Ash Barty To Skip US Open Over 'Significant Risks’ As Former Champion Signs On - UBITENNIS
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Ash Barty To Skip US Open Over ‘Significant Risks’ As Former Champion Signs On

The Australian has become the first top name to pull out of New York, but how many others will follow?

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This year’s US Open will take place without the presence of the women’s world No.1 due to ongoing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Ash Barty has become the first top 10 player to officially confirm that they will not be playing at the New York major next month. The Australian released a statement on Thursday saying she felt uncomfortable travelling to the region because of the ‘significant risk’ posed by the virus. In recent weeks there has been speculation that Barty may withdraw from the event.

“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year,” Barty said.
“I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to COVID-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.
“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the US next year.”

America has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases nationally with new daily cases regularly exceeding the 50,000 mark. Although the situation in New York, where the US Open is held, is better than many other states. Earlier this week America exceeded 150,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in what is the highest figure in the world.

It is unclear when the 24-year-old will return to competitive tennis, but she is expected to play at the French Open where she will be deafening her title. Barty hasn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since her semi-final loss to Petra Kvitova at the Doha Open in February.

“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks,” she said.

Barty leads the WTA rankings by more than 2000 points with a tally of 8717.

Osaka to play

On the same day as Barty’s announcement, it was confirmed that Naomi Osaka would be playing at the Grand Slam following recent speculation. A report by Opencourt.ca said the 2018 champion is yet to sign up for the event, which has a deadline of August 3rd, and hasn’t entered to play in the Western and Southern Open.

In a statement issued to Reuters by Osaka’s management, they have now dismissed those claims. Saying the two-time Grand Slam winner would actually be playing at both events. Although it is unclear as to why the Japanese player didn’t sign up for the Western and Southern Open before the deadline.

Osaka hasn’t played in any exhibition events during the Tour Break and the last competitive match was during her country’s Fed Cup tie with Spain in February.

Reuters didn’t publish any quotes issued by Osaka’s management team.

Others in doubt

There are also doubts surrounding other members of the top 10 on the women’s Tour. Simona Halep, who pulled out of next week’s Palermo Open due to ‘travelling anxiety,’ is looking increasingly likely she will stick to European clay over the summer. The Romanian has said she is yet to make a decision but has signed on to play a clay-court tournament in Prague, which started three weeks before the US Open.

“It’s too early to make a decision, right now she would have to quarantine for two weeks after coming back from New York, so it’s a difficult situation. I’m more optimistic with regards to the French Open, I live in Paris and still wear a mask in public, but the situation has improved a lot and I think that a 50-60% capacity event might actually happen.” Halep’s manager Virginia Ruzici told UbiTennis earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina has previously mentioned one of her potential plans includes returning to tennis in Madrid after the US Open. Hinting that she may focus her attention solely on the european swing ahead of the French Open.

“Considering how things are today, I think I will start in Madrid and will not play at the US Open,” Ukrainian Tennis portal btu.org.ua quoted Svitolina as saying on July 14th. “So this is what I think at the moment, but so it is not a 100% final decision.”

Angelique Kerber is another former Grand Slam winner yet to commit to the event.

The US Open will get underway on August 31st.

Grand Slam

REPORT: French Open Attendance To Be More Than Halved Amid COVID-19 Threat

It is understood that the number of fans allowed to attend daily has been cut by roughly 55%.

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This year’s French Open has been forced to dramatically reduce their initial plans for 11,500 daily visitors, according to information obtained by L’Equipe newspaper.

 

The number has reportedly been cut to just 5000 following a ‘governmental decision’ linked to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organisers had originally set out plans for three separate zones with two holding up to 5000 people and an additional welcoming 1500. However, it has now emerged the new number will only be applied to one specific zone where the premier Philippe-Chatrier Court is located. Meaning that it is possible that matches played on courts Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu will not be opened to the public.

In recent days France has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and reported 9784 new infections in the country on Wednesday. A slight dip of France’s all-time high of 10,561 which was recorded last Saturday. It is understood that the decision to reduce the crowd size at Roland Garros is also based on spikes in other countries apart from France.

There has been no official comment from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but L’Equipe reports that the change has been made in line with new local government guidance. The ruling will have no impact on next week’s qualifying tournament which is being played behind closed doors.

Leading up to the clay-court major some players have voiced caution about attending the event with crowds. Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios, who is not playing in Paris this year, went as far as accusing organisers of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Former champion Simona Halep has also voiced her own concerns.

“I just read that they will have fans,” Halep told reporters earlier this week. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

The French Open will start on September 28th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the reigning champions but Barty will not be defending her title due to travelling concerns related to COVID-19.

