TENNIS ROLAND GARROS – Maria Sharapova took care of Garbine Muguruza 1-6 7-5 6-1 and Eugenie Bouchard dismissed Carla Suarez-Navarro 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5. This is the Russian’s fourth consecutive French Open semifinals and the Canadian’s second consecutive major semifinals. Cordell Hackshaw
With both the women’s top half quarterfinals matches being played simultaneously, there was a moment when both Maria Sharapova (7) and Eugenie Bouchard (18) looked as though they would be headed home from the tournament around the same time. Sharapova had dropped the opening set in spectacular fashion 1-6 to Garbine Muguruza and Bouchard saw Carla Suarez-Navarro (14) serving for first set at 5-2. The Spaniards and doubles partners Navarro and Muguruza had the matches within their grasp; their first semifinal in a major was so very close. However, both Sharapova and Bouchard felt they were not ready to go home and had yet to play their best tennis of the day. Battling back with the spirit of champions, they sent their opponents packing. Sharapova took care of Muguruza 1-6 7-5 6-1 and Bouchard dismissed Suarez-Navarro 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5. This is Sharapova’s fourth consecutive French Open semifinals and Bouchard’s second consecutive major semifinals. Now she and Sharapova will fight it out for a chance to be the 2014 French Open champion.
When the women’s draw came out, many thought that Serena Williams (1) would play Sharapova for the 18th time and get a 16th consecutive win. Muguruza blew that projection to pieces when she dismantled Williams in the 2nd round. Sharapova must have counted her lucky stars by this result. However, with the way Muguruza came out on court firing on all cylinders, it was as though Williams was still present at least in spirit. The Spaniard quickly had a double break in hand 4-0 before Sharapova was able to hold comfortably for a 1-4 scoreline. Muguruza was tapping into the “Serena playbook” of dealing with Sharapova; attacking the serves, going after the forehand and being aggressive on all points. Sharapova had no answers for this young charge and was soon broken for a third time to hand the set 1-6 to Muguruza in 27 minutes. Sharapova said after the match “[S]he was playing very aggressive and hitting shots very deep. I just didn’t have much to say to that in the first set.” The match was far from over as as Sharapova is one of the most competitive players on tour. Muguruza would soon find out that winning the first set against Sharapova is not nearly as hard as winning the second.
If Muguruza wanted to win this match she had to do so in straight sets and she could not let up in her aggression or falter during points. In the 2nd set, the Spaniard failed to both either. Sharapova spoke about her mindset after the disastrous 1st set, “[L]ittle by little I started playing a bit better, started getting in the court a little bit more, playing a little bit more aggressive, serving better than I did in the first set, returning as well, giving myself more looks at break points.” She turned things around by quickly breaking Muguruza in the 3rd game and held for a 3-1 lead. Muguruza would break back and force Sharapova to serve to stay in the match down 4-5 but Sharapova easily held to remain on serve at 5-5. After digging herself out of 0-30 holes in her two previous service games, Muguruza was up 30-0 to edge ahead again at 6-5. Sharapova seized upon this moment and reeled off four quick successive points to secure the crucial break as Muguruza was unable to defend the pace coming at her. “30-Love on serve when she’s serving quite well, I’m sure she feels like she has a good chance of getting that game in the bag, and all of a sudden I’m serving for the set.” Sharapova served for the 2nd set at 6-5 and though it would take her three set points to close it out, she took it 7-5.
Muguruza would say after the match that, “[D]uring the first set mentally I was so strong. I thought, I’m going to win. Then I was a bit nervous…And then, little by little, when you start losing, it’s a question of nerves. Then she started playing a lot better.” Play better she, Sharapova, did. In the 3rd set, Sharapova again broke early for a 3-1 lead. She then fought off several break points to remain ahead 4-1 and it was all over for Muguruza who became erratic. She would commit 26 errors in the 3rd set alone, which equalled her combined total in the two previous sets. Sharapova on the other hand had only 5 errors in the set. Being this sloppy against the likes of Sharapova, Muguruza had no chance of taking this match in the 3rd. Sharapova then broke Muguruza was a third time in the set to take the match 1-6 7-5 6-1.
Sharapova’s opponent in the semifinal, Bouchard, did not have such a straight forward comeback. Her good plays came in ebbs and flows. She started off poorly against Suarez-Navarro down 2-5 with the Spaniard serving for the match. However, Bouchard soon had break points on the Spaniard’s first attempt to take set and took one of them to be down 3-5. She held serve giving Suarez-Navarro a second chance to close out the set at 5-4 but the Spaniard could not get the job done again. Bouchard needed no encouragement to seize upon this wavering spirit of her opponent and took the lead 6-5. The Spaniard found her serve again and forced the matter to a tiebreaker but again became erratic at crucial stages. Bouchard took the breaker 7-6(4) and seemingly with it the match’s momentum.
