July 11, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Bianca Andreescu was just 14 when she played her first Grand Slam match - in the juniors at Roland Garros. On Saturday, she turns 24.

Bianca Andreescu turns 24 today. And she’s hoping to give herself a butt-kicking birthday present.

In Paris, when Open Court brought up the fact that she was still so young as she began another comeback, she replied that sometimes she had to remind herself that was true, because she’d been through so much she sometimes felt a lot older than that.

So here she is in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in her first WTA Tour final since she made the final in Bad Homburg (also on grass) nearly two years ago.

If she beats Liudmila Samsonova, it would be her first Tour title since … yeah, this is a brain exploder … her US Open title back in 2019.

Andreescu’s actual ranking is up to No. 163 with her effort this week – 100 spots higher than the protected ranking she’s been operating with, but getting there. If she wins, she would move to about No. 136.

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Sunday skeds

It was an absolute slog to get through the skeds in ‘Hertogenbosch and Nottingham on Saturday because of rain. And they didn’t. Here, the chair umpire and supervisor are telling Katie Boulter that they’re done for the night, after she lost the first set of her semifinal against Emma Raducanu 15-13 in a tiebreak. (WTAtv)

To see all of the orders of play on the WTA Tour – ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Nottingham (where rain delays mean some catching up) and the qualifying in Berlin and Birmingham, click here.

To see what’s happening in Stuttgart and ‘s-Hertogenbosch on the ATP side, along with the qualifying at Queen’s Club and Halle, click here.

Nottingham forecast

‘s-Hertogenbosch forecast

Stuttgart forecast

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Queen’s and Halle draws shake out

(Halle has a roof!!!!)

The biggest week of the grass-court tuneup season is this week, with ATP 500s at Queen’s Club and Halle.

In Queen’s, which doesn’t have the same quality at the top of the list as Halle does, No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz could face Jack Draper in the second round. He has Tommy Paul and Grigor Dimitrov in his half.

Andy Murray gets a qualifier and then perhaps No. 7 seed Holger Rune; Milos Raonic gets Cameron Norrie.

Norrie and Draper (at No. 39 and No. 40) are the two lowest-ranked to get straight into the draw; they are not, however, the two least dangerous.

In Halle, Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev are in the same half while Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev are in the other half.

Félix Auger-Aliassime, seeded No. 8, gets wild card Dominik Koepfer and then either Arthur Fils or Tomas Machac.

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Tough quarters in Berlin

The WTA 500 in Berlin originally had everyone in the top 10, although Roland Garros champ Iga Swiatek quite understandably decided to take a pass to give herself another week, after that crazy-successful clay-court swing capped off in Paris.

Roland Garros singles AND doubles finalist Jasmine Paolini also opted for rest. So in all, eight of the top 10 are in.

As a 500-level tournament, unfortunately it has a smaller 28-player draw with the top four seeds getting byes.

No. 1 seed Coco Gauff, No. 4 Jessica Pegula, No. 6 Zheng Qinwen and No. 8 Ons Jabeur ended up in the top half.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Elena Rybakina, No. 5 Marketa Vondrousova and No. 7 Maria Sakkari are in the bottom half.

Tough first rounders: Sakkari v Azarenka. Kostyuk v Kasatkina, Osaka v Zheng.

You would expect that, though, with an event of this calibre.

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Steffi’s BACK, playing TENNIS!

Let’s call it the “Empty Nester Tour” as Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf were in Cluj-Napoca, Romania Saturday, playing an exhibition during a sports festival there with Simona Halep and Andrei Pavel.

After the horrors of seeing Graf with a … pickleball implement in her hand, this was a welcome sight indeed.

The strokes look the same. And so does she. And we want more.

Noteworthy that it’s longtime ATP Tour player, executive and board member Justin Gimelstob who is agenting this return to the spotlight.

Here’s a press conference held Saturday featuring both.

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Nadal NOT DONE YET – maybe

It’s a throwback to when media outlets didn’t just cut-and-paste content remotely and had better access. And they willing and able to spend the funds to send people to the places people in the news were to talk to them.

