Team Canada Looks Ahead To Crucial Clash Against Serbia In Billie Jean King Cup - UBITENNIS
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Team Canada Looks Ahead To Crucial Clash Against Serbia In Billie Jean King Cup

The woman in charge of Canada’s bid to reach the qualifying rounds of the Billie Jean King Cup speaks out about the challenges that lies ahead and the decisions she have made.

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image via https://twitter.com/MatchPointCAN

Canada’s Fed Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh spoke to the media on Wednesday evening ahead of the Billie Jean King Cup play-off against Serbia this weekend in Kralijevo. Some details ahead of the tie were confirmed, including that it will be played in an empty stadium.

 

In a blow to the team, Bianca Andreescu is absent due to injury and Eugenie Bouchard couldn’t make the trip. Resulting in El Tabakh nominating Leylah Fernandez, Carol Zhao, Sharon Fichman and Rebecca Marino.

It feels good to be back here at Billie Jean King getting ready for a tie against Serbia,” she said.
It feels good to be back on court, honestly everything has been great. We (the team) had such a warm welcome from the Serbian Federation, the hotel has been great and all the COVID protocols are perfect so no complaints on our end. It’s been wonderful”
She added, ” We have had a good couple of days here and we are halfway through the week and we look forward to this weekend”.

Serbia has officially nominated Nina Stojanovic, Olga Danilovic, Aleksandra Krunic, Ivana Jorovic, and Lola Radivojevic to play. They currently hold a 2-1 lead in the head-to-head match-up. Although Canada won their most recent meeting back in 2014.

Although this meeting between the two countries will be like no other. The usual tradition of fans cheering on their fans from the sidelines have been removed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Could this mean that host nation will not have as much of an advantage as usual?

“It’s interesting because it is the first tie that the players will play on neutral ground with no spectators,” El Tabakh commented. “It will be an interesting atmosphere, it’s not going to be as crazy or as wild but this is the world we live in right now and regardless the girls are going to bring their own energy and they know everyone at home will be cheering for them and watching on tv so we will be feeling the energy”.

The draw is set for scheduled for Thursday at 12:00pm local time. The schedule is set to be two matches on Friday and three on Saturday. In terms of rankings both country have one player ranked in the top 100 in singles. Furthermore, team Serbia has four players in the top 250 compared to two for Canada.

” Well the good news is we have a lot of depth in our ranking, we have a lot of great girls and to have Leylah ( Fernandez) Rebecca (Marino) Carol ( Zhao), and Sharon ( Fichman) here has been a pleasure, they are all unbelievable girls, I can’t wait to be on the court with them. Unfortunately Bianca (Andreescu) couldn’t be here with us but I wish her a speedy recovery, I wish her all the best with her health, it’s a big year with the Olympics”.

Fernandez will take on a role this weekend that she has never taken on before being that she is the number one on the team. She is fresh off winning her first ever WTA title in Monterrey a few weeks back. A former French Open girls champion, she has won nine out of 15 matches played on the Tour so far this season.

” What she has achieved at a very young age is incredible,” Fernandez’s captain commented.
She’s very mature, she’s very driven, very focused ans she has very high goals. She’s proven herself on the court playing some of her best tennis and she’s been playing really well. I know she can’t wait to get back on court and represent her country.’
I personally look forward to being on court with her and she’s on her way. Should she stay healthy and motivated I have big goals and dreams for her.”

Rebecca Marino has also been a big topic of discussion in Canada being that she had a great start to the season and managed to qualify for the Australian Open.

“All the players look up to her, she’s a great inspiration and her story is incredible. She is one of the most humble humans your ever going to meet and she is a pleasure to have on the team and she is playing some her best tennis and we are all rooting for her not just this tie but the upcoming year,” said El Tabakh.
I hope that she can remain healthy, she’s one of the toughest girls out there with her serve and groundstrokes, I hope she can achieve her goals this year and I am rooting for her”.

The winner of the tie will progress to the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers while the loser will be relegated to their regional group event in 2022.

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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