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WTA: Race To Singapore, Muguruza strengthens claim

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Muguruza and Bacsinzsky were the big winners this week

With the news last week that Serena Williams has elected to end her season early, forgoing the final major events of the year, the race to be involved in the premier season-ending event is no less exciting. The WTA event in Beijing saw a number of contenders fall early, as a select few pulled away.

 

This week has seen Garbine Muguruza continue to assert her claim to be involved for the first time, as she moved up to No.4 in the race last week. She plays in the final of Beijing after defeating another contender in Agnieszka Radwanska in the semi-finals. Radwanska will move back into contention after her strong semi-final showing.

She will play Timea Baczinszky, who will also improve her bid, by moving into the Top ten for the first time. She came back from a set down to beat Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic meanwhile, looks like joining Serena Williams as a player who qualified for last year’s event who may not appear this year. A good week in Beijing has aided her cause, but she still needs to perform in the final weeks to get back into the reckoning. Eugenie Bouchard will also not appear after suffering a season of poor form and injury problems. Caroline Wozniacki is also struggling to replicate the form that saw her take her place in Singapore last year. She only managed a third round in Beijing this week.

Simona Halep has already qualified again, whilst Maria Sharapova looks well placed to join her. There are just two more weeks of events before the season-ending finale, and Sharapova  would have to be displaced by a number of rivals if she is not to qualify. Petra Kvitova saw her strong position weaken significantly, suffering a shock early exit to Sara Errani. Madison Keys, Flavia Pennetta, and Carla Suarez Navarro, all fell in the third round.Venus Williams suffered a setback in her early defeat to Ana Ivanovic in the second round. She will drop from eleventh in the race. Karolina Pliskova will also fall out as she in the opening round. Belinda Bencic was forced to withdraw with a right hand injury, and Lucie Safarova did not play this week’s event in Beijing.

Angelique Kerber will continue to keep her destiny within her control, a strong quarter-final run saw her put further ground between herself and many of her rivals.

 

 

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PTPA Outline Vision After Appointing Executive Director And Advisory Board

The PTPA has announced a new executive director and advisory board.

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The Professional Tennis Players Association has outlined their vision for the future after appointing an advisory board and an executive director.

 

Vasek Pospisil made the announcement last night as he and Novak Djokovic look to secure a legitimate players voice at the tennis political table.

In the main core of the statement they announced the make-up of the PTPA’s backroom board, “PTPA co-founders Vasek Pospisil and Novak Djokovic have named Adam Larry executive director, enlisted Carrie Gerlach Cecil to lead Brand and Communications and appointed Bill Ackman, Michael Hirshfeld, Rebecca Macdonald, Katarina Pijetlovic and Anton Rabie to its Advisory Board,” the statement read.

“Created by the players for the players, the PTPA is an integrated association for professional tennis players. The PTPA movement is uniting and mobilizing tennis players in order to create transparency and fairness throughout decision-making in professional tennis.”

The move is an interesting one as up until now it was a mystery as to what the PTPA’s strategy was and who was involved so far with there being no idea from the ATP or WTA’s side what the PTPA was trying to achieve.

Now there is an advisory board there may be sharp movement and progress made into how the PTPA can secure more player-related decisions in Tennis and ensure that there is a level playing-field in terms of decisions affecting the players.

In the statement Vasek Pospisil, Novak Djokovic and new executive director Adam Larry all gave strong hints about the PTPA’s future vision as they look to challenge the establishment in providing change for tennis.

“With the establishment of our advisory board, our branding and communications team and the appointment of Adam Larry as executive director, we have taken one step closer to toward our goal of facilitating a fair and sustainable competitive environment for tennis players today, and for generations to come,” Pospisil said.

“We are working toward growth to help all players, not just the top 100, to make sustainable livelihoods and have their rights protected on and off the court. From top to bottom, we must use our collective voices to help players today and tomorrow,” stated world number one Novak Djokovic.

“The PTPA wants to work with all of the tennis governing bodies to inspire collective reform to better the sport,” new executive director Adam Larry claimed.

What comes next for the PTPA nobody knows but this new board means that business is expected to pick up very quickly in the latest twist in the political tennis game.

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Dominic Thiem In Doubt For Wimbledon After Wrist ‘Crack’

The tennis star has suffered another blow during what has been a difficult year for him.

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Dominic Thiem’s roller-coaster season has taken another turn after he was forced to withdraw from his match at the Mallorca Open due to an injury he sustained whilst playing.

 

The world No.5 was leading France’s Adrian Mannarino 5-2 in his first round match before he stopped the proceedings. Thiem called for a trainer after hearing what he described as a ‘crack’ in his wrist. Despite having treatment on court the 27-year-old decided not to play any further to minimise the risk of worsening the injury and will undergo an MRI to identify the exact problem.

Alex Stober, who is Thiem’s physio, admits that any kind of crack is never a good sign but says it is too early to speculate. Speaking to the Krone newspaper on Tuesday, he said he hopes the issue is just a slight ‘twist’ of the wrist.

