After A Trio Of Top 10 Withdrawals From The US Open, Those Attending Also Have Reservations - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

After A Trio Of Top 10 Withdrawals From The US Open, Those Attending Also Have Reservations

A total of nine top 40 players from the women’s Tour will be missing from the event and some those set to play also have their own anxieties.

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On the last day of August the prestigious US Open will get underway in what will be a very different look compared to what has ever been seen before.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world in tennis and the New York major is no exception. This year’s tournament will be held behind closed doors amid the potential risk of an outbreak if fans attended. To put this into perspective 732,663 people visited Flushing Meadows in 2019. Players are being kept in their very own bubble and will be subjected to regular testing. Even those who wish to rent private housing have to pay for 24-hour security to monitor their movement under an agreement with the tournament.

Unsurprisingly some have opted to skip the event all together despite the valiant efforts of the United States Tennis Association, who run the Grand Slam. The women’s tournament has been the hardest hit so far with a total of nine top 40 players pulling out. Among the absentees are potential title contenders Ash Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitoliva. All of whom are currently ranked inside the top 10.

I understand and respect all the efforts they are putting to make it happen in a safe environment, but I still don’t feel comfortable to travel to the US without putting my team and myself at high risk,” world No.5 Svitolina recently said on Twitter.

There will still be an array of top names playing in New York with most eyes fixated on Serena Williams and if she will finally be able to match Margaret Court’s all-time record for most Grand Slam titles. Then there is the potential for the lower ranked or younger players to burst through the draw and capitalize on the absence of a series of top names.

Nevertheless, many of those travelling to America still have their own anxieties about what to expect at a major event being held under extraordinary circumstances. Victoria Azarenka will be playing in the main draw for the 13th time in her career. It was at the tournament where she claimed her first Grand Slam win back in 2006 and she is also a two-time finalist. The former world No.1 admits the various rules in place had made her doubt her decision to play this year.

“To be honest before coming here when we had all the calls with all the rules and the restrictions coming in it made me a little bit discouraged coming because it felt a little bit more. It’s good for your protection but at the same time, it felt a little bit like I’m not sure if I actually want to go. It will be tough to adjust.” Azarenka told reporters following her first round loss at the Top Seed Open on Tuesday.

The limitation of a player’s movement in New York will also be a challenge for some. Due to the pandemic, New York will also host the Western and Southern Open the week prior. Meaning some player’s will be kept inside the so-called bubble for three to four weeks.

Ons Jabeur is hoping for another fairytale run in a major following her Australian Open breakthrough. In Melbourne she reached the quarter-final in what was an historic first for an Arab female tennis player. Speaking to journalist Reem Abulleil, the world No.39 fears the restriction in her movement during the tournament could have a negative effect on her performance.

“I’m trying to figure out some stuff, trying to find a solution with my team to feel more free and more happy to go play [Cincy/US Open]. My game is about freedom and I don’t know how I can play if I’m stuck in a hotel room all the time,” she said.
“Of course I respect all the rules, social-distancing and disinfecting everything, but I feel like I’m more like that person if I get stuck somewhere, I wouldn’t be 100 per cent able to play.”

Johanna Konta echoes many of her rivals when she says the absence of the animated New York crowd will be a blow. Although for the Brit she is looking at the positive side of things during what is a unique time in history. Konta returned to competitive tennis this week but lost in the first round of the Lexington Open.

I am not gonna lie, I love playing in front of a crowd. That is a massive part of what I love about the sport. So I’m 100% not going to be enjoying that gone. I will miss it. But on the flip side at least I get the opportunity to play that means more to me to get the opportunity to play whether there are crowds or not.” she said.
“To me what is the weirdest is the fact that we are going to play a tournament at Flushing Meadows which is not the US Open. I think that is going to be very bizarre,” Konta added.

Others find a silver lining to the new measures that will be in place. Karolina Pliskova could be the top seed this year if Simona Halep decides not to play in the event. The Romanian is set to make an announcement by the start of next week. For the Cezch the prospect of having to isolate in her room for hours is one that doesn’t faze her.

“I’ve decided I want to play and this shouldn’t be a problem,” Pliskova told the Czech News Agency. “I’m pretty tired. So I’m looking forward to closing my door… and being alone in my room for 24 hours.”

The US Open will start on August 31st.

List of women’s singles player withdrawals (as of 10/8/20)

1 Ash Barty AUS
5 Elina Svitolina UKR
7 Kiki Bertens NED
29 Qiang Wang CHN
30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS
31 Barbora Strycova CZE
32 Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS
34 Saisai Zheng CHN
38 Julia Goerges GER
74 Lin Zhu CHN
85 Anastasia Potapova RUS
92 Ana Bogdan ROM
97 Sam Stosur AUS
103 Shuai Peng CHN
108 Xiyu Wang CHN
118 Barbora Krejcikova CZE

Grand Slam

REPORT: Former World No.1 Mauresmo Backed For Top Job At French Open

It has also been reported that two other former players have been shortlisted for the position of tournament director at the Paris Masters.

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A leading French newspaper has quoted unnamed sources saying that two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Maureasmo has been tipped to become the new director of the French Open.

 

L’Equipe has reported that the president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) Gilles Moretto has offered the position to the former world No.1 who is yet to respond. It is understood that the offer was first made back in October whilst Guy Forget was still working in the role. Forget submitted his resignation earlier this week but his contract was due to expire at the end of this year. He said he was offered the chance to renew his contract but refused to do so due to a lack of communication and trust with Moretto.

“From the beginning of Gilles’ mandate, I felt that communication was not going well,” Forget told L’Equipe in a separate interview. “There was never any communication with him. And clearly, I felt that there was no trust.”

