World Number One, Halep Finally Makes Her Bow

World number one Simona Halep finally gets her French Open campaign underway on Wednesday while Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev seek spots in the second round.

AFP Sport looks at three matches to watch at Roland Garros on Wednesday:

Simona Halep v Alison Riske

— Romanian top seed and world number one Halep is a two-time runner-up at Roland Garros – losing to Maria Sharapova in 2014 final and giving up a set and 3-0 lead to lose to Jelena Ostapenko 12 months ago.

She was also runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki at January’s Australian Open which added to her frustrations as a Grand Slam bridesmaid.

The 26-year-old has endured a roller-coaster clay court season, a runners-up spot in Rome behind Elina Svitolina following back-to-back quarter-final runs in Stuttgart, where she lost to Coco Vandeweghe, and Madrid going down in straight sets to Karolina Pliskova.

Riske, the 27-year-old world number 83 has not won a match at Roland Garros since 2014 but the American enjoyed a run to the Nuremberg clay-court final at the weekend where she was defeated by Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Halep holds a 2-0 career lead over Riske with a win on Rome clay in 2015.

Alexander Zverev v Dusan Lajovic

— German second seed Zverev is one of the in-form players on clay this year with titles in Madrid and Munich while he gave up a last-set advantage to lose to Rafael Nadal in the Rome final.

However, when the Grand Slams come around, the 21-year-old still suffers stage fright, losing in the first round last year in Paris and with a best run at the majors a last-16 place at Wimbledon in 2017.

He dropped just four games in his first-round win against Ricardas Berankis.

Serbian world number 60 Lajovic has clay-court form under his belt, making the last-eight in Madrid and semi-finals in Lyon last week where it took two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist Dominic Thiem to stop him in three sets.

Wednesday will be their first meeting.

Novak Djokovic v Jaume Munar

— 2016 champion Djokovic, seeded 20 and down at his lowest world ranking for 12 years following his struggles with an elbow injury, looked close to a return to his best form with a run to the Rome semi-finals.

The 12-time major winner faces Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar, ranked 155, who marked his Roland Garros debut by seeing off compatriot and former Paris finalist David Ferrer, coming back from two sets down to win in five.

Munar has just one win on the main tour in 2018 although that at least came on clay in Barcelona in April.


Andy Murray: British Number One Has Surgery On Hip Injury

Britain’s Andy Murray has had hip surgery in Melbourne and says he hopes to be playing again in time for this summer’s grass-court season.

The former world number one, 30, has not played a competitive match since he was knocked out of Wimbledon in July.

The ongoing problem forced the Scot to pull out of the Australian Open, which begins on 15 January.

“I’m not finished playing tennis yet. I’m going to be competing at the highest level again,” he said.

“I’m very optimistic about the future – the surgeon is very happy about how it went.”

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, believes if he can return to 95% of his best, that will be enough for him to compete again at the top level.

He hopes he will be hitting balls on court again after seven or eight weeks, and has been given 14 weeks as a guide for a return from this kind of surgery.

But Murray, who has fallen to 19th in the world, said he is not “interested in coming back for a specific tournament”.

“My plan is to be back playing around the grass-court season – potentially before then – but I’m certainly not going to rush anything,” said Murray, speaking from his hospital
bed in a telephone conference call to a group of British journalists.

“I want to know when I come back that I’m ready.”

He was operated on by Dr John O’Donnell at the St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne on Monday.

Murray posted a photo from hospital on Instagram and said: “Feeling really positive and looking forward to starting rehab.”

Former Wimbledon Champion Jana Novotna Dies At 49

Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died at the age of 49.

The Women’s Tennis Association said Novotna, who had cancer, “died peacefully, surrounded by her family”.

The Czech player had lost in the Wimbledon final in 1993 and 1997 before winning the Grand Slam tournament when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in 1998.

Novotna captured the hearts of fans when she burst into tears after losing to German great Steffi Graf in 1993 and was consoled by the Duchess of Kent.

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” said WTA chief executive Steve Simon.

“Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.”Novotna was renowned for her serve and volley game and achieved a career-high singles ranking of number two.

In addition to her only singles Grand Slam win at Wimbledon, she claimed 12 Grand Slam doubles titles and four in mixed doubles.

She was also inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

Federer Beats Nadal To Win Shanghai Masters

Roger Federer got one over his old rival Rafael Nadal to win the Shanghai Masters 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday in a showdown between the two best players on the planet.

It was a 94th title for the Swiss legend, drawing him level with the great Ivan Lendl, and closes the gap on world number one Nadal at the top of the rankings as the season reaches its conclusion.

In-form Nadal was ahead in their overall record down the years, with 23 wins to Federer’s 14, but he was up against it almost right away.

Number two Federer put Nadal under the cosh immediately on the Spaniard’s serve, breaking him in the first game — to roars of approval from the majority inside the arena.

The 36-year-old Swiss, fondly known as “Cow” in China for his laid-back personality, had started the better and he rattled through his own service game for 2-0.

Federer, a 19-time Grand Slam champion who had beaten Nadal in their last four encounters, was in full flow under the Qizhong Tennis Center roof, which was closed because of downpours in Shanghai.

Nadal, 31, groaned while lashing many of his shots; Federer was all quiet efficiency.

Somewhere in the stadium somebody rattled a cow bell.

Federer rapidly made it 4-2 with two booming aces in a row, drawing huge cheers from much of the stadium.

In contrast, Nadal — a 16-time Grand Slam winner but who had never won the Shanghai Masters — was labouring through his service games.

He went long on a straightforward forehand but powered an ace to make it 4-3 to the Swiss.

There were suggestions that Federer might not be quite as fresh as his old foe, having been pushed to three sets a day earlier in the second semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro.

The timeless Federer rubbished that notion as he seared his way to a 5-3 first-set lead.

Nadal sent down his fourth ace for 5-4, only for Federer to seal the set with his seventh ace of the match.

There was little between the great rivals in the early exchanges of the second set until the pivotal fifth game.

Nadal, on a great run of form that won him the US Open and China Open in recent weeks, saved the first break point but could not survive the second one to put Federer in reach of a second Shanghai Masters crown.

Sharapova Cheers Nadal On Twitter, Fights Off Criticism

The Russian professional Tennis player Maria sharapova, always heavily spoke about Rafael Nadal, also when the Spaniard player went through two bad seasons in a row in 2015 and 2016. Through her official Twitter account, the Russian player hit back at criticism towards her and Nadal too.

A tennis fan tweeted: ‘Everyone goes on about the noise Sharapova makes, but Nadal, great player though he is, is equally annoying with his grunting.’ Sharapova didn’t wait too long to answer this criticism and replied: ‘The guy just won his 16th major (!!!) and this is your choice of tweet?’

Nadal also won his first hard-court title since Doha 2014 final, ending a 34-losing tournaments streak on hard courts.

Triumphant Venus Quiet About Serena’s New Baby At US Open

Venus Williams gave the public the mother of all silent treatments Friday at the US Open regarding the news of her sister Serena giving birth to a baby girl.

US ninth seed Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion and two-time US Open winner, downed 95th-ranked Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-4 to reach the round of 16 on the New York hardcourts.

The achievement was somewhat overshadowed by the much-awaited birth of her younger sister Serena’s baby, one anticipated since she revealed her pregnancy on social media in April.

But Venus, who lost to her pregnant sister in the Australian Open final last January, wasn’t partaking in the joy in public, starting from the first question she faced in a post-match news conference about her emotions when she heard the news.

“I’m definitely available to answer questions about tennis,” Venus said. “That’s all right now.”

It was left for the US Open Twitter page to confirm the birth and offer well-wishes to the family.

“Congratulations to @serenawilliams for giving birth to a baby girl! Sending you (heart emoji) from your friends & family at the #USOpen and @WTA!” the US Open tweeted.

A Florida CBS television station revealed Serena had gone into labor and later that she had given birth, touching off multiple reports and social media congratulation messages.

