TENNIS – Stan Wawrinka got Switzerland to a winning start with a convincing 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2 win over Jo Wilfred Tsonga in the opening match of the eagerly-awaited Davis Cup Final between France and Switzerland at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Villenueve d’Asq near Lille. Gael Monfils played one of his best matches of his career to win over Roger Federer in three sets with 6-1 6-3 6-4 keeping the French hopes alive at the end of the first day. Diego Sampaolo
Ubaldo Scanagatta asks Severin Luthi if there is more chance of winning the doubles or the singles point with Roger Federer in these conditions.
Wawrinka d. Tsonga 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In the opening match 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka hit 61 winners to take his third win in five clay-court head-to-head matches against Jo Wilfred Tsonga with 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2 in front of 27.432 spectators,which represents a record-breaking attendance for the Davis Cup.
In the second game of the first set Wawrinka earned a break point but Tsonga saved it with his serve. The Lausanne player converted his second break point in the fourth game for 3-1 and held serve to love in the next game. Tsonga made two unforced errors to go down 0-40 in the sixth game. He saved the first break point but Wawrinka converted the second to take a 5-1 lead. Wawrinka served for the first set but he faced the first break point of the match. Tsonga sent a passing shot wide to waste the break point. Wawrinka hit a forehand passing shot before wrapping up the first set with a service winner in just 26 minutes.
Tsonga faced a break point in the opening game of the second set but he held his serve after a 12-point first game. Tsonga held serve without facing any break points in the third game for 2-1.
The Frenchman broke serve in the fourth game of the second set for 3-1 when Wawrinka hit a double fault and backed up the break holding serve in the next game for 4-1.
Tsonga clinched the second set with 6-3 with a service winner to the delight of the enthusiastic French crowd. The Frenchman hit 16 winners and clinched six of his eight points at the net to draw level to 1-1.
The third set went on serve until the sixth games when Wawrinka broke serve to take a 4-2 lead in the third set, as Tsonga hit his forehand wide. Tsonga saved two set points to claw his way back for 3-5.
Tsonga went 30-0 when Wawrinka was serving for the set. but Wawrinka earned a third set point with two service winners and a down-the-line backhand. Wawrinka made a double fault but he earned a fourth set point with a forehand winner. Wawrinka clinched the third set with 6-3 after 1 hour and 51 minutes dropping just seven of his service points.
Wawrinka got an early break at the start of the fourth set and held serve in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. The Lausanne player got a second break in the seventh before sealing the win on the match point at 5-2 40-30 with a forehand volley after two hours and 24 minutes.
“I was feeling good since Thursday night. You know that you have a lot of pressure when you play a Davis Cup final. With everything that happened this week with Roger’s back, there is more pressure on me but I have a good team around me. I know how to play these matches. I did so many good matches this year. It’s important to show them that I am there. They maybe focused on Roger and maybe they forgot me. I thought that I would have more difficulties because I did not play a lot on clay. We had less time to prepare on clay than the French team. They were playing on this surface for a long time already. I just went on court prepared to do simple things. I think playing as well as I did in the Masters was the best preparation. I was confident”
Monfils d. Federer 6-1 6-3 6-4
Gael Monfils played one of his best matches to take a three-set win over Roger Federer with 6-1 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 46 minutes to draw France level to 1-1. The Frenchman took a re-match against Federer who beat him in five sets after losing the first two sets in the quarter final at this year’s US Open.
The back problem which forced Federer to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Final last Sunday affected the Swiss legend in the first set when Monfils recovered from 15-30 to win three consecutive points and get his first break in the fourth game as Federer hit a forehand into the net. Federer earned two break back points in the next game but he failed to convert them. Monfils got a double break for 5-1. Monfils did not convert his first two set points after two double faults but he closed out with 6-1 the opening set on the their set point in 30 minutes with two consecutive aces.
Monfils did not convert on two break point chances but he broke serve on his third chance in the third game of the second set and held serve in the next game. A break was enough to take a 2-0 lead.
The Frenchman took a 4-2 lead with a break in the sixth game before getting another break for 5-3 to claim his first ever straight-set win over Federer who was affected by the injury especially on his backhand. Monfils closed out with his backhand on the first match point. Two days of training on indoor clay after the ATP Finals were not enough to get ready.
“That is one of the top-three matches in my life. I was very nervous at the beginning. When Jo lost, it was an extra pressure because we needed o get back to win the title. I liked the atmosphere and the court. The crowd helped me a lot. They game me a lot of energy. At the end it helped me a lot because I went for my shots which made me serve big and hit big forehands”, said Monfils.
“Gael played a high-quality match. And playing the way he played against Federer in a Davis Cup final is an exceptional performance. Gael is able to play at that level. He already proved that in the past. I am sure he will be able to play another great match this weekend. He is at his best level at one of the most important moments of his career. This is extremely admirable”, said French Davis Cup captain Arnaud Clement.
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.
Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021
Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.
The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.
Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.
The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.
“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.
As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’
Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.
”We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”
There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.
The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.
Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals
Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)
- Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
- Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
- Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
- Semi-finals and final
Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)
- Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
- Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
- Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F
Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)
- Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
- Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
- Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E
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