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Grand Slam

Five French Open Talking Points

Following the completing of the 2019 tournament on Sunday, here are five topics worth further discussion.

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photo by Gianni Ciaccia

From the unexpected to the predictable, this year’s French Open had it all. Ash Barty stunned the women’s draw to win her maiden grand slam titles. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal continued his dominance of the men’s section. The past two weeks in the French capital have been full of drama.

 

Here are five takes from this year’s tournament.

1) Another Slam, and another event where the women receive unfavourable scheduling.

Tournament officials made some egregious scheduling decisions during this fortnight. Some conflicts were unavoidable due to rain, and thankfully a roof will resolve that issue next year (at least on one court). But there were many instances where the tournament could have done a better job in presenting the women’s matches. One example is bringing Djokovic and Thiem back on Saturday to complete their semifinal rather than try to finish it on Friday. There ended up being much more sunshine on Friday evening after the match had already been postponed. Even if the Djokovic/Thiem match had not concluded on Friday night, enough tennis could have been played where it would have avoided the delay of the women’s championship. This is now the second time in the last four Majors the WTA final was bumped for a men’s semifinal. And there were other smaller mistakes made as well, such as scheduling a blockbuster Sloane Stephens/Garbine Muguruza match at the end of the day following both Federer and Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Many fans left after the two all-time greats played, leaving an extremely muted atmosphere for a match between two Slam champions. It would be wiser to schedule a women’s match in between Federer and Nadal. While the women’s draw was lacking the star power of the men’s in the second week, tournaments too often do the women no favours in enabling star power to be created. And on seven of the first nine days of the tournament, the women were scheduled first on Chatrier at 11:00am, playing in a mostly-empty stadium as the French fans eat their lunch.

2) If the French care more about lunch than Federer versus Nadal, they don’t deserve to host a Major.

The number of empty seats for the Federer/Nadal match at 1:00pm Friday, as well as the next day for the resumption of Djokovic/Thiem as 12:00pm, was astonishing and disgraceful. This was an issue on every day of the fortnight, but was even more shocking with the sport’s greatest rivalry on the court. As Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, French officials even used ball kids to fill in the empty seats in the lower level of Chatrier on Saturday. And I’m not kidding when I suggest it might be worth considering a different city to host the sport’s fourth Grand Slam event. Indian Wells would be a strong choice to be upgraded to a Major, or starting a new Slam event in Asia would certainly be good for the sport’s growth. Short of downgrading this tournament, officials should take a page out of the USTA’s book, and move the start of play on Chatrier to later in the day. With a roof and lights on the way, play on Chatrier should not begin before 1:00pm or 2:00pm. Or at a minimum, the tournament should allow grounds pass ticket holders into the lower bowl of Chatrier until the French’s precious lunchtime is over.

3) It’s long overdue for the French Open to institute final set tiebreaks.

This is another way in which this tournament is lagging behind the other Majors. While it’s absurd how all four Slams have different rules for final sets, at least the other Majors have introduced a tiebreak at some point. Once players get to 6-6 in the final set, especially the men who have played five full sets by that stage, isn’t that enough? It’s preferable for the fans, the tournament schedule, the television schedule, and players alike to have a discernable end in sight. Players who win extended fifth sets rarely advance much further in the tournament after such an overdose of tennis.

4) Let’s end this debate now: there is nothing unfair or unsportsmanlike about underhand serving.

This has become a much talked about topic of late, due to the 30th anniversary of Michael Chang’s victory in Paris, as well as current players such as Nick Kyrgios reintroducing this tactic to the sport. But there’s really no debate here. An underhand serve is a fair and strategic tactic, no different than a drop shot. With many players standing so far back to return serve, I’m surprised this hasn’t been used more often. Anyone crying foul over this strategy being applied is just plain wrong.

5) Despite the valid criticisms of the tournament, let’s celebrate all the compelling storylines provided.

A player who walked away from the sport at the age of 18, due to the pressure and travel involved, comes back to win a Major on their least-preferred surface. A former champion struggling to regain their top form after serious knee surgery, battles through one of the sport’s most promising young fighters in a match that went over five hours, in surely the match of the tournament, if not the year. A 37-year-old Frenchman most well-known for being on the losing end of tennis’ longest match gets to share what was perhaps his two last victories at home with his young son, who joined him on court. And of course, the King of Clay wins his twelfth title at the same Grand Slam event, giving him a 24-0 record in the semifinals and finals. No other sport provides us with such a plethora of great moments throughout the entire year.

Grand Slam

Marcos Baghdatis And Iga Swiatek Among Initial Wimbledon Wildcards

Marcos Baghdatis and Iga Swiatek have received a wildcard for Wimbledon as the third grand slam of the year approaches.

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Marcos Baghdatis (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

Marcos Baghdatis and defending Juniors champion Iga Swiatek are among the initial wildcards for Wimbledon. 

 

The initial wildcards for Wimbledon have been announced this morning with former Wimbledon semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis among the Men’s wildcards.

Having not played since May and not appeared on the main tour since February, Baghdatis is a surprise choice for a wildcard spot given the options.

Players such as Nicolas Mahut, Feliciano Lopez and Dustin Brown were seen as candidates for a main draw wildcard but it seems that at the moment that spot has been given to the Cypriot.

Joining Baghdatis as main draw wildcards on the men’s side is the British trio of James Ward, Jay Clarke and NCAA champion Paul Jubb.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, last year’s Women’s junior champion Iga Swiatek has been given a wildcard after her incredible rise.

Since winning the Juniors title last year, Swiatek has reached her maiden WTA final, risen to number 65 in the world and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.

Joining Swiatek, as the British wildcards are Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and Katie Swan as there are four more spots to be announced.

