Ferrer, Nishikori secure final berths for London after Gasquet defeat - UBITENNIS
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Ferrer, Nishikori secure final berths for London after Gasquet defeat

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Nishikori will take his place in London again (by Gerad Chaustow)

Nishikori will take his place in London again ( photo by Gerad Chaustow)

Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer may not have played this week, but both are now confirmed as having qualified for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.

 

Richard Gasquet’s defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Basel semi-final means that no set of circumstances can see him overtake Ferrer or Nishikori in the final Masters event in Paris-Bercy.

Ferrer and Nishikori will now join six other players vying for the year-end crown.

  1. Novak Djokovic: A scintillating year for the World No.1 that has seen him claim three Grand Slam titles and five Masters 1000 titles. Making his ninth appearance and has four titles 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014.
  2. Andy Murray: Another strong year for the Briton, but no Grand Slam title, falling to Djokovic in Australia. Two Masters and a career season on clay. Making his seventh appearance (has qualified eight times). Best finish semi-finals, 2008, 2010, 2012.
  3. Roger Federer: Two finals, but like Murray thwarted by Djokovic at Wimbledon and the US Open. Five titles on the year including a Masters 1000, and Dubai, where he defeated Djokovic for the only time this year. Making his fourteenth appearance and has six titles 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011.
  4. Stan Wawrinka: Another Grand Slam title, and the only one to deny Djokovic the Calendar Year Slam by winning Roland Garros. Further titles in Chennai, Rotterdam, and Tokyo. Making his third appearance. Best finish semi finals 2013, 2014.
  5. Tomas Berdych: A solid year, but only got past the Round of Sixteen in Grand Slams in Australia. Two titles in Shenzhen and Stockholm. Sixth appearance. Best result semi-finals 2011.
  6. Rafael Nadal: The King of Clay failed to retain Roland Garros for only the second time. Regaining form as the season draws to a close. Eleventh qualification( absent for four). Best finish runner-up 2010, 2013.
  7. David Ferrer: Missed a significant chunk of season due to injury. Returns after serving as an alternate last year. Seventh appearance (served as an alternate in 2014). Best finish runner-up 2007.
  8. Kei Nishikori: A solid year but disrupted by injury. Poor in the last two Slams, but has still taken titles in Memphis, Barcelona, and Washington DC. Second appearance. Best finish semi-final 2014.

Though the players have been confirmed, the seedings have not been in some cases. The positions from Berdych in fifth to Nishikori/Ferrer tied for seventh/eighth are all interchangeable in Paris. Stan Wawrinka could also overtake Roger Federer for third if he wins Paris and Federer loses early.

There could yet be some French involvement, as Richard Gasquet and Jo Wilfried Tsonga are currently the first two alternates, with a week still to go on the main tour. With concern over David Ferrer’s recent elbow injury, and Kei Nishikori’s troubles this season, there is a possibility that one or both of them will see some match play. Both have participated at the year-end finals before.

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WTA’s Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments

Big blow dealt to the WTA calendar as Chinese Authorities cancel all international events in China for 2020, including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

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Group selfie at the WTA Championships in Shenzhen 2019 (photo Twitter @WTAFinals)

After many weeks of relative silence, the WTA had a very eventful day on Thursday releasing its revised mechanism for the calculation of the WTA Ranking and confirming some changes to its calendar. However, the organization managing the women’s pro tour had to face some terrible news coming from Asia, where the General Administration of Sport of China in an unexpected move decided to wipe away all international sports events in China, casting an ominous shadow over some of the most lucrative tournaments in the WTA calendar.

 

After the ATP announced on Monday a new ranking system based on results obtained in the last 22 months (from March 2019 to December 2020), the WTA unveiled a substantially similar system that allows players to maintain the points obtained in 2019 if they are unable or unwilling to participate to the corresponding tournament in 2020 or if they achieve a worse result in this year’s event. The only significant difference with the ATP’s new ranking system consists of allowing players to count only the best 16 results achieved in the considered 22-month window, while the men’s tour allows to count up to 18 results.

“In order to balance fairness and flexibility for all players, the WTA Rankings will generally follow the ‘Better of 2019 and 2020’ point model, in alignment with the ATP Tour,” the WTA said in a statement. “In reaching this decision, various elements were considered including the provisional 2020 revised calendar, various travel restrictions, varying levels of player comfort of traveling to compete, as well as the elimination of player commitment requirements for the remainder of 2020.”

