French Open: Osaka hints at skipping Wimbledon after British grand slam is stripped of ranking points

By Sports Desk May 23, 2022

Naomi Osaka has become the first high-profile player to suggest they might miss Wimbledon after the grand slam was stripped of ranking points.

The WTA and ATP announced last week that they had stripped Wimbledon of ranking points after the All England Club decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the season's third major.

That decision came in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was aided by Belarus.

Osaka made her return to the French Open on Monday - the former world number one withdrew from last year's tournament at Roland Garros citing mental health issues amid intense media scrutiny and having been fined for skipping press duties.

However, her return was short-lived as she suffered a 7-5 6-4 defeat to Amanda Anisimova in her first-round match.

Three-time grand slam champion Osaka, now ranked at 38 in the world, has ambitions to return to the top of the WTA rankings - and also said her dream match would be at Wimbledon. 

But, with other events around Wimbledon offering ranking points, Osaka is considering skipping the tournament.

"I'm not sure why, but I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it's more like an exhibition," she told a news conference.

"I know this isn't true, right? But my brain just like feels that way. Whenever I think something is like an exhibition, I just can't go at it 100 per cent.

"I didn't even make my decision yet, but I'm leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances, but, you know, that might change.

"I do want to rack up more experience on the grass, and I know that the Berlin tournament is giving out points, so that would be a really good opportunity for me.

"Yeah, I think if I don't end up playing on grass this year, I really want to go hard on the hard-court swing, which is my favourite.

"I'm going to have to have some meetings about it."

One-time Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille became the first player to confirm he would boycott Wimbledon after the points penalty was announced.

Reflecting on her defeat at Roland Garros, Osaka said an ongoing Achilles issue had hindered her performance, though she is happy with how she played compared to the last time she faced Anisimova, in this year's Australian Open.

"I took a painkiller before my match, so I don't know. I still kind of felt it a little, which I'm going to see what happens when it wears off," Osaka said of her injury. 

"I kind of prepared myself to feel it, so that wasn't really the wearing part. It was just annoying to me because the last time I played her our serves were really important. And coming into this tournament I didn't serve a lot, because we wanted to wait until the last minute to protect my Achilles.

"So it is a bit disappointing, but I'm happy with how my attitude was, because the last match that we played in Australia I think I was getting a bit more upset with myself, so I think I progressed in that part."

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    Iga Swiatek fought off a Karolina Muchova comeback to complete a hat-trick of French Open titles.

    The 22-year-old Pole cemented her status as the best female player in the world, particularly on clay, with her third title in four years at Roland Garros.

    But this was by some distance the hardest of her grand slam finals, with unseeded Czech Muchova battling back from a set and 3-0 down to force a decider.

    Muchova twice led by a break in that but Swiatek refused to be beaten, eventually prevailing 6-2 5-7 6-4 after two hours and 46 minutes and crouching down on the clay in tears.

    She is the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to successfully defend her title on the Paris clay and joins Naomi Osaka on four grand slam titles – veteran Venus Williams with seven is the only active player to hold more.

    Swiatek joins Osaka and Monica Seles, meanwhile, as the only women in the open era to win each of their first four slam finals.

    Muchova, a 26-year-old ranked 43, produced the performance of her life to beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals, saving a match point and fighting back from 5-2 down in the deciding set.

    But Swiatek had both the experience and a formidable record in finals to bolster her confidence, while Muchova was through to this stage for the first time.

    She made a very nervous start and it appeared Swiatek may come up against little resistance but Muchova got on the board in the fourth game and the rest of the first set was competitive.

    The Czech showcased the variety she has in her game against Sabalenka, keeping the Australian Open champion off balance with her court craft and willingness to come to the net, and she produced some standout moments here.

    There were just too many unforced errors, though, while Swiatek was able to keep her favoured position in the middle of the baseline and dictate with her heavy forehand.

    A second break of serve gave Swiatek the opening set, making her the first player, male or female, to win their first seven sets in grand slam finals.

    When she moved 3-0 ahead again in the second, it seemed number eight was not far away, but Muchova dug in and broke Swiatek for the first time in the fifth game with a brilliant running forehand.

    The majority of the crowd was willing her to extend Swiatek further and suddenly it was the Pole feeling the tension, with a double fault handing Muchova the chance to serve for the set.

    She could not take it but another shaky game from Swiatek gave her a second chance and this time she made it over the line, clinching her third set point after a stunning all-court rally.

    Muchova has struggled badly with injuries during her career and it was only last year that doctors told her she might have to give up the game.

    She rode her momentum at the start of the decider by moving into a 2-0 lead as Swiatek threatened to implode but the 22-year-old pulled herself together quickly to level.

    They exchanged breaks again in the seventh and eighth games, with Muchova unable to pull away, and Swiatek regained the ascendancy when she fought off another break point to hold for 5-4.

    The pressure of serving to stay in the contest proved too much for Muchova, who made three errors before double-faulting on match point in a cruel end to an absorbing final.

  • Andy Murray beats Jordan Thompson to reach Surbiton final Andy Murray beats Jordan Thompson to reach Surbiton final

    Andy Murray battled past defending champion Jordan Thompson 7-6 (5) 6-3 to book his place in the final of the Lexus Surbiton Trophy.

    Two-time former Wimbledon champion Murray – who has taken a wildcard entry for next week’s Rothesay Open Nottingham – looked in control of the first set when, helped by a fine backhand volley, he moved into a 3-0 lead.

