Serena Williams Handed Tough Draw at 2020 US Open As She Bids For 24th Grand Slam Title - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Handed Tough Draw at 2020 US Open As She Bids For 24th Grand Slam Title

Serena seeks Grand Slam No.24. But the women’s draw at the 2020 US Open could scarcely be more open or difficult to predict.

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Much of the attention will be on Serena as she hunts down Grand Slam number 24. But the women’s draw at the 2020 US Open could scarcely be more open or difficult to predict.

When six of the world’s top ten decided not to travel to New York due to coronavirus, the pool of potential winners expanded. Even though women’s draws at Grand Slams have often been unpredictable in recent years in normal circumstances, the odds of a surprise winner are shorter this time because all the players involved are likely to face fewer top players on their way through the field.

However, as tennis legend Martina Navratilova pointed out in an interview with BBC Sport, “We don’t treat Marion Bartoli’s win at Wimbledon in 2013 any different even though she didn’t play anyone ranked higher than 17th – that’s just how the draw works out.”

Serena’s Quest For 24th Grand Slam Title

Serena Williams has a great chance to win her 24th Grand Slam title against a weakened field. Or rather, she would have if she were in form. She lost to Jennifer Brady in the last four in Lexington. Then she was defeated by Maria Sakkari in the last 16 of the Western & Southern Open.

The American’s loss to the Greek seems particularly relevant now that the draw is out, as she is seeded to face Sakkari in the fourth round. If Serena makes it that far, and beats the 15th seed, she could then face either Madison Keys or Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-final. If she reaches the semi-final, she will probably find Sofia Kenin or Johanna Konta standing in her way. All in all, it is fair to say the draw has not been kind to the 23-time Grand Slam champion. However, that in no way means that she cannot win the title.

Could US Open 2020 Be Konta’s Moment?

Konta has been mightily impressive at the Western & Southern Open. She has brushed aside all three opponents with consummate ease and looks an excellent bet to go on and claim the trophy.

Whether she wins the event or not, the Brit can head into the US Open full of confidence. She must beat Fed Cup teammate Heather Watson in the first round. Then she may have to negotiate a tricky third-round encounter with rising star Karolina Muchova.

If she gets through to the last 16, she could face a tough match against either Aryna Sabalenka or Victoria Azarenka. Then, if the draw follows the seedings, she will have to tackle a very challenging test in the shape of reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

Time For Pliskova To Deliver

Top seed Karolina Pliskova is capable of winning a Grand Slam title. Whether she ever will is anybody’s guess. But she may never get a better chance than this. Six of the top ten are absent and she has been gifted a kind draw from the pool of the players taking part.

The only match that the Czech should be worried about before the semi-final stage is a possible fourth-round against either Angelique Kerber or Alison Riske. While the German looks to be past her best, she could draw on all her experience and produce a masterclass. And the American showed how dangerous she can be at last year’s Wimbledon.

If Pliskova reaches the last four, that is when things are likely to get really difficult. She could face either Naomi Osaka or Petra Kvitova, who are both capable of beating absolutely anybody.

All Eyes On Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka (@BleacherReport on Twitter)

Despite the shortage of tennis this summer, Naomi Osaka has been in the news a lot. She has used her high profile to take a commendable stand against systemic racism all over the world. On the eve of the US Open draw, she informed her followers on Twitter that she would be withdrawing from her Western & Southern Open semi-final to draw attention to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

In response to Osaka’s decision, the ATP, WTA and USTA postponed all matches at the Western & Southern Open until Friday. The World No.10 was pleased by this move from the governing bodies, and she has agreed to play her semi-final. However, considering that all of this is going on, it seems unlikely that the Japanese player is devoting much of her time to tennis, so it will be interesting to see how focused she is when she plays Elise Mertens tomorrow.

It will also be intriguing to see how Osaka plays at the US Open. There are a lot of dangerous players in her quarter – Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina, Annet Kontaveit, Dayana Yastremska, Camila Giorgi, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins to name a few – so if she is not fully focused on her game she could lose at any time.

If Osaka performs well, she will probably face Kontaveit in round four, Kvitova in the quarter-final and Pliskova in the semi-final. And if the Japanese plays at a level somewhere near her best, she has a fantastic chance of winning her third Grand Slam title.

Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

The former world No.1 tells Ubitennis her favourites for this year’s title, what underdogs to look out for and speaks about Dominic Thiem’s farewell.

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Ana Ivanovic pictured with the 2008 French Open trophy (image via https://x.com/anaivanovic)

16 years have passed since Ana Ivanovic was the player lifting the French Open trophy. 

In 2008, the Serbian socred back-to-back wins over Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina en route to the first and only Grand Slam title of her career. At the French Open, Ivanovic won more matches (37) than at any other major event and was also runner-up in 2007 to Justine Henin. 

