French Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

French Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Today begins the second week of the fortnight, with 16 men and 16 women remaining in the singles draws.

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Garbine Muguruza (photo by :Gianni Ciaccia)

On the men’s side, the three most prolific male champions of the Open Era all remain. Roger, Rafa, and Novak will all be heavy favorites in their fourth round matches, but the other five men’s contests are blockbusters. On the women’s side, we’re in the midst of a youth movement. As per WTA Insider, this is the first Grand Slam event in a decade where three teenagers advanced to the round of 16. And despite the exits yesterday of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, Major champions Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, and Simona Halep are still here.

 

Sloane Stephens (7) vs. Garbine Muguruza (19)

It’s the 2016 champion facing the 2018 finalist. These two streaky players have only met twice before, splitting two matches played on hard courts. Stephens was certainly the player with more momentum at the start of this tournament, as Muguruza arrived in Paris with a 2-2 clay record on the year. But Muguruza has looked sharper with every round in the past week, and she has reached the quarters or better here in four of the last five years. Both women should be feeling a lot of pressure today, as the winner will be a strong favorite to go all the way to the final in an open half of the draw. This surface would assumedly favor Sloane, who moves better and has stronger defense than Garbine. I like Stephens’s chances to advance here, and favor her to return to the finals for the second straight year.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Stan Wawrinka (24)

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This will be their first meeting, and should be a good one. Both men needed two days to finish their third round matches due to darkness, though they should be pretty fresh after playing for only about an hour yesterday. The 20-year-old has easily been the better player over the past year, with nearly twice as many wins as the 2015 champion. Wawrinka though played extremely well in week 1, and seems primed to legitimately challenge Tsitsipas. The winner here will likely face Roger Federer on Tuesday, and either man will have a good chance against the 20-time Major champion.

Donna Vekic (23) vs. Johanna Konta (26)

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This is a rematch from a classic these two played at Wimbledon in 2017, where Konta prevailed 10-8 in the third. That was just a few weeks after Vekic had defeated Konta 7-5 in the third in the final of Nottingham. Overall they’re 3-3 lifetime, and have never played on clay. Johanna had never won a match at this tournament prior to this year, but she gained a lot of confidence on this surface in the month prior, with 10 clay court wins. The 22-year-old Vekic has seemed ready for a breakthrough for some time now, but it’s yet to materialize. This is only her second appearance in the fourth round of a Major. While Vekic impressed by easily dispatching of Belinda Bencic on Friday, Konta is the more proven big match player, and is the favorite here.

Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Benoit Paire

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As Ravi Ubha outlined on Twitter, Nishikori said of Paire, “For me he has the best backhand on the tour.” That’s a startling statement, but shows the respect Kei has for Benoit’s game. Nishikori leads their head-to-head 6-2, with Paire’s two wins coming in 2015 on hard courts. They also played in the second round of this event last year, when Kei survived a five-setter. Nishikori also prevailed in their other clay court meeting. The 29-year-old barely got to this point, as he was down two breaks in the fifth to Laslo Djere two days ago. Paire also survived an extended five-setter this past week, but got a break in his last round when Pablo Carreno Busta retired after the third set. With this being the last match of the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, the French crowd will be boisterously behind Paire as he vies to reach his first Major quarterfinal. But Kei remains a tough out even when he’s tired, and I suspect he’ll find a way through this one.

Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Marketa Vondrousova

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Speaking of extended matches, Sevastova endured a thrilling one on Friday. The 29-year-old from Latvia saved five match points before prevailing 11-9 in the third over Elise Mertens. She’s now advanced to the fourth round or better at each of the last three Majors. Her 19-year-old opponent has now equaled her best result at a Slam from last year’s US Open, and continues to make a definitive impression on tour. Vondrousova already owns two wins this year over Simona Halep, and was a finalist at the clay event in Istanbul back in April. With her run here, she’s projected to debut in the top 30 next Monday. The left-hander possesses a lot of variety in her game, though not quite the variety of the unique Sevastova. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to better-rested Vondrousova to reach her first Major quarterfinal.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

  • Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Juan Ignacio Londero, a 25-year-old from Argentina who was winless at Slams prior to this event.
  • Roger Federer (3) vs. Leonardo Mayer, a more accomplished Argentine who owns two clay court titles. But as reported by Enrique Quique Cano, Mayer is dealing with a left leg tear.
  • Petra Martic (31) vs. Kaia Kanepi. Kanepi is a six-time Major quarterfinalist, while Martic is 0-4 in the round of 16 at Grand Slam events.

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier (10am BST)

Kaia Kanepi (EST) vs [31] Petra Martic (CRO)

Leonardo Mayer (ARG) vs [3] Roger Federer (SWI)

Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (SPA)

Sloane Stephens (USA) [7] vs [19] Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Court Suzanne-Lenglen (10am BST)

Markets Vondrousova (CZE) vs [12] Anastasia Sevastova (LAT)

Donna Vekic (CRO) [23] vs [26] Johanna Konta (GBR)

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) [6] vs [24] Stan Wawrinka (SWI)

Kei Nishikori (JPN) [7] vs Benoit Paire (FRA)

Grand Slam

Na-Lae Han, Tatsuma Ito Clinch Australian Open Wildcards

With just over a month to go, wildcards for the first grand slam of 2020 have already been decided.

