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WTA Chief Remains Reluctant To Change Wild Card Policy

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Steve Simon (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova has scored a big supporter in her quest for a wild card’s into the top tournaments with the endorsement of WTA CEO Steve Simon.

 

The Russian will end her 15-month suspension from the tour next month at the Stuttgart Open, where she will play her first match on the Wednesday (the same day her ban ends). Sharapova’s return has prompted a fierce debate over the ethics of rewarding tournament passes to players convicted of doping violations. World No.1 Andy Murray recently told The Times that wild cards should be removed from drug cheats/violators.

A former grand slam champion and world No.1, Sharapova is eligible for an unlimited amount of wild cards into tournaments according to WTA Rules. Nevertheless, the French Open has expressed concerns over granting a pass to the Russian.

“Integrity is one of our strong points. We cannot decide, on the one hand, to increase the amount of funds we dedicate to the anti-doping battle and, on the other, invite her.” The president of French Tennis, Bernard Giudicelli, told the AFP.

A clear divide on both the men’s and women’s tour has erupted concerning the issue. Grand slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Juan Martin del Potro has supported Sharapova’s return. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been far more critical.

There has been suggestions that the WTA’s policy should be changed to prevent future arguments. WTA chief Simon has voiced his own opinion on the current situation. Simon, who has headed the women’s tour since 2015, admitted that he will only review the policy if he is requested to.

“Every rule gets looked at and reviewed, and I’m sure this may be one of them,” Simon told BBC Sport. “If the members wish us to look at the rule, we will, that’s how our system works.
“My personal opinion is that it shouldn’t be adjusted unless we decide to not provide it at all and change the entire wildcard rule. I think the suspension is in place to deal with an action that occurred.”

Simon’s backing of Sharapova comes as no surprise. Last year he told the media that he was ‘looking forward’ to seeing the 29-year-old return to the court after her ban. He believes the punishment dealt to Sharapova is sufficient enough for no further action.

“Maria has served a 15 month suspension, has had no income, has lost all of her ranking as well as her Australian Open winnings from 2016 – so she’s served a significant penalty for her actions.” He said.

Why is Sharapova allowed to play her first match on a Wednesday?

The WTA explanation :-
“In compliance with WTA and the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme rules, Sharapova can participate in a tournament in the week that her suspension ends, providing that the first match that she is scheduled to contest takes place on or after the day on which she is eligible to return to competition.”

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Simona Halep ‘Happy To Be Back’ Amid Uncertainty Over US Open Plans

The Romanian still has reservations about her future plans after taking her first international flight in five months.

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World No.2 Simona Halep admits the prospect of travelling from Europe to America will be ‘mentally tough’ as she ponders whether or not to play at the US Open.

 

The reigning Wimbledon champion is set to return to competitive tennis in the Czech Republic where she will play her first tournament in five months at the Prague Open. Halep was originally due to make her return in Palermo but withdrew from the event due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured she wouldn’t have to go through quarantine. Speculation has mounted in recent weeks about if the Romanian would travel to the US Open later this year with the 28-year-old confirming she will make her final decision after Prague.

“I haven’t made the final decision yet,” AFP quoted Halep as telling reporters during a virtual press conference on Sunday.
“The travelling from Europe is a little bit tough with changing flights — we don’t have straight flights — so it’s going to be tough for me personally, mentally,” she told a video conference.
“I don’t want to put myself into that stress. As I said I haven’t decided yet, but the conditions are tough for me at this moment.”

Three members of the top 10 on the women’s Tour have already pulled out of the New York major, which will be played behind closed doors for the first time in history. Ash Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina have all withdrawn from the major due to concerns. In comparison, only one member of the top 10 on the men’s Tour, Rafael Nadal, has withdrawn specifically related to COVID-19 concerns.

Prague is Halep’s first international trip after being in lockdown in Romania since February. A country which reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases and 50 new related deaths on Friday in what was their highest 24-hour figure since the pandemic began.

