Monica Puig, Radwanska To Miss The French Open - UBITENNIS
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Monica Puig, Radwanska To Miss The French Open

Both players are optimistic that they will be able to recover in time for the grass season.

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Monica Puig (zimbio.com)

This year’s French Open will be without two familiar names on the tour after they announced their withdrawal from the tournament due to health issues.

 

Olympic champion Monica Puig has confirmed that she will not play another event for at least a month after hurting her hip. She was playing in the qualifying rounds of the Italian Open earlier this week, but retired from her match against Croatia’s Donna Vekic. A subsequent medical investigation has found that the 24-year-old has suffered a hip strain and has been advised to rest.

“This past Sunday during my match in Rome, I unfortunately strained my right hip muscle which after taking an MRI, revealed that I will need a few weeks of rest, recovery and treatment,” Puig said in a statement tweeted by WTA Insider.
“It will sadly mean that I am going to miss the Strasbourg tournament next week, an event so close to my heart as it was the first ever WTA tournament I won, as well as the French Open in Paris.

Puig is currently ranked 63rd in the world. Her best result on the tour this year so far was reaching the quarter-finals of the Monterey Open. At the Miami Open she progressed to the last 16 of the tournament before losing to Danielle Collins. The Puerto Rican is hoping to return to action in June.

“The good news is that I am as of now scheduled to be back on the court in Nottingham on the grass, which I am really looking forward to as the grass season is one of my favourite parts of the year.” She explained.

Joining Puig on the sidelines will be Agnieszka Radwanska. The former world No.2 has fallen down the rankings as she copes with a back injury. So far this year, she has only been able to win nine matches on the tour, but six of those occurred back in January.

Radwanska’s absence has been confirmed by her husband and assistant coach Dawid Celt. He has said that the injury has improved in recent weeks, but Radwanska ‘doesn’t want to risk’ anything by playing in Paris. Setting her up for a comeback at the Mallorca Open.

“I can say for 100 percent sure that Agnieszka will not play in Paris,” Celt told sport.pl.

The withdrawal ends Radwanska’s run of 47 consecutive appearances in the main draw of grand slam tournaments. Which dates back to her major debut at the 2006 Wimbledon Championships.

The French Open will get underway on May 27th.

ATP

Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Australian Open Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Elena Rybakina on Tuesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

On Thursday night in Melbourne, the women’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

The first semifinal is a battle between two Major singles champions, as reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina takes on two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.  The second semifinal sees four-time Slam semifinalist Aryna Sabalenka against Magda Linette, who had never advanced beyond the third round of a Major prior to this fortnight.

Also on Thursday, the men’s doubles semifinals will be played, starting at 1:00pm local time.


Elena Rybakina (22) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Rybakina has only dropped one set to this stage, to last year’s finalist Danielle Collins in the third round.  She’s looking to defeat a third consecutive Major champion, after taking out Iga Swiatek and Jelena Ostapenko in the last two rounds.  And Elena is vying for her second final out of the last three Slams.

Azarenka dropped the opening set in both her third and fourth round matches, but still won both of those rather comfortably.  And in the quarterfinals, she soundly defeated World No.3 Jessica Pegula.  This is Vika’s first Australian Open semifinal in 10 years, since her back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.  Overall it’s her ninth Major semifinal, and she holds a record of 5-3 previously.  Though notably, she’s 5-0 in Major semis on hard courts.

Their only previous meeting occurred last March at Indian Wells, where Rybakina prevailed 6-3, 6-4.  However, at a tournament where Azarenka’s greatest success has happened, and in a round of hard court Majors where she’s been untouchable, it may be a big ask for Elena to overcome the two-time champion.  But it’s clear Rybakina feels she has something to prove, as she’s spoken openly regarding feeling slighted by the lack of ranking points, and lack of respectful scheduling, she’s received for her Wimbledon victory.  And these fast-playing courts in Melbourne reward her aggressive game.  I give Elena the slight edge to prevail on Thursday.


