Reigning Champion Ash Barty To Skip French Open And Shut Down 2020 Season - UBITENNIS
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Reigning Champion Ash Barty To Skip French Open And Shut Down 2020 Season

The highest-ranked player in women’s tennis gives her reasons for not playing in Paris his year.

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World No.1 Ash Barty has confirmed that she will not be travelling to Europe this year to defend her title at the French Open over concerns partly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Australian said winning the Paris Grand Slam was the ‘most special moment’ of her career last year but will not be attending due to health concerns. Last week France recorded a record daily figure of over 8000 cases of the coronavirus which is more than 1000 above the previous benchmark set back in March. Tournament organisers revealed a series of measures that will be introduced at the event on Monday, including splitting the site into three separate zones and having a reduced attendance.

“It has been a difficult decision to make but unfortunately I will not be competing in Europe this year.” Barty said in a statement.
“Last year’s French Open was the most special tournament of my career so this is not a decision I have made lightly.”

Elaborating further, Barty said her decision is also due to the lack of training she has managed to undergo due to the restrictions in her country. She lives in Queensland whilst her coach Craig Tyzzer is based in Melbourne, which has been hit by outbreaks of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

“There are two reasons for my decision,” she outlines. “The first is the health risks that still exist with COVID. The second is my preparation, which has not been ideal without my coach being able to train with me due to the state border closures in Australia.”

Barty’s decision also means that she will not be playing another tournament on the WTA Tour this year. The 24-year-old started 2020 by winning 11 out of 14 matches prior to the Tour break due to the pandemic. In January she won her 8th WTA title at the Adelaide International before going on to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open in what was her best ever run at the event.

“I now look forward to a long preseason and the summer in Australia. It has been a challenging year for everyone and although I am disappointed on a tennis front, the health and well-being of my family and my team will always be my priority,” she concluded.

Barty is the first top-20 player to pull out of the French Open due to reasons relating to the pandemic.

Grand Slam

Multiple Players Removed From French Open Qualifying After Positive COVID-19 tests

One player has already confirmed their removal from the tournament with a source suggesting that there could be up to 15 positive tests at the event.

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It is understood that a series of male players have been removed from the French Open qualifying draw after either them or a member of their coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19.

 

Spanish newspaper Marca broke the news on Sunday following information obtained by their sources. It has been reported that Denis Istomin, Ernesto Escobedo, Pedka Kristin and Bernabé Zapata have all been removed from the entry list. There has been no confirmation from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) concerning the positive tests. It is understood that Zapata and Kristin have been removed after their coach tested positive for the virus. It is unclear as to if the same scenario applies to Istomin and Escobedo.

Furthermore, Bosnia’s top player Damir Dzumhur has confirmed that he has been removed from the draw after his coach also tested positive. Although the world No.114 has questioned the test before suggesting that it could be a false positive. Dzumhur said his mentor was not given the option of a second test to double check.

“Unfortunately, my coach Petar Popović tested positive this morning. That’s why I can’t play at Roland Garros and I don’t have a chance to compete,” he wrote on Instagram
“He didn’t get a chance to do a second test and we’re sure he was false positive because my coach has antibodies. I’m disappointed, but I can’t change my mind and I have to move on. More information tomorrow.”

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Dzumhur’s criticism of the testing process appears to be a view that is also shared by others. Sport Klub has quoted another player, who wishes to remain anonymous, saying that there is poor communication going on in the French capital.

“The procedure is slow, communication is poor, there is a lot of waiting. Also, in the hotel, the maids do not wear masks, the tables are not cleaned regularly,” they told Sport Klub.rs.

Marca has claimed that there could be up to 15 positive cases at Roland Garros that also includes the women’s draw. Although there is no information about which WTA players may also be involved.

UPDATE

Since the publication of this article the French Tennis Federation has released a statement confirming two players have tested positive for COVID-19 and a further three have been in close contact with a coach who have also tested positive.

“The Roland-Garros tournament directors can confirm that 2 players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for Covid 19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for Covid 19. In line with tournament health protocols, the 5 players will not compete in the qualifying tournament which begins tomorrow and will self isolate for a period of 7 days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Thursday 17 September.” The statement reads.

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Grand Slam

REPORT: French Open Attendance To Be More Than Halved Amid COVID-19 Threat

It is understood that the number of fans allowed to attend daily has been cut by roughly 55%.

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This year’s French Open has been forced to dramatically reduce their initial plans for 11,500 daily visitors, according to information obtained by L’Equipe newspaper.

 

The number has reportedly been cut to just 5000 following a ‘governmental decision’ linked to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organisers had originally set out plans for three separate zones with two holding up to 5000 people and an additional welcoming 1500. However, it has now emerged the new number will only be applied to one specific zone where the premier Philippe-Chatrier Court is located. Meaning that it is possible that matches played on courts Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu will not be opened to the public.

