Relief And Disappointment At Once: The World Of Tennis Reacts To Olympic Postponement - UBITENNIS
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Relief And Disappointment At Once: The World Of Tennis Reacts To Olympic Postponement

Ubitennis looks at how players and governing bodies have reacted to the one-year suspension of one of sport’s biggest events.

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The Olympic Tennis Center in Barra da Tijuca, venue of the 2016 Olympic Tennis tournament. (image via Wiki commons)

The world of tennis has united in support for the suspension of the Tokyo Olympic Games amid the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

 

On Tuesday it was announced that the four-year event would be delayed until 2021 due to uncertainty over the virus and the lack of preparation athletes have been able to do. It is only the fourth time in history the event has been affected by outside forces since the birth of the modern Olympics back in 1896. The first three were due to the first and second world wars where they were cancelled outright.

Kei Nishikori was set to be one of his country’s headline acts at the games this summer. In 2016 he won a bronze medal in the singles tournament. Becoming the first Japanese tennis player to win a medal at the Olympic Games since 1920. It is important to note that Tennis wasn’t an Olympic event between 1928–1984.

“I was a little relieved to hear the news of the Olympics this (Tuesday) morning.” Nishikori said in a video published on his personal app.
“I think that it is good for every athlete that it was not a cancellation and that it was postponed. Of course, for those who were well prepared, I think there are things that are difficult, but in this situation I think there are players who can not practice well and there are various differences coming out. ‘
“I’m glad to see the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, and I’ll be preparing myself for a good opportunity a year later, and look forward to this period. Let’s all work together and do our best so that this painful situation can be cured as soon as possible.” He added.

Yoshihto Nishioka had planned his 2020 around peaking in Tokyo this summer. The world No.48 was set to make his debut at the games at the age of 24. Earlier this year he reached only the second ATP final of his career at the Delray Beach Open

“I was looking forward to the Olympics very much,” he wrote on Twitter in Japanese.
“This year’s goal was to put the Olympics first, but more should now be put on human health.’
“I really want to maintain this ranking for next year.’

Petra Kvitova has hailed the decision as the right move. Four years ago, she won a bronze medal after defeating Madison Keys. She is one of only two Czech players to win an olympic medal in singles competition during the Open Era. The other was Jana Novotna back in 1996.

Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens described it as a ‘logical move.’ Her only taste of the event was back in 2016, where she stunned Venus Williams in three sets en route to the third round in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think it is only a logical decision. No matter how difficult for all athletes (and specifically the athletes who have been working towards this goal for 4 years), health ALWAYS comes first,” she said.

ITF and USTA give full backing

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) oversees the running of the Olympic tennis event and qualification criteria. It is yet to be confirmed if there will be any changes made to who can participate in the games next year. At present ranking points are not on offer at the event. Although it has been previously suggested that this may change in the future.

“The global health situation continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace and we are faced with an unprecedented situation that calls for responsible leadership and making informed decisions. Whilst this is a bitter disappointment for all those who have been preparing and training hard, we all understand that the protection of human life, health and safety, comes first.” ITF President David Haggerty said.
“The ITF supports this decision and will continue to collaborate fully with the IOC and the IPC going forward to 2021. We look forward to seeing all athletes, volunteers and fans when it is safe for us to meet and participate at our best at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

In North America, The United States Tennis Association (USTA) sympathised with the frustration of athletes training for the event. America is the world leader when it comes to Olympic tennis. The country has won 24 medals over the past 28 years with 14 of those being gold.

“The decision to postpone the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo was obviously a difficult one, and we under the frustration and disappointment that so many of the athletes are experiencing right now,” the USTA said in a statement published by Tennis World USA.
“Ultimately, though, with the ongoing and evolving situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus, this was the most prudent and appropriate decision. The USTA is in full support of this move, as the health and safety of the athletes, fans, volunteers, staff and all those involved with Tokyo 2020 are the highest priority.”

The dates for the 2021 Games are yet to be confirmed. Should it mirror this year, they are set to take place between Wimbledon and the US Open.

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Simona Halep moves into the quarter final in Stuttgart

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Number 2 seed Simona Halep beat 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 without facing a break point to cruise into the quarter finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart for the fourth time in her six appearances at this toournament. Halep reached two semifinals in Stuttgart in 2015 and 2017. 

 

Vondrousova came into the match with a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head matches against Halep after her previous two wins over her Romanian player in Indian Wells on hard-court and in Rome on clay. 

Halep hit 22 winners to 13 unforced errors. Vondrousova held her first service game, but Halep broke serve three times to win the first set 6-1. Both players went on serve in the first seven games of the second set. Vondrousova went down 0-40 on return in the eighth game. She saved one break point with an ace, but Vondrousova double faulted on the second break point to drop serve. Halep made a double fault and a forehand error to trail 0-30 at 5-3, but she won the next four points to reach the quarter finals. 

Halep will face either Belinda Bencic or Ekaterina Alexandrova in the quarter final on Friday. 

