Mixed Messages Over Social Justice Leaves Question Marks Over Tennis Unity - UBITENNIS
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Mixed Messages Over Social Justice Leaves Question Marks Over Tennis Unity

Naomi Osaka lead the charge for social justice but tennis’ mixed messages seem to raise more questions than answers.

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Naomi Osaka (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

Recent mixed messages over social justice in tennis have left more questions than answers in regards to tennis’ call for unity.

It was on Thursday, where the sporting world made their stance clear in regards to how important social justice and inequality is.

First the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA boycotted a few days of play after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, 35 minutes away from where the Bucks play.

Then baseball and other major American sports organisations made their stance clear by following the NBA’s example.

Finally we get to tennis, where Naomi Osaka decided to boycott her Western and Southern Open semi-final as her and Coco Gauff have refused to remain silent on how important social justice is and sharing the message that black people’s lives do indeed matter.

What followed was beyond Osaka’s wildest dreams as the ATP and WTA united in joining the world number 10’s boycott and paused play for the day.

It was an unexpected and a perfect scenario for Osaka as she said after her eventual semi-final win yesterday over Elise Mertens, “I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Then I got a call from Steve Simon and he said he was really supportive.,” Osaka was quoted as saying by Courtney Nguyen.

“My one thing I didn’t want people to blame me for the one day break if it messed up their schedule. But everyone I talked to was really supportive.”

This was now Tennis’ chance to lead by example and show the world that tennis is taking social justice seriously. The US Open followed by showing a video of the importance of black tennis players in the past.

However Tennis’ united stance did not last long as during yesterday’s press conferences with Naomi Osaka, Elise Mertens and Victoria Azarenka, WTA’s moderator reiterated that questions should stick with tennis.

A disappointing setback, with that same tone seem to be missing when other issues have been brought up in previous press conferences such as the Belarus protests.

In addition, Victoria Azarenka refused to answer the question about tennis’ pause to celebrate social justice with also there being speculation that the male tennis players were not best pleased that tennis was paused for a day without their consultation.

This latest obstacle shows that tennis is more divided than ever before with Naomi Osaka’s hopes of long-term longevity fading pretty quickly.

Now ahead of Novak Djokovic’s and Vasek Posipisil’s players association, that may not include women, there seems to be no united way forward.

A few months ago Roger Federer’s idea of an ATP-WTA merger received a positive reaction from WTA’s players as they looked to negotiate equal pay at all events amongst other potential obstacles ahead of a big move in tennis.

Now, ahead of the US Open, the players and tennis governing bodies seem more split than before on tennis’s direction on the future of the sport and it’s position on social issues.

Naomi Osaka made her voice known on Thursday through her actions and was hoping that her colleagues would back her up for the long term.

Her colleagues supported her through their words but not through their actions. Now tennis has more problems to solve and more questions to answer.

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Iga Swiatek Demolishes Aryna Sabalenka To Seal Third Rome Title

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title after a dominant victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

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(@InteBNLdItalia - Twitter)

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title by dominating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-3 to send a big message of intent ahead of Roland Garros.

The world number one completed the Madrid and Rome double with a sensational performance.

Now Swiatek is the titleholder for the three biggest clay court titles as she will aim to defend her Roland Garros title.

The contest was a rematch from the Madrid final but this was far from the three hour contest that was produced in Spain.

Swiatek raised her level of play while Sabalenka committed way too many unforced errors throughout the contest.

The Pole broke on two occasions to wrap up a comfortable 37 minute set as her forehand was doing a lot of damage.

There was a comeback in the second set from the Australian Open champion as she produced effortless and consistent power, making the second set very competitive.

The world number one was forced to save break points as she just managed to be more stable on big moments.

A more controlled second set from Swiatek was rewarded towards the end of the set as once again Sabalenka crumbled under pressure when it mattered.

Two late breaks of serve completed the Swiatek surge as the Pole enters the second Grand Slam of the season in dominant form.

As for Sabalenka it’s a disappointing performance that she will look to put right at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros starts on the 26th of May where Swiatek is defending champion.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Nicolas Jarry for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Nicolas Jarry on Friday night in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Sunday features three championship matches: the finals in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles.

On Sunday in Rome, Sascha Zverev will play for his first Masters 1000 title in over two years, while Nicolas Jarry will play in his first-ever final above ATP 250 level.  Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they are tied at 2-2 on clay.  Which man will walk away with the title?


