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.

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Former French Open Finalist Lied To Get Doping Ban Reduced

Mariano Puerta says he told a false story to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but two former members of his team have disputed this claim.

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The man who Rafael Nadal played in his first ever Grand Slam final back in 2005 has admitted for the first time he lied to officials after failing a doping test for the second time.

 

Mariano Puerta faced the possibility of getting banned from the sport for up to eight years just weeks after playing in the Roland Garros title match. He had tested positive for the cardiac stimulant etilefrine, which at the time he said he accidentally consumed after drinking his wife’s glass of water which contained menstrual medication. Initially handed the eight-year ban he successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration to the sport using the glass of water story to get it slashed to two years. Something he now astonishingly claims was a false story.

The explanation we used as a strategy was a lie. But I didn’t gain any sporting advantage, I don’t want to be seen as a cheat any more,” Puerta told the La Nacion newspaper on Monday.

Former top 10 player Puerta maintains that he never intentionally meant to take a banned substance to get a competitive advantage over his rivals. The 41-year-old says his positive test was because he was taking a nutritional supplement which contained “caffeine and ginseng.” Something he said was given to him by his former fitness trainer Dario Lecman. According to Puerta, the supplement contained traces of the banned substance etilefrine.

“We couldn’t do anything because the pills were bought, I don’t know how to put this … not in a legal way,” said Puerta.
“My lawyers didn’t think it was a good idea to say what happened.”

At his high Puerta was ranked ninth in the world back in 2005 and made $1.7 million in prize money. During his controversy-stricken career, he won three ATP titles on the clay. The Argentine was also banned from the Tour for nine months in 2003 after testing positive for Clenbuterol.

The Argentine’s latest revelation about his lie to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have been dismissed by two former members of his team. Lecman says he never gave any pills to Puerta.

“I’ve got nothing to do with this. I didn’t give him anything. It’s a lie,” he said.

Former coach Andres Schneiter also voiced over Puerta’s new version of the story. According to the ATP, Schneiter is currently working alongside Karen Khachanov and Christian Garin on the Tour.

“I asked him what had happened and he told me he didn’t know. I thought he was lying. I sensed that reply wasn’t sincere, I think he took something without knowing and it was negligence,” he said.

Puerta claims the glass of water story was created by lawyer Eduardo Moliné O’Connor, who was a former executive of the Argentine Tennis Federation. O’Connor died in 2014.

“To today’s tennis players I would say don’t do anything that puts you in a position like mine. How can you be safe?” he said. “Being extremely responsible, do not delegate, do not trust anybody. The price that you might pay for making a mistake is very high. It doesn’t make sense. I was irresponsible.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Love, Not Money, Drives The Palermo Open As Chief Welcomes Idea Of Second Event In 2020

Tournament director Oliviero Palma tells UbiTennis Palermo is being staged ‘as an act love for tennis’ despite the tournament facing losses in the region of 50,000 euros.

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Five months since the last professional tennis tournament took place, the task of restarting the WTA Tour relies on a tournament taking place on the Italian island of Sicily.

 

The Palermo Open officially marks the return of WTA tennis following its lengthy suspension due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. All eyes will be placed upon the event which has already experienced its fair share of obstacles. Wimbledon champion Simona Halep withdrew due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured that she will be exempt from quarantine rules. On top of that, a player in the qualifying draw pulled out after testing positive for the Coronavirus over the weekend. These scenarios are the ones set to become the new normal for the rest of the year at least.

Overseeing events taking place this week is long-time tournament director Oliviero Palma, who admits that ‘everything is different’ in 2020. Due to the current climate, the number of people allowed to enter the 1500-capacity centre court has been slashed to 350 and the prize money pot has been cut by $27,500. Nevertheless, the 31st edition of the tournament boasts a strong field with every seed being in the world’s top 30. Croatia’s Petra Martic is the highest ranked at 15th.  

“The first tournament after the suspension is more concerned with the safety aspect firstly. Sport comes after,” Palma told ubitennis.net. “Even though we had little time, we are being able to control and foresee all kinds of situations.’
“The world has been waiting for the first tournament post- Covid with the public and to understand whether we can go back to normal, although with all due precautions.’
“Previous tasks do not count now, this is not the 31st Palermo Ladies Open, this is the first tournament after lockdown. Everything is different.”

Even with balls being hit on the courts at the Country Time Club, which is the venue of the Palermo Open, it is evident that there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Within the past two weeks all events in China have been scrapped, Japan has lost its premier women’s event and the Madrid Open is on the brink of being cancelled. Meanwhile, in Italy the country’s biggest tournament in Rome scheduled for September has been warned not to welcome fans to the event.

Given the circumstances, the fact Palermo is happening at all is an achievement in itself. Palma says his event has been able to go ahead due to a lower number of cases of COVID-19 and what he describes as ‘faith’ from the local government.

