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US Open Leading The Way For Diversity Both On And Off The Court

The New York major hopes to inspire a new generation of tennis fans from a variety of backgrounds with the help of their initiatives, as well as the players.

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The mixture of players from different ethnicities and backgrounds reaching the latter stages of the US Open serves as a ‘good example’ for the global community in the eyes of Felix Auger-Aliassime.

 

The 20-year-old Canadian, whose father is originally from the African country of Togo, is one of two black men to reach the fourth round along with Frances Tiafoe. Reaching the second week of a major for the first time is not only a landmark in the career of the rising star, but one he hopes will help inspire younger kids in the game from different minorities. Auger-Aliassime grew up in Canada and interacted with various minorities from a young age in what he describes as a ‘melting point.’

“Seeing players from different ethnicities, different backgrounds reaching the later stages of tournaments like these, I think it’s a really good example for the people watching us, the kids,” he said.
“I was thinking that you want to send out a good message. You hope that you’re leading by example, that kids, in you, they see belief, that you can reach that whatever city, country you come from, whatever neighbourhood you come from.’
“I hope this gives a lot of belief to people, and it’s a good message of love.”

It isn’t just the men who are making waves in this department. This year 12 black American women played in the women’s single draw which almost equated to a tenth of the entire field. This includes those from multicultural backgrounds and wildcard recipients. In recent years the Williams sisters have been credited for triggering a surge of interest in the sport from non-white players. Out of the 12, 38-year-old Serena Williams is the only left in the draw.

Although it is not just on the court where the New York major is showcasing its diversity with Auger-Aliassime saying there is also a ‘good atmosphere’ behind the scenes.

“The players and staff, you have to understand the staff here in the locker rooms, in the backgrounds, behind the scenes of the site, there’s a lot of diversity, Black people. The support that we get from them, the connection, the laughs, it’s just a really good atmosphere. I think all the players here like it,” he commented.

World No.82 Tiafoe is the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone who moved to America via the Green Card lottery system during the 1990s. He grew up sleeping on the floor of a tennis facility in Maryland, where his father worked as a maintenance man. For the American, he hopes his journey is one others can relate to.

“Whether it’s tennis or whatever they’re doing, I just want to see people of colour in my communities win,” Tiafoe said following his win over Marton Fucsovics on Saturday.
“If they get the inspiration from Frances Tiafoe, that’s even better. That’s why I try to give it my all. Again, I’m not doing it for me. It’s way bigger than that.”

This year’s US Open launched their ‘Be Open’ campaign which focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. For the first time in history, players are allowed to walk onto the court showing ‘physical support of social justice.’ Highlighted by Naomi Osaka who entered each of her matches wearing a different name of somebody who has been a victim of police brutality based on their ethnicity.

“We wanted to lean into our longstanding values of promoting equity and justice for all,” USTA managing director of marketing, Nicole Kankam, told Associations Now. “We wanted to shine a light on this issue and honour the heroes of this movement.”

Of course, the US Open only takes place over two weeks each year but Auger-Aliassime believes the limelight being shines on these issues will have a positive impact on the future. Saying that he hopes will help trigger a surge in tennis popularity across Africa. A continent with a population of more than a billion but only has three players currently ranked inside the top 200 on the ATP Tour.

It’s just a great message to send out, to be open to diversity, people from different backgrounds.” Auger-Aliassime concludes.
“Hopefully that will keep going. Hopefully we’ll get even more players from Africa even. I know that’s something that people have tried to do, bring more players from the African continent to professional tennis. Hopefully that happens in the future.”

Grand Slam

Madrid Open champion Ons Jabeur stunned in Paris

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has crashed out of the French Open in the first major shock of the tournament

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Ons Jabeur - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Having become the first African woman to win a Masters 1000 in Madrid, Jabeur was well fancied to rival Iga Świątek for the title.

 

The two also met in the final of the Italian Open, but a meeting this fortnight was cruelly dashed by Poland’s Magda Linette, who came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

After the two-hour, 28-minute epic, Jabeur had this to say.

