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

Government Minister Sheds Light On Australian Open Schedule

A member of the Victorian Government has given a new update concerning the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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It is likely that the Australian Open will not be getting underway on its planned date of January 18th following recent comments by a government minister.

 

Negotiations between Tennis Australia and local officials are ongoing amid uncertainty over when the Grand Slam event will start. Last week plans for next year suffered a heavy blow after it was confirmed that players will not be allowed to enter the country in December as previously hoped. Instead they can enter from January 1st but will then have to go through a 14-day quarantine where they will not be allowed to play any competitive tennis.

In the wake of the ruling, speculation is mounting that the Australian Open will be delayed. If not, players will only have a four-day period between finishing their quarantine and playing their first tournament of the new year.

Martin Pakula, who is the sports minister for the Victorian Government, said on Wednesday that it was likely there would be a slight delay to the start of the competition due to what he describes as ‘very complex negotiations.’

“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay. I don’t want to unduly repeat myself but these are very complex negotiations,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Pakula as saying.
“I’m still confident we’ll have an Australian Open, and we’ll have one in the early part of the year.”

It is also still unclear as to what will be happening to other tournaments that were set to be held in the country such as the ATP Cup, Brisbane International and others. Tennis Australia had previously said they intend to relocate some of their events to Melbourne in order to minimise travel. However, due to the delay in players arriving those plans are in doubt. If they were held after the Australian Open, it would have a significant impact on both the ATP and WTA Tour calendars.

“There’s a number of potential dates on the table. I’ve seen reports that suggest that it’s likely to be delayed by a week or two. I think that’s still most likely,” said Pakula. “But it’s not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed by many months and Wimbledon didn’t occur at all.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter [delay] rather than a longer one.”

Pakula has also confirmed that the conditions of the ‘biosecure bubble’ which players will be kept in are yet to be finalized. Although he says there will be a rigorous testing system in place.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said over the weekend that a date for the Australian Open should be confirmed within 14 days.

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Rafael Nadal Urges Calm Over Australian Open As Officials Search For Solution

The world No.2 has confirmed his intentions to play at the Grand Slam but there are fresh doubts over when it will be getting underway.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has urged his peers to remain patient amid growing uncertainty over what the start of the 2021 season in Australia will look like.

 

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the government of Victoria refused a plan for 550 players to travel to the region next month in a move that could force a delay to the start of the Australian Open. Instead players will not be allowed to arrive until January 1st and then they will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine process. As it stands during that time they are reportedly allowed to train but not play in tournaments.

The ATP has already acknowledged that ‘new challenges’ have arisen in an internal letter issued to their players. Should the Australian Open dates remain unchanged, there will only be a four-day break between quarantine ending and the Grand Slam starting.

Questioned about the situation following his exit from the ATP Finals on Saturday, Nadal said he and others just need to ‘accept the situation’ by respecting any decision taken by the government.

“I don’t know what’s the situation going to be yet,” he said. “We need to wait about what the (state) government there in Victoria says.
“We can’t do much from ATP position or just wait. We have nobody to say what they feel is better for his country.
“We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone. We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”

The head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, has tried to allay concerns in a statement released on Sunday. Providing an update on the current situation, he says a plan taking into account the ‘needs of the players, fans, partners and staff’ is currently being drawn up alongside the Victorian Government. Although it is unclear as to when it will be finalised or what the final decision will be.

“We are continuing our urgent talks with local health authorities regarding quarantining and bio-security requirements and are confident we will have decisions soon,” said Tiley.
“Tennis Australia is acutely aware of the need for certainty, but also conscious of reaching a solution with the State Government that ensures the safety of the entire community.”

The Australian Open isn’t the only issue, it is what will happen with other events such as the ATP Cup. Originally it was hoped that various tournaments which usually take place around the country would be moved to Melbourne in order to minimise travelling. Now due to the later than planned arrival dates and quarantine, it is possible some of these events could be axed. So far the only event confirmed to have the chop is the Australian Open junior tournament, which will take place later in the year.

Amid the uncertainty, Nadal says he is hopeful that the Tour would return to a degree of normality in the future.

“Hopefully with the vaccine, that ends soon and we can come back at least to close to normal in a couple of months, but now is a difficult situation,” Nadal concluded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s ATP Finals is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in its history.

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Bombshell Puts Australian Tennis Events In Doubt

It is looking increasingly likely that players will not be allowed to play any tournament leading up to the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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The start of the 2021 tennis season has been dealt a massive blow as it has emerged that players hoping to travel to Australia next month will not be allowed to.

 

It is being reported that initial plans by Tennis Australia to allow roughly 550 players to enter their ‘bubble’ within the coming weeks have been blocked by the government in a move which may force the cancellation of any tournament set to take place prior to the Australian Open. A plan had been set out for players to arrive in December so they can enter into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, it now appears that the proposal has been denied due to COVID-19 protocols.

Unless there is a change of heart, players will not be allowed into the country until January 1st and then they will have to go through quarantine. Then under the current schedule the Australian Open will start just four days after. Players are not allowed to play any tournaments whilst in quarantine. The ATP, which is the governing body of men’s tennis, has issued an internal statement acknowledging that there are ‘new challenges’ concerning arrival times.

“In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members,” the ATP told its members.
“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available in the coming days.
“We understand there is uncertainty about the start of the 2021 season, and we are working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible calendar of events to players, maximising points, jobs and prize money opportunities.”

Less than a week before the bombshell, Tennis Australia confirmed their desire to relocate various tournaments to Melbourne due to travel restrictions. The idea was for events usually held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to be moved to the area. However, it is now unclear as to what if any will go ahead now.

There have been rumours of the Australian summer potentially being extended into February which will allow for more events outside of the Australian Open to take place in the region. However, this has not been confirmed and there is no indication yet that the date of the Grand Slam will be moved back.

“Whether (players) need to be here in December… I don’t know that that necessarily means there isn’t an Australian Open,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
“Whether there are lead-in tournaments, that’s to be worked through.”
“It has to be done safely, it has to be done properly. We are working very, very closely with Tennis Australia. They are working (with) all of their partners and we’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open.” He later added.

There is yet to be any public comment from Tennis Australia regarding the latest development. Although the CEO of the organisation, Craig Tiley, has confirmed to The Tennis Channel that the tune-up events for the Australian Open are now in jeopardy.

The Australian Open is scheduled to start on January 18th.

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