US Open Day 11 Preview: Serena Williams And Naomi Osaka Target Place In Final - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 11 Preview: Serena Williams And Naomi Osaka Target Place In Final

Four dynamic players with compelling stories make up today’s stellar semifinal lineup.

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Naomi Osaka on Arthur Ashe Stadium (usopen.org)

Naomi Osaka is a two-time Major champion who has inspired by advocating for social justice in the United States.  Jennifer Brady is an American collegiate athlete who at 25 has fully developed her game and achieved her first Major semifinal.  Victoria Azarenka is another two-time Slam winner who has come back from injuries, child birth, and a bitter custody battle to reach for first Slam semifinal in seven years.  And speaking of moms, Serena Williams endured life-threatening child birth complications just three years ago, yet is vying for her fifth Major final since her return.

 

Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Jennifer Brady (28)

They have split their two past meetings, though that’s not at all revealing.  Brady prevailed six years ago at a small event, and Osaka prevailed two years ago on clay.  Today, both these women are different players.  Despite withdrawing from the Western & Southern final two weeks ago due to a hamstring injury, which she still has taped, Osaka has shown no signs of detriment.  Brady has also suffered an upper leg injury, but that’s not prevented her from downing each of her opponents in straight sets.  Both of these players serve well, hit big off both sides, and are quick around the court.  While a Major semifinal is new territory for Brady, she’s appeared fully comfortable with the new spotlight thus far.  And perhaps the American is feeling less pressure without a stadium full of 23,000 fans watching live.  However, Osaka’s composure in big matches is remarkable.  The two previous times Naomi has reached the quarterfinals of a Slam, she’s gone on to win the event.  In what has the makings of a high-quality semifinal, Osaka is the slight favorite to advance to her third Major final.

Serena Williams (3) vs. Victoria Azarenka

This has been one of WTA’s most talked-about and prolific rivalries of the last decade.  But upon a closer look, it’s been rather one-sided.  Serena leads their head-to-head 18-4, with a dominant 10-0 record at Majors.  They played three consecutive times at this event from 2011-2013, and twice in the championship match.  The positive Azarenka can take away from their history is her four victories have all occurred on hard courts, with three of them in the United States.  And their matches have become closer in more recent years, with four of Victoria’s last six losses to Serena decided in a third set.  Azarenka is one of the only players who has consistently believed she belongs on the court with Williams, not appearing at all intimidated.  She is one of the sport’s most competitive fighters, and will walk onto Arthur Ashe Stadium with confidence. 

Azarenka is on a 10-match winning streak, including a complete steamrolling of Elise Mertens last night 6-1, 6-0.  Serena has faced much more resistance to this stage, battling her way through three consecutive three-setters.  That may be a significant factor in this match, since these semifinalists just played yesterday.  Despite Williams’ match starting seven hours prior to Azarenka’s, Serena’s quarterfinal was an hour longer and considerably more draining.  Williams’ fight and problem-solving has been impressive, yet she still hasn’t reached her top level during this tournament.  And while Serena is 4-0 in Slam semifinals since becoming a mother, we’ve seen her tighten up time after time with a 24th Major within her grasp.  Their lopsided past notwithstanding, Azarenka has been the better player since the tour restart last month.  Vika has been striking the ball with malice, and has rediscovered her swagger for the first time since 2016.  A fresh, rejuvenated Azarenka may just be the favorite to reach her third US Open final.

Player facts

  • Brady is the first former college player to reach the last four in New York since 1987.
  • Williams has won a record 106 matches at the US Open
  • Azarenka has played Williams more times on the Tour than anybody apart from her sister Venus
  • Out of those who have previous played in a major semi-final, Osaka is the only player to maintain a perfect record of 2-0. Williams is 33-5, Azarenka is 4-3 and Brady has never reached this stage before.
  • Osaka is the youngest player left in the draw at the age of 22 years and 331 days.
  • Williams and Brady are the third American duo to reach the last four of the tournament over the past four years.

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

‘Her Values Are Not What Tennis Stands For’ – Andy Murray Backs Calls To Rename Margaret Court Arena

The British tennis star is the latest top name to hit out at Court over her history of anti-gay comments.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has said the Australian Open should consider renaming one of their premier courts after Margaret Court due to her controversial views.

 

The former world No.1 says 78-year-old Court, who holds the record for most singles Grand Slam titles won, doesn’t represent the values of the sport. Despite being one of Australia’s most decorated tennis players of all time, Court has a history of making various anti-gay views but maintains that she is not homophobic. She once said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘ and during her playing career described rival Martina Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality. In other incidents she also boycotted Qantas airlines due to their support of marriage equality and publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner.

