Top Players Dismiss Calls To Boycott The Margaret Court Arena - UBITENNIS
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Top Players Dismiss Calls To Boycott The Margaret Court Arena

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Margaret and Barry Court look on during the finals presentations on day eight during the 2018 Hopman Cup at Perth Arena on January 6, 2018 in Perth, Australia (zimbio.com)

Some of the biggest names in the world of tennis have stated that they will play where they are told to at the Australian Open amid calls to rename and boycott the Margaret Court Arena.

Court, who has won 24 grand slam titles in singles competition during her career, has come under fire over her comments about the LGBT community. Last year, she said that tennis was ‘full of lesbians‘ and has voiced her opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage. She also singled out Casey Dellacqua, who is in a same-sex relationship and has a child. In a newspaper article, Court said that it was ‘wrong’ for Dellacqua to deny her child from having a father.

Yesterday WTA founder Billie Jean King weighed in on the topic, calling for the Australian Open to rename the Margaret Court Arena. The stadium has been named after the Australian since 2003 in recognition of her contribution to tennis. King said that she would boycott playing in the stadium if she was still a player.

With the topic dominating media day at Melbourne Park on Saturday, players have opted to take a more diplomatic approach to the debate. Nick Kyrgios, who has expressed his support for same-sex marriage, said that Court’s achievements as a player has earned her the right to receive the honour.

“You got to take it just as how she was as a tennis player. That’s why the court was originally named after her, because of her tennis, what she was really good at.” Said Kyrgios.
“It’s her court because she was a great champion of the game. That’s all it is, I guess.” He added.

ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov was more harsh in his words. Stating that there is ‘no room’ for discrimination in tennis. The Bulgarian, who will be seeded third in the men’s tournament, talked down the potential of players boycotting playing on the court.

“Yeah, I think there’s no room for discrimination in our sport.” Said Dimitrov.
“I’m always appreciative of any court they put me to play on. Simple as that. Anything else, I mean, honestly I don’t know what else to tell you on that. I think there’s no room for that.
“Any court I play, I’m taking it as almost an honour right now.”

2014 champion Stan Wawrinka echoed Dimitrov’s comments when he spoke with the media. The Swiss player is set to return to the tour next week for the first time since undergoing knee surgery.

“At the end of the day, the comments she made was wrong, for sure.” He stressed. “But as a player, you don’t decide which court you’re going to play. It’s not really an option to say, I don’t want to play on one court, because you cannot decide.”

A reluctant discussion

The No.1 players of the women’s and men’s tour refused to get caught up in the politics of the debate. Rafael Nadal avoided the discussion by saying that he has not read ‘the facts’ about Court’s remarks. Meanwhile, Simona Halep argued that people are entitled to their own opinion before moving onto another topic when speaking at Melbourne Park.

“I respect everyone. Everyone does what they want. I’m not going commentating about this. Everyone owns their lives.” Halep explained.
“About playing on court, I will play everywhere I am scheduled on. The tournament decides these things. Has nothing to do with me. But if I would be scheduled on Margaret Court, I will play on Margaret Court.”

Tournament director Craig Tiley, who has previously held talks with Court over her comments, said that there is currently no plans to rename the stadium. Saying that any decision would be up to a ‘broader group’ of people. Referring to the local government and the tennis organisations.

The Australian Open will get underway on Monday.

What other players have said

“Well, it’s obviously not up to me what court I play on. I don’t make the schedule. But I think I respect what Billie Jean said. That’s all there is to it. it’s up to the tournament. It’s not up to me. Whether I say yes or no, it’s still not going to be up to me. Kind of have to deal with the hand you’re dealt.”
Sloane Stephens

“I just love this tournament. I’ll play on any court that they schedule me on. I’m just happy to be here and have had opportunity.”
Caroline Wozniacki

“I don’t agree with what Margaret Court said. However, she’s entitled to her own opinion. But, again, in terms of playing, if I’m scheduled to play on Margaret Court, I will go out there and compete. Again, it’s a tournament decision where they put me.”
Johanna Konta

 

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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“It’s Purely Psychological” – Maria Sakkari Berates ‘Unacceptable’ French Open Defeat

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Maria Sakkari - Roma 2023 (foto Francesca Micheli, Ubitennis)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari said she felt ‘intense anxiety’ before her first round match at the French Open after crashing out of the draw on Monday.  

The sixth seed suffered a shock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, loss to Varvara Gracheva who is currently ranked 88th in the world. Sakkari produced a costly 39 unforced errors and dropped serve five times in her latest match. It is the first time she has lost her opening match at a tournament since February.  

Heading into Paris, the 28-year-old had produced encouraging results on the Tour after reaching the semi-finals in Charleston before making fourth round appearances at WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome. 

 “It’s the first time I don’t know what to say…” Sakkari told SDNA
“I’ve been very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It’s definitely psychological, purely. It’s nothing else.” 

Since appearing in two Grand Slam semi-finals in 2021, Sakkari has struggled to make an impact at the major events. Her defeat to Gracheva makes it the fourth time she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since the start of last year. Overall, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of her nine most recent appearances at these tournaments. 

 “I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set,” she said of her latest performance.
“I was feeling a panic, it’s not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?’  
“It’s purely psychological, I’m not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another game in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I’ve recovered and I’m playing well in the other tournaments, but it’s proven that I’m not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it’s one thing, another thing.” 

Whilst praising her opponent, Sakkari describes her defeat as ‘unacceptable’ and hopes it will serve as a wake-up call for her.  

She now heads to the grass season with a win-loss record of 19-10 so far this year.

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