Roland Garros Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Serena Williams is a three-time French Open champion (rolandgarros.com)

The second round begins on Wednesday, headlined by Major champions Serena, Rafa, Wawrinka, Halep, Azarenka, and Thiem.

 

In a US Open rematch from three weeks ago, Serena will face fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, who owns three victories at Majors over her sister Venus.  The men’s finalists from the last two years, Nadal and Thiem, will face Americans who, at their best, are fully capable of challenging top players.  And one of the WTA’s best clay courters will take on a resurgent 2012 French Open finalist.  With little chance of rain on Wednesday, we should be in for a full day of tennis around the grounds.

Serena Williams (6) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

21 days ago in New York, Pironkova took the first set off Serena before succumbing to the 23-time Major champion.  That was Tsvetana’s first tournament at any level since Wimbledon 2017, and she astonishingly advanced to the quarterfinals of a Major for the fourth time in her career.  Pironkova upset two top 20 seeds along the way.  While Tsvetana is 3-1 lifetime against sister Venus, she is 0-5 against Serena.  But these conditions do Serena no favors.  She is a Florida resident who admittedly dislikes playing in cold weather.  The heavy conditions will force Williams to hit many more balls, which will come back in varying speeds and spins off the racquet of Pironkova.  Kristie Ahn mixed up her shots accordingly on Monday, which flustered Serena for the first hour of their first round encounter.  Despite their lopsided head-to-head, this is a dangerous draw for Serena in her continued quest for Major No.24. 

Kiki Bertens (5) vs. Sara Errani

Errani was the runner-up here in 2012, losing to Maria Sharapova.  She would also go on to reach the quarterfinals or better the next three years.  But it’s been a rough few years for the 33-year-old Italian, who was suspended in 2017 for a drug test failure.  Errani has mostly played lower-level events since that time.  Her resounding 6-2, 6-1 victory over 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig on Monday was her first win at a Major in over three years.  By contrast, Bertens has exceled in recent seasons, especially on this surface.  Since 2016, Kiki is 82-23 on clay, and was a semifinalist here four years ago.  However, Bertens is only 5-3 at this event since that run to the semis, and just 3-2 on the dirt this year.  Last week in Strasbourg, she had to retire due to a leg injury.  And Bertens is 0-5 lifetime against Errani, though they haven’t played in over four years.  Based on the way Sara stormed through three rounds of qualifying and her opener in the main draw without dropping a set, she has a great opportunity to get her biggest win in many years.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Jack Sock (Q)

These two have played twice in this city, though both those matches took place at the Paris Indoors on a hard court.  Sock defeated Thiem in 2016, while a much-improved Dominic on hard courts avenged that loss two years later.  It was in between those two years when Sock was the surprising champion of that event, which qualified him for the ATP Finals.  Jack’s singles results went steeply downhill from that point on, going 9-22 in 2018, and 0-8 at all levels last year.  Sock has refocused and gotten into better shape this season, and the results have begun to follow.  He took out Pablo Cuevas in a five-setter at the US Open, and came through qualifying here to then defeat fellow American Reilly Opelka in the first round.  While this should be a fun, big-hitting affair, Thiem remains a solid favorite.  The newly-minted Major champion is 23-4 here since 2016, and 3-1 in his career against Sock.  Jack does not have much in his game that should bother the US Open winner, especially in these heavy conditions.

Casper Ruud (28) vs Tommy Paul

The winner of this match between two exciting ATP youngsters will see the winner of Thiem/Sock in the next round.  21-year-old Ruud is 16-4 on clay this season, which as per the ATP is the most clay court wins in 2020.  He was the champion in Buenos Aires and a finalist in Santiago prior to the tour shutdown, and reached the semis of both Rome and Hamburg since the tour restart.  23-year-old Paul earned 13 match wins pre-pandemic (including qualifying rounds), and notably upset Grigor Dimitrov in five sets at the Australian Open.  He also came through qualifying last week in Hamburg, and took out Kevin Anderson.  In addition, a year ago at this event, he thoroughly tested Thiem in a tight four-setter.  Both men are good movers with well-rounded games.  Paul claimed their only previous meeting, though that was three years ago on an American hard court in a match Ruud retired from.  Casper is the favorite to avenge that loss today in what should be a prolonged, entertaining battle.

