Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge

Simona Halep continued her impressive progress through the Australian Open draw with a straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens.

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Simona Halep (@Femei_din_sport on Twitter)

Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and secure her place in the quarter-final of the Australian Open for the fourth time.

 

The Romanian, 28, reached the final two years ago and lost an epic clash to Caroline Wozniacki. She has not dropped a set so far this year and she is probably quietly confident about her chances of winning the title (particularly with all the high-profile exits) but, as she said in her press conference after the previous round, she is focusing on each match as it comes.

“It’s a great performance by me to reach the quarter-finals again,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I played against (Mertens) in the final in Doha last year. I was leading a set and 4-2 and then lost the match, so I knew I had to stay focused.”

She continued, “I had to calm myself down. When I get a little bit nervous, I get crazy on court. So I had to stay cool to get the energy from my box.”

Halep makes life difficult for Mertens

Halep’s calmness was a feature of the day. She dealt with most of the challenging moments in a composed manner and never let herself get derailed by a poor shot or a lost service. Consequently, she ended up with outstanding statistics: 21 winners and just eight unforced errors.

These numbers reflect the pattern of the match, which was established early on. Mertens went for her shots and tried to hit as many winners as possible. Meanwhile, Halep defended brilliantly and made sure her opponent had to play plenty of long points.

Each extended rally brought with it an increased risk of the Belgian making an unforced error. And it was a method that worked well, as the Romanian won 15 points with this method in the first five games.

With the help of those 15 unforced errors from Mertens, Halep earned a 3-2 lead thanks to a break in game three. During that game, the Belgian cancelled out her own winners with unforced errors. Despite this, she still managed to save three break points before the Romanian eventually seized the break with an excellent forehand winner.

The World No.17’s aggressive approach eventually paid off in game six. She struck three impressive winners to break Halep and make it 3-3.

Unfortunately for Mertens, the Romanian then demonstrated why she is a two-time Grand Slam champion. She put the setback out of her mind immediately and put the Belgian under all kinds of pressure in game seven.

Then Halep raised her game again and hit two stunning forehand winners to break Mertens easily in game nine. She clenched her fist in celebration, and then re-focused to secure the hold she needed to clinch the set 6-4.

Halep withstands Mertens’ fightback

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

At the start of the second set, the World No.3 produced some sparkling tennis. She hit a precise forehand winner to seal an immediate break. Then she hit an extraordinary angled backhand winner at full stretch to move 2-0 ahead.

In game three, Mertens was 40-30 ahead. Then Halep hit three consecutive forehand winners to break the Belgian again. At that stage, it looked like she might run away with the set.

However, the World No.17 was not ready to concede defeat just yet. She struck two winners and a powerful forehand to earn three break points. Then the Romanian missed a backhand to confirm the break.

Both players enjoyed a rare love hold to move the score along to 4-2. Then Mertens won a series of long rallies to make it 4-3.

This gave the Belgian a platform to attack Halep’s serve. And she did it to great effect. She drove the Romanian back behind the baseline to win one point. Then she unleashed a huge forehand to earn a break point, followed by a classy volley to seal the break.

Both players contested the next game like their lives depended on it. They engaged in a series of long rallies, and eventually it just came down to which woman held her nerve. Halep eventually took it on her fifth break point when Mertens volleyed just wide.

The Romanian closed the match out clinically. She hit an unreturnable serve, a forehand winner and an ace to move 40-0 up. Then the Belgian missed a backhand and the clash was over.

Halep will now face either Anett Kontaveit or Iga Swiatek in the last eight. She will be the heavy favourite to win whichever player makes it through.

Grand Slam

Only Double Vaccinated Players Will Be Allowed To Play Australian Open – Government Minister

Players will not be exempt from a ‘universal application’ applied to those wishing to travel to the country.

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A high ranking official from the Australian government has confirmed for the first time that players will not be allowed to enter the country next year if they have not been double vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Immigration minister Alex Hawke has stated that there will be no exemptions in force for tennis players hoping to play in the Australian Open amid recent speculation. According to Andrey Rublev, he had been told that unvaccinated players could be allowed to play but will have to enter into a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday that it was unlikely visas would be issued to those who are unvaccinated.

Trying to clarify the current situation, Hawke has told ABC radio that all entrants into the country will be required to be vaccinated regardless of who they are. His comments come before Tennis Australia has made any official announcement regarding the tournament and it’s entry requirements.

“The government in establishing its borders has said that you’ll need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia. That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players. I mean that every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke said on ABC radio.

The move raises further questions about the prospect of Novak Djokovic being able to attend the Australian Open. The 20-time Grand Slam champion recently said he doesn’t want to reveal his vaccination status to the public. In the past he said he was against the idea of being forced to have a vaccination but rejects allegations that he is an anti-vaxxer.

“I don’t have a message to Novak. I have a message to everybody that wishes to visit Australia. He’ll need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke later added.

Unlike other sports, tennis’ governing bodies have not issued any public statements outlining the vaccination rates among players on their Tour’s. Reuters news agency estimates the vaccination rate is 65% for the ATP and 60% for the WTA based on recent media reports. However, The Age newspaper reports those who are double vaccinated are below half with 35% for the ATP and 40% for the WTA.

As for the suggestion that players who had already contracted COVID-19 should be allowed into the country regardless of their vaccine status, the president of the Victorian Australian Medical Association has dismissed the idea.

