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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André Agassi is glad that he did not have to play against the Big 3

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André Agassi talked about the Big 3 rivarly between Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer during his interview during a session at the 18th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. 

 

Agassi played against Pete Sampras during the golden era of US tennis. Sampras held a record for most Grand Slams in men’s tennis with 14 titles. This record has been surpassed by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the following era. 

Nadal recently won the 13th Roland Garros and 20th Grand Slam of his career, tying Federer’s record. Djokovic is currently third with his 17 Major titles after his eighth triumph at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Agassi won eight career Grand Slam titles (four at the Australian Open in 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2003, one at Roland Garros in 1999, one at Wimbledon in 1992 and two at the US Open in 1994 and 1999). 

Agassi admitted that he was glad that he did not have to compete against the Big 3. 

“I wake up every day very grateful that the peak of my career wasn’t during this generation. Because if that was the case, I would be on here talking about how I almost won this and almost that. We have three guys that are arguably the greatest of all time. They are all playing at the same time, which is remarkable. They have really done what the sport hasn’t seen and they will continue for a little bit longer”, said Agassi. 

Agassi played against Nadal and Federer in his finals on Tour. Nadal beat Agassi at the Canadian Open in 2005 and Wimbledon 2006 and won five out of his six sets againt the US player. Federer met Agassi 11 times and led their head-to-head series 8-3. Agassi beat Federer at the 2001 US Open and in the final of the 2002 Miami Open. Federer beat Agassi in their past eight clashes including the final of the Masters Cup in Houston in 2003 and the US Open final in 2005.  

Agassi was asked to make a choice between the greatest. The former US legend said there were points of each of them. “You can make an argument for Djokovic, too, who can play on any surface and be the favourite to win, which is a remarkable thing to say during this generation, but overall tennis is the winner. It is great for me to watch it and appreciate it and when it ends, we are all going to miss it”, said Djokovic. 

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Kei Nishikori Issues Fitness Update Ahead Of New Season

After a difficult season where he could only win two matches, the world No.41 is hoping to get back on track next year.

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Kei Nishikori (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori says he is eager to start competing against the best in the world again after what has been a troublesome season.

 

The 30-year-old has only been able to play four tournaments this year due to a combination of injury, the pandemic and illness. Nishikori underwent surgery on his shoulder in October 2019 which subsequently resulted in him missing the start of this season. Then he was forced to pull out of his planned return at the US Open after testing positive for COVID-19. Eventually he returned to action in Kitzbuhel during September but had to close his season early a few weeks later after injuring his shoulder at the French Open.

“We had a few tournaments (due to the pandemic) and my season came to an end when I was beginning to get my feel back,” Kyodo news quoted Nishikori as saying on Friday. “I really can’t wait for next year.”

Overall, Nishikori won just two out of six matches played on the Tour in 2020. Scoring wins over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rome and Britain’s Dan Evans at Roland Garros. The highest ranked player he faced was No.22 Christian Garin, who he lost 6-0, 6-3, to in Hamburg.

Despite his setbacks, the Japanese player insists that he is now back on track and his shoulder is at ‘a decent level.

“(My shoulder) has recovered to a decent level. It’ll be definitely okay for next year,” Nishikori said. “I’ll prepare (for the Olympics) assuming that they will take place.”
“I couldn’t face top-10 ranked players this season. I want to compete at that level again as soon as I can.”

One of Nishikori’s goals for next year will be the Olympic Games which are taking place in Tokyo for the first time since 1964. The Games have to be postponed until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nishikori is the only player from his country to have won an Olympic medal during the Open Era after winning bronze in 2016.

I think it’s hard for athletes and the public to think about the Olympics right now. I just want to prepare well,he said in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nishikori has been ranked as high fourth in the world but is currently in 41st position. So far in his career he has won 12 ATP titles and earned more than $24 million in prize money.

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Paolo Bertolucci believes that Novak Djokovic will finish his career with more Grand Slam titles than Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

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Former Italian player and Davis Cup winner Paolo Bertolucci thinks that Novak Djokovic has a very good chance to end his career with more Grand Slam titles than Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. 

 

Nadal won his 13th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros beating Djokovic in the final joining Federer at the top of the list of most Major titles with 20 trophies. Djokovic claimed his 17th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in Melbourne and is third on the list of the most successful players in Grand Slam history. 

At the Australian Open Djokovic has become the third player in history to win eight titles at a Grand Slam tournament after Nadal (13 titles at Roland Garros) and Roger Federer (8 titles at Wimbledon). 

The Serbian legend won two more titles in Dubai and at the Western and Southern Open and was undefeated this season before the US Open, but he defaulted at the US Open when he hit a lineswoman with the ball. 

Djokovic bounced back to win the Rome Masters 1000 titles beating Diego Schwartzman in the final. The Serbian player lost the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal in straight sets. 

Novak Djokovic has secured six year-end number number 1 honours passing Pete Sampras for most weeks as World Number 1 in September 2020. He trails only Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top of the ranking. 

Nole claimed six out of his eight Grand Slam titles between Wimbledon 2014 and Roland Garros 2016 and became the first player with four consecutive Grand Slam titles since Rod Laver in 1969  (Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open in 2015 and Australian Open 2016). 

The World Number 1 player was not able to win any of the next eight Grand Slam titles because he was suffering from an elbow injury, but he bounced back by winning the 2018 Wimbledon title. He has won five of the past Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon 2018, US Open 2018, Australian Open 2019, Wimbledon 2019 and Australian Open 2020). 

Bertolucci believes that Djokovic will be able to close the gap on Nadal and Federer by winning more Grand Slam titles. Djokovic is physically equipped to overtake Nadal and Federer in the Slam race. The former Italian player is not ruling a three-men battle for supremacy before their careers are over. 

“Novak will win more Grand Slam titles than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, even after that US Open. He is the youngest and freshest among those three stars, with a nice chance of moving in front in a couple of years. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if they all finish on the same number of Grand Slam titles”, said Bertolucci. 

Bertolucci believes that Federer has still a chance to win another Grand Slam title. The Swiss Maestro came very close to winning his 21st Major trophy at Wimbledon in 2019, when he lost an epic five-set final against Djokovic. The Swiss Maestro reached the semifinal at this year’s Australian Open before undergoing knee surgery, but he is training for the 2021 Australian Open. 

“It’s very difficult, because it’s been four years, but it’s also true for others it would be twice as much difficult. He will have a chance too, but we have to see at what level he will be able to express himself, how he will return after the operations”, said Bertolucci. 

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