Venezuela-born Muguruza won the title in 2016 and Wimbledon a year later and returned to form at the start of this year when she reached the Australian Open final. "I think I'm in a good place right now," Muguruza, who will open her challenge against Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek, said.
With only one week separating the end of one and the start of the other, the Tour de France and the French Open were shaping up as a double bill of sports entertainment, with masked but nevertheless live crowds, that would bear out President Emmanuel Macron's arguments that the country can live with the coronavirus. Whereas the three-week Tour reached Paris last Sunday having pulled off the coup of getting through the country's worsening epidemic without any virus positives among its 176 riders, the French Open isn't proving so lucky with its timing. Play is still scheduled to start Sunday, but organizers' plans to have thousands of spectators there each day to cheer for Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and others are being drastically scaled back as infections soar across France.
Already repeatedly trimmed, crowd sizes for the French Open have been reduced again - to just 1,000 spectators per day - because of the worsening coronavirus epidemic in Paris. The new limit, reduced from 5,000 per day, was first announced by Prime Minster Jean Castex on Thursday night. The latest reduction falls in line with new crowd-size limits introduced for all of Paris and its immediate suburbs this week, in the latest government efforts to combat increasing virus cases and hospitalizations.
For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal's unprecedented superiority at the French Open - the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit - there's one element that stands above all the rest. According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway. ''That makes it not easy to go into the match,'' Thiem said.
The undisputed king of clay, Rafael Nadal is one title away from matching Roger Federer's all-time Grand Slam record, but 15 years on from the Spaniard's first French Open triumph he appears more vulnerable than ever at his beloved Roland Garros.
Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals of the Hamburg European Open by beating Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday as he continues his warm-up for the French Open.
A maximum of only 1,000 spectators will be allowed each day at Roland Garros after the French government insisted Thursday on tougher restrictions to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus.
COMPLETE SHOTLIST AND SCRIPT TO FOLLOW VIDEO SHOWS: PLAYERS PRACTISING AT ROLAND GARROS - RAFAEL NADAL, DOMINIC THIEM, KAROLINA PLISKOVA, GARBINE MUGURUZA, VENUS WILLIAMS AND SOFIA KENIN SHOWS: PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 24, 2020) (FFT - SEE RESTRICTIONS BEFORE USE) 1. WORLD NUMBER TWO AND 12-TIMES FRENCH OPEN CHAMPION, RAFAEL NADAL WALKING ON TO THE PHILIPPE-CHATRIER COURT, WEARING A MASK 2. INTERIOR OF STADIUM, WITH THE ROOF CLOSED, NADAL PRACTISING ON COURT 3. VARIOUS OF NADAL PRACTISING 4. NADAL SAT DOWN, SPEAKING TO COACH, CARLOS MOYA 5. VARIOUS OF NADAL PRACTISING 6. NADAL WALKING ON COURT AND TALKING TO MOYA 7. NADAL WALKING TO HIS TOWEL AND WIPING HIS FACE 8. WORLD NUMBER THREE AND U.S. OPEN CHAMPION, DOMINIC THIEM (WHITE SHIRT) WALKING ON COURT AND TAPPING RACKETS WITH ANDY MURRAY (RED SHIRT) AND MURRAY'S COACH, JAMIE DELGADO, THIEM WALKING ON TO THE COURT 9. VIEW OF SUZANNE LENGLEN COURT AS THIEM PRACTISES 10. VARIOUS OF THIEM PRACTISING 11. WORLD NUMBER FOUR AND SECOND SEED, KAROLINA PLISKOVA (BLACK SHIRT) PRACTISING ON THE PHILIPPE-CHATRIER COURT 12. INTERIOR OF COURT WITH PLISKOVA PRACTISING 13. VARIOUS OF PLISKOVA PRACTISING 14. VIEW OF CLOSED ROOF / WORLD NUMBER 15 AND TWO-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, GARBINE MUGURUZA PRACTISING 15. VARIOUS OF MUGURUZA PRACTISING 16. MUGURUZA'S COACH, CONCHITA MARTINEZ WATCHING ON 17. MUGURUZA PRACTISING 18. SEVEN-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION, VENUS WILLIAMS ON COURT, WEARING A MASK 19. WILLIAMS HAVING FUN ON COURT BEFORE TAKING JACKET OFF 20. WILLIAMS PRACTISING 21. WILLIAMS' SHADOW SEEN ON COURT AS SHE PRACTISES 22. VARIOUS OF WILLIAMS PRACTISING PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 22, 2020) (FFT - SEE RESTRICTIONS BEFORE USE) 23. VARIOUS OF AUSTRALIAN OPEN CHAMPION AND WORLD NUMBER SIX, SOFIA KENIN PRACTISING STORY: Rafael Nadal, who is seeking a record-extending 13th French Open title and a record-equalling 20th grand slam singles crown, was handed a relatively tough path to this year's final at Roland Garros when the draw was made on Thursday (September 24). The Spaniard will take on Bulgaria's Egor Gerasimov in the first round and faces a potential last-eight clash with U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev, who has never