Suarez-Navarro came back from an early break in the 2nd set to take 6 of the next 7 games. She took the set 6-2 and looked to be supreme control of the match. She was again broken early in the 3rd set but reeled of the next 4 games to be ahead 4-1. It seemed as though Bouchard’s best tennis came out when she was close to losing it for at this point, she fought her way back into the match. “At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I want to at least leave it all there and try and at least battle,” Bouchard explained. She fought her way into the match. Bouchard began again attacking the weak serves of Suarez-Navarro and controlling from the baseline. She went after the backhand of the Spaniard which is normally very solid but today was doing her very little favours. Soon it was 5-5 and Bouchard again broke Suarez-Navarro to serve for the match. By this time, there was not much fight left in the Spaniard and Bouchard mainly had to remain focus and patient to take the match. On Bouchard’s second match point, Suarez-Navarro’s backhand again let her down and the Canadian took the match 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5.
Suarez-Navarro spoke after the match, “Well, for me it was a very difficult match. I played good, but she’s a really good player. I was up in the first set; I lost. I was up in the final set; I lost. It is difficult to speak now. I’m not happy with the result. But she was fighting all the ball until the end. She deserve to win.” This will be the third meeting for Sharapova and Bouchard who has yet to win a set off the Russian. Bouchard had this to say about the match up, “[W]e’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle. That’s what it’s going to be. I will leave everything on court and just focus on myself and try my best to win.”
Elina Svitolina Not Giving Up On Grand Slam Dreams
The 25-year-old tennis star speaks out about her chances of winning a major title in the future.
Ukraine’s top player Elina Svitolina is hoping that she can one day emulate the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep by using her experience on the WTA Tour to guide her to Grand Slam success.
The world No.5 says the openness of the women’s tour makes her believe that she can still win a major title. Since 2018 seven different women have won Grand Slam titles with Halep and Naomi Osaka being the one players to have won multiple trophies within that period. As for 25-year-old Svitolina, she is yet to contest a major final. Although she did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year.
Speaking to tennis website BTU, Svitolina says the diverse range of major winners is a confidence boost for her. Saying the key aspect for her to potentially succeed is maintaining a high level of physical and mental health throughout a two-week period at a Grand Slam.
“In recent years, we see that tennis players had different paths to victory. Someone won right away as soon as they announced themselves on the tour. Others patiently gained experience to finally win the major, for example, Simone Halep and Caroline Wozniacki. Different paths are also due to different styles of play,” she explained.
“It gives me hope and energy to work hard so that one day I can take this chance. The key point for me is to keep my best level for two weeks. This requires a lot of effort, both psychological and physical. Everything should work at the same time. And you need to add a little luck.”
Svitolina is yet to fully commit to playing at the next major event, which will be the US Open in August. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will be taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and strict measures are in place with players being kept in what is described as a ‘bubble.’ Although some have reservations about playing in New York amid a rising number of Coronavirus cases in the country. On Friday health officials reported 66,528 new cases.
Prior to the US Open, the women’s Tour will officially restart on August 3rd at the Palermo Open in Italy. Although Svitolina says there are many ‘unanswered questions’ about returning to competitive tennis and the potential travel restrictions she may encounter.
“They (the WTA) organize video conferences every week, sometimes they invite ITF or USTA representatives, since the US Open is now in the centre of discussions,” she said.
“So, they inform us. But, I think, it all depends on local authorities. As we can see, the rules vary from country to country, changes occur every week. There are still many unanswered questions.”
Svitolina started 2020 by winning 11 out of 17 matches played before the sport was suspended due to the pandemic. At her most recent tournament in Monterrey, she won her 14th title by dropping only one set in five matches played.
Svitolina’s Grand Slams record
|Year||Australian Open||Roland Garros||Wimbledon||US Open|
Dayana Yastremska Labels Controversial Twitter Photo A ‘Misunderstanding’
The world No.25 has been forced to delete photos from her social media accounts after a gesture to support anti-racism backfired.
Ukrainian Tennis star Dayana Yastremska has been forced to remove a photo from social media and issue a statement after she was accused of being racially insensitive.
The 20-year-old tennis star attracted criticism on Thursday after uploading a photo of herself in different poses with the phrase ‘equality’ assigned to it. However, the images were controversial as they show Yastremska as half white and half back. Black facing, which is where a non-black person darker their skins to represent the race, has recently been under the spotlight in the wake of the Black Live Matter movement. Some episodes from TV shows such as The Mighty Boosh, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen have been removed from online platforms due to the black facing of characters.
