One of Italy’s greatest tennis players of all time has said the decision to allow the US Open to go ahead this year is ‘madness’ as he slams the proposals being brought into place at the event this year.
Adriano Panatta, who is best known for winning the 1976 French Open, has said if he was still playing he would have not attended the US Open due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. There have been more deaths related to the virus in America than any other country in the world. To minimise the risk, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has implemented various measures including holding the event behind closed doors and conducting regular testing. However, 70-year-old Panatta remains a fierce critic.
“In these conditions I would not have gone,” he said during an interview with IL Foglio.
“I reiterate that in my opinion going to the US Open this year is madness. Obviously everyone is free to do what they want, but in my opinion there are no minimum conditions to take the field with the right serenity”.
Continuing his criticism, former world No.4 says he believes this year’s New York event will be ‘less fascinating’ due to these restrictions. Those attending the Western and Southern Open, which has been relocated to New York, and the US Open are being kept in a ‘bubble.’ Players are limited as to where they will be able to travel within the city and face expulsion from the tournaments if they break the rules.
“Whoever goes will be able to bring with him a maximum of three staff members and will have to live locked up in a “bubble” as if he were a competitor of a Big Brother of tennis,” he said.
“It is all too evident that all these limitations make this edition less fascinating and probably also not very significant.”
Panatta is the last Italian man to have won a Grand Slam title. During his career, he recorded 387 wins on the ATP Tour and claimed 10 titles. After retiring from the sport, he had stints as his country’s Davis Cup captain and was in charge of the Prestigious Italian Open.
The former player drew parallels between this year’s US Open and the 1973 Wimbledon Championships, which was also hampered by a series of high-profile withdrawals but for a different reason. In 1973 81 players boycotted the event in support of Niki Pilic who was banned from playing in the Grand Slam by his national federation after missing a Davis Cup tie. The stand off was between the recently formed ATP and the traditional organisations.
“That year Jan Kodes won (Wimbledon) by beating Alex Metreveli in the final, but it was a tournament obviously distorted by the many absences and that the Czechoslovakian would never have won if it hadn’t been for that mutiny,” he states.
Another aspect the Panatta is finding difficult with the US Open concerns the absence of fans.
“Playing without an audience is terrifying. I think that sport finds its natural completion in the spectators, the empty stands are desolating and demotivating,” Panatta concludes.
The US Open will start on August 31st.
REPORT: French Open Night Sessions Could Be Exclusively For Men
There will be an equal number of men’s and women’s matches on the premier court but one source is claiming priority will be given to one gender when it comes to playing at night.
The upcoming French Open could be embodied in controversy after a leading media source reported that a deal is being struck to give the evening slot to only male players.
This year will be the first time in history the clay court major will implement a night session starting from 21:00 local time. It has been made possible following a series of upgrades to the venue, including the use of floodlights. The French Open is the third major to implement such a session after both the US Open and Australian Open.
Although a significant argument could break out concerning the tournament with accusations of sexism. RMC Sport has obtained some information about the event and claims a deal is set to be struck for only men’s matches to be played at night. It is alleged that the move is down to the Amazon who has exclusive rights to the 10 night sessions. The belief is that they want to focus more on the men at night in order to maximise their potential audience.
RMC reports that the ‘provisional programme’ for the French Open is that there will be an equal number of men’s and women’s matches on the prestigious Philippe Chatrier Court. However, when it comes to the end of the day it will be men only. There has been no formal confirmation from either Amazon or the French Tennis Federation (FFT) regarding the report.
The controversial claims comes amid speculation over the start date of the French Open after the country went into lockdown for the third time. Roxana Maracineanu, who is the French minister of sport, recently admitted that a delay is possible due to the pandemic.
“Discussions are underway with the organisers on the methods used, in particular for the reception of the public,” the ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
“A delay of a few days is under discussion,” she added.
Both the ATP and WTA will be hoping that no delay occurs due to the impact it could have on their calendars. Should the Grand Slam take place a week later than expected, it will clash with four tournaments set to mark the start of the grass-court season. They are the ATP Stuttgart, ATP s-Hertogenbosch, WTA Nottingham and WTA ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The French Open is critical for the FFT with it generating roughly 80% of their annual turnover, according to L’Equipe newspaper. Officials are hoping to hold the event in front of fans but this is subject to how the pandemic develops over the coming weeks. Last year the event was allowed to welcome no more than 1000 fans per day under government rules.
At present the French Open is set to begin on May 17th.
UPDATE: The FFT has since published a statement in which they have denied the report.
French Open Start Date In Doubt Amid COVID-19 Crises
Will the French Open get underway next month or not?