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Grand Slam

‘Her Values Are Not What Tennis Stands For’ – Andy Murray Backs Calls To Rename Margaret Court Arena

The British tennis star is the latest top name to hit out at Court over her history of anti-gay comments.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has said the Australian Open should consider renaming one of their premier courts after Margaret Court due to her controversial views.

 

The former world No.1 says 78-year-old Court, who holds the record for most singles Grand Slam titles won, doesn’t represent the values of the sport. Despite being one of Australia’s most decorated tennis players of all time, Court has a history of making various anti-gay views but maintains that she is not homophobic. She once said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘ and during her playing career described rival Martina 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 and publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner.

Murray joins a list of figures calling for a change along with Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe who both held an on-court protest back in January calling for the name change. The Brit argues that the controversy surrounding Court takes focus away from tennis and this should not be the case. This year the Australian was honoured at the Melbourne major with a low-key event to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.

“She has obviously offended and upset a lot of people over the years. I think the players certainly have spoken up, which is a positive thing,” Murray told pridelife.com.
“As far as renaming the venue. I think that yes, it’s something the sport should consider. I don’t know who makes the final decision on that but I don’t think her values are what tennis stands for. When you get to the Australian Open you want to concentrate on the tennis. Court’s views detract from that.”

Tennis Australia, who oversees the Australian Open, has previously distanced themselves from Court’s views. In a statement previously issued they said the decision to recognise the 50th anniversary of her triumph was solely due to her achievements and they do not endorse her views.

“Court was given a ceremony at the Australian Open this year to mark her achievements in the game, but the reception she received from the public was lukewarm,” Murray commented.

The issue of gay rights is rarely spoken about in the world of men’s tennis. Unlike the women’s game there are no openly gay male players and only a handful have publicly spoken about their sexuality in recent years. The most well known being former top 100 American player Brian Vahaly who came out after he retired from the sport.

“I think, certainly in men’s tennis, there have been a number of players who have come out as gay, but not while they’re competing. I think there’s still a stigma around it which obviously shouldn’t be the case,” said Murray.

There are various theories about the reasons where there may be no openly gay players on the Tour. Murray says he has never witnessed or heard homophobic comments whilst playing in the sport, but admits that it may be different if somebody did come out.

“I wouldn’t say that I have heard it in the locker room. If more gay men came out it’s something you might see more of potentially,” he explained.
“There have been a few things said in articles I’ve read where players have made homophobic comments, but I’ve not been in the presence of anyone when they have made homophobic comments in the locker room.”

Murray will return to action in less than two weeks time at the French Open in Paris.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams French Open Over Crowd Decision

The world No.41 explains why he is ‘disappointed’ with the French major as other players also voice caution about playing in front of crowds.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has accused officials at the French Open of not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously following their decision to allow spectators to attend.

 

The clay-court Grand Slam has created three separate zones where fans are allowed to attend with each of those having a daily capacity limit. The zones including court Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen will hold up to 5000 each. Meanwhile an additional 1500 spectators will be allowed to visit the area surrounding the third court, Simonne Mathieu. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says strict measures will be in place and their plans have been drafted following ‘advice from a committee of expert scientists.` Masks must be worn at all times by those attending.

Despite the measures that have been put in place, former top 20 player Kyrgios has criticised the move amid the number of cases in the country. France has recently seen a surge in their daily toll. On Tuesday they reported 7852 newly confirmed cases within a 24-hour period compared to 6158 the day before. Last Saturday the number surpassed the 10,000 mark.

“I am most likely not going to play,” Kyrgios told News Corp.
“Especially with the cases rising there. I don’t feel comfortable to go there and play.
“They are thinking about doing it with crowds. I don’t think the tournament is taking it seriously. It’s disappointing the level of seriousness they are taking towards it.”

Kyrgios hasn’t played a competitive match since February after choosing to skip the North American swing over concerns related to the pandemic. A decision that was also taken by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. Although he also previously hinted that it is unlikely that he will be travelling to Europe this year and therefore ending his season early. A approach that was also taken by compatriot Ash Barty.

The 25-year-old isn’t the only player to have express concerns about crowds at Roland Garros. 2018 champion Halep told reporters at this week’s Italian Open, which is being held behind closed doors, that she is hopeful that officials at the venue will be ‘strict’ with the measures.

“I just read that they will have fans,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

Meanwhile, cautiously-speaking Nadal says it is a case of wait and see what happens in Paris. This year he is bidding to win the major for an historic 13th time.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s the situation’s going to look like in Roland Garros,” he told journalists on Monday when questioned about the French Open.
“Let’s see how the virus evolves the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in a good way. Doesn’t look like that, no? Let’s see. We need to be patient and we need to wait to see how the situation improves.”

Unlike the main draw, the qualifying rounds will be held behind closed doors in order to make it easier for players to move around the venue. The tournament gets underway on September 21st with the main draw starting the week after.

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