February 19, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Raducanu, Thiem, Ruud out of Abu Dhabi exho

It was always going to be an interesting 2022 for US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

But it’s not exactly starting off in ideal fashion.

The 19-year-old is out of the exhibition match with Belinda Bencic this weekend at the Mubadala exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

The tournament announced Monday morning that Raducanu has tested positive for COVID-19, and won’t be able to play.

The organizers of the men’s exhibition tournament that will feature Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, among others, then had to scramble for a replacement.

On Tuesday, they announced that Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur would fill in.

Raducanu’s duties, which included a couple of “fan Q&As”, were due to begin on Thursday.

Thiem, Ruud both out

It was hardly a huge deal, in the sense that the women’s match is essentially no more than lip service anyway. The six-man men’s field remained intact at that point.

Until Tuesday.

That’s when the tourney also announced that top players Dominic Thiem (currently No. 15 after his long absence) and Casper Ruud also were out.

(Photo: Johan Lilji/Nordea Open)

They will be replaced by Taylor Fritz and Dan Evans (who will face compatriot Andy Murray on the first day).

The official press-release quotes

Ruud: “It’s very unfortunate that I have to withdraw as I was really looking forward to making my debut in Abu Dhabi. Injuries are part of sport and while I won’t be making the trip this time, I hope to play in the Championship many times in the years to come.”

Thiem: “I was looking forward to making my return to competition at Abu Dhabi but I feel that I am yet not ready to compete at the highest level. It’s disappointing to not take part this year but I need to continue my preparation for the upcoming season. I truly hope to return to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the future.”

Certainly the decisions don’t augur too well for their Australian Open efforts.

Thiem has been out since retiring, up 5-2, in the first set of a grass-court match against Adrian Mannarino in Mallorca in June.

SPOTY awards coming Sunday

It’s not yet known if she tested positive on arrival in Abu Dhabi, or whether the positive test occurred in a pre-travel PCR test as she intended to make her way there.

Raducanu is reported to be fully vaccinated.

The teen was announced as one of the nominees for the BBC’s “Sports Personality of the Year” award on Monday. The ceremony is Sunday; that precludes her attendance.

As it happens, there was supposed to be a studio audience and various other festivities for the SPOTY awards, a return to somewhat-normalcy. But just two days ago, because of the arrival of the Omicron variant, the BBC decided to cut the event down to the bare bones, much like 2020. So she won’t be missing much.

Raducanu preseason with new coach interrupted

Far more crucially – assuming she’s not having any serious symptoms – having to isolate cuts a big chunk of time out of her preseason training for 2022. So far, the reports are that her symptoms are “mild”.

This period was her first opportunity to work with the new coach she has hired ahead of the 2022 season, Torben Beltz.

(Photo: Upper Austria Ladies Linz)

Raducanu is due to make her official 2022 debut not in the loaded-up WTA event in Adelaide, but one of the smaller-scale ones at Melbourne Park.

All of the top 10 (with the exception of No. 7 Anett Kontaveit, who isn’t scheduled the first week) will be in Adelaide. Two 250 events at Melbourne park will split an entry list that contains just five of the top 20 – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Naomi Osaka, Jessica Pegula, Raducanu and No. 20 Simona Halep.

Those tournaments begin Jan. 4.

Official quotes

Here are the official press release quotes from the tournament, and Raducanu.

“Emma is now isolating and following all necessary protocols. We wish her a quick recovery and hope to see her back on the court soon. We are looking at alternative top female competitors to go head-to-head with Belinda Bencic; further updates will be provided in due course.”

As for Raducanu, here’s the official quote:

“After testing positive for COVID-19, I will have to postpone until the next opportunity to play in front of the fans here, which I was very much looking forward to.  I’m isolating as per rules and hopefully will be able to get back on court soon.”

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