Serena Williams Set For Australian Open Return, Says Tiley - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Set For Australian Open Return, Says Tiley

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It is ‘very likely’ that Serena Williams will defend her title at the Australian Open in January, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The former world No.1 hasn’t played on the tour since winning the title at the start of this year due to pregnancy. Williams gave birth to her first child, Alexis in September and recently married her partner. Now she is set to return to action just three months after becoming a mother.

During an interview with The Herald Sun on Wednesday, Tiley has stated that Williams is gaining momentum in her comeback. Revealing that she has confirmed her entry and has already sorted out her visa. The 36-year-old is a seven-time champion in Melbourne and hasn’t missed the tournament since 2011.

“She’s got her visa, she’s entered, she’s practicing and she’s probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage,” Tiley told The Herald.

The confident remark comes a week after Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told CNN that no decision has been made about her presence in the first grand slam of 2018. On November 28th Mouratoglou said that he would be flying to Florida to train alongside Williams before deciding about Australia.

“We will see how her body is reacting and how her tennis level is and we will take a decision regarding Australia.” Said the French coach.

Tiley, who has been the CEO of Tennis Australia since 2013, believes that Williams’ return is spurred on by a potential milestone that she could achieve next year. A 23-time grand slam champion, the American is only a grand slam title away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record in the majors. Court won the Australian Open 11 times during her career.

“There’s no question that she’ll be ready in our view and she wants to break a record that is Margaret Court’s,” he said.
“It would be a pretty significant accomplishment for her to be able to do that.”

The Australian Open will get underway on January 15th and it will be the 106th edition of the event. Tiley has confirmed that all the top 100 players on both the men’s and women’s tour have entered, but that it likely to change due to some player injuries.

Grand Slam

Simona Halep Could Face 2019 Nemesis As She Hunts Second French Open Title

The form of Simona Halep and other top players makes the 2020 French Open seemingly easier to predict than the US Open.

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While the recent US Open Women’s Singles was difficult to predict, the form of Simona Halep and other top players makes the 2020 French Open seem like much more of a closed shop.

 

As with the draw at Flushing Meadows, there are some notable absentees. World No.1 Ashleigh Barty has elected to stay in Australian due to coronavirus concerns. While 2020 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu are both missing due to injury.

However, these are the only three players in the world’s top 30 who have not made the trip to Paris, so there is a very strong field for the 5,000 lucky spectators in the stadium and the millions watching at home to enjoy.

Halep Is The Clear Favourite

450Simona Halep 5 (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

The 2020 French Open title is Simona Halep’s to lose. Since the restart, she has played ten matches on clay and won them all. These wins secured the titles in Prague and Rome.

Just as importantly, the Romanian is arguably the best female clay court player in the world. She is one-time winner and a three-time finalist at Roland Garros, and it would be very surprising if she did not get close to the title again this year.

However, there is one significant demon for Halep to vanquish. She was beaten by Amanda Anisimova in the quarter-final last year. And she is seeded to face the talented American teenager in the third round this time.

If the Romanian gets past Anisimova, she will probably face either Dayana Yastremska or Marketa Vondrousova in the last 16. Halep beat the Ukrainian in their first meeting in Rome last week. But she might be worried if she faces the Czech, who beat her twice in 2019.

The other seeded players in the Romanian’s quarter are also dangerous. Johanna Konta is set to meet Maria Sakkari in the third round if she survives an opening round encounter with Cori Gauff. And fifth seed Kiki Bertens, who suffered an injury scare in Strasbourg, is due to face 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova at the same stage.

Serena Lands Devilish Draw

Serena Williams has reached five Grand Slam finals in the last four years. But none of them have been at Roland Garros. And unfortunately for fans of the American, there is no reason to expect that to change this year.

In an extraordinary quirk of fate, Williams will face the same first-round opponent she took on at the US Open: Kristie Ahn. She could then meet two more Flushing Meadows foes. She may face Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round and the woman who beat her, Victoria Azarenka, in the fourth round.

Elina Svitolina will be confident about her chances of making it through the other half of the quarter. She should breeze through the opening three rounds. Then she will have to play well to beat either Elise Mertens or Anett Kontaveit in the last 16. The Ukrainian will then have to perform even better to overcome either Williams or Azarenka in the last eight.

Muguruza Can Seize Chance To Shine

Garbine Muguruza (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Garbine Muguruza is the outstanding player in the third quarter of the draw. She is one of only five former champions taking part in the French Open this year.

The Spaniard is also in form. She beat four excellent players – Sloane Stephens, Gauff, Konta and Azarenka – en route to the semi-final in Rome last week. And she might have gone on to claim the title if she had not run into Halep.

After these performances, confidence will be high for Muguruza. However, she could have a tricky third-round encounter to negotiate if Jennifer Brady maintains the momentum she established by reaching the US Open semi-final.

