Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches

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TENNIS – The opening day of Wimbledon saw a lot of ladies action. There were no major upsets as top favourites and former champions here Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova had very light workouts. Cordell Hackshaw

 

USUAL SUSPECTS
Serena Williams (1) opened her campaign for a second “Serena Slam” (winning 4 majors in a row) and the third leg for a  first “Grand Slam” (winning all  4 majors in the calendar year) got off to a sloppy start. An erratic Williams started off the match down 0-2 against Russian Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian continuously unleashed a nice one-handed backhand which is extremely rare on the ladies’ tour these days. Williams was able to hold serve with confidence for 1-2 however, it was clear that Gasparyan was ready for the challenge of defeating the number 1 player in the world. Williams had several break points to level set early but she missed them badly with poor errors. Gasparyan held serve for 3-1 and secured herself a break point to go up 4-1. It was at this point that Williams fully realized the urgency of situation. With some quick big serves, Williams was able to erase her problems for 2-3. Williams then wrest control of the match to break for 3-3 and then break again in the 10th game for 6-4.

Williams carried this momentum into the 2nd set as she raced out to a 3-1 lead. However, Gasparyan found herself with triple break points but could not convert any of them. Williams held and broke the Russian again for 5-1. With a smash winner, Williams moved into the 2nd round 6-4 6-1. Williams would later state that though she expected Gasparyan to be good, she did not expect her to be this good.

Victoria Azarenka (23) was the first player through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Azarenka did not play this event last year and has struggled at this event though she made it to the semifinals back in 2012 and won the bronze medal at the Olympics here. Both times she lost to Serena Williams. This is a really good start for the Belarusian who is trying to work her way back to major form after an injury plagued 2014.

Maria Sharapova (4) v Johanna Konta The young Brit had a break point in the opening game of the match. However, Sharapova was not about to let a young upstart dash her hopes of a second Wimbledon title. Konta failed to break the Sharapova serve and it was a routine victory for the Russian 6-2 6-2. Sharapova will face Richel Hogenkamp for a place in the 3rd round. Also having an easy day at the office was 5-time champion Venus Williams (16) who took out fellow American Madison Brengle 6-0 6-0 in 42 minutes. Also winning without dropping a game was Andrea Petkovic (14) with a 6-0 6-0 routing of another American Shelby Rogers. Williams would take on Yulia Putinseva in the next round. Petkovic will face Mariana Duque-Marino. Ana Ivanovic (7) won comfortably on the day 6-1 6-1 over China’s Yi Xu.

SURPRISES
Several seeded players found themselves in unexpected battles in their opening round matches. This year’s French Open finalist, Lucie Safarova (6) had to play 3 sets to get past American Alison Riske 3-6 7-5 6-3. Riske served for the match up 5-4 in the 2nd set but Safarova broke twice to take the set and push to a decider. In the 3rd set, Riske went up 2-0 but was unable to maintain the momentum. She lost 6 of the next 7 games. Fellow Czech, Karolina Pliskova (11) also had a tough time again an American, Irina Falconi, 6-4 4-6 6-1. Sara Errani (19) had to deal with fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone unrelentingly fighting spirit. Schiavone won 4 straight games in the 2nd set down 3-5 to take it to the 3rd. However, she could not keep up with the will of Errani who won 6-2 5-7 6-1. Belinda Bencic (30) fresh off her first WTA title in Eastbourne had to deal with the dangerous floater that is Tsetvana Pironkova. However, the Swiss player held her nerves to take it in three sets 3-6 6-1 6-3. Perhaps not surprising but more so interesting is the fact that Daniela Hantuchova easily dismissed Dominika Cibulkova  7-5 6-0. Cibulkova recently returned to the game after surgery but it was nonetheless a shocking loss.

UPSETS
Carla Suarez Narravo (9) was the biggest upset of the day as she was completely dismantled by the 2014 Junior Wimbledon Champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Suarez-Narravo just never looked comfortable in the match as she was outplayed from almost the first ball. The Spaniard had only had 1 winner compared to 30 from Ostapenko and was only able to break once in the entire match. She was only able to win 37% of the points on her 1st serve compared to 91% from the Latvian. Thus this encounter was a quick one as Ostapenko took it 6-2 6-0 in 53 minutes. She will face Kristina Mladenovic who took out Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2 6-1.

