The head of the Australian Open has shrugged off concerns that players could potentially be participating with COVID-19 on the same day Garbine Muguruza said testing at the event was optional.
Craig Tiley has insisted that his tournament’s process is stricter than what players face during their ‘week in week out travels.’ Under regulations, players travelling to Australia must take a test before departure and upon arrival. They then have further tests on day five and day seven.
“We are working closely with the men’s and the women’s tour’s and came up with a set of protocols that are more rigorous than their week in week out travels,” Tiley told Channel Nine.
“There is also mandatory symptomatic testing and every player is provided each day with a rapid antigen kick they can pick up either at the hotel or here onsite (at the Australian Open). That is really the program we have had going. So far it has worked well and been successful.” He added.
Concerns over the system started last week during the qualifying tournament when Bernard Tomic said he believed he had the virus during his match and lamented the testing protocols. He tested positive shortly after. Then on Wednesday Ugo Humbert tested positive for the virus following his first round match. The Frenchman only discovered his result as part of the standard protocols those wishing to leave Australia have to follow.
After his second round win over John Millman, Alexander Zverev told reporters that he believes the number of positive cases at the event is higher than what figures show due to a lack in testing. He said he has entered into a ‘personal bubble’ to avoid potentially being infected as he seeks his first Grand Slam title.
“I did not know that he (Humbert) had Covid,” said Zverev. ”This year in Australia there’s a lot more cases than last year.
“We are allowed to go outside to eat, we are allowed to do what we want, so it is natural that more people get Covid.
“My brother when he arrived had Covid, he was in quarantine in Sydney. He does not have it any more.
“I think a few players have it now. We are not getting tested. If we were getting tested I think there would be more positives than there are now.”
Garbine Muguruza, who lost in the second round on Thursday, said she tests herself twice a day but is under no obligation to do so. The two-time Grand Slam champion also confirmed that she doesn’t have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival at Melbourne Park.
On the other hand, Stefanos Tsitsipas has defended the testing procedures in Melbourne and said the responsibility lies with the players, not the tournament.
“It’s the responsibility of each and every athlete to test themselves regularly to see whether or not they are positive, which has been the case for me,” he said.
“I have been trying to get a few antigen tests and rapid tests to see whether or not I’m positive, which is a responsibility that I have, it’s something that I have to do in order to see if I’m 100%.”
Tiley’s defence of the programme comes amid growing scrutiny over his handling of the tournament following the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic. The world No.1 claims he was told by Tennis Australia that he could enter the country unvaccinated as he recently caught the virus before officials said that wasn’t a valid reason. It has since been claimed that the governing body was funding Djokovic’s travel and legal expenses but that has been denied. Meanwhile, Tiley has stated that he will not be stepping down from his current position.
“I am very focused today on delivering a great event. I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far.” He stated.
This year’s Australian Open requires all players and those working at the tournament to be fully vaccinated unless they are medically exempt.
US Open Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Play for the Men’s Singles Championship
History will be made on Sunday at the US Open. In an unprecedented men’s championship match, the winner will not only earn their first Major title, but also become the World No.1 for the first time. So much is on the line for both 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 23-year-old Casper Ruud.
Alcaraz comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a small village called El Palmar in Murcia, Spain. His father was a semi-professional tennis player, and Carlitos picked up the game from a very young age. In 2018, he joined the tennis academy of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who quickly recognized the talent and potential of Alcaraz, and has been his primary coach ever since. His idol is fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
Ruud is the son of former top 40 player Christian Ruud, who also serves as his coach. Casper grew up in Oslo, Norway, and continues to set new records for Norwegian players: the first to win an ATP title, to reach a Major final, and to be ranked in the top 10. And like Alcaraz, his idol is Rafael Nadal.
Casper Ruud (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Alcaraz is looking to become the youngest World No.1 in history, and the first teenager to ever achieve that feat. He is the youngest men’s finalist at a Major since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005. Just last year, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100. But since last summer, he has skyrocketed up the rankings. He leads the tour with 50 match wins in 2022, and is 5-2 lifetime in ATP finals.
