Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are one match away from a blockbuster semifinal.
But before they get there, they face significant opposition today. Thiem will play the last man to defeat Nadal on clay, while Rafa takes on a most impressive teenager. The women’s draw has opened up considerably, with three of today’s four quarterfinalists unseeded, two of them qualifiers, and none of them previously appearing in a Grand Slam final. And due to rain yesterday, the last women’s fourth round match between Ons Jabeur and Danielle Collins will be first on Court Philippe-Chatrier today.
Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Diego Schwartzman (12)
This should be an entertaining clash, featuring plenty of shot-making from all corners of the court. Thiem is looking to reach his fifth straight semifinal at Roland Garros. This is Schwartzman’s second quarterfinal here in the last three years, and his fourth at a Major, though he’s yet to advance farther. Thiem leads their head-to-head 6-2, and 3-1 on clay. Today marks their first meeting at a Major. Diego’s two wins have not come easily: they ended either 7-5 in the third, or in a third set tiebreak. Coming off his run to the final of Rome, Schwartzman has continued to build momentum. Diego has won seven of his last eight matches, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight. Thiem won his first Major just 23 days ago, and is on an 11-match winning streak. But he needed five sets and three-and-a-half hours to fight off French wild card Hugo Gaston two days ago. Dominic and Diego are good friends, and have even played doubles together in the past. Competing against a friend in such an important match is never easy, and may impact both players. And it would only be natural for Thiem to experience some burnout coming off his emotionally-draining US Open win. So while Thiem remains a favorite, a Schwartzman victory does not feel far-fetched.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Jannik Sinner
For the second consecutive round, Nadal faces a player who is undefeated at Roland Garros. Of course that’s misleading, as 19-year-old Sinner had never previously played this event. And his 4-0 record is nothing compared to Rafa’s 97-2. Nadal is yet to be challenged through four rounds, averaging only two games lost per set. But Sinner has the ability to push Nadal with his impressive groundstrokes, and he doesn’t seem the type to be overwhelmed by the idea of facing the King of Clay. Rafa is one of the best returners in the world, but Sinner’s returning skills have been impressive. Yannik has been breaking serve 5-7 times per match. Clearly, a Nadal loss would be startling. But Sinner grabbing a set or two is plausible.
Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Nadia Podoroska (Q)
This is Svitolina’s third time in the French Open quarterfinals. The last time she advanced this far, the result was heartbreak. Three years ago, she was up a set and 5-1 against Simona Halep, and even held a match point, yett would eventually lose 6-0 in the third. But last summer, after losing her first four Major quarterfinals, she finally broke through, reaching two semifinals within two months. And this is a great opportunity to reach her third, against a 23-year-old qualifier who had never won a match at a Major before this tournament. While the draw has opened up a bit for Podoroska, she thoroughly earned her spot in this quarterfinal. And this result is not a fluke for the Argentine. She now owns 37 wins this year at all levels (including qualifying), which is astounding in this shortened season. 16 of those wins have come on clay since the tour restart two months ago. Svitolina is certainly the favorite, but the issue here is both players will be fully aware of that. And Elina knows what a huge chance this is for her at a Major, as she’s the top seed remaining. It will be interesting to see how all this plays on Svitolina’s mind.
Iga Swiatek vs. Martina Trevisan (Q)
This has been the breakthrough tournament for both these women. 19-year-old Iga Swiatek has twice before reach the round of 16 at a Major, so this result is not a shock. But it’s the way in which she’s plowed through this field that has put the tennis world on notice. Swiatek has not dropped a set, which applies to doubles as well, where her and Nicole Melichar have reached the quarterfinals. Iga not only ousted last year’s finalist, Marketa Vondrousova, she blitzed top-seeded Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2. And that was after taking just one game from Halep last year in a 45-minute encounter. As Steve Weissman highlighted on Tennis Channel in the US, Swiatek’s average forehand and backhand speed rivals that of the top men at this event. Her opponent today is a hugely surprising quarterfinalist. Adam Addicott has a detailed profile on the 26-year-old Italian here. Her career was derailed for years as she battled anorexia. Prior to this fortnight, she had never won a match at a Slam, and was 1-16 against top 100 players. But the lefthander has taken out Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, and Kiki Bertens thus far. These two have split two previous non-tour level meetings, with Trevisan prevailing on clay. But the mix of power and guile Swiatek possesses should enable her to achieve her first Major semifinal.
