While the recent US Open Women’s Singles was difficult to predict, the form of Simona Halep and other top players makes the 2020 French Open seem like much more of a closed shop.
As with the draw at Flushing Meadows, there are some notable absentees. World No.1 Ashleigh Barty has elected to stay in Australian due to coronavirus concerns. While 2020 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu are both missing due to injury.
However, these are the only three players in the world’s top 30 who have not made the trip to Paris, so there is a very strong field for the 5,000 lucky spectators in the stadium and the millions watching at home to enjoy.
Halep Is The Clear Favourite
The 2020 French Open title is Simona Halep’s to lose. Since the restart, she has played ten matches on clay and won them all. These wins secured the titles in Prague and Rome.
Just as importantly, the Romanian is arguably the best female clay court player in the world. She is one-time winner and a three-time finalist at Roland Garros, and it would be very surprising if she did not get close to the title again this year.
However, there is one significant demon for Halep to vanquish. She was beaten by Amanda Anisimova in the quarter-final last year. And she is seeded to face the talented American teenager in the third round this time.
If the Romanian gets past Anisimova, she will probably face either Dayana Yastremska or Marketa Vondrousova in the last 16. Halep beat the Ukrainian in their first meeting in Rome last week. But she might be worried if she faces the Czech, who beat her twice in 2019.
The other seeded players in the Romanian’s quarter are also dangerous. Johanna Konta is set to meet Maria Sakkari in the third round if she survives an opening round encounter with Cori Gauff. And fifth seed Kiki Bertens, who suffered an injury scare in Strasbourg, is due to face 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova at the same stage.
Serena Lands Devilish Draw
Serena Williams has reached five Grand Slam finals in the last four years. But none of them have been at Roland Garros. And unfortunately for fans of the American, there is no reason to expect that to change this year.
In an extraordinary quirk of fate, Williams will face the same first-round opponent she took on at the US Open: Kristie Ahn. She could then meet two more Flushing Meadows foes. She may face Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round and the woman who beat her, Victoria Azarenka, in the fourth round.
Elina Svitolina will be confident about her chances of making it through the other half of the quarter. She should breeze through the opening three rounds. Then she will have to play well to beat either Elise Mertens or Anett Kontaveit in the last 16. The Ukrainian will then have to perform even better to overcome either Williams or Azarenka in the last eight.
Muguruza Can Seize Chance To Shine
Garbine Muguruza is the outstanding player in the third quarter of the draw. She is one of only five former champions taking part in the French Open this year.
The Spaniard is also in form. She beat four excellent players – Sloane Stephens, Gauff, Konta and Azarenka – en route to the semi-final in Rome last week. And she might have gone on to claim the title if she had not run into Halep.
After these performances, confidence will be high for Muguruza. However, she could have a tricky third-round encounter to negotiate if Jennifer Brady maintains the momentum she established by reaching the US Open semi-final.
If the Spaniard beats the American, she may face eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka in the last 16 and then Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the quarter-final. While both are high-class players, Muguruza should be considered the favourite in both potential clashes.
There are several players in this quarter that could spring a surprise and reach the last eight. One is Ons Jabeur, who is due to face Sabalenka in round three. Another is Donna Vekic, who could take on Kenin at the same stage. Finally, there is an intriguing last-32 encounter on the cards between 14th seed Elena Rybakina and 22nd seed Karolina Muchova. Either of these two young talents could cause problems for the top players.
Will Pliskova Be Fit Enough To Challenge?
In the Rome final, Karolina Pliskova retired for the first time in her professional career due to a left thigh injury. Despite this, the Czech is in the draw for the French Open and she is determined to compete.
If the World No.2 is able to play, she should easily overcome whichever qualifier she takes on in the first round. After that, it will probably become much tougher for her. She could face the always-dangerous 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in round two, Stephens in round three, clay-court specialist Petra Martic in round four and Petra Kvitova in the quarter-final. All of those matches are potential banana skins for Pliskova.
Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber provide the main obstacles for 7th seed Kvitova. The Czech is seeded to meet either the American or the German in the last 16. Whoever emerges victorious from that clash will fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals.
Tennis Umpire Bernardes Suffers Heart Attack In Melbourne Quarantine
The well-known official is said to be ‘doing well’ after suffering a major health scare.
Renowned tennis umpire Carlos Bernardes was rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack inside his hotel room, according to various sources.
The Brazilian tennis official was staying in one of the hotels currently used for quarantine in Melbourne. A picture of Bernardes being taken to hospital in an ambulance has been posted on social media but there have been no official statement from local authorities on the situation. It is understood that he is ‘doing well’ following the medical emergency.
Australian media reported that Bernardes was in ‘hard quarantine’ which is the system used for those who have been classed as potential contact cases of people who test positive for COVID-19. At present there are 72 players in this kind of quarantine after a series of flights en route to Australia reported positive cases. Under government rules, they are not allowed to leave their room for 14 days. Others are allowed to leave their rooms for up to five hours each day.
According to Brazilian tennis official Ricardo Reis Bernardes experienced no complications and he is continuing to be medicated. Reis has issued details concerning Bernardes’ condition in a statement which has been published by Tenis Brasil.
“He had a heart attack in the morning. We are at the same hotel. When I saw the ambulance arrive, I even sent him a photo saying that someone was not well, and he said: ‘I was the one who called. I am in pain. In the chest and such,” he said.
“Luckily he called quickly and the service came too.’
“It was a heart attack, the veins was clogged. But he was medicated and he spent a few hours in the hospital taking medication. We spoke several times yesterday afternoon and evening [Wednesday, Australian time].
