TENNIS – The world of tennis is in shock after the news of Elena Baltacha’s death. The former British no.1 died of liver cancer aged 30. This week also Bethanie Mattek-Sands underwent hip surgery last Monday. Prize money at Wimbledon is increased. Tomic returns and the Bryans celebrate their 36th birthday. Joshua Bosco
Former British No.1 Elena Baltacha has died from liver cancer at the age of 30.
She was diagnosed with a severe liver condition in her teens but,despite this, still managed to win11 singles titles in a career spanning 16 years.
She was diagnosed with cancer in mid-January, two months after retiring from professional tennis and just a few weeks after marrying her long-time partner and coach Nino Severino.
She announced her condition in March and the “Rally for Bally” – a series of matches for the Elena Baltacha Foundation and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – will now take place in memory of this amazing young woman.
World No.81 Bethanie Mattek-Sands underwent hip surgery last Monday. According to her agent the American, who had another hip operation back in 2008, wanted to resolve some discomfort that was hindering her movement.
It’s been a tough six months for Mattek-Sands, who missed the end of last year due to knee injury. A timetable for her return hasn’t yet been announced but apparently she’s already up and walking around.
Losing just got better
The All England Club has announced an 11% rise in total prize money at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, bringing the total up to £25m.
The increase is once again weighed in favour of those who lose in the early rounds: first round losers will get a £27,000 cheque (just three years ago they won only £11,000), second round losers will take home £43,000 and third round losers will bag a nice £71,000. They didn’t forget about the winners though, as the champions will receive a hefty 10% increase on the £1,6m Murray and Bartoli won last year.
Who’s missing Madrid (and Rome)
Venus Williams has announced her withdrawal from the WTA Premier Mandatory Madrid Open citing an illness. Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton have also announced they won’t play in Madrid while Victoria Azarenka, who is side-lined since the BNP Paribas Open in early March due to a foot injury, will also miss the Internazionali in Rome next week.
Richard Gasquet has joined del Potro, Florian Mayer, Gael Monfils and Vasek Pospisil in the list of players who have withdrawn from the Madrid Open. According to L’Equipe, Gasquet will also miss the Internazionali and is doubtful for the French Open.
The news was already in the air: newspaper Marca.com had reported that Novak Djokovic could have missed the Masters 1000 in Madrid due to his ongoing right arm injury, suffered three weeks ago in Monte Carlo. Yesterday, with a statement released on the ATP World Tour website, the player confirmed he won’t take part in this year’s Madrid Open and hopes to be ready for the Internazionali in Rome, which starts on May 11th.
While top players Nadal, Wawrinka and Murray are already in Madrid, Roger Federer is expected to arrive only today and that’s if his wife Mirka, pregnant for the second time, is in good health.
Last week saw a double comeback from the Tomics: Bernard, now ranked World No.77, has made his comeback on the tour fifteen weeks after withdrawing from his first round match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open (and six weeks after his humiliating match against Nieminem in his first attempted comeback). He defeated Michael Llodra in the first round of the qualifying tournament in Madrid, but then lost in the final round to Benjamin Becker.
His father John could also make a comeback on the tour after the 12-month suspension for assaulting his son’s sparring partner expired. It remains to be seen if he’ll make his comeback in Rome, where his son will once again play in the qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday.
Heather Watson comeback
World No.121 Heather Watson is set to make her comeback on the tour after missing more than two months due to a shoulder injury sustained at the Sony Open in Miami.
The 21 year old, who dropped in the rankings after reaching the Top 40 last year, will play at the ITF Cagnes-sur-Mer Open in south-eastern France, starting today.
Gonzalez turns coach
Former World No.5 Fernando Gonzalez is the newest name on the list of ex top players turned coaches: beginning at Roland Garros, he will travel with Colombian Santiago Giraldo, as assistant coach, to 10 tournaments a year. Giraldo will continue to work on a full-time basis with current coach Felipe Beròn.
Del Potro Update
Six weeks after undergoing surgery on his wrist, World No.7 Juan Martin del Potro has finished his rest period and has now entered a long period of intense rehabilitation.
“[…] even though I need to keep using the splint, now I can start the rehabilitation exercises to recover the mobility in my left wrist” wrote del Potro on his Facebook page.
Happy American Birthday
April 29th was the birthday of three great American tennis players: 8 time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi turned 44, while doubles World No.1s Bob & Mike Bryan turned 36 years old. Happy Birthday to them all!
Filip Krajinovic To Skip Australian Open If Required To Quarantine For More Than Five Days
The world No.34 says he ‘sees no reason’ why vaccinated players should have to go through a long quarentine in Australia.
The second highest-ranked Serbian player in men’s tennis says it would be ‘unacceptable’ for organisers of the Australian Open to require players to quarantine for more than a week if they have been fully vaccinated.
Filip Krajinovic has become the first player to publicly state that they will not be prepared to travel to Melbourne at the end of this season if they have to go through strict quarantine measures once again. All the players who participated in this year’s Australian Open were required to be quarantined in a designated hotel for 14 days upon arrival in the country. During their stay they were allowed to use training facilities but that was the only time they could leave the premises unless there was an emergency.
There is no final decision regarding the travel requirements for the 2022 tournament but there are concerns that unvaccinated players may not be allowed to enter the country. The Victorian government recently issued a mandate ordering all essential workers to be vaccinated, including athletes. However, the regional government will not have the final say concerning tennis players arriving in the country with the national government being the ones in charge of that decision.
“They are very rigorous there and honestly, if I have to be in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, I will not go to Australia,” Krajinovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I was vaccinated, I did everything in my power to protect myself and the people around me, so I really see no reason to sit there for 14 days in a room.’
“If they (the organisers) say that after arrival I need, say, five days to be in isolation, that’s OK for me, but anything beyond that is unacceptable to me. With the season ending late, I will have 20 days to get ready and go. Charter flights will be organized again and the last one is planned for December 28 for the players and that is the final date when I can go to Australia. I will see what the final decision from Melbourne will be, so I will cut what is the best thing to do.”
Earlier this week Victoria’s Sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to be vaccinated because it give them ‘the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open.’ It is expected that if unvaccinated players are allowed to attend, they will be subjected to stricter restrictions. This might include a longer quarantine period upon arrival and limitations of where they can go during their stay.
“Last year, all of those players had to do their 14 days of quarantine. Right now there looks like there will be different rules for people who enter this country who are vaccinated as against unvaccinated and I don’t think the tennis will be any exception to that.” Pakula told the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).
“In terms of what rules apply for people to enter Australia, whether unvaccinated people are allowed in at all, I don’t the answer to that yet. That’s going to be the subject of discussion at national cabinet and among the federal cabinet … those rules are not set by state governments.” He added.
Krajinovic is currently ranked 34th in the world and has a win-loss record this season of 18-18. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells he reached the second round before falling in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev. His best run so far this year was at the Hamburg Open where he reached the final.
“When we look at the whole of 2021, I played one final, one semifinal, there were good victories, but also worse results,” the 29-year-old commented.
Krajinovic is currently without a coach but is currently in ‘negotiations’ with somebody without elaborating further about who that person is.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
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