Now retired from the sport, the 36-year-old continues to keep an eye on what is happening on the Tour in both the men’s and women’s events. So what does she think about this year’s French Open? 

The women’s draw – Is the title Swiatek’s to lose?

Iga Swiatek is targeting a fourth title in Paris which would make her only the fourth female player to achieve this milestone in the Open Era. The Pole is currently on a 12-match winning streak after claiming titles in Madrid and Rome. As for those who are the biggest threat to her, Ivanovic has two names in her mind. 

“I think the biggest threat is Ayna Sabalenka – they (her and Swiatek) played an amazing match in Madrid. It was a very tight one. And Elena Rybakina even though clay is probably not her favourite surface,” Ivanovic tells Ubitennis via email. 

Another player Ivanovic tips as a dark horse is Danielle Collins, who is playing the last season of her career. Since January she already rocketed up the rankings from 54th position to 12th, winning the biggest trophy of her career in Miami. On clay, she won the Charleston Open and more recently reached the semi-finals in Rome. 

“Danielle Collins had an amazing tournament winning back-to-back Miami and Charleston and also playing well in Rome again. I think she is a dark horse for the French Open.” She said.
“She seems to play very freely and enjoy herself out there. She has been in very good form this year, winning a lot of matches. She has a big chance to come far into the second week of the French Open.”

The last player ranked outside the top 10 to win Paris was Barbora Krejcikova in 2021 and the last American to do so was Serena Williams in 2015. 

As for other contenders, Ivanovic hopes a rising star of the sport will perform well. 

“I think now in women’s tennis we see more similar faces in the semifinals and finals. But I would really like to see Mirra Andreeva go far.” She commented about the Russian 17-year-old, who is currently ranked 38th in the world. 

The men’s draw – will Djokovic regain his form in time?

It can be argued with good reason that the men’s draw is the most open it has been in recent editions. Defending champion Novak Djokovic is still to win a title this year and experienced a turbulent time in Rome where he received a blow to the head during a freak accident. Meanwhile, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz have been hindered by injury setbacks in recent weeks with both of them missing the last Masters event. 

“There have been a lot of new players in the last few weeks reaching far in the tournaments and beating some top players,” Ivanovic said about the state of men’s tennis.
So we are going to see many new faces on the men’s side. Of course Novak is still the strongest contestant for the title, but also Alcaraz and Sinner.”
“Novak had a little bit tougher clay court season so far than usual, but I think he is for sure peaking his full form for the French Open.”

As for the ‘strongest contestant’, the former world No.1 picks Djokovic and Alcaraz. Although there is a chance of a new Grand Slam champion. So who would Ivanovic pick for glory out of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud?

“Out of the other 3, I would pick Zverev as the highest chance to win the French Open.” She replied.

Thiem’s Paris Swamsong 

Beside chasing for glory, one of the storylines of this year’s event will be the depature of Dominic Thiem who will play in Roland Garros for the last time before retiring later this year. The two-time finalist is playing in the qualifying draw after being controversially denied a wildcard. Whilst some ruled the decision as unfair, Thiem later said he has no hard feelings. 

“Honestly I had a long time to be in a good ranking,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I had enough tournaments and enough time to climb up the ranking and I didn’t do it, so I kind of didn’t deserve it and that’s fine. I had 10 main draw appearances in the last years so that’s more than enough.”

The former US Open champion has been praised by Ivanovic who says it is ‘always great’ to watch him play. Ivanovic played her last Tour-level match in 2016 which was the same year Thiem reached his first of four French Open semi-finals. 

“Dominic had a great career and it’s been always great to watch him play,” she said. 
“It has been very unfortunate with his injuries the last years so it has been tough years for him. I really hope he can do well at the French Open and has a nice farewell.”

During her career, Ivanovic played in 48 Grand Slam main draws and won 15 WTA titles. She held the No.1 ranking for 12 weeks during 2008. 

The French Open main draw will get underway on Sunday. 

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ATP

Novak Djokovic Confident Of Peaking At French Open As 14-Time Champ Nadal Ponders One Last Hurrah

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Novak Djokovic believes he is on the right track to reaching his best form at the French Open despite missing two out of the last three Masters events.

The world No.1 returns to action this week in Rome at the Italian Open which he is seeking to win for the seventh time in his career. Djokovic last played on the Tour on April 13th when he lost in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Open to Casper Ruud. So far this season he has won 11 out of 15 matches played.

After opting to skip Madrid to rest his body, the revitalised Serbian told reporters on Wednesday that he is raring to go ahead of what will be a packed summer. Besides two Grand Slam events, he will also be chasing after his first-ever Olympic gold medal in Paris. 

