10 Takes From This Year’s French Open - UBITENNIS
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10 Takes From This Year’s French Open

10 topics worth further discussion following the 2018 tournament.

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Rafael Nadal (Zimbio.com)

From Rafael Nadal’s 11th Roland Garros title to Simona Halep’s first, here are ten storylines from the French Open that deserves more discussion.

 

Nadal’s supremacy

1) “Undecima” for Rafael Nadal, unfathomable.  86-2 at Roland Garros, with a 22-0 record in semifinals and finals.  His ability to win the pressure matches and pressure points on this surface is unprecedented in this sport, and some would suggest in any sport.  As Dominic Thiem’s own coach, Gunter Bresnik, told Christopher Clarey of The New York Times even before Sunday’s final, “He is, for me, the best competitor I ever saw in any sport.”  His last two matches were perfect examples. Nadal saved all six break points he faced against Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday, then broke to win the first set and ran away with the match.  Similarly on Sunday, he broke Dominic Thiem at love to win the first set, and broke Thiem’s will in the process. Rafa’s enduring success in big moments on clay should be marveled at.

Halep’s triumph at last

2) Simona Halep didn’t achieve success as the majors as quickly as Nadal, but her story is more relatable and inspiring.  She lost in the final at the French Open last year despite being up a set and break against an unproven player. How does she respond?  She reaches the quarters at Wimbledon just one month later on her weakest surface. She loses that quarter-final in a tight three-setter, when a win would have made her the new number one in the world.  How does she respond? She makes the semis and finals just one month later in Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. She loses an emotional first round against Maria Sharapova at the US Open. How does she respond?  She earns the number one ranking just one month later with a run to the final in Beijing. She loses her third major final in Melbourne after saving match points in two earlier rounds. How does she respond? She wins the very next major, despite being down a set and a break in the final.  Simona’s ability to continually pick herself back up so soon after each crushing loss should also be marveled at.

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Djokovic’s run

3) Some are hailing Novak Djokovic’s run to the quarters as another step forward in his comeback.  But I disagree: if anything, this fortnight was a step backward for him. Losing a major quarterfinal to a man who had never before won a match at any Grand Slam event will stun for some time to come, and will rattle his confidence on such occasions going forward.  Most disturbing for Djokovic during this tournament was his attitude. Novak’s frustration level during many of his matches was startling, especially considering it often came out at times where he was ahead. Rafael Nadal has talked about the need to enjoy the suffering when on court.  Djokovic appears far removed from enjoying competition on the tennis court, and far removed from the player who two years ago held all four major titles.

Serena’s return

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4) Serena Williams not being seeded at Roland Garros was quite absurd.  Does anyone believe she was not one of the 32 most likely players in the draw to win the tournament?  I get that she came in with few matches and few wins, but she’s still a 23-time major champion. Even so, she advanced to the fourth round, with two victories over top 20 seeds.  She may have gone much farther had she not gotten injured. And as many have pointed out, I’m sure the seeded players themselves would also agree Serena should be seeded, so they’re guaranteed to not face her before the third round.  Just ask Ashleigh Barty. It’s time the majors exercise some discretion, and some common sense, when it comes to seedings. Serena will not be ranked high enough for an automatic seeding at Wimbledon. Your move, All-England Club.

The best-of-five debate

5) Lots of heated debate these past two weeks on twitter as to whether the men should continue to play best-of-five at the majors.  I would suggest a compromise (a foreign concept nowadays, I know).  Both the men and women play best-of-five at ALL tournaments (majors and non-majors), but sets are played to five with a tiebreak at 4-4 of every set (including the final set).  Ad scoring remains, as no-ad eliminates too many pivotal and dynamic points from the match.  This would address many issues without losing what makes the sport great.  You would still get the drama of five-set tennis, but you speed up play and make each point within a set more meaningful.  Match times would be close to the current best-of three-format, with approximately the same number of games required to play out a match (in both the minimum and maximum possibilities).  It seems archaic that men and women have different scoring systems and play for different lengths – does any other sport do that?  Women should be fully treated as equals beyond equal pay (which they deserve regardless of the scoring systems used), and be given the same amount of court and TV time.

