Roland Garros Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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France's Caroline Garcia looks to equal her best result at a Major with a win today (rolandgarros.com)

With three rounds completed, five of the top eight seeds remain in both the men’s and women’s draws.  But upsets have abounded, with six players ranked outside the top 100 advancing to the fourth round.

 

The men’s finalists from the last two years, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, are just two wins away from a meeting in this year’s semifinals.  Today both men will be huge favorites against an American qualifier and a French wild card.  But the most intriguing ATP match of the day is the first of likely many battles between two Next Gen stars who have the potential to win Majors.  Meanwhile, the women’s favorite faces stiff competition, in an impressive 19-year-old Polish teenager.  And one of two Frenchwomen remaining in the draw looks to upend a seeded player for the third time this fortnight.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Caroline Garcia

A quarterfinalist here three years ago, Garcia is vying to equal that result at a Major for the first time since.  Caroline has already taken out two top 20 seeds: Anett Kontaveit and Elise Mertens.  And she’s 3-1 lifetime against Svitolina.  However, their last meeting was two-and-a-half years ago, and Svitolina is the more improved player since that time.  Elina reached her first two Major semifinals a year ago, and has won 14 of her last 15 matches.  She was defeated soundly by Marketa Vondrousova in Rome, but rebounded quickly to win the title a week ago in Strasbourg.  Garcia’s offensive skills have been on full display during the first week here, but they’ll be thoroughly challenged by the movement and counterpunching of Svitolina.  The 1,000 French fans allowed on the grounds will surely almost all be inside Court Philippe-Chatrier for this one.  But their energy may not be enough to overcome a confident Svitolina in these slow conditions.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Iga Swiatek

This is a rematch from this same round a year ago, when Halep dominated Swiatek.  Simona needed just 45 minutes on that day to prevail 6-1, 6-0.  And the 2018 champion comes into this match with a ton of momentum.  Halep is 23-2 on the year, and is on a 17-match winning streak.  She’s won her last three events played: Dubai, Prague, and Rome.  Despite all that, Swiatek will be a tricky opponent.  She has breezed through three rounds without dropping a set, averaging 29 winners to 17 unforced errors per match.  And she’s won 29 of 37 points at net, an example of how versatile her game can be.  This is Iga’s third appearance in the fourth round of a Major, though she’s yet to advance farther.  While Halep remains the favorite, Swiatek should make this a much tighter affair than a year ago.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Yannik Sinner

It’s the 2018 ATP Finals champion against the 2019 Next Gen Finals champ.  Zverev has rebounded rather nicely from the heartbreak he experienced 21 days ago in New York.  The 23-year-old German is looking to reach the quarterfinals here for the third consecutive time.  This is new territory for the 19-year-old Italian, who only owned one match win at a Major prior to this event.  But Sinner has been extremely impressive thus far.  He steamrolled David Goffin in the opening round, and is yet to drop a set.  And Zverev is still prone to the service yips at times, like his second round match on Wednesday when he hit more double faults than winners.  If he does that today, the crisp ball striking of Sinner will make him pay.  The reward for the winner?  A likely quarterfinal appointment with the King of Clay.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Sebastian Korda (Q)

Nadal is 96-2 at Roland Garros.  Yet today he faces a man who is undefeated in the main draw of the French Open.  However, that’s burying the lead: the 20-year-old Korda has only played three main draw matches here.  But that doesn’t make what Sebastian has done this past week unimpressive.  The son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, the American had previously never won a match at a Slam.  He’ll most certainly be outmatched today by the 12-time champion on Rafa’s favorite court.  Despite playing only three matches leading up to this event, Nadal has looked sharp, and hasn’t dropped a set.  But I’m curious to see how the youngster accounts for himself in this high-profile situation

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Hugo Gaston (WC)

Is Gaston ready to upset another big-hitting former champion?  The 20-year-old Frenchman, ranked 239th in the world, shocked 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka two days ago in five sets.  Hugo had never before won a tour level match prior to this fortnight, so this is a huge accomplishment for the left-hander.  But upsetting an in-form Thiem, who won his first Major three weeks ago, is another story.  Like Nadal, Thiem has also won all nine sets he’s played.  And Dominic hasn’t lost here prior to the semifinals since since 2015.  If Thiem wins today, he may face his close friend Diego Schwartzman in the next round.

Other Notable Matches on Day 8:

Rome runner-up Diego Schwartzman (12) vs. Lorenzo Sonego, a 25-year-old Italian who is making his debut in the fourth round of a Slam.

2016 semifinalist Kiki Bertens (5) vs. Martina Trevisan (Q), a 26-year-old Italian who had never won a match at a Major prior to this past week.  She’s already upset Coco Gauff and Maria Sakkari in this tournament.

Two-time Major doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova vs. Nadia Podoroska (Q), a 23-year-old Argentine who has only dropped one set in six matches played since the qualifying rounds.

In a women’s doubles match featuring two players still alive in singles, Veronika Kudermetova and Shuai Zhang (8) vs. Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (9).

In men’s doubles, Four-time Major champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (6) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic, who were finalists last month at the US Open.

Sunday’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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