“At the moment one can only guess. He sustained a wrist injury, a kind of twist,” said Stober.
You don’t know anything else until later.’
“Cracking is never a good sign. Let’s hope it was just a twist in the wrist, with the carpal bone maybe a slight capsule injury.”

The injury setback comes less than a week before Wimbledon begins. Thiem hasn’t missed a main draw at the tournament since 2013 but has only reached the fourth round once in six attempts. The past two editions he has lost in the first round.

Thiem has experienced a lacklustre 2021 so far where he has failed to win back-to-back matches five out of his six most recent tournaments played. The only exception was at the Madrid Open where he reached the semi-finals. The Austrian took a wildcard into Mallorca this week after losing in the first round of the French Open for the first time in his career.

“Little by little I am improving and now I am back to normal. I think my problem this year is that I did not train enough at the beginning of the year, and I also had several problems with injuries,” Thiem told reporters earlier this week.

The Grand Slam champion recently announced that he will not be playing at the Olympics Games because ‘he doesn’t feel ready to play his best.’ Instead he said that his goal is to prepare as best as he can for his title defence at the US Open later this year.

Thiem has won 17 ATP titles and earned more than $28M in prize money so far in his career.

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Why Are So Many Tennis Players Skipping The Olympics?

It isn’t just the COVID-19 pandemic which are putting players playing off going.

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On Monday Canada’s Dennis Shapovalov joined the growing number of tennis stars who have decided not to play in this year’s Olympics Games.

 

In a statement issued on social media, the world No.12 said his decision was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and doing what he believes was best for the safety of his team. Japan, which is where the Games are being held, has been dealing with a surge in cases in recent weeks with a low number of the population to be fully vaccinated. Whilst the country has banned international spectators from attending amid fears of the virus being spread, organisers say up to 10,000 domestic fans will be allowed to attend the Olympic venues.

“After careful consideration I wanted to let you know that I will not be participating in the Olympics this year. Representing Canada means the world to me, but due to the current situation my team and I have decided this is the best decision for everyone’s safety,” Shapovalov wrote on twitter.

Shapovalov’s concerns related to the pandemic aren’t the only thing which is deterring tennis players from attending the Olympics. Over the past week, two top 10 players from the men’s Tour also confirmed that they will not be participating. Rafael Nadal is missing the event in order to take a break from the sport following what was a demanding clay court swing. Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem says he doesn’t want to travel to Tokyo and instead wants to focus on his title defence at the US Open.

This year’s tennis calendar doesn’t favour the Olympics. The Wimbledon Championships concludes two weeks before it begins and the US Open starts five weeks after. Two of the biggest events in the sport which offer the highest amount of prize money and ranking points per round. At the same time as the Olympics two ATP 250 events are taking place in Austria and America.

So much has to depend on where a player is in their career. Have they won an Olympic medal before? How important is it to them? Do they want to travel to Asia in the middle of the summer? For every player I think it is very individual how seriously they take the Olympics,” former Olympic champion Lindsey Davenport told The Tennis Channel in 2020.

Tennis was officially reintroduced into the Games back in 1988 after being showcased as a demonstration sport four years prior. It is different to Tour events with no official prize money on offer. However, some countries such as Russia have previously issued financial rewards for athletes who win medals.

Another sticking point is there being no ranking points available for players participating. Back in 2019 the International Tennis Federation told UbiTennis they were ‘open’ to allowing points being awarded but no progress has been made. Perhaps due to the complex governance of the sport with the Olympic event being run by the ITF. Meaning they will have to form an agreement with both the ATP and WTA for such an incentive to happen.

“Currently, the WTA and ATP do not award points for the Olympic Qualification Pathway. We (the ITF) are always open to discussion on the matter.” The ITF said.

Another issue concerns the location. Players face having to travel from Europe to Asia and then North America within a month. A journey made substantially more difficult than usual due to restrictions related to the pandemic.

Chile’s Christian Garin says his decision not to go to Tokyo is because he feels athletes will not be able to get the full experience due to the current restrictions in place.

“Due to the instability of this year and added to the fact that the established conditions will not allow me to live the real experience of what the Olympic Games mean, that is why I have made this decision,” he wrote on Instagram.

When it comes to other Olympic absentees, a contingent of Spanish players will not be attending due to what newspaper Marca describes as ‘calendar issues and a logistically difficult trip to Tokyo.’ Those skipping the event are Roberto Bautista Agut, Albert Ramos, Feliciano López, Jaume Munar and Carlos Alcaraz. Norway’s Caper Ruud, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov will also not be playing.

Despite the surge in withdrawals which will most likely increase in the coming weeks, other top names have committed to playing. Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka and Andy Murray have all confirmed they will play.

“It’s going to be my first Olympic Games. We have a great team so we can do some doubles, mixed doubles, everything,” Medvedev said about playing.
“Going to be amazing experience. Of course, with COVID maybe it’s not going to be the same like every year.”

The Olympic tennis event will be held at the Ariake Coliseum and get underway on July 24th.

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