Uncertainty Over WTA Finals Location Dominates US Open Media Day - UBITENNIS
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Uncertainty Over WTA Finals Location Dominates US Open Media Day

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World No.1 Iga Swiatek

As the world’s highest-ranked players on the women’s Tour prepare for the US Open, they still have no assurance over where they will play their final tournament of the season. 

The New York Grand Slam takes place less than two months before the start of the WTA Finals which is the biggest WTA event outside of the major tournaments in terms of both prize money and ranking points on offer. In recent years a deal was signed with China to hold the event in Shanghai before officials suspended operations in the region over concerns that ex-world No.1 Peng Shuai was being censored by officials after accusing a former government official of sexual assault. In 2021 it was held in Mexico before moving to America last year. 

Women’s tennis will return to China this autumn but the end-of-season showdown is not expected to take place there. To the frustration of some, officials are still trying to iron out a deal which leaves players waiting for an announcement to be made. 

“We are not involved in all the discussions. I’m kind of waiting on what WTA will tell us,” World No.1 Iga Swiatek told reporters in New York on Friday.
“It would be great if the decision were made earlier. Especially when we were in Fort Worth (last year), they (the WTA) kind of assured us the decision was going to be made at the beginning of the year. It is a little bit annoying but as players, there’s nothing we can do because it’s all about business and negotiations.”

A key contender to host the event is Saudi Arabia, confirmed earlier this week as the new home of the ATP Next Gen Finals. Ubitennis understands that an offer from the country for the event has been made but negotiations are ongoing. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated journalist Jon Wertheim has claimed on social media that Prague, Czech Republic and Washington, America have also expressed interest. 

Jessica Pegula, who is a member of the WTA Players Council, understands the complex topic of playing in Saudi Arabia but believes there are more positives than negatives. The Middle Eastern nation has been accused of using sport to improve its image which has been marred by allegations of multiple human rights violations. 

“We’d obviously have to see there be a lot of pros overweighing the cons to feel comfortable going there, whether that’s seeing them as a group, maybe have to donate money to women’s sports or women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, to see some sort of change or action going towards helping those causes in their country,” said Pegula.
 “I think that would be something really important that, if we did end up going there, we would want to see.
”I think it’s just going to have to be the right arrangement and we’re going to have to know if we go there, okay, well, we want to be making a change, and you need to help us do that.
“If that was the case, I think unfortunately a lot of places don’t pay women a lot of money, and it’s unfortunate that a lot of women’s sports, like we don’t have the luxury to say no to some things.”

Ons Jabeur is the only Arab player in history to have played at the WTA Finals. Despite the criticism of Saudi Arabia, she believes progress is being made and hosting a tennis event there could improve it further. In recent years, women have been granted the right to drive and rules regarding gender segregation in public have been scrapped. However, some activists argue that these reforms don’t go far enough with concerns raised over issues such as protection from domestic abuse. 

“I know in Saudi they’re changing things and they’re evolving,” said Jabeur.
“I’ve been there last year to give a speech and interview. It was very nice meeting a lot of amazing women there.’
“I think it’s something that could help the Arab world to have more tennis players, to get more involved in sports. If they play there, and hopefully if I qualify, it will be a great honour and opportunity for me.”

It is expected that a decision on the WTA Finals will be made soon, perhaps next week. The timeline of the bidding process is something very questionable. However, one thing for certain is that the big names will appear wherever it takes place. 

“Whatever decision they’re going to make, I’m happy to go,” Aryna Sabalenka commented. 

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Paula Badosa Continues French Open Bid Alongside Ongoing Injury Battle

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Shortly before this year’s French Open Paula Badosa had doubts that she would be able to play in the tournament due to an issue that has hampered her progression in the sport.

The former world No.2 plays on the Tour with pain in her back that originated from a stress fracture she suffered last season. Doctors have previously told Badosa that it would be ‘complicated’ if she continues her career but the Spaniard has opted to do so. Although it is a far from easy task. 

Badosa began her French Open campaign on Tuesday with a hard-fought 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, win over 26th seed Katie Boulter. The victory follows up on her recent encouraging run at the Italian Open where she reached the fourth round before losing to Coco Gauff.

“It’s not easy,” the world No.139 said of her physical issues after beating Boulter.
“After Rome, I felt pain in my back again, I had to return to Spain. Many doubts arose, and uncertainty. I wondered how I am going to continue like this, depending on the injections.”
“Today, I have to live with the pain and stop training. It happened to me a couple of days ago, in fact. Then, in some sections of the game, I feel it a little more and I get scared.”

It is tough for any player to cope with such a situation whilst also having to deal with their opponent on the court.Badosa has won a trio of WTA titles so far in her career, including the prestigious Indian Wells Open in 2021. She is also a former quarter-finalist at the French Open. 

“In the end, I’m struggling with that, with the rival in front of me and with myself, because I also miss a lot of points,” she said.
“There are so many things when I play a game that it becomes difficult for me. Sometimes it is difficult for me to control my emotions.”
“In the first set (against Boulter) I feel like a mountain and I think, I can’t continue like this. On the other hand, when the match ends, I am proud of how I was able to overcome those thoughts and I say to myself, come on, come on, tomorrow I have another chance “Let’s see how I get up and how I am. But I’m struggling with a lot of things.”

Given her back problem, questions have been raised about why Badosa has opted to also play in the mixed doubles tournament alongside her partner Stefanos Tsitsipas. The two recently confirmed they are in a relationship again after going through a brief separation. 

