Billie Jean King Calls For End To Wimbledon Ban On Russian And Belarussian Players
Tennis great Billie Jean King says players from all countries should be allowed to play at Wimbledon as organizers face growing pressure to reverse their ban on Russian and Belarussian players.
Last year the Grand Slam became the first major event in the sport to implement such a ban in response to the War in Ukraine. Last February Russia launched a military offensive on its neighbour and Belarus is suspected of supporting them. In response, the ITF, WTA and ATP agree to suspend those two countries from all team events and only allow them to compete on the Tour under a neutral status.
However, The All England Club went one step further with a full ban which they decided to do following advice from the British government who feared that Russia could use their players as propaganda. The decision prompted backlash from both the men’s and women’s Tour who decided to remove awarding ranking points at the event for the first time. Organizers have also been heavily fined for their actions but an appeal process has been launched.
Weighing in on the subject during a special Original Nine press conference held at the Australian Open, six-time Wimbledon champion and WTA co-founder King says the ban should be lifted and the allocation of ranking points reinstated.
“Just have them play and get their money,” King replied when asked if there should be an outright ban or compromise. “It’s the ranking points, for sure. They have to have it. Rybakina, they’ve seeded her 25th, but because she won Wimbledon, she’s not (seeded higher).”
The former world No.1 said she hopes the grass-court major will follow in line with the other three major events that allowed Russian and Belarussian players to compete but only as neutral athletes. At this year’s Australian Open, two of the women’s semi-finalists are from Belarus and two Russians have reached the quarter-final stage of the men’s draw. Although the tournament has banned flags from those two countries following an incident that occurred during a match involving a Ukrainian player in the first round.
“I hope they do, just keep it the same way the other ones (Grand Slam tournaments) are,” King continued. “Life is too short. We are a platform to have discussions on this, though, just like you’re asking. I think it’s important.’
“WTA was started for that, so we’d all have one voice, too, to help protect players.”
It is unclear when The All England Club will make a final decision regarding whether to maintain or remove the ban at this year’s tournament which will begin on July 3rd.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.
In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva. And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve. She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek. Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.
Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th. She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying. Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week. The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.
On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff. Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight. And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders. But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.
Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening. Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches. Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.
Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay. All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon.
So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand? In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge. While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major. Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu
Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise. Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories. She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.
Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half. She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.
Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match. And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.
Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston. Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.
Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season. He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14. But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.
Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge. However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021. Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo. Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.
Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date. Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz. He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.
Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major. This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther. They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0. And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros. Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Djokovic Face Seeded Opposition on Friday
Third round singles action commences on Friday in Paris.
In the top half of the ATP singles draw, which plays on Friday, 11 of 16 seeds have advanced to the third round, making for some blockbuster encounters. But in the bottom half of the WTA singles draw, which also plays on Friday, only six of 16 seeds remain after two rounds, leaving plenty of room for new names to break through to the second week of this Major.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Court Philippe-Chatrier
Djokovic is now 22-4 on the year, despite his vaccination status and an elbow injury forcing him to miss multiple events. And despite whatever this thing is taped to his chest. Novak hasn’t dropped a set through two rounds, and hasn’t failed to advance beyond the third round of this tournament since 2009, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
Davidovich Fokina is 19-13 in 2023, and was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. The 23-year-old is a flashy, emotional, and inconsistent player. But he’s capable of defeating top players, as he did Djokovic last year in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic claimed their other two meetings easily in straight sets, back in 2021. And on Friday, the 22-time Major champion is a considerable favorite to prevail again, especially in the best-of-five format.
Lorenzo Musetti (17) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Third in Court Simonne-Mathieu
Like Alejandro, Lorenzo is a flashy, uber-talented young player. But his results are also up-and-down, with a record of 15-12 this season. The 21-year-old advanced to the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, when he was up two sets against Djokovic before succumbing and retiring two games from defeat.
Norrie is the opposite: a consistent, less glitzy performer. The British No.1 is 29-10 on the season, and has been one of the ATP’s winningest players the last two seasons. However, he is 0-2 in the third round of this event, losing to Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov the last two years.
Their only prior matchup took place earlier this clay court season in Barcelona, with Musetti coming from a set down to win 6-1 in the third. But this is another case where the best-of-five format favors the higher seed and more fit player in Norrie, while the slight upset by the Italian and his formidable backhand would not be shocking.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Tsitsipas is 27-8 this season, yet is 0-5 in his last five tournament finals, dating back nearly a year. That includes a straight-set loss to Djokovic in the championship match of January’s Australian Open.
Schwartzman has seriously struggled this year, with a record of 5-16 at all levels coming into this fortnight, arriving in Paris on a five-match losing streak. However, he has advanced to the fourth round or better at this tournament in four of the last five years, and remains a considerable threat on this surface.
Stefanos leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-0 on clay. And based on recent form, the Greek is a significant favorite on Friday.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (26) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Alcaraz is 32-3 in 2023, and 22-2 on clay. He’s accumulated four titles, three of which came on this surface. Carlitos was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing in four sets to Sascha Zverev.
It’s been a really rough season for Shapovalov. The Canadian was 7-9 on the year coming into the French Open, and 1-2 on clay. And this easily remains his worst Major, with a lifetime record of 4-4, and this third round appearance being his best result to date.
In their first career meeting, the 20-year-old Spaniard is a strong favorite to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Elise Mertens (28) vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Both players are yet to drop a set, though Pegula received a retirement from Camila Giorgi after one set on Wednesday. Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches taking place a few years ago on hard courts.
Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Khachanov came back from two sets down in his opening round contest against Constant Lestienne of France, while Kokkinakis survived a grueling five-setter in the last round against Stan Wawrinka. When they played five years ago on clay in Monte Carlo, Karen prevailed in straight sets.
