WTA Rome: Serena and Maria on collision course for a possible semifinal clash - UBITENNIS
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WTA Rome: Serena and Maria on collision course for a possible semifinal clash

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TENNIS – The Women’s draw took place for the Foro Italico in Rome and lots of exciting matches are expected in the early rounds of the Italian Premier level tournament. Serena Williams was drawn in the same half with Maria Sharapova and the two stars are on collision course for a possible semifinal clash. Eighteen of the top 20 are in action in the Eternal City  Diego Sampaolo

 

Serena was drawn in the top half and could face the winner of the match between Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova and Sam Stosur in the second round. In the Round of 16 the US legend could face Sara Errani in a re.-match of last year’s final but the Italian will have first to overcome Daniela Hantukhova in the second round and Barbora Strykova in the second round. Williams could face Ana Ivanovic in the quarter finals but in the same section of the draw there are other interesting names like 2014 US Open quarter finalist Belinda Bencic, the winners of the two clashes between Sabine Lisicki and Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova vs Timea Bacsinszcy.

Sharapova could face Gajdosova in the second round and the winner of the clash between Caroline Garcia and Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys. Sharapova could face Caroline Wozniacki (finalist in Stuttgart) in the quarter finals but this section of the draw features Vika Azarenka and this year’s Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber. Wozniacki could face Azarenka In the second round. Azarenka is in good form and earned three match points against Serena Williams in the third round in Madrid. The winner of this match could meet Kerber in the third round.

The third quarter of the draw could feature the clash between Carla Suarez Navarro and this week’s Madrid champion Petra Kvitova. The Spanish player, the third player from her country to reach the top 10, could clash against Italian Roberta Vinci in the second round and Eugenie Bouchard in the Round of 16.

Kvitova could play against  the winner of the all-Italian match between Karin Knapp and Francesca Schiavone in the second round and either Jelena Jankovic or Camila Giorgi.

In the bottom half of the draw this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova could clash against Madrid finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. The winner of this match could meet Lucie Safarova in the third round.

Simona Halep, World Number 2, could meet either Venus Williams or Garbine Muguruza. The Romanian player is looking to bounce back from her first round defeat in Madrid. Sharapova will need to do better than Halep to overtake the Romanian player as World Number 2

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Emma Raducanu Crowned Action Woman Of The Year

The US Open champion has received another accolade in recognition of her season on the Tour.

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Emma Raducanu reacts to her win during a Women's Singles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Pete Staples/USTA)

Emma Raducanu’s breakthrough season has ended on a high note after she received a top honour on Monday evening.

 

The 19-year-old has been named BT Sport Action Woman of the year following a public vote which took place. The annual awards celebrates ‘the achievements of brilliant and inspiring female athletes’ and started back in 2013. Past athletes to win the award include sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and England footballer Jodie Williams.

“I just wanted to say a massive thank you for voting me as your Action Woman of the Year and I’d really like to congratulate all the other amazing nominees on their incredible achievements over the last 12 months,” Raducanu said in a video published on Monday.
“For me to win this achievement is an absolute honour, so I just wanted to say thank you and hope you’re all having a brilliant evening. I’ll see you soon.”

Raducanu made headlines earlier this year by stunning the field to win the US Open in what was only her second appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam. The Brit became the first qualifier to ever win the title and didn’t drop a single set in 10 matches played. Players she defeated in New York include Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari. She is the first British woman to win a major title since Virginia Wade back in 1977.

The rising star didn’t make her WTA Tour main draw debut until this year’s Nottingham Open. She also reached the fourth round of Wimbledon and was the finalist at a WTA 125 tournament in Chicago. However, she suffered a slight dip in her results after the US Open by winning only two out of five matches played across three tournaments.

Raducanu, who is currently sitting at a ranking high of 19th, is preparing for the 2022 season alongside her new coach Torben Beltz who is known for his previous work with Angleique Kerber. She will return to action next week in Abu Dhabi by taking part in an exhibition match against Belinda Bencic at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.

Torben is a super positive guy and he brings great energy,” Raducanu recently told reporters.
“He’s someone whenever you’re around him you can’t help it because it’s just like infectious. It’s really cool to have that in my team so he’s constantly lifting the mood. I’m really excited to work with him and I’ll get a better chance to get to know him better this off-season and see where it goes.
“We’ve been in communication a lot. I’ve just been doing a lot of fitness, like four to five hours a day training and start my tennis next week, so he’s coming in and we’ll be working hard together during the off-season and into Australia.”

