French Open Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

French Open Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In a true rarity, today’s fourth round line-up includes two clashes between top 10 seeds within the same singles draw.



Alexander Zverev (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Those top 10 battles are in the men’s draw, where all top 10 seeds advanced to this stage. Of course we lost one of those seeds yesterday, in the fantastic epic that was penned by Stan Wawrinka and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Meanwhile, the world No.1, who is also the winner of the last three Majors, can reach the quarterfinals without meeting a seed at all.


In the women’s draw, only three top 10 seeds remain. In fact, half of the women on today’s schedule will be making their round of 16 debut at a Major. It’s a huge opportunity for the new blood to make a deep run, but some women who have done so before are eager to return to the last weekend of a Slam.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Fabio Fognini (9)

Both men are vying for their second Major quarterfinal, a feat they first accomplished at this tournament. They met on clay earlier this year, with Fognini prevailing in straight sets on the way to the biggest title of his career in Monte Carlo. Zverev took both of their other matches back in 2017, one of which was on clay. The 22-year-old must be short on stamina at this point, considering the amount of tennis played over the past two weeks. First there was his title run in Geneva, and then the 13 sets it took him to advance to this round. He played five of those sets just two days ago against the other Monte Carlo finalist, Dusan Lajovic. However, it is worth noting Fognini played 12 sets of his own last week, winning each of his first three rounds in four. I would not be at all surprised by another extended battle here, but I think this day may belong to the Italian. Zverev is still yet to round into top form, and the clay favors the 32-year-old veteran.

Juan Martin Del Potro (8) vs. Karen Khachanov (10)

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This is the other matchup between two top 10 seeds, featuring two heavy hitters who will not hesitate to club the ball. All three of their previous meetings took place last year, with Del Potro winning all three. One of those took place at a Major, as Juan Martin needed four sets and nearly four hours to knock Karen out of last year’s Australian Open. But Del Potro is not quite the same player he was a year ago. He missed about six months of action due to a knee injury last fall, and aggravated that knee during his second round win over Yoshihito Nishioka. That being said, he had no problem dismissing Jordan Thompson on Saturday, dropping just eight games. Khachanov has now reached the fourth round here in each of the past three years, but is yet to go farther at any Major. Is the 23-year-old ready to breakthrough? This match has a similar feel to yesterday’s Wawrinka/Tsitsipas encounter, with a veteran who has been recovering from a serious knee injury defending his turf against the next generation. I think Khachanov has enough game, and enough confidence in himself, to push Del Potro just a bit farther than his knee will allow the big man to go. The Paris Indoors champion of last year may be poised for more success in this city.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Gael Monfils (14)

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This could be just as good as, if not better than, the day’s matches between top 10 seeds. The athleticism and shot-making abilities of both men could combine to create a classic. But that’s only if Monfils finds way to be competitive against Thiem, something he’s never done before. Gael is 0-4 against Dominic, and when they played last year on the clay of Buenos Aires, he won just three games. Monfils has had a much stronger season in 2019, and he played excellently in week 1, not dropping a set. On the other side of the net, Thiem dropped a set in each of his first three rounds. The 25-year-old’d inability to get cleanly through the first week is turning into a pattern at the Majors, and causes him trouble come the second week. That could happen here, especially with the French crowd playing a factor. While you can never be sure what you’ll get from him day-to-day, I expect an inspired effort from Gael here at home. Will it be enough to upset last year’s finalist? I would be tempted to say yes, if it weren’t for how lopsided their history has been.

Simona Halep (3) vs. Iga Swiatek

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Here we have a three-time finalist, and last year’s champion, against a new face on tour. The WTA has an informative piece regarding the 18-year-old here. She quickly rose through the rankings by racking up seven ITF titles, and will move into the top 65 with this fourth round run. Aside from a random 6-0 set she lost to Monica Puig on Saturday, she’s been destroying opponents here, with no other player winning more than three games in a set. That includes Qiang Wang, the sixteenth seed. Iga’s been the one dictating play in all her matches. Against Wang, she struck 33 winners and only 12 unforced errors. But the youngster from Poland is yet to face a player with the defensive skills of Simona Halep. The world No.3 hasn’t played her best tennis this year, but she could be rediscovering her form just in time for her title defense. On Saturday against Lesia Tsurenko, Halep lost just three games. While Swiatek surely has a bright future, that future may not immediately materialize. Halep will be a strong favorite in their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (8) vs. Sofia Kenin

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It was the spunky 20-year-old American who upset Serena Williams on Saturday. But taking out another top 10 seed after the biggest win of your life is a lot to ask. While Barty has never excelled on clay, her success from the past few seasons is now translating to this surface. After reaching her first Major quarterfinal in her home country earlier this year, the Australian is now a favorite to reach her second one consecutively. However, it’s not fair to count out Kenin, who has shown just how strong a competitor she is many times over the past year. If she can put her upset of Serena out of her mind, this could be a close one.

