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)
Tennis Legends Apologise For ‘Violating Protocol’ With Australian Open Protest
Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe have apologised for their actions, but they still have no regrets.
Former champions Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe said they had no idea that they violated Australian Open rules after launching a public protest against Margaret Court on Tuesday.
The tennis icons, who have won 25 grand slam singles trophies between them, made headlines following their legends doubles match on the Margaret Court Arena. Navratilova climbed into the umpire’s chair to address the crowd before getting her microphone also cut off. The protests evolved around calls to removes Court’s name from one of the premier arena’s of the grand slam due to her controversial views.
“I’ve been speaking out about an issue for a while now and John McEnroe is here to join me and push the conversation forward…’ she said before getting cut off.
Following Navratilova’s action, she and McEnroe then held a banner which read ‘Evonne Goolagong.Arena.’ The name of the player they think should replace that of Court. Goolagong is a former world No.1 and seven-time major winner. She contested every final of the Australian Open held between 1971-1976.
Martina #Navratilova makes a statement about changing the name of #MargaretCourt Arena after her legends doubles match on that court. Tennis Australia cuts off the feed to @Eurosport. Let's share her message here.#AusOpen #AusOpen2020 #LGBT pic.twitter.com/ZdI92ZS6Za
— Kevin Chang 🌏⚖️ (@KevinCChang) January 28, 2020
The protests coincide with Tennis Australia’s decision to mark the 50th anniversary of Court’s golden grand slam earlier in the week. Although it turned out to be a low-key event. The 77-year-old, who is now a Christian Pastor, has come under fire after a series of controversial remarks she has made, especially against the LGBTI community. She once said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘ and during her playing career described Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality. In other incidents she also boycotted Qantas airlines due to their support of marriage equality, publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner and claimed gender-fluid people are the ‘work of the devil.’
Even Tennis Australia has distanced themselves from Court. Saying their decision to mark the 50th anniversary was to pay tribute to her achievements and not her as a person. In a statement published before the tournament, organisers said that Court’s views do not reflect that of their own.
Nevertheless, Navratilova’s and McEnroe’s actions have landed them in hot water. Tennis Australia said that both of them ‘broke protocol’ at the tournament, but are unlikely to face any further penalty. However, both have since apologise.
“I had no idea there was this kind of protocol. Had I known I would have done it differently,” Navratilova told The Tennis Channel.
“But I would still have tried and made my statement, which is basically you name buildings after not what people just did on the court but also off the court, the whole body of work.”
McEnroe, who is one of the on-court interviewers at this year’s tournament, has also issued a statement of apology.
“Admittedly I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules. For that I apologise to Tennis Australia and recognise and appreciate the great job they have done to make the Australian Open a great event for the fans, players and myself.”
Despite the apology, neither Navratilova or McEnroe are backing down in their argument to rename the Margaret Court Arena. However, Tennis Australia is yet to indicate that they will even consider such a motion.
Simona Halep Destroys Kontaveit With Sublime Display To Clinch Semi-Final Spot
Simona Halep moved a step closer to a third Grand Slam title with a dominant win over 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.
Simona Halep put on a masterclass on Rod Laver Arena as she dismantled Anett Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 to seal her place in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open.
The Romanian, 28, looks to be in exceptional form as she chases her third Grand Slam title. She is yet to drop a set at the event and, naturally, she is hoping to continue in the same vein.
“I’m really happy that I can play my best tennis,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “For the first time in my life, I did my off-season away from home so I could focus on what I had to do. I had no days off and I’ve started the year very well. I’m feeling much stronger than I did before.”
The Romanian also paid tribute to her coach Darren Cahill. “He’s been very important since I met him four or five years ago,” she said. “We’ve worked hard on my attitude and my game and today I’m a better person and a better player, so I really want to thank him for the help he gave me. He’s a great person and he understands me so that makes the job easier.”
Halep’s game plan against big hitters like the Estonian is very simple, but much harder to execute. She makes them hit as many shots as possible (preferably from difficult positions) because this increases the chances that they will make errors. To do this, the Romanian needs speed, flexibility immense skill and variety of shot, and the ability to make smart decisions during rallies.
Halep has all these things in her arsenal. At her best, she combines them to make life extremely difficult for her opponents. If they play well, she beats them narrowly. If they play poorly, she thrashes them.
Halep applies pressure early on
In the Romanian’s quarter-final against Kontaveit, she looked focused from first minute to last. And she cranked up the pressure in just the third game.
During it, the Estonian hit some high-quality winners. However, she also made several errors to repeatedly return the score to deuce. Eventually, she cracked, and made an error on break point.
Two games later, the World No.31 saved three break points to recover from 0-40 down. Unfortunately for her, Halep was not discouraged. She outlasted Kontaveit in a 14-shot rally to seize the fourth break point of the game and extend her lead to 4-1.
Some players would relax a little at this stage. Some days, Halep might even do that. But not this time. She relentlessly closed out the first set (with a hold and another break) without giving the Estonian an inch.
Halep reaches new heights
Extraordinarily, the standard of play from the two-time Grand Slam champion seemed to increase at the start of the second set. She came up with some brilliant shots as she raced into a 3-0 lead to extend her run of games to nine.
At that point, Kontaveit looked disconsolate. She made two wayward errors as she dropped her serve for the fifth time in a row.
The Estonian tried her best to make something happen in the next game. During one remarkable point, she hammered the ball as hard as she could to try and get it past her opponent. Maddeningly for Kontaveit’s supporters, Halep retrieved it every time and eventually won the point thanks to a let-cord. Minutes later, the score was 5-0.
The World No.31 finally stopped the rot after losing 11 games on the spin. But it hardly mattered. The Romanian held her serve easily to seal one of the most convincing wins of her whole career.
