TENNIS – Fed Cup. Let’s face it: the result at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane was in discussion only till the first couple of games of the first rubber, when Germany’s Petkovic started hammering with her forehand Aussie’s Sam Stosur. Robbie Cappuccio
Before that, the Australian team was showing confidence. Australia has been expecting the chance for a final for over 20 years, and we must go back till 1974 to Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s days to see the green and gold team win. “I think we can win,” Aussie coach Alicia Molik said before the beginning of the tie. “It will be very clear in the Germans’ minds that Sam had the edge”, referring to last tie in Germany (2012) when Stosur defeated both Kerber (7-6, 6-4) and Petkovic (6-4, 6-1) to inspire their 3-2 upset over Germany.
The times they are a-changing. Stosur has been plummeting the WTA ranking (currently 19), and this year has only made it past the third round at one tournament and has struggled in the past with public expectation on Australian courts, especially the Australian Open. Petkovic (28) on the contrary, was coming off a title run on clay in Charleston a couple of weeks earlier; momentum was on her side and she did not let it slip. She broke each of Stosur’s four service games in the opening set to stroll through a 6-1 opener in less than 40 minutes, hitting the ball very deep especially with a deadly forehand and helped by a flood of unforced errors by Stosur.
Stosur woke up at the beginning of the second set, breaking for 2-1 with a forehand right on the line, then moving to 5-3 and serving for the set at 5-4. It was not meant to be. Stosur dropped the serve to then finish to a tiebreak, where the German failed four match points before finishing off the match. “At least I was able to fight back after a lopsided first set, but at the end of the day that doesn’t really count for much.” said Stosur at the end of the match.
So it was to Casey Dellacqua (53) to try to even out the tie. ”I’ve had a lot of tennis, and I’ve beaten some really good players along the way throughout the year, so I feel really good,” said Dellacqua before the match with Kerber (7).
Alas, the 46 ranking difference was all there and the rubber between the two left-handers lasted 50 minutes only with Kerber conceding one game and dismissing Dellacqua 6-1, 6-0 thus taking Germany to a 2-0 lead at the end of day 1. “They have very similar game styles.” Commented Alicia Molik. “I guess it’s just a real display of why Kerber is where she is in the rankings and why she has a single digit next to her name.”
Easter Sunday was no resurrection for the Aussie team. Stosur had to defeat Kerber to keep hopes alive, but the German prevailed 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 after a 2 hours and 6 minutes match in the opening reverse singles rubber, thus sealing the victory and admission to the final, after a 22 years wait.
Stosur looked determined and stormed to a 3-0 lead and, despite dropping serve in the seventh game, she broke back immediately to lead 5-3. The ninth game was tough going for both players, with Stosur committing a double fault on set point and Kerber converting her seventh break point opportunity to get to 5-4. A deep forehand winner in the following game sealed the set in Stosur’s favour; Sam’s forehand was finally working and the winners outnumbered the unforced errors.
However, Kerber’s response was just a brutal demolition of Australia’s hopes, with a bagel in 23 minutes.
The third set was characterized by the inability of holding serve by both players: Kerber broke Stosur again in a third game lasting more than 15 minutes to take a 2-1 lead. Stosur broke again Kerber when she served for the match up 5-2 and then held serve for a final glimpse of hope, but serving again for the tie on 5-4 the German did not fail expectations, sealing victory with an ace and booking a spot in the final. It will be Germany’s first appearance in the final since 1992’s victory of a team led by Steffi Graf and comprising Anke Huber and one Barbara Rittner.
As a small consolation, Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua won the dead doubles rubber against Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 10-2 as Germany ended the tie 3-1 victors.
“Right now I’m just enjoying the moment that we are in the final and of course whoever is in the final against us, if it’s the Czechs or Italy, they have experience with playing a final.” commented now Germany’s coach Barbara Rittner. “They’ve both won it recently so it’s going to be a big one for us, but we will enjoy every minute of it.” It will be the Czech Republic who trashed Italy 4-0.
From Melbourne – Robbie Cappuccio
Leylah Fernandez wins Billie Jean King Heart Award
The Canadian was recognized by the fans for her part in Canada beating Serbia in the play-off tie last month.
Leylah Fernandez has been named the winner of the Billie Jean King Heart award voted on by the fans of the game. She played an integral part in Canada beating Serbia 4-0 in the playoff tie last month.
18-year-old Fernandez was involved in a poll with Elina Svitolina, Katie Boulter and Magdalena French. The award comes with $3000 which she donated to her favourite charity Table de Concertation en Securite Alimentaire de Villeray in Montreal.
” I was surprised, there were so many great players who were nominated and showed a lot of heart during the competition so I didn’t expect much from my part but I’m happy the fans voted and that I was given this opportunity to show what we are made of so I am excited,” said Fernandez.
ITF president David Haggerty commented on her award saying “Congratulations to Leylah Fernandez for her great performance at the Billie Jean King playoff in April and for being voted the recipient of the Bille Jean King Heart Award. It’s extra special to be voted by the fans and recognized for showing great courage and commitment to your team”.
Heidi El Tabakh the Billie Jean King Cup captain for Canada also reacted to Fernandez winning the award.
” I am so happy and extremely proud of Leylah (Fernandez) for winning the Billie Jean King Heart Award. It was well deserved following a spectacular performance in Serbia which she worked so hard for,” she said.
“Leylah is a fighter on the court, she always represents Canada with pride and is an incredible teammate for her fellow teammates. She is very worthy of this award”.
This is the 12th year the award has been given and it recognizes players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on the court, and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas.
So far the the award winners have donated over $200,000 to charities across the world.
Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics
After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.
Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics.
The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events.
Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.
“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”
The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).
Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.
“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”
Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.
The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th.
Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade
A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.
The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.
UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.
“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”
When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.
The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.
This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.
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