Magda Linette vs. Aryna Sabalenka (5) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Sabalenka is now a perfect 9-0 to start the year, and 18-0 in sets.  As per ESPN, she is just the sixth woman to win her first four Major quarterfinals, joining the impressive company of Ann Jones, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Elena Dementieva, and Naomi Osaka.  However, Aryna is 0-3 in Slam semifinals, having lost all three of those matches 6-4 in the third.

Linette is one of the more surprising Major semifinalists in recent memory.  Prior to this event, she was just 18-29 lifetime at Slams, and 0-5 in the third round.  But the veteran has now defeated four seeded players in a row (Kontaveit, Alexandrova, Garcia, Pliskova), and has only dropped one set in doing so.

Sabalenka is 2-0 against Linette, with both matches taking place on hard courts, and neither match being close.  Five years ago in Tianjin, Aryna won 6-1, 6-3.  Two years ago at the Tokyo Olympics, Aryna won 6-2, 6-1.  But I expect Sabalenka to tighten up on Thursday, as she’s fully aware of her painful history in this round of Majors.  And her double fault issues of the past resurfaced a bit during Wednesday’s quarterfinal, striking nine in total.  Linette is a smart, steady player who can take advantage if Sabalenka begins to commit unforced errors, which she can often do in bunches.  Despite all that, I still favor the power game of Aryna, and her improved second serve, to advance her into her first Major final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin vs. Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski – Chardy and Martin took out the third-seeded team of Arevalo and Rojer in the last round.  Nys and Zielinski eliminated the second-seeded team of Ram and Salisbury earlier in the tournament.

Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler (WC) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (8) – This is the Australian team of Hijikata and Kubler’s first event as a team, and they upset the top-seeded team of Koolhof and Skupski in the quarterfinals.  Granollers and Zeballos are looking to reach their third Major final of their partnership.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Grand Slam

Billie Jean King Calls For End To Wimbledon Ban On Russian And Belarussian Players

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Image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/

Tennis great Billie Jean King says players from all countries should be allowed to play at Wimbledon as organizers face growing pressure to reverse their ban on Russian and Belarussian players.

Last year the Grand Slam became the first major event in the sport to implement such a ban in response to the War in Ukraine. Last February Russia launched a military offensive on its neighbour and Belarus is suspected of supporting them. In response, the ITF, WTA and ATP agree to suspend those two countries from all team events and only allow them to compete on the Tour under a neutral status. 

 

However, The All England Club went one step further with a full ban which they decided to do following advice from the British government who feared that Russia could use their players as propaganda. The decision prompted backlash from both the men’s and women’s Tour who decided to remove awarding ranking points at the event for the first time. Organizers have also been heavily fined for their actions but an appeal process has been launched.

Weighing in on the subject during a special Original Nine press conference held at the Australian Open, six-time Wimbledon champion and WTA co-founder King says the ban should be lifted and the allocation of ranking points reinstated.

“Just have them play and get their money,
” King replied when asked if there should be an outright ban or compromise. “It’s the ranking points, for sure. They have to have it. Rybakina, they’ve seeded her 25th, but because she won Wimbledon, she’s not (seeded higher).”

The former world No.1 said she hopes the grass-court major will follow in line with the other three major events that allowed Russian and Belarussian players to compete but only as neutral athletes. At this year’s Australian Open, two of the women’s semi-finalists are from Belarus and two Russians have reached the quarter-final stage of the men’s draw. Although the tournament has banned flags from those two countries following an incident that occurred during a match involving a Ukrainian player in the first round.

“I hope they do, just keep it the same way the other ones (Grand Slam tournaments) are,” King continued. “Life is too short. We are a platform to have discussions on this, though, just like you’re asking. I think it’s important.’
“WTA was started for that, so we’d all have one voice, too, to help protect players.”

It is unclear when The All England Club will make a final decision regarding whether to maintain or remove the ban at this year’s tournament which will begin on July 3rd. 

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