Other notable matches on Day 9:

  • Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jan-Lennard Struff. The 29-year-old from Germany is into his first Major fourth round after an upset of Borna Coric, in a match that went to 11-9 in the fifth.
  • Madison Keys (14) vs. Katerina Siniakova. Siniakova upset Naomi Osaka two days ago, and will be the underdog again here against Keys, who has reached the quarters or better at four of the last six Slams.
  • Amanda Anisimova vs. Aliona Bolsova (Q), in the first meeting between the 17-year-old American and the 21-year-old Spaniard, both playing for their first major quarterfinal.

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier (10am BST)

Sofia Kenin vs Ashleigh Barty

Novak Djokovic vs Jan-Lennard Struff

Dominic Thiem vs Gael Monfils

Simona Halep vs Iga Swiatek

Court Suzanne-Lenglen (10am BST)

Katerina Siniakova vs Madison Keys

Kei Nishikori vs Benoit Paire – TO FINISH

Fabio Fognini vs Alexander Zverev

Karen Khachanov vs Juan Martin del Potro

Amanda Anisimova vs Aliona Bolsova

Grand Slam

‘A Class Act’ – Players Hail Wimbledon Following Decision To Hand Out £10m From 2020 Championships

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has announced that players who would had qualified to play this year’s tournament will receive payouts of up to £25,000.



There has been an outpouring of praise from the world of tennis after the Wimbledon Championships announced they will hand out prize money to those who would have played in this year’s championships.


620 players are set to benefit from a prize money pool of £10M despite the event being cancelled for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the other Grand Slams, Wimbledon was covered by pandemic insurance. The payments from players ranges from £5000 for those who would have played in the quad wheelchair events to £25,000 for those who would have played in the singles main draw (based on their current ranking).

“Immediately following the cancellation of The Championships, we turned our attention to how we could assist those who help make Wimbledon happen,” AELTC chairman Richard Lewis said in a statement.
“We know these months of uncertainty have been very worrying for these groups, including the players, many of whom have faced financial difficulty during this period and who would have quite rightly anticipated the opportunity to earn prize money at Wimbledon based on their world ranking.’
“We are pleased that our insurance policy has allowed us to recognise the impact of the cancellation on the players and that we are now in a position to offer this payment as a reward for the hard work they have invested in building their ranking to a point where they would have gained direct entry into The Championships 2020.”

The move comes after other governing bodies of the sport created their own funds to help support players during the pandemic. Unlike team sports, those on the Tour rely on prize money to fund their careers unless they have any sponsorship deals. For those lower ranked players, they have been unable to earn an income since March.

In the wake of the announcement, many top names in the sport praised Wimbledon for their gesture. Kim Clijsters, who played her first Grand Slam main draw match at the Wimbledon back in 1999, describes the move as a ‘class act.’

“Amazing news — always a class act and leader of our sport !! Well done Wimbledon – can’t wait to be back next year!” She wrote on Twitter.

Others to speak out from the WTA Tour includes Kristina Mladenovic, who wrote on social media ‘Amazing gesture Wimbledon, you have always been classy.’ Sachia Vickery said the donation shows the grass-court event is ‘leading by an amazing example’ by supporting all players. Meanwhile, Kirsten Flipkens called it a ‘nice gesture.

On the men’s Tour, Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko made a jibe at the US Open during his response to the news. The US Open is still going ahead as planned amid a rise in COVID-19 in some areas of the country. The event will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history.

“Hats off to Wimbledon. This is how you take care of your players. US Open should follow instead of pushing this nonsense. We can resume the tour later when conditions are better,” Lacko wrote.

Feliciano Lopez, who is also the tournament director of the Madrid Open, was another to pay tribute.

“Incredible gesture from Wimbledon with the players. We appreciate this comprehension and generosity in these times of uncertainty. Hats off to you once again,” he said.

Players are not the only group to receive charitable donations from the All England Lawn Tennis Club. In recent weeks they have also donated £1.2M to charities and organisations supporting vulnerable people during the pandemic.

The 134th Wimbledon Championships are expected to be held from 28 June to 11 July next year.

Breakdown of payouts

  • £25,000 for the 256 players in the singles main draws
  • £12,500 for the 224 players in singles qualifying
  • £6,250 for the 120 players in main draw doubles
  • £6,000 for the 16 players in the wheelchair events
  • £5,000 for four players in the quad wheelchair events

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Grand Slam

Wimbledon Throwback: Fairytale Triumph For Maria Sharapova

Before Wimbledon 2004, Maria Sharapova was virtually unknown. Over the next two weeks, her life changed, and so did women’s tennis.



Maria Sharapova (foto FABRIZIO MACCANI)

One day in June 2004, I came home from school, switched on the Wimbledon coverage and was transfixed by Maria Sharapova – a 17-year-old Russian who played tennis with an intensity I had never seen before.


Unfortunately I don’t remember which of her matches I saw first – her second-round win over Anne Keothavong or her third-round victory over Daniela Hantuchova – but I do remember that she blew away her opponent (and me) with her sublime ball-striking ability.

Sharapova’s serene progress continued until the quarter-final, when she faced her first real test against Ai Sugiyama. At the time, the Japanese player was a top-20 player. And she had plenty of experience to draw on after over a decade on tour.

