Serena Williams Overcomes Ankle Scare At Hopman Cup, But Loses Tie - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Overcomes Ankle Scare At Hopman Cup, But Loses Tie

It was a roller-coaster day at the office for the world No.16.

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Serena Williams overcame both rust and ankle soreness to defeat Maria Sakkari 7-6(3), 6-2, at the Hopman Cup.

 

The 23-time grand slam champion struggled to find her range during the opening set, but managed to fight back from a break down to force the proceedings into a tiebreaker. Where she broke Sakkari twice to clinch the 7-6 lead. Then in the second set, the American claimed four games in a row to win the match after 104 minutes of play. In total Williams hit 13 aces and 29 winners.

“It was my first match back.I was making a lot of errors,” Williams said. “It was great to be back out on match day.”

Following the conclusion of the first set, Williams had a medical time out to have the strapping on her ankle tightened. Despite the break, it seemed to have little impact on her movement on the court as she bids to win the Hopman Cup for the third time in her career. This year is her fifth appearance in the tournament overall.

“It’s great to be back out in match day, and it’s great to be back out here,” The 37-year-old said after the match.
“I love playing in Australia. Some of my best memories are here.
“It was my first match back (today), she played unbelievable. Maria is super young and such a good player.
“I was making a lot of errors. I was like, ‘It’s ok, it’s your first match and you’ll get better’. I just kept trying to think that.”

This week is the first time Williams has played in Australia since the birth of her child in September 2017. She is hoping for a strong run in Perth ahead of the Australian Open.

Greece comes out on top

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Despite Williams’ win, it was not enough to seal victory for her country. Leaving the American team with it all to do in their upcoming clash with Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic on New Year’s Day.

In the men’s singles, Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame Frances Tiafoe in a hard fought 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3, victory. The world No.15 had a 6-3, 3-1 lead, but failed to maintain his stronghold. Allowing Tiafoe to bounce back during what was a humid day in Perth.

“He didn’t want to lose, he’s a big fighter and had some great results last year,” Tsitsipas said of Tiafoe.
“I had to fight even harder, one of us had to fight a bit more.
“At the end it paid off. Using the right tactics, using the right patterns on the court.
“I was a bit more patient, did things a bit better and in the end deserved victory.”

Speaking about the conditions, Tsitsipas said that he was able to deal with them better than he did in his first match. He lost to British world No.91 Cameron Norrie in straight sets over the weekend.

“I felt a bit uncomfortable in the first match I played. I couldn’t last long. I felt like I was out of breath,” he said.
“But today I felt really comfortable playing the rallies. My shots felt better. In general I felt much more confident, and more me.
“Frances told me he felt the exact same thing I felt in my first match. I told him it was probably because of jet lag and the heat combined.”

Greece later secured the 2-1 win in the mixed doubles. Winning their the match 4-1, 1-4, 4-2.

Fed Cup

Team Canada Looks Ahead To Crucial Clash Against Serbia In Billie Jean King Cup

The woman in charge of Canada’s bid to reach the qualifying rounds of the Billie Jean King Cup speaks out about the challenges that lies ahead and the decisions she have made.

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image via https://twitter.com/MatchPointCAN

Canada’s Fed Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh spoke to the media on Wednesday evening ahead of the Billie Jean King Cup play-off against Serbia this weekend in Kralijevo. Some details ahead of the tie were confirmed, including that it will be played in an empty stadium.

 

In a blow to the team, Bianca Andreescu is absent due to injury and Eugenie Bouchard couldn’t make the trip. Resulting in El Tabakh nominating Leylah Fernandez, Carol Zhao, Sharon Fichman and Rebecca Marino.

It feels good to be back here at Billie Jean King getting ready for a tie against Serbia,” she said.
It feels good to be back on court, honestly everything has been great. We (the team) had such a warm welcome from the Serbian Federation, the hotel has been great and all the COVID protocols are perfect so no complaints on our end. It’s been wonderful”
She added, ” We have had a good couple of days here and we are halfway through the week and we look forward to this weekend”.

Serbia has officially nominated Nina Stojanovic, Olga Danilovic, Aleksandra Krunic, Ivana Jorovic, and Lola Radivojevic to play. They currently hold a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head match-up. Although Canada won their most recent meeting back in 2014.

Although this meeting between the two countries will be like no other. The usual tradition of fans cheering on their fans from the sidelines have been removed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Could this mean that host nation will not have as much of an advantage as usual?

“It’s interesting because it is the first tie that the players will play on neutral ground with no spectators,” El Tabakh commented. “It will be an interesting atmosphere, it’s not going to be as crazy or as wild but this is the world we live in right now and regardless the girls are going to bring their own energy and they know everyone at home will be cheering for them and watching on tv so we will be feeling the energy”.

The draw is set for scheduled for Thursday at 12:00pm local time. The schedule is set to be two matches on Friday and three on Saturday. In terms of rankings both country have one player ranked in the top 100 in singles. Furthermore, team Serbia has four players in the top 250 compared to two for Canada.