As more wildcards are yet to be announced, the likes of Feliciano Lopez, Dustin Brown and Katie Boulter could still receive a main draw wildcard.

Meanwhile in the doubles event Lleyton Hewitt has once again received a doubles wildcard despite ‘retiring.’ The 2002 singles champion will team up with compatriot Jordan Thompson.

Here are the wildcards below, with the singles draws taking place a week on Friday:

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ATP

Greg Rusedski Tips Tsitsipas To Become The Next Federer

The Greek sensation has been backed to rise to the top of the world rankings.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo by chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski has praised Next Gen star Stefano Tsitsipas by saying he has characteristics similar to that of Roger Federer.

 

The former world No.4 believes the greek has what it takes to conquer the men’s tour. So far this season Tsitsipas has played in four ATP finals, winning titles in Marseille and Estoril. In total, he has won 32 matches on the tour this year. The joint-highest alongside Rafael Nadal. At the age of 20, he is already the first man from his country to reach the semi-final of a grand slam and crack the top 10.

“He’s so much better as a player than he was a year ago and he’s getting better,” Rusedski told Amazon Prime.
“His transitioning game coming forward, playing doubles so much more this year. I think he will be a Wimbledon champion as well as a world number one. He’s that good.”

Continuing his tribute to the world No.6, the Brit believes he plays similar to some of the stars of the game. Tsitsipas is currently 10-15 against top 10 opposition in his career and has defeated every member of the Big Three at least once. The most recent being against Nadal at the Madrid Open.

“He reminds me of a young Roger Federer. A guy who’s got that full package.” Rusedski analyzed.
“He looks a little bit like Bjorn Borg the way he walks around the court but what I like, he’s a complete player and he has this mental fortitude where he believes he belongs.”

Tsitsipas is the top seed at this week’s Fever-Tree Championships in London. He will be hoping for a strong run ahead of the Wimbledon championships, which he reached the fourth round at last year. Looking ahead to the grand slam, he is optimistic about the prospect of ending the dominance of Nadal and Co. It has been 16 years since a player outside of the Big Four (counting Andy Murray) has won Wimbledon.

“I want to be honest. I would love to see something different this year,’ he said.
‘Hopefully, it can be me, but I think it’s good for the sport to have a bit of variety, something different. It’s boring to see all these guys winning all the time. Djokovic is the reigning champion.”

Tsitsipas will play Kye Edmund in his first match at Queen’s.

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ATP

Nick Kyrgios Confident of Inflicting ‘Damage’ At Wimbledon, But Not With Andy Murray

The Australian explains why he doesn’t want to play doubles with Murray at The All England Club.

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Nick Kyrgios (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

LONDON: The grass courts of London feels like a second home for Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

 

It is a time of year he relishes. Five years ago at Wimbledon, he made his first breakthrough with a run to the quarter-finals. Stunning Rafael Nadal on route. Since then, his love affair with the surface has only got stronger. Even if he is yet to contest a final of a grass-court event on the ATP Tour.

“It’s quite similar to Australia. Ultimately it feels a little bit like home.” Kyrgios told reporters on Monday.
“This is probably my favorite time of the year. Obviously, the Aussie summer is pretty good, but just being in London when the weather is like this is pretty hard to beat. Just playing on grass every day, it’s a lot of fun.” He added.

The 24-year-old kick-started his grass campaign two weeks ago in Surbiton at a Challenger event. Playing in the doubles tournament with Thanassi Kokkinakis, the duo won a match before falling in the quarter-finals. Following on from that, in Stuttgart, he crashed out in the first round to Matteo Barattini, who went on to win the tournament.

The results may not be groundbreaking, but Kyrgios’ belief and confidence remains unhinged heading into the next grand slam of the season. Currently ranked 39th in the world, it is touch and go if he will be seeded at Wimbledon. Depending on how he performs this week at Queen’s.

“I definitely feel like I can do damage.” The former top-20 player commented about his Wimbledon prospects. “I have had a lot of good wins on grass. Obviously made a quarterfinal run when I was a little bit younger, but I think if the stars align, for sure I can do damage there.”

It will take a lot for Kyrgios and his rivals to break the dominance of the Big Four, who has won the Wimbledon trophy every year since 2003. However, he feels that should a shock happen in a grand slam. It is more likely to take place at the grass-court major.

“I’d probably say it is. I say if somebody is serving big and feeling themselves that week, I think for sure they could probably make more of a run.”

The return of Murray

Besides his own goals, Kyrgios is also relishing the return of one of his rivals and friends. Andy Murray is set to play in the doubles at the Fever-Tree Championships alongside Feliciano Lopez. It will the first test for the three-time grand slam champion after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery.

“He’s a warrior. I hit with him a couple times in London, obviously when I took a spell from the French.” Kyrgios said of the former world No.1.
“He’s still hitting the ball unbelievable. I think he’s well good enough to do damage in any doubles of any players, especially this week with Feliciano. I’d almost pay to watch that match. They’re going to be tough to beat.”

Looking further ahead, Murray is still pondering who he will team up with in the doubles at Wimbledon. It will be only the second time he has played doubles at the major and first since 2005. Among the candidates for a partner was Kyrgios, who has now ruled himself out.

“It’s just good to see him back, but I don’t think I want to carry him for Wimbledon dubs. I think he can find someone else to do that for him.” He explained.
“When I hit with him in Wimby a couple weeks ago, we spoke about it. But it’s best-of-five sets, which is tough. I don’t know if my body — if I happen to go deep at Wimbledon, it’s too tough to play doubles.”

Flying solo, Kyrgios is hoping for a boost this week at the Fever-Tree Championships. In his first round on Tuesday, he plays Adrian Mannarino. A player who won an ATP title in s-Hertogenbosch on Sunday.

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