Initially, Sugiyama’s maturity shone through as she won a tight opening set 7-5. However, her young Russian opponent gave many people their first glimpse of one of her defining qualities – fighting spirit. She clawed her way back into the match by coming out on top in an equally close second set. Having broken through the Japanese player’s resistance, Sharapova romped through the decider 6-2 to reach the semi-final.

Against All Odds

Despite her exceptional run to the last four, many observers believed it would come to an end when she faced Lindsay Davenport. It is clear from Sharapova’s autobiography that she agreed.

“I was a kid. Lindsay was a woman. I was weak. Lindsay was strong. I was stringy and narrow. Lindsay was powerful and solid. As I said, in many ways our games were alike. We went by power, played from the baseline, hit flat and low, without much spin, a style that both of us learned from Robert Lansdrop.

“She was twenty-eight years old, so far along there was talk of her retirement. She was not number one just then – that was Serena – but had been number one, off and on, for ninety-eight weeks. So she was one of the greatest tennis players in the world.

“In other words, I’d hung on and hung on till I’d advanced myself right out of my league. I mean, how was I supposed to beat Lindsay Davenport? She was just like me, only bigger, stronger, older, and more experienced. She was just like me, only way more.”

As if that was not already enough to make Sharapova’s task extremely difficult, she also found herself a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. She said she felt as though the crowd would see she was a kid “who did not belong there”, and that the first serve she hit “fluttered over the net like a butterfly”.

Rain Saves Sharapova

Maria Sharapova (foto ART SEITZ)

Just as the Russian expected, Davenport overwhelmed her to begin with. She won the first set 6-2 in just 26 minutes and then went up a break in the second. But just when it seemed like all hope was lost, fate intervened. Rain came pouring down and Sharapova retreated to the locker room to regroup.

Not that the Russian saw it that way. “In my mind, I was already on the plane, heading home,” she said. Thankfully, her father Yuri had other ideas. He told her he had seen it in a dream that she would turn this match around and go on to win the tournament.

And he seemed so certain that Sharapova believed him. It had a strong effect on her. She explained, “In that minute, I went from feeling like I had absolutely no chance, being beaten before I even went back out on the court, to believing I would have the prize if only I could summon the will to take it.”

To her immense credit, that is exactly what the Russian did. She came out after the delay and played exceptionally well. She returned well, drilled her trademark, flat groundstrokes into the corners for seemingly countless winners and even came to the net sometimes to finish points. It was a remarkable turnaround.

Showdown with Serena

I do not have many clear memories of Sharapova’s run to the championship match of Wimbledon 2004. But the final itself will stay in my mind forever.

I remember sitting down to watch it with my mother and thinking, I really hope this spirited Russian underdog can win, but I don’t really believe it. I mean, this is Serena Williams she is facing after all.

If Sharapova had any doubts, they did not show. She came out onto Centre Court and demolished the best female tennis player on the planet. She sent down ace after ace when she served and hit a thrilling succession of winners to finish rallies when they had scarcely begun. And the Russian attacked Serena’s serve in a way I had never seen before and remained calm and focused throughout.

Consequently, the match was over in about 70 minutes and Maria Sharapova – the 17-year-old Russian who most viewers barely knew before the tournament – was the Wimbledon champion. She had produced an extraordinary performance that stunned the sporting world and changed her life forever.

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Grand Slam

French Open Chief Hoping To Ease COVID-19 Related Restrictions In Coming Weeks

Former world No.4 Guy Forget says he hopes to learn from the controversy caused by the recently cancelled Adria Tour.



The man in charge of organising this year’s French Open has said he is optimistic that there will be more flexibility in the restrictions placed upon his event as it nears its launch.


Guy Forget has told Reuters News Agency that he believes the clay-court major will be nowhere as strict as the US Open, which will take place a couple weeks prior. The US Open is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and players will be subjected to various measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Including regular temperature checks and being limited to how many members of their team they can bring with them. It comes as parts of America reports a rapid rise in cases of the virus.

However, Forget believes that the COVID-19 restrictions set to be implemented in New York will not apply to his tournament because the current situation in his country is not as bad. According to the BBC, more than 29,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France compared to an estimated 132,000 in America.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” Forget told Reuters. “Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.”

Despite Forget’s optimism, there is also a lot of caution given recent events that have happened in the sport. The Adria Tour, which was founded by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, was cancelled after an outbreak of the virus among players. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive, as well as some coaching staff. The event was criticised for a lack of social distancing with players attending parties, however it all took place in accordance with local government rules. Meanwhile, at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atalanta Frances Tiafoe withdrew due to testing positive for the virus, but the event continued.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget commented on the Adria Tour.
“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much and we want to avoid that as much as we can.
“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

At present, the French Tennis Federation plans to allow up to 20,000 people to attend the French Open daily with 10,000 on the final day. Equating to roughly 60% of its maximum capacity which is a figure based on ‘health-related information and the projected guidelines.’ Those attending will be required to wear masks whilst walking around the venue but not when sitting courtside.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said about the importance of a crowd.
“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The French Open is set to get underway on September 27th. Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal are the defending champions.

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