A member of the government has confirmed that it is possible that the French open could be delayed for a second year in a row as the country enters into a third national lockdown.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, who is a former Olympic swimmer herself, has told French radio that numerous options are on the table. Ranging from holding the event as currently planned to cancelling it all together. Last year the Grand Slam was moved to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic and took place with a reduced number of spectators allowed to attend.
“We are in discussion with them (the French Tennis Federation, which organises the event) to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events,” Maracineanu told France Info radio.
“Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports.”
Earlier in the week the head of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the tournament was on track but admitted that it is possible that the situation could change in the coming weeks. During an interview with AFP, Gilles Moretton stated that any future decision depends on lockdown restrictions.
“At the moment we are on track, the tournament is on the scheduled dates,” said Moretton. “But if we are told a general confinement for two months, we will necessarily have to take measures—at worst, complete cancellation, but I dare not imagine that.
The French Open is currently set to start next month on May 23rd. However, uncertainty over the event coincides with a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. On Friday authorities said the number of seriously ill COVID patients in intensive care rose by 145 which is the biggest jump in five months. On the same day the country reported 46,677 new cases and 304 deaths.
In a bid to reduce the strain of the pandemic, a lockdown has been imposed on the country with all non-essential shops shut for four weeks and a curfew in place between 19:00 and 0600. Most sporting events have been unaffected by the move so far with the only exception being cycling’s Paris-Roubaix one-day race which has been delayed.
Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek are the reigning champions at Roland Garros.
Undeterred Andy Murray Believes He Can Still Win Grand Slam Titles
The British tennis star isn’t giving up hope of returning back to the top of men’s tennis but admits some might think he is being delusional.
Andy Murray says he ‘genuinely believes’ that he can still challenge for the biggest titles in tennis despite a series of injury setbacks that has forced him to drop outside of the top 100.
The former world No.1 has been blighted by various setbacks in recent years which include undergoing two hip surgeries in successive years. In 2019 he underwent hip resurfacing surgery which involves inserting a metal rod into his joint. Since then the Brit has still endured some problems on the court with a pelvic issue also troubling him last season. To add to his woes he was also forced to miss the Australian Open in February due to testing positive for COVID-19 leading up to the tournament.
Despite his misfortunes, 33-year-old Murray is not giving up on his career yet with the hope that he will once again become a formidable force on the men’s Tour. His resume currently features 46 ATP titles and 41 weeks as world No.1.
“Before Australia, like in December I was chatting to my team about the Aussie Open. I was like: ‘I really feel like I can still go deep in that tournament.’ Murray said during an interview with Amazon Prime.
“I was starting to believe it, visualise it and stuff – which hadn’t been the case last year or anything.
“So, my expectation is to go and do well in these events. Winning it right now is probably a bit ambitious, but I do feel like I can compete with the top, top players in the world.
“Then hopefully in a few months time if I’m able to remain on the court and healthy, with more matches and stuff, it’ll start to happen more regularly.”
One Murray’s goals is to peak in time for the Wimbledon Championships which he has won on two previous occasions. He hasn’t played a singles match at the grass-court major since reaching the quarter-finals back in 2017. Overall, he has won 57 out of 67 matches played at Wimbledon.
“I want to be on the courts at Wimbledon and feeling like I have a chance of winning the event,” he stated.
“I’m aware that that would be extremely tough, but I do genuinely believe it’s possible.
“I need weeks and months of training and practsising and matches and good health. But I do feel like it’s possible.
“I’m sure some people will think I’m delusional and that my best days are behind me and everything – which may be the case. But I still feel I can compete with the best players in the biggest tournaments.”
The Brit has experienced a mixed start to 2021 on the Tour. In February he reached the final of a Challenger tournament in Italy before losing to Illya Marchenko. He then returned to the ATP Tour by playing in Marseille but lost in the first round to Egor Gerasimov. At his most recent tournament in Rotterdam he defeated Robin Haase before losing in straight sets to Andrey Rublev.
Murray’s next challenge will be at the Miami Open which has received a wild card to play in the main draw. He is a two-time champion in Miami and also reached the final of two other occasions. He hasn’t progressed beyond the third round of a Masters 1000 event since 2016 but former player Greg Rusedski says he shouldn’t be written off.
“Andy is the most competitive guy you’ll ever see in your life. You don’t win three majors and get to number one and everything he’s accomplished without that massive belief and massive drive,” Rusedski told Sky Sports.
“Miami’s one of his favourite places to play. If he gets a good draw, there’s a real possibility of him having a good run. For me, the question mark is always his movement to his forehand side.
“You can never discount great champions and it would be great to see him playing well again. You shoot for the stars and maybe you get to the moon.”
Murray will open his Miami Open campaign against Lloyd Harris who recently reached the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships. The winner will then play Roberto Bautista Agut.
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