“”Now, in the morning [Thursday], I haven’t talked to him yet. But he was well and medicated. They were going to put on a stent, but he didn’t have to. They had the veins unblocked and etc. And he was fine. In the afternoon and at night he was fine, we talked in the afternoon and at night and everything was fine “
Bernardes is a veteran Tour official after having worked on the ATP Tour since 1990. He has taken charge of numerous high-profile men’s matches including two US Open finals in 2006 and 2008, as well as the 2011 Wimbledon final.
Quarantine Drama: Players And Support Staff Warned For ‘Challenging Behaviour’ Amid Argument Over Rules
Officials and players are at a disagreement over the rules concerning who is deemed a ‘close contact’ of somebody who test positive for COVID-19.
The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria says she will tolerate no rule breaking by those staying in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open after a fourth confirmed test emerged on Sunday.
Emma Cassar said that there have been incidents of ‘challenging behaviour’ from both players and members of their teams in relation to the rules set out. Due to the pandemic, everybody has to go into a 14-day quarantine but the process has turned more complicated following a series of positive tests by those travelling on plans funded by Tennis Australia. The latest case involves a member of the broadcast team flying from Los Angeles.
The Australian government has ruled that everybody on board a plane where somebody has tested positive for the virus must go into a stricter form of quarantine where they must remain in their room and are not allowed to train outside. This has affected more than 40 players on two different flights from Abu Dhabi and another from Los Angeles. As it currently stands 62 people have been deemed close contacts of the four cases, three of which were announced on Saturday, according to Fox Australia.
To add to the drama, Cassar has confirmed that some players and their team members have already been given a warning for what she says is ‘challenging behaviour.’ Branding their actions as ‘dangerous acts that we can’t tolerate.’
“I can give you two examples – a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.
“The other was another gentleman who shouted some UberEats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate … they have been formerly warned, and Victoria Police will continue to follow up those who haven’t been spoken to yet.”
Even more extraordinary is the confirmation that extra police have been sent to the hotels where players are quarantined. Repeat offenders have been warned they could be fined or even transferred to a ‘complexed care hotel’ where a police officer stays outside their door.
Did the players know?
In regards to the quarantine process, some have questioned the transparency of the rules which has been set out. Critics have argued that they were never informed that should someone test positive on a plane everybody on board would have to isolate for 14 days.
World No.12 Belinda Bencic has gone as far as saying that the rules have been changed upon arrival in Melbourne. A view that has also been expressed by Alize Cornet, Yulia Putintseva and Sorana Cirstea.
“We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about,” Bencic wrote on Twitter.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has addressed those statements by saying that all players were informed that this would be a possible scenario that they would face. Leading up to the quarantine, all players and their teams should have been sent documents detailing their stay.
“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department, and they’re doing what is necessary in order to keep our community safe,” he told Channel 9 TV.
“Obviously what has changed over the last several weeks is the new UK strain, which is more infectious, and there’s obviously a great desire by all of us to make sure that doesn’t come into our community.
Although the motion that the rules have changed in some capacity is disputed by Commissioner Cessar who stated that no adjustments to the policy will be made in the coming days.
“The rules of close contacts haven’t changed, and there’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane for 16 to 24 hours in air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” she said.
“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.”
Whilst there are ongoing discussions concerning the scheduling of tournaments taking place during the first week of February, Tiley has confirmed that the Australian Open start date of February 8th will remain unchanged.
24 Players In Isolation After Positive COVID-19 Tests On Australian Open Charter Flight
It is understood that Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are among those to be affected by the latest development.
Tennis Australia has been dealt a new blow to their preparations for the Melbourne Grand Slam after it was confirmed two people tested positive for COVID-19 on one of their flights.
A member of the flight crew and one passenger who was on Flight QR793 from Los Angeles Airport have tested positive for the virus. It has been reported by journalist Pablo Amalfitano that the coach of Lauren Davis, Edward Elliot, is the passenger who has tested positive. Although he reportedly claims that the result is a false positive.
A total of 79 people were on the flight with 24 of those being players such as Kei Nishikori, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Vaskek Pospisil and Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren did test positive prior to the fight but was given the all clear to travel after it was deemed that he was ‘viral shedding.’
Due to their possible exposure to COVID-19 Australian health officials have instructed all players to isolate for 14 days and they will not be allowed to leave their room to train in what will be a big setback to their preparations.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine,” a leaked email sent to players read. “We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support you and do everything that we can to get you through this.”
News of the positive tests was first reported online by the players themselves after they uploaded a leaked email detailing what had happened before Tennis Australia had a chance to publish a statement.
“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley commented.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”
Doubles specialist Artem Sitak, who was on board the plane, commented on the situation by giving an update to his followers on Instagram. The Russian-born New Zealand player is currently ranked 78th in the world and has won five ATP titles so far in his career.
“We’re all deemed close contact. I asked for a bike, so hopefully I’ll get one and stay in shape,” Sitak said. “We’ll probably be out on the 29th of January and head straight into the ATP 250 a few days after.
“Obviously not great, but that’s the risk we were all taking. They kind of warned us this was going to be at the discretion of the Australian government, Australian health authorities if something like this happened. It’s just unlucky that two of them contracted the virus.”
In a later update the 34-year-old confirmed that he has had a bike delivered to his room. |
Meanwhile, Japanese media have confirmed that all of Nishikori’s team has tested negative for the virus but the former US Open finalist will be training alone in his room.
The first series of tournaments are set to take place in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open on January 31st.
List of affected players
- Victoria Azarenka
- Sloane Stephens
- Kei Nishikori
- Tennys Sandgren
- Nicholas Monroe
- Santiago Gonzalez
- Artem Sitak
- Guido Pella
- Alison Riske
- Marcos Giron
- Vasek Pospisil
Note – list is incomplete and compiled via news agencies
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