Victoria Azarenka Ends Heather Watson's Hopes In Three Set Thriller At Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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Victoria Azarenka Ends Heather Watson’s Hopes In Three Set Thriller At Wimbledon

Joshua Coase

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Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka made a real statement in terms of her title credentials at Wimbledon as her comeback continues, defeating British hope Heather Watson in a three set thriller 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and six minutes on Centre Court.

 

Watson made a bright start and looked to seize the opportunity to score one of the biggest wins of her career as she outplayed the former number one in the first set. Azarenka was always going to bounce back being the great champion she is and she raised her game, piling on the pressure on the Brit’s serve. The majority of the games in the second and third set were very close, with many going to deuce and lasting a significant amount of time, but it was the Belarusian who came out on top all too often as another opportunity for a huge win on home soil for Watson unfortunately passed her by.

Just as she did in her first two matches at SW19, Watson got off to a fast start back out on Centre Court for the first time since she won the Mixed Doubles title with Henri Kontinen last year. Both players looked nervy early on and the Brit found herself facing two break points in the opening game. The world number 102 saved both with big unreturned first serves before an ace brought her to game point, with the British number two closing with a forehand winner.

Azarenka looked very uptight in her first big match back since giving birth to baby Leo in December and a double fault followed by a return of serve winner from Watson earned her a first break point. After a mishit return from the Brit left the court gaping for the Belarusian to hit a winner she hit a very uncharacteristic mishit ballooned forehand to hand the first break to the home favourite. With just 10 minutes played Watson established a 3-0 lead to the delight of the British crowd.

Former world number one Azarenka faced further adversity in the sixth game down 15-30 and at deuce as Watson continued to strike fearless winners past the two-time Australian Open champion. The Belarusian was able to survive and pumped herself up having so far failed to get the match on her own terms.

Having made such a promising start, Watson’s level dipped significantly as three errors left her 0-40 down on serve. A first double fault in the match handed the break back to silence the Centre Court crowd. However, that disappointment did not last for long as Watson broke once again straight away with her first chance to create the opportunity to serve for the opening set.

There were tense moments as the Watson service game went to 30-30, but the Brit held her nerve in what was an excellent first set from the world number 102, making just four unforced errors as she sealed it 6-3.

The former world number one responded as expected and piled the pressure on the Brit in her opening service game in the second set. Watson had a game point to hold but two unforced errors on the forehand side helped Azarenka get the early strike in and swiftly establish a 3-0 lead despite her opponent having a break back point.

Azarenka had really stepped up her aggression and level as the match progressed, looking to come forward whenever possible, winning 11 out of the 14 points at the net up to this stage in the match. With the pressure on the Brit, Watson’s forehand started to break down increasingly as she faced another break point in the fourth game. On this occasion the world number 102 was able to stand firm, snuffing out the chance with a one-two punch combination before holding to get on the board.

The sixth game was a real tussle with Watson failing to secure the hold of serve despite having three opportunities. The Brit could not make a first serve on the game points and was getting burned by deep aggressive returns of serves. With Azarenka’s relentless groundstrokes continuing to pile on the pressure, making 93% of her returns of serve in over the course of the set, the world number 102 cracked as the Belarusian secured the double break with a rather fortunate dead net cord.

Watson was far closer to the former world number one in this set than the scoreline suggested and once again the Brit had a chance to break back. With the last six games going to deuce the match was finely balanced game after game, but it was the Belarusian always getting over the line and she did so again to take the second set 6-1 to force a decider.

The final set was full of adversity for Watson early on as the Brit’s opening two service games saw her have to come back from 0-30 down and survive multiple deuces to hold. By contrast Azarenka’s service games were very straightforward as she levelled at two games all.

The seventh game was a monumental tussle, lasting over 10 and a half minutes as Watson tried to hold serve to stay in front. The Brit squandered a number of game points and Azarenka eventually broke through on her second break point.

The match was far from over as Watson was able to break back immediately, but her second serve continued to get burned as she dropped serve once again to leave the former world number one serving for the match.

The nerves were clearly there for Azarenka playing in just her fifth match back on tour as she fell down two break points once again. The two-time Grand Slam champion held her nerve and reeled off four points in a row so seal a huge win for her on her comeback trail and to book her place in the fourth round.

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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