Roland Garros Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Championship - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Championship

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There will likely be less smiling between these two men on Sunday with so much on the line (rolandgarros.com)

Rafael Nadal vies for a record-tying 20th Major title, while Novak Djokovic looks to win his 18th.

 

The implications of this match are massive.  A Nadal win would tie him with Roger Federer for most men’s Major singles titles.  A Djokovic win would make the three-way race for the most Slams tighter than ever before.

In 2005, Rafael Nadal won his first Major title in his debut at this event.  15 years later, he is an unprecedented 99-2 at Roland Garros, and a 12-time champion.  The only two men he has ever lost to at the French Open are Robin Soderling and his opponent today.  Nadal and his team have spoken of the pandemic emotionally impacted Rafa, causing him to decline defending his title at last month’s US Open.  There was much speculation that Nadal was not as strong a favorite in this unique edition of Roland Garros.  He arrived with only three matches played in six months, and on the heels of a loss in Rome to Diego Schwartzman.  Then Rafa himself talked about his displeasure with the tournament’s change to a slower-playing Wilson ball.  And the cooler conditions in the October staging of this event are not to Nadal’s liking.  But none of that has deterred the King of Clay thus far.  As Simon Cambers highlighted, this is the sixth time he has reached the final here without dropping a set.  Rafa is 25-0 in semifinals and finals at Roland Garros.  With a loss today, this would become only the third year since 2005 that Nadal failed to win a Major.  With a victory today, he’ll win his record-extending 100th match and 13th title at the French Open.

In 2005, Novak Djokovic made his Major debut.  But unlike Nadal, he did not win his first Slam until 2008.  And then Djokovic went another three years until capturing his second.  And Novak did not win this event until 2016, in his twelfth attempt.  That was the year after he finally defeated Rafa at this event in his seventh try.  This is Novak’s first trip back to the championship match of Roland Garros since he won four years ago.  But Djokovic has dominated in 2020, with a record 37-1.  The only blemish to his record was the infamous default at the US Open, when he errantly hit a lines judge with a ball.  That’s one of many controversies Novak has been a part of this year.  They also include an exhibition tour utterly lacking of social distancing, which lead to many people, including himself and his wife, coming down with COVID-19.  And the forming of a new players’ association (PTPA), with its suspect timing and lack of female representation, drew much criticism.  But Djokovic has excelled on the court despite those off-court distractions.  He’s on an 11-match winning streak, going back to his title run in Rome last month.  However, his last two matches were concerning.  Novak was in obvious neck and arm pain in the quarterfinals.  And despite holding a match point in the third set of his semifinal, he failed to close it out, spending an additional two sets (and two hours) on court less than 48 hours ago.  With a win today, he’ll become to only man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam event twice.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2) – 3:00pm local time

This is the match the tennis world has been anticipating since this fortnight began.  It’s a showdown between two of the most prolific champions of all-time.  And it’s the most prolific rivalry of this generation.  Djokvoic leads their head-to-head 29-26.  At Majors, Nadal leads 9-6, and they’re tied 4-4 in Major finals.  On clay, Rafa leads 17-7.  In some startling symmetry, Nadal claimed 14 of their first 18 meetings, but Djokovic has now taken 14 of their most recent 18.  This is their first match at Roland Garros in five years, after meeting here seven out of ten years between 2006 and 2015.

Djokovic is attempting to do what no man has done before: defeat Nadal in the last two rounds of the French Open. But if Djokovic is ever going to defeat Nadal in a French Open final, this may be his best chance.  Rafa’s ball will not bounce as high or as far in these heavy conditions, with Sunday forecast to be rather cool.  And Nadal is lacking the amount of pre-event match play he usually requires to be at his best.  However, Djokovic’s hiccup in Friday’s semifinal may have been revealing.  Novak knew how important it was to put that match away quickly, so he’d be fully fresh for today.  But with the intimidating task of playing Rafa on his mind, he blinked.  Novak should still be relatively close to 100% physically, yet I wonder what that did to his psyche. 

Beating Rafa on clay in a best-of-five match remains the sport’s toughest task.  Novak has done it before, and in their most recent such meeting, yet only once out of seven times.  And never in the last two rounds of Roland Garros.  Until Djokovic proves otherwise, Nadal must be considered the favorite in a French Open final.

