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Is 19-year-old Iga Swiatek bound for greatness?

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper tennis columnist James Beck reflects on the potential significance of the French Open women’s final.

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Paris is always magical.

 

The City of Love must be.

Iga Swiatek is the French Open women’s singles champion.

Always talented, always athletic.

But until this fortnight the Polish 19-year-old had never demonstrated any true greatness in  women’s tennis. All of a sudden now, even the great John McEnroe is predicting greater greatness from the latest new star of women’s tennis.

A STRANGE YEAR FOR WOMEN’S TENNIS

What a strange year this is in women’s tennis. Sofia Kenin wins the Australian Open before the coronavirus took over the entire world. Kenin came out of nowhere to achieve this amazing feat.

So, just when it appeared Kenin was ready to keep her amazing success story afloat, another surprise arrived with the name Iga Swiatek. It wouldn’t be real surprising that when this coronavirus disappears, hopefully early in 2021, that Swiatek keeps winning Grand Slam titles. It also wouldn’t be surprising if she retires with just one major title.

Swiatek seems to be just that unpredictable.

DID SHADOWS PLAY A KEY ROLE IN THE WOMEN’S FINAL?

Perhaps this time, Swiatek’s glorious day was achieved due to the uncontrollable nature of nature itself. The sun and its shadows appeared to play a major role in how this Grand Slam final started.

Shadows dominated one end of the court at match time on Saturday in the newly covered Court Philippe Chatrier Stadium.

Visibility was dreadful on the TV screen, and it must have been much the same way in Kenin’s eyes when she played the second and third games of the match on the “shadow end” of the court. The 21-year-old American looked out of sorts as if she was playing in darkness and she couldn’t find the ball while falling behind, 3-0.

SHADOWS BRING BACK MEMORIES OF NADAL-SODERLING

The scene brought back memories of Rafa Nadal’s fourth-round match against Robin Soderling in 2009 at Roland Garros. Going into the 2020 final on Sunday against Novak Djokovic, Nadal has suffered only two losses in 88 matches on the red clay of Roland Garros.

Of course, Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals at the French Open wasn’t a show stopper, especially when you consider that Djokovic is now slipping up on Nadal’s 19 Grand Slam titles and Roger Federer’s 20 in the all-time major title race.

But for Rafa to lose to the big-hitting Soderling was shocking at the time. Rafa also looked like he was playing in darkness that summer day in 2009. He couldn’t find the ball, either.

KENIN WASN’T NORMAL SELF

Seeing what happened on Saturday in the shadows at Roland Garros, it’s now easier to understand what happened to Nadal that day against Soderling.

Kenin had a miserable day on Saturday. She wasn’t herself, maybe due to the shadows or maybe to her heavily bandaged left thigh. Kenin is a better player than the one audiences around the world saw in her 6-4, 6-1 loss to Swiatek.

FANS FORTUNATE TO CATCH THEM BEFORE THEY BECAME STARS

Watching this French Open women’s final made me acknowledge once again how great it is to reside in a great tennis town that brings the ITF world-wide circuit to your city. It happens all over the world, to large cities and small cities.

Of course, Charleston also has the WTA Tour’s Volvo Car Open where the world’s best current players perform for large crowds of paying viewers.

The ITF Circuit is different.

Swiatek, Kenin and Cori Gauff all played in the $100K ITF tournament at LTP Tennis in Charleston during 2018 or 2019. All free of charge for everyone to view in person or even to enter  the current boundaries of social distancing. Autographs, yes. But autograph seekers were rare for these three young stars even that recently.

James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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Rafael Nadal joins star-studded Rotterdam field

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World number 2 and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will return to Rotterdam to play at the 48th edition of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament from 1 to 7 March 2021. 

 

Nadal joins a star-studded line-up which already features 2020 ATP Finals champion Danil Medvedev three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion and 2020 Sofia ATP 250 Tour winner Jannik Sinner. 

Nadal made his debut in Rotterdam in 2008 but he lost to Italy’s Andreas Seppi in the second round. One year later the Spanish legend lost to Andy Murray in the final. 

Nadal claimed his 13th Roland Garros title and his 20th Grand Slam trophy last year tying Roger Federer for most Grand Slam men’s singles titles. He was ranked in top 10 for record 800 consecutive weeks from 25 April 2003, including 209 total weeks as World number 1 following 160 consecutive weeks as world number 2. He earned his 1000th career win in Paris 2020 and boasts most ATP Masters 1000 match victories (389) and second most titles, including 11 in Monte-Carlo, 9 in Rome and 5 in Madrid. He joined André Agassi as the first to male players to complete career Grand Slam and win Olympic gold medals in singles in Beijing 2008 and in doubles in Rio de Janeiro 2016 alongside his compatriot Marc Lopez.   

“What applied to his debut in 2008 in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, still applies. Rafa is again in second place in the ATP Rankings. That shows how unique it is. Non-stop in the top 10 since April 2005. There is no one who will be close to this, or will match him for a long time to come. We had annual contact about him playing in Rotterdam, but it did not fit into the schedule. Now that the season looks different in terms of planning, he was open to coming back to Rotterdam. Of course we seized the opportunity. It would be great if we could add to our Ring of Champions next March. It’s no secret that Nadal is one of my all-time favourite players. The intensity he brings to the court is unparalled. His fighting spirit in combination with his unique technique is an example for everyone. The fact that he returns to Rotterdam after so many years makes it extra special, of course”, said Tournament Director and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. 

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Alejandro Davidovich Fokina decides to skip the Australian Open

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Alejandro Davidovich Fokina decided to skip the Australian Open after being tested to covid-19. Fokina is asymptomatic, while his coach had minor symptoms. The young Spanish player should have faced 14 days of quarantine before training for three days ahead of the Australian Open, but decided to focus on the European Indoor tournaments. His season will start with two Challenger tournaments. Davidovich Fokina reached the semifinal in Estoril in 2019 as qualifier and the fourth round at the US Open in 2020 at the age of 21. 

 

“My coach and I tested positive to Covid-19 14 days ago and could not get on our plane to Melbourne last Thursday. Jorge had minor symptoms and I was practically asymptomatic. We have thought that even with the possibility of travelling in the next three days, having to do another 14-day quarantine, training three days and playing to the best of five sets could be dangerous and harmful for the rest of the season because the probability of injury is very high. We will try to obtain some wild cards to play at two challengers and start getting the rhythm and shape to face the European Indoor Tour the best way possible. On one hand I feel very sad because I am missing the first Grand Slam of the year but on the other hand I am glad that we have confronted the virus without any complications and I am ready to start training and competing again”, wrote Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on his twitter account. 

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Monte-Carlo postpones the ticket sales for the 2021 edition

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The uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic in Europe forced the tournament management of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to postpone the start of the ticket sales for the 2021 edition scheduled from 11 to 18 April 2021. 

 

This decision affects Italian and French tennis fans. A large part of the crowd who attend the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters comes from France and Italy. 

The management of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters confirmed that the tournament will be held with a partial presence of the crowd. The 2020 edition of the monegasque tournament was cancelled. 

The tournament management published this brief announcment on its official website: 

“Dear viewers, we remind you that the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters will take place from 10 to 16 April 2021, no doubt with limited public access. Unfortanetely, given the current unfavourable health situation, the opening of our ticket office, which we hoped to keep on 19th January, must be postponed. In any case, we hope to be able to give you positive news shortly, and at the moment we invite to consult our website and our social networks for up-to-date information. We remain confident that we will be able to welcome you to the Monte-Carlo Country Club from 10 April 2021, for the 114th edition of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters”. 

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