The Most Unpredictable US Open Ever: Previewing The Women’s Draw - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

The Most Unpredictable US Open Ever: Previewing The Women’s Draw

Grand Slam tennis is back, but with no certainties from a technical perspective. Will Serena Williams be able to back her role as the favourite?




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Women’s tennis is in an anomalous situation, completely different from the usual Grand Slam build-up.

The reasons are now well-known: the “bubble” engulfing the whole event, the absence of crowds, the very few tournaments played in the weeks leading up to the tournament, as well as, consequently, the total uncertainty surrounding the form of the top players. Such uncertainty has further increased in the last few days, since the first two seeds were defeated on their debut in the only preparatory Premier 5 event (normally played in Cincinnati, but this year taking place at Flushing Meadows). The first seed, Karolina Pliskova, was in fact eliminated by Veronika Kudermetova for 7-5 6-4, while Sofia Kenin was ousted by Alizè Cornet with a 6-1, 7-6 score, a scoreline that could have been even worse, since she saved two match points at 6-1, 5-2 down.

Therefore, at the moment this is the situation on the brink of the US Open: the fitness level of the players who are in New York is still to be ascertained, while we already know that many standouts will be missing. The participation field of the Top 10 is in fact crippled, so much so that one wonders: how much will the next US Open be worth? Will it be considered a “real” Grand Slam event or not? For instance, former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has already played down its value. She did so with a hyperbole (“20 of the best 32 in the world will be missing”), but if instead of generic numbers she should had mentioned the real data, perhaps she would have made no less impression. In fact, six of the top eight players in the world will be missing. Here is the list of the absent members of the WTA Top 10:

1. Ashleigh Barty

2. Simona Halep

5. Elina Svitolina

6. Bianca Andreescu

7. Kiki Bertens

8. Belinda Bencic

As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for the presence of Pliskova and Kenin (N.3 and 4 in the rankings), the highest seeds would be players who would normally feature in the Zhuhai Championships, the one whose participants are ranked from No.9-16 in the world. In addition, we know that several lower-ranked players will be missing too, such as Wang Qiang, Pavlyuchenkova, Strycova, Kuznetsova, Zheng, Goerges, Ferro, Zhu, Wang Yafan, Potapova, Bogdan and Stosur.

How much will the intrinsic prestige of the Grand Slam be able to mask these absences? I think that the answer will partly depend on the quality of play. If the lack of so many top players will be particularly felt, and if in general the matches will be underwhelming, that will be one more huge blow to the tournament. However, in the event of multiple top-notch nail-biters (the playing field has all the means to offer such a spectacle), the credibility of the 2020 US Open will be one step closer to being restored.

Aside from everything else, however, regardless of the individual and personal interpretations of each of us (commentators, journalists, enthusiasts), I believe that the definitive answer will be given by history. Let me explain: if in the future the habit of putting an asterisk next to this US Open will persist, underlining that the tournament has had a lot of participants not showing up, inevitably the Slam aura will be tarnished.

On the other hand, if the prevailing trend won’t involve too many negative connotations and/or caveats, in the long run the tournament will end up being “digested” roughly like your average Major. However, it will take years to verify how it will be judged, years that are always necessary to make an evaluation from a historical perspective. As for the near future, I can already picture the diatribes between fans when it comes to the player who will come out as a winner from the US Open 2020: “Oh yeah, to win that Slam was a real accomplishment, wasn’t it?” (ironic tone).

Maybe I’m wrong, but there is an outcome that would immediately overshadow the question, i.e. a Serena Williams win, mainly because, as a whole, Serena’s resumé is untouchable anyway. While talking about the historical milestone that she could reach (equaling Margaret Smith Court’s 24 Majors), no one could have much to object, given that Court boasts 11 Australian Open titles, some of which she won against a less than competitive field.

Let’s take a look, for example at the Australian Championships 1961 draw, which featured less than 50 players at the start, all of them Aussies apart from the Brit Vivienne Cox. Or that of 1964, which took her just four matches to win. By comparing these victories to hers, Williams would be able to add the next US Open to her current 23 Slams while not leaving much room for debates, because Court’s record is ripe with such inconsistencies.

Surely, there will be a further opportunity to tackle this theme after the tournament. At the moment, the hope is that no more last-minute withdrawals will occur, because injuries could come into play just much as Covid-induced cautiousness. As a matter of fact, it should be remembered that the defending champion Bianca Andreescu most likely would not have featured even in a “regular” tournament, as she hasn’t played competitively since October 2019, when she injured her knee at the Shenzhen Masters; from then onwards, she has passed from withdrawal to withdrawal, forced to eschew official matches.

As of right now, there is also some apprehension surrounding Garbiñe Muguruza, who dropped out of the current Cincinnati/New York Premier 5 event due to an ankle issue. Finally, some more withdrawals could be caused by the players testing positive to the virus, which would automatically exclude them and force them to quarantine in their hotel room inside the bubble.

