Tommy Paul will play in the main draw of the French Open for the first time in his career after winning the USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge.
The challenge sees players from America battle it out across a series of tournaments with the player with the highest points won being awarded entry into the upcoming grand slam. 21-year-old Paul sealed his spot on Thursday after his nearest rival, Tennys Sandgren, lost in the third round at an ATP Challenger 80 event in Savannah. Paul recently won his second Challenger title in Sarasota and reached the final of another event in Tallahassee a week later.
Paul is currently at a ranking high of 143rd in the world. He has previously enjoyed success at the French Open, but in the junior version. In 2015 he defeated Taylor Fritz to win the boys’ title in what was his only grand slam junior triumph. Becoming the second American boy to win the title since John McEnroe back in 1977. During the same event, he was also runner-up in the doubles competition.
Yet to have a major breakthrough on the main ATP Tour, the American has won nine out of 18 matches played at that level. His best run occurred during 2017 when he reached the quarter-finals in both Washington and Atlanta. This season he has played mainly on the Challenger tour, as well as the qualifying tournaments for both the Australian Open and Houston.
This year’s French Open will be Paul’s first experience of playing in the main draw of a grand slam outside on his home country.
On the women’s tour, Whitney Osuigwe is currently in the lead. The 17-year-old is also a former junior French Open champion, as well as world No.1. Earlier this month she won a ITF $80,000 event in Charlottesville.
The French Open will get underway on Sunday, May 26th.
List of previous American wild card entries for the French Open
2018: Noah Rubin (1R); Taylor Townsend (2R)
2017: Tennys Sandgren (1R); Amanda Anisimova (1R)
2016: Bjorn Fratangelo (2R); Taylor Townsend (2R)
2015: Frances Tiafoe (1R); Louisa Chirico (1R)
2014: Robby Ginepri (1R); Taylor Townsend (3R)
2013: Alex Kuznetsov (1R); Shelby Rogers (2R)
2012: Brian Baker (2R); Melanie Oudin (2R)
The Cincinnati Western&Southern Open May Relocate To New York
A proposal by the USTA is offering to co-locate the Cincinnati tournament and the US Open at Flushing Meadows
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is continuing to work tirelessly to put in place a health protocol that would allow the US Open to start on 24 August as planned. But another alleged initiative by the USTA, reported by the New York Times reporter Christopher Clarey, is planning another shake-up of the traditional North American tennis summer line-up: some sources internal to the US Tennis Federation have confirmed the existence of a plan to relocate the Western&Southern Open from the Lindner Family Tennis Center of Mason, Ohio to the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, New York City.
The Cincinnati area hosts every year a combined tournament that sees an ATP Masters 1000 tournament being played at the same time as a WTA Premier 5. The USTA has informed both the ATP and the WTA of the existence of a project that would see the event being played in its current calendar slot (17-23 August) but at the same location as the US Open. This would see the pro circuit “settle down” in the New York City area for a 4-week period that would include the Western&Southern Open and the US Open, which would start as scheduled on 24 August with the singles qualifying draws.
The idea behind this proposal is to create some economies of scope and scale as the same safety protocols being prepared for the US Open would not have to be replicated in Ohio a couple of weeks earlier, and players and their entourages would be able to remain at the same location for the entire duration of their stay in the United States, thus eliminating the risks connected to internal flights and getting in touch with more people as they change cities and accommodation.
The ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati is owned by the USTA itself, while the WTA Premier 5 is owned by the sports management company Octagon.
As far as the US Open is concerned, there will be no junior or legend competitions, and the cancellation of the wheelchair tennis draws are still under consideration. It appears that the USTA has accepted the introduction of coaching, similarly to what happens in the WTA Tour, in order to increase the entertainment value of a product for which the ESPN is paying 75 million dollars a year until 2025 and that some sources seem to believe is not currently delivering as expected.
At the moment all professional tennis tournaments have been cancelled until the end of July, and the ATP Tour is expected to resume on 3 August with the ATP 500 Citi Open in Washington, DC, while the WTA Tour sees the Mubadala Silicon Valley Open in San Jose, California, as its first event on the schedule. On the following week, the tours were supposed to move to Canada for the annual appointment with the Rogers Cup, however the WTA version in Montreal has already been canceled by the organizers due to a decision by the Province of Quebec (where Montreal is located) to prohibit all mass events until the end of August. However, the ATP Masters 1000 version of the Rogers Cup, scheduled to take place in Toronto, is still officially on the calendar, and the organizer Tennis Canada has confirmed that no decisions pertaining its cancellation will be made before 15 June when both ATP and WTA will update their respective schedules.
The Biggest Problem Of Holding The US Open Behind Closed Doors Could Be The Players
Many are eager to return to the Tour, but are they willing to play without fans?
The United States Tennis Association appears determine to stage this year’s US Open despite the threat of COVID-19. One option is slowly emerging as a strong possibility but there is already opposition from some of the sport’s top names.
Held at the Billie Jean Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, the Grand Slam is located in the epicentre of the outbreak in America. The state of New York has recorded 367,625 cases of the coronavirus with 203,569 of those testing positive living in New York City. As on Monday more than 29,000 people have died from the virus. Nevertheless cases in New York are coming down and their infamous stock exchange is opening back up. Yet, still the prospect of hosting an event with thousands of people attending seems a long way off.
Given the situation, numerous options are being weighed up regarding the US Open, including the possibility of hosting it in another part of the country. However, one path previously classed as ‘highly unlikely’ by the head of the USTA is slowly gaining momentum.
A fan-less US Open could be the best possible solution to ensuring the event could be held in New York. Undoubtedly the USTA would still take a big financial hit considering 737,872 fans visited the 2019 event. Although the USTA’s Chief Revenue Officer, Lew Sherr, believes it could still be financially viable.