Iga Swiatek vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

Speaking of entertaining, this could be downright delightful.  Few players possess more clubs in their bag than these two women, neither of whom are your typical modern-day baseliner.  19-year-old Swiatek reached the round of 16 here a year ago, and on Monday dominated Marketa Vondrousova, last year’s runner-up, with the loss of just three games.  34-year-old Hsieh has also upset top names at Majors, most notably taking out Simona Halep at Wimbledon two years ago.  While Su-Wei can flummox opponents with unorthodox style, Swiatek is far from a one-dimensional player, with plenty of variety of her own.  And clay is far from Hsieh’s best surface, with a career record at Roland Garros of 5-9.  Swiatek is the favorite in their first career meeting.

Other Notable Matches on Day 4:

19-time Major champion Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon two years ago.

Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka (16) vs. Dominik Koepfer, who came through qualifying to reach the quarterfinals of Rome two weeks ago.

Two-time Slam champ Simona Halep (1) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu.  Halep is 7-0 against her fellow Romanian.

Two-time Slam champ Victoria Azarenka (10) vs. Anna Karolian Schmiedlova, who took out Venus Williams on Sunday.

US Open finalist Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, a 29-year-old Frenchman who, with Nicolas Mahut, owns a career Grand Slam in doubles.

Wednesday’s full schedule is here.

Grand Slam

Fanless Wimbledon Still On The Cards For Next Year, Says Organisers

The grass-court Grand Slam, which was first held in 1877, has outlined it’s plans for the coming months.

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The All England Lawn Tennis Club has vowed to hold next year’s Wimbledon Championships even if it means the tournament taking place behind closed doors.

 

This year’s grass-court major was axed for the first time since World War Two due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was the only Grand Slam to be cancelled. Although unlike the other three premier events, Wimbledon had the luxury of a pandemic insurance to cover some of its costs. The policy cost in the region of £1.5 million per year and was paid for more than 15 years in a row. Although full details of the payout has not been made public.

However, it will be a different scenario next year with the tournament being unable to be insured by the same policy due to the ongoing pandemic. Now organizers are looking at three options regarding hosting the event with the possibility of a full capacity, reduced capacity or no fans at all. The US Open was held behind closed doors earlier this year but the French Open did allow a limited number of fans. Any decision will be influenced by government policy around the time the event will take place.

Staging The Championships in 2021 is our number one priority and we are actively engaged in scenario planning in order to deliver on that priority,” AELTC Chief Executive Sally Bolton said in a statement.
“I would like to thank the government and public health authorities for their ongoing advice which will continue to be invaluable as The Championships 2021 draws closer. At the same time, we are delighted to demonstrate confidence in Wimbledon with the renewal of several partnerships across our commercial programme which play a significant contribution to the successful staging of The Championships both in 2021 and in the future.”

Amid the uncertainty, Wimbledon is still managing to maintain a strong corporate portfolio with Rolex recently agreeing to extend their partnership. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer has been working with the Grand Slam since 1978 when it was named the official timekeeper. The AELTC have also renewed deals with Jaguar, IBM, Robinsons and Pimm’s. Meanwhile, Sipsmith has been named the first official gin of the Championships.

As well as planning for next year, Wimbledon has also reiterated their commitment to support those during the pandemic via its charitable foundation. The Wimbledon Foundation has set up a £1.2m Coronavirus Fund to help people living across Merton and Wandsworth, London, as well as other parts of the country. £750,000 has already been donated to local charities and organisations. Furthermore, 30,000 towels meant to be used at this year’s tournament has been redistributed for alternative use by the Foundation. For example 4000 towels were given to the homeless charity Crises.