Raducanu has risen up the WTA rankings by more than 300 places since January.

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Why Peng Shuai’s Video Call With The IOC Has Failed To Ease The Concerns Of The WTA

The WTA said the video hasn’t changed their stance on the matter.

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The governing body of women’s tennis says they still have concerns about the welfare of former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai despite her appearing in a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.

 

Shuai attended a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach in what was her first public interaction with an international official since making allegations of sexual assault against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. On November 2nd Shuai published a post on her Weibo account detailing the alleged assault and revealed she had an on-and-off affair with the former influential political figure for a decade. The post was removed less than an hour after it went live and her Weibo account is still restricted.

In a statement issued by the IOC, Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ and would like some privacy. It is understood that the video call lasted roughly 30 minutes, which also included IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. However, in the statement there was no mention of the sexual assault allegations which was made by Shuai.

This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.” The WTA told Reuters in response to the video.

There are fears by the WTA that Shuai is under the control of the state and is restricted as to what she can and can’t say. Lingwei, who participated in the video call, is a former athlete who has since worked with the Chinese government and is a member of the people’s congress.

Recently China’s media, which is controlled by the Communist party, has posted a series of photos and videos of Shuai. However, the WTA confirmed at the weekend they will have been prevented from getting in contact with her despite making numerous efforts.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said.

China’s Global Television network, which is owned by state media, hasn’t posted a single article about Shuai in recent weeks following her allegations. However, for the first time on Monday they published a story about her meeting with the IOC but made no mention of the allegations.

Hu Xijin is the editor of the Global Times newspaper. He claims that the world wouldn’t believe what Shuai is saying unless they are in line with the Western media who he accuses of trying to damage the reputation of his country. Hu is an influential political figure in his country, whose publications have been used to send messages to the outside world. He has also been accused by some of being a political propagandist for the community party.

“As long as what Peng Shuai said doesn’t accord with the expectation of the Western media, they won’t believe it. They only believe the story about China that they imagine. I’m surprised that they didn’t say the lady who showed up these two days is a fake Peng Shuai, a double,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
“For those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai, her appearances of these days are enough to relieve them or eliminate most of their worries. But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them.” He later added.

Like all of the Chinese state-run media and their journalists, Hu has made no mention of the allegations concerning Mr Gaoli.

The WTA have said they are willing to withdraw tournaments from China if their concerns of Shuai’s welfare are not properly addressed.

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REPORT: China Censors Naomi Osaka’s Weibo Account Over Peng Shuai Support

It has emerged that followers are being prevented from commenting on her posts as the WTA warns China they are prepared to stop doing business with them if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Restrictions have been placed on the official Weibo account of former world No.1 Naomi Osaka after she posted a statement expressing concern about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, according to a leading financial newspaper.

 

Nikkei Asia confirmed on Thursday that they have found ‘censoring activity’ on Osaka’s account less than 24 hours after she spoke out about her fellow tennis player. It is understood that comments have been disabled on her latest post even though it is unrelated to Shuai. Weibo is the main social media service in China which is used by millions every day but it is regulated by the country’s strict laws. Other sites such as Twitter is officially banned in the country.

In her post, Osaka wrote on Twitter that ‘censorship is never OK at any cost’ and that she hopes Shuai is safe. It has since been retweeted more than 19,000 times.

On November 2nd a post was uploaded on Shuai’s Weibo account in which she said she was pressured into sex by the former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and she had an on-and-off affair with him over a intermittent period of 10 years. The post was removed less than an hour after it was uploaded but observers took screenshots of it which was then reposted online. Since then, Shuai hasn’t been heard of or seen in public.

There are now mounting concerns over Shuai’s current whereabouts after the international branch China’s state-broadcaster published a letter which they claimed the tennis star wrote to the WTA. The letter says that the tennis star denies making the accusations and she is not missing. However, Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has expressed serious concerns about the authenticity of the letter.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her.”

In recent years China has been a crucial location for the WTA Tour and has generated millions in revenue for the sport. No tournaments have taken place in the country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but 10 are expected to resume next year, including the prestigious WTA Finals. Nevertheless, the WTA has stated that they are prepared to cut ties with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

“If at the end of the day we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that’s what it came to,” Simon told The New York Times.

In 2014 Shuai became the first Chinese player in history to top the world rankings in doubles. During her career, she has won two major titles with Hsieh Su-wei and has been ranked as high as 14th in singles.

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