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Tennis Has A Conundrum When It Comes To COVID-19 Testing

Two countries, two testing procedures and two very different outcomes.

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In the French capital of Paris six players were excluded from Roland Garros qualifying after either testing positive for COVID-19 or being in close contact with somebody who has. At the same time in neighbouring Germany Benoit Paire returned to action on Wednesday despite testing positive – twice.

 

The two different scenarios are an abrupt reminder of the ongoing uncertainty that has been caused by the devastating coronavirus outbreak which has infected an estimated 31.6 million people, according to John Hopkins University. World No.25 Paire finds himself in an unfortunate situation of illustrating how difficult the pandemic is for the world of tennis. In August he was banned from playing at the US Open and placed in isolation under protocol after he failed a COVID-19 test. After that ordeal he was able to travel to both Paris and Rome without any issues. Then Germany caused a whole new headache.

“I tested positive for (COVID-19) in Hamburg. The only negative I got was yesterday,” Paire revealed after retiring during his first round match on Wednesday.
“The rules seem different here so the ATP has to explain what they are. Here in Germany you can test positive and you can play. So thank you to the tournament and doctors for allowing me to play but there are some rules I obviously don’t understand much. 
“We don’t know if the positive test in the USA was false. We only know that I was negative after the US Open, in France, in Rome and then I was positive in Hamburg,” he later added.

Paire’s revelation caused both a stir and confusion. In the aftermath of his comments, the chiefs of the Hamburg Open issued a statement explaining why the Frenchman was allowed to play. Their argument is that it is normal for a person to still have fragments of the virus in their body after contracting it for weeks after. Dr. Volker Carrero said Paire didn’t show symptoms (that he knew of at the time) and wasn’t contagious.   

“Paire was tested positive for COVID-19 on August 28th at the US Open and consequently was required to quarantine in New York for 10 days. When he arrived at Hamburg a re-test was positive. On Tuesday he tested negative,” the statement reads.
“According to Dr. Volker Carrero, it is not uncommon that three weeks after a positive result, fragments of the virus can still be found inside the body. Paire has not shown any symptoms of the disease and has not been contagious at any time. Local health authorities in Hamburg made the decision on Saturday that Paire is allowed to play.”

But there are still unanswered questions. For instance how did medical officials ascertain that Paire didn’t have the virus and his positive test in New York might have been a false alarm? Furthermore, he cited tiredness as the reason for his withdrawal from the tournament which is a sign of the virus. Was this something he had prior and were the medical officials aware of this?

The unlucky ones

Damir Dzumhur

The story will likely enrage one group of players on the Tour who were kicked out of the French Open. Unlike Hamburg, those who test positive or have a close contact who has tested positive are removed from competition no matter what. Although it has proved to be a controversial decision.

Damir Dzumhur has told blix.ba that he is in contact with lawyers after he was removed from Roland Garros due to his coach, Petar Popovic, testing positive. Although Popovic had the virus during the summer and asked officials for a second to test to rule out a false result. Something that the French Tennis Federation (FFT) refused. Just over a day later Popovic underwent another test in Serbia where he was negative.

We were just asking for the right to another test that would prove that it is a false positive test, which happens in more than 15% of cases … Unfortunately, they did not accept that, they told us that we could stay in the room in isolation for seven days, and we decided to go home because I knew I was not infected – I did two tests in Serbia and I am negative, he told Sport Klub.
“Now we will fight for the rights of all other players, not to expel from Roland Garros players who are a false positive.”

Dzumhur isn’t the only person to be in this unfortunate situation. Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa and Spain’s Bernabé Zapata were also excluded after testing positive to only return to their home countries and test negative. To empathise the significance of their removal, those who play in qualifying and win all three of their matches are guaranteed at least 60,000 euros in prize money. Kawa says she is unable to claim compensation after signing an agreement.

So who is at fault? Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as to blame one individual or a certain process. Tennis is a global sport but the downside for players is that they are playing in different countries with each of them having their own rules on COVID-19. If Paire was in Paris this week instead of Hamburg he would have never been allowed to play.

There is also the argument that perhaps the sport should have a standardised testing system applied throughout. Although in reality that is unrealistic not only due to each country having their own rules, but the fact seven governing bodies operate within the sport.

Ironically the current mood among players is best summarised by Paire himself, who uploaded a photo of him on Instagram with the caption ‘Quand est ce que ça va s’arrêter?’ French for ‘when will this end?’

Unfortunately, given a rise in cases once again, COVID-19 will be around for a while and therefore so will be the complexed testing processes.

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Quand est ce que ça va s’arrêter? #epuisé

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Emma Raducanu Unfazed By Rankings Drop Ahead Of US Open Title Defence

Emma Raducanu talked about pressure as she takes on Serena Williams in Cincinnati.

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Emma Raducanu (@marioboc17 - Twitter)

Ahead of her US Open title defence in a couple of weeks, Emma Raducanu remains unfazed about her potential drop down the rankings.