The Sicilian government had and has faith in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open and opened the Centre Court to a limited number of spectators, exactly to test this opportunity. I’m so concentrated on my tournament I haven’t had the possibility to follow Internazionali d’italia,” he said.

Thousands of euros will be lost

Image via https://twitter.com/LadiesOpenPA

Palma doesn’t sugarcoat the fact his event isn’t taking place without a significant economic hit. In a recent interview with Reuters he said the event will ‘bear losses’ in order for the Tour to start again. But how significant will these losses be?

“This is an act of love for tennis. We didn’t look at the balance sheet, this year,” he explains to UbiTennis.
“Our marketing experts explained to us that we will have to evaluate the revenues over this and the next year. Losses, however, are estimated to be around 50,000 euros.”

Instead of dwelling on the financial turmoil that many other tennis tournaments are also facing, Palma and his team hope to lead the way when it comes to their COVID-19 testing. Players undergo two types of tests called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Serological.

“Thanks to the strictness of protocols, we successfully intercepted a positive case,” Palma said in reference to Saturday’s announcement.
“The protocol dictates that players arrive in Palermo having already undergone (about 4 days before) a PCR test. As soon as they arrive, they do a serologic and a PCR test. They then go to their hotel room, which they can’t leave until we have the test result, normally within12 hours. As she receives the negative result, she leaves isolation, receives the badge and can start training.”

The player who reportedly tested positive was Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova who did  not show any symptoms at the time. Tomova was the only player to withdraw from qualifying due to ‘illness’ but there has been no official confirmation.

Tomova highlights the complexities faced by players and tournaments with guidelines being constantly updated. For example, in an interview by The Hindustan Times on July 29th quoted Palma saying that players could ‘have a tour of the city if they wish to, since the virus is barely circulating.’ However, since the interview his view on this matter has somewhat changed.

“WTA protocols do not encourage tourism or city tours; on the contrary, they are highly discouraged,” Palma points out.

Whatever happens this week, Palermo will forever remain the event which kick-started the world of tennis during the troublesome COVID-19 pandemic. As other tournaments start to disappear, the WTA and ATP have a lot of space to fill during the final quarter of this season. So what about having a second Palermo Open or an equivalent in the region later this year?

 “Why not! We would only need to see the conditions,” Palma concluded.

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Pasta And Preparation: Roger Federer Reveals His Secret For A Balanced Diet

The Swiss tennis star speaks with his sponsor Barilla about how he managed to keep fit during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer says he ‘cannot wait’ to return back to the court after staring in a special surprise video recently released by Barilla.

 

The former world No.1 travelled to Finale Ligura in Italy to meet 13-year-old Vittoria and 11-year-old Carola. Who starred in a viral video earlier this year of them both playing tennis on the rooftops during the lockdown. The video started as an interview with the two girls before the Swiss maestro showed up and surprised them both.

During filming for the advert, Federer spoke with long-time sponsor Barilla about a variety of topics besides the video. The 38-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match since his semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has had to undergo two surgeries on his right knee. The second procedure was required after he failed to achieve the desired results from his first.

“To be honest, it wasn’t easy, and I haven’t played much tennis lately,” Federer commented about how he tried to keep fit during the lockdown.
I am recovering from a knee surgery that I’ve had this year, so I was focused on the recovery and on keeping social distancing and to stick to the rules.’
“I was in Switzerland with my family and friends, trying to work as hard as I was allowed to for my knee. But all is progressing well, and I cannot wait to be back on the tennis court soon.”

With 103 titles under his belt, Federer is the second most decorated player in ATP history. The first is Jimmy Connors, who won 109 titles during his career. He also holds the record for most weeks spent as world No.1 on the men’s tour at 310 weeks.

Now one of the oldest players in the sport, Federer says the key for an athlete to have a balanced diet is moderation. As for his food of choice, he usually consumes pasta before matches. Federer signed an endorsement deal with The Barilla Group back in 2017 worth millions. Barilla is the world’s largest pasta producer.

“The secret to a healthy and balanced diet stays all in moderation. Whatever you do, you have to do it with moderation, but you also need to enjoy food,” he said.
“Pasta has always worked very well for me before matches. I’ve eaten pasta almost before every game, and I’ve played almost 1500 matches now, and I still love it like the first day. It is important to stay healthy.”

As for his home life, when it comes to meals Federer takes a more traditional approach learned from him and his wife’s Mirka parents. Making sure his family gathers around the dinner table ‘several times a week.’ Something that is easier said than done for a tennis player who regularly travels around the world.

“We really take a big effort and make sure we get all together at the table maybe once or twice a day, definitely several times a week,” Federer explains. “I think it’s important to talk about our day, about what has happened, and not to just sit down, eat quickly and run away. For me it is part of a nice unwinding of the day or even a great way to see each other and catch up, because our lives are all very busy.”

Federer is currently ranked fourth in the ATP rankings.

Photos of Federer’s time in Italy

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