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

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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ATP

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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