made it past the quarter-finals at the claycourt tournament. Nadal then faces a possible semi-final clash against last year's runner-up and U.S. Open winner Dominic Thiem. Top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia will face Swede Mikael Ymer in the first round, where Swiss 16th seed and former champion Stan Wawrinka will take on Briton Andy Murray in the hottest opener. Djokovic, who was ejected from the U.S. Open after he inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat with a ball after a point, has an easier route to the final than Nadal after being drawn in the same half as Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev. Canadian Milos Raonic, the world number 20, pulled out, organisers said. Serena Williams, hoping to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, will start her campaign against fellow American Kristie Ahn. The sixth seed, who was drawn in the same half as top seed Simona Halep, faces a potential fourth-round clash with U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka. World number one and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty has pulled out of the tournament citing the coronavirus pandemic and a troubled preparation. With Switzerland's Belinda Bencic a last-gasp withdrawal, only six of the top 10 in the WTA rankings will start the tournament. The tournament was rescheduled from May 24-June 7 to Sept. 27-Oct. 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic It will be the first year with a retractable roof at the French Open which some of the players, including Nadal, practising with the roof closed on Thursday (September 24). (Production: Tim Hart)
This year’s French Open has moved to an unfamiliar position in late September. But for Andy Murray, it must feel as if it has travelled back in time. Thursday’s draw handed him a rematch with Stan Wawrinka – the man he lost to in the 2017 semi-final here. That five-set rumble was disappointing for Murray on the day, although he came away reflecting that a run to the last four was a respectable effort after a season disrupted by illness and injury. He never guessed that it would be the last match he ever played with a functioning – and organic – right hip. Murray woke up feeling unusually sore the next morning, even by the standards that these tennis warriors are used to. But as the weeks went by, his hip only hurt more when he expected it to heal. The injury contributed to a limping exit from Wimbledon just over a month later, then set him off on the bumpy road of operations and rehab that has continued ever since. And Murray wasn’t the only one. This was a Pyrrhic victory for an exhausted Wawrinka. He barely troubled the scorers against an inspired Rafael Nadal in the 2017 French Open final, then drew a blank on the grass before undergoing double knee surgery later that year. After beating Murray in that infamous semi-final, he wouldn’t win another match until the 2018 Australian Open. As it turns out, the knee is easier for doctors to access and repair than the hip. So while Murray now finds himself negotiating uncharted waters as the only man on tour with a metal hip, Wawrinka has recovered enough of his old vigour to be seeded No 16 here. In three of his last four slams, he has reached the quarter-finals. Murray was not the only Briton to draw an intriguing opponent, as Johanna Konta was paired with teen sensation Coco Gauff. Admittedly, Gauff has picked up only a single victory in her last three tournaments, and her rebuilt serve has yet to settle down into a consistent pattern. But she is a ferocious competitor who is also highly tactically astute. As it happens, both women’s last outing came against Garbine Muguruza in Rome, and both lost in three sets. Among the other British men, Dan Evans drew Kei Nishikori – another big name coming back from injury – but Kyle Edmund chose to withdraw after a recurrence of the chronic knee pain which blighted his 2019 campaign. According to his camp, Edmund has a treatment plan in mind, and didn’t want to risk aggravating the issue so badly that it wiped out the rest of his season. Finally, British No 6 Liam Broady scored a straight-sets victory on Thursday over Australia’s Marc Polmans to complete a successful week in qualifying and earn a place in the main draw. Afterwards, he said that Andy Murray’s arrival in the stands as a spectator had helped to lift his mood. “I started the match pretty badly,” said Broady, “then Andy showed up and I think it definitely helped a lot. He is a very loud supporter. "You can't fault Andy as a tennis player or a human being,” added Broady. “I have got to know him a bit better over the last few months and it's been absolutely fantastic. Since the Battle of the Brits events, a lot of the British players have become closer. The abuse I got, at the second Battle of the Brits especially, probably made it easier to remain calm in stressful situations this week."