“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could stage the celebration or the spectacle that is the U.S. Open in a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” Sherr told Sports Business Daily on May 21st.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognizing what an achievement it would be to play, and how much our fans are missing the game and would be excited to see the competition, and that you need to think about it differently. It’s a different event. It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open as you know it, with empty seats.”
Sherr said he has received key backing from sponsors over the potential plan with many viewing it as a ‘historic event.’ Pointing out that media-right deals will still enable those sponsors to be promoted worldwide.
However there is one problem that the USTA most probably didn’t want to encounter – a lack of enthusiasm from some of the sports stars. It all started when 2014 champion Marin Cilic told Reuters that such a move could ‘devalue’ this year’s US Open. The Croat is one of two players outside of the Big Four to have won the event within the past decade along with Stan Wawrinka (2016).
“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” Cilic argues.
“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a U.S. Open in 2020 without fans’. I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…
“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”
Roger Federer admits that he will find it difficult to play without a crowd cheering him on. The Swiss tennis star is usually one of the star attractions at Flushing Meadows and is a five-time champion. Although he hasn’t featured in a final there since 2015. For Federer how would rather wait than take the path of playing behind closed doors.
“For us, of course, it is possible to play without any fans,” he said. “But on the other hand, I really hope that the circuit can return as it normally is. May we wait for the appropriate time to return to normal mode again. At least a third of the stadium or half full. But for me, completely empty when playing in big tournaments is very difficult.”
It isn’t just the men who have expressed their concerns. Petra Kvitova is another star to voice her opposition. The two-time Wimbledon champion has said she would rather have the event canceled altogether. Like Cilic, the Czech believes playing a major without fans could harm its image.
“I have my age and of course I would like to play another Grand Slam, but if it’s like this, I’d rather cancel them,” said Kvitova.
“Playing a Grand Slam is the greatest thing there is and playing without fans who are our engine doesn’t look nice to me and the Grand Slam doesn’t deserve it.”
Kvitova is playing in an all-Czech tournament in Prague this week which is being played behind closed doors.
Despite the trio of objections, not everybody is against the plan. British player Dan Evans believes such an occasion could be ‘iconic’ for the sport. Arguing that it will send out a message that the sport is ready to get going.
“Me, personally, I would love it to go ahead,” Evans told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I think it would send out a real statement that we can get back going.
“It could be an amazing spectacle that tennis goes ahead with no-one in the stadium, and everybody watching on telly.”
The US Open is set to take place between August 30th – September 13th. The USTA will make a final decision regarding the event next month.
‘He Could Become An Excellent Player’ – Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later
More than two decades ago on this day was the start of where it all began for the former world No.1. But what did he and his opponent think about his first match played at a major?
On this day 21 years ago the most decorated grand slam champion in the history of men’s tennis began his major career.
Roger Federer embarked upon the 1999 French Open as the youngest player in the field and yet to break into the world’s top 100. Aged 17, the Swiss player was yet to play in the final of an ATP Tournament and only managed to enter the Roland Garros main draw thanks to a wild card. His opponent was third seed Pat Rafter who at the time was at the peak of his career. The Australian had won back-to-back US Open titles leading up to the tournament.
Undoubtedly the odds were piled heavily against a young and inexperienced Federer, but he still managed to make his mark. Surprisingly taking the first set before Rafter fought back to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote at the time.
Rafter echoed a similar view to L’Equipe during his post-match media engagements. He went on to become one of the few players to have a perfect winning record against Federer of 3-0. Also defeating him twice during the 2001 season.
“The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”
Rafter’s prediction came true but even he at the time didn’t expect the 17-year-old to go on and become one of the greatest. Now Federer holds the records for most grand slam titles (20), most weeks as world No.1 (310) and has won more ATP Awards than anybody else (37). Approaching the age of 39, he remains a prominent fixture in the world’s top 10 18 years on from his debut.
Federer has spoken about his first taste of a grand slam a few times in the past. One of his most notable observations was during a conversation he had with Rafter at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. When speaking about losing his one set lead, the Swiss maestro said it was partly to do with his mental weakness and showing too much respect to the top guns at the time.
”I was up a set and I was just 17 years old and I wasn’t expected to win,” Federer recounted. ”I think I got broken in the second set and I was like ‘Oh, God, what am I doing?’
”Next thing you know I’m losing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was very mental. I had a lot of respect for the older generation who were already accomplished. Obviously stars like Pat were, for me, people I really looked up to, even though I knew I could beat them. Mentally I was not so solid.”
Rafter has also admitted that his 1999 victory was partly down to the mental weakness of his rival during a 2018 interview with Blick newspaper. However, he blames losing the first set on never playing Federer before.
“I met Roger for the first time at the French Open in 1999. It was his grand slam debut. Since I did not know his game at the time, it took me some time to adjust to him. That’s why I lost the first set,” he said.
“Roger’s biggest handicap was his mental maturity, he was only 17 years old. That was one of the reasons why I came back and win in four sets.”
Whilst the French Open was where it all began for Federer, his record in the major is the worst out of the four grand slams. It is the only one he has failed to win multiple times, claiming his sole title back in 2009. Overall, he has played in the main draw 18 times with a win-loss of 70-17.
How old was the current top 10 when Federer made his grand slam debut?
- Novak Djokovic – 12
- Rafael Nadal – 12
- Dominic Thiem – 5
- Roger Federer – 17
- Daniil Medvedev – 3
- Stefanos Tsitsipas – 9 months
- Alexander Zverev – 2
- Matteo Berrettini – 3
- Gael Monfils – 12
- David Goffin – 8
(numbers in years unless otherwise stated)
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