Flavia Pennetta (24) was another nearly casualty of the Championships. She spilt the opening sets with Zarina Diyas to force a decider. However, Diyas got out to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd set, a lead to great for Pennetta to recover. The Italian was able to claw her way back into the match and got one of the breaks back for 3-4. Diyas played aggressive on the big points to prevent another break and given Pennetta a real shot of regaining control. Serving for the match up 5-4, Diyas mixed it up, with some very aggressive serving and soon earned 2 match points. Pennetta saved one of the match points. Diyas double faulted on the 2nd one for deuce. Pennetta thought she had a winner for break point but the forehand was wide. She was unable to challenge as there is no players’ review on Court 10. Diyas with a third match point held her nerve and it was Pennetta who faltered as her shot went into the net. Diyas through 6-3 2-6 6-4.

OTHER WINNERS
Several Americans made it through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon: Lauren Davis, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Coco Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens who upset 27th seed and last year’s quarterfinalist, Barbora Strycova 6-4 6-4. Sam Stosur (22) also made light work of her opponent as she won in straight sets as did Urszula Radwanska and Irina Begu (29). Heather Watson took out Caroline Garcia (32) 1-6 6-3 8-6 over the course of two days. The match was suspended because of poor lighting on the opening day. It concluded on Day 2.

 

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Simona Halep Casts Doubt On Planned Resumption Of Tennis This Summer

The world No.2 sees a silver lining to what is currently a bleak situation in the world due to covid-19.

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Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has admitted that she doesn’t believe that professional tour will resume during the early part of the summer.

 

There has been no tournaments since the last week of February due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest tennis victim of the virus was Wimbledon, who was forced to scrap their event for the first time since 1945. Shortly after Wimbledon’s announcement, the ATP and WTA issued a joint-statement in which they said no more events will be played until at least July 13th. Although Halep fears that the suspension will be extended further in the coming weeks.

“In my opinion it’s going to be longer than July.” She told Eurosport’s Tennis Legends vodcast. “We hope for US Open but it’s not sure because New York is struggling now. I don’t really know how it’s going to be after being off tournaments for so many months. We’ve never been in this situation so I think it’s going to be new to everybody. And I will struggle for sure. I will struggle to get back to the rhythm.”

At present the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has insisted that they are pressing ahead with plans to host the US Open on the schedule dates of August 24th – September 13th. Although the Billie Jean Tennis Center, which is the venue of the New York major, has been transformed into a temporary 350-bed hospital to treat those with covid-19.

“At this time the USTA still plans to host the US Open as scheduled, and we continue to hone plans to stage the tournament.” The USTA said in a statement issued on April 1st.
“The USTA is carefully monitoring the rapidly-changing environment surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, and is preparing for all contingencies.
“We also rely on the USTA’s Medical Advisory Group as well as governmental and security officials to ensure that we have the broadest understanding of this fluid situation.
“In all instances, all decisions made by the USTA regarding the US Open will be made with the health and well-being of our players, fans, and all others involved in the tournament.”

At the time the suspension began with the cancellation of Indian Wells, Halep was already sidelined from the tour due to injury. The two-time grand slam champion has been suffering from a foot injury, which she appears to have now recovered. Currently in lockdown in her home country of Romania, the 28-year-old is pressing ahead with her training routine as well as she can.

“Everything is closed but you are able to run outdoors. So, I am doing the running and the training outside, from the bloc. And then in the house I work on my core and my other exercises. So, every day I am working and I feel fit yes.” Halep said of her current training.
“It’s the longest period that I haven’t touched a racket. Not the ball, the racket – since Dubai. And I want to keep it that way for one more month.” She added.

Last month Halep made a donation of medical equipment to hospitals in Bucharest to help them in their fight against the virus. In Romania there have been more than 3000 cases of covid-19 with at least 116 deaths, according to government figures.

In the midst of the crises, the former world No.1 does see a silver lining. The prospect of having to wait another year to defend the Wimbledon title has added some fuel to the fire for Halep and her team.

“I am now the defending Champion for two years. So, I have to live with that for one more year so that’s a good thing again. I am excited that I will be able to play the first match on Tuesday I think on Center Court. So, I really want to make this experience. It’s going to be great for sure.” She concluded.

Before the tour was halted, Halep started 2020 by winning 10 out of 12 matches played. In February she won her 20th WTA title at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova is ready to play in November if the season is extended

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova said that she would be ready to play in November and December, if the season is extended once the WTA circuit resumes after the long suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The season may be extended to November to make up for the events, which were called off due to Covid-19.