“I had plenty of time to also rest and train. Had a good training block.” Said Djokovic.
“I think I’m on a good route to peak at Roland Garros in Paris. Hopefully, in Rome, I can play better than I did in Monte Carlo. The wish is always to go far. But let’s see. 
“It’s a different concept now. It’s the first time that Rome and Madrid are almost two-week events, like Indian Wells and Miami. It gives you more time to recover between matches if you keep going in the tournament, which I think is useful for me.”

In recent weeks Djokovic has also seen changes in his team following the departure of coach Goran Ivanisevic. More recently, he stopped working with fitness coach Marco Panichi and has now rehired his former longtime trainer Gebhard Gritsch.

“I am working currently with a fitness coach that I worked with for many years. It didn’t take much time to adapt to his program and approach,” Djokovic explained.
“We know each other really well. That’s why I feel like we’re synchronized from the very beginning in terms of what we want to do, how we want to approach the program of training on and off the court. 
“I’m pleased with the way the last 10 days, 14 days went in terms of training, in terms of preparation and looking ahead to this tournament, but particularly Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Olympic Games. That’s the block for which we are preparing the most.”

Nadal continues goodbye Tour

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Whilst 24-time major winner Djokovic is already planning for the next major, one of his nemesis is yet to commit to playing.

Rafael Nadal will continue what many view as a farewell Tour in Rome where he will be unseeded in the draw. At his most recent tournament in Madrid, the Spaniard beat top 10 player Alex de Minaur en route to the third round. Shortly after his run, the 37-year-old confirmed that it would be the last time he played there. 

“I can’t have a clear answer,” Nadal replied when asked how he feels about potentially playing his last French Open in 2024. 
“First of all, I want to play Rome. I don’t think after that. If after that I feel ready to play Roland Garros, I cannot predict what kind of emotions I going to have there.
“I just want to enjoy every day. I am enjoying playing tennis. It always depends on my body how far I can keep going in terms of timing. I am happy doing what I’m doing. 
“When I’m talking about retirement it is not because I’m not happy anymore playing tennis or I’m not feeling myself competitive enough. That’s not the case. It’s about the body was not able to play weeks in a row and was not able to allow me to practice on a daily basis.”
“Now is my third week on the tour almost in a row, so… It’s a good moment, even if the results are not what used to be. But I am increasing my level. I want to keep going.”

Unlike Djokovic, Nadal doesn’t have a first round bye in Italy and will begin his campaign against qualifier Zizou Bergs. Compared to previous years he will be more of an underdog in the draw. A role he is taking in his stride.

“All the matches are tough for me today and more unpredictable than what the matches used to be for me, especially on clay.” He said.
“I accept that role. I accept that challenge. I am excited about the way that I can be able to play if I keep working the proper way and my body allows me.”

Djokovic and Nadal are currently ranked in the top two on the all-time list when it comes to most Masters titles won. Djokovic leads with 40 trophies ahead of his opponent who is on 36. 

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Grand Slam

Australian Open Considering Switching Women’s Final To Sunday In Future

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The Australian Open could become the first Grand Slam to break away from the tradition of women playing their singles final first. 

According to a report from the Australian Associated Press, tournament chief Craig Tiley is open to making such a move which wouldn’t require any approval from either the WTA or ATP. However, they would likely need to consult with players first and no changes are set to be made in 2025. 

The reasoning for making such a change is due to the women’s final usually being shorter than the men’s best with it being a best-of-three set match. Compared to the men who play the best-of-five. Their thinking is that due to the length of men’s matches increasing in recent years, staging it on a Saturday would enable more people to watch the entire match compred to a Sunday when many are consious about staying up late due to the working week starting on Monday. 

This year’s Australian Open saw Jannik Sinner bounce back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a epic encounter that lasted three hours and 46 minuites. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka required an hour and 17 mnuites to beat China’s Qinwen Zheng and capture the title. 

Should such a switch take place, it is estimated that the Sunday finale would end at around 10:30pm local time instead of after midnight, which would make it more appealing to fans. Furthermore, it could throw the women’s final more into the spotlight. 

However, there will be obstacles that need to be addressed. The most significant for the Australian Open will be trying to ensure that their 48-hour recovery period between best-of-five-set men’s matches will still be followed. 

This year was the first time in history that the Melbourne major took place over 15 days with play starting on a Sunday. Organisers claimed that the move was done in order to prevent the number of late-night finishes. However, it has little effect on any matches that took place after the first round. 

It is throught that now the event is held over 15 days, it gives more room for organisers to schedule the men’s final for a Saturday. The proposal was discussed during this year’s Australian Open’s official debrief. 

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