The 25-second rule

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6) I’m more curious than ever to see how the introduction of the service clock in the main draw of this year’s US Open will play out.  Too many players have abused the rule regarding time allowed between points for too long. The men seem to be the worst offenders here.  Nadal regularly goes beyond the 25 seconds allotted from the time the score is announced to the time the serve is struck. And the number of times Djokovic and Cilic bounce the ball before serving has become comical.  While I’m all for speeding up the sport, I don’t see these players making any drastic changes to their pre-serve rituals, especially Nadal. Are officials ready to penalize them beyond warnings, and beyond the loss of a first serve, for such infractions?  And will a visible clock on court just create more controversy? If umpires are liberal as to when they call the score, such as not immediately calling it after a prolonged point, that doesn’t remove discretion from this issue. And if fans are still making noise when the clock gets to zero, will the server be penalized?  I still have more questions than answers, but let’s either consistently and transparently enforce the rule, or get rid of the rule altogether.

Where is hawk-eye?

7) In the year 2018, there’s still too many instances where umpires and players stare down at marks on the court and argue over whether a ball was in or out.  If hawk-eye is not exact enough to be utilized on the clay, can’t the technology be further advanced with the proper investment? And even if hawkeye is not perfectly precise on clay, perhaps it should still be utilized.  At least it would be a definitive ruling. And even if players argue the mark on the court doesn’t agree with hawkeye, it’s harder to fight with a computer than a human. It’s been reported that the use of hawkeye on clay is an agenda item at the upcoming ATP Player Council meeting prior to Wimbledon, so let’s see what comes out of that.

Umpire should have the ultimate say

8) Why are players allowed so much say as to when a match is stopped due to rain or darkness?  This call should be made by the chair umpire and tournament officials, and decisively so. Rafael Nadal should not be able to pack his bag and effectively decide himself that it’s raining too hard to play.  Caroline Wozniacki should not be able to stop play for several minutes while arguing it’s too dark to continue. Officials need to take the power back here. If a player doesn’t want to continue, start the service clock and penalize them if they’re not at the service line in time.  Players won’t like it, but they’ll oblige accordingly.

The empty seats

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9) Something should be done about the amount of empty seats on the lower levels of the show courts in Paris at the start of play.  This happens not only on days with 11:00am starts, but even days with 2:00pm starts. I understand how important lunch time is to the French, but if they’re not going to arrive on time, move the VIP seats a bit higher so the empty seats will be less visible on TV.  Or alternatively, start play at a later time on the show courts, and only schedule two or three matches per day. The players scheduled first on are robbed of a good atmosphere for their matches. Wimbledon doesn’t have this problem. The US Open is adjusting their show court starting times this year for this very reason.  The French should follow their lead.

The troublesome tarp’s

10) Last year at Roland Garros, David Goffin slipped on the rolled-up tarp at the back of the court while chasing down a ball.  The injury Goffin suffered to his ankle caused him to miss six weeks of his season, including Wimbledon. A year later, the tarps still sit at the back of the court.  Why? This is an incident that could easily happen again, and could easily be prevented if the tarp is moved off the court and instead stored nearby. And for that matter, why do we still have the signs that stand at the feet of the line judges?  How many times have we seen players trip on them during the clay court season? In Monte Carlo this year, Thanasi Kokkinakis was on crutches after tripping over one of these signs. The answer as to why they haven’t been removed is, of course, money: advertising space is sold on them.  But why continue to unnecessarily put the players at risk of injury? Stick a few extra crocodiles on the walls behind the courts and prioritize the players’ health.

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Resilient Daria Kasatkina Shuts Out The Critics To Win Silicon Valley Classic

After what has been a roller-coaster past few weeks, the Grand Slam semi-finalist is gaining momentum on the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Russia’s Daria Kasatkina says she has ‘no time for bulls**t’ after staging a fierce comeback to win the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.

 

Kasatkina won 12 out of the last 15 games played to beat Shelby Rogers 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2, to claim her first title of the season and fifth overall. During the match, she dropped only four points behind her first serve in the last two sets. The triumph caps off what has been an impressive week for the Russian who has also beaten Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka and Paula Badosa.

“It’s a tough journey, which is still going on. I’m happy with the way things are going, especially this season, but I don’t want to stop, because I did this mistake already one time and I don’t want to repeat it,” Kasatkina said afterwards. “I’m still hungry for the wins.”

