Jelena Ostapenko battles past Timea Bacsinszky into first Grand Slam final - UBITENNIS
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Jelena Ostapenko battles past Timea Bacsinszky into first Grand Slam final

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Unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko fought past tricky veteran Timea Bacsinszky 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 to move past the 30th seed into her first major final at only 20 years old at the French Open.

 

In an unlikely storybook semifinal at Roland Garros, birthday girls Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland looked to take the opportunity of a lifetime and reach their first Grand Slam final. On her 20th birthday, it was unseeded Ostapenko who seized the moment better, battling past 30th-seeded veteran Timea Bacsinszky 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 into her first major final at the French Open. In a high-quality encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier, Ostapenko became the first unseeded Grand Slam finalist at Roland Garros since Mima Jausovec in 1983, taking just under two and a half hours to reach the title match in Paris.

“I’m really happy with my win today and was really tough match. I think it was a battle.” Said Ostapenko.

In the first set, it was the more experienced Bacsinszky, turning 28 today, who began brighter, breaking in the first Ostapenko service game to take an early lead. Ostapenko broke straight back for 2-1 before both players began to find their groove on serve, staying on serve at 3-all. The two birthday girls exchanged breaks of serve in the seventh and eighth games of the match, before holding serve to get to 5-all. The unseeded Latvian broke the following game, playing a brilliant return game to go up 6-5 and give herself the opportunity to serve for the opening set. Looking to close out the set, Ostapenko struggled as Bacsinszky had other ideas, breaking easily to 15 to force a first set tiebreak.

In the tiebreak, it was the newly turned 20-year-old Latvian who got off to a better start, taking the early mini-break on the Swiss’ first service point before holding one of hers and snatching another mini-break off Bacsinszky to go up 3-2. The 30th-seeded veteran was able to gain one mini-break back before Ostapenko held another point on her serve, putting her up 4-3. Ostapenko’s brilliant return game continued to be the difference in the opening set tiebreak, as the first Latvian women to reach a Grand Slam semifinal took two more points off the Bacsinszky serve to go up 6-3 and give herself three set points. After a tight forehand error from the young Latvian, Ostapenko closed the opening set on her second time of asking, taking it 7-6 to move a set away from her first major final.

Jelena Ostapenko hits a forehand at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Zimbio/Adam Pretty

After a high-quality opening set from both, Bacsinszky began brightly in the second, breaking easily only for Ostapenko to peg right back and level the set at 1-all. The pair split holds of serve the following four games before a key break from 40-0 down for Bacsinszky served as a turning point, giving the Swiss the break advantage at 4-3. 28-year-old Bacsinszky took care of her serve to consolidate the break before another loose service game from Ostapenko cost her the set, as Bacsinszky stormed back to take the second set 6-3 and level the match at a set all.

In the third and deciding set, the theme of breaking serve carried over into the final set as Ostapenko and Bacsinszky went back and forth breaking serve, with the Latvian breaking twice for a 2-1 lead. Ostapenko survived a marathon service game to hold for 3-1 on her sixth game point before the Swiss made a surge, holding her serve for the first time in the set before stealing the break back to level the deciding set at 3 games apiece.

Bacsinszky played a poor service game though to back the break up, surrendering the advantage back to Ostapenko to give her a 4-3 lead. The Latvian held her nerve, showing no signs of her young age to hold to love and move a game from a first Grand Slam final. Serving to stay in the match, Bacsinszky’s serve was under siege yet again from the barrage of Ostapenko’s aggressive groundstrokes, as the unseeded Latvian closed out the match on her second time of asking to move into her first Grand Slam final 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in Paris.

“The match was really tough, I think it was a battle,” Ostapenko said following her win. “I’m really happy to be in the final, especially on my birthday. I think it’s a nice gift!
“I was just trying to stay aggressive and to go for a shot when I could. I think it was kind of important that I won the first set, even the second I lost, but in the third set I found my game again.”

Jelena Ostapenko hits a backhand at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Zimbio/Adam Pretty

Grand Slam

US Open To Allow Full Capacity Crowds A Year After Being Held Behind Closed Doors

The announcement is the latest step in a gradual return to normality in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The US Open will become the first Grand Slam to take place without any restrictions on the number of spectators attending since the COVID-19 crises turned into a worldwide pandemic.

 

The Associated Press has confirmed that the USTA, who are in charge of the tournament, will allow 100% fan capacity throughout the entire two weeks. Something that hasn’t happened at a major event in tennis since the 2020 Australian Open. The announcement is a dramatic contrast to last year when Flushing Meadows was held behind closed doors amid a surge of cases in the region.

Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state had reached their target of issuing 70% of the population at least one COVID-19 vaccination. He has now lifted ‘state-mandated’ restrictions across both commercial and social settings with immediate effect. However, masks will still need to be worn at large venues for the time being. According to the latest COVID-19 figures, New York reported 450 new cases last week which was the lowest-level since the pandemic began.

The development is a major boost for the USTA who suffered big financial losses last season. According to information provided in September, US Open revenue fell by an estimated 50% and the USTA expected their net operating profit to decline by roughly 80%. To put this into perspective the 2018 event generated $300M in revenue.

In 2019 a total of 737,872 fans attended the US Open over a two-week period and a further 115,355 attended during the fan week. Making it the first time the tournament has welcomed more than 850,000 people to the event.

Tickets for the 2021 tournament are set to go on sale next month with all court tickets and ground passes being available. No information on the pricing of those tickets have been released yet.

