Mixed Fortunes For Former Grand Slam Champions Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams In Monterrey - UBITENNIS
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Mixed Fortunes For Former Grand Slam Champions Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams In Monterrey

The opening day of the Mexican tournament was a roller-coaster encounter for two of the most well known players.

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Fifth seed Sloane Stephens has ended her five-match losing streak with a three-set win over Emma Navarro at the Abierto GNP Seguros Open.

 

The former US Open champion, who hadn’t won a match on the tour in 2020 until this week, required more than two hours to see of the world No.497 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Stephens looked on course for a straightforward victory after leading Navarro by a set and 2-0. However, a fightback from the underdog forced proceedings into a decider that was dominated by the more experienced Stephens.

“Obviously it has been a tough start to the season, but I am really pleased to get a win here and play some better tennis this week.” Stephens said during her on-court interview.
“Playing an American is always through so I knew coming in that it was going to be a tough match and I just tried to play my best. I thought it was a good match, a lot of chances and I’m just happy to get through.” She added.

Despite the seemingly one-sided end to her first round encounter, Stephens didn’t have everything her own way. She only managed to convert six out of 25 break point opportunities and dropped her own serve three times in total. Furthermore, Stephens’ first service success of 70% was significantly better than her second service rate of 34%.

Seeking her first title since the 2018 Miami Open, the 26-year-old will play either qualifier Stefanie Vogele or rising star Leylah Fernandez in the second round. Fernandez finished runner-up in Acapulco last week to Heather Watson.

Due to her poor start to the season, Stephens has dropped to 37th in the world rankings. Her lowest position since August 2017.

Venus out

Elsewhere in Monterrey, Venus Williams has crashed out of the tournament. Making it her fourth consecutive first round defeat on the tour. Despite taking the first set, the former world No.1 fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, to Anna Karolína Schmiedlová. Somebody who she hasn’t played on the tour since 2014.

“It’s one of the best wins of my life,” the former world No.26 said during her on-court interview. “I’m very happy it happened here in Monterrey.
“I came here from qualifying, just to be here to play someone as great as Venus Williams, so I’m very thankful. I haven’t had an easy last year and the beginning of this year, so I’m grateful for every win.”

The loss continues Williams’ slump on the tour. She has now failed to win back-to-back matches at seven consecutive tournaments. The last time she did so was in Cincinnati last summer. At the age of 39, she is the second oldest player to have a WTA ranking after Hungarian world No.431 Great Arn.

Meanwhile Schmiedlová, who won two qualifying matches to reach the main draw, is on the comeback from injury after recently missing six months of action due to a knee problem. Due to her absence, she is another player who has plummeted down the rankings to 199th in the world.

The next test for the Slovakian will be Marie Bouzková, who downed Kristína Kučová 6-4, 6-2, in her opening match.

Grand Slam

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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Stefanos Tsitsipas recalls his first training session with Roger Federer

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Stefanos Tsitsipas became the youngest ATP Finals champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001 and the fifth youngest player in the 50-year history of the year-end tournament. Tsitsipas fended off 11 of the 12 break points against Roger Federer in the ATP Finals semifinals and 12 of the 12 break points he faced against the Swiss Maestro in the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. During 2019 Federer beat Tsitsipas in two finals in Dubai and Basel. Tsitsipas recalled his first training session with Federer.

 

“First time it was like unbelievable. I thought I was dreaming, honestly. As more you play with him, the more normal it seems but at the same time it can’t seem normal because it’s Roger Federer, it’s not any other player”, said Tsitsipas.

When Indian Wells was cancelled due to the pandemic, Tsitispas was never going to wait for the Tour to resume. As there was uncertainty about the Miami Open, he could not return to Greece. He made a short road trip to visit a group called “Yes Fam”, whose goal is to spread a philosophy of positivity. Tsitsipas talked about what he learnt from Federer.

“Expressing myself more. I spent a lot of time with him during the Laver Cup in September and I learned a lot of things from him. Even the way you carry yourself, the way you speak, the way you think you can pass this to someone else. I felt really inspired”, recalled Tsitsipas.

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ATP

‘Coronabros Stay In Your Basement’ – John Isner Plays Down Concerns Over COVID-19 Threat

The world No.21 believes players have to ‘learn and adapt’ to the virus.

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America’s top tennis player have said the world ‘can’t come to a complete standstill’ due to the Coronavirus pandemic as he hit back at criticism concerning an upcoming exhibition tournament he is participating in.

 

John Isner weighed in on the debate following a comment from freelance writer Ben Rothenberg whom on Twitter voiced concerns that Atlanta and West Virginia is staging tennis events with crowds despite a rise in cases. The world No.21 is set to play in the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atlanta, which will feature the eight top male players in the country. Officials plan to allow 450 people to attend the event on each day, which is estimated to be around 30% of the stadium’s maximum capacity.

“Ben, your concerns are valid, but, as someone who covers our sport for a living it would be nice if you would be supportive of WTT and Atlanta with their efforts to put on safe events instead of posting spooky headlines like this one that are factually incorrect,” Isner said making reference to an article Rothenberg posted.

Other Twitter users have also questioned the decision to allow fans to attend the event. Georgia, which is the state Atlanta is in, officially reported 2946 daily cases of the virus on July 1st. The highest amount within 24 hours since the pandemic began. Furthermore, Reuters News Agency reports that there was a record rise of more than 47,000 cases on Tuesday in America.

Nevertheless, Isner has dismissed calls for the event to be held behind closed doors or even cancelled. Branding his online critics as ‘coronabros’ before saying he wants to go on and live his life.

“You coronabros can stay in your basement all you want. I choose to live my life and play/promote the sport I love in a safe manner,” he said.

Unsurprisingly Isner has now been accused of downplaying the severity of the virus, which has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide. Including 130,000 in his home country alone. Challenged by one Twitter user who said she lost a family member due to the virus, Isner replied:-

“I’m incredibly sorry to hear that. I, in no way, was downplaying the effect of the virus, but I understand that perception can be reality.”

It is not fully understood by what he means with the phrase ‘perception is a reality’. Although he did like one tweet which said ‘the virus is much less lethal than the first models predicted. It’s now close to the flu.’ Although some medical experts have a differnt view on the perspective. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has recently said the virus is “very different” from other outbreaks such as Ebola and HIV.

“We may not have a vaccine for a while and the world can’t come to a complete standstill. The reality is, we are going to have to learn and adapt to this virus in the safest manner possible,” he says.

The DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atlanta will take place this weekend.

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