San Jose was the first tournament the 25-year-old has played since opening up about her personal life. During an interview with vlogger Vitya Kravchenko, Kasatkina came out as gay and revealed that she is in a relationship with former ice skater Natalia Zabiiako. Zabiiako was also present at the tournament cheering Kasatkina on from the sidelines. During the same interview, she also spoke out against the Russian war in Ukraine.

Kasatkina’s decision to speak out about two sensitive topics prompted a big reaction both in her native Russia and elsewhere. The country currently has a ‘gay propaganda’ law which prohibits the promotion of ‘non-traditional’ relationships to minors. Furthermore, it is an offence in the country to label the conflict in Ukraine as a war, instead, officials refer to it as a ‘special operation.’

“For sure there was a negative part and positive part,” Kasatkina said of the reaction to her interview,“ and I was able to focus just on the positive parts and get the energy. I was just focused on playing tennis this week. I don’t have much time for bulls—t, like the internet, the comments and everything. You have to think of the job first. You have to be focused on what is the most important and the other things that happen after.”

Kasatkina said she has received support from her fellow peers on the Tour, including runner-up Rogers who was playing in her first Tour final for six years.

“It’s really brave of her and a lot of people are really proud of her,” Rogers said. “She always has a smile on her face and is just a joy to be around. So, she’s handling it really well. She’s a strong girl.”

As a result of her triumph in San Jose, Kasatkina has re-entered the world’s top 10 this week in ninth position.

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Canada Daily Preview: The Williams Sisters Return to Action, Plus Andy Murray Faces Taylor Fritz

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Serena Williams this past week in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

The Canadian Open is a unique ATP Masters/WTA 1000 combined event on the tennis calendar, as the men and women alternate between two different cities each year.  In 2022, the WTA tournament is in Toronto, while the ATP tournament is in Montreal.

 

The WTA singles draw is loaded, featuring 26 of the top 27 players in the world.  It includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, defending champion Camila Giorgi, Naomi Osaka, Venus and Serena Williams, and Canada’s own Leylah Fernandez and Bianca Andreescu

“The Big Three” are absent in Montreal, but plenty of top names are present.  They include world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov

Monday’s WTA schedule in Toronto is tremendous, boasting 39 Major singles titles (Serena, Venus, Halep, Kvitova, Ostapenko, Stephens, Kenin, Krejcikova, Rybakina), plus Leylah Fernandez.  Montreal’s Order of Play includes Stan Wawrinka and Denis Shapovalov, plus a blockbuster first round encounter between Andy Murray and Taylor Fritz.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto, and 12:00pm in Montreal.  But with thunderstorms forecast throughout the day in both cities, it could be a challenging day for fans and players alike.


Nuria Parrizas Diaz (Q) vs. Serena Williams (SR) – Second on Centre Court

It is quite odd to see both Venus and Serena Williams unranked, yet neither currently possesses a ranking over a year since their last singles victories.  Serena’s three-set, over three-hour loss in the first round of Wimbledon was her first match in a full year.  Obviously eager for match play three weeks ahead of the US Open, she’s looking for her first win since last year’s Roland Garros.  Her opponent is a 31-year-old from Spain who reached a career-high ranking of No.45 this season.  Diaz won 51 matches at all levels in 2021, and reached the third round of this year’s Australian Open.  While she’s certainly not a pushover, this a rather kind first round draw for Serena in a WTA 1000 tournament.  It should serve as a good indication of Serena’s current level a month after her Wimbledon loss to Harmony Tan.


Andy Murray (WC) vs. Taylor Fritz (10) – Not Before 2:00pm on Court Central

This is a first-time meeting between the three-time Slam champion and this year’s victor in Indian Wells.  It’s been a dramatic year for Fritz, as that Masters 1000 title was the biggest of his career.  But after defeating an injured Rafael Nadal in that final, Nadal would avenge that loss in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, where Taylor lost a heartbreaker in a fifth-set tiebreak.  And this past week in Washington, Fritz retired down 4-1 in the third set to Dan Evans, as he was suffering in the extreme heat.  Murray also experienced disappointing losses at those same two events.  At Wimbledon, he was defeated in four sets by John Isner, a player he was previously 8-0 against.  And in Washington, Andy lost a three-hour battle to Mikael Ymer.  Currently ranked 50th in the world, Murray would love to improve his ranking and earn a victory over a top 15 player.  But Fritz is the much more in-form player, with 31 wins in 2022, and is the favorite to prevail.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Elena Rybakina vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – The freshly-crowned Wimbledon champion is 0-1 since that life-changing feat, losing to Daria Kasatkina last week in San Jose.  Bouzkova also had her best Slam run at last month’s Wimbledon, when she reached the quarterfinals.  Rybakina leads their head-to-head 2-0.

Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Emil Ruusuvuori – Wawrinka is just 3-6 since returning from two left foot surgeries.  Ruusuvuori earned impressive victories this past week in Washington over Mackie McDonald and Hubi Hurkacz.

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Karolina Pliskova (14) – Krejcikova has been struggling in singles since returning from an arm injury at Roland Garros, but earned her fifth Major title in doubles at Wimbledon.  Similarly, Pliskova is only 10-12 this season after suffering a hand injury in December.  Yet Pliskova is 3-0 against Krejcikova.

Sloane Stephens vs. Sofia Kenin – This is a battle of Major champions, though neither of them arrive in strong form.  Despite a quarterfinal run in Paris, Stephens has a losing record on the year.  And Kenin is on a seven-match losing streak, as an injury forced her to miss much of this season. 

Denis Shapovalov vs. Alex de Minaur – Shapovalov is on a terrible streak of his own, having lost eight of his last nine matches.  De Minaur is coming off a title run in Atlanta last month.  And the Australian has claimed both of their previous meetings at tour level.

Storm Sanders (Q) vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – This will be Leylah’s first match since a stress fracture left her foot immobilized in a boot for weeks following the French Open.  Sanders is an accomplished doubles player who is ranked 279th in the world in singles. 

Jil Teichmann vs. Venus Williams (WC) – After returning to competition in mixed doubles at Wimbledon, this is Venus’ first time playing singles since last August.  That’s the same month Teichmann was a surprise finalist in Cincinnati.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Iga Swiatek Downplays Recent Winning Streak Ahead Of North American Swing

The world No.1 is refusing to get ahead of herself going into the US Open.

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Iga Swiatek - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Iga Swiatek says her focus is on the present and not the past as she makes her final preparations ahead of the North American hardcourt swing. 

 

The two-time French Open champion dominated the women’s Tour earlier this season with a remarkable 37-match winning streak that saw her win six titles in a row. Becoming the first woman to record that many consecutive wins since Martina Hingis did so back in 1997. In total, she was unbeaten for 135 days during a period where she topped the world ranking for the first time following Ash Barty’s retirement from the sport. 

However, in recent weeks things haven’t gone entirely smoothly for the Pole who was knocked out in the third round at Wimbledon by Alize Cornet. Then on home territory at the Warsaw Open, she fell in the quarter-finals to Caroline Garcia who went on to claim the title. 

Swiatek will be hoping to regain some momentum at the National Bank Open in Toronto which will get underway on Monday. It will be only her second appearance at the tournament and her first since 2019 when as a qualifier she stunned Caroline Wozniacki before falling to Naomi Osaka.  

“I know there are many players who did even more, but I’m pretty proud of what I did in the first part of the season,” Swiatek told reporters on Saturday. “I hope this gives me some freedom to play freely because I don’t have to prove anything. On the other hand, it can also pressure me, so I’m just trying not to think about what happened but prepare for what’s coming.”

Despite her recent blips on the Tour, Swiatek will be the favourite to triumph in Toronto. She has won every WTA 1000 tournament which has taken place so far this year. In total she has played 51 matches in 2022, winning 46 of them. 

Despite the success, the 21-year-old is keen to improve her game even further. She is currentl;y coached by Tomasz Wiktorowski who has previously worked with Agnieszka Radwanska. 

“I just hope I’m not going to be only focused on winning, winning, winning because I want to also improve some stuff in my game,” Swiatek explains. “We had time to practice a little bit more after Roland Garros and after Wimbledon. So I hope that I’ll implement those things.”

In her draw, Swiatek will face either Shelby Rogers or Veronika Kudermetova in her opening match. Rogers is currently playing at the Silicon Valley Classic and has reached the final. Then she could play Leylah Fernandez in the next round. Also in her section of the draw are Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Mugurza. All of which are potential quarter-final opponents. 

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