In the aftermath of posting the photo, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka commented on Instagram ‘Girl I know you didn’t just do blackface,’ with a skull emoji. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, has spoken publicly about her support for the Black Live Matter movement. Yastremska responded to the comment with a prayer emoji.
Yastremska removed her photos from Twitter and Instagram soon after she received backlash online, however, she insists that she never meant to cause any offence. Posting a statement on Twitter, the world No.25 apologize to those who she offended. Although she insists that her photo has been ‘misunderstood’ and she doesn’t consider it to be a ‘black face.’
“Earlier today I posted pictures that I thought would spread a message of equality. It clearly did not and has been misunderstood,” she wrote on Twitter yesterday.
“I have been warned about the negative impact but I did not — and still don’t — consider it a ‘black face’.
“I did not intend to caricature but to share my feelings about the current situation: we should all be treated as equal.
“I am so disappointed my message has been corrupted. I sincerely apologise to all the people I have offended.”
Former Wimbledon junior finalist Yastremska has won three WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $1.8 million in prize money. In January she reached a ranking high of 21st.
WTA’s Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments
Big blow dealt to the WTA calendar as Chinese Authorities cancel all international events in China for 2020, including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
After many weeks of relative silence, the WTA had a very eventful day on Thursday releasing its revised mechanism for the calculation of the WTA Ranking and confirming some changes to its calendar. However, the organization managing the women’s pro tour had to face some terrible news coming from Asia, where the General Administration of Sport of China in an unexpected move decided to wipe away all international sports events in China, casting an ominous shadow over some of the most lucrative tournaments in the WTA calendar.
After the ATP announced on Monday a new ranking system based on results obtained in the last 22 months (from March 2019 to December 2020), the WTA unveiled a substantially similar system that allows players to maintain the points obtained in 2019 if they are unable or unwilling to participate to the corresponding tournament in 2020 or if they achieve a worse result in this year’s event. The only significant difference with the ATP’s new ranking system consists of allowing players to count only the best 16 results achieved in the considered 22-month window, while the men’s tour allows to count up to 18 results.
“In order to balance fairness and flexibility for all players, the WTA Rankings will generally follow the ‘Better of 2019 and 2020’ point model, in alignment with the ATP Tour,” the WTA said in a statement. “In reaching this decision, various elements were considered including the provisional 2020 revised calendar, various travel restrictions, varying levels of player comfort of traveling to compete, as well as the elimination of player commitment requirements for the remainder of 2020.”
Furthermore, the WTA announced two addition to its provisional 2020 calendar that sees professional tournaments resume on 3rd August with the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy. In fact, on the week of 10th August there will be one new event on clay in Europe and one on hard courts in the USA: they will be the Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic and the Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky.
The former event was originally planned to take place in the spring and was tentatively included in an earlier draft of the new calendar, but then almost immediately dropped. The latter tournament replaces the WTA International Citi Open, due to take place in Washington, D.C. at the same time as the ATP 500 event.
“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all of our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide playing opportunities for WTA players and continue to showdown women’s tennis to our community – said the Citi Open in a statement posted on their social media accounts – However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon [that owns the rights to the event] and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020. We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament. We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D. C. next year and long into the future”.
But the mood at the WTA Offices in St. Petersburg, Florida changed quickly when a press release coming from the Chinese press agency Xinhua announced a decision by the General Administration of Sport of China to cancel all international events due to be held in China in 2020, with the only exception of test events for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. This seems to include all tennis tournaments planned for the months of September and October, in particular the WTA Premier 5 in Wuhan, the WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing and above all the WTA Championships in Shenzhen, as well as the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters.
General Administration of Sports published guiding principles of resuming sports. Highlight: technically no international sports event is allowed to be hosted in China except the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic test matches. Asian Champions League? The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying? pic.twitter.com/y4Q0yazVBP
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) July 9, 2020
The WTA relies on the year-end WTA Championships for more than 60 percent of its annual turnover, and overall is extremely dependent on the revenues generated by its Chinese swing during the Fall. The lack of official comments from the WTA Headquarters seems to suggest the announcement came out of the blue and no contingency plan is presently in place to limit the effect of a complete cancellation of the Chinese tournaments.
At this late stage, it appears problematic to replace those big events with other tournaments in other locations around the world, not only for the difficulty to source a sufficient number of high-paying sponsors, but also due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led many countries to place heavy restrictions to international travel.
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