Other Notable Matches on Day 15:

In the women’s doubles championship at 11:30am Paris time, three-time Major champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (2) vs. Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk (14), the only players to notch a victory over Iga Swiatek this fortnight, defeating her and Nicole Melichar in the semifinals.

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Quarantine Drama: Players And Support Staff Warned For ‘Challenging Behaviour’ Amid Argument Over Rules

Officials and players are at a disagreement over the rules concerning who is deemed a ‘close contact’ of somebody who test positive for COVID-19.

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The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria says she will tolerate no rule breaking by those staying in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open after a fourth confirmed test emerged on Sunday.

 

Emma Cassar said that there have been incidents of ‘challenging behaviour’ from both players and members of their teams in relation to the rules set out. Due to the pandemic, everybody has to go into a 14-day quarantine but the process has turned more complicated following a series of positive tests by those travelling on plans funded by Tennis Australia. The latest case involves a member of the broadcast team flying from Los Angeles.

The Australian government has ruled that everybody on board a plane where somebody has tested positive for the virus must go into a stricter form of quarantine where they must remain in their room and are not allowed to train outside. This has affected more than 40 players on two different flights from Abu Dhabi and another from Los Angeles. As it currently stands 62 people have been deemed close contacts of the four cases, three of which were announced on Saturday, according to Fox Australia.

To add to the drama, Cassar has confirmed that some players and their team members have already been given a warning for what she says is ‘challenging behaviour.’ Branding their actions as ‘dangerous acts that we can’t tolerate.’

“I can give you two examples – a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.
“The other was another gentleman who shouted some UberEats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate … they have been formerly warned, and Victoria Police will continue to follow up those who haven’t been spoken to yet.”

Even more extraordinary is the confirmation that extra police have been sent to the hotels where players are quarantined. Repeat offenders have been warned they could be fined or even transferred to a ‘complexed care hotel’ where a police officer stays outside their door.

Did the players know?

In regards to the quarantine process, some have questioned the transparency of the rules which has been set out. Critics have argued that they were never informed that should someone test positive on a plane everybody on board would have to isolate for 14 days.

World No.12 Belinda Bencic has gone as far as saying that the rules have been changed upon arrival in Melbourne. A view that has also been expressed by Alize Cornet, Yulia Putintseva and Sorana Cirstea.

“We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about,” Bencic wrote on Twitter.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has addressed those statements by saying that all players were informed that this would be a possible scenario that they would face. Leading up to the quarantine, all players and their teams should have been sent documents detailing their stay.

“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department, and they’re doing what is necessary in order to keep our community safe,” he told Channel 9 TV.
“Obviously what has changed over the last several weeks is the new UK strain, which is more infectious, and there’s obviously a great desire by all of us to make sure that doesn’t come into our community.

Although the motion that the rules have changed in some capacity is disputed by Commissioner Cessar who stated that no adjustments to the policy will be made in the coming days.

“The rules of close contacts haven’t changed, and there’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane for 16 to 24 hours in air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” she said.
“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.”

Whilst there are ongoing discussions concerning the scheduling of tournaments taking place during the first week of February, Tiley has confirmed that the Australian Open start date of February 8th will remain unchanged.

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24 Players In Isolation After Positive COVID-19 Tests On Australian Open Charter Flight

It is understood that Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are among those to be affected by the latest development.

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Tennis Australia has been dealt a new blow to their preparations for the Melbourne Grand Slam after it was confirmed two people tested positive for COVID-19 on one of their flights.

 

A member of the flight crew and one passenger who was on Flight QR793 from Los Angeles Airport have tested positive for the virus. It has been reported by journalist Pablo Amalfitano that the coach of Lauren Davis, Edward Elliot, is the passenger who has tested positive. Although he reportedly claims that the result is a false positive.

A total of 79 people were on the flight with 24 of those being players such as Kei Nishikori, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Vaskek Pospisil and Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren did test positive prior to the fight but was given the all clear to travel after it was deemed that he was ‘viral shedding.’

Due to their possible exposure to COVID-19 Australian health officials have instructed all players to isolate for 14 days and they will not be allowed to leave their room to train in what will be a big setback to their preparations.

“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine,” a leaked email sent to players read. “We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support you and do everything that we can to get you through this.”