 

Emma Raducanu is set to defend her US Open title in a couple of weeks after winning her maiden grand slam title as a qualifier last year.

The Brit will have 2,000 points to defend and an early exit risks a huge rankings drop in what has been a big experience for the 19 year-old this year.

Raducanu enters the last grand slam of the year without form or momentum on her side having only won back-to-back matches at three events this year.

Speaking in Cincinnati, Raducanu told the press that she is prepared to start from the bottom again if she has to, “If I lose 2,000 points so be it, I’ll start again from the bottom,” Raducanu told reporters.

“I know I can do something that no one else has done. I qualified and won the US Open, so I can start from the beginning, I can start from zero and I’m not afraid of that.

“I just think that everything that’s happening right now has probably just meant to be in my journey and I need to go through those development stages at some point because I did miss them. I went from playing 25ks to winning the US Open.”

Raducanu’s rise has been incredibly quick and the Brit will be anticipating that anything can happen over the next few months in terms of her development.

Defending the grand slam is huge pressure and it will be interesting to see if returning to the US Open will inspire her to raise her level.

Before Raducanu goes to the US Open, she competes in Cincinnati and faces 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams in her opening round.

Williams is currently on her farewell tour and Raducanu admits it’s going to be an unforgettable experience to play her, “I think it’s gonna be an exciting match. I’m looking forward to it,” Raducanu said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play probably the best the best tennis player of all time. It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to ever play her. I think that, for our careers to have crossed over, I think I’m really fortunate that I get to play her.

“Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of her life.”

The match will now likely take place on Tuesday after originally been scheduled for Monday evening.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Simona Halep Cliches Third National Bank Open Title With Topsy-Turvy Win Over Haddad Maia

The two-time Grand Slam champion battled with her own consistency on the court en route to her latest title.

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Image via https://twitter.com/NBOtoronto/

Simona Halep overcame a poor start and lacklustre second set performance to oust Beatriz Haddad Maia and win the National Bank Open on Sunday.

 

Halep looked far from her best at times on the court as she battled to a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, win over her Brazilian rival who beat world No.1, Iga Swiatek, earlier in the tournament. During the roller-coaster clash, which lasted more than two hours, she hit a total of 16 winners against 31 unforced errors. The triumph avenged her loss to Haddad Maia two months ago in the final of the Birmingham Classic.

“I’m really exhausted, today has been a tough battle,” Halep said during the trophy presentation.
“I have won in Montreal two times but never here (in Toronto) so today is a special day. I fought really hard because I wanted to win in front of you guys (the crowd).”

Seeking her third title at the tournament in her career, Halep erratically started her latest final. A nightmare opening service game saw the Romanian produce four double faults, as well as a forehand error, to go down a break early on. Paving the way for Haddad Maia to surge to a 3-0 lead. After that blip, Halep soon found her footing on the court as she staged a valiant fight back. Winning six games in a row to clinch the first set. She closed out the opener with a blistering backhand winner to the corner of the court.

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with history-maker Haddad Maia breaking early on yet again. The 26-year-old is the first Brazilian player to reach the final of a WTA 1000 event. However, this time the world No.24 was able to maintain the advantage at the expense of a dramatic lull in form from her opponent. After storming to a four-game winning run, Haddad Maia eased her way to a 5-1 lead. Then serving to level the match, she triumphed with the help of back-to-back forehand errors from Halep.

Historically, the previous 20 finals at the Canadian Open have been won by the player who takes the opener. The last player to break this trend was Martina Hingis back in 2000 against Serena Williams.

Eager to avoid a Hingis-like fightback, Halep held her nerve to prevail during what was a rollercoaster decider. Three straight breaks of serve occurred before the world No.15 managed to hold and move ahead 4-1. Closing in on the title, Halep secured victory on her second championship point after a Haddad Maia forehand slammed into the net.

“Two months ago I wasn’t thinking that I would be lifting this trophy,” said Halep.
“Patrick (her coach) thank you for believing in me and being by my side since two months ago. Hopefully, I made you proud today even if I didn’t play great but I fought. Hopefully, we will have many more titles together.”

There is also a silver lining for runner-up Haddad Maia who will break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday. The Brazilian is currently enjoying a breakthrough season where she has won two Tour titles. She is the first player from her country to reach the final of three or more WTA events within the same year since 1969.

“I want to congratulate Simona and her team. You work very hard to be here and it’s very nice to share a moment like this with you in front of this crowd (in Toronto),” she said.
“Today I pushed myself as much as I could. I didn’t control my emotions very well today but even if I wasn’t playing my best tennis I was trying to fight. That was what I have done since the first round.”

30-year-old Halep has now won 24 titles on the WTA Tour and her ninth at a WTA 1000 event. It is the first time in her career she has managed to win the same tournament for the third time after previously triumphing in 2016 and 2018.

Halep will now rise to sixth in the rankings on Monday which will be her highest position in over a year.

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