Serena closes in on History with 20th major at the French Open - UBITENNIS
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Serena closes in on History with 20th major at the French Open

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Serena Williams reasserted her dominance in the sport of women’s tennis with a comprehensive victory over Lucie Safarova in the final of the 2015 French Open 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 for her 3rd French title, 2nd major title of the year and 20th overall major title. Despite illness and having to fight her way through this tournament against many resilient opponents, Williams further cements her place in the annals of tennis history. Cordell Hackshaw

 

The match had a rather calm opening as everyone wondered what shape Williams would be in for the final. For the past several days, she had been battling the flu which was clearly visible during her most recent practices and matches particularly in her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday. However, Williams started off well enough and it was Safarova who appeared understandably tentative. The Czech was in her first major final playing against Williams, a 19-time major winner, an opponent she had never beaten in their 8 previous meetings. Safarova was broken in the 4th game as Williams showed her championships experience and took charge of the match early. Williams consolidated the break and raced out to a 5-2 lead, forcing Safarova to serve to stay in the match. Safarova faced a set point on her serve but she save it and made Williams serve out the set at 6-3 in about half an hour.

Williams’ momentum continued into the 2nd set and for a while, it looked like the match was going to be over in under an hour. Williams was up 4-1 with double game points to go up 5-1 and be a game away from her 20th major title. Safarova had come into this match without dropping a set through 6 rounds of play, she was not about to leave this tournament in straight sets. She earned her first break point of the match as Williams double faulted twice in the 6th game. Not only did Safarova break the Williams serve once, she broke it twice to go up 5-4 and force Williams to serve to stay in the set. Williams held for 5-5 and broke Safarova to serve for the match. Down 5-6, Safarova went for broke on all her shots particularly with Williams 2 points away from the match at 30-15. Safarova produced incredible winners with inch perfect accuracy and soon it was 6-6 and a 2nd set tiebreaker was needed. “My first serve abandoned me … Once she saw that I got a little tight, she started playing really a lot better,” said Williams.

Safarova was now in the ascendancy and quickly jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the breaker. One expected Williams to make a comeback at some point but it never happened in the set. Safarova took the breaker 7-2 points and carried this momentum into the 3rd set with a 2-0 lead. “I’m proud that I fought back in the second set, because it was looking like it will be an easy match.  Serena was really strong out there. I just pushed myself to step up the level,” said Safarova after the match.

As for Williams, this was a regular occurrence in her matches here at the French Open, being down a set and a break.  This was the fifth 3-setter Williams was playing at these championships and battling the flu, it looked as Williams’s chance at the history books was about to closed. However, this is Serena Williams who has found her way back from the brink of defeat so many times. As she did against, Azarenka in the 3rd round, Williams began her comeback and she was unstoppable.

Williams held serve for 1-2 and asked the question of Safarova of whether she could maintain the lead. Up 2-1 and 30-0, Safarova looked as though she was going to handle the pressure well but she lost 4 straight points, double faulting on break point to level the match 2-2. This slight hesitation on Safarova’s part allowed Williams back into the match and made Safarova near look pedestrian across the net. With each game that Williams won, Safarova’s confidence began to dim. “When she was on, she was just serving amazing and going for the returns, pressuring me right away … It’s just hard to do anything with that,” said Safarova.

Williams broke again for 4-2 and held serve for 5-2. Safarova who looked poised to claim her first major about 20 minutes ago up 2-0, was now serving to stay in the match, having lost 5 straight games. “I just couldn’t find any weapon that could stop her.  I was trying to mix up the serve, trying to mix up the rhythm, trying to go for risk shots,” said Safarova. The pressure of facing Williams on the other side of the net proved to be too daunting for Safarova.  Williams broke the Czech with a searing forehand return of serve that Safarova could not keep in play. Williams won 6-3 6-7(1) 6-2.   

This is the first time a woman has captured the first two majors of the year since Jennifer Capriati in 2001. Williams has now won the last three majors stretching back to the 2014 US Open.  Speaking on the match, Williams had this to say, I got so frustrated. I was just so angry at myself. I pretty much gave the match away … I just had to, like, try to pull it together.”  Williams had 34 winners and 42 errors including 11 aces and 9 double faults compared to a 16:17 ratio from Safarova. When asked if she would be partying after her win, Williams replied that she was going to bed as she was tired.

Williams has a chance at the calendar grand slam if she can win both Wimbledon and the US Open later this year. She is also 2 major wins away from Steffi Graf’s open era record of 22 major titles and 4 wins away from Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.As for Safarova, she still has a chance at winning a major title in Paris as she will play the final of the women’s doubles with her partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands against the team of Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova on the final day of the tournament.