If the Spaniard beats the American, she may face eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka in the last 16 and then Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the quarter-final. While both are high-class players, Muguruza should be considered the favourite in both potential clashes.

There are several players in this quarter that could spring a surprise and reach the last eight. One is Ons Jabeur, who is due to face Sabalenka in round three. Another is Donna Vekic, who could take on Kenin at the same stage. Finally, there is an intriguing last-32 encounter on the cards between 14th seed Elena Rybakina and 22nd seed Karolina Muchova. Either of these two young talents could cause problems for the top players.

Will Pliskova Be Fit Enough To Challenge?

Karolina Pliskova (@thefield_in – Twitter)

In the Rome final, Karolina Pliskova retired for the first time in her professional career due to a left thigh injury. Despite this, the Czech is in the draw for the French Open and she is determined to compete.

If the World No.2 is able to play, she should easily overcome whichever qualifier she takes on in the first round. After that, it will probably become much tougher for her. She could face the always-dangerous 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in round two, Stephens in round three, clay-court specialist Petra Martic in round four and Petra Kvitova in the quarter-final. All of those matches are potential banana skins for Pliskova.

Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber provide the main obstacles for 7th seed Kvitova. The Czech is seeded to meet either the American or the German in the last 16. Whoever emerges victorious from that clash will fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals.

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Multiple Players Removed From French Open Qualifying After Positive COVID-19 tests

One player has already confirmed their removal from the tournament with a source suggesting that there could be up to 15 positive tests at the event.

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It is understood that a series of male players have been removed from the French Open qualifying draw after either them or a member of their coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Spanish newspaper Marca broke the news on Sunday following information obtained by their sources. It has been reported that Denis Istomin, Ernesto Escobedo, Pedka Kristin and Bernabé Zapata have all been removed from the entry list. There has been no confirmation from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) concerning the positive tests. It is understood that Zapata and Kristin have been removed after their coach tested positive for the virus. It is unclear as to if the same scenario applies to Istomin and Escobedo.

Furthermore, Bosnia’s top player Damir Dzumhur has confirmed that he has been removed from the draw after his coach also tested positive. Although the world No.114 has questioned the test before suggesting that it could be a false positive. Dzumhur said his mentor was not given the option of a second test to double check.

“Unfortunately, my coach Petar Popović tested positive this morning. That’s why I can’t play at Roland Garros and I don’t have a chance to compete,” he wrote on Instagram
“He didn’t get a chance to do a second test and we’re sure he was false positive because my coach has antibodies. I’m disappointed, but I can’t change my mind and I have to move on. More information tomorrow.”

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Dzumhur’s criticism of the testing process appears to be a view that is also shared by others. Sport Klub has quoted another player, who wishes to remain anonymous, saying that there is poor communication going on in the French capital.

“The procedure is slow, communication is poor, there is a lot of waiting. Also, in the hotel, the maids do not wear masks, the tables are not cleaned regularly,” they told Sport Klub.rs.

Marca has claimed that there could be up to 15 positive cases at Roland Garros that also includes the women’s draw. Although there is no information about which WTA players may also be involved.

UPDATE

Since the publication of this article the French Tennis Federation has released a statement confirming two players have tested positive for COVID-19 and a further three have been in close contact with a coach who have also tested positive.

“The Roland-Garros tournament directors can confirm that 2 players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for Covid 19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for Covid 19. In line with tournament health protocols, the 5 players will not compete in the qualifying tournament which begins tomorrow and will self isolate for a period of 7 days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Thursday 17 September.” The statement reads.

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REPORT: French Open Attendance To Be More Than Halved Amid COVID-19 Threat

It is understood that the number of fans allowed to attend daily has been cut by roughly 55%.

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This year’s French Open has been forced to dramatically reduce their initial plans for 11,500 daily visitors, according to information obtained by L’Equipe newspaper.

 

The number has reportedly been cut to just 5000 following a ‘governmental decision’ linked to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organisers had originally set out plans for three separate zones with two holding up to 5000 people and an additional welcoming 1500. However, it has now emerged the new number will only be applied to one specific zone where the premier Philippe-Chatrier Court is located. Meaning that it is possible that matches played on courts Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu will not be opened to the public.

In recent days France has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and reported 9784 new infections in the country on Wednesday. A slight dip of France’s all-time high of 10,561 which was recorded last Saturday. It is understood that the decision to reduce the crowd size at Roland Garros is also based on spikes in other countries apart from France.

There has been no official comment from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but L’Equipe reports that the change has been made in line with new local government guidance. The ruling will have no impact on next week’s qualifying tournament which is being played behind closed doors.

Leading up to the clay-court major some players have voiced caution about attending the event with crowds. Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios, who is not playing in Paris this year, went as far as accusing organisers of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Former champion Simona Halep has also voiced her own concerns.

“I just read that they will have fans,” Halep told reporters earlier this week. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

The French Open will start on September 28th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the reigning champions but Barty will not be defending her title due to travelling concerns related to COVID-19.

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