Roland Garros Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Stefanos Tsitsipas will play for redemption on Monday in Paris (rolandgarros.com)

Fourth round action is due to conclude on Monday, but the forecasted rain may derail those plans.  Players scheduled for Court Philippe-Chatrier will be happy to see the new roof above them, assuring their matches will be completed.

 

Monday’s lineup is highlighted by this year’s Australian Open champions.  Top-seeded Novak Djokovic is 34-1 on the year, but today faces a man who has beaten him in this city.  American Sofia Kenin is still alive in both singles and doubles.  Today she plays the only French player remaining in singles, who is on an eight-match winning streak.  And two recent Australian Open semifinalists will meet in a battle of stylish one-handed backhands. 

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Karen Khachanov (15)

Khachanov loves playing in Paris.  He’s reached the round of 16 or better each time he’s played in the main draw of this event.  That includes a run to the quarterfinals last year, after defeating Juan Martin Del Potro in this round.  And two years ago, Khachanov claimed the biggest title of his career at the Paris Indoors Masters 1,000.  In the championship match, he upset Novak Djokovic in straight sets.  However, Djokovic has prevailed in straight sets in both their other meetings.  And Novak demolished all comers during the first week of this event, losing only five games in each match thus far.  Since his default at the US Open, which is his only loss since last November, he’s won eight straight matches on clay.  While this will be the sternest test Djokovic has yet encountered, it’s a test he should pass rather comfortably.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (18)

This is the first career meeting between these two ATP Finals champions.  Dimitrov won that indoor hard court event three years ago, but has never excelled on the clay.  This fourth round appearance is actually the best French Open result of his career.  Tsitsipas won the ATP Finals last November, and advanced to the fourth round here a year ago.  However, it was in this round in 2019 when he suffered an emotional loss to Stan Wawrinka, in a match that clocked in over five hours.  Until now, Stefanos hadn’t advanced this far at a Major since, which includes another tough loss to Borna Coric in the third round of last month’s US Open.  But after coming back from two sets down in the opening round last week, Tsitsipas has won nine sets in a row, dominating his last two opponents.  Likewise, Dimitrov hasn’t dropped a set to this stage.  Tsitsipas has a far better record than Dimitrov on this surface.  Between 2016 and 2019, Grigor was only 22-21 on clay.  While it’s unknown how these two will matchup, Stefanos’ superior clay court resume makes him the favorite to advance.

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Fiona Ferro

Coming off definitive losses at the hands of Elise Mertens and Victoria Azarenka prior to this event, Kenin’s confidence level could not have been high.  Even so, she fought through her first two rounds here, and played an excellent match on Saturday, losing just two games.  But Ferro’s confidence level may be higher.  She was the champion of the first tournament in the WTA restart, on the clay of Palermo.  The 23-year-old from France will certainly have strong crowd support today, as we heard the Parisians passionately root on Caroline Garcia and Hugo Gaston yesterday.  Their only previous meeting was on clay, three years ago in Charleston.  Kenin prevailed on that day in straight sets.  Both players like to be aggressive, and possess well-rounded games.  In a half of the draw where upsets have been plentiful, a Ferro victory would not be surprising.  Regardless, this should be a compelling matchup which we’ll likely see many more times in the future.

Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Shuai Zhang

In a quarter of a draw where she is the only seeded player remaining, the two-time Wimbledon champion is the favorite to be the semifinalist.  Kvitova reached that round here eight years ago, yet hasn’t advanced beyond the fourth round since.  But she’s enjoying the cooler conditions of this unique October Major, which her body prefers.  Petra is yet to drop a set, and her net play has been stellar.  She’s won 81% of net points through three rounds.  But her opponent also hasn’t lost a set, and isn’t too shabby at net either.  Zhang was a doubles champion at the 2019 Australian Open, and has won two-thirds of her own points at net.  The 31-year-old from China is a two-time Major quarterfinalist, but never on clay.  This abbreviated season is actually the first time she’s had a winning record on this surface.  Kvitova leads their head-to-head 3-2, though Zhang won their only meeting on clay.  Still, Petra’s power and experience should be enough to propel her into the quarterfinals.

Andrey Rublev (13) vs. Marton Fucsovics

This will be a slugfest.  Rublev is on an eight-match win streak, coming off a title run in Hamburg which ended just eight days ago.  Like fellow Hamburg finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, he was down two sets in his opening round, though has won nine of his last ten sets since.  But Fucsovics prevailed in their only previous match, a five-setter in a 2017 David Cup playoff on clay.  Surely, the match taking place in Hungary helped the 28-year-old Hungarian.  This marks the third occasion Marton has reached the round of 16 at a Slam, but he’s 0-2 in his previous tries to go farther.  While clay has not been his strongest surface, Fucsovics’ only career title came on this surface, at the 2017 Geneva Open.  He may push Rublev today, but the 22-year-old Russian should be favored to reach his third Major quarterfinal.

Other Notable Matches on Day 9:

Ons Jabeur (30) vs. Danielle Collins.  Jabeur achieved her first Major quarterfinal earlier this year in Melbourne, the first Arab woman to ever do so.  Collins was a semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open, but outside that run was 5-10 at Slams until this fortnight.  This is their first career meeting.

Pablo Carreno Busta (17) vs. Daniel Altmaier (Q).  The 29-year-old Spaniard is a two-time US Open semifinalist, and reached the quarters here in 2017.  The 22-year-old German had never even played the qualifying rounds at a Major prior to this tournament, yet has only lost one set in six matches played these last two weeks.

Laura Siegemund vs. Paula Badosa.  Siegemund won her first Major doubles title last month, but this is the farthest she’s ever gone at a Slam in singles.  22-year-old Badosa was 1-5 at Majors coming into this event, but has already taken out Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko.

In men’s doubles, Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (3) vs. Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (7), the US Open champions.

In women’s doubles, Western & Southern Open champions Kveta Peschke and Demi Schuurs (6) vs. Nicole Melichar and Iga Swiatek, who of course routed top-seeded Simona Halep in singles yesterday.

Monday’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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