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Nicolas Jarry (21) – Not Before 5:00pm on Center Court

Zverev is 27-9 this season, and lost only one set on his way to this championship match.  That came in the semifinals against another Chilean, Alejandro Tabilo.  This is Sascha’s first ATP final since September of last year, and he’s playing for his first Masters 1000 title since 2021 in Cincinnati.  Zverev will soon go on trial in his home country of Germany, as he faces charges of domestic abuse.

Just like eventual champion Andrey Rublev in Madrid, Jarry arrived in Rome on a four-match losing streak.  And he had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Masters 1000 tournament, so this result is quite surprising.  But 28-year-old Jarry is a tall presence (6’7”) who thumps the ball.  As per Tennis Channel, he was averaging 89 mph on his forehand during his three-set semifinal victory over Tommy Paul.  Nico has claimed a trio of three-setters on the way to the biggest match of his career, most notably upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

Zverev certainly has a huge edge in experience at this level, and in finals.  This is his 33rd ATP final, where he holds a record of 21-11.  And it’s his 11th Masters 1000 final, where he is 5-5.  Jarry has only previously appeared in six finals, all at 250-level, where he is 3-3.  But clay is the Chliean’s specialty, as all seven of his career finals have come on this surface.

Yet sometimes experience has a negative impact, particularly when you have suffered some painful losses.  Zverev has lost four of his last six Masters 1000 finals, and he is infamously 1-6 in Major semifinals.  So he has a lot of recent scar tissue from high-profile matches.

In that way, Jarry may benefit from a lack of experience.  While he’ll certainly be nervous on this big occasion, Nico has displayed plenty of confidence and composure against more experienced players throughout this event.  And he owns two prior victories over Zverev.  But when these two met in another final, five years ago in Geneva, Sascha saved two championship points to prevail.  That’s a result that sticks with both players throughout their rivalry.

However, I’m picking Jarry to pull off the upset and win the biggest title of his career on Sunday.  Zverev has a history of getting tight and playing more defensively in crucial moments.  Jarry’s aggressive mindset can take full advantage of such passive play.  And with so many top ATP players currently battling injuries, Zverev will likely feel a lot of pressure to win this title ahead of Roland Garros, especially as the much higher seed on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic – The top seeds are playing for their sixth Masters 1000 title as a team, and own a record of 5-1 in finals at this level.  Arevalo and Pavic are vying for the first Masters 1000 title of their new partnership for 2024.  Both teams are yet to drop a set this fortnight. 

Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe (3) vs. Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini – This is the first tournament for the team of Gauff and Routliffe, though both have won big doubles titles with other partners.  This is the biggest final to date for the Italian team of Errani and Paolini, though Errani won five WTA 1000 doubles titles alongside Roberta Vinci a decade ago, while Paolini won the WTA 1000 event in Dubai earlier this year in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Criticises Gender Pay Gap And Responds To Critics Ahead Of Roland Garros

Emma Raducanu has criticised the gender pay gap in tennis as Rome’s prize money for the women’s tournament was significantly lower than the men’s tournament.

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Emma Raducanu has criticised the gender pay gap after the tournament in Rome significantly payed less to it’s female athletes than it’s main counterparts.

Although Roland Garros and the tournament in Madrid offered the same pay to the winners of both female and male competitions, the same cannot be said for Rome this week.

The winner between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka will get 250,000 Euros less than the winner of the men’s final between Alexander Zverev and Nicolas Jarry.

It’s a statistic that is damning on the sport and Emma Raducanu has criticised the figure as she states that the women’s game is technically better than the men’s game, “A lot of women’s players are technically better,” Raducanu told The Times.

“They rely on speed, agility and brain rather than brute strength. The prize money gap is huge on the ATP tour, which I don’t necessarily think is fair, but equally playing three sets in the slams is a lot better than the men’s five, which is brutal.”

Meanwhile as for Raducanu, the Brit is preparing for Roland Garros qualifying next week as she missed out on a wildcard into the main draw.

Despite Raducanu’s gradual improvement over the last few weeks the trolls on social media have failed to go away as the former US Open champion continues her commercial commitments.

Speaking out on the critics Raducanu stated that they don’t see the work of an athlete behind the scenes, “There are those who see me doing a shoot or posing for a commercial and they don’t see the seven hours before that at the training centre, doing physio, gym, hitting balls,” Raducanu explained.

“But if on a rare evening I go to a premiere and I get photographed, that’s my downtime.”

Next week’s appearance in Paris will only be Raducanu’s second Roland Garros having reached the second round two years ago.

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