In recent days France has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and reported 9784 new infections in the country on Wednesday. A slight dip of France’s all-time high of 10,561 which was recorded last Saturday. It is understood that the decision to reduce the crowd size at Roland Garros is also based on spikes in other countries apart from France.

There has been no official comment from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but L’Equipe reports that the change has been made in line with new local government guidance. The ruling will have no impact on next week’s qualifying tournament which is being played behind closed doors.

Leading up to the clay-court major some players have voiced caution about attending the event with crowds. Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios, who is not playing in Paris this year, went as far as accusing organisers of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Former champion Simona Halep has also voiced her own concerns.

“I just read that they will have fans,” Halep told reporters earlier this week. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

The French Open will start on September 28th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the reigning champions but Barty will not be defending her title due to travelling concerns related to COVID-19.

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Grand Slam

US Open: Odds & Ends

Instead of traveling through the entire alphabet from A-Z looking back at the US Open fortnight at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, here is an “Odds & Ends” collection that glances at just what happened.

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Dominic Thiem - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)
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Dominic Thiem of Austria dramatically downed Alexander Zverev of Germany, in five sets to take away his first major championship trophy in the Men’s US Open final. The day before, Naomi Osaka’s impressive comeback earned her a third Slam title in a three set match in the Women’s title round against a resurrected Victoria Azarenka. Ordinarily, these victories would have been the perfect beginning to this Grand Slam tournament summary. But, in a championship featuring the inexplicable, this year’s US Open showcased a variety of differences. All of this and more is the reason  “Odds & Ends” takes a look back at an event that was out of the ordinary. It will provide insights defining the unique happenings during the fortnight that took place in what was called a bubble, but the bubble was bound to leak, and in some cases – actually burst with a bang and not a fizzle. 

 

Novak Emulates An Earl  

image via ubitennis.com

Story after story has been written about Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seeded Serbian and rightfully the odds on favorite to claim his 18th Grand Slam singles title, losing his direction mentally. It all began with Djokovic having just lost his serve to trail 5-6 in the first set of a fourth round match with Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. As he was unhappily changing sides, he retrieved a tennis ball from his pocket and petulantly and blindly whacked it behind him. He was frustrated. But, instead of hitting the back fence at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the ball slammed into Laura Clark, a lineswoman, hitting her in the throat. She fell to the court gasping for air. 

Actually, the rules are very clear as to what should have happened. Djokovic had crossed the bad behavior line and he should have been defaulted immediately. That didn’t happen until after a ten plus minute United Nations-like debate took place. Soeren Friemel, US Open Tournament Referee, Andreas Egli, Grand Slam Supervisor and Aurelie Tourte, Chair Umpire, gathered at the net while Djokovic pleaded his defenseless case. 

Admitting he had lost his temper, he stressed that he didn’t hit the linesperson on purpose. Summarizing his comments, “You can give me a point penalty…or a game penalty…You have many options. You say you have no choice but you do have choices…She didn’t have to go to the hospital or anything…You have options, you don’t have to default me. This is the first time this has happened to me in a Grand Slam…happened to me on the big stage. I know it’s tough for you whatever call you make, but I shouldn’t be defaulted…” In reality there was no need for a confab. By rule, a default was the correct response. 

Maybe it’s the New York eclectic vibe, but over the years, there have been some genuinely atomic reactions at the tournament. Who can forget 1979 when Ilie Nastase, the rambunctious Romanian, interrupted his 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 second round loss to John McEnroe with an almost twenty minute long tirade-stall that could never have led to much of anything, except perhaps Nastase’s last gasp.

This was certainly on the list of the Top 10 Most Memorable Eruptions, but No. 1 on The Most Unforgettable list took place in 1951 when the tournament was known as the US National Championships and was played on grass at Forest Hills. Coincidentally, the match between Gardnar Mulloy and Earl Cochell, was like the Djokovic – Carreno Busta affair, a fourth round contest. Mulloy, the No. 11 seed, defeated Cochell, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. 

The score turned out to be incidental due to Cochell’s behavior. Ranked in the US Top 10 from 1947-1950, he had “game” attached to an “explosive temper”. Renowned New York Times sportswriter Allison Danzig pointed out in his column that Cochell temperament was on “full display”. The highlights included hitting a ball out of the stadium, making a feeble attempt to return a Mulloy serve with the racquet in his left hand. (He was righthanded.) He added to his performance by serving underhanded. The crowd reacted vociferously and Cochell, ever the showman, climbed the umpire’s chair, trying to grab the microphone so he could address the unhappy fans. 

He failed. But, of course he wasn’t finished. In the locker room following the match Tournament Referee, S. Ellsworth Davenport, confronted him. Rather than seeking to make amends, he unleashed an obscenity-laced tirade. Two days later on August 31, 1951, he earned the distinction of being banned for life by the United States Lawn Tennis Association — now the USTA. The ban was eventually rescinded in 1962, but by then he was well past his prime. (Since he turned 98 in May, perhaps he could reach out and compare notes with Djokovic.)

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