WTA

Halep hopes hinge on appeal to Italian health minister

By Sports Desk July 25, 2020

Simona Halep faces having to miss the Palermo Open unless an appeal to allow the Wimbledon champion to compete is accepted by Italy's health minister.

Tournament organisers have asked government minister Roberto Speranza to make an exception after quarantine restrictions were announced for all visitors who have spent time in Romania or Bulgaria in the past 14 days.

Halep, who has spent lockdown at home in Romania, has yet to make a public comment on the possibility of being ruled out of the clay-court event, which starts on August 3.

The Palermo Open will be the first WTA Tour tournament since March and Halep is the star attraction in the field.

Italy, one of the first nations to be badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is determined to be cautious about visitors arriving from other countries.

Tournament chief executive Oliviero Palma is waiting to hear back from the authorities after sending what he described as an "urgent letter" to Speranza.

Palma wrote on Twitter: "We wrote a letter to the Minister because we're convinced that the health protocols adopted by the WTA are so strict to guarantee the safety and health not only of athletes, yet also of all the various workers involved in the event.

"The provision would penalise a player like Simona Halep, [the] world's number 2 and Wimbledon's reigning champion, who wouldn't take part in Palermo's tournament anymore."

Speranza said on Saturday: "We must protect our country within an international context that is worsening. We live on one planet. The battle is won with determination and solidarity."

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  • French Open 2020: Halep's birthday joy, Azarenka bemoans cold Parisian weather French Open 2020: Halep's birthday joy, Azarenka bemoans cold Parisian weather

    Birthday girl Simona Halep described her French Open first-round victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo as "the perfect present".

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    And she marked her 29th birthday with a 6-4 6-0 triumph under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

    "The perfect present was that I won, of course," said the 2018 champion. "It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday, so it's going to be pretty unique maybe forever.

    "I cannot celebrate much, because I have to stay in the room, so I will have a bottle of water.

    "I will speak with my very close ones and loved ones. Just that. Nothing special. After the tournament, I will [celebrate properly]."

    While Halep, who now faces compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, had the luxury of an enclosed arena the cold weather outside caused issues for others on a day that saw Venus Williams make an early exit.

    AZA-BRRR-ENKA

    It was a chilly day in the French capital and few people were more bothered by the conditions than Victoria Azarenka, who donned a jacket and leggings for her match with Danka Kovinic. 

    The former world number one triumphed 6-1 6-2 but she left the court three games into the first set claiming it was "too cold", a consequence of the tournament taking place four months later than planned.

    "I think my opponent first of all slipped in the third game, so I think she was also feeling a little bit uncomfortable," said Azarenka.

    "And I just asked like when my grip is getting wet in between points, are we going to still continue to play?

    "And then [the official] told me that if I'm willing to wait a little bit longer while the drizzle stops, because the rain was supposed to increase, and I said absolutely not because I don't see a point of sitting on the court when it's eight degrees.

    "I at the same time asked my opponent if she wants to wait on the court or she wants to go off court, and she said she doesn't want to wait on the court.

    "So, I'm not going to waste my time sitting there and getting cold."

    KONTA DUMPED OUT BY GAUFF

    Coco Gauff dumped out ninth seed Johanna Konta as the 16-year-old produced a fine display.

    Gauff came through in straight sets, beating the Briton 6-3 6-3 to secure a second-round showdown with qualifier Martina Trevisan.

    It constitutes a shock premature departure for Konta, who reached the semi-finals in 2019.

    VENUS DONE WITH 2020

    Venus Williams declaring she is "done" with 2020 is a statement with which many will be able to identify.

    The American veteran, a 2002 finalist at this slam, was beaten 6-4 6-4 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who will now face Azarenka.

    Asked if she had any plays to play again this year, the 40-year-old replied: "I'm going home from here. I'm done. If there is somewhere to play, I won't be there."

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  • French Open 2020: Murray suffers chastening defeat to Wawrinka on return to Roland Garros French Open 2020: Murray suffers chastening defeat to Wawrinka on return to Roland Garros

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    Wawrinka held serve throughout to prevail 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes as he set up a meeting with Dominik Koepfer in the second round.