    Australian Thompson, though, regrouped to capitalise on some unforced errors by Murray to break back and then level the match at 3-3.

    Murray held to love to leave Thompson serving to stay in the set, which he eventually did after fending off a fightback having been 40-15 ahead.

    Murray faced more pressure in an important hold at 6-5 and Thompson then held to love to force a tie-break.

    Murray took a 2-0 lead with an early mini-break and moved 4-1 up after stretching to make a wide return.

    Thompson, though, broke back to level at 4-4 after a lengthy rally.

    As in previous matches, Murray again gave himself a stern talking-to, which helped bring up a set point at 6-5 when Thompson returned into the net and he took advantage by firing down an ace.

    There was a flashpoint during a close opening game of the second set. With the scores at deuce, Thompson became frustrated after a call of ‘out’ which came from the crowd, so was overruled by the chair umpire and play went on as Murray took the point.

    The Australian continued his complaints to umpire Robert Balmforth as the players sat under umbrellas during a brief rain break.

    When play resumed – with a warning to the crowd against further such outbursts – Murray eventually forced home the break and held to lead 2-0.

    Murray broke in the fifth game to move 4-1 ahead when Thompson sank another return into the net – and the Australian then got a warning for ball abuse as his frustrations boiled over again.

    A love service game moved Murray to the brink of victory but Thompson broke in the eighth game. Murray, though, eventually got the job done when taking a third match point chance to seal a place in Sunday’s final, against either Austrian Jurij Rodionov or Belgium’s Zizou Bergs.

    “It was nice to get through in straight sets today,” Murray said in his court-side interview broadcast by the LTA.

    “It was a very tight first set then in the second I improved a bit, started hitting the ball a bit better in the back of the court, so hopefully I can continue that tomorrow in the final.

    “Jordan is a top grass-court player. He won here last year and made the finals in Nottingham, so he has had some good wins on this surface. I expected a tough one – I definitely got that.

    “The last couple of matches have been good, against very good grass-court players, very experienced on this surface, so to come through them is very positive.

    “To get the opportunity to play in the final tomorrow is great, I am looking forward to it.

    “It has been a while since I won a tournament on home soil and hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”

  • Novak Djokovic faces Casper Ruud in French Open final with history in his sights Novak Djokovic faces Casper Ruud in French Open final with history in his sights

    Novak Djokovic can complete his ascent to the top of tennis history by claiming a 23rd grand slam title at the French Open on Sunday.

    Since inserting himself into the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal duopoly, Djokovic has been playing catch-up, but victory over Casper Ruud would see him out on his own as the most successful men’s singles player ever.

    And, with Federer retired and Nadal heading in the same direction, it would appear a decisive move.

    Djokovic would also become the first man in history to win at least three titles at each slam and would be within one of Margaret Court’s all-time record.

    The Serbian arrived in Paris after a less-than-stellar clay-court season but has made no secret of the fact it is the slams that keep him out there and he has once again risen to the occasion when it matters.

    After outlasting a cramping Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals to win a 20th consecutive grand slam match, Djokovic said: “I have said it many times this year during the clay season that Roland Garros is where I want to peak on clay, where I want to play my best tennis.

    “So I put myself in another really ideal position to win a grand slam. That’s basically what still drives me when I wake up in the morning and think about the season and think about things I want to achieve.

    “I won the first grand slam this year and now I’m in the finals of a second one, so I couldn’t ask for more than that.

    “As far as all the records that are on the line, it’s flattering, it’s great, but I need to win in order to make sure to be on that list. So I know what I need to do.

    “I’ve been very fortunate that most of the matches in tournaments I’ve played in the last few years, there is history on the line. I like the feeling. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to make history of the sport that I truly love and that has given me so much.

    “The motivation is very high, as you can imagine. There is one more to go, and hopefully I’ll get my hands on the trophy.”

    Djokovic and Ruud have played four times before, with the Norwegian yet to win a set, and there is no doubt he is a huge underdog.

    The fourth seed has played himself nicely into form on the Parisian clay, though, to make it back-to-back finals and will be the fresher having defeated Alexander Zverev for the loss of only seven games on Friday.

    Zverev believes Ruud can take confidence from Djokovic’s only previous attempt to surpass his great rivals at the US Open in 2021, when nerves got the better of him and he was beaten by Daniil Medvedev.

    “Novak is one of the best players in the world, that’s for sure, but, when you’re on the brink of history, I think that adds a little bit of pressure,” said Zverev.

    “You remember the US Open final he had with Medvedev after beating me in the semis. The pressure – we are all human. Novak is human. We all feel it. So I think, for Casper, that’s the best scenario, to be honest.”

    Ruud is playing in his third slam final in a year having reached the title decider here 12 months ago and at the US Open.

    He was given a lesson by idol Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros before losing out in four sets to Alcaraz in New York and hopes he can write a different ending this time.

    “It’s going to be tough, for sure,” said the 24-year-old. “He’s playing for his 23rd, I’m playing for my first. So I’m going to just try to play without pressure and just try to enjoy the moment.

    “I think that was my mentality last year as well and it didn’t go my way. Obviously I would like to try to do better than last year. Let’s see if I have learned something from the two previous ones that I played.

    “It just feels great to be back. I didn’t think or necessarily believe in the beginning of the tournament that I was going to be in the final.”

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