And so, the cover story for the French daily sports newspaper L’Equipe Saturday was … Rafael Nadal, with whom they met at Tossa de Mar, on the Costa Brava of Spain up from Barcelona. Nadal was cutting the ribbon on a new hotel – the Zel Costa Brava – that he co-owns before heading back to Manacor early the next morning for practice.

Click here for the lÉquipe piece

And here are some of the main takeaways (translated by me, not Google although the quotes themselves would have been translated from English to French originally, and may have lost a little bit in the re-translation).

*If he’d been in the kind of shape he was in the week before Roland Garros six weeks earlier – say, before Monte Carlo – he might have dared to dream of something very different in Paris.

*He sheepishly admitted to a racquet toss in anger during his Court Philippe-Chatrier practice with Stan Wawrinka. “It happens, in practice. It was a moment of anger. They’d closed the roof, the court was too bright and I couldn’t see the ball … for three games. But in a match, it’s different. Throwing the racquet is losing control, and setting an example that’s not positive for the kids. That’s why I’ve never done it, and I’ll never do it.”

Nadal and Wawrinka practiced behind closed doors – no impressionable children around.

*The tournament had discussed a tribute this year and originally Nadal said, “Okay, let’s go for it”. But at the last minute, he changed his mind. He said it would have been sad to announce it was his final Roland Garros, knowing he couldn’t prepare the way he wanted to. And he added that there was no harm in waiting a year. If it happens, and he’s retired by then, he’ll come as a retiree.

*He took a week off from tennis and five days off from physical training and feels fine after returning to practice a week and a half ago. Tennis-wise, the sensations are … so-so. But he feels like he’s doing a hard pre-season training block.

*He’s not a man to rush decisions. So he’s keeping things open, feeling he’s found the enjoyment in playing again. And he wants to see if the physical side holds up, or it’s only a temporary purgatory and he’ll start hurting again. He’ll give himself some time after the Olympics and see what happens.

*If Alcaraz is available and Nadal himself is feeling good physically, he’d love for them train together the week before the Olympics – for singles AND the doubles they’ve been announced to play together.

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All-Star dubs in Halle

As is often the case when players take to the court for the first time after a surface change, there are number of high-profile single players in the doubles draw in Halle.

Notable among them are Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev, who are lifelong pals – but who haven’t teamed up much in the pros.

They played together in Halle last year, in Beijing in 2018 and in Montreal back in 2019 (where they won two rounds – their only match wins together in doubles).

The pair also teamed up at Laver Cup in Boston in 2021. But we don’t count Laver Cup.

Zverev and Rublev practicing … all the way back in 2015 at the US Open.

In juniors, they played together a fair few times from 2012-2014, and reached the Orange Bowl final together in 2013 (notably beating Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe in the semis).

Also teaming up are Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz, Alexander Bublik and Arthur Fils and our 2024 favorites: Tomas Machac and Zhang Zhizhen.

At Queen’s Club, Korda and de Minaur, Murray and Evans and Paul and Tiafoe are pairing.

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No more FILA for Alexandrova

Ekaterina Alexandrova, who is has become a perennial top 20 or top 30 player, still appears to have lost her FILA sponsorship.

The 29-year-old Russian has been wearing the brand (and very well, too) since the start of 2020.

Wearing K-Swiss, Alexandrova is knocked out in the first round of Roland Garros by Viktoriya Tomova.

But by Roland Garros this year, that was gone. And she was sporting the far-less-prestigious K-Swiss.

It’s tough out there – unless you’re Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Sinner, getting that off-court sponsorship money has become increasingly difficult in recent years.

Here are a few of Alexandrova’s looks over her career.

Alexandrova in Miami, wearing her longtime sponsor Fila. By Paris, FILA was out.
Alexandrova in Australia in 2018, sporting Lotto.
A young Alexandrova at Wimbledon in 2016, wearing Nike.
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