It is understood that one of the reasons why the FFT has approached Mauresmo is due to her recognition around the world. As a player the Frenchwoman won 25 WTA titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon during 2006. She also held the world No.1 ranking for 39 weeks and is the only player from her country to have held that position since the system was introduced back in the 1970s. After retiring from the sport, Mauresmo worked as a coach for players such as Andy Murray and Lucas Pouille.

Should Mauresmo decline the job opportunity, it is understood that another leading candidate is Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. The current managing director of the FFT who is also a former player herself. Castéra also is also the former the head of e-commerce, data and digital at French retailer Carrefour and a former senior executive at insurance firm AXA insurance.

Forget was also the tournament director of Paris Masters prior to his resignation. L’Equipe has reported that his role will now be split into two separate jobs. Those who have been shortlisted to take over control at Brecy include Arnaud Clément and Sébastien Grosjean.

The FFT says Forget’s replacement will be announced ‘soon’ but has given no exact date.

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Grand Slam

Tennis Australia Suffers Major Financial Loss Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Millions has been lost over a 15-month period, according to an official document.

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Tennis Australia’s staging of the 2021 COVID-19-affected Australian Open came at a huge financial cost, according figures published in their annual report.

 

The governing body has revealed that between June 30, 2020 and September 30, 2021 they suffered a total loss of AUS$100.02 million which equates to roughly $71M in US dollars. Part of the heavy loss is linked to the hosting of this year’s Australian Open in accordance to rules related to the pandemic. Charter flights were provided to players for them to fly into the country. Then they all have to go through quarantine at designated hotels. To add to the financial burden, during the Grand Slam fans were banned from attending for a five-day period after Melbourne went into a snap lockdown. On the days the event was opened up to the public it was for a limited capacity crowd.

It was also confirmed that Tennis Australia used all of their AUS$80M cash reserves and subsequently had to borrow an additional AUS$40M loan in order to help them with their staging of next year’s Australian Open.

It is hoped that the organisers will be able to regain some of their financial loss in January where the country will host a series of ATP and WTA tournaments prior to the Melbourne major. As it currently stands, the Australian Open will be operating with full capacity crowds which maximises their earning potential from the visiting fans. There is also no mandatory quarantine required for players arriving in the country. Instead, they will have to take a COVID-19 test both before and upon arrival. Furthermore, they must also be double vaccinated in order to play.

Officials are hoping to stage the 2022 Australian Open in more normal circumstances despite the threat of the recently discovered Omicron variant which scientists are still looking into. The first case of community transmission of the variant in Australia was discovered on Friday in New South Wales.

“We’re still waiting. I’ve been talking to the government … there’s still a lot of unanswered questions around this (new COVID-19 variant),” tournament director Craig Tiley told the Nine Network earlier this week.
“I think in the next 14 days we will have some clarity, but at this point, the plans are going ahead as they are.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th.

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Nick Kyrgios Backs Australian Open Ban On Unvaccinated Players But Opposes Mandatory Vaccinations

The world No.90 landed himself in some hot water after making some comments on the No Boundaries podcast.

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Tennis star Nick Kyrgios says recent comments made by him on a podcast were taken out of context after he was accused of calling for next year’s Australian Open to be cancelled.

 

The former top 20 player spoke about the upcoming event and other issues on the No Boundaries podcast which he is a co-founder of. During one part of the discussion, Kyrgios said that he doesn’t think that the Australian Open should go ahead due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The country has had one of the strictest rules in the world regarding the pandemic with many cities being placed into a lockdown for almost a year and heavy restrictions being placed on international travel.

I don’t think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne – you’ve got to send a message,’ Kyrgios said on the podcast.
‘How long did (Melbourne) do in lockdown? 275 days or something?’

However, the 26-year-old later clarified his comment and said his point was more about the people living in Melbourne and not that the tournament should be cancelled. Kyrgios reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open back in 2015 and has made eight consecutive appearances in the main draw. This year he reached the third round before losing to Dominic Thiem in five sets.

“To say that I’d want the Australian Open cancelled, I think that was the sentence that got taken out of context,” he said in a video on his Instagram account. “It’s more so for the people of Melbourne who have gone through hell and back. I think it’s been … nearly 300 days of lockdown and your freedom has been, you know, taken away from you.”

Next year’s Melbourne major is still yet to publicly confirm their entry requirements amid growing speculation that players will only be allowed to play in the tournament if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is due to a health mandate being implemented in Victoria which requires all essential workers, including elite athletes, to be vaccinated. Premier Daniel Andrews has previously told journalists that he would not be making any exceptions to the rules for players.

Weighing in on the topic of vaccinations, Kyrgios said the idea of having a policy on Tour which requires all players to be vaccinated is ‘morally wrong.’ Novak Djokovic is among a group of players who have not revealed their vaccination status. Prompting speculation over if he will travel to Australia next January or not.

“(NBA player) Kyrie (Irving), Novak (Djokovic), these guys have given so much, sacrificed so much,” Kyrgios commented. “They’re global athletes who millions of people look up to and I just feel like it’s so morally wrong to force someone to get vaxxed. There’s other solutions around it.”

However, Kyrgios has also said that he thinks it is ‘morally wrong’ for unvaccinated players to be allowed in Melbourne.

I don’t think it’s morally right to accept players from overseas that aren’t vaccinated to come into our country.” He stated.

Although Tennis Australia is yet to confirm their policy, media sources are reporting on Tuesday that unvaccinated players will be banned from the tournament. According to ABC Australia, Victorian Sports minister Martin Pakula told reporters that unvaccinated players would be banned from the Australian Open along with unvaccinated fans and staff.

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