Alexander Zverev chose his own nickname for the second edition of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown – the Lion – and played with the fierceness of a predator as he took home the thunderbolt trophy in the second iteration. UTS2 was once again hosted by the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice, providing the players and staff a comfortable bubble to make tennis history in.
The timing was perfect. In late July of 2020, the tennis tour was still shut down and fans were craving a dose of tennis – and some levity to boot. UTS seized the opportunity to create something indelible. The second UTS was a lot like the first edition in that it offered fans something outside the box; something that might change a sport that many believed needed a breath of fresh air, and the players were happy to play their part and give it a try.
Zverev would eventually claim the UTS2 title by the thinnest of margins, defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime – “the Panther” – in sudden death in a thrilling final.
“It’s a very special thing for everybody right now, no sport in six months,” Zverev said before the event took place. “So we can prepare better, we can do things that you usually can’t do. I think it is going to be great being on court again.
The women play their part
For the first time in the history of UTS, the women were a part of the field. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Alizé Cornet in – you guessed it – sudden death! It was a meaningful experience for the veteran Russian. She was just beginning a career renaissance – Pavlyuchenkova would reach her first major final less than a year later at Roland-Garros – and she had a feeling that UTS2 was going to prove to be a nice steppingstone.
“I love winning no matter what it is.” said Pavlyuchenkova with a smile. “It’s just nice.”
It was nice for Zverev as well. Less than two months later the German would reach his maiden Grand Slam final at the 2020 US Open.
Coincidence or the UTS bump? The jury is still out…
The most unique part of UTS2, once again, was in the cards. Players were able to force their opponents to serve-and-volley for a certain number of points in this edition. It created some crazy tennis, just what UTS co-founder Patrick Mouratoglou wanted!
Also new was the elimination of lets on serve. Another change that might someday soon find its way to the ATP and WTA Tours.
The courageous ones who are willing to embrace change are often the ones who make history…