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

ATP

Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain

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Nadal RG 2022 by Night (foto @RolandGarros)

The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans. 

 

Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.  

Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.

“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying. 
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”

Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.

“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’

Will Kyrgios play?

Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity. 

“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …” 

Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment. 

“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”

The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions. 

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ATP

‘They Have Too Much Power’ – Stan Wawrinka Blasts Selfish Grand Slams

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Stan Wawrinka has accused the four Grand Slam tournaments of looking after their interests and failing to hand players their fair share of the money they make from those events. 

 

Wawrinka, who has won three major titles during his career, acknowledges that the prize money has increased in recent years but argues the percentage of profits they redistribute is not high enough. According to Forbes, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) reported a revenue of $472M in 2022 in their financial statements. The total amount of player compensation available at this year’s US Open was in the region of $65m, which was a new record. 

“They do not redistribute enough to tennis compared to the income they generate,” Tennis Majors quoted Wawrinka as saying during an interview with L’Equipe. “And they have way too much power because they make [so much] money. 
“[The Slams are] where the history of tennis is written… These are the richest Federations which do not redistribute much. Even between them, there is no communication… The income from Grand Slams today is very important and the percentage returned to players is ridiculous. It has hardly increased at all.”

The Grand Slams argue that they have made efforts to increase prize money for players every year. Particularly for those who lose in the early round of their tournaments. For example, those who lost in the first round at the US Open earlier in the season won $81,500. At Wimbledon, first round prize money was £55,000 (roughly $68,900). 

These increases have failed to stop the criticism from Wawrinka who believes that the major events are only focused on what is best for them and not the players. 

“You are talking about the prize money, not the percentage paid. As revenues have increased significantly at the same time,” he said. “Grand Slam tournaments only concern their interest, for their country and their Federation. Today, we are stuck until the day the players say stop.”

The 38-year-old Swiss is a Grand Slam veteran and has played 221 matches at that level, winning 156 of those. So far in his career, he has earned a total of $18,777,025 in prize money just from those events.

Wawrinka also believes that players are not being consulted enough when it comes to making decisions on the Tour. However, he doesn’t see any need for a union to be formed, such as the PTPA which he believes has made little progress so far in addressing key issues. One example he uses is the move by organizers of the Australian Open to extend their event by an extra day from next year. 

“Tennis Australia showed up to say: “We’re starting on the first Sunday”, like that, thank you goodbye,” he said. “Did anyone ask us what we thought about it? No. It’s like that. From the outside, you tell yourself that this is not normal! That means we don’t work together.”

As for the other governing bodies of the sport, in Wawrinka’s view issues are arising due to their current structure with there being too many conflicts of interest. Saying those in charge are taking a more reactive than proactive approach to problems such as injuries being caused by the types of balls being used.

“The real problem with tennis is that most things are done in reaction,” he commented on the matter. “Nobody anticipates anything. We must include the players in the discussions to also explain to them the reasons for such and such discussions.
“When it comes to balls, the tournaments don’t want to agree because they all have a different sponsor, and at the same time we still have to fight to have enough to train with. We [go in circles. I’ve been on the circuit for twenty years and we talk about the same problems over and over again. The problem with tennis is that there are too many governances, too many different entities (ITF, Grand Slam tournaments, ATP, WTA) which only look out for their own interests. Today, the real problem in tennis is the Grand Slams.” 

Wawrinka is currently ranked 50th in the world. This season he has won 27 out of 50 Tour-level matches played. 

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ATP

Rafael Nadal To Play Australian Open, Says Tournament Chief

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RAFAEL NADAL OF SPAIN - PHOTO: DIEGO SOUTO / MMO

Rafael Nadal will head to Australia at the start of next year to play in the first Grand Slam of the season, according to the Australian Open tournament director. 

 

Craig Tiley has told Nine Network’s ‘The Today Show’ that the former world No.1 will be playing at Melbourne Park. Although there is yet to be any official comment from either Nadal or a member of his team about the matter. 

Nadal hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that he may retire next year. 

Whilst question marks remain over Nadal’s career, Tiley says he is confident the Spaniard will be playing at the Australian Open in what will be his 19th main draw appearance at the event. He has won the title twice before and was runner-up on four other occasions. 

“We can reveal exclusively here that Rafa will be back,” Tiley said.
“He’s been off for most of the year and in talking to him over the last few days he confirmed he will be back, which we’re really excited about, the champion of 2022. That’s awesome.”

Another player tipped to return to action is Nick Kyrgios who has also been hindered by injury in recent months. Kyrgios has played just one match in 2023 due to problems related to his knee and wrist. The setbacks came a year after he reached his maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic. 

“The one great thing about Nick is that he’s very transparent and very open about how he’s feeling and what he thinks,” The Age newspaper quoted Tiley as saying.
“I personally believe in the communication that he’s very motivated to come back and play in January.
“He loves playing here … he knows everyone wants him to play. It’s just a matter of his health. He’s had a significant injury.
“He’s … in the process of still getting over that … [but] I fully expect him to be here and ready to play.”

Both Nadal and Kyrgios are currently ranked outside the top 200 due to their absences. 

The 2024 Australian Open will begin on January 14th. Next year the event will be held over 15 days for the first time in its history. 

UPDATE: Since the publication of this article a spokesperson for Nadal has responded to Tiley’s claims by stating that no return date has been set.

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