed 6-1 4-6 6-3. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US, because time is running out to help us win best tennis podcast at the Sports Podcast Awards: *** By Press Association Andy Murray suffered only his second opening-round defeat at the Australian Open in 16 years on a sobering evening for the Scot at Melbourne Park. The five-time finalist was outplayed by 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry in a 6-4 6-2 6-2 loss that was a far cry from his glory days. His only other defeat in the first round here since 2008 came five years ago in an emotional five-setter against Roberto Bautista Agut after Murray had revealed the extent of his hip problems. A tribute video from his fellow players and global attention accompanied that occasion, with Murray's career thought to be winding to a close. Hip surgery has given him a commendable post-script, but it would be no surprise if this much more low-key exit does signal the 36-year-old's final departure from Melbourne. Murray admitted at the end of last season that he was not enjoying tennis, and it is increasingly hard to see him finding the sort of performances and results that will bring the joy back. This was his fourth defeat in a row dating back to October, while he has now lost seven of his last eight matches, the worst run of his career. *** Two tennis players have defended their decision to play an exhibition event in Russia last month, sponsored by Gazprom, despite pleas from the Ukrainian No 2 not to do so. Adrian Mannarino and Roberto Bautista Agut, ranked 19 and 72 in the world respectively, both took part in the event in St Petersburg on 1-3 December as part of their preparations for the Australian Open. Read more here: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US, because time is running out to help us win best tennis podcast at the Sports Podcast Awards: ** Novak Djokovic beat Dino Prizmic in four sets, the match of the day on the opening Sunday of the Australian Open - but is he fully fit? James asked him afterwards if he was suffering from a cold, and here is what he said. "I am a bit under the weather last four, five days. You can probably judge by my voice," Djokovic said. "Look, it is what it is. You just have to try to deal with it and get over it and accept the circumstances and try to make the most of it." ** Amanda Anisimova made a successful return to grand slam tennis on Sunday, downing No 13 seed Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets. The American took seven months off last year citing burnout and mental health concerns, but says she is happy to be back. "The most important thing is that I feel a lot more refreshed," Anisimova said. "I'm enjoying practicing. I'm enjoying every second that I'm out there. Even when I was down today, I was still just enjoying the challenge. "I'm just happy with how I feel coming back. I feel like I was very burned out while I was playing, and that really wasn't a nice feeling. Being able to just reset is really nice." ** Matteo Berrettini's rotten luck at grand slam continues after he was forced to withdraw before the first round with a foot injury. It means the tie of the round - against Stefanos Tsitsipas - is off, but lucky loser Zizou Bergs will hope he can still provide entertainment against the Greek. James interviewed him for before he played Jack Draper at Wimbledon in 2022: PLUS Andre Agassi is back, but with an unpopular wingman Alina Korneeva, 16, leads the charge of the Russian women Andrey Rublev 'gives up' mentally but wins in five sets Jodie Burrage is the first Brit up - and first Brit out Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US, because time is running out to help us win best tennis podcast at the Sports Podcast Awards: Enter #FTU (Fantasy Tennis Unfiltered) for FREE: Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a doubles player on tour? Or what it's like travelling with Calvin Betton? Wonder no more. Here is Henry Patten, world No 73 and long-time charge of Calvin's, to tell us all about it on a rainy Melbourne afternoon. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US, because time is running out to help us win best tennis podcast at the Sports Podcast Awards: Enter #FTU (Fantasy Tennis Unfiltered) for FREE: James Gray and George Bellshaw sit down to take the Australian Open draw in line-by-line. Calvin will be back for our next episode, bringing with him Henry Patten to talk about life on tour, playing doubles for a living and trying to get his coach to change his mind. Can Novak Djokovic win an 11th Melbourne title? Could Jack Draper cash in on his open section? Is there much for Iga Swiatek to fear? Aryna Sabalenka's run is HARDER than you think? Click here for the full men's draw:!mens-singles Click here for here for the women's draw in full:!womens-singles And if you want to read James's analysis of the routes of the top two seeds it's here: And how the Brits might fare is here: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US in the Sports Podcast Awards: We're back! Welcome to 2024 - where we hope we do not encounter as many technical issues as we did in the opening episode... Calvin Betton is (briefly) live from rainy Adelaide, James Gray is frantically packing for Melbourne and George Bellshaw is... staying in London. He will be our constant as James and Calvin try to take over the world in Australia. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
VOTE FOR US in the Sports Podcast Awards: As we take a two-week break over the festive season, James Gray turns the spotlight onto Calvin Betton, Tennis Unfiltered's resident tennis coach. Born in south Yorkshire in the 1970s, we talk about the real reason he loves John McEnroe so much, learning to shithouse his brother off the court and an ill-fated trip to a trailer park in Tennessee. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
It's Christmas so we are taking some time off, but we have recorded a couple of special episodes to keep you going in the festive period. This week, James turns the spotlight onto George Bellshaw, born in 1992 in Sutton Coldfield to a lawyer and a teacher. Once known as the best tabloid tennis journalist in the UK, he then turned his mind to matters of health and social care in the civil service, but kept his oar in by co-hosting what was then the Love Tennis Podcast and keeping up appearances on TV and radio stations around the world. We talked about playing the trombone, wishing he had been a better person as a youngster and why he might be the most famous person from the town where he grew up. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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