There has been a steady rise of fans allowed to attend major tournaments in the sport. At the French Open 5000 spectators were allowed to attend daily to begin with before the number increased to 13,000 later in the tournament. Meanwhile, Wimbledon will start at 50% capacity and rise to 100% for the finals.

The US Open takes place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, New York.

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Wimbledon Award Wild Cards To Former Champions Andy Murray, Venus Williams

Here is a list of which players have received passes into this year’s tournament.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will make his 13th appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon after being awarded a wild card on Wednesday by The All England Club.

 

Murray, who won the men’s title in 2013 and 2016, is currently on the comeback from a groin injury which forced him to miss three months of the Tour this season. The latest setback for the Brit who has also undergone two hip surgeries in recent years in order to prolong his career. Murray is currently participating at the Cinch Championships in Queen’s where he beat Benoit Paire in his first round match on Tuesday.

“Look, I love playing tennis,” an emotional Murray said following his win over Paire.
“Obviously, competing is why you put in all the hard work.
“The last few years, I’ve not go to do that as much as I would have liked so, yeah [it’s] just great that I’m out here and able to compete again.”

Another player to receive one of the initial wild cards is Spanish rising star Carlos Alcaraz who is currently ranked 78th in the world. The 18-year-old recently reached the third round of the French Open as a qualifier and won a Challenger title on clay. Last month he broke into the ATP top 100 for the first time to become the youngest player to do so since Borna Coric in 2014.

As for the women, Venus Williams has been given entry into the main draw. At the age of 40, Williams is one of the oldest players on the WTA Tour and she has only won three out of 18 matches played since the start of 2020. She is a five-time champion at Wimbledon with her most recent triumph taking place back in 2018. It will be her 23rd main draw appearance at Wimbledon.

Regarding the British players, Jay Clarke, Liam Broady, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart have all been awarded wild cards. So has youngster Jack Draper, who stunned Jannik Sinner at Queen’s earlier this week.

Full list of wild cards

GENTLEMEN’S SINGLES

  1. Carlos ALCARAZ (ESP)
  2. Liam BROADY (GBR)
  3. Jay CLARKE (GBR)
  4. Jack DRAPER (GBR)
  5. Andy MURRAY (GBR)
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced
  8. To be announced

LADIES’ SINGLES

  1. Katie BOULTER (GBR)
  2. Jodie BURRAGE (GBR)
  3. Harriet DART (GBR)
  4. Francesca JONES (GBR)
  5. Samantha MURRAY SHARAN (GBR)
  6. Venus WILLIAMS (USA)
  7. Not used – Next direct acceptance
  8. Not used – Next direct acceptance

GENTLEMEN’S DOUBLES

  1. Liam BROADY (GBR) and Ryan PENISTON (GBR)
  2. Jay CLARKE (GBR) and Marius COPIL (ROU)
  3. Lloyd GLASSPOOL (GBR) and Harri HELIOVAARA (FIN)
  4. Alastair GRAY (GBR) and Aidan MCHUGH (GBR)
  5. Stuart PARKER (GBR) and James WARD (GBR)
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced

LADIES’ DOUBLES

  1. Naiktha BAINS (GBR) and Samantha MURRAY SHARAN (GBR)
  2. Harriet DART (GBR) and Heather WATSON (GBR)
  3. Sarah Beth GREY (GBR) and Emily WEBLEY-SMITH (GBR)
  4. Tara MOORE (GBR) and Eden SILVA (GBR)
  5. To be announced
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced

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Grand Slam

Wimbledon Finals To Be Played In Front Of Full Capacity Crowd In UK first Since Lockdown

The grass-court Grand Slam has been granted a special exemption from the government which will allow them to welcome thousands to the tournament over a two-week period.

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The Wimbledon Championships received a major boost after being listed as a pilot event by the British Government which allows them to welcome more spectators than the current restrictions.

 

Under the agreement, The All England Club will start the tournament welcoming 50% of it’s ground capacity to the venue which is more than double what was estimated a few weeks ago. The limit will gradually increase as the tournament progresses until finals weekend when both the women’s and men’s title matches will be played in front of 15,000 fans. Making it the first outdoor sporting event in the country that will take place in front of a full capacity crowd since the country went into it’s first lockdown last year.

The announcement coincides with the British government announcing a four-week extension to their plans of ending all restrictions currently in place due to the pandemic. The delay has been triggered due to concerns related to the Indian variant and its transmission rate. However, Wimbledon has been added to the Events Research Program which is a series of pilot events being used to monitor the spead of COVID-19 at sporting and entertainment events.

“We are continuing to work closely with the Government to finalise the details including the requirements for Covid-status certification for spectators,” the All England Club said in a statement.
“We are pleased to have worked closely with the government, public health bodies, and our local authority in Merton, to confirm that, as part of this next phase of pilot events, the Championships 2021 will begin on Monday 28 June with 50% capacity across the grounds, building to full capacity crowds of 15,000 on Centre Court for the finals weekend.
“This will enable us to fulfil our aspiration of staging the best Wimbledon possible within the current circumstances, with the health and safety of all those who make Wimbledon happen – our guests, competitors, members, staff, media, officials, local residents, and partners – remaining our highest priority.”

Last year Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time in the Open Era and was the only major not to take place. However, the grass-court major had the luxury of having pandemic insurance which substantially helped cover their costs. The tournament does not have such a policy this year however.

The Wimbledon Championships will start on June 28th. Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep are the defending champions.

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