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Han Na-Lae (image via wtatennis.com)

South Korean player Na-Lae Han is set to make her grand slam debut at the Australian Open next month after winning the Asia-Pacific playoff tournament in Zhuhai, China.

 

The 27-year-old, who was the top seed in the tournament, downed Ayano Shimizu 6-2 6-2 in the final to secure her spot in Melbourne. Han is currently ranked 182nd in the world and has won a trio of ITF $25,000 titles this season. She is currently the only player from her country to be ranked inside the top 300 on the WTA Tour.

“It’s the first time I played Ayano. I am really happy to win the championship and to capture the wildcard,” Han told Tennis Australia.

Han was hoping for double success after also taking part in the doubles draw alongside compatriot Choi Ji-hee. However, the duo lost in the semi-finals. Han won her first and so far only WTA title at the 2018 Korean Open in the doubles with Choi. The wildcard was secured by the Chinese Taipei pairing of Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu.

In the men’s tournament Japan’s Tatsuma Ito upset top seed Jason Jung 7-5, 6-4, to seal his place. 31-year-old Ito has been ranked as high as 60th in the world and will be playing in the main draw of the Australian Open for the sixth time in his career. However, he last won a match in the tournament back in 2013. This year he reached the main draw after coming through qualifying, but lost in the first round to Dan Evans.

“I really enjoyed this moment” said Ito after his win. “I moved through into the main draw after qualifying this year. It was very tough for me and my body. It will easier next year (smiling).”

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song won the men’s doubles title. Meanwhile, China had a clean sweep in the junior competitions with Xiaofei Wang and Fangran Tian winning their events.

This year’s playoffs have been branded as a success by tournament director Isabelle Gemmel. It is the eighth consecutive year the tournament has taken place, which aim to promote top-level tennis in the region.

“Na-Lae Han was undefeated all week and Tatsuma Ito overcame a couple of tough matches to win the all-important main draw wildcard.” Said Gemmel.
“With two new countries, Korea and Japan, winning for the first time in singles, it underlines how the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff has established itself as a key tournament in its own right and how valued it is in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The 2020 Australian Open will get underway on January 20th.

List of winners

MEN’S SINGLES: Tatsuma Ito (JPN)

WOMEN’S SINGLES: Na-Lae Han (KOR)

MEN’S DOUBLES: Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song (KOR)

WOMEN’S DOUBLES: Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu (TPE)

BOYS’ SINGLES: Xiaofei Wang (CHN)

GIRLS’ SINGLES: Fangran Tian (CHN)

 

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Grand Slam

Margaret Court’s Tennis To Be Celebrated At Australian Open But Not Her Politics

Margaret Court will be invited to the Australian Open this year despite her political views.

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Margaret Court(@shopworldoffers - Twitter)

Tennis Australia will be celebrating Margaret Court’s tennis at the Australian Open in January but not her politics. 

 

Margaret Court has won 24 grand slam singles titles, the most of any female player in history as of now, and has been invited to celebrate 50 years since winning one of 11 Australian Open titles.

That year, she would also win all four grand slam titles, marking a historic year for Court in the context of her tennis career.

But for many Australians and people around the world that is not the way she is being remembered lately as it’s her politics that are taking over.

Just before the Gay Marriage Referendum vote in 2018, Margaret Court expressed her rather hateful views towards the LGBTQ community, calling transgender children the work of “the devil.”

Furthermore she claimed that tennis was full of lesbians, “Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that led took young ones into parties,” Court told Vision Christian Radio in 2017.

Those views have been criticised by many with the likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova wanting her name stripped from the second biggest court at the Australian Open.

Now, a couple of years later after much debate, Court will be invited to the Australian Open for her incredible achievement 50 years ago as Tennis Australia announced today.

The Australian was thrilled to hear the truce given by Tennis Australia, “This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I’m grateful to Tennis Australia,” Court said in Tennis Australia’s press release.

During the event a special documentary of Court reflecting back on that achievement will be released as well as this there will be in-stadium entertainment celebrating the event as well as a legends lunch.

But once again Tennis Australia once again distanced themselves from Court’s political views as they stated in their press release, “As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” Tennis Australia said.

“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.

“#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020.

“We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events. A full program of #Open4All events at Australian Open 2020 will be released in the coming weeks.

“The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020.”

Although, Court will continue to cause controversy especially considering Tennis Australia’s ‘tale of two halves’ press release.

The Australian will hope that it will be her tennis that will be remembered in January, but it won’t be a smooth ride on the road to being appreciated.

 

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Grand Slam

Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash

The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.

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Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.

 

2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.

Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”

Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.

There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.

“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”

Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.

“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”

The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.

“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.

During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

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