Obviously I was expecting better but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future.

“Hopefully I will play the grass season at Wimbledon, but I don’t know. It’s a time to reflect and see what happens next.”

Another big shock occurred as 19-year-old Dianne Parry sent her home support into ecstasy as she shocked second seed defending champion Barbora Krejčíková.

The Czech going down 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi took another major scalp after her Australian Open exploits as she downed 10th seed Garbiñe Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

American sensation Amanda Anisimova comfortably beat an out of sorts Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4.

Meanwhile, the tournament favourite Świątek remains on track to win her second Grand Slam title after crushing Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

“I just want to keep going. I am aware that one day my streak will stop,” Świątek said.

“I am 100 per cent focused on my tennis, not on stats or not on some numbers.

I focus on my game and being kind of in a bubble. That’s what I’ve been doing the past weeks and I’m going to continue doing that here.”

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Two Veteran Frenchmen Play Their Last Roland Garros

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga practicing last week in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

A pair of 37-year-old Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, have announced this will be their last Roland Garros.  Simon will retire at the end of this season, while this will be Tsonga’s last tournament.  With both drawing formidable, seeded players in the first round, Tuesday may be the last French Open match of their long careers.

 

With 12 matches postponed from Monday due to rain, Tuesday will be an extra busy day in Paris.  And Tuesday night’s matchup is a meeting of two men who were up two-sets-to-none last year over eventual champion Novak Djokovic: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Musetti

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Denis Shapovalov (14) vs. Holger Rune – 11:00am on Court 12

Shapovalov has reached the quarterfinals or better at every other Major, but he is 2-3 lifetime at Roland Garros, and is yet to get out of the second round.  However, he has some significant results on this surface, including two Masters 1000 semifinals, and a victory two weeks ago over Rafael Nadal.  It would seem only a matter of time before Denis makes a deep run at this event, though that may not happen this year, as his opponent on Tuesday is on a steep upward trajectory.  Rune is a 19-year-old from Denmark who impressed in 2021 by taking a set off Novak Djokovic at the US Open, as well as winning four Challenger titles.  He has carried that momentum into 2022, by winning another Challenger title, and then his first ATP title, both on clay.  In his Munich title run, Holger upset Sascha Zverv.  And just last week, he was a semifinalist in Lyon.  So this is a very dangerous opening round draw for Shapovalov, especially considering his lackluster history at this event. 


Casper Ruud (8) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (WC) – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier

This match may mark the end of an illustrious career for Tsonga.  The Frenchman was a Major finalist in 2008, and has won 18 ATP titles, including two at the Masters 1000 level.  But injuries have severely impacted his last several seasons.  Since the start of 2020, Jo is only 4-19 at all levels, and is currently ranked 297th in the world.  In what will be his last tournament, he has drawn one of the ATP’s best clay court players.  Ruud has accumulated seven titles on this surface, six of which have come since last May.  Just a few days ago in Geneva, Casper defended his title.  It would be shocking is Tsonga could pull off the upset, but hopefully Jo can at least provide the Parisian crowd with some of his signature flair and shot-making in what will likely be his swan song.


Paula Badosa (3) vs. Fiona Ferro (WC) – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier

Badosa is the third seed, and the second-highest seed remaining following Barbora Krejickova’s exit on Monday.  But is she a top contender for this title?  She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and went 17-3 on clay last season.  Yet in 2022, she’s only 6-4 on this surface.  Ferro made a run to the fourth round of this tournament two years ago, though she’s spent much of the past year injured, and is currently ranked outside the top 100.  It would be surprising if the Frenchwoman can truly test Badosa, but Paula’s performance level could be a good indicator of just how serious her title chances are.