Ruud, currently ranked No.7, is looking to make the biggest rankings jump to No.1 of all-time. This is his second Major final out of the last three, after being a surprise finalist three months ago in Paris. In that championship match, he was routed by Nadal 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. Overall, Casper is 9-4 in finals.
Alcaraz is 2-0 against Ruud, having claimed both those matches in straight sets. They occurred a year ago on clay in Marbella, and six months ago in the final of the Miami Masters on a hard court.
It’s hard to fathom Carlitos will be close to 100% physically on Sunday. He is coming off three consecutive five-set wins that went late into the night or the morning, and even had to save a match point in his especially epic five-setter against Jannik Sinner. As per Ravi Ubha, Alcaraz is the first player since Andre Agassi in 2005 to win three straight five-setters in the round directly before a Major final. However, the youngster is remarkably fit, and continues to recover surprisingly well from his grueling five-set battles.
The second half of Ruud’s road to this championship match was considerably less complicated, spending over four hours less on court than Alcaraz since the fourth round. Casper will be the much fresher competitor, yet even though he possesses previous experience in a Major final, he has much less experience in defeating top players. He is 0-5 at Slams against top 5 opposition.
Unlike Ruud, Alcaraz has a favorable record against the top 10, having claimed seven of his last nine matches. His incredible mix of speed and power make his game nearly impenetrable when he’s at his best. And considering his comfortable victories over Casper in the recent past, Carlitos is the favorite to win his first Major title and become the new World No.1.
Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship match will be played at 1:00pm local time. It’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend. Krejcikova and Siniakova are vying for their sixth Major as a team, and their third of the season. This title would complete their career Grand Slam. McNally was a finalist at last year’s US Open alongside Coco Gauff. Townsend is a two-time Slam semifinalist, including earlier this season at Roland Garros. This is only Katy and Taylor’s second event as a team.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
US Open Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur Play for the Women’s Singles Championship
The championship match in women’s singles at the last Major of the year is fittingly between the two best players of 2022. They are also two of the sport’s most likable competitors, with plenty of flair and aggression in their games.
Iga Swiatek 56-7 this season, with six titles, all of which were accumulated during a 37-match winning streak. The world No.1 has more than double the points of all other players this season. And the two-time Roland Garros champion has now achieved her first Slam final on a hard court.
Ons Jabeur is 44-13 on the year,with two titles. She will reach a career-high ranking of No.2 based on this result, her second Major final this summer. Ons is the first woman to achieve back-to-back Major finals since Serena Williams in 2019.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Swiatek’s best tennis has often escaped during her this event, and she’s spoken openly regarding the court speed and tennis balls not being to her liking. But she has still advanced to this final fairly economically, dropping only two sets through six matches. Iga has now claimed her last nine matches against top 10 opposition, and is a perfect 9-0 in tournament finals within the last two years, claiming all nine of those in straight sets.
Jabeur was only 10-8 this season on hard courts prior to this fortnight, and went just 2-3 on this surface in August after her highly disappointing loss in the championship match at Wimbledon, where she won just four of the last 16 games after securing the first set. However, she dropped only one set in her first six rounds, and dominated a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semifinals by a score of 6-1, 6-3. Ons is 2-3 in finals this year, and only 3-6 lifetime.
Swiatek and Jabeur have split four previous meetings, and split their two encounters on hard courts. They played once before at a Major, with Ons prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 at last year’s Wimbledon. When they met this season, in the final of Rome on clay, Iga was comfortably victorious 6-2, 6-2.
Swiatek will look to dictate play from the baseline, but will need to cut down on her unforced error count. In all of her six matches this tournament, she has struck more errors than winners, averaging a -8 differential. Jabeur is an excellent server, especially for her height, but will need to dramatically increase her first serve percentage. In her semifinal against Caroline Garcia, it was only 43%. Iga’s aggressive returns would easily exploit that on Saturday.