News of the positive tests was first reported online by the players themselves after they uploaded a leaked email detailing what had happened before Tennis Australia had a chance to publish a statement.

“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley commented.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”


Doubles specialist Artem Sitak, who was on board the plane, commented on the situation by giving an update to his followers on Instagram. The Russian-born New Zealand player is currently ranked 78th in the world and has won five ATP titles so far in his career.

“We’re all deemed close contact. I asked for a bike, so hopefully I’ll get one and stay in shape,” Sitak said. “We’ll probably be out on the 29th of January and head straight into the ATP 250 a few days after.
“Obviously not great, but that’s the risk we were all taking. They kind of warned us this was going to be at the discretion of the Australian government, Australian health authorities if something like this happened. It’s just unlucky that two of them contracted the virus.”

In a later update the 34-year-old confirmed that he has had a bike delivered to his room. |

Meanwhile, Japanese media have confirmed that all of Nishikori’s team has tested negative for the virus but the former US Open finalist will be training alone in his room.

The first series of tournaments are set to take place in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open on January 31st.

List of affected players

  • Victoria Azarenka
  • Sloane Stephens
  • Kei Nishikori
  • Tennys Sandgren
  • Nicholas Monroe
  • Santiago Gonzalez
  • Artem Sitak
  • Guido Pella
  • Alison Riske
  • Marcos Giron
  • Vasek Pospisil

Note – list is incomplete and compiled via news agencies

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Tennis Australia Back Tennys Sandgren To Fly Internationally Despite Positive COVID-19 Test

The world No.50 is said to be allowed to fly following intervention from tennis boss Craig Tiley.

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Tennis Australia has insisted that adequate health and safety protocols are being followed after it was confirmed that one player will be allowed to enter their bio-secure bubble less than a week after testing positive for CVOVID-19.

 

Tennys Sandgren, who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last year, posted a series of tweets detailing his dilemma. The American said he tested positive for a second time on Monday after also doing so during Thanksgiving before going on to cast doubt on his abilities to travel. However, in a separate tweet written less than two hours later he confirmed that he was on a plane before calling Australian Open director Craig Tiley ‘a wizard’ for his intervention.

“Wait, hold on I think they are trying to get me on 15 minuets after the plane was supposed to depart.. my bags still aren’t checked,” Sandgren wrote.
Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long.. Craig Tiley is a wizard,” he later added.

The decision to allow Sandgren to head to the ‘bio-secure bubble’ in Melbourne comes amid what has been dubbed as one of the strictest COVID-19 measurements taken by a country for athletes. All players arriving in Australia are required to go through a 14-day quarantine period where they will be only allowed to leave their rooms for training. Should anybody break the rules they face a fine of up to AUS$20,000 and even deportation.

As to why Sandgren is allowed to enter the bubble despite testing positive is a due to the fact those who recover from the virus can still continue to test positive over the coming weeks. Tennis Australia says their decision has been made after the local health authority reviewed Sandgren’s medical file. Although it is unclear as to what evidence they had to prove that Sandgren didn’t contract the virus for a second time which is possible.

In the case of Tennys Sandgren, who has self-disclosed that he previously tested positive in late November, his medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities,” a Tennis Australia statement reads.
“Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly. Any recovered case must go through this process in order to have an opportunity to travel here for the Australian Open . No one can travel without either proof of a negative test or this special clearance from authorities confirming they are not infectious.’
“Upon arrival all players are immediately placed in a secure quarantine environment for 14 days under the authority of COVID Quarantine Victoria, and will undergo a more rigorous testing schedule than most returning travellers.”

Lisa Neville, who is the Australian Minister for Police and Emergency Services, confirmed that Sandgren has been declared as somebody who is ‘viral shedding from a previous virus’ according to health experts. Neville also stated that anybody who test positive for COVID-19 the first time or are ‘infectious’ would not be allowed to play in the Grand Slam.

It is estimated that around 1200 players and their teams will be landing in Australia within the next few days to begin their quarantine. Under protocols set out by the local government and Tennis Australia, they will all be subject to daily COVID-19 tests and allowed to train upto five hours a day. Most of the players will be staying at hotels in Melbourne however, the top three players on both the ATP and WTA Tour’s will be staying in Adelaide.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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