Canada up 2-0 over Serbia after day one at Billie Jean King Cup - UBITENNIS
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Canada up 2-0 over Serbia after day one at Billie Jean King Cup

Canada are one rubber away from the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers.

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Team Canada got big wins from Leylah Fernandez and Rebecca Marino to put Canada on the brink of advancing.

 

It was the perfect start for Team Canada as on day on they took a commanding 2-0 lead over Serbia when Leylah Fernandez needed three sets to beat Olga Danilovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 while Rebecca Marino got the second win in another tight two set victory over Nina Stojanovic 6-4, 7-6.

Fernandez gives Canada the lead

The Montreal native got off to a great start holding her opening service game and earning two breakpoints the very next game and breaking to take an early 2-0 lead.

The Canadian wasn’t able to consolidate the break, getting broken the very next game and the next time she had a chance to break she took it to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the first set.

While serving the set once again she failed to convert and the Serb broke her at love and the set stayed on serve until 6-5 when Fernandez had two looks at a set point as she converted on the second opportunity to take a one set lead.

The Serb was looking to get back into the match and broke the Montreal native in the first game of the second set but again wouldn’t hold as the Canadian broke right back the following game.

At 3-3 the Serb earned two more breakpoints and broke and would serve out the second set to win it 6-4.

The third and final set was a back and forth affair but it was the Canadian who would earn the crucial break with a stunning forehand return winner down the line to take a 3-1 lead.

At 5-3 Fernandez served for the match but once again struggled to hold serve and the Serb would break to send the match back on serve. When serving to stay in the match the Canadian responded by setting up a match point and winning the match on her opponents serve.

After her match, Fernandez mentioned what she needs to work on for her next match tomorrow.

“I made one too many mistakes on the forehand, backhand, drop shots, volleys just like every match I got to improve but I’m happy I got the win”

Marino gives Canada a commanding lead

Next up was Rebecca Marino against Serbia number one Nina Stojanovic and it was the Vancouver native who got off to a great start playing some aggressive tennis.

She had a chance to break in the second game of the match but the Serb saved both and held serve. It was actually Stojanovic who would earn the first break of the match but she wasn’t able to consolidate as the Canadian would earn three breakpoints with a sensational forehand winner.

She would break back to go back on serve at 3-3 and at 5-4 the world number 230 had two set points and would convert on the second one to take the first set.

The second set was a crazy affair with the Serb earning two breakpoints in the first game but she would be denied by Marino big serve and then she would break to take 2-0 lead.

She wasn’t able once again to hold the break and was broken back the very next game and the next five games went with break of serve. At 6-5 Marino found herself at match point but couldn’t convert and the set would be decided by a tiebreaker.

The Vancouver native jumped out to a 3-1 lead but not before the Serb came back winning three points in a row and 6-4 Marino found herself once again with two match points but Stojanovic saved both.

At 7-6 the Canadian finally made the breakthrough winning the set and the match to put Canada in a great position to advance on Saturday.

After the match Marino spoke about how she was able to hang in and get the win for her country.

“It was frustrating and exciting at the same time to constantly break serve but constantly be broken, you have to hang in tough sets like that, she’s a great player, I knew if I kept trying and doing my best no matter what I might be able to squeak it through and that’s kinda what happened”

After all that we got hear from team captain Heidi El Tabakh and she was pleased with result.

“It wasn’t easy out there, I’m glad we were able to get the wins but it’s not over yet, I feel Leylah ( Fernandez) struggled with some nerves at the beginning and to be completely fair I think Olga ( Danilovic) played some of her best tennis, she came firing, she put the pressure on Leylah and served really well and Leylah did a good job of hanging in there and not letting it get to her, she fought her way out of it, it’s tough playing the first match as the number one nerves can get to you it’s completely normal, she’s tough and she was able to pull it off and I feel like Rebecca ( Marino) was inspired by that performance and came out playing really well, she played super-aggressive, served well and went for it from start to finish and that was her game plan so very happy with the way she played“.

She added how it felt to be playing in a stadium with no fans and how the energy was during the matches.

“Ya it was different playing without a crowd but we felt the support from our team and staff and we have had a ton of support from back home and we totally felt that today, we were very loud and I think that helped the girls today”.

Saturday is reverse singles with the action starting at 11:00 am local time with doubles after both singles matches and Canada only needs one more win to clinch a spot in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers while Serbia would need to win all three matches tomorrow to put them through.

Fed Cup

Leylah Fernandez wins Billie Jean King Heart Award

The Canadian was recognized by the fans for her part in Canada beating Serbia in the play-off tie last month.

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Leylah Fernandez has been named the winner of the Billie Jean King Heart award voted on by the fans of the game. She played an integral part in Canada beating Serbia 4-0 in the playoff tie last month.

 

18-year-old Fernandez was involved in a poll with Elina Svitolina, Katie Boulter and Magdalena French. The award comes with $3000 which she donated to her favourite charity Table de Concertation en Securite Alimentaire de Villeray in Montreal.

” I was surprised, there were so many great players who were nominated and showed a lot of heart during the competition so I didn’t expect much from my part but I’m happy the fans voted and that I was given this opportunity to show what we are made of so I am excited,” said Fernandez.

ITF president David Haggerty commented on her award saying “Congratulations to Leylah Fernandez for her great performance at the Billie Jean King playoff in April and for being voted the recipient of the Bille Jean King Heart Award. It’s extra special to be voted by the fans and recognized for showing great courage and commitment to your team”.

Heidi El Tabakh the Billie Jean King Cup captain for Canada also reacted to Fernandez winning the award.

” I am so happy and extremely proud of Leylah (Fernandez) for winning the Billie Jean King Heart Award. It was well deserved following a spectacular performance in Serbia which she worked so hard for,” she said.
“Leylah is a fighter on the court, she always represents Canada with pride and is an incredible teammate for her fellow teammates. She is very worthy of this award”.

This is the 12th year the award has been given and it recognizes players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on the court, and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas.

So far the the award winners have donated over $200,000 to charities across the world.

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Davis Cup

Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics

After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.

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The area around the Olympic Rings and Olympic Stadium - (image via olympics.com)

Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics. 

 

The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events. 

Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.

“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”

The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.  

“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”

In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).

Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.

The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th. 

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Davis Cup

Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade

A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.

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London's O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals between 2009-2020 (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.

 

UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.

“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”

When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.

The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.

This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.

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