Furthermore, the WTA announced two addition to its provisional 2020 calendar that sees professional tournaments resume on 3rd August with the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy. In fact, on the week of 10th August there will be one new event on clay in Europe and one on hard courts in the USA: they will be the Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic and the Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky.

The former event was originally planned to take place in the spring and was tentatively included in an earlier draft of the new calendar, but then almost immediately dropped. The latter tournament replaces the WTA International Citi Open, due to take place in Washington, D.C. at the same time as the ATP 500 event.

“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all of our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide playing opportunities for WTA players and continue to showdown women’s tennis to our community – said the Citi Open in a statement posted on their social media accounts – However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon [that owns the rights to the event] and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020. We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament. We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D. C. next year and long into the future”.

But the mood at the WTA Offices in St. Petersburg, Florida changed quickly when a press release coming from the Chinese press agency Xinhua announced a decision by the General Administration of Sport of China to cancel all international events due to be held in China in 2020, with the only exception of test events for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. This seems to include all tennis tournaments planned for the months of September and October, in particular the WTA Premier 5 in Wuhan, the WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing and above all the WTA Championships in Shenzhen, as well as the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The WTA relies on the year-end WTA Championships for more than 60 percent of its annual turnover, and overall is extremely dependent on the revenues generated by its Chinese swing during the Fall. The lack of official comments from the WTA Headquarters seems to suggest the announcement came out of the blue and no contingency plan is presently in place to limit the effect of a complete cancellation of the Chinese tournaments.

At this late stage, it appears problematic to replace those big events with other tournaments in other locations around the world, not only for the difficulty to source a sufficient number of high-paying sponsors, but also due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led many countries to place heavy restrictions to international travel.

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Wimbledon Throwback: Fairytale Triumph For Maria Sharapova

Before Wimbledon 2004, Maria Sharapova was virtually unknown. Over the next two weeks, her life changed, and so did women’s tennis.

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Maria Sharapova (foto FABRIZIO MACCANI)

One day in June 2004, I came home from school, switched on the Wimbledon coverage and was transfixed by Maria Sharapova – a 17-year-old Russian who played tennis with an intensity I had never seen before.

 

Unfortunately I don’t remember which of her matches I saw first – her second-round win over Anne Keothavong or her third-round victory over Daniela Hantuchova – but I do remember that she blew away her opponent (and me) with her sublime ball-striking ability.

Sharapova’s serene progress continued until the quarter-final, when she faced her first real test against Ai Sugiyama. At the time, the Japanese player was a top-20 player. And she had plenty of experience to draw on after over a decade on tour.

Initially, Sugiyama’s maturity shone through as she won a tight opening set 7-5. However, her young Russian opponent gave many people their first glimpse of one of her defining qualities – fighting spirit. She clawed her way back into the match by coming out on top in an equally close second set. Having broken through the Japanese player’s resistance, Sharapova romped through the decider 6-2 to reach the semi-final.

Against All Odds

Despite her exceptional run to the last four, many observers believed it would come to an end when she faced Lindsay Davenport. It is clear from Sharapova’s autobiography that she agreed.

“I was a kid. Lindsay was a woman. I was weak. Lindsay was strong. I was stringy and narrow. Lindsay was powerful and solid. As I said, in many ways our games were alike. We went by power, played from the baseline, hit flat and low, without much spin, a style that both of us learned from Robert Lansdrop.

“She was twenty-eight years old, so far along there was talk of her retirement. She was not number one just then – that was Serena – but had been number one, off and on, for ninety-eight weeks. So she was one of the greatest tennis players in the world.

“In other words, I’d hung on and hung on till I’d advanced myself right out of my league. I mean, how was I supposed to beat Lindsay Davenport? She was just like me, only bigger, stronger, older, and more experienced. She was just like me, only way more.”

As if that was not already enough to make Sharapova’s task extremely difficult, she also found herself a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. She said she felt as though the crowd would see she was a kid “who did not belong there”, and that the first serve she hit “fluttered over the net like a butterfly”.

Rain Saves Sharapova

Maria Sharapova (foto ART SEITZ)

Just as the Russian expected, Davenport overwhelmed her to begin with. She won the first set 6-2 in just 26 minutes and then went up a break in the second. But just when it seemed like all hope was lost, fate intervened. Rain came pouring down and Sharapova retreated to the locker room to regroup.

Not that the Russian saw it that way. “In my mind, I was already on the plane, heading home,” she said. Thankfully, her father Yuri had other ideas. He told her he had seen it in a dream that she would turn this match around and go on to win the tournament.