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Grand Slam

Crunch Time Beckons For 2021 Australian Tennis Season, Warns Tiley

The tennis chief speaks out about the challenges he faces in the coming weeks ahead of the start of the new tennis season.




The head of Tennis Australia admits that plans for tournaments at the start of next year are still up in the air as he waits to hear back from local government officials.


Craig Tiley will be overseeing the string of events which also include the premier Australian Open. Prior to the Grand Slam officials are hoping to stage a series of tournaments around the country like it has done in previous years. Although due to the COVID-19 pandemic some states still have border restrictions which makes travelling more challenging.

The ongoing restrictions will be the most troublesome for the ATP Cup which is a multi-team men’s event that took place across three cities this year with Novak Djokovic guiding Serbia to the title. Tiley remains optimistic that everything can go ahead as planned but admits the decision is out of his hands.

“We’re getting to crunch time now. We need commitments from the governments and the health officers,” he told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“We need to kind of know in the next two weeks, maybe a month, that this is what can happen: borders are going to open and then we can have a multi-city event.
“If we cannot have a multi-city event, we’ve got to reconsider everything.”

Another key issue will be the 14-day quarantine process players will have to go through. Something they didn’t have at either the US Open or French Open. The hope is local authorities will relax their rules and allow players to train during this period. Enabling Tennis Australia to create a ‘bubble’ for them to live within.

“Right now the challenge we have is the borders are still closed,” he said.
“So we’ve got a plan on the basis that there will be all open borders.
“So we’re working with all state governments. We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine.
“What we are negotiating, or what we’re trying to have an agreement on, is that we set up a quarantine environment where they can train and go between the hotel and the courts in those two weeks.
“That’s similar to the AFL.
“The difference we have with the AFL is we are bringing in players from overseas so the stakes are higher.”

If players are not allowed to train during this period, Tiley has reportedly ruled out staging the event all together.

“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” he stated on Thursday.
“You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam.”

According to the AAP, the Melbourne major is set to take place with 25% of its usual crowd capacity and players will be allowed to travel with three members of their team.

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 18th. Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the reigning champions.

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COMMENT: Rafa At His Best Was Way Too Much For Novak To Handle

The long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper, James Beck, gives his take on the French Open men’s final.




Rafael Nadal (image via

This French Open was all about Rafa Nadal.


Even the new women’s French Open champion, 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, is one of his fans.

Matching Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles was pretty special in a year filled with the deadly coronavirus. The fact that possibly the sweetest victory of his long career came against longtime rival Novak Djokovic made it even more special.

Djokovic still stands three Grand Slam singles titles shy of the record number of 20. Only now, Novak  has to chase both Nadal and Federer for the all-time record.


Of course, Djokovic didn’t look himself in his 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 loss to Nadal on Sunday on the red clay of  Roland Garros, especially in the first set and maybe the second one, too.

Nadal obviously had something to do with that. Rafa played one of his best Grand Slam matches ever. He humbled Djokovic in much the same way he has totally dominated Federer in a couple of Grand Slam finals.

Nadal would not surrender even a point without a fight as he wore down the Serbian Wonder. Nadal actually out-moved and out-hit Djokovic. Nadal always seemed to be one move ahead of Djokovic, even during Novak’s usually dominant drop-shot attack.


Djokovic came out drop-shotting as he attempted to frustrate the Spanish left-hander one more time with his deft drop shots. But Djokovic’s early strategy backfired as the strategy appeared to put even more fire into Nadal’s veins.

Nadal was ready for the drop shots this time, moving in quickly to repeatedly pass Djokovic down the backhand line or executing perfect slice backhands almost directly cross-court that Djokovic had no chance to return.

Obviously Nadal has been seriously practicing on his drop-shot returns. He also seemed to concentrate on hitting baseline shots with more air than usual, making them drop down closer to the baseline. He also used a heavily sliced backhand on balls near the surface line that hugged the net and stayed low, causing Djokovic to get low and  to hit up on balls just off the clay surface.

But at any time, at the slightest opening, Nadal turned his forehands and backhands into weapons of power.


Yes, this was supposed to be Nadal’s toughest French Open to win, due to the cooler weather this time of the year in Paris and slower court conditions. And there also was the added pressure of going for Grand Slam title No. 20.

But the heavy court conditions seemed to be in Rafa’s favor, not Novak’s. And Nadal handled the pressure situation as if it was a walk in the park..

Nadal repeatedly pounded outright winners off both wings as Djokovic could only watch.


Rain was in the forecast, so the new Philippe Chatrier Stadium roof was closed this time for its first men’s final. That solved the problem of heavy shadows that seemed to frustrate Sofia Kenin a day earlier in her one-sided women’s final loss to Swiatek.