“I understand he [Djokovic] had it [coronavirus] but, believe it or not, the immunity from the vaccination is better than the immunity from catching the disease,” Dr Roderick McRae told The Age.
“I think there is an element of standards [here]. It’s important our leaders make these decisions in our interests and it [banning unvaccinated travellers] demonstrates to the community just how important we take this.”

The Australian Open will begin on January 17th. Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the reigning champions.

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Grand Slam

Victorian Premier: Unvaccinated Players Likely To Be Refused Visas To Play Australian Open

The government official has issued a warning ahead of the Grand Slam but one player say they have been told something different…

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photo by atpworldtour.com

The head of the Victorian Government has said there is a good chance that any player who is unvaccinated will be refused entry into Australia next year and be excluded from the Australian Open.

 

Daniel Andrews has insisted that no deals will be cut with the players where they could receive special treatment in order for them to enter the region. Recently local officials implemented a health mandate in Victoria requiring essential workers to be vaccinated, including professional athletes. The move has prompted speculation over the implications that will have on the upcoming Australian Open which will get underway in January.

Andrews, who has been the Premier of Victoria since 2014, will not be the person who has the final say as to if unvaccinated players will be allowed to enter the country. That will be decided by the national government. However, in a press conference on Tuesday he cast serious doubt over their chances.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.
“AFL players have to be vaccinated, but they’re Aussies, they’re not coming from other countries.
“I don’t think any other tennis player, or golfer, or Formula One driver, will even get a visa to get here.
“Professional sport is part of that authorised worker list and they have to be double dose vaccinated.”

The warning comes less than 24 hours after Blic newspaper published an interview with world No.1 Novak Djokovic who admits he is unsure about playing at the tennis major. Djokovic declined to reveal his vaccination status and has accused the media of causing a divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. He has won the Australian Open men‘s title a record nine times.

“I won’t disclose whether I am vaccinated or not. It is a private matter, I think it is inappropriate to ask a person that. Too many people allow themselves the freedom to ask and then to judge. Whatever you say – I have, I have not, maybe, I do not know or I am thinking about it – they will use it against you,” he said.

Tennis Australia has not commented on Andrews’ statement and it is unclear as to when a final decision will be made. Although Djokovic believes a final decision could come in two weeks time.

Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev has contradicted what Andrews has said during a press conference in Moscow. Speaking to reporters the Russian says it is his understanding that unvaccinated players will be allowed to play the Australian Open but they will be forced to enter into a 14-day quarantine. Meaning they will miss tournaments such as the ATP Cup leading up to the Grand Slam.

“If athletes do not want to stay in quarantine for two weeks, then they must be vaccinated. As far as I know, Australians recognize many vaccines. If you do not get vaccinated, then you will not be able to leave the room for two weeks. Then you won’t be able to play either the ATP Cup or the tournaments before the Australian Open.” Said Rublev.

Besides the players, local fans attending the Australian Open could also be refused entry if they are unvaccinated and their freedoms won’t be relaxed until ‘well into 2022.’ Andrews said he doubts crowds at the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place three months after the Melbourne major, will not include those are are not double jabbed.

“Why would you get the system going, have the thing up and running and then essentially pull down all of the architecture that you’ve built, the culture that you’ve changed – why would you change that four or five weeks later?” He said.
“For example, the Grand Prix is in April, I don’t think there will be crowds at the Grand Prix made up of people who have not been double dosed.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th.

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Grand Slam Matches Among 38 Suspicious Betting Alerts Over Past Three Months

The body is charge of monitoring match-fixing in the sport has issued their latest findings.

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The International Tennis Integrity Agency has confirmed they have received ‘match alerts’ concerning a quartet of matches which took place at Grand Slam tournaments during the third quarter of 2021.

 

Two matches played at Wimbledon and a further two which took place at the US Open were flagged up, according to their quarterly report which was public on Tuesday. The names of the individuals involved in those matches are not made public whilst the ITIA investigate the matter. The alerts are received through their confidential Memoranda of Understanding with the regulated betting industry.

A total of 38 betting alerts were issued to the ITIA during the third quarter with the most coming from matches played on the Challenger Tour (13). There were also nine suspicious matches from ITF $25,000 tournaments on the men’s Tour and another seven linked to $15,000 events. To put that into context the women’s ITF Tour reported a total of three overall.

“It is important to note that an alert on its own is not evidence of match fixing,” the ITIA stated in their report.
“Unusual betting patterns can occur for many reasons other than match fixing – for example incorrect odds-setting; well-informed betting; player fitness, fatigue or form; playing conditions and personal circumstances.”

Five players have been sanctioned within the past three months for match-fixing offences with the most high-profile being Temur Ismailov from Uzbekistan. Ismailov, who reached a ranking high of 397th in 2016, was issued with a life ban after being found guilty of offences in addition to another suspension he was already serving.

The ITIA has also provisionally suspended six Moroccans and one Pervian player in connection with possible violations of anti-corruption rules.

The ITIA was created by the international governing bodies to investigate allegations against players and hand out sanctions. It is currently in the process of merging with the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) and will oversee the global administration of the TADP from January 1st if it receives Board approval.

Number of alerts (third quarter of 2021 only)

  • Wimbledon: 2
  • US Open: 2
  • ATP Challenger: 13
  • ATP World Tour: 250 1
  • Davis Cup: 1
  • M25 Men’s – World Tennis Tour: 9
  • M15 Men’s – World Tennis Tour: 7
  • W15 Women’s – World Tennis Tour: 2
  • W80 Women’s – World Tennis Tour: 1

TOTAL: 38

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