Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s Miami Fairytale - UBITENNIS
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Mirjana Lucic-Baroni’s Miami Fairytale

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Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (zimbio.com)

Tenth time is a charm for Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni after she finally ended her 18-year run of not winning a main draw match at the Miami Open.

 

At the age of 17, the Croat seemed destined for future stardom. She had already won two junior grand slam titles as well as her first WTA trophy in 1997. Gracing her presence at the 1999 Miami Open, she progressed to the third round before losing to 12th seed Patty Schnyder. It was a encouraging performance by Lucic-Baroni, who went on to reach the Wimbledon semifinals later that year. Little did she know that it would be her last taste of Miami success for almost two decades.

The blossoming career of the Croatian teenager turned into one crushed by serious personal struggles. In the late 1990s, Lucic-Baroni fled Croatia after revealing that she had been mentally and physically abused by her father over a ten-year period. The move took its toll on her family and inevitably her career. She would go through her 20s fighting for her tennis dream whilst struggling financially. It was a painful part of her life that she is still reluctant to talk about.

“People think they know a lot about my history, but they really do not. One day when I feel like talking about it, I will. Right now is not that day.” She said during her shock run to the Australian Open semifinals in January. “But people think they know. They have no idea. A lot of the times when I hear, like, injuries and things, those were not the problems at all.”

Lucic-Baroni’s roller coaster journey is one that is also illustrated in Miami. Following 1999, she has entered the tournament nine times without grabbing a main draw win. Between 2000-2016, she failed to win her first round match five times and crashed out in qualifying on four occasions.

The Miami breakthrough

It seemed like a 10th consecutive disappointment was destined to happen in this year’s tournament. Facing Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, the world No.26 trailed 1-5 in the decider. Once again facing adversity, the 35-year-old defeated the odds to stage a sensational comeback and win 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(2).

“I was first really annoyed with myself that I was in that situation, because I feel that I’m in good form and I feel that I’m playing really well,” Lucic-Baroni said. “…I knew that I could come back. I’m always a tough fighter and I try to play one point at a time, and I believed I could come back.”

The Miami achievements mirror those at the Australian Open when she reached the last four at a grand slam for the first time since 1999. It was a glorious achievement for a player who had gone through so much, but the stubborn Lucic-Baroni refuses to get caught up in the moment.

“Melbourne was exciting, it happened, but it already feels like it happened a long time ago. I definitely enjoyed it, but I don’t want to be stuck thinking about that. Look where we are: we’re in Miami, another big tournament. My feet are on the ground, and I’m fighting for every match.” She told wtatennis.com.

Now in her mid-thirties Lucic-Baroni is at a ranking best 29th in the world. A veteran on the tour, she is currently the third oldest player in the top-100 after the Williams sisters. An impressive achievement for a player who was once told her career would be over if she didn’t achieve ‘huge results’ by the age of 20.

“Fifteen, 20 years ago when I [was] just starting, I mean Hingis was [a teenager]—Venus, Serena, myself, we were so young. If you weren’t good by the time you were 16 or 17, you were finished.
“At some point, somebody in my team told me I was done when I was 20 because I wasn’t making huge results. At 20, they told me my career was over.”

As Lucic-Baroni continues to inspire in Miami, her next test will be against Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. Earlier this year she stunned Radwanska 6-3, 6-2, in Melbourne.

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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