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, who beat Venus in July’s Wimbledon final, even wished Serena well, saying “I’m very happy for her. It’s such a good moment I’m sure.”

Told the baby was a girl, Muguruza said, “Well, I hope she doesn’t play tennis.”

Muguruza and Venus could meet again in the US Open quarter-finals.

But when Venus took the podium, a moderator reinforced her desire not to talk about the baby, saying “Tennis questions, please,” and later, “Let’s keep it tennis focused.”

After a few sporty inquiries, another attempt at baby comments asked whether the infant has a two-handed backhand or enough depth on her forehand yet.

“Oh, my gosh,” Venus said. “That’s hilarious.”

Venus did reveal she spoke with Serena before the match, although giving away none of the conversation details.

“We always talk. She’s always encouraging me, from every step of the way, every match, always,” Venus said.

“I talked to her before this match, too. She didn’t have any specific advice about this match but more motivational.”

Venus said sometimes their exchanges are done by text, but noted, “We don’t use a lot of emojies at all. We actually use the English language.”

Asked about the birth reports just before she walked onto the court before the match, Venus, the oldest woman in the US Open at age 37, said, “Obviously I’m super excited. Words can’t describe it.”

After the match, an on-court interviewer notedly ignored the subject in questions until ending her remarks by congratulating the Williams family on a wonderful day.

Asked later if it was hard for her to focus on the match, Venus said, “I’m a real professional, because I have been doing this for a long time, so when the first ball starts, it’s a ton of excitement.”


Sept 8 Nadal, Federer Meet To Decide Place In Final

World number one Rafael Nadal dismissed Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (6) 6-2 6-2 to ease into the U.S. Open second round on Tuesday.

It was a victory which set the Spaniard on a collision course for a long overdue Flushing Meadows showdown with Roger Federer.

While the year’s final grand slam is just underway, many tennis fans have circled Sept. 8 as a day to await.

That is when, if all goes to form, Nadal and Federer would meet to decide a place in the final.

It is one of the great rivalries in sport.

Federer, a five-times U.S. Open winner, and twice champion Nadal have clashed 37 times over the years but never have they stood across the net on Flushing Meadows’ hard courts.

On the French Open clay, Wimbledon’s manicured lawns and in the Australian heat, the elegant Swiss maestro and muscular Spaniard have played for many titles.

But while no trophy would be on the line when they meet, a New York meeting would still have the Big Apple buzzing.

Federer will follow Nadal on to Arthur Ashe Stadium later on Tuesday looking to hold up his end when he takes on American Frances Tiafoe.

On Tuesday, Nadal only needed only a few games to find his range against the 85th-ranked Serb, after a sluggish run-up to the U.S. Open.

This had included a shock round of 16 loss to Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov in Montreal and another to Australian Nick Kyrgios in the Cincinnati quarter-finals.

The 21-year-old, chasing a first U.S. Open win, showed no sign of nerves, using his stylish groundstrokes to grab the early break on the way to 4-2 lead.

The four games are as many as he won in his only other meeting with Nadal, a round of 16 loss at the 2014 French Open.

But a steely Nadal found his comfort zone, breaking back at 5-5 to force the opener to a tiebreak that he took 8-6.

A ruthless Nadal delivered the young Serb another tennis lesson, breaking his opponent at the first opportunity in both the second and third sets.

The win helped to improve his record in first round U.S. Open matches to 13-0.

Joseph Imeh Miles Again At NCC Tennis League

Emmanuel Idoko, playing the No.2 singles for Team Muller also did his bit by upsetting Babalola in the second singles 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.The three points for Team Civil Defence came from national ladies’ champion, Christie Agugbom, who defeated Ronke Akingbade 6-2, 6-3; Enosoregbe, who beat Idoko 7-5, 6-3 in the first singles and the mixed doubles where Babalola and Agugbom triumphed over Idoko and Akingbade 6-3, 6-2.