    Elsewhere on Sunday, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner eliminated 11th seed David Goffin and British number one Dan Evans lost to Kei Nishikori in five sets.


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    Grand slam winners Murray and Wawrinka served up a treat when they met in the semi-finals here in 2017, but there was far less drama involved in this latest clash.

    Wildcard entrant Murray lacked any sort of spark and looked subdued for the duration of the one-sided match as he failed to break his opponent's service game.

    Wawrinka, who has himself slipped down the rankings, broke Murray in the third, fifth and seventh games as he eased into a one-set lead.

    It was a similar case in the second set, with the Swiss continuing to dominate and earning an all-important break in the sixth game to leave Murray on the ropes.

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    Murray squandered three break points in the second game of the final set and Wawrinka did not look back, seeing out the game with an ace in an easier victory that expected.


    Sinner stuns Goffin 

    Sinner caught the eye when becoming the first Italian to win the Next Gen ATP Finals 10 months ago and he is now making his mark in majors.

    The 19-year-old won 11 games in a row en route to a convincing 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory and will now take on French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in the next round.

    "He maybe didn't feel that well on court," Sinner said in his post-match interview. "I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

     

    Nishikori sees off Evans in five sets 

    British number one Evans was seeking his first win at Roland Garros but, dealt a tough hand against former world number four Nishikori, it was a fourth first-round exit in five years.

    After a sluggish start that saw him drop the first set, Nishikori soon recovered and took a 2-1 lead in the contest, only for Evans to show good fighting spirit in the fourth set.

    Despite battling back from 0-3 in the deciding set, Evans' revival was short-lived as he went down 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in three hours and 49 minutes.

    "The end result was that I lost," Evans said. "I lost another first round which is a little disappointing and now I get ready for the indoor hardcourts."

    Isner sails through, Coric falls

    World number 23 John Isner made light work of Elliot Benchetrit, holding serve throughout in a routine 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Sebastian Korda.

    Borna Coric had less success against Norbert Gombos, though, the 24th seed exiting the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.

    The US Open quarter-finalist lost serve in a gruelling third game and that was a sign of things to come against his stubborn opponent.

    Gombos, who reached round three in 2017, recovered after losing the second set to get over the line and produce a big upset on an eventful opening day in Paris.

  • French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris

    Simona Halep eventually warmed to her French Open task as she won her opening match on a chilly first Sunday at Roland Garros.

    Under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier and on her 29th birthday, title favourite Halep stumbled through the opening stages before pulling away to beat Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4 6-0.

    From 4-2 behind in the opening set, after three consecutive breaks, Halep won 10 straight games to reach the second round of a tournament at which she won her first grand slam title two years ago.

    She landed 90 per cent of first serves in the second set, and struck 11 winners to five from her fading opponent.

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    The second set was a stroll against Sorribes Tormo, a player who had only won one match in three previous main-draw appearances at the clay-court slam.

    Halep's early wobble may have been partly attributable to the unfamiliar conditions, with the temperature barely into double figures as the match began.

    Because the tournament has been moved back from its usual May start amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris will feel quite different to the players in action over the 15-day tournament.

    Romanian Halep paired a pink outfit with black leggings, and initially her tennis was as cold as the autumnal climate, but she predictably took control of matters and rolls on.

    She was serenaded to mark her birthday by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli during a post-match interview, with Halep hoping for more to celebrate in the coming fortnight.

    Data slam: Erratic early, but Halep strengths shine through

    Halep took charge of this contest once she cut down the unforced errors, which blighted her performance in the opening stages. She fired 12 winners in the opening set and 11 in the quickfire second, but the error count told the story of her improvement. After racking up 15 in the first set, Halep trimmed that number to a steadier eight in the second. She was clinical on her break-point opportunities, carving out nine and taking a healthy six of those.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Halep – 23/23
    Sorribes Tormo – 10/16

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Halep – 1/0
    Sorribes Tormo – 0/2

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Halep – 6/9
    Sorribes Tormo – 2/4

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