22 of the 32 WTA seeds have survived this far, while less than half the seeded male players advanced to the third round. And while that would normally make “The Big Three” heavier favorites, Novak Djokovic is battling a considerable injury, and Roger Federer has not been himself. And on the women’s side, it still feels the number of possible champions is in the double digits. Who will make it through to the second week and emerge as the top contenders?
Serena Williams (8) vs. Karolina Muchova
Serena was furious with her form in her second round match against American teenager Katy McNally, feeling she made way too many errors with her forehand. McNally was able to take the first set, and frustrated Serena will her all-court game. Muchova also plays with a lot of variety, which was on full display yesterday in her third-set tiebreak win over Su-Wei Hsieh. Muchova’s game could also complicate matters for Serena. But the 23-time Major champion will benefit from having a day off, while Muchova grinded out that tough second round win in warm temperatures just yesterday. In their first career meeting, it may take Serena some time to figure out 23-year-old Czech, but I’m confident she’ll do so in the end.
Madison Keys (10) vs. Sofia Kenin (20)
This is a rematch from the Cincinnati semifinals just two weeks ago, where Keys prevailed in straight sets. But Kenin took their other prior encounter, back in May on the clay of Rome. Madison went on to win the title in Cincinnati, and comes into this match on an eight-match winning streak. But Kenin has been one of the hottest players on tour this summer, as she was semifinalist in both Cincy and Toronto. Neither woman has dropped a set this week in New York, so this should be good. As usual, the match will likely rest on Madison’s racket, as she can dictate play with her power. However, Kenin has quickly proven herself to be one of the WTA’s most dogged competitors, and she won’t succumb to defeat easily. But Keys loves playing at this tournament, with a 13-2 record over the past few years, so she’s the favorite to advance in this all-American matchup.
Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Dayana Yastremska (32)
We go from an All-American matchup to an all-Ukranian matchup. Svitolina ousted a game Venus Williams in front of a raucous crowd in the last round, and now faces the challenge of taking on a countrywoman five years her junior. It’s been a breakthrough season for Yastremska, who’s won two titles and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. And she has the firepower to take it to the fifth seed, who prefers to stay on the defense. Just earlier this summer in a straight set victory over Victoria Azarenka in Toronto, Dayana struck 47 winners. And speaking of Azarenka, this matchup is reminiscent of her Belarusian battle of generations against Aryna Sabalenka. The younger competitor won on that day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened here as well. It seems only a matter of time before Yastremska is making deep runs at Majors, and I think she could take the next step today.
Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Alex de Minaur
Get ready for some tremendous rallies from two of the ATP’s speediest players. Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals at every Major this year, establishing himself one of tennis’ most reliable performers at big events. Kei benefitted from the retirement of Marco Trungelliti halfway through their opening round, and overcame a fourth set comeback from American Bradley Klahn on Wednesday. Meanwhile the 20-year-old Australian was forced to play his second round match yesterday due to rain, but easily defeated the 31st seed Cristian Garin in straight sets. De Minaur was twice a champion this season, in both Sydney and Atlanta. He loves playing on the hard courts, and pushed former champion Marin Cilic to 7-5 in the fifth here a year ago. Alex thrillingly saved six match points before Cilic closed out that battle. In their first career meeting today, it feels like de Minaur is primed for a breakthrough. This is his fourth time into the third round of a Major, but he’s yet to advance farther. Based on the way he’s been serving, and his competitive streak, Alex may just upset the former US Open finalist in what I expect will be an extended affair.
Daniil Medvedev (5) vs. Feliciano Lopez
Medvedev has been the winningiest player on tour this year, especially over the past month. But perhaps all that tennis is finally catching up with him. Daniil has played 18 matches since July 30th, and appeared to be battling fighting body cramps in his four-set win yesterday. Today he faces one of the oldest yet fittest players on tour in 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez, who also won their only previous meeting two years ago on clay. And Feli can still go in singles: he was the Queens Club champion just a few months ago. Yet Lopez also had an exhausting match of his own yesterday against Yoshihito Nishioka. On a hard court, Medvedev remains the favorite, as long as his body cooperates.
Other notable matches on Day 5:
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Denis Kudla, a 27-year-old American into the third round of a Major for the second time. How will Djokovic’s shoulder be two days after he was in obvious pain?
Roger Federer (3) vs. Dan Evans. Federer is 2-0 against the 29-year-old Brit, but Evans pushed him to two tiebreaks in Australia earlier this year.
Ash Barty (2) vs. Maria Sakkari (30). Barty owns a 2-1 record in their head-to-head, though Sakkari claimed their only meeting in the US, last year in Indian Wells.
Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Ons Jabeur, a 25-year-old from Tunisia who has never been farther than this stage of a Slam.
Stan Wawrinka (23) vs. Paolo Lorenzi, a 37-year-old lucky loser from Italy who spent nearly 13 hours on court in his last three matches, with almost five hours of that coming yesterday afternoon.
Johanna Konta (16) vs. Shuai Zhang (33). Konta has a 4-1 edge, with Shuai’s only win coming in her home country of China.
Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Petra Martic (22). They’ve split two previous meetings, both played on clay.
Order of play
Arthur Ashe Stadium – 5pm (BST) start
Roger Federer  vs Dan Evans
Not before 6.30pm
Serena Williams vs Karolina Muchova
Not before 12am
Sofia Kenin  vs Madison Keys 
Novak Djokovic  Denis Kudla
Louis Armstrong Stadium – 4pm (BST) start
Ons Jabeur vs Karolina Pliskova 
Maria Sakkari  vs Ashleigh Barty 
Not before 7.30pm
Stan Wawrinka  vs Paolo Lorenzi
Not before 12am
Elina Svitolina  vs Dayana Yastremska 
Feliciano Lopez vs Daniil Medvedev
Grandstand – 4pm (BST) start
Alex de Minaur vs Kei Nishikori 
Johanna Konta  vs Zhang Shuai 
Fiona Ferro vs Qiang Wang 
Dominik Koepfer vs Nikoloz Basilashvili 
Court 17 – 4pm [BST] start
Pablo Carrena Busta vs David Goffin 
Grigor Dimitrov vs Kamil Majchrzak
Court 10 – 4pm [BST] start
Petra Martic  vs Anastasija Sevastova 
French Open Make Changes To Tournament Schedule
One draw is getting bigger but another has been cut by 50%!
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) is increasing the number of players participating in this year’s French Open qualifying tournament in order to help provide financial support to more on the Tour.
From 2021 the clay court Grand Slam will welcome 128 players to the qualifying event which is the same number of players participating in the main draw. This is a 33% increase in the usual number of participants which is 96. The event is scheduled to take place over four days between May 24-28 but will be held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic like last year. However, organisers are still hopeful they will still be able to open the main draw up to the public.
“This decision will also allow the tournament to support a category of players who have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, financially-speaking,” a statement reads.
Last year’s French Open offered 10,000 euros to players who lost in the first round of qualifying. Players who qualified and reached the main draw were guaranteed to take home at least 60,000 euros. The prize money breakdown of this year’s tournament is still to be confirmed.
Another change being made concerns the Mixed Doubles event, which wasn’t held at Roland Garros in 2020. The draw will be making a comeback but with a 50% reduction in its field size. Just 16 teams will be playing in the draw compared to the usual 32. Meaning this year’s Mixed Doubles champions will only have to win four matches en route to the title.
This year’s French Open has already been pushed back by a week due to the pandemic with officials hoping the extra delay will maximise their chances of welcoming fans to the event. Although world No.2 Daniil Medvedev recently questioned the decision and if it would make any difference.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros,” said FFT President Gilles Moreton.
“For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event.”
The French Open main draw is set to start on May 30th. Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek are the defending champions.
Daniil Medvedev Questions ‘Ridiculous’ Decision To Delay French Open
The Tennis star wonders if a seven-day delay will be worth it for the French authorities?
World No.2 Daniil Medvedev says he is surprised by the decision to postpone the start of the French Open as he questions the logic of such a move.
Recently the French Tennis Federation (FFT) confirmed that their premier Grand Slam will be delayed by seven days and start on May 30th. The announcement occurred less than a week after the country went into their third lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. Officials hope the extra week will provide more time for the pandemic to be kept under control and therefore more spectators will be allowed to the tournament. The lockdown is set to end mid-May which gives the French Open roughly two weeks to prepare.
“The fact that the French public authorities have maintained large sports events despite the health measures tightening, the FFT, for this 2021 edition of Roland-Garros, aims at maximising the chances – for the players and for the overall tennis community – that the tournament is played in front of the largest possible number of fans, while guaranteeing health and safety. Regarding both objectives, every week is important and can make a difference,” a statement reads.
The FFT is eager to welcome as many people as possible to the tournament. It is estimated that 80% of their annual turnover is related to the Grand Slam, according to L’Equipe newspaper.
However, former US Open finalist Medvedev has cast doubt over how much of a difference the delay would make due to the unpredictability of COVID-19. It is possible that fans could still not be allowed to attend the tournament if cases in the region are still high. On Saturday France reported that 5,769 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care, compared with 5,757 on Friday.