The pulsating tie, which has set a very good tone for the 2017 tennis league, was preceded by a well-attended opening ceremony, which had the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udo-Udoma, a tennis player and multi-talented sports person in his hay days, serve off the event.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, who served off the event last year was away in Uganda attending the African Union ministerial conference.
“This very laudable private initiative,” Udo- Udoma said in his speech, “is exactly the direction this government wants to go by allowing the private sector lead development in the major sectors of the economy. Sports has an enormous capacity to engage our youth, create jobs and earn good foreign exchange that would grow our economy. It is projects like this that can bring out the sporting talent in our youth.

“I, therefore, commend the NCC for this investment in our youth and Godwin Kienka and his team for doing such a good job.”The NCC Tennis League will continue this weekend with ties in Ibadan and Ilorin.

Team Oluyole will host Team VGC Lions of Lagos at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan while Team Optiwebb of Ilorin will take on Team Kalotari of Port Harcourt at the Kwara Stadium.


Source: The Guardian

Tennis: Sharapova Bounces Back In Style

Maria Sharapova won on her return to action after a 15-month doping ban as she beat Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Stuttgart Open.

The Russian, who was suspended last March after testing positive for meldonium, beat the Italian 7-5 6-3.

There was no noticeable bad reception for the 30-year-old, who responded well to losing her first service game to take a tight opening set in Stuttgart.

She broke twice in the second to progress to face Ekaterina Makarova.

Sharapova, who hit 11 aces and 39 winners, said: “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, those first few seconds before you enter the arena. To know you were walking back out there was special.

“I spent a long time without hitting any balls. I didn’t know when I would be back. I went to school for a little bit, I grew my business and had a normal life. I put the racquet away for a little bit.

“I felt I had to grow as a person and I think I’ve done that. But this is what I’ve done for so long. I’m a competitor – that’s when I’m at my best.”

The decision to give five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova a wildcard entry for this event, as well as upcoming tournaments in Madrid and Rome, has been questioned by a number of players, including her Italian first-round opponent.

However, it has been defended by WTA chief Steve Simon, who said it was in keeping with how former dopers were treated in other sports, adding that she was “starting at ground zero”.

The former world number one will find out on 16 May if she has been given a wildcard for the French Open, which starts on 28 May.

After Wednesday’s victory, the Russian told BBC Sport that she would “play in the juniors” if she had to, to compete at the French Open and Wimbledon in July.


Source: BBc

Lagos to Revive Eko Tennis

The Lagos State Tennis Association says it is determined to revive the Eko U-15 Tennis Championships.

A former 2nd Vice-Chairman of the association, Kehinde Ajayi in Lagos on Wednesday said that the competition was among other listed in the 2017 calendar.

He said the body would also introduce monthly tennis competitions.

Ajayi said, “We are starting our programmes for the year with a competition for youths aged 10 to 15.

The competition is targeted at discovering and grooming new talents.

It is an avenue where the best of young players will be made to develop their skills while playing competitive tennis.

The highpoint of this year’s event will be in the female category, which we missed in the 2016 calendar.

It will be re-branded to meet international standard which will provide the platform for young players looking forward to play professional tennis within or outside the country.”

He said the competitions were designed to keep the players and the technical officials abreast with modern techniques of the game.


Sharapova Announces Failure Of Drug Test, Loses First Deal As Nike Dumps Her

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova said on Monday she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open due to a substance she was taking for health issues, leading longtime sponsor Nike to announce it was suspending ties during the investigation, Reuters reports.

The 28-year-old Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion and the highest paid woman in sports, will be provisionally suspended starting March 12, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said.

She is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium, which is used to treat diabetes and low magnesium, and was only banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as of Jan. 1.

“I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down and I let the sport down,” said Sharapova, a teenage tennis prodigy who became the third-youngest Wimbledon champion. “I take full responsibility for it.”

“I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope that I will be given another chance to play this game,” former world number one Sharapova told a news conference in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.

Nike, the world’s largest sportswear maker, said it was “saddened and surprised” by the news and released a statement saying it was putting ties on hold with the player.

“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues,” it said.

The ITF’s anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test, but that ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as for first-time offences or if the player shows no significant fault or negligence.

If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.