Grand Slam

Na-Lae Han, Tatsuma Ito Clinch Australian Open Wildcards

With just over a month to go, wildcards for the first grand slam of 2020 have already been decided.

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Han Na-Lae (image via wtatennis.com)

South Korean player Na-Lae Han is set to make her grand slam debut at the Australian Open next month after winning the Asia-Pacific playoff tournament in Zhuhai, China.

 

The 27-year-old, who was the top seed in the tournament, downed Ayano Shimizu 6-2 6-2 in the final to secure her spot in Melbourne. Han is currently ranked 182nd in the world and has won a trio of ITF $25,000 titles this season. She is currently the only player from her country to be ranked inside the top 300 on the WTA Tour.

“It’s the first time I played Ayano. I am really happy to win the championship and to capture the wildcard,” Han told Tennis Australia.

Han was hoping for double success after also taking part in the doubles draw alongside compatriot Choi Ji-hee. However, the duo lost in the semi-finals. Han won her first and so far only WTA title at the 2018 Korean Open in the doubles with Choi. The wildcard was secured by the Chinese Taipei pairing of Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu.

In the men’s tournament Japan’s Tatsuma Ito upset top seed Jason Jung 7-5, 6-4, to seal his place. 31-year-old Ito has been ranked as high as 60th in the world and will be playing in the main draw of the Australian Open for the sixth time in his career. However, he last won a match in the tournament back in 2013. This year he reached the main draw after coming through qualifying, but lost in the first round to Dan Evans.

“I really enjoyed this moment” said Ito after his win. “I moved through into the main draw after qualifying this year. It was very tough for me and my body. It will easier next year (smiling).”

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song won the men’s doubles title. Meanwhile, China had a clean sweep in the junior competitions with Xiaofei Wang and Fangran Tian winning their events.

This year’s playoffs have been branded as a success by tournament director Isabelle Gemmel. It is the eighth consecutive year the tournament has taken place, which aim to promote top-level tennis in the region.

“Na-Lae Han was undefeated all week and Tatsuma Ito overcame a couple of tough matches to win the all-important main draw wildcard.” Said Gemmel.
“With two new countries, Korea and Japan, winning for the first time in singles, it underlines how the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff has established itself as a key tournament in its own right and how valued it is in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The 2020 Australian Open will get underway on January 20th.

List of winners

MEN’S SINGLES: Tatsuma Ito (JPN)

WOMEN’S SINGLES: Na-Lae Han (KOR)

MEN’S DOUBLES: Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song (KOR)

WOMEN’S DOUBLES: Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu (TPE)

BOYS’ SINGLES: Xiaofei Wang (CHN)

GIRLS’ SINGLES: Fangran Tian (CHN)

 

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Grand Slam

Margaret Court’s Tennis To Be Celebrated At Australian Open But Not Her Politics

Margaret Court will be invited to the Australian Open this year despite her political views.

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Margaret Court(@shopworldoffers - Twitter)

Tennis Australia will be celebrating Margaret Court’s tennis at the Australian Open in January but not her politics. 

 

Margaret Court has won 24 grand slam singles titles, the most of any female player in history as of now, and has been invited to celebrate 50 years since winning one of 11 Australian Open titles.

That year, she would also win all four grand slam titles, marking a historic year for Court in the context of her tennis career.

But for many Australians and people around the world that is not the way she is being remembered lately as it’s her politics that are taking over.

Just before the Gay Marriage Referendum vote in 2018, Margaret Court expressed her rather hateful views towards the LGBTQ community, calling transgender children the work of “the devil.”

Furthermore she claimed that tennis was full of lesbians, “Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that led took young ones into parties,” Court told Vision Christian Radio in 2017.

Those views have been criticised by many with the likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova wanting her name stripped from the second biggest court at the Australian Open.

Now, a couple of years later after much debate, Court will be invited to the Australian Open for her incredible achievement 50 years ago as Tennis Australia announced today.

The Australian was thrilled to hear the truce given by Tennis Australia, “This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I’m grateful to Tennis Australia,” Court said in Tennis Australia’s press release.

During the event a special documentary of Court reflecting back on that achievement will be released as well as this there will be in-stadium entertainment celebrating the event as well as a legends lunch.

But once again Tennis Australia once again distanced themselves from Court’s political views as they stated in their press release, “As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” Tennis Australia said.

“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.

“#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020.

“We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events. A full program of #Open4All events at Australian Open 2020 will be released in the coming weeks.

“The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020.”

Although, Court will continue to cause controversy especially considering Tennis Australia’s ‘tale of two halves’ press release.

The Australian will hope that it will be her tennis that will be remembered in January, but it won’t be a smooth ride on the road to being appreciated.

 

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Grand Slam

Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash

The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.

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Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.

 

2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.

Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”

Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.

There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.

“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”

Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.

“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”

The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.

“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.

During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

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