Roland Garros Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Novak Djokovic is six matches away from his 18th Major singles title.

Thursday’s schedule features Major champions Djokovic, Kvitova, Muguruza, Stephens, Kenin, and Ostapenko.

 

The unseeded 2017 women’s champion will face the second seed in the day’s most marquee matchup.  Also on Thursday, how will Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, the finalists in Hamburg just four days ago, bounce back after their five-set comebacks in the first round on Tuesday? By the end of the day, the singles draws will be narrowed down to 32 men and 32 women.

Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Jelena Ostapenko

About 20 years ago, Mary Carillo coined the term “big babe tennis” to describe the new era of powerful WTA ball strikers.  These two players certainly fit that description.  And they have contested some extremely close encounters.  In their only meeting at a Major, Pliskova prevailed 10-8 in the third at the 2017 Australian Open.  In their only meeting on clay, Pliskova prevailed again, 6-4 in the third two years ago in Stuttgart.  In their most recent meeting, Ostapenko was victorious 7-5 in the third.  Overall Karolina leads their head-to-head 3-2.  While Ostapenko was the champion of this event three years ago, she’s 2-4 in her other appearances at this event.  Pliskova was a semifinalist here that same year, and similarly has a losing record in Paris outside of that run.  But Karolina is the steadier player, whereas Jelena can litter up the stat sheet.  And Ostapenko came into this event just 6-6 on the year.  All this makes Pliskova the favorite to take out the former champion.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Pablo Cuevas

This is a rematch from just last week in Hamburg, where Tsitsipas won in straight sets.  Their most prominent meeting was last year in the championship match of Estoril.  That was also a straight set victory for Stefanos, which has been the result each of the three times they’ve played.  Tsitsipas has been through a lot in the last 16 months: his heartbreaking loss here a year ago to Stan Wawrinka, choking away a 5-1 fourth-set lead to Borna Coric at the US Open, and losing to Andrey Rublev in last week’s final after serving for the match.  Despite all those setbacks, and despite being down two sets on Tuesday to Jaume Munar, Stefanos fought his way back to win in five. That revealed a lot of grit in the 22-year-old, especially on the same court as his five-hour loss to Wawrinka.  While Cuevas is one of the ATP’s most entertaining shot-makers, Tsitsipas will feel confident coming off Tuesday’s comeback.  And their history will only enhance Stefanos’ conviction.

Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs. Daria Kasatkina

It’s nice to see Kasatkina back on court after a sad scene two weeks in Rome.  During a first set tiebreak against Victoria Azarenka, Kasatkina took a spill, and was forced to retire due to a right ankle injury.  Daria was understandably upset, surely not only from the physical pain, but also from retiring after some of the best tennis she’s played in two years.  Azarenka could not have been more comforting to her opponent in that moment, holding her and sharing words of encouragement, which was heartwarming to see.  Kasatkina may not be fully recovered, but she was close enough to defeat Harmony Tan on Tuesday, dropping only three games.  And today she faces Azarenka’s fellow Belarusian, which should make an appealing clash of styles.  Sabalenka is one of the game’s hardest hitters, which contrasts from the flair and diversity in the game of Kasatkina.  Their only previous meeting was 12 months ago on a hard court in Beijing, where Dasha prevailed after two tight sets.  The clay would seem to favor Kasatkina, who was a quarterfinalist here in 2018, and a champion on clay in Charleston three years ago.  Sabalenka is just 2-2 lifetime at Roland Garros, and has a losing record in her career on clay.  But Aryna arrives with a bit of confidence, coming off a semifinal run last week in Strasbourg.  Still, an upset by a rejuvenated Kasatkina seems the more likely outcome on this surface.

Dusan Lajovic (22) vs. Kevin Anderson

The two-time Major finalist has struggled since returning from injury at the start of this year, with a record of only 5-7.  Anderson arrived in Paris on a four-match losing streak, before taking out Laslo Djere in straight sets.  He is 2-0 in his career against Lajovic, which includes a clay court victory two years ago in Madrid.  But the 30-year-old Serbian is coming off the best season of his career.  Dusan was a finalist last year in Monte Carlo, and reached his first Major quarterfinal at this tournament a year ago.  These heavy conditions should favor the clay court skills of Lajovic, and take significant pace off Anderson’s ball.  Today is a great opportunity for Lajovic to gain his first victory over the South African.

Andrey Rublev (13) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Just like his fellow Hamburg finalist Tsitsipas, a depleted Rublev lost the first two sets of his first round match on Tuesday before fighting his way back to win in five.  And he’ll face another stern test today in the 21-year-old Spaniard.  Davidovich Fokina won 27 matches on clay last year at all levels, and advanced to the round of 16 at the US Open just a few weeks ago.  But Rublev is one of this season’s best players, with three titles on two different surfaces and a total of 26 match wins.  Rublev just bludgeons the ball, and can outhit almost anyone when he’s at his current level.  While the slow conditions and a strong clay court player he has never faced will be challenges, Rublev should be able to reach the third round of this event for the first time.

Other Notable Matches on Day 5:

2016 men’s champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Ricardas Berankis.  They just met last month at the Western & Southern Open, with Djokovic prevailing in straight sets.

2016 women’s champion Garbine Muguruza (11) vs. Kristyna Pliskova, the left-handed, identical twin sister of Karolina Pliskova.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Jasmine Paolini, a 24-year-old Italian who earned her first win at a Major on Monday.

2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens (29) vs. Paula Badosa, a 22-year-old Spaniard who won the junior title here five years ago.

Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Ana Bogdan.  The 27-year-old Romanian claimed their only previous meeting, though that occurred over four years ago in Rogers Cup qualifying on a hard court.

Thursday’s full schedule is here.

Grand Slam

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Solitary Stroll Through Roland Garros

The small number of spectators reveals glimpses of the Parisian system that are often hidden

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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.

The South Side of Court Philippe Chatrier


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.

Musketeers Square
Court Philippe Chatrier seen from Musketeers Square

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.

The Roland Garros Boutique
The East side of Musketeers Square

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.

Court Suzanne Lenglen

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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