Pablo Carreno Busta (16) vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Fifth on Court Simonne Mathieu

Like his friend and fellow countryman Tsonga, Simon has achieved a lot: 14 ATP Titles, and a career-high ranking of No.6.  But he’s also had a rough few seasons.  Gilles went 6-24 at all levels last season, and only has one tour-level win in 2022.  And he also received a tough draw in the sixteenth seed, as Carreno Busta is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist, and was the runner-up last month in Barcelona on clay, where he earned impressive victories over Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman.  Pablo is 4-2 lifetime against Gilles, and has taken their last three meetings in straight sets.  All evidence indicates this will be the last match for another accomplished French player at his home Slam.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Last year in the fourth round, Musetti won the first two sets against Djokovic in tiebreaks.  But in the last three sets, the Italian mustered only one game, eventually retiring down 4-0 in the fifth.  That was a disappointing end to a breakthrough run for the 20-year-old, as it was his first appearance in the second week of a Major.  And Musetti has struggled ever since.  He has failed to win three consecutive main draw matches in the past year.  Meanwhile, Tsitsipas has his own demons at this event.  Not only did he also fail to capitalize on a two-set lead over Djokovic last year, but he also lost a heartbreaker in 2019 to Stan Wawrinka, in a five-set, five-hour epic.  But Stefanos leads the ATP with 31 wins this season, 14 of which have come on clay.  And he’s 2-0 against Musetti, which includes a victory last May on clay.  The Greek is a heavy favorite to advance on Tuesday evening.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Facundo Bagnis – Medvedev is 0-1 on clay this season, having missed nearly two months of action due to hernia surgery.  Bagnis is a 32-year-old from Argentina who won a Challenger event on clay two months ago.

Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Lucia Bronzetti – Ostapenko went on a nine-match win streak in February, but the 2017 champion is 0-5 since.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who is 9-3 this year on clay at all levels.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Soonwoo Kwon – Rublev won a clay title last month in Belgrade, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.  He’s 2-0 against Kwon, with both of those contests occurring in February of this year.

Simona Halep (19) vs. Nastasja Schunk (LL) – Halep is a modest 4-2 on clay this season, as her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is yet to pay dividends.  Schunk is a 18-year-old German who has reached two ITF finals this season.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Chloe Paquet – Sabalenka is only 13-11 on the year, and this is the only Major where she’s yet to reach the second week.  Paquet is a 27-year-old from France who achieved five finals at ITF events in 2021.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Naomi Osaka Plays Amanda Anisimova in an Australian Open Rematch

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Naomi Osaka practicing in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In the third round of January’s Australian Open, Naomi Osaka and Amanda Anisimova played an excellent match.  Osaka would hold two match points, but it would be Anisimova who would eventually prevail in a final-set tiebreak.  Now they meet again, in a highly-anticipated first round matchup in Paris.

 

Also on Monday, three of the favorites to win this event will play their opening matches: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Iga Swiatek.  Nadal is vying for his record-extending 22nd Major singles title, while Djokovic is looking to tie Nadal by defending his title and winning his 21st

Swiatek arrives in Paris on a 28-match winning streak, and has established herself as a strong favorite to procure her second Slam.   And Barbora Krejcikova starts her title defense on Monday, in what will be her first match since February.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Amanda Anisimova (27) vs. Naomi Osaka – 11:00am on Court Suzanne Lenglen

This will be Osaka’s return to an event where a year ago she withdrew after much controversy surrounding her decision to not participate in press conferences.  And this will be just her third match on clay this season, after withdrawing from Rome due to an ankle injury.  Anisimova is 10-3 on clay, having reached the quarterfinals or better in each of her three tournaments on this surface.  It was in Paris three years ago when the American made her big breakthrough with a run to the semifinals.  In their Australian Open thriller, struck 46 winners, while Osaka only accumulated 21.  That’s a stark contrast, especially considering how Naomi is usually the one dictating play.  On this surface, where Osaka has only played seven matches in the last three seasons, Anisimova is a considerable favorite to earn another victory over the four-time Major champion.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Lesia Tsurenko – 12:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