Murray joins a list of figures calling for a change along with Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe who both held an on-court protest back in January calling for the name change. The Brit argues that the controversy surrounding Court takes focus away from tennis and this should not be the case. This year the Australian was honoured at the Melbourne major with a low-key event to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.

“She has obviously offended and upset a lot of people over the years. I think the players certainly have spoken up, which is a positive thing,” Murray told pridelife.com.
“As far as renaming the venue. I think that yes, it’s something the sport should consider. I don’t know who makes the final decision on that but I don’t think her values are what tennis stands for. When you get to the Australian Open you want to concentrate on the tennis. Court’s views detract from that.”

Tennis Australia, who oversees the Australian Open, has previously distanced themselves from Court’s views. In a statement previously issued they said the decision to recognise the 50th anniversary of her triumph was solely due to her achievements and they do not endorse her views.

“Court was given a ceremony at the Australian Open this year to mark her achievements in the game, but the reception she received from the public was lukewarm,” Murray commented.

The issue of gay rights is rarely spoken about in the world of men’s tennis. Unlike the women’s game there are no openly gay male players and only a handful have publicly spoken about their sexuality in recent years. The most well known being former top 100 American player Brian Vahaly who came out after he retired from the sport.

“I think, certainly in men’s tennis, there have been a number of players who have come out as gay, but not while they’re competing. I think there’s still a stigma around it which obviously shouldn’t be the case,” said Murray.

There are various theories about the reasons where there may be no openly gay players on the Tour. Murray says he has never witnessed or heard homophobic comments whilst playing in the sport, but admits that it may be different if somebody did come out.

“I wouldn’t say that I have heard it in the locker room. If more gay men came out it’s something you might see more of potentially,” he explained.
“There have been a few things said in articles I’ve read where players have made homophobic comments, but I’ve not been in the presence of anyone when they have made homophobic comments in the locker room.”

Murray will return to action in less than two weeks time at the French Open in Paris.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams French Open Over Crowd Decision

The world No.41 explains why he is ‘disappointed’ with the French major as other players also voice caution about playing in front of crowds.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has accused officials at the French Open of not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously following their decision to allow spectators to attend.

 

The clay-court Grand Slam has created three separate zones where fans are allowed to attend with each of those having a daily capacity limit. The zones including court Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen will hold up to 5000 each. Meanwhile an additional 1500 spectators will be allowed to visit the area surrounding the third court, Simonne Mathieu. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says strict measures will be in place and their plans have been drafted following ‘advice from a committee of expert scientists.` Masks must be worn at all times by those attending.

Despite the measures that have been put in place, former top 20 player Kyrgios has criticised the move amid the number of cases in the country. France has recently seen a surge in their daily toll. On Tuesday they reported 7852 newly confirmed cases within a 24-hour period compared to 6158 the day before. Last Saturday the number surpassed the 10,000 mark.

“I am most likely not going to play,” Kyrgios told News Corp.
“Especially with the cases rising there. I don’t feel comfortable to go there and play.
“They are thinking about doing it with crowds. I don’t think the tournament is taking it seriously. It’s disappointing the level of seriousness they are taking towards it.”

Kyrgios hasn’t played a competitive match since February after choosing to skip the North American swing over concerns related to the pandemic. A decision that was also taken by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. Although he also previously hinted that it is unlikely that he will be travelling to Europe this year and therefore ending his season early. A approach that was also taken by compatriot Ash Barty.

The 25-year-old isn’t the only player to have express concerns about crowds at Roland Garros. 2018 champion Halep told reporters at this week’s Italian Open, which is being held behind closed doors, that she is hopeful that officials at the venue will be ‘strict’ with the measures.

“I just read that they will have fans,” she said. “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.”

Meanwhile, cautiously-speaking Nadal says it is a case of wait and see what happens in Paris. This year he is bidding to win the major for an historic 13th time.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s the situation’s going to look like in Roland Garros,” he told journalists on Monday when questioned about the French Open.
“Let’s see how the virus evolves the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in a good way. Doesn’t look like that, no? Let’s see. We need to be patient and we need to wait to see how the situation improves.”

Unlike the main draw, the qualifying rounds will be held behind closed doors in order to make it easier for players to move around the venue. The tournament gets underway on September 21st with the main draw starting the week after.

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