“I’m a bit surprised because if we talk about rules, about the French Open, not the French Open itself, but the country and the government, what does it change if we do it a week later?” Medvedev said in French during his press conference in Monte Carlo on Sunday.
“We’re talking about COVID here. I’m not sure it will change anything. I must say it’s a bit ridiculous. But not on the part of the French Federation or the government, it’s just the general situation. When you look at it that way, it gives you the feeling that if you postpone by one week, the COVID will disappear in one week. There are many rules. Sometimes there might have to be some exceptions.”
The 25-year-old does see an advantage of the situation with it giving him and his peers more time to prepare going into Roland Garros. There will be a two-week gap between the tournament and the Rome Masters.
On the other hand, there are also drawbacks to the date change. The grass court season has now been cut to two weeks between the French Open ending and Wimbledon starting. The shortest period between the two since 2014.
“I’m not talking about me, but a player who is going to the quarterfinals in the French Open will be in a bad situation for the grass court season,” said Medvedev. “In that case he will only be able to play Wimbledon. It’s never easy to play only one tournament in the grass court season.”
Despite his credentials, Medvedev is yet to win a main draw match at the French Open. Losing in the first round of the tournament four years in a row. Ironically the Russian lives in France, has a French coach and even speaks the language fluently.
“I just need to play good, feel better than I did the past years. What I mean by that, on hard courts maybe some matches I cannot feel the ball that good or not feel good physically or mentally, but I can still win some matches because it’s kind of automatic what I do there. Okay, play on the backhand of the guy, he’s going to miss or something like that. On clay I don’t have this. It’s much harder for me to play, which I don’t hide. I know I’m capable of playing good and won some very good matches a few years ago.” He concluded.
Medvedev is the second seed in Monte Carlo after Novak Djokovic.
French Open To Be Delayed In Bid To Persuade Authorities To Allow Fans [UPDATED)
Officials hope such a move will prevent the Grand Slam from being held behind closed doors but will it be enough?
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) are set to issue an announcement on Thursday which will confirm the delay of the French Open by one week.
Multiple media sources, including both The Telegraph and AFP news agency, have received information that the two-week Grand Slam will start on May 30th instead of May 23rd. The move coincides with France entering into their third lockdown to her curb the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this week it was acknowledged by the government that talks about potentially delaying the start of the tournament were actively being discussed.
According to Telegraph Sport, the reason for the change of date is to help persuade the French government to allow fans to attend the event. The idea being that the later the tournament takes place, the more likely fans will be allowed to attend as long as the pandemic is under control. It it was to take place on the previous date there was a good chance it would have taken place behind closed doors.
The French Open is a critical event for the FFT with it accounting for an estimated 80% of its revenue, according to L’Equipe. A French sports newspaper who has also confirmed the new tournament date.
It is likely that Roland Garros will take place in similar circumstances to 2020. Last year the tournament was delayed until September but this isn’t possible this season due to the packed calendar. Authorities allowed up to 1000 fans to attend the tournament each day.
There will now be a significant impact on the men’s and women’s calendar with the tournament eating into the already short grass-court season. Two ATP and two WTA events are currently scheduled to take place during the second week of the French Open (if the new date is confirmed). There has been no statement from either of the governing bodies so far but it is likely they will respond when the formal announcement is made.
As a result of the move, there will be just two weeks before the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon. Something that hasn’t happened in the sport since 2014.
Even with a seven-day delay it is still unclear as to how many fans could be allowed to attend the venue as France tackles the virus. On Wednesday the health ministry reported that the number of people in intensive care units (ICU) with COVID-19 increased by 103 to a new 2021 record of 5,729 people. A week-on-week increase of 13.4% which is the biggest jump since November.
April 8th 2021 – update
It has now been confirmed that the start of 2021 French Open will be delayed until May 30th. In a press release the FFT says their decision has received the full backing of the Grand Slam Board. It has also been confirmed that the delay has been made to maximise the chances of fans attending the event.
“I am delighted that the discussions with the public authorities, the governing bodies of international tennis, our partners and broadcasters, and the ongoing work with the WTA and ATP, have made it possible for us to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by a week,” said FFT president Gilles Moretton.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros, into our newly-transformed stadium that now covers more than 30 acres. For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event.”
Meanwhile a joint statement have also been issued by the ATP and WTA. As a result of the date change the second week of the Grand Slam will clash with four tournaments.
“Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case. The decision to delay the start of Roland-Garros by one week has been made in the context of recently heightened COVID-19 restrictions in France, with the additional time improving the likelihood of enhanced conditions and ability to welcome fans at the event. Both the ATP and WTA are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimise the calendar for players, tournaments and fans in the lead up to and following Roland-Garros. Further updates will be communicated in due course.”
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