“I’m a bit nervous but things are very controlled here and very safe so I feel safe,” she said upon arrival in the Czech capital.
“I’m happy to be back, I’m happy to be healthy.”

It will be double duty for Halep in Prague. Besides being the top seed in the singles draw, she will also be playing the doubles alongside local favourite Barbora Strycova. Who reached the semi-final of Wimbledon last year before losing to Serena Williams. It is the first time ever the two are playing alongside each other on the Tour.

“I’m sure we will have fun. I’m sure that she will understand if I miss easy balls at the net, and I hope we’ll enjoy it.” Halep commented on their collaboration.

Halep will start her singles campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

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Dominic Thiem: “This year’s US Open will be less important than the 2020 Australian Open”

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Dominic Thiem is planning to travel to New York to play at the Western and Southern Open and at the US Open. Thiem feels that he could decide to pull out of the US tournaments and stay in Europe to prepare for Rome and the French Open, if it would be necessary to be in quarantine on his return to Europe. 

 

“When the tour resumes, I will be ready. If it is not played, I will be a little more time at home. I see in a neutral way. Tennis is one of the biggest sports in the world, and others like Formula 1 and basketball have already returned. It’s time for tennis to continue this trend”, said Thiem in an interview to the Standard. 

Thiem is keen on taking part at the US Open despite the restrictions. The Austrian player is bidding to win his first Grand Slam title after losing three consecutive finals at the French Open in 2018 and 2019 and at the Australian Open in 2020. He came close to winning the Melbourne final against Novak Djokovic last January when he was leading by two sets to one. Djokovic came back to win the final in five sets. 

Thiem is aiming at his first Grand Slam title in New York.  

“The expectations for me are quite high. All of us will have a completely new experience. There will be no spectators, a very small team, staying only in the hotel. You have to be honest and keep in mind that many top players will not attend the tournament. That means going far in this tournament it would be worth much less than normal compared to the Australian Open this year. Despite that, I am looking forward to playing”, continued Thiem. 

Thiem is planning to play in Kitzbuhel, Rome and Roland Garros. He will be able to play in Kitzbuhel only if the Austrian tournament will be postponed by one week to avoid the clash with the second week of the US Open. After the Madrid Mutua Open was cancelled, there are rumours that Kitzbuhel could be moved into Madrid’s vacated week. 

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Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino: “The enthusiasm for the ATP Finals in Turin has always been great from the beginning”

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Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino talked in an interview to Italian tennis channel Supertennis during the sixtieth edition of the Golden Raquet about the ATP Finals, which will be held at the Alpitour in Turin from 2021 to 2026. On 24th April 2019 Turin was chosen as the venue of the ATP Finals. The Piedmont city beat the competition of London, Manchester, Tokyo, Singapore. 

 

The ATP Finals will mark a sign of hope after a difficult period in Italy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“What we are experiencing is an important moment for Italian tennis, with a decisive post-covid recovery and above all with the continuation of a path that brings us closer to an event of global relevance with the Finals in Turin in 2021. I am delighted to be able to see local favourite Lorenzo Sonego play. He has recently been appointed ambassador of Turin. I am just happy that clubs return to live their nolmancy, also because they all accompany us on the journey towards November 2002”, said Appendino. 

Appendino is happy for the important goal achieved by the Italian Tennis Federation thanks to the help of the Italian Sports Committee, the Governemnt and the Municipal Administration. 

“The goal to host the ATP Finals is the result of a great team work. The Italian Tennis Federation made an excellent work. The success of the Internazionali d’Italia in Rome and the Next Gen Finals in Milan helped give more credibility to Turin. There has always had great enthusiasm for the ATP Finals from the beginning. It’s a great opportunity to host the ATP Finals for five years. The whole city will be involved. We will host build-up events to promote the ATP Finals. The great results achieved by Italian players Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego have helped us achieve our goal to host the ATP Finals”. 

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