” Well the good news is we have a lot of depth in our ranking, we have a lot of great girls and to have Leylah ( Fernandez) Rebecca (Marino) Carol ( Zhao), and Sharon ( Fichman) here has been a pleasure, they are all unbelievable girls, I can’t wait to be on the court with them. Unfortunately Bianca (Andreescu) couldn’t be here with us but I wish her a speedy recovery, I wish her all the best with her health, it’s a big year with the Olympics”.

Fernandez will take on a role this weekend that she has never taken on before being that she is the number one on the team. She is fresh off winning her first ever WTA title in Monterrey a few weeks back. A former French Open girls champion, she has won nine out of 15 matches played on the Tour so far this season.

” What she has achieved at a very young age is incredible,” Fernandez’s captain commented.
She’s very mature, she’s very driven, very focused ans she has very high goals. She’s proven herself on the court playing some of her best tennis and she’s been playing really well. I know she can’t wait to get back on court and represent her country.’
I personally look forward to being on court with her and she’s on her way. Should she stay healthy and motivated I have big goals and dreams for her.”

Rebecca Marino has also been a big topic of discussion in Canada being that she had a great start to the season and managed to qualify for the Australian Open.

“All the players look up to her, she’s a great inspiration and her story is incredible. She is one of the most humble humans your ever going to meet and she is a pleasure to have on the team and she is playing some her best tennis and we are all rooting for her not just this tie but the upcoming year,” said El Tabakh.
I hope that she can remain healthy, she’s one of the toughest girls out there with her serve and groundstrokes, I hope she can achieve her goals this year and I am rooting for her”.

The winner of the tie will progress to the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers while the loser will be relegated to their regional group event in 2022.

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Davis Cup

Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021

Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.

 

Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.

The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.

“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.

As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’

Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.

We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”

There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.

The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.

Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals

Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)

  • Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
  • Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
  • Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
  • Semi-finals and final

Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)

  • Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
  • Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F

Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)

  • Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
  • Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E

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ITF

Desire For Olympic Gold As Strong As Ever For Roger Federer And Co

The Games may be taking place a year later than originally planned but it is still a top priority for many on the men’s Tour.

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The Ariake Coliseum, venue of this year's Olympic Tennis competition (image via olympic.org)

In the eyes of Novak Djokovic this year’s Olympic Games is at the top of his goals along with adding to his Grand Slam tally on the Tour.

 

The four-year event is set to get underway later this year in Tokyo after being delayed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Making it the first time the event has been delayed since it’s birth in 1896. In the Open Era tennis has been part of the Games since 1988 with some of the sports greats previously winning gold. Including both of the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi.

Considering the already packed schedule players have in the sport, as well as the ongoing pandemic, so may be put off of going to the Games. Although for many they see it as a duty to play and represent their country.

“Every athlete feels a special part to represent their country. The Olympic Games are every four years,” world No.1 Djokovic said during a special ceremony in Belgrade earlier this week.
“I felt the strongest emotions playing for the national team. I enjoy it and will tell it to my children tomorrow.”

Despite his various milestones in the sport, Djokovic hasn’t had the most successful time at the Olympic Games. The only medal he has won so far was a bronze in the singles back in 2008. In 2012 he finished fourth followed by a shock first round loss to Juan Martin del Potro four years later.

Rival Roger Federer has faired better at the event with a silver medal in the singles, as well as a gold in the doubles which he won alongside Stan Wawrinka. The 39-year-old Swiss Maestro has also set out his intention to play in Tokyo which will mark the 21st anniversary of his Olympic Debut. Federer is returning to competition this week following a 13-month hiatus due to a knee injury.

“Participation in the Olympics is part of my plan although my main goal was everything from today until Wimbledon, the tournament that precedes the Olympics,” Federer told beIN Sports.
“I hope that I will be fully in (shape) by then and that questions about my knee will stop.
“The Olympics is a major goal for me… Unfortunately, I missed the Rio Olympics (in 2016) because of a left knee injury. I hope I will return to the Tokyo Olympics.”

Andy Murray is the only player in history to have defended an Olympic title in singles competition. Later this year he will be bidding for a third consecutive titles but faces a tall order following a series of injury setbacks he has suffered in recent time.

“This year, my main focus is the Olympics,” Murray said during an interview with Sportskeeda. “I’m very proud of my gold medals, so it would be great to get the opportunity to defend those. I’m training hard to be in Tokyo for whatever format the Games ends up taking.”

Organisers in Tokyo are still planning for the upcoming event amid high speculation that international spectators will not be allowed to attend due to the pandemic. Although no formal announcement has been made yet. Organizing committee president Hashimoto Seiko has previously indicated that a decision will be made before the torch relay starts on March 25.

The Tennis competition will be held at the Ariake Coliseum which is the venue of the women’s Pan Pacific Open. It will take place between 24 July – 1 August 2021.

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