Other Notable Matches on Day 10:
In the men’s doubles quarterfinals, Defending French Open champion Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (8) vs. Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski (13).
In the women’s doubles quarterfinals, Two-time Major champions Barbora Krejicikova and Katerina Siniakova (4) vs. Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (9). Kenin is still alive in singles as well.
Tuesday’s full schedule is here.
Fanless Wimbledon Still On The Cards For Next Year, Says Organisers
The grass-court Grand Slam, which was first held in 1877, has outlined it’s plans for the coming months.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club has vowed to hold next year’s Wimbledon Championships even if it means the tournament taking place behind closed doors.
This year’s grass-court major was axed for the first time since World War Two due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was the only Grand Slam to be cancelled. Although unlike the other three premier events, Wimbledon had the luxury of a pandemic insurance to cover some of its costs. The policy cost in the region of £1.5 million per year and was paid for more than 15 years in a row. Although full details of the payout has not been made public.
However, it will be a different scenario next year with the tournament being unable to be insured by the same policy due to the ongoing pandemic. Now organizers are looking at three options regarding hosting the event with the possibility of a full capacity, reduced capacity or no fans at all. The US Open was held behind closed doors earlier this year but the French Open did allow a limited number of fans. Any decision will be influenced by government policy around the time the event will take place.
“Staging The Championships in 2021 is our number one priority and we are actively engaged in scenario planning in order to deliver on that priority,” AELTC Chief Executive Sally Bolton said in a statement.
“I would like to thank the government and public health authorities for their ongoing advice which will continue to be invaluable as The Championships 2021 draws closer. At the same time, we are delighted to demonstrate confidence in Wimbledon with the renewal of several partnerships across our commercial programme which play a significant contribution to the successful staging of The Championships both in 2021 and in the future.”
Amid the uncertainty, Wimbledon is still managing to maintain a strong corporate portfolio with Rolex recently agreeing to extend their partnership. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer has been working with the Grand Slam since 1978 when it was named the official timekeeper. The AELTC have also renewed deals with Jaguar, IBM, Robinsons and Pimm’s. Meanwhile, Sipsmith has been named the first official gin of the Championships.
As well as planning for next year, Wimbledon has also reiterated their commitment to support those during the pandemic via its charitable foundation. The Wimbledon Foundation has set up a £1.2m Coronavirus Fund to help people living across Merton and Wandsworth, London, as well as other parts of the country. £750,000 has already been donated to local charities and organisations. Furthermore, 30,000 towels meant to be used at this year’s tournament has been redistributed for alternative use by the Foundation. For example 4000 towels were given to the homeless charity Crises.
“Since the cancellation of The Championships 2020, we have worked hard to make a difference to those in our local community and beyond as the coronavirus continues to have a significant impact on people’s lives,” said AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt.
“As the winter period begins, we are pleased to be extending our hot meals programme to continue to help those in need locally for the challenging months ahead. We are committed to using the collective strength of Wimbledon – all the many facets of the Club, The Championships and our Foundation – to play our part.”
The 2021 Wimbledon Championships is set to take place between Monday, 28th June and Sunday, 11th July.
Crunch Time Beckons For 2021 Australian Tennis Season, Warns Tiley
The tennis chief speaks out about the challenges he faces in the coming weeks ahead of the start of the new tennis season.
The head of Tennis Australia admits that plans for tournaments at the start of next year are still up in the air as he waits to hear back from local government officials.
Craig Tiley will be overseeing the string of events which also include the premier Australian Open. Prior to the Grand Slam officials are hoping to stage a series of tournaments around the country like it has done in previous years. Although due to the COVID-19 pandemic some states still have border restrictions which makes travelling more challenging.
The ongoing restrictions will be the most troublesome for the ATP Cup which is a multi-team men’s event that took place across three cities this year with Novak Djokovic guiding Serbia to the title. Tiley remains optimistic that everything can go ahead as planned but admits the decision is out of his hands.
“We’re getting to crunch time now. We need commitments from the governments and the health officers,” he told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“We need to kind of know in the next two weeks, maybe a month, that this is what can happen: borders are going to open and then we can have a multi-city event.
“If we cannot have a multi-city event, we’ve got to reconsider everything.”