Pavlyuchenkova opened her 2020 season with early defeats against Petra Kvitova in the first round in Brisbane and Ashleigh Barty in the second round in Adelaide. The Russian player produced a major upset when she beat Karolina Pliskova in the third round at the Australian Open, scoring her first win in seven head-to-head matches over the former world number 1 player. She came back from a set down to beat Angelique Kerber reaching the sixth Grand Slam quarter final of her career. In the quarter final Pavlyuchenkova lost to former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. She recently split with 53-year-old French coach Sam Sumyk.

Pavlyuchenkova is a former world number 1 player and won two junior Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and at the US Open in 2006. She lifted twelve singles titles and five doubles titles on the WTA Tour.

“If it is necessary to play in December, I will be ready. In any case it is necessary to change to change this calendar where we play without stopping from January to November. We have announced a resumption date but there is no agreement. Everything can change. It does not look like as an offseason at all as some say because the only thing that I can do is to motivate myself physically and hit the ball because I am lucky that I have a court not far from home. Some people can’t even do all that”, said Pavlyuchenkova to TennisActu Website.

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Tour Suspension A ‘Dire And Bleak’ Situation For Players, Warns Johanna Konta

The world No.14 also comments on the decision to move the French Open to September.

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British No.1 Johanna Konta admits that any system put into place to financially support players in the wake of the tour suspension will only have a ‘minimal’ effect.

 

Tennis is currently at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic with doubts cast over when play will resume again. As a consequence, many players are looking into alternative ways to generate an income. Unlike team sports where athletes have a contract, those in the world of tennis are essentially self-employed. Meaning they will only earn money in the sport if they play at tournaments. Although the top players have the luxury of endorsements to also support them.

Weighing in on the situation, Konta has described it as ‘fire and bleak.’ She is one out of 90 female players to have made more than $100,000 in prize money this year before the tour was suspended. Her current earnings for the season stands at $105,703.

“The reality is that there is no tennis player earning any money right now; all the tennis players have taken a 100 per cent salary cut,” Konta told The Evening Standard.
“Everyone is trying to find the best way possible to stand by a team and support the people you work with and feel close to while not bankrupting yourself.
“[A support system] is being worked on right now, but the reality is that even if it is possible – and let’s hope it is – it’s going to be very minimal.
“It’s a very bleak and dire situation especially for the lower ranked players.”

In light of the financial concerns, world No.371 Sofia Shapatava recently set up an online petition on change.org calling for support from the ITF, WTA and ATP. More than 1300 people have signed the petition.

“I started the petition to help tennis players to be heard by ITF, after I talked to many of the people I know and about their plans for the next three months, I realised that some people won’t even be able to have food,” Shapatava told the AFP News Agency.
“My problem is that my sport will die as it is, it will die, because players who are ranked lower then 150th in the world will not be able to play.”

In comparison to Konta, Georgian player Shapatava has made $2,896 so far this season. That works out as 0.09% of what prize money leader Sofia Kenin has made ($3,012,043). Kenin is one of four players to earn more than a million in 2020 on the women’s tour. The other are Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Ash Barty.

The WTA have said they are looking into the possibility of extending this year’s calendar is order to provide players with more earning opportunities when the sport resumes.

French open approach disappointing

Konta has also criticised the French Tennis Federation (FFT) over their management of the French Open. Officials at the FFT recently announced that the major would be delayed until September due to the Covid-19 outbreak. A move that caught many off guard, including some governing bodies. Konta reached the semi-finals of the French Open last year after previously losing in the first round four times in a row.

“It’s a really sad situation and it’s very disappointing for them to release their decision in the way that they did,” she said.
“It’s not the act itself, but the manner which was disappointing to everybody in the tennis community. It’s left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”

Lionel Maltés is the economic director of the FFT. He has defended their approach to the situation by saying the organisation had no choice but to act. Arguing that their (the FFT) first priority is French tennis. The controversy surrounding the date change is that it will take place a week after the US Open ends. Leaving players with little chance to prepare for the switch of surfaces.

“The decision was not made overnight, it was far from an outburst. We had been clear for some time that it was going to be impossible to play the tournament on the established dates and we knew we had to do something.” Maltés recently told French newspaper L’Equipe.
“There was no hint of conversation collective with the other Grand Slams so we did the only thing we had to do for French tennis. Don’t doubt that Wimbledon and US Open would have made the same decision if they could. In fact, other tournaments have backed us up by saying they understood us and that if they had been in our position, they would have done the same.
“We were aware that we would be highly criticized for this, but the safeguard of French tennis is above all,” he added.

The French Open was scheduled to run from 24 May to 7 June. Officials are now hoping that the tournament will start on September 20th.

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