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Predicting The WTA Lockdown Winners And Losers

Ubitennis takes a look at some of the lockdown winners and losers on the WTA side ahead of Tennis’ restart.

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Bianca Andreescu (@TennisCanada - Twitter)

In the first part of assessing tennis’ restart from a five month hiatus, UBI Tennis looks at the potential lockdown winners and losers on the WTA Tour. 

 

After a five month hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the WTA Tour is due to return on the 3rd of August in Palermo, with events in Prague and Lexington following before the second grand slam of the season in New York. Although there is still doubt whether the US Open will happen, tennis’ top stars will be making their return at some point this season, so with that in mind it’s time to take a look at some of the players that may have benefited from the Lockdown and the players that may have their momentum halted. Firstly let’s take a look at the potential lockdown winners.

Lockdown Winners 

Bianca Andreescu 

Although the Canadian may not have played this year before the lockdown, the extra time off would have benefited the defending US Open champion. After suffering a serious knee injury at the WTA Finals in October, Andreescu has been spending time rehabilitating and recovering in time for her return. Although it is unclear whether the world number six will return this year, the 22 month ranking rule means that she won’t lose too many points in her absence from tennis and can take her time coming back to tennis as she looks to build on what was a sensational 2019 season. Bianca is definitely a lockdown winner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_A0p6jja-3/

Johanna Konta 

Another potential lockdown winner is Johanna Konta, having started the year in terrible form having won three matches from her opening four tournaments. All three victories came at her last competitive tournament in Monterrey, where the highest ranked opponent she managed to defeat was at 84 in the world. This time off would have cleared her mind and also ensured that her niggling knee injury has fully recovered ahead of the semi-final points that she has to defend at Roland Garros. The time off has also allowed her to focus on other projects such as her self-titled podcast. Therefore Jo is a lockdown winner.

Naomi Osaka 

After a phenomenal end to the 2019 season, Naomi Osaka’s frailties were there to see before the lockdown as nerves got the best of her at the Australian Open in a present v future match against Coco Gauff. This third round loss in Melbourne was followed by her disastrous display in Spain at Fed Cup against Sara Sorribes Tormo on the 7th of February. Now Osaka has had six months to mentally and physically get in shape as well as earn praise for using her voice in a positive way as she continues to call out systematic racism. Is this the motivation she needs to raise her level on her return to tennis? This break could benefit Naomi massively, therefore she is a lockdown winner.

Notable Mentions:

Sloane Stephens: The American only managed to win one match in 2020 before lockdown, serving as a reminder that much work is to be done in order to get back to the form that won her the US Open in 2018. This break could help her mentally get back on track and return to winning form

Donna Vekic: The Croatian has only managed to win back-to-back matches at two tournaments since her US Open quarter-final and as a result split with her coach Torben Beltz just before resuming training. This lockdown would have been beneficial for the 24 year-old to get back to her roots and look to rediscover the form she produced in the American summer last year.

https://twitter.com/DonnaVekic/status/1280886772180844553

Lockdown Losers

Simona Halep

Just before lockdown, the Romanian managed to win her first title of 2020 at the Premier event in Dubai in a hard-fought final against Elena Rybakina. In-fact Halep had only lost two matches in 2020, winning the other 10. Therefore the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time especially given the fact that coach Darren Cahill is still in Australia. Only time will tell whether Tennis’ long hiatus has managed to disrupt her momentum but it certainly can’t have been beneficial to the Wimbledon champion, therefore Simona is a lockdown loser.

Garbine Muguruza

Before lockdown, Muguruza was undergoing a rebirth of her grand slam winning form under Conchita Martinez, having reached the Australian Open final. Wins over Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep saw the Spaniard rekindle that hard-hitting, confident form that has seen her win two grand slams. A Doha Quarter-Final loss to Ash Barty before the lockdown gave Muguruza something to think about but there is no denying that this lockdown has halted Muguruza’s momentum.

Aryna Sabalenka 

The big-hitting Belarusian entered lockdown having won another premier 5 tournament this time in Doha having beaten Petra Kvitová in the final. The world number 11 was in free-flowing form after her first round Australian Open defeat. Ultimately this is one of the reasons why she is one of the losers of tennis’ hiatus as she now has to rediscover her momentum in tough circumstances but as we all know when Sabalenka is playing her best tennis she is hard to stop.

Notable Mentions

Ash Barty: The world number one won Adelaide, reached the Australian Open and Doha Semi-Finals before lockdown and had her momentum halted. Furthermore travel restrictions from Australia means that it could be difficult for her to defend her Roland Garros title in October.

Petra Kvitová: The world number 12 won 12 matches in 2020 before the lockdown and was arguably the in-form player before lockdown and will need to get back into her rhythm when tennis returns

 

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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