And he seemed so certain that Sharapova believed him. It had a strong effect on her. She explained, “In that minute, I went from feeling like I had absolutely no chance, being beaten before I even went back out on the court, to believing I would have the prize if only I could summon the will to take it.”

To her immense credit, that is exactly what the Russian did. She came out after the delay and played exceptionally well. She returned well, drilled her trademark, flat groundstrokes into the corners for seemingly countless winners and even came to the net sometimes to finish points. It was a remarkable turnaround.

Showdown with Serena

I do not have many clear memories of Sharapova’s run to the championship match of Wimbledon 2004. But the final itself will stay in my mind forever.

I remember sitting down to watch it with my mother and thinking, I really hope this spirited Russian underdog can win, but I don’t really believe it. I mean, this is Serena Williams she is facing after all.

If Sharapova had any doubts, they did not show. She came out onto Centre Court and demolished the best female tennis player on the planet. She sent down ace after ace when she served and hit a thrilling succession of winners to finish rallies when they had scarcely begun. And the Russian attacked Serena’s serve in a way I had never seen before and remained calm and focused throughout.

Consequently, the match was over in about 70 minutes and Maria Sharapova – the 17-year-old Russian who most viewers barely knew before the tournament – was the Wimbledon champion. She had produced an extraordinary performance that stunned the sporting world and changed her life forever.

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New Ranking Rules ‘Best Option’ For 2020, Says Djokovic

The world No.1 is back in the public eye following his COVID-19 diagnoses as he addresses the fallout caused by the Adria Tour.

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World No.1 Novak Djokovic has lent his full backing behind the ATP and their recent review of the ranking system.

 

The governing body of men’s tennis has made adjustments to how a player’s position on the Tour is calculated in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has put competitive tennis at a standstill since March. Players can now use their best results from 18 tournaments to determine their ranking based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Although they can’t use the same tournament twice. The ATP said that changes have been made to help support those who may not want to travel to certain tournaments or places in the world due to health fears links to the pandemic.

Djokovic, who is the president of the influential ATP Players Council, told Sportski Zurnal that the board fully supports the new move. Under the new guidelines, Djokovic will be the favourite to end the season as world No.1. He will retain his points from winning Wimbledon last year, which has been cancelled. Furthermore, he will also keep his points from titles won at the 2019 Madrid and Paris Masters even if he skips those events later this year or doesn’t do well.

“We discussed it in the council and that decision was made because we wanted to protect the players who don’t want to put themselves at risk and travel,” said Djokovic.
“Some won’t play until the end of 2020 and in this year the list protects them, they are not losing points. On the other hand, players who play will have a chance to earn new points.’
“In this situation, I believe it was the best option.”

Rival Rafael Nadal is another player to have benefited from the changes. Originally the Spaniard would have had to defend 5000 ranking points over a six-week period in three tournaments (US Open, Italian Open and French Open). Now this is no longer the case, he also has the chance to pick up extra points in Cincinnati if he plays to close in on the top spot.

Questioned about the prospect of Nadal closing in and even potentially overtaking him in the rankings with the help of the new changes, Djokovic played down that motion. Arguing that not everybody will be pleased with the changes.

“I don’t want to comment on that, I think this is the most (fair) just towards everybody,” he stated. “Someone will always feel damaged, but I repeat, the ATP and the council wanted to protect the players that don’t want to play. Someone will say that it is not fair, that those who can’t lose any points can have a mental advantage but.”

The ‘witch-hunt’

This week is the first time Djokovic has spoken with the media since the fallout caused by the Adria Tour, which was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19. The Serbian caught the virus along with his wife, but both have since fully recovered. Djokovic has been criticized for his role in the event which lacked social distancing and saw players attending various public gatherings. Although all of those events were done in accordance with local government rules.

Addressing the criticism, Djokovic described it as a ‘witch-hunt’ against him as he admits that certain things ‘probably’’ could have been done differently. Making reference to the procedures that were in place at the events in Belgrade and Zadar.

“We’ve learned our lessons and some things could have probably been done in a different way,’ he said.
“I can only see criticism lately and much of it is malicious. It’s obviously more than just criticism, it’s like an agenda and a witch-hunt are on. Someone has to take the fall, a big name.”

Looking ahead to his return to the Tour, Djokovic says he is still undecided on the US Open. Although it is one of the events where he could increase his ranking points tally. Last year he retired injured in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.

“I still haven’t decided whether I will play in the US Open. The upsurge in registered Covid-19 cases in the United States and New York in particular are not playing into the event’s hands,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion concluded.

Djokovic returned to the practice courts on Tuesday and had a hitting session with fellow player Viktor Troicki.

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