Based on her play this year, as well as her outstanding record in finals, Swiatek is the favorite to win her third Major title. But regardless of the outcome, if these two competitors both play anywhere near their best tennis, they could create one of the most memorable finals in recent memory.
Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship match will be played at 12:00pm local time. It’s the Aussie team of Storm Sanders and John Peers (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Peers and France’s Roger-Vasselin have both previously won a men’s doubles titles at their respective home Slams. Flipkens retired from singles after this year’s Wimbledon. Her and Sanders are both vying for their first Major title.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
US Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals
The men’s semifinals feature four players all vying for their first Major title. Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud is the only remaining man who has previously played in a Slam semifinal. Carlos Alcaraz, Frances Tiafoe, and Karen Khachanov are all making their debut at this stage of a Major. And both Ruud and Alcaraz have a chance to leave New York as the new world No.1 if they win the title, or if one reaches the final and the other loses in the semifinals. Which two men will advance to Sunday’s championship match, and which one will become a first-time Slam champ?
Also on Friday, the men’s doubles final will be played. And it is a blockbuster between the top two seeds.
Karen Khachanov (27) vs. Casper Ruud (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Ruud has reached this semifinal rather efficiently, dropping only three sets. And in the one five-setter he played, he comfortably claimed the fifth set 6-0. Casper previously had the reputation of being a clay court specialist, but he’s now 17-6 this season on hard courts, and was a finalist at the Masters 1000 event in Miami.
Khachanov was a two-time Major quarterfinalist before this fortnight, yet those results came on clay and grass. He had never previously advanced beyond the third round of a hard court Slam. None of his matches at this event have been easy, as he lost at least set in each. Karen is coming off consecutive five-setters against Pablo Carreno Busta and Nick Kyrgios.
Their only prior encounter occurred two years ago on clay in Rome, with Ruud prevailing 6-1 in the third. And Casper looked extremely sharp in the last round against another big server, Matteo Berrettini, returning aggressively and breaking the Italian five times across three sets. Ruud will also be the fresher competitor on Friday, despite each player having two full days of rest. Casper should be favored to reach his second final out of the last three Majors.
Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe (22) – Not Before 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
These are two of the sport’s most exciting, charismatic young stars. But only one will reach their first championship match at a Major this week.
Tiafoe has exhilarated the New York audience, and dropped only one set through five matches. He is a perfect 6-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, and spent significantly less time on court than Alcaraz.
Carlitos has played consecutive epics that ended early in the morning. In the fourth round, he came back from a set down in the fifth to defeat Marin Cilic. In the quarterfinals, he played for five hours and fifteen minutes, and until nearly three in the morning, to overcome Jannik Sinner in what was easily the best match of the year to date.
Tiafoe and Alcaraz have only played once, a year ago on clay in Barcelona, with Frances winning in straight sets. Even though that was only 17 months ago, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and he’s now the ATP’s winningest player in 2022. However, while he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport, he can’t possibly be 100% coming into this semifinal. Even by five-hour match standards, that quarterfinal with Sinner was incredibly taxing, with an extremely high level maintained throughout the match. And that will be a huge advantage for a confident Tiafoe, who also thrives playing in front of big crowds, and in night matches in his home country. I like Tiafoe’s chances of becoming the first American man to reach a Major singles final since Andy Roddick.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (2) – Ram and Salisbury are the defending champions, while Koolhof and Skupski are easily the best men’s doubles team of 2022, with six titles. These teams split two meetings earlier this year on hard courts.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
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Yoshihito Nishioka upsets Casper Ruud to reach the semifinal in Seoul
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Juan Martin Del Potro Reveals Physical And Mental Trauma From Tennis Retirement
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Andy Murray Calls For Earlier Start To Davis Cup Ties After Great Britain Loses Late-Night Thriller
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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) ITF President David Haggerty ’Satisfied’ With Davis Cup Format Despite Issues
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