“Honestly, I don’t rest on a rest day, I have to train… As I have many things to improve in my tennis, especially the first shots, the volleys, the serve, the rest… It seemed to me that it was a good idea being able to play doubles or mixed,” she explained. 
“In this case, because of the relationship I have and the partner I have [Tsitsipas], who is going to do a lot of work and is going to help me a lot in that aspect, I think it is a good idea.
“In the end, the mixed doubles is an hour, an hour and a half, and it helps me train.”

In the second round of the French Open singles tournament, Badosa will play Yulia Putintseva. 

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Roland Garros 2024: Alize Cornet Hands Out Advice After Ending 20 Year Career

Alize Cornet has revealed she would like to be an author as her 20 year tennis career came to an end.

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Alize Cornet’s 20 year career is over after the Frenchwoman lost 6-2 6-1 to Australian Open finalist Qinwen Zheng.

Cornet began her career at 15 years old where she would go on to win six career WTA singles titles as well as reaching a Grand Slam quarter-final.

The Frenchwoman also managed to beat Serena Williams during her career and reached a career-high ranking of eleven in the world.

However Cornet’s time as a tennis player is up and after the match she told journalists that she is at peace with her decision, “If we stick to the last 24 hours, I would say that I was quite peaceful. I was at peace,” Cornet explained in her press conference.

“What was difficult was to think about the match as a competitive player,
thinking that I could win, and not think about the good-bye messages to deliver afterwards.

“So I woke up this morning, and I thought, oh, well, I’m saying everything this morning. When I warmed up, I thought, okay, it might be the last time. But the momentum was that I had to stay focused in the game and not thinking it’s over already.

“Now I can say it’s over. I did my best on the court. This player is very aggressive. She’s a very tough opponent. It’s hard to win against her. I tried to do my best, and then with the emotion, I think I actually performed quite well in the end.”

It was a courageous performance from Cornet as she said goodbye to a sport she has been part of for two decades.

This hasn’t been a decision that Cornet has taken suddenly as she revealed after the match that she has thought about this decision since January, “No, I have been thinking about the new chapter in my life long ago already,” Cornet revealed.

“For several months, since January, I’ve been preparing progressively to say good-bye to everyone. So I think I have been self-motivating about it. I realized the situation. I’m at peace with everything, the message that I conveyed.

“The moment that I lived on court is memorable and the video that they prepared for me moved me so much. The fact that I could speak at length on court to everyone was such a wonderful opportunity. It’s great to finish on a high note, speaking to the fans and to my friends and relatives in the stands.

“Maybe it will be difficult in the weeks to come, but my feeling is that I have
done my duty, I went till the end of the adventure, and that was important
for me. We’ll talk about it sometime later to see if I’m still at peace, but for the moment, I’m fine.”

Finally Cornet revealed a piece of advice she would give to people being a tennis player as she now prepares to become an author, “So I would just say stay as you are and be yourself. Don’t fight to be perfect, because you will never be perfect, and you will waste a lot of energy doing so,” Cornet stated when asked what she would say to the 15 year-old version of her.

“Be genuine. Be loyal and truthful, and people will accept you as you are or
not. At 15 years old, the teenager that I was already knew what she had to
do as far as tennis was concerned but it’s another thing to accept one’s self
as we are as a person.

“Now it’s a new chapter in my life. I’m reaching new horizons. So it’s true that I’m writing. As an author, I have a backup plan ahead of me, but the lifestyle will change completely.

“That frightens me, because I have been working as a tennis player for 20 years. I need to find purpose again in my life. I need to plan ahead, to see
and understand what I’m going to become. Again, I know that I can work on
myself. I can work out a new state of mind.

“I am a resourceful person. I know that I will find new projects where I can blossom again. It might not be tennis. It will certainly not be the same emotions that I’ve had so far, but I know that I can be happy again somewhere else.”

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“It’s Purely Psychological” – Maria Sakkari Berates ‘Unacceptable’ French Open Defeat

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Maria Sakkari - Roma 2023 (foto Francesca Micheli, Ubitennis)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari said she felt ‘intense anxiety’ before her first round match at the French Open after crashing out of the draw on Monday.  

The sixth seed suffered a shock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, loss to Varvara Gracheva who is currently ranked 88th in the world. Sakkari produced a costly 39 unforced errors and dropped serve five times in her latest match. It is the first time she has lost her opening match at a tournament since February.  

Heading into Paris, the 28-year-old had produced encouraging results on the Tour after reaching the semi-finals in Charleston before making fourth round appearances at WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome. 

 “It’s the first time I don’t know what to say…” Sakkari told SDNA
“I’ve been very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It’s definitely psychological, purely. It’s nothing else.” 

Since appearing in two Grand Slam semi-finals in 2021, Sakkari has struggled to make an impact at the major events. Her defeat to Gracheva makes it the fourth time she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since the start of last year. Overall, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of her nine most recent appearances at these tournaments. 

 “I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set,” she said of her latest performance.
“I was feeling a panic, it’s not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?’  
“It’s purely psychological, I’m not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another game in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I’ve recovered and I’m playing well in the other tournaments, but it’s proven that I’m not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it’s one thing, another thing.” 

Whilst praising her opponent, Sakkari describes her defeat as ‘unacceptable’ and hopes it will serve as a wake-up call for her.  

She now heads to the grass season with a win-loss record of 19-10 so far this year.

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