Everything was perfectly aligned for Rafa on this day.

Even usual Djokovic fan John McEnroe was chatting from Los Angeles on the TV telecast that “Rafa is in the zone.” In the second set, McEnroe referred to the match as not even being competitive at the time.

Johnny Mac was simply telling it like it was. Nadal simply was the far superior player on this day.

James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at

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Grand Slam

Roland Garros Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Championship




There will likely be less smiling between these two men on Sunday with so much on the line (

Rafael Nadal vies for a record-tying 20th Major title, while Novak Djokovic looks to win his 18th.


The implications of this match are massive.  A Nadal win would tie him with Roger Federer for most men’s Major singles titles.  A Djokovic win would make the three-way race for the most Slams tighter than ever before.

In 2005, Rafael Nadal won his first Major title in his debut at this event.  15 years later, he is an unprecedented 99-2 at Roland Garros, and a 12-time champion.  The only two men he has ever lost to at the French Open are Robin Soderling and his opponent today.  Nadal and his team have spoken of the pandemic emotionally impacted Rafa, causing him to decline defending his title at last month’s US Open.  There was much speculation that Nadal was not as strong a favorite in this unique edition of Roland Garros.  He arrived with only three matches played in six months, and on the heels of a loss in Rome to Diego Schwartzman.  Then Rafa himself talked about his displeasure with the tournament’s change to a slower-playing Wilson ball.  And the cooler conditions in the October staging of this event are not to Nadal’s liking.  But none of that has deterred the King of Clay thus far.  As Simon Cambers highlighted, this is the sixth time he has reached the final here without dropping a set.  Rafa is 25-0 in semifinals and finals at Roland Garros.  With a loss today, this would become only the third year since 2005 that Nadal failed to win a Major.  With a victory today, he’ll win his record-extending 100th match and 13th title at the French Open.

In 2005, Novak Djokovic made his Major debut.  But unlike Nadal, he did not win his first Slam until 2008.  And then Djokovic went another three years until capturing his second.  And Novak did not win this event until 2016, in his twelfth attempt.  That was the year after he finally defeated Rafa at this event in his seventh try.  This is Novak’s first trip back to the championship match of Roland Garros since he won four years ago.  But Djokovic has dominated in 2020, with a record 37-1.  The only blemish to his record was the infamous default at the US Open, when he errantly hit a lines judge with a ball.  That’s one of many controversies Novak has been a part of this year.  They also include an exhibition tour utterly lacking of social distancing, which lead to many people, including himself and his wife, coming down with COVID-19.  And the forming of a new players’ association (PTPA), with its suspect timing and lack of female representation, drew much criticism.  But Djokovic has excelled on the court despite those off-court distractions.  He’s on an 11-match winning streak, going back to his title run in Rome last month.  However, his last two matches were concerning.  Novak was in obvious neck and arm pain in the quarterfinals.  And despite holding a match point in the third set of his semifinal, he failed to close it out, spending an additional two sets (and two hours) on court less than 48 hours ago.  With a win today, he’ll become to only man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam event twice.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2) – 3:00pm local time

This is the match the tennis world has been anticipating since this fortnight began.  It’s a showdown between two of the most prolific champions of all-time.  And it’s the most prolific rivalry of this generation.  Djokvoic leads their head-to-head 29-26.  At Majors, Nadal leads 9-6, and they’re tied 4-4 in Major finals.  On clay, Rafa leads 17-7.  In some startling symmetry, Nadal claimed 14 of their first 18 meetings, but Djokovic has now taken 14 of their most recent 18.  This is their first match at Roland Garros in five years, after meeting here seven out of ten years between 2006 and 2015.

Djokovic is attempting to do what no man has done before: defeat Nadal in the last two rounds of the French Open. But if Djokovic is ever going to defeat Nadal in a French Open final, this may be his best chance.  Rafa’s ball will not bounce as high or as far in these heavy conditions, with Sunday forecast to be rather cool.  And Nadal is lacking the amount of pre-event match play he usually requires to be at his best.  However, Djokovic’s hiccup in Friday’s semifinal may have been revealing.  Novak knew how important it was to put that match away quickly, so he’d be fully fresh for today.  But with the intimidating task of playing Rafa on his mind, he blinked.  Novak should still be relatively close to 100% physically, yet I wonder what that did to his psyche. 

Beating Rafa on clay in a best-of-five match remains the sport’s toughest task.  Novak has done it before, and in their most recent such meeting, yet only once out of seven times.  And never in the last two rounds of Roland Garros.  Until Djokovic proves otherwise, Nadal must be considered the favorite in a French Open final.

Other Notable Matches on Day 15:

In the women’s doubles championship at 11:30am Paris time, three-time Major champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (2) vs. Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk (14), the only players to notch a victory over Iga Swiatek this fortnight, defeating her and Nicole Melichar in the semifinals.

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