Mats Wilander Questions Federer’s US Open Hopes, Serena’s Consistency And Kyrgios’ Antics - UBITENNIS
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Mats Wilander Questions Federer’s US Open Hopes, Serena’s Consistency And Kyrgios’ Antics

The former world No.1 has spoken out about a variety of top tennis stars ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

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With less than a week to go until the start of the US Open, a candidly speaking Mats Wilander has shared his opinion on a series of topics set to take place during this year’s tournament.

 

The 54-year-old former tennis pro has cast doubts on Roger Federer’s chances in Flushing Meadows. The Swiss player has won more grand slam singles titles than any other player on the men’s tour, however, he hasn’t triumphed at the US Open since 2008. Federer suffered a shock loss to John Millman in the fourth round last year.

The 38-year-old will be seeded third in this year’s draw and could potentially play both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic if he wants to win the title. Should he play world No.1 Djokovic, Wilander believes the Swiss maestro will struggle. However, he is more positive about Nadal’s chances. The Spaniard is the only one of the trio to have won a hard court title within the past two months.

“I think the biggest obstacle for someone like Federer is that he is going to play seven hard games,” Wilander told Eurosport.
“No matter what the style is, you may have a problem against a great server or a bottom player.
“Rafael Nadal is the only player who can beat Novak Djokovic in a five-set Grand Slam game.
“We need to have two boys in the semi-finals who don’t call themselves Roger, Rafa or Stan or Novak.”

Federer last played Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon, which he lost in five sets after having two championship points. Making it the fourth consecutive time he has lost to the Serbian in their head-to-head. On the other hand, Federer has a more promising record against Nadal. Winning six out of their seven meetings on the tour since 2015.

‘Slowly disappearing’ Serena

In the women’s draw eyes will be on Serena Williams as she once again bids to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam titles. The American is yet to win a title of any sort since becoming a mother. Settling for runner-up at three out of the past five grand slam tournaments. Including Wimbledon, where she suffered a comprehensive straight sets loss to Simona Halep.

The lack of silverware in recent time has been one debated by those following Williams’ career. However, Wilander believes the problem is that she no longer intimidates her rivals on the court.

“Her intimidation factor is slowly disappearing, compared to the youngest ones,” he said.
“She has not been consistent in the last four or five years on the regular tour and has not played enough tournaments and won enough victories.
“The dressing room probably thinks that there is a small chance that they can win because the consistency – both physical and in their tennis – has not been there.
“The intimidation factor is not as strong with Serena, as it is with someone like Roger or Rafa.”

Williams will be seeking redemption in New York following her high-profile outburst in last year’s final. She clashed with umpire Carlos Ramos after being issued with a warning for coaching. Prompting her to call the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘cheat.’ She was then issued with two additional penalties that amounted to a game penalty. In a recent interview Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has praised the incident.

Six-time champion Williams will be seeded eighth in this year’s tournament.

The Kyrgios problem

On the topic of Nick Kyrgios, Wilander has urged the Australian to become more professional on the tour. Kyrgios splits opinion in the world of sport due to his controversial behaviour. The most recent incident took place last week at the Cincinnati Masters where he was knocked out by Karen Khachanov in the second round. During that match, he engaged in a heated confrontation with the umpire and committed a series of code violations. Including walking off the court when he wasn’t allowed to and calling the official a “F***ing tool.” Kyrgios was subsequently fined $113,000 for eight separate incidents.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom for the 24-year-old, who recently won the Citi Open in Washington. The way he conducted himself during that tournament is what Wilander hopes to see at the US Open next week.

“I hope he doesn’t behave like he did in Cincinnati,” he said.
“I think that every week that passes is showing more and more interest in wanting to win tennis matches and wanting to improve everything around him.
“I think when he did what he did in Cincinnati, of course it looks bad and, of course, there are children in the stands and the language is bad, but at least the way he is now in the last weeks, he is showing that he cares.
“Nick wants to win, he hates losing and he wants to play well, he wants to entertain and he simply hasn’t been able to deal with it in a professional way.”

Kyrgios hasn’t reached the quarter-final of a grand slam since January 2015.

The draw for the US Open will will be made on Thursday with the main draw starting next Monday.

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.

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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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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.

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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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Australian Open Chief Confident Event Will Take Place In January Amid COVID-19 Jump In Region

Craig Tiley has addressed concerns about the Grand Slam following a new outbreak in Victoria.

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The tournament director of the Australian Open has insisted that plans for next year’s tournament are on track despite a spike in COVID-19 cases around Melbourne.

 

Craig Tiley has stated that the Grand Slam will only take place in the city and there are no backup plans to potentially relocate the event in a worst case scenario. The Australian Open is held annually at Melbourne Park and this year attracted a record attendance of 812,174 people. Although there are concerns about the threat posed by COVID-19 with the Victoria State Government reporting another 66 cases of the virus on Friday. Making it the 17th day the daily infection rate has been in double digits. It is possible that the number could be higher with health minister Jenny Mikakos confirming around 10,000 people have refused to be tested with some claiming the virus to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’

According to ABC News Tiley and his team are planning for six scenarios concerning the Australian Open taking place, including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. Although he is optimistic that the event and others also set to take place next January will go ahead as planned.

“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“We’re optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful — and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.”

The Tournament director has also confirmed that there will be little flexibility concerning the staging of next year’s event. Saying it will only take place in Melbourne and during January if it goes ahead. Although he is keeping a close eye on the two Grand Slams that are set to take place later this season.

“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”

This year’s US Open is set to get underway on August 31st, but will be held behind closed doors for the first time. Meanwhile the French Open, which starts only weeks after the New York major, plans to allow up to 20,000 fans to attend daily. Working out to be roughly 60% of its maximum capacity.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in its hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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