Roland Garros Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Petra Kvitova is quietly advancing through the draw, and has not dropped a set through two rounds (rolandgarros.com)

On Saturday in Paris, the first week of the fortnight concludes, with third round singles action to be completed.

 

The women’s lineup features Major champions Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, and Sofia Kenin.  But in a women’s draw where only nine of 32 seeds remain, Saturday’s best WTA matchup may be the only one between two seeded players.  On the men’s side, we are fortunate to have two clashes today between top 20 seeds.  And Novak Djokovic looks to build on his 33-1 record in 2020, with his only loss being his US Open default.

Roberto Bautista Agut (10) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (17)

That default of course came against Carreno Busta, who pushed Djokovic to the breaking point with his fight back in the first set of their fourth round match.  Pablo would go on to defeat Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals, and was only one set away from reaching the championship match of the US Open.  Bautista Agut also pushed Djokovic in New York, taking Novak all the way to a final set tiebreak in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open.  While both of these Spaniards have achieved their best Major results on hard courts or grass, they’re not bad on the clay either.  Carreno Busta was a quarterfinalist here three years ago, and has reached the final of four clay court events.  Bautista Agut’s clay resume is a bit more modest: he’s never been beyond the fourth round of Roland Garros, and only one of his nine career finals came on this surface.  They’ve split their four previous tour level matches, with Bautista Agut claiming their only match on clay (Rome, 2017) as well as their only match at a Major (US Open, 2015).  All four of their battles have gone the distance, which displays just how similar their styles are.  There’s no reason to believe this won’t be another extended, compelling encounter, between two of the sport’s most underrated competitors. 

Karen Khachanov (15) vs. Cristian Garin (20)

This will be the first career meeting between these two 24-year-olds who were born just nine days apart.  And their records this season are as close as their birthdays: Khachanov is 16-10, while Garin is 17-10.  The Russian has been the one to achieve more success at big events.  Khachanov’s career highlights have both come in this city: he was a French Open quarterfinalist a year ago, and the champion of the Paris Indoors Masters 1,000 event six months prior.  While the Chilean’s triumphs have come at smaller events, he’s been the one to collect more trophies.  Garin has won four clay court titles, all within the last 18 months.  But this is the first time Cristian has reached the third round of a Major.  So what will prevail on this day: the big match experience of the heavier-hitting Khachanov, or the clay court prowess of Garin?  Confidence may be the difference today, and that would be to Cristian’s advantage.  Garin has won five of his last six matches, while Khachanov is yet to win three consecutive matches since the tour restart.

Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs Ons Jabeur (30)

In another first-ever meeting, Sabalenka faces one of the WTA’s most eclectic players for the second consecutive round.  Two days ago, she was tested in the first set by Daria Kasatkina, but dominated the second set 6-0 after taking a first set tiebreak.  Since making her breakthrough in mid-2018, she’s won six singles titles.  And in doubles with partner Elise Mertens, she’s reached the quarterfinals or better at the last five Majors.  However, the 22-year-old is yet to reach a Slam quarterfinal in singles.  Ons Jabeur did just that earlier this year in Melbourne.  The 26-year-old is having the best year of her career.  Jabeur has accumulated 24 match wins in this shortened season.  Neither woman would refer to clay as their best surface, though the slower conditions would seem to favor the guile of Jabeur over the power of Sabalenka.  But judging by Aryna’s impressive performance over a similar player on Thursday, she may be the favorite to advance again today.

Garbine Muguruza (11) vs. Danielle Collins

The winner of this match will face either Sabalenka or Jabeur in the round of 16.  And like Sabalenka, these two love to blast the ball.  Muguruza has been one of 2020’s best players, as reuniting with Conchita Martinez has brought her back to the top of the game.  She was the runner-up in Melbourne, and has reached the quarterfinals or better in all but one event played.  Collins was a surprise semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open, as the American had previously never won a match at a Major.  The 26-year-old is hard to beat when she’s on, but her go-for-all mentality can often lead to large amounts of errors.  They’ve met once before, last year on clay in Rome, where Muguruza prevailed in three.  The 2016 champion should be able to repeat that result today.

Petra Kvitova (7) vs Leylah Fernandez

Kvitova was a semifinalist here eight years ago, but is just 12-6 in Paris since that time.  But these cooler conditions must please the two-time Wimbledon champion, with her struggles in warmer temperatures well documented.  She may be one of the players who prefers this tournament taking place in autumn.  But she may be tested today by a fast-rising Canadian teenager, who was the junior champion here a year ago.  18-year-old Fernandez started this season outside the top 200, but is now ranked inside the top 100.  Leylah has successfully come through qualifying at four events this year, including in Acapulco where she eventually advanced to the final.  Fernandez has a ton of potential, but Kvitova has consistently played well this year, and can control her destiny today with her lefty serve and forehand.

Other Notable Matches on Day 7:

17-time Major champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniel Elahi Galan (LL), a 24-year-old from Columbia ranked 153rd in the world.

Recent Hamburg champion Andrey Rublev (13) vs. Kevin Anderson, who outlasted Dusan Lajovic in a five-setter on Thursday evening.

Hamburg runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Aljaz Bedene, a 31-year-old Slovenian who has never advanced farther than the third round at a Major.

2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. Paula Badosa, a 22-year-old Spaniard who has never before advanced this far at a Slam.  Ostapenko defeated Karolina Pliskova on Thursday, while Badosa took out Sloane Stephens.

Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Irina Bara (Q), a 25-year-old Romanian who had never played a main draw match at a Major prior to this week.

Saturday’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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