Drugs testing in tennis has fallen by alarming levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, Telegraph Sport can reveal. As the sport prepares for the start of the French Open on Sunday, an investigation by Telegraph Sport has found that some of the world's leading players were barely tested in the five months between the suspension of the tours in early March and the Western & Southern Open in August. The International Tennis Federation — the world governing body which conducts the vast majority of tests in the sport — has also admitted that the combined totals of tests from the second and third quarter of 2020 are unlikely to match the 1,935 samples collected in the first quarter. The revelations will fuel concerns that players could have exploited the lack of testing by using illegal substances during the pandemic, either to build up training volumes or help recovery from injury. Telegraph Sport spoke to a wide range of players at this week's ATP event in Hamburg to gauge how frequently they had been tested during lockdown. Kei Nishikori, the former world No 5, and rising stars Felix Auger Aliassime and Dominic Koepfer reported that they had performed only one test in that largely tournament-free period between early March and mid-August. Serena Williams has also only been tested once by the US Anti-Doping Agency in 2020. For purposes of comparison, Nishikori – who bases himself at the IMG Academy in Florida – underwent 29 tests last year from the ITF alone, of which 17 were 'out of competition' (this category, rather misleadingly, includes tests conducted at tournament venues up to 11.59pm on the night before the first ball is struck). Another notable contrast can be spotted in the testing record of German No 2 Jan-Lennard Struff. He was tested 31 times by the ITF last year, but was only asked to complete three tests between March and the beginning of the Hamburg event – a period of more than six months. “There were no tests between March and end of May,” Struff said. “Nada [Germany’s anti-doping agency] kept us players updated on that. We had to continue the ‘whereabouts’ system. Then after the break they suggested a self-test and gave us a manual on how to do it at home. But it was not mandatory. After May, I was tested two times in Germany in the morning at home in a short period of time. I was also tested by the ITF in the bubble before the US Open.” One player – Tommy Paul of the USA – also revealed that he had not received has a single visit at home from dope-testers since the start the Covid-19 lockdown, and said that the same was true of his housemate Reilly Opelka. There is no suggestion that any of these players has committed any wrongdoing. Now that tour-level events are resuming, the International Tennis Federation testing programme is beginning to pick up volume again. Stuart Miller, the ITF’s director of integrity, insisted that the governing body "did try to maintain a presence throughout the lockdown” but acknowledged it had not been able to sustain the testing levels from the first three months of the year during the height of the pandemic. Miller also indicated that the number of blood tests – a more sophisticated anti-doping tool than urine testing – had fallen as a percentage of the next batch of figures, which are expected to be released at the end of the month. “It is more invasive, and that is something we had to be very careful about," he said. "It’s easier to maintain the appropriate social distancing when collecting urine than blood.” Six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker urged the tennis authorities to restore testing to pre-pandemic levels in order to ensure the sport retained its credibility in the eyes of the public. "The world is special at the moment but tennis should be a role model in testing and it is important to have many tests again in every country," he said. "We now have to test more again." In normal circumstances, the ITF would expect to perform around 85 per cent of tests on tennis players, with NADOs (national anti-doping organisations) doing the rest. But that outside support collapsed completely between March and June, and has been slow to resume ever since. In Spain, for instance, the director of the AEPSAD – the national anti-doping agency – announced at the end of March that the national test program would come to a complete halt during lockdown. AEPSAD told Telegraph Sport that its programme had resumed in June, with 550 tests carried out since then across all sports. Again, though, blood testing has been affected by the national rule stating that only doctors can collect blood samples. The slowdown in testing predates lockdown, and affects all sports. In Great Britain, for instance, the only figures available for 2020 cover the first quarter of the year, and show that UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) collected just 126 tests in those three months, of which none were in tennis. In 2019, the first quarter showed a little over 2,000 tests, of which five were in tennis. Speaking to Telegraph Sport, world No 5 Daniil Medvedev said that he had experienced a similar situation in France, where he trains at a tennis academy in Cannes. “I was in France during the lockdown and the doping control officers couldn't come during that time,” said Medvedev. “It was communicated that way.” After the lockdown, Medvedev added, he has been tested once in France. Before and during the US Open in New York, he was tested twice by the ITF. NADO tests are particularly valuable because they are taken out of competition, and thus have an element of surprise not present in those collected at an event. Typically, in-competition tests are carried out via a urine sample when a player loses – or, in the best-case scenario, after they lift the title. Even before the pandemic had stacked the odds even further in this hi-tech game of cops-and-robbers, tennis was already lagging behind many other sports in its defences. In 2018, for instance, a total of 6,643 tennis tests were carried out worldwide — a long way behind swimming (32,309) and cycling (25,391).
Former tennis star Boris Becker appeared in a London court Thursday, pleading not guilty to a string of criminal charges related to his bankruptcy case. Becker, who was declared bankrupt in June 2017, is accused of not complying with orders to disclose financial information and hiding properties in the U.K. and Germany from his bankruptcy trustees. Becker stood in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday and denied 19 charges of failing to disclose money, property and debt between May and June 2017.