Another key issue will be the 14-day quarantine process players will have to go through. Something they didn’t have at either the US Open or French Open. The hope is local authorities will relax their rules and allow players to train during this period. Enabling Tennis Australia to create a ‘bubble’ for them to live within.
“Right now the challenge we have is the borders are still closed,” he said.
“So we’ve got a plan on the basis that there will be all open borders.
“So we’re working with all state governments. We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine.
“What we are negotiating, or what we’re trying to have an agreement on, is that we set up a quarantine environment where they can train and go between the hotel and the courts in those two weeks.
“That’s similar to the AFL.
“The difference we have with the AFL is we are bringing in players from overseas so the stakes are higher.”
If players are not allowed to train during this period, Tiley has reportedly ruled out staging the event all together.
“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” he stated on Thursday.
“You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam.”
According to the AAP, the Melbourne major is set to take place with 25% of its usual crowd capacity and players will be allowed to travel with three members of their team.
The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 18th. Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the reigning champions.
A Solitary Stroll Through Roland Garros
The small number of spectators reveals glimpses of the Parisian system that are often hidden
PARIS – Seeing the avenues that connect the various fields of a relatively deserted Slam tournament is an experience that rarely happens during the course of the tournament, and is normally limited to the days or periods in which access is allowed only to staff members. During the 2020 French Open, however, it was quite common to see the areas in front of the various courts almost completely empty.
What you see below is the area between the southern Grandstand of the Philippe Chatrier court and the various commercial stands that border the area reserved to camera crews. When a match has just finished on the main court, that area becomes very crowded and going from the beginning to the end of that stretch, more or less 50 meters long, could take up to ten minutes.
At the bottom of this passage is the new “Musketeers Square”, an open space that was enlarged for the 2020 edition thanks to the demolition of the old Court 1, the famous “bullring”, which was inaugurated in 1980 but has now been replaced by the Court Simonne Mathieu as the third most important court of the Roland Garros.
A giant screen has been placed in this area (to mimic Wimbledon’s notorious “Henman hill” and the US Open’s “main plaza” opposite the main entrance of Arthur Ashe Stadium), as well at tables for spectators and the main commercial stands for the sponsors of the tournament.
In the background of the Musketeers Square, to the left of this image is the tournament’s official Boutique, where the official Roland Garros merchandise is sold, while the gateway leading to the Serre d’Auteuil and the Court Simonne Mathieu is at the bottom, after the commercial stands and courts 2 and 4.
The Court Simonne Mathieu, inaugurated in 2019, was built as a compromise between the expansion of Roland Garros and the conservation of the Auteuil greenhouses. The court is surrounded by greenhouses, one on each side, which symbolize the ecosystem of four continents of the earth with plants typical of each of these habitats.
Returning to Philippe Chatrier, courts 2 and 4 can be seen – they are among those that have the smallest stands and are typically used for training during “standard” editions of the tournament. This year, however, players were not allowed to enter the facility on the days when they were not supposed to compete, and therefore these courts were used almost exclusively for matches.
Looking beyond the Philippe Chatrier court, you can see the unmistakable profile of the Court Suzanne Lenglen, in front of which there is a high relief dedicated to the unforgettable champion of the 1920’s.
Part of the area in front of the second main court is currently a construction site, as two of the courts are being rebuilt as part of the project that will see a mobile roof built over the Suzanne Lenglen to allow the tournament to have a second court with a retractable roof and to prepare the facility to host boxing matches during the 2024 Paris Olympics.
During this year’s tournament, all the refreshment stands around the Suzanne Lenglen court were not opened due to the particularly low number of spectators (only 1000 per session allowed by the French authorities), including one that allowed order through the tournament’s app and to collect it without having to queue like in traditional stores.
Behind the Suzanne Lenglen, the newest area of the facility is to be found, with courts numbered from 12 to 14, plus two training courts, number 15 and 16. All of these courts have been equipped with artificial lighting mounted on telescopic pylons so that they can be lowered during the day and thus not cause the characteristic shadows on the court that can disturb the players.
As a gift to the authorised press members, and to try to increase the turnover of the present bar, journalists were given the opportunity to access the catwalk on the sixth floor of the Philippe Chatrier, usually reserved for stand-up TV sports shows. A rather peculiar view of the matches on the main court is to be had up here – the area has some tables to the work as well as a fully functional air conditioning system.
Translated by Andrea Ferrero; edited by Tommaso Villa
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