How will Swiatek cope with the pressure of being the prohibitive favorite to win this tournament?  This is new territory for the 20-year-old, as she has separated herself from the pack following the sudden retirement of Ash Barty.  Iga is 37-3 on the year, with five straight titles (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stutthart, Rome).  This is her first career meeting with Tsurenko, who is a former top 25 player and a 2018 US Open quarterfinalist.  But Lesia hasn’t played since retiring from a round of 16 match last month in Istanbul, and hasn’t won a main draw match at a Slam in three years.  Sunday’s first match on Chatrier saw the WTA’s other red-hot player, Ons Jabeur, go down in defeat.  But I don’t see another upset to start the day on Monday.


Barbora Krejcikova (2) vs. Diane Parry – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier

Defending your first Major title is never easy, but doing so when you’ve been inactive for the last three months is nearly impossible.  Krejcikova hasn’t played a match since February due to an elbow injury.  Her opponent on Monday is a 19-year-old from France who won four titles at lower-level events last season, all on clay.  With the Parisian crowd behind her, a Parry upset would not be shocking, especially against an out-of-form defending champion who has a lot of ranking points to defend.  Krejcikova could fall out of the top 10 with a first-round loss.  Barbora’s chances will be contingent upon how healthy her elbow is, and if she can overcome her lack of form.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Jordan Thompson – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier

Nadal’s achievements at this tournament are well-documented: a mind-boggling record of 105-3, with 13 titles.  But questions surround his condition coming into this fortnight.  Despite his history here, and despite his excellent 2022 record of 23-3, his chronic foot injury was causing him a lot of pain just over a week ago in Rome.  Rafa was noticeably limping during his three-set loss to Shapovalov in the quarterfinals of that event.  He remains a huge favorite against Thompson, who is 4-11 the last two seasons on clay, and 3-6 lifetime in the main draw of the French Open.  But all eyes with be on Nadal’s feet, as a relatively-healthy Rafa should of course be considered the favorite to win Roland Garros for a 14th time.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Considering Nadal’s foot, many consider Djokovic to be the favorite to defend his title.  While he missed much of the 2022 season due to his vaccination status, Novak rounded into form nicely on clay.  After gritting his way to the final in Belgrade in spite of some lackluster form, Djokovic reached the semifinals of Madrid, where young phenom Carlos Alcaraz required nearly four hours to stop him.  And in Rome, Djokovic won his first title in six months, and did so without dropping a set.  And that included his three victories over top 10 opposition since last November.  Nishioka has won his first round match in three consecutive years at Roland Garros, but that run will most likely end here.  Yoshi is 0-4 this season in the main draw of clay events, and in two previous encounter with Djokovic, he has been defeated soundly.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Bianca Andreescu vs. Ysaline Bonaventure (Q) – This is just Andreescu’s third main draw match at Roland Garros.  After missing the first three months of the season, Bianca has gone 6-3 on clay.  Bonaventure does own a victory over Andreescu, from a Canadian ITF-level event five years ago.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Corentin Moutet (WC) – Wawrinka has only played four tour-level matches since March of 2021 due to surgery on his left foot.  And the 2015 champion is 0-1 against Moutet, as the Frenchman defeated him in three sets two years ago in Doha.

Anett Kontaveit (5) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Kontaveit was easily the WTA’s best player during the latter stages of 2021, but she’s now just 3-4 since March.  Tomljanovic has been struggling as well, with an 11-13 record on the season.  Anett claimed both of their previous meetings in three sets.

Emma Raducanu (12) vs. Linda Noskova (Q) – The reigning US Open champion is 5-4 on clay this season.  Noskova is a 17-year-old from the Czech Republic, and is the reigning Roland Garros girls’ champion.

Angelique Kerber (21) vs. Magdalena Frech – Kerber has lost in the first round of this event five out of the last six years.  But she’s coming off a title run this past week in Strasbourg.  Frech is a 24-year-old from Poland whose only previous main-draw victory at a major came four years ago in Paris.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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