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WTA Race to Shenzhen Update

Who has already qualified for the WTA Finals, and who is in position to claim the remaining spots?

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We’re just one month away from the debut of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, where a substantially increased purse of $14M US dollars will be at stake.  This week’s Premier Mandatory event in Beijing is one of the WTA’s most prestigious non-Majors of the year, and the last opportunity for players to accumulate considerable rankings points ahead of the WTA Finals.  The winner gets 1,000 points, with the runner-up receiving 650 points, and semifinalists getting 390 points. The only other remaining Premier-level event is the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, where the winner garners 470 points.

 

Here’s a look at the current year-to-date standings heading into the China Open, starting with the players that have already officially qualified for the WTA Finals, along with the points they’ve accumulated this season (their 2019 titles are in parenthesis).

1) Ash Barty, 5,836 points (Roland Garros, Miami, Birmingham)

2) Karolina Pliskova, 5,315 points (Rome, Brisbane, Eastbourne, Zhengzhou)

3) Simona Halep, 4,907 points (Wimbledon)

It’s worth noting Halep was forced to withdraw from the Wuhan Open this past week due to a back injury, putting her WTA Finals participation in question for the second straight year.

The following players have not officially qualified, but almost certainly will.

4) Bianca Andreescu, 4,737 points (US Open, Indian Wells, Toronto)

5) Naomi Osaka, 4,256 points (Australian Open, Osaka)

6) Petra Kvitova, 4,196 points (Sydney, Stuttgart)

At No.7 in the race rankings is Serena Williams, but it would be quite surprising if she ends up playing the WTA Finals.  She is the only top 10 player not entered into the China Open this week, and hasn’t played the WTA Finals since 2014.  Assuming she does not play, that will open up a spot for the player in ninth place.

Now here are the remaining players with a strong chance of claiming the last few qualifying spots, along with a look at their current form and their chances of qualifying.

8) Elina Svitolina, 3,790 points – Svitolina was the champion of the WTA Finals a year ago, but is in danger of not even qualifying this year.  Though she reached the quarter-finals or better at three of the four Majors in 2019, including her first two Slam semifinals, she’s won no titles this year.   Elina has played every week since the US Open, but has gone just 4-3 during that time, and retired from one of those matches due to right knee pain. In this week’s China Open, she has a tricky opening round against Anastasija Sevastova, and is in a tough eighth of the draw that includes recent Guangzhou champion Sofia Kenin and Osaka finalist Anastasia Pavlyuychenkova.

9) Belinda Bencic, 3,595 points (Dubai) – Bencic has returned to the top 10 for the first time in over three years with 42 match wins this season.  She’s coming off her first Major semifinal in New York, but lost her only match since the US Open to Veronika Kudermetova this past week in Wuhan.  Belinda is vying to make her WTA finals debut. In Beijing, she already defeated Su-Wei Hsieh in the opening round, but shares a section of the draw with Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.

10) Kiki Bertens, 3,490 points (Madrid, St. Petersburg) – Bertens will need to gain some points over the next few weeks to return to the WTA Finals for the second straight year, unless multiple people ranked above her withdraw from the event.  But Kiki is not currently playing with a lot of confidence. After a strong first half of the season, she’s just 5-6 since August. In Beijing, she already outlasted Donna Vekic in a third set tiebreak, and will play either Caroline Garcia or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.  Neither of those players are normally easy outs, so Bertens will need to up her level to get herself into qualifying position this week.

Beyond these top 10 players in the race, it will take a huge late-season surge, or some unexpected withdrawals, for any other women to qualify for Shenzhen.  Johanna Konta is currently in the 11th position, but is more than 600 points behind Bertens.  And the British No.1 isn’t even playing this week in Beijing due to knee pain.  With no other players anywhere near 3,000 points, it will likely be eight of the current top 10 players in the race playing at the WTA Finals.

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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