A welcome return to Tennis!

us openThe Tennis Tribune has been off the grid for some time, for reasons which were out of our control and currently cannot discuss further, however we are pleased to announce our return. We will be covering the latest tennis stories and strive to deliver all tennis related news over the forthcoming months. We will firstly look ahead at what the future holds for tennis in 2020.

The tennis world was brought to a sudden halt on March 9th, when the renowned mandatory tournament Indian Wells announced its cancellation due to the rapid outbreak of Covid-19. This was the first tournament to announce its cancellation, of which was announced abruptly at the last minute, after many tennis players had arrived to its location, many traveling from different continents, and then having to find themselves trying to find a flight out of the country as the country announced the inevitable, that it was closing its borders.

This was to set the precedence as many tournaments followed suit before both the WTA & ATP Tours officially announced the postponement of all tournaments indefinitely. One tournament to act fast and to some opinions, acted selfishly, Roland Garros, announced it had intended to reschedule its tournament to the last 2 weeks of September. This was announced to the world without prior informing the other grand slams and both the WTA & ATP Tour. The rescheduling of the tournament would result in the Laver Cup being cancelled and the subsequent postponement/cancellation of other tournaments that were due to be played in the two weeks that Roland Garros had rescheduled to.

Fast forward a few months later, an official road map was announced to the public. Professional tennis would recommence in August through to November, with a packed calendar which features the combined ATP Masters and WTA Premier 5 tournament “Western & Southern Open” followed by the US Open, followed by back to back combined ATP & WTA clay court tournaments held in Madrid and Rome, followed by Roland Garros.

Prior to the commencement of the Western & Southern open, the WTA intends to recommence its tour in Palermo, Italy on August 3rd, and the ATP tour to recommence in Washington on August 17th.  The Western & Southern Open which is usually played in Cincinnati, will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York City, the same centre as the US Open. The reasoning behind this is to create a “bubble” for the players, allowing them to play in two tournaments back to back in the same city and to help avoid the risk of transmission due to traveling from city to city. As the Western & Southern Open will be held at the National tennis centre in New York, the US Open qualifying has been cancelled for the year. Further events usually played at the US Open, have also been cancelled, including Mixed Doubles, Juniors and Wheelchair events. This has been met with some controversy, particularly in the wheelchair tour, the Australian number 1; Dylan Alcott, who has 16 grand slam titles to his name has expressed his disappointment and received support from fellow abled players such as Sir Andy Murray. The USTA responded with an official statement, suggesting that they will do their best to schedule a wheelchair event. Only time will tell.

The US Open will be held without spectators, and also without media officials in attendance. There will be no lines men in the outdoor courts, thereby resulting in the players solely relying on the umpire and Hawkeye. This should cause for some on court disagreements amongst the players & the umpire, which should provide some entertainment for the viewers at home.

One player to officially confirm their participation at the US Open, is Serena Williams, who will be eyeing to win a record breaking 24th grand slam. I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion around Serena amongst her peers in the run up to the tournament, as it has been revealed that Serena has had a new tennis court fitted on the grounds of her house, which will be an exact replica of the new surface to be played at the US Open; LayKold. This will be the first time that the US Open will be played on the aforementioned surface, previously played on DecoTurf. Some players may deem this to be an advantage to Serena Williams, and perhaps the US Open is on the cusp of witnessing a record breaking career record, whereby Serena Williams win’s her 7th US Open title and more importantly a 24th Grand Slam title, equalling the record held by the controversial Australian, Margaret Court.

It has yet to be seen what players, if any, confirm their withdrawal from the US Open. Simona Halep has expressed her wish to only participate in events held only in Europe. Rafael Nadal, the king of clay, who is the defending champion at both the US Open & Roland Garros, may announce his withdrawal in the following weeks, as he throws with the idea of focusing only on clay court tournaments to better his chances of winning another Roland Garros title. With Roger Federer announcing he has halted his 2020 season after having surgery on his right knee, and with the uncertainty of travel restrictions from various countries, the impending withdrawal of other players is to be expected.

A comeback that is under the radar

Many media outlets have called this year’s US Open the comeback of Sloane Stephens. She was ranked just 957 in the world a mere 6 weeks ago, and since then she reached back to back semi-finals at the Premier 5 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, she then went on to win her first maiden slam title at Flushing Meadows. Now, credit is due to Sloane, however there is another player that is worthy of the global recognition of their recent performance and hopefully The Tennis Tribune can be that platform for the Russian Vera Zvonareva.

While Vera may be most known for her frequent meltdowns on court, which often resulted in the destruction of her tennis rackets and her towels been soaked in tears, she was a ferocious competitor who ultimately reached a career high ranking of number 2, was a former grand slam finalist at Wimbledon and US Open in 2010 and a bronze medallist at the 2008 Olympics. Since reaching the top of her game, Vera has been plagued with injuries, and went on a career hiatus in 2015.

While many former top players commence their comeback on the WTA Tour, Vera chose to grind it out at the ITF Level, to see if her passion was still as strong as before. Vera went on to win the $15,000 tournament in Sharm el Sheikh. A few weeks later, Vera entered the qualifying draw for the US Open, where she was beaten in the second round of qualifying in a tight three setter. While the second week of the US Open was underway, Vera was competing in Dalian on the WTA Tour, which offers the winner $20,000 and 160 ranking points. Vera won 4 matches before being upset in the final. As a result of her recent performance, Vera obtained 115 ranking points, raising her world ranking from outside the top 600 to just outside the top 300 at 304.

Vera’s next tournament as of yet is unconfirmed, but one shouldn’t rule out an appearance on the week commencing September 18 in Guangzhou, a tournament that will resonate with Vera, as she lifted the trophy there in 2008. Let’s hope her fine form continues for the rest of the season!

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Zvonareva lifting her 7th title at Guangzhou in 2008

SHARAPOVA HAS RETURNED

18 months ago, the last edition of #TheTennisTribune concluded with acknowledging that Maria Sharapova would be returning to play in March 2016. Her first match since her quarter final defeat to her nemesis, Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

Fast forward one week later, the world that I knew was turned upside down. Maria held a press conference and announced that she had failed a drugs test. I don’t think there is anything further to add, an endless amount of articles have been written and surely everyone at this stage is aware of what happened, and have formed an opinion on it and will firmly stick to them. I for one, stood by her, continued to support her and that support will never dwindle.

Although Masha’s return to the tour occurred on the 26th April in Stuttgart, where she defeated Roberta Vinci in the first round, (funnily enough Vinci was heavily featured in the last edition of The Tennis Tribune), her return has constantly been spoken about ever since. I think we can all agree her “return” ended after her first round win at the Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing Meadows. The Russian played what many described the final of a Grand Slam as her first round match. To put this into context, Masha defeated the Romanian Simona Halep in the 2014 Roland Garros Final, and how god mysteriously worked, Masha’s opponent was none other than the Romanian.  The celebration at the end of Masha’s first win at the US Open since 2014, was the equivalent to any of the 5 celebrations that Sharapova had at each of her Grand Slam wins. Sharapova collapsed to her knees in disbelief. The emotion that Sharapova must have felt was indescribable. Masha had finally silenced her critics. Hence, for these reasons, the return of Sharapova should no longer be referred to, Sharapova has returned and it will be business as usual, where she’ll be a contender to lift some trophies during the Asian swing of the WTA Tour.

Till next time,

#TheTennisTribune

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