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

Only Double Vaccinated Players Will Be Allowed To Play Australian Open – Government Minister

Players will not be exempt from a ‘universal application’ applied to those wishing to travel to the country.

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A high ranking official from the Australian government has confirmed for the first time that players will not be allowed to enter the country next year if they have not been double vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Immigration minister Alex Hawke has stated that there will be no exemptions in force for tennis players hoping to play in the Australian Open amid recent speculation. According to Andrey Rublev, he had been told that unvaccinated players could be allowed to play but will have to enter into a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday that it was unlikely visas would be issued to those who are unvaccinated.

Trying to clarify the current situation, Hawke has told ABC radio that all entrants into the country will be required to be vaccinated regardless of who they are. His comments come before Tennis Australia has made any official announcement regarding the tournament and it’s entry requirements.

“The government in establishing its borders has said that you’ll need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia. That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players. I mean that every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke said on ABC radio.

The move raises further questions about the prospect of Novak Djokovic being able to attend the Australian Open. The 20-time Grand Slam champion recently said he doesn’t want to reveal his vaccination status to the public. In the past he said he was against the idea of being forced to have a vaccination but rejects allegations that he is an anti-vaxxer.

“I don’t have a message to Novak. I have a message to everybody that wishes to visit Australia. He’ll need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke later added.

Unlike other sports, tennis’ governing bodies have not issued any public statements outlining the vaccination rates among players on their Tour’s. Reuters news agency estimates the vaccination rate is 65% for the ATP and 60% for the WTA based on recent media reports. However, The Age newspaper reports those who are double vaccinated are below half with 35% for the ATP and 40% for the WTA.

As for the suggestion that players who had already contracted COVID-19 should be allowed into the country regardless of their vaccine status, the president of the Victorian Australian Medical Association has dismissed the idea.

“I understand he [Djokovic] had it [coronavirus] but, believe it or not, the immunity from the vaccination is better than the immunity from catching the disease,” Dr Roderick McRae told The Age.
“I think there is an element of standards [here]. It’s important our leaders make these decisions in our interests and it [banning unvaccinated travellers] demonstrates to the community just how important we take this.”

The Australian Open will begin on January 17th. Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the reigning champions.

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Victorian Premier: Unvaccinated Players Likely To Be Refused Visas To Play Australian Open

The government official has issued a warning ahead of the Grand Slam but one player say they have been told something different…

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photo by atpworldtour.com

The head of the Victorian Government has said there is a good chance that any player who is unvaccinated will be refused entry into Australia next year and be excluded from the Australian Open.

 

Daniel Andrews has insisted that no deals will be cut with the players where they could receive special treatment in order for them to enter the region. Recently local officials implemented a health mandate in Victoria requiring essential workers to be vaccinated, including professional athletes. The move has prompted speculation over the implications that will have on the upcoming Australian Open which will get underway in January.

Andrews, who has been the Premier of Victoria since 2014, will not be the person who has the final say as to if unvaccinated players will be allowed to enter the country. That will be decided by the national government. However, in a press conference on Tuesday he cast serious doubt over their chances.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.
“AFL players have to be vaccinated, but they’re Aussies, they’re not coming from other countries.
“I don’t think any other tennis player, or golfer, or Formula One driver, will even get a visa to get here.
“Professional sport is part of that authorised worker list and they have to be double dose vaccinated.”

The warning comes less than 24 hours after Blic newspaper published an interview with world No.1 Novak Djokovic who admits he is unsure about playing at the tennis major. Djokovic declined to reveal his vaccination status and has accused the media of causing a divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. He has won the Australian Open men‘s title a record nine times.

“I won’t disclose whether I am vaccinated or not. It is a private matter, I think it is inappropriate to ask a person that. Too many people allow themselves the freedom to ask and then to judge. Whatever you say – I have, I have not, maybe, I do not know or I am thinking about it – they will use it against you,” he said.

Tennis Australia has not commented on Andrews’ statement and it is unclear as to when a final decision will be made. Although Djokovic believes a final decision could come in two weeks time.

Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev has contradicted what Andrews has said during a press conference in Moscow. Speaking to reporters the Russian says it is his understanding that unvaccinated players will be allowed to play the Australian Open but they will be forced to enter into a 14-day quarantine. Meaning they will miss tournaments such as the ATP Cup leading up to the Grand Slam.

“If athletes do not want to stay in quarantine for two weeks, then they must be vaccinated. As far as I know, Australians recognize many vaccines. If you do not get vaccinated, then you will not be able to leave the room for two weeks. Then you won’t be able to play either the ATP Cup or the tournaments before the Australian Open.” Said Rublev.

Besides the players, local fans attending the Australian Open could also be refused entry if they are unvaccinated and their freedoms won’t be relaxed until ‘well into 2022.’ Andrews said he doubts crowds at the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place three months after the Melbourne major, will not include those are are not double jabbed.

“Why would you get the system going, have the thing up and running and then essentially pull down all of the architecture that you’ve built, the culture that you’ve changed – why would you change that four or five weeks later?” He said.
“For example, the Grand Prix is in April, I don’t think there will be crowds at the Grand Prix made up of people who have not been double dosed.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th.

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Grand Slam Matches Among 38 Suspicious Betting Alerts Over Past Three Months

The body is charge of monitoring match-fixing in the sport has issued their latest findings.

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The International Tennis Integrity Agency has confirmed they have received ‘match alerts’ concerning a quartet of matches which took place at Grand Slam tournaments during the third quarter of 2021.

 

Two matches played at Wimbledon and a further two which took place at the US Open were flagged up, according to their quarterly report which was public on Tuesday. The names of the individuals involved in those matches are not made public whilst the ITIA investigate the matter. The alerts are received through their confidential Memoranda of Understanding with the regulated betting industry.

A total of 38 betting alerts were issued to the ITIA during the third quarter with the most coming from matches played on the Challenger Tour (13). There were also nine suspicious matches from ITF $25,000 tournaments on the men’s Tour and another seven linked to $15,000 events. To put that into context the women’s ITF Tour reported a total of three overall.

“It is important to note that an alert on its own is not evidence of match fixing,” the ITIA stated in their report.
“Unusual betting patterns can occur for many reasons other than match fixing – for example incorrect odds-setting; well-informed betting; player fitness, fatigue or form; playing conditions and personal circumstances.”

Five players have been sanctioned within the past three months for match-fixing offences with the most high-profile being Temur Ismailov from Uzbekistan. Ismailov, who reached a ranking high of 397th in 2016, was issued with a life ban after being found guilty of offences in addition to another suspension he was already serving.

The ITIA has also provisionally suspended six Moroccans and one Pervian player in connection with possible violations of anti-corruption rules.

The ITIA was created by the international governing bodies to investigate allegations against players and hand out sanctions. It is currently in the process of merging with the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) and will oversee the global administration of the TADP from January 1st if it receives Board approval.

Number of alerts (third quarter of 2021 only)

  • Wimbledon: 2
  • US Open: 2
  • ATP Challenger: 13
  • ATP World Tour: 250 1
  • Davis Cup: 1
  • M25 Men’s – World Tennis Tour: 9
  • M15 Men’s – World Tennis Tour: 7
  • W15 Women’s – World Tennis Tour: 2
  • W80 Women’s – World Tennis Tour: 1

TOTAL: 38

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