Former champion Karolina Pliskova came back from one set down to beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-3 after 2 hours and 23 minutes. The Czech player has reached her second quarter final of the year. Pliskova fired 21 aces, equalliing her career-best amount in a single match. 

Before this match Pliskova was 3-3 level in her previous six head-to-head matches against Vondrousova, who beat her Czech rival 6-4 6-2 in the second round of Roland Garros last year. Pliskova beat Ostapenko in the quarter final of the 2018 Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix en route to the title. 

Pliskova broke serve in the fifth game to open up a 4-2 lead in the first set. Ostapenko broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4 and fended off three break points at 5-5. 

Ostapenko went up a 4-0 lead in the tie-break. Pliskova came back by winning five consecutive points to take a 5-4 lead. Ostapenko saved a set point in the tie-break at 5-6 before winning the tie-break 9-7 on her second set point. 

Pliskova hit three return winners to break serve for 4-2 in the sixth game of the second set. Ostepenko fended off set points at 3-5 before breaking back with a return winner in the ninth game for 4-5. Pliskova broke again in the 10th game to seal the second set 6-4 after Ostapenko made her eighth double fault. 

Pliskova earned the decisive break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead after Ostapenko sent her backhand long. The Czech player hit two double faults serving for the match, but she sealed her first first match point after a wayward forehand from Ostapenko. 

Pliskova set up a quarter final match against world number 1 player and 2019 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty. 

Number 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka beat German qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsman 6-4 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. The 2021 Abu Dhabi champion hit 34 winners to 20 unforced errors and converted all of her four break points. 

Sabalenka converted her second break point in the third game of the opening set. Friedsam broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Both players went on serve until the ninth game, when Sabalenka got the break in the ninth game to seal the first set 6-4. Sabalenka went up a double break in the first and seventh games to win the second set 6-2. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas reaches his seventh quarter final of the season in Barcelona

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Last week’s Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-3 in 84 minutes to secure his spot in the quarter finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Tsitsipas has extended his win-loss record to 24-5 in the 2021 ATP Tour season.

 

The first set went on serve with no break points until the 12th game, when De Minaur made his seventh unforced error of the set to give Tsitsipas two set points. De Minaur saved a set point with a drop shot winner. Tsitsipas hit a forehand to get the first break of match on the next point to seal  the first set 7-5.

De Minaur converted his third break point in the first game of the second set and held his serve to take a 2-0 lead. Tsitsipas won five of the next six games with two breaks of serve in the fourth and eighth game to clinch the second set 6-3. 

The young Greek star has reached at least the quarter finals at all seven tournaments he has played in 2021. 

Tsitsipas set up a quarter final against Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Denis Shapovalov 6-2 6-3. Tsitsipas leads 3-2 in his five head-to-head matches against Auger Aliassime and beat his younger Canadian rival 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the Acapulco quarter final. 

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Andrey Rublev sets up quarter final clash against Jannik Sinner in Barcelona

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Last week’s Monte-Carlo finalist Andrey Rublev battled past Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 after 2 hours and 27 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

 

Rublev opened up a 4-1 lead with a break in the fourth game of the opening set. Ramos Vinolas broke back in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4. Rublev claimed the first set 6-4 with his second break in the 10th game. 

Ramos Vinolas saved two break points to hold serve after six deuces for 3-3. The next games went on serve en route to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-4 with two mini-breaks. 

Rublev went up a 4-2 lead with a break in the fifth game of the third set, but Ramos Vinolas recovered once again by breaking back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Rublev converted his second break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. Ramos Vinolas was not able to convert four break points at 4-5 and Rublev closed out the third set with a forehand winner. 

“Nothing has changed. I didn’t learn my lessons. The most important thing is that I managed to win today. When you are not doing something correctly, but you are still winning matches, it gives you confidence. Albert was playing much better than me early in the third set, but you never know which way it will go”, said Rublev.  

Rublev set up a quarter final against Jannik Sinner, who edged past Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11-9) 6-2 after 1 hor and 52 minutes. Rublev met Sinner only once in the Vienna Round of 16 last year, but the Italian was forced to withdraw from the match withdrew from the match due to a right foot injury.  

Bautista Agut earned his first break in the third game, but Sinner broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Sinner saved a break point in the fifth game to hold serve fo 3-2 at deuce. The world number 19 broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, but he wasted a set point in the ninth game. Bautista Agut broke back to draw level to 5-5. Both players held their next service games en route to the tie-break. 

Sinner saved three set points at 5-6, 7-8 and 8-9 in the tie-break of the first set before winning the tie-break 11-9 on his third set point. 

Sinner earned an early break in the first game and saved a break-back point to open up a 2-0 lead. The Italian player saved three break points to hold his serve in a very long fourth game. The 2019 Sofia Open and Great Ocean Road Open champion went up a double break to take a 5-2 lead. Sinner has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 against Bautista Agut. Earlier this year the Italian Next Gen player beat his Spanish rival in three sets in the Dubai Round of 16 and in the Miami semifinal.

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