WTA's Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments - UBITENNIS
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WTA’s Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments

Big blow dealt to the WTA calendar as Chinese Authorities cancel all international events in China for 2020, including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

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Group selfie at the WTA Championships in Shenzhen 2019 (photo Twitter @WTAFinals)

After many weeks of relative silence, the WTA had a very eventful day on Thursday releasing its revised mechanism for the calculation of the WTA Ranking and confirming some changes to its calendar. However, the organization managing the women’s pro tour had to face some terrible news coming from Asia, where the General Administration of Sport of China in an unexpected move decided to wipe away all international sports events in China, casting an ominous shadow over some of the most lucrative tournaments in the WTA calendar.

 

After the ATP announced on Monday a new ranking system based on results obtained in the last 22 months (from March 2019 to December 2020), the WTA unveiled a substantially similar system that allows players to maintain the points obtained in 2019 if they are unable or unwilling to participate to the corresponding tournament in 2020 or if they achieve a worse result in this year’s event. The only significant difference with the ATP’s new ranking system consists of allowing players to count only the best 16 results achieved in the considered 22-month window, while the men’s tour allows to count up to 18 results.

“In order to balance fairness and flexibility for all players, the WTA Rankings will generally follow the ‘Better of 2019 and 2020’ point model, in alignment with the ATP Tour,” the WTA said in a statement. “In reaching this decision, various elements were considered including the provisional 2020 revised calendar, various travel restrictions, varying levels of player comfort of traveling to compete, as well as the elimination of player commitment requirements for the remainder of 2020.”

Furthermore, the WTA announced two addition to its provisional 2020 calendar that sees professional tournaments resume on 3rd August with the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy. In fact, on the week of 10th August there will be one new event on clay in Europe and one on hard courts in the USA: they will be the Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic and the Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky.

The former event was originally planned to take place in the spring and was tentatively included in an earlier draft of the new calendar, but then almost immediately dropped. The latter tournament replaces the WTA International Citi Open, due to take place in Washington, D.C. at the same time as the ATP 500 event.

“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all of our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide playing opportunities for WTA players and continue to showdown women’s tennis to our community – said the Citi Open in a statement posted on their social media accounts – However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon [that owns the rights to the event] and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020. We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament. We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D. C. next year and long into the future”.

But the mood at the WTA Offices in St. Petersburg, Florida changed quickly when a press release coming from the Chinese press agency Xinhua announced a decision by the General Administration of Sport of China to cancel all international events due to be held in China in 2020, with the only exception of test events for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. This seems to include all tennis tournaments planned for the months of September and October, in particular the WTA Premier 5 in Wuhan, the WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing and above all the WTA Championships in Shenzhen, as well as the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The WTA relies on the year-end WTA Championships for more than 60 percent of its annual turnover, and overall is extremely dependent on the revenues generated by its Chinese swing during the Fall. The lack of official comments from the WTA Headquarters seems to suggest the announcement came out of the blue and no contingency plan is presently in place to limit the effect of a complete cancellation of the Chinese tournaments.

At this late stage, it appears problematic to replace those big events with other tournaments in other locations around the world, not only for the difficulty to source a sufficient number of high-paying sponsors, but also due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led many countries to place heavy restrictions to international travel.

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Fabio Fognini is planning to return in Kitzbuhel

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Fabio Fognini is currently training in Puglia to prepare his return to the ATP Tour in Kitzbuhel next September after undergoing ankle surgery two months ago. His coach Corrado Barazzutti confirmed that Fognini will not play in the Cincinnati Masters 1000 tournament and at the US Open. 

 

Fabio knows what he has to do to recover from the injury and is working very hard. He trains every day from 10 to 14.30. I am happy with his committment and his hard work”, said Barazzutti, who is also the Italian Davis Cup captain. 

“I think that Fabio will be ready in two weeks. We will work for four weeks in Rome to prepare for Kitzbuhel, which will mark his come-back. If everything goes to plan, Fabio will play there. We are confident because his preparation is going well well”. 