If recent form is anything to go by, world number one Novak Djokovic is perfectly poised to launch a challenge for his second French Open title and an 18th major honour after one of the lowest ebbs of his trophy-laden career. Djokovic was disqualified from the U.S. Open earlier this month after hitting a line judge in the neck with a petulant swipe of the ball but he bounced back in style by winning his fifth Italian Open title on Monday. The Serb's 7-5 6-3 defeat of Argentine Diego Schwartzman brought him a record 36th ATP Masters crown, helping put behind an acrimonious exit at Flushing Meadows during a fourth-round clash with Spaniard Pablo Carrenno Busta.
A record 12-time winner at Roland Garros, Nadal usually lands in Paris in May fresh from romping through the claycourt season from Monte Carlo to Rome, before pummelling the pretenders to his crown at Roland Garros. Three of his French Open crowns have been achieved without even dropping a set.
RESENDING WITH COMPLETE SCRIPT VIDEO SHOWS: ALEXANDER ZVEREV, STAN WAWRINKA, ANDY MURRAY, ANGELIQUE KERBER AND PETRA MARTIC PRACTISING AT ROLAND GARROS AHEAD OF THE FRENCH OPEN SHOWS: PARIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 23, 2020) (FFT - 48 HOURS USE ONLY. FOR NEWS, SPORTS AND INFORMATION PROGRAMMES, AND FOR NEWS PURPOSES ONLY) 1. VARIOUS OF WORLD NUMBER SEVEN, ALEXANDER ZVEREV (GREEN SHIRT) PRACTISING ON PHILIPPE-CHATRIER COURT 2. VARIOUS OF FORMER FRENCH OPEN CHAMPION, STAN WAWRINKA (WEARING WHITE SHIRT, WITH SLOGAN: "STAN THE MAN") PRACTISING ON PHILIPPE-CHATRIER WITH ANDY MURRAY (NOT IN SHOT) 3. THREE-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION AND OLYMPIC CHAMPION, ANDY MURRAY (RED SHIRT) PRACTISING 4. WAWRINKA PRACTISING 5. MURRAY AND WAWRINKA DOING A PRACTICE RALLY 6. WAWRINKA, SEEN FROM BACK OF COURT, PRACTISING WITH MURRAY 7. VARIOUS OF THREE-TIMES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION AND WORLD NUMBER 22, ANGELIQUE KERBER (BLACK SHIRT) PRACTISING ON PHILIPPE-CHATRIER 8. WORLD NUMBER 17, PETRA MARTIC WALKING ON TO SUZANNE LENGLEN COURT, WEARING A MASK 9. VARIOUS OF MARTIC PRACTISING STORY: Players are preparing at Roland Garros this week ahead of the French Open which begins on Sunday (September 27). The likes of Alexander Zverev, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber practised on Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday (September 23). The French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday (September 21) tournament organisers was confirmed six players in the men's and women's qualifying draw had been withdrawn due to COVID-19 concerns. Initially, two players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19 and three others with confirmed close contact with the coach were withdrawn. Organisers said later on Monday that a player in the women's draw had also tested positive and had been withdrawn. The FFT plans to allow 5,000 spectators each day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in France. It previously said the claycourt major would permit a maximum of 11,500 fans per day. (Production: Tim Hart)
French tennis player Benoit Paire was allowed to compete at the Hamburg Open despite twice testing positive for the coronavirus, he said Wednesday.
Billie Jean King and eight other women of the ''Original 9'' are celebrating the 50th anniversary of signing $1 contracts and breaking away from the U.S. tennis establishment to form the Virginia Slims circuit in 1970. It helped launch the WTA Tour, which now offers millions in global prize money. Promoters were offering fewer tournaments and substantially less prize money for the women.
Spanish flu survivor Evelyn Schroedl is living through another pandemic. But, at age 102, she’s COVID-free and still playing tennis. Chip Reid has her story.
Serena Williams bypassed any clay-court tuneup tournaments ahead of the French Open, so her first match at Roland Garros will be her first competition since the U.S. Open. Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open and is sitting out the French Open, which starts its 15 days of main-draw action Sunday after being postponed in May because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dominic Thiem also won the U.S. Open and decided to rest at home for a bit before heading to Paris.
On Sept. 23, 1970, nine women created their own tennis tournament to gain equality. Women in the sport now use that platform to bring about change.
Daniil Medvedev lost his first match since reaching the U.S. Open semifinals as he was beaten by unseeded French player Ugo Humbert in the first round of the Hamburg European Open.