US Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday’s schedule is highlighted by a third round match between two US Open champions.

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Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open Champion (usopen.org).

It will be six-time champion Serena Williams facing fellow American and 2017 champion Sloane Stephens in the second match of the day on Arthur Ashe Stadium.  The most marquee men’s match of the day will see 2014 champion Marin Cilic take on three-time Major finalist Dominic Thiem.  With sunny and pleasant weather forecasted, and many other appetizing matches on the docket, Saturday should be an excellent day of tennis in New York.

 

Serena Williams (3) vs. Sloane Stephens (26)

Williams leads their head-to-head 5-1, though they haven’t played in over five years.  Stephens’ only victory was also their most prominent affair, in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open.  They’ve played once previously at this event, also in 2013, with Serena winning comfortably in straight sets.  Sloane came into this fortnight with a miserable 1-7 record during this abbreviated season, with her only win over a player currently ranked outside the top 500.  While Serena also hasn’t looked quite her best since the tour restart, neither woman dropped a set in their first two rounds.  Serena clearly has the better offense, with Sloane the better defense.  Which will prevail?  They say defense wins championships, but Serena’s serve has propelled her to 23 Major singles titles.  And considering Sloane’s recent struggles, Serena should advance to the fourth round of the US Open for the 17th time.

Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Marin Cilic (31)

Thiem is 2-0 against Cilic, with both matches decided on hard courts.  And the second seed has certainly been the better player of late, while Cilic has struggled since mid-2018.  But this has been Marin’s best Major throughout his career.  He’s reached the quarterfinals or better five times, and this is the seventh consecutive year he’s advanced to this round.  However, it’s taken him nine sets to get here, while Thiem has only played five thanks to a retirement midway through his first round.  And Thiem will like playing at night on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the courts will play considerably slower than the outer courts, especially in cooler evening temperatures.  Cilic may provide some resistance, but Thiem is the favorite.

Sofia Kenin (2) vs. Ons Jabeur (27)

The American No.1 has claimed four of their five meetings at all levels.  That includes their most recent and important encounter, in the quarterfinals of this year’s Australian Open.  Of course that was part of Kenin’s run to her first Major.  And it was Jabeur’s best performance at a Slam to date.  The 26-year-old from Tunisia is currently at a career-high ranking of No.31, after also reaching the quarters in Doha, Lexington, and last week’s Western & Southern Open.  With her all-court game, this could be an upset alert.  Despite having not been broken through two rounds, Kenin has stated she doesn’t feel like she’s played her best tennis.  And with so few tournaments played since her maiden Major win, Sofia hasn’t had much time to adjust to her new place in the sport.  While Jabeur’s only win against Kenin came on clay at a lower level event, I would not be surprised if she upsets the second seed today.

Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Alex de Minaur (21)

This will be the first career meeting between the 24-year-old Russian and the 21-year-old Australian.  Khachanov scarcely escaped the opening round, coming back from two sets down against Jannick Sinner.  De Minaur experienced less turbulence in getting to this stage, but did drop a set to Richard Gasquet on Thursday.  The timing and placement of this match would seem to favor the Australian, as they’ll be playing midday on an outer court.  De Minaur enjoys faster hard courts much more than Khachanov, who prefers more time to set up his strokes.  And Alex has good memories on these courts, having reached the fourth round of a Major for the first time here a year ago.  I like his chances to repeat that feat today, though the big-swinging Russian doesn’t often go down without a fight.  This could be a fun one.

Maria Sakkari (15) vs. Amanda Anisimova (22)

Sakkari has excelled against American competition these last two weeks.  She took out both Coco Gauff and Serena Williams a week ago.  And last round, she defeated Bernarda Pera in three sets.  Today she faces a 19-year-old American who was a surprise semifinalist last year at Roland Garros.  Unfortunately, she missed this event a year ago, following the sudden passing of her father.  While she has been unable to equal her French Open result elsewhere yet, it’s understandable considering the personal trauma she has suffered.  And with her strong ground game and level-headed composure on the court, it’s seems only a matter of time before she’s at the top of the game.  Amanda showcased some grit in coming back from a set down against fellow American Katrina Scott two days ago.  While Sakkari is the more in-form and experienced player, I have a feeling this could be a strong tournament for Anisimova.  She is better equipped to dictate play, and may feel less pressure without a partisan crowd packed inside Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Other Notable Matches on Day 6:

Western & Southern Open champion Victoria Azarenka vs. Iga Swiatek, a 19-year-old from Poland who was a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open earlier this year.

2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. J.J. Wolf (WC), a 21-year-old American playing in his first Major.

2019 semifinalist Matteo Berrettini (6) vs. Casper Ruud (30).  The 21-year-old Norwegian won their only previous meeting, last year at the French Open.

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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