Can Serena at less than full health dominate the WTA circuit?

By July 09, 2019
Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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  • Australian Open 2020: Serena Williams results and form ahead of first-round match with Anastasia Potapova Australian Open 2020: Serena Williams results and form ahead of first-round match with Anastasia Potapova

    Serena Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title begins at the Australian Open on Monday.

    The American star will face teenager Anastasia Potapova in the opening round in Melbourne, where she is again among the favourites.

    Williams is without a major title since the 2017 Australian Open, but appears well placed to end that wait.

    We take a closer look at where Williams is at ahead of the first round.

     

    Form and results

    Williams did not need long to end another wait in 2020. The 38-year-old claimed the title at the Auckland Open for her first WTA Tour crown since 2017. And it was an impressive run in New Zealand, where she dropped just one set and also thrashed Amanda Anisimova 6-1 6-1 in a semi-final clash.

    First up

    Her first opponent, Potapova, is in vastly different form, having made a rather mixed start to 2020. The 18-year-old recorded wins in both Brisbane and Adelaide, but failed to qualify for the main draws. Potapova reached a career-high ranking of 64 last year and did beat Angelique Kerber at the French Open. Unsurprisingly, she has never met Williams, and would need a huge turnaround in form to cause a shock.

    Draw

    Williams should have some time to settle in. Tamara Zidansek or wildcard Han Na-lae potentially await in the second round, while Wang Qiang could be her opponent in the third.

    What she said

    "It's pretty satisfying just to get a win in the final [in Auckland]. That was really important for me – and I just want to build on it. It's just a step towards the next goal."

  • Australian Open 2020: Roger Federer results and form ahead of first-round match with Steve Johnson Australian Open 2020: Roger Federer results and form ahead of first-round match with Steve Johnson

    Roger Federer begins his Australian Open campaign on Monday against a man he is yet to drop a set against.

    The Swiss 20-time grand slam champion decided against playing a lead-up tournament ahead of the year's first major, where he faces Steve Johnson.

    Despite the lack of competitive matches, it would still take a monumental upset to send Federer packing in the opening round.

    We take a closer look at where the six-time champion in Melbourne is at ahead of the first round.

     

    Form and results

    Federer has been out of competitive action since the ATP Finals in November, when he suffered a semi-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 38-year-old did edge Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (8-6) in an exhibition set at the 'Rally for Relief' event on Wednesday.

    First up

    In contrast, his first-round opponent, Johnson, is coming off a Challenger Tour title win in Bendigo. A former world number 21, the American almost dropped out of the top 100 last year, but already has seven wins at Challenger level in 2020. Federer holds a 2-0 head-to-head record over Johnson, but was pushed to two tie-break sets in their last meeting at Indian Wells in 2017. Federer's last first-round loss at a major was at the 2003 French Open, while he is 20-0 in the Australian Open first round.

    Draw

    Federer is in the bottom half of the draw and will face either Filip Krajinovic or qualifier Quentin Halys if he gets past Johnson. If results go by ranking, Hubert Hurkacz will await in the third round.

    What he said

    "I'm excited to play Steve. He's a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it's going to be a nice match for me, as well."

  • Shapovalov would rather pull out of Australian Open than jeopardise health Shapovalov would rather pull out of Australian Open than jeopardise health

    Denis Shapovalov would not play in the Australian Open if he felt conditions were unsafe amid continued concern over the air quality in Melbourne.

    Bushfires that have ravaged Australia in recent weeks led to a smoky haze drifting over Victoria, having a significant impact on qualifying for the first grand slam of 2020.

    Dalila Jakupovic had to retire from her qualifying match in distressing scenes after suffering a coughing fit during the second set against Stefanie Voegele.

    Tennis Australia has since published its air quality policy, which states play will be suspended if the concentration of P2.5 particles, which can impair lung function, exceeds 200 micrograms per cubic metre.

    The policy indicates there will be a discussion between medical staff and officials about whether it is advisable to play when the score is between 97 and 200.

    Speaking ahead of the tournament, where he will face Marton Fucsovics in the first round on Monday, Shapovalov was asked what he would do if he believed conditions to be unsafe.

    "I wouldn't play," he replied. "Obviously it's a grand slam, it's a big opportunity, but I'm 20 years old.

    "I don't want to risk my life, risk my health being out there in these conditions when I can play for the next 10, 15 years.

    "For my own health, if it gets bad, I just don't see what the point is. I think everyone's kind of on the same page. I don't think I've seen anyone happy with the way things are being dealt with."

    On the air quality policy, he added: "They send some email and say they have professionals looking at it and they use the term 'playable'.

    "For me it's just like, it's not great. You get warnings from the news telling people to stay inside, that it's not good to be outside, breathing this stuff in.

    "And then you get an email from the tournament saying it's playable and you guys have to go out there and put your life in jeopardy, put your health in jeopardy.

    "You see the effects on players it has right now, the last couple of days, but also you don't know what it's going to do later in our lives and how it could affect us if we're breathing this air in for two weeks."

     

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