Halep recalls 2018 Final
In the last four, Halep will face either Garbine Muguruza or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. If she wins that encounter, she will contest an Australian Open final for the second time in three years.
“(My previous final) wasn’t negative at all,” the Romanian said in her on-court interview. “It hurt a lot because I lost 6-4 in the third. I had 4-3 and serve but I couldn’t finish the match. Maybe I was too nervous at that moment. But now I have more experience. That match helped me to win the two Grand Slams that I have already. Maybe I’m on my way to the third one. But it’s very far still, so I just want to focus on my next match.”
Australian Open Day 10 Preview: The Quarter-Finals Conclude
Wednesday is highlighted by a rematch of the French Open final from the last two years.
By Matthew Marolf
Rafael Nadal is one win away from securing his world No.1 ranking, though I’m sure he’s much more concerned with being three wins away from winning his record-tying 20th Major title. But standing in his way today is an opponent who has beaten him many times before. The other men’s quarter-final features the 2014 champion and a Next Gen standout who has excelled on the ATP tour, but is yet to make a deep run at a Major. On the women’s side, we have a pair of two-time Major champions against two women looking to reach their first Slam semi-final.
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)
This is a marquee quarterfinal between two top five seeds. Nadal leads their head-to-head 9-4, with all but one of those matches taking place on clay. Their only hard court meeting was certainly a memorable one. In the 2018 US Open quarterfinals, they played for almost five hours, and past 2:00am, in a match decided by a fifth-set tiebreak. Thiem should take a lot of positives from that encounter despite the loss, and he’s only improved his hard court game since that time.
Dominic has won four hard court titles in the past 16 months, including the Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells. And just two months ago, he reached the championship match at the ATP Finals, with wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. This is his first time advancing to the quarters in Australia, but this run is not surprising based on his recent hard court resume. The slower courts in Melbourne this year work to Dominic’s favour, though Rafa will like that temperatures are forecast to rise over the next few days. But with this being a night match, it’ll get rather cool as this match goes on. Nadal has looked good through four rounds here, and passed a stern test supplied by Nick Kyrgios two days ago. However, I think this may be Thiem’s time to shine. He was oh-so-close to beating Nadal in their last hard court match, and he’s a much-improved player since hiring Nicolas Massu as his coach. In what will surely be a highly-competitive affair, I’m tipping Thiem to pull off the upset.
Sascha Zverev (7) vs. Stan Wawrinka (15)
Can this be true? Zverev, who has historically become entangled in long matches during the first week of Majors, has won four rounds here without dropping a set. It’s even more startling when you consider he went 0-3 at the ATP Cup to start the year, where he had terrible troubles with his serve. In his post-match interview on Monday, he spoke of how finding peace in his personal life has lead to good results on court. The 22-year-old has reached his third Slam quarterfinal, and his first off clay. He’ll certainly be the fresher player today, as Stan not only battled an illness last week, but has already played two five-setters.
That includes his comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev two days ago. And Zverev is 2-0 against Wawrinka, with both victories coming on hard courts. But this is a case where experience at this stage of a Major will be crucial, and Stan has plenty of that. This is his fifth quarter-final in Melbourne, and his 18th at all four Majors. Wawrinka has proven himself to be a big-match player, and excels in the best-of-five format. As improved as Zverev’s serve has been this fortnight, Wawrinka remains the bolder and more aggressive player, which is usually critical in matches like this. With that in mind, I like Stan’s chances to return to the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in three years.
Simona Halep (4) vs. Anett Kontaveit (30)
The 24-year-old Kontaveit has been a rising WTA star for a few years now, but she appears ready for her big breakthrough. This run has literally come out of nowhere, as an illness forced her to withdraw from the US Open and miss the rest of the 2019 season. Her coach, Nigel Sears, told the media that she was hospitalized for a week and had to undergo surgery. This resulted in a substantial weight loss, and a lack of activity for three or four months. But here she is into her first Major quarter-final, thanks to some impressive play. She dropped just one game to the sixth seed, Belinda Bencic, and came back from a set down to claim a tight match over a talented teenager, Iga Swiatek.
But today Kontaveit runs into an in-form Halep, who has reunited with Darren Cahill and is yet to drop a set at this event. These two players have similar, all-around games, though Halep is a bit more consistent, and a bit more skilled defensively. And Simona is 2-0 against Anett, having comfortably won the four sets they’ve played. Halep should be favoured to reach her second semi-final in Melbourne.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (30) vs. Garbine Muguruza
Speaking of Roland Garros and Wimbledon champions in good form, Garbine Muguruza is back. She seems to be rejuvenated with Conchita Martinez back as her coach. When her former coach, Sam Sumyk, missed Wimbledon a few years ago to undergo a medical procedure, Conchita filled in, and coached Muguruza to the title. Garbine split with Sumyk during the offseason, and is playing her best tennis in a few years with Martinez as a full-time coach.
But guess who Sumyk coaches now? That would be Pavlyuchenkova. This union has also paid immediate dividends, though the 28-year-old Russian has been playing great tennis since the fall. Pavlyuchenkova outplayed a game Angelique Kerber on Monday, extending her record in the fourth round of Majors to 6-1. The problem is she’s 0-5 in Slam quarter-finals. And she’s 1-4 against Muguruza, with the only win coming via a Garbine retirement. Muguruza just has a bit more game than Pavlyuchenkova, and she’s been on fire since overcoming an illness last week. Garbine took out two top 10 seeds in the last two rounds, via scores of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-3. While Sumyk will certainly have some sage advance for how to play against Muguruza, I don’t see it being enough considering Garbine’s current level.
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