Kamilla Rakhimova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 31-5 on the year, but is vying to reach the round of 16 in Paris for the first time. Rakhimova is a 21-year-old who has never advanced to the round of 16 at any Major. This is a first career meeting between two more players who have not dropped a set.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Rublev has won consecutive four-setters to reach this stage. Sonego already took out another seed, Ben Shelton. These players have split two prior tour-level meetings, with Lorenzo claiming the one contested on clay.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Inspiring Stories Abound on Wednesday
Second round singles action begins on Wednesday in Paris.
Top names like Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka, and Stefanos Tsitsipas will all be considerable favorites on Wednesday, so this preview will focus on what are likely to be Day 4’s more competitive matchups. And they include some inspiring stories: a 38-year-old former champion fighting back from injury for one more deep run at a Major, the American No.1 playing while thinking about her seriously ill mother, and a former top 10 player from France who has battled his way back from depression and alcohol issues.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Camila Giorgi vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – 11:45am on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Earlier this year in an essay for The Players’ Tribune, Pegula divulged the healthy crisis her family has been enduring. Her mother, Kim, went into cardiac arrest last June and nearly died. Kim’s has improved considerably, but she’s still battling significant health issues a year later. Jess has spoken about how her mom’s fight has inspired her tennis in recent months.
Pegula sits at a career-high ranking of No.3 in singles, and is No.2 in doubles. The 29-year-old American has advanced to the quarterfinals at four of the last five Majors, including this one a year ago. Jess also claimed her first WTA 1000 title last October is Guadalajara.
Giorgi is also a WTA 1000 champion, having won at that level two years ago in Canada. She is 14-9 on the year, and ousted France’s Alize Cornet in straight sets in the first round.
They have met nine times at all levels, with Pegula leading 7-2, taking their last four encounters. Giorgi’s last victory over Pegula came during that 2021 Montreal title run. Jess is the superior clay court player, and should advance comfortably despite the always-dangerous power the Italian possesses.
Marketa Vondrousova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Vondrousova was a surprising runner-up here four years ago as a 19-year-old. But multiple surgeries have disrupted her young career, with her only final since that 2019 French Open run coming at the Tokyo Olympics, when she took home a silver medal after losing to Belinda Bencic. Yet Marketa is back in strong form, with a record of 20-8 this season, and recent clay court victories over the likes of Maria Sakkari and Bianca Andreescu.
Kasatkina may be a top 10 seed, but she is only 13-12 in 2023. A semifinalist here a year ago, Daria would drop out of the top 10 with a loss on Wednesday, which puts a lot of pressure on her shoulders.
This should be a fun matchup, with both players possessing plenty of variety in their games. And they have split four prior meetings, and are 1-1 on clay. But based on recent form, Vondrousova is a slight favorite to take out the ninth seed.
Stan Wawrinka vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Second on Court Simonne-Mathieu
Wawrinka’s title run in Paris came eight years ago, with recent years filled with surgeries and a whole lot of rehab. Yet that made his first-round five-set victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas all the more satisfying. Stan is looking to reach the third round of a Major since this tournament in 2020.
Kokkinakis’ career has been sabotaged by injuries from a very young age. But the 27-year-old Australian has been enjoying the healthiest stretch of his career across the last few seasons. Thanasi is 24-12 this year at all levels, and upset Dan Evans in straight sets in the first round.
Their first career meeting feels like it could go either way. The much-younger Kokkinakis should be the fresher player on the day. However, in the second round of the last Major, Thanasi suffered an excruciating loss to another aging Slam champ, in a near six-hour affair with Andy Murray. That is the kind of loss that sticks with you for a long time, especially when it happens at your home Major. With that in mind, I favor the Stanimal to pull out another tight victory on Wednesday.
Lucas Pouille (Q) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Currently ranked 675th in the world, Pouille has won four matches since the start of qualifying, even defeating lucky loser Jurij Rodionov twice, once in qualifying and once in the main draw. Both of his victories over Rodionov were emotional: one was spent shedding tears of joy while holding his young son, the other spent singing La Marseillaise along with the Parisian crowd. After the demons Lucas has faced in recent years, each victory is as sweet as a French crepe.
Meanwhile, Norrie has become one of the sport’s most reliable performers since upping his physical fitness a few years ago. The 27-year-old is 28-10 in 2023, and survived a five-setter in the opening round against another Frenchman, Benoit Paire.
They have split their two prior meetings, both of which took place at Majors, and both of which were close. Five years ago at this tournament, Pouille prevailed in a fourth set tiebreak. Two years ago at Wimbledon, Norrie prevailed 7-5 in the fourth. In the rubber match on Wednesday, Cam must be favored despite what any French heartstrings may say.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Tsitsipas required four sets, and was nearly pushed to a fifth, against Jiri Vesely on Sunday. Carballes Baena won in straights, and won at ATP title on clay last month in Marrakech. When they met five years ago on clay in Estoril, Stefanos narrowly prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Taro Daniel – Alcaraz dropped just seven games on Monday, in his first match at a Major as a Slam champion and World No.1. Daniel also prevailed in straight sets, and is now 8-6 this year at tour level. At a clay court Challenger tournament two years ago, Carlitos defeated Taro in three sets.
Iryna Shymanovich (Q) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka easily won her opener on Sunday, while 25-year-old qualifier Shymanovich claimed her first victory at a Major in her debut at this level. Aryna could become the new World No.1 this fortnight depending on how far she and Iga Swiatek advance.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Marton Fucsovics – Djokovic claimed his 86th French Open victory on Monday in straight sets. Fucsovics claimed his seventh, and is 0-4 against Novak, though he’s taken a set in three of their four meetings.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
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