“Since the cancellation of The Championships 2020, we have worked hard to make a difference to those in our local community and beyond as the coronavirus continues to have a significant impact on people’s lives,” said AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt.
“As the winter period begins, we are pleased to be extending our hot meals programme to continue to help those in need locally for the challenging months ahead. We are committed to using the collective strength of Wimbledon – all the many facets of the Club, The Championships and our Foundation – to play our part.”

The 2021 Wimbledon Championships is set to take place between Monday, 28th June and Sunday, 11th July.

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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.

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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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A Solitary Stroll Through Roland Garros

The small number of spectators reveals glimpses of the Parisian system that are often hidden

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PARIS – Seeing the avenues that connect the various fields of a relatively deserted Slam tournament is an experience that rarely happens during the course of the tournament, and is normally limited to the days or periods in which access is allowed only to staff members. During the 2020 French Open, however, it was quite common to see the areas in front of the various courts almost completely empty.

 

What you see below is the area between the southern Grandstand of the Philippe Chatrier court and the various commercial stands that border the area reserved to camera crews. When a match has just finished on the main court, that area becomes very crowded and going from the beginning to the end of that stretch, more or less 50 meters long, could take up to ten minutes.

The South Side of Court Philippe Chatrier


At the bottom of this passage is the new “Musketeers Square”, an open space that was enlarged for the 2020 edition thanks to the demolition of the old Court 1, the famous “bullring”, which was inaugurated in 1980 but has now been replaced by the Court Simonne Mathieu as the third most important court of the Roland Garros.

Musketeers Square
Court Philippe Chatrier seen from Musketeers Square

A giant screen has been placed in this area (to mimic Wimbledon’s notorious “Henman hill” and the US Open’s “main plaza” opposite the main entrance of Arthur Ashe Stadium), as well at tables for spectators and the main commercial stands for the sponsors of the tournament.

The Roland Garros Boutique
The East side of Musketeers Square

In the background of the Musketeers Square, to the left of this image is the tournament’s official Boutique, where the official Roland Garros merchandise is sold, while the gateway leading to the Serre d’Auteuil and the Court Simonne Mathieu is at the bottom, after the commercial stands and courts 2 and 4.

The Court Simonne Mathieu, inaugurated in 2019, was built as a compromise between the expansion of Roland Garros and the conservation of the Auteuil greenhouses. The court is surrounded by greenhouses, one on each side, which symbolize the ecosystem of four continents of the earth with plants typical of each of these habitats.

Returning to Philippe Chatrier, courts 2 and 4 can be seen – they are among those that have the smallest stands and are typically used for training during “standard” editions of the tournament. This year, however, players were not allowed to enter the facility on the days when they were not supposed to compete, and therefore these courts were used almost exclusively for matches.

Looking beyond the Philippe Chatrier court, you can see the unmistakable profile of the Court Suzanne Lenglen, in front of which there is a high relief dedicated to the unforgettable champion of the 1920’s.

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Part of the area in front of the second main court is currently a construction site, as two of the courts are being rebuilt as part of the project that will see a mobile roof built over the Suzanne Lenglen to allow the tournament to have a second court with a retractable roof and to prepare the facility to host boxing matches during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

During this year’s tournament, all the refreshment stands around the Suzanne Lenglen court were not opened due to the particularly low number of spectators (only 1000 per session allowed by the French authorities), including one that allowed order through the tournament’s app and to collect it without having to queue like in traditional stores.

Behind the Suzanne Lenglen, the newest area of ​​the facility is to be found, with courts numbered from 12 to 14, plus two training courts, number 15 and 16. All of these courts have been equipped with artificial lighting mounted on telescopic pylons so that they can be lowered during the day and thus not cause the characteristic shadows on the court that can disturb the players.

As a gift to the authorised press members, and to try to increase the turnover of the present bar, journalists were given the opportunity to access the catwalk on the sixth floor of the Philippe Chatrier, usually reserved for stand-up TV sports shows. A rather peculiar view of the matches on the main court is to be had up here – the area has some tables to the work as well as a fully functional air conditioning system.

Translated by Andrea Ferrero; edited by Tommaso Villa

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