Fognini is spending his time with his wife Flavia Pennetta and his children Federico and Farah. “I think that spending with his family will be very positive for Fabio. They give him the strength to overcome the recovery from injury. Living with injuries is normal for all athletes, but it is not very easy. He is now more relaxed”, concluded Barazzutti

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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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Alexander Zverev and Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova claim UTS title

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Alexander Zverev and Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova took the Ultimate Tennis Showdown titles in the Sudden Death. 

 

Zverev beat Felix Auger Aliassime 19-10 11-13 11-18 18-8 2-1. The German took the early lead in the final pulling away to 9-4 at halfway in the first quarter. The umpire made an overrule decision to give Auger Aliassime an ace. Zverev held on to win the first quarter 19-10. 

Auger Aliassime took a 9-4 lead in the second quarter, but Zverev used his next point x2 card to claw his way back to 8-9. Auger Aliassime led 12-9 with a minute to play. Zverev came back to 11-12. Auger Aliassime hit a passing shot to win the second set 13-11. 

In the third quarter both players were level at 8-8. Zverev used his Next Point x 2 card to take a 10-9 lead. Auger Aliassime won both his Nex point x2 cards to take a 13-10 lead en route to winning the third quarter 18-11. 

Zverev won both points against Felix Auger Aliassime’s Winner x3 Card and took a 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter. He held his own service points to pull away to 9-3. Auger Aliassime clawed his way back to 8-10. The Canadian player did not use his Next Pointx2 card with a forehand error. Zverev cruised to 18-8 forcing the match to the Sudden Death. 

Auger Aliassime won the first point with a powerful serve. Zverev hit an unreturnable first serve to save a championship point and converted his first own match point to become the second UTS men’s champion, as Auger Aliassime netted a backhand. 

“It was high-quality. It was intense. He was winning more cards in the middle of the set and then running away with it. I needed to focus a little better on the important points”, said Zverev. 

Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova also needed the Sudden Death to win the women’s final beating French player Alizé Cornet 16-8 12-11 11-14 9-16 3-1. Pavlyuchenkova led two quarters to love, before saving a championships point before taking the win in the sudden death. 

Pavlyuchenkova won two consecutive points on her own serve and two straight on Cornet’s serve at 5-5 in the first quarter. Cornet was the first to play a card with a take away one serve option, but Pavlyuchenkova won both of those points to cruise through to a 11-5 lead. Cornet dropped eight consecutive points, but she played a next point counts two card and converted one to claw her way back to 7-12. Pavlyuchenkova pulled away to 16-8. 

Cornet earned a 5-2 lead in the second quarter. Pavlyuchenkova used each of her cards and won two of those points to take a 6-5 lead, but she netted a backhand on one of the double points. As Cornet was serving at 11-9, Pavlyuchenkova fired two consecutive winners to draw level to 11-11. The Russian player won the deciding point to claim the second quarter 12-11. 

In the third quarter Pavlyuchenkova raced out to a 4-0 lead. Pavlyuchenkova used her card to force Cornet to serve and volley. The French player won both of her serve and volley points. Pavlyuchenkova hit two big serves to take a two-point lead at 8-8. Cornet won six of the next seven points to win the third quarter 14-11. 

Cornet started well in the fourth quarter and pulled away to a 8-3 lead, as Pavlyuchenkova missed an overhead that would have been worth two points. Cornet extended her lead to 11-5. Pavlyuchenkova showed signs of a comeback, but Cornet took the fourth quarter 16-9 forcing the match to the Sudden Death. 

Cornet saved one match point in the Sudden Death by forcing Pavlyuchenkova into a forehand error. Cornet attempted a drop-shot on her championships point. Pavlyuchenkova survived a long rally on her second championships point to claim the title. 

“I love winning no matter what it is. It’s just nice. There were so much nerves. Ihated the sudden death. I practiced it, but practice is much different. Now it was full on”, said Pavlyuchenkova. 

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