Roland Garros Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Simona Halep will be pleased to be scheduled on the only court at Roland Garros with a roof, as there's a strong chance of rain in Paris on Friday (rolandgarros.com)

Third round singles matches begin on Friday, the first day where seeded players run into each other in the draws.

 

12-time champion Rafael Nadal is 95-2 at this tournament, and it would be shocking if he were to lose today against an unseeded opponent.  But the favorite on the women’s side faces a tough test, in the player who knocked her out of this tournament a year ago.  In addition, the top remaining Frenchwoman tries to take out another top 20 seed.  On the men’s side, the winner of the most recent Major takes on this season’s winningest player on clay.  And the runner-up from that last Major will face the most surprising Slam semifinalist in recent tennis history.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Amanda Anisimova (25)

Last year in the quarterfinals, the American teenager upset the 2018 champion 6-2, 6-4.  That was Anisimova’s breakthrough, reaching her first Major semifinal.  Just a few months later, Amanda suffered the sudden loss of her father.  While the 19-year-old is yet to equal her result from this event a year ago, she remains a talented teenager with a huge upside.  And she’s still very capable of defeating top players.  That was evident earlier this year in Doha, where Anisimova beat Elina Svitolina in straight sets.  But Halep is clearly the WTA’s best player this season, with a 22-2 record, three titles, and a current 16-match winning streak.  While Simona will remember how dangerous Amanda can be on this court, she’ll also come into this match with a better idea of how to expose her weaknesses.  Halep should be able to avenge her loss from a year ago.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Casper Ruud (28)

This will be the first career meeting between two of the ATP’s best clay courters.  The US Open champion is a two-time runner-up here, and has reached the semifinals or better the last four years.  And 10 of Thiem’s 17 career titles have come on this surface.  Ruud is 16-4 on clay this season, advancing to the semifinals or better at every clay event he’s played.  While Casper is coming off a five-set win against Tommy Paul in the last round, that’s about as brisk a five-setter as you’ll see, clocking in at just over two-and-a-half hours.  So the 21-year-old should be fully fresh for this match.  But upsetting a man who over the past four years at this event has only lost to players named Nadal or Djokovic is a tall task.

Elise Mertens (16) vs. Caroline Garcia

Caroline Garcia achieved her only Major quarterfinal here three years ago, and peaked at No.4 in the world a year later.  After a rough two years saw her fall as low as No.50, she’s showing signs of her prior form.  Garcia upset Karolina Pliskova at the US Open, and took out Anett Kontaveit this past Sunday.  Today she faces one of the WTA’s most consistent performers.  Mertens has reached at least the quarterfinals at six events in this shortened season, including two weeks ago on the clay of Rome.  Elise’s defensive skills will force Garcia to hit a few more balls today than the Frenchwoman may prefer.  While both their previous meetings were on hard courts, Garcia claimed them both.  On her country’s biggest court, with a French crowd cheering her on, a rejuvenated Caroline has the ability to make it 3-0 against Mertens if she stays aggressive and hits her targets.  But Mertens’ variety often drags some subpar tennis out of bigger hitters like Garcia, as we saw at the US Open when she defeated Sofia Kenin.  Neither result would be surprising in what should be one of the day’s more closely contested matches.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Marco Cecchinato (Q)

Two years ago at this event, Cecchinato made a shocking run to the semifinals of this event, defeating three top 10 seeds: Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin, and Novak Djokovic.  Until this week, that was the only time the 28-year-old Italian had won a match at a Major, going 0-12 in the first round of every other Slam played.  That includes a loss at this year’s Australian Open to Zverev, their only prior encounter.  Sascha must still be reeling from the heartbreaking loss in his first Slam final just a few weeks ago.  And he continues to involve himself in extended matches early in Majors.  On Wednesday, he went five sets and nearly four hours with Pierre-Hugues Herbert.  While Zverev remains a favorite to advance, this match has an unpredictability vibe considering the players involved.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (27)

Not many people are talking about the third seed as a contender here, but that could be an unforced error.  Even though Svitolina has endured some tough losses at this event in the past, she reached two Major semifinals last year.  And she can play on the clay: Elina owns five career titles on this surface, including just last week in Strasbourg.  Today will be the first time she faces the 25-year-old Russian, who was a champion earlier this year in                  Shenzhen.  But most of Alexandrova’s success has come on other surfaces.  Ekaterina has a losing record on clay over the last two years.  Svitolina’s more all-around game is preferable on clay, and should carry her to another victory on this surface today.

Other Notable Matches on Day 6:

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefano Travaglia, a 28-year-old Italian who defeated Kei Nishikori in five sets on Wednesday.

Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka (16) vs. Hugo Gaston, the only Frenchman remaining in the draw who is ranked 239th in the world.

Kiki Bertens (5) vs. Katerina Siniakova.  Bertens survived a dramatic affair with Sara Errani two days ago, where Kiki cramped and left the court in a wheelchair after sealing match point.  Siniakova is a two-time Major doubles champion, who has split two previous meetings with Bertens.

19-year-old Iga Swiatek vs. Genie Bouchard, who has advanced to the third round of a Major for the first time in almost four years.

Rome runner-up Diego Schwartzman (12) vs. Norbert Gombos, a 30-year-old Slovakian who until a month ago had never won a match at a Slam.

Friday’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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Grand Slam

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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