AP Photo

Halep retires from China Open first round with back injury

Leave a comment

BEIJING — Top-ranked Simona Halep retired Sunday from her first-round match at the China Open.

Halep lost the first set 6-1 to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur before retiring with a back injury that she also had problems with at last week’s Wuhan Open.

It’s the fourth straight loss for the defending French Open champion.

Third-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany cruised past Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-2 to reach the second round. The Wimbledon champion broke Mladenovic four times to extend her perfect record in opening-round matches at Beijing to nine.

Defending champion Caroline Garcia of France survived an early scare against Chinese wildcard Wang Yafan to win 7-6 (10), 6-7 (4), 6-3.

Americans Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens both won their matches to advance, while CoCo Vandeweghe was beaten by Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-1.

Laura Siegemund defeated No. 13 Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 4-2 after Kasatkina retired with gastrointestinal illness.

Timea Babos, Zheng Saisai, Lesla Tsurenko, Dominika Cibulkova and Kirsten Flipkens also advanced.

Wimbledon to introduce final-set tiebreakers in 2019

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) That epic 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon will never be matched or surpassed, or even challenged.

The All England Club said Friday it will introduce final-set tiebreakers next year, starting when the score reaches 12-12 in the decider.

The grass-court Grand Slam tournament is the second of the four majors to use a final-set tiebreaker to determine a singles match – either the fifth set in a men’s match or the third set for the women. The U.S. Open, however, starts its final-set tiebreakers at 6-6.

At the Australian Open and the French Open, players still have to win by two games in the final set in singles matches.

“Our view was that the time had come to introduce a tie-break method for matches that had not reached their natural conclusion at a reasonable point during the deciding set,” Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook said in a statement.

In a tiebreaker, the first player to get seven points – leading by at least two points – wins the set.

In 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon. The match took more than 11 hours and lasted over three days before Isner won 70-68 in the final set.

According to Wimbledon CEO Richard Lewis, many players were in favor of the change.

“There were mixed views, it’s fair to say. But predominantly, players favored the final-set tiebreak,” Lewis said. “They recognize the quality of tennis goes down, players start playing not to lose rather than the excitement or the determination to win. And they recognize it affects the quality of the matches on subsequent rounds.”

This year, eventual finalist Kevin Anderson played a pair of long matches late in the tournament. He beat eight-time champion Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set in the quarterfinals, and then defeated Isner 26-24 in the fifth in the semifinals – the second-longest match in the history of a tournament that began in 1877.

In the other semifinal match, Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set.

Two of those three matches would still be possible.

“While we know the instances of matches extending deep into the final set are rare, we feel that a tie-break at 12-12 strikes an equitable balance between allowing players ample opportunity to complete the match to advantage, while also providing certainty that the match will reach a conclusion in an acceptable timeframe,” Brook said.

Other notable long matches include Federer’s victory over Andy Roddick in the 2009 final, winning 16-14 in the fifth set.

Tiebreakers were first introduced at Wimbledon in 1971, but they started at 8-8 instead of 6-6 and were not used in deciding sets.

Before that, all sets had to be won by two games, including Margaret Court’s 14-12, 11-9 win over Billie Jean King in the 1970 final.

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Serena’s coach says in-match coaching would boost tennis

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams’ coach says in-match coaching should be allowed in tennis to help the sport’s popularity.

Patrick Mouratoglou, who admitted he used banned hand signals to try to help Williams during her loss in the U.S. Open final, wrote Thursday in a posting on Twitter that making coaching part of the spectacle would let “viewers enjoy it as a show” and “ensure that it remains pivotal in the sport.”

Mouratoglou also pointed to what he called a “hypocrisy” – players currently are getting coached at tournaments that ban coaching.

And he pointed out that all sorts of individual sports – boxing, golf, cycling – permit athletes to consult someone during competition.

“I have never understood why tennis is just about the only sport in which coaching during matches is not allowed,” Mouratoglou wrote.

Quite a bit of debate about the topic of on-court coaching was sparked when chair umpire Carlos Ramos gave Williams a code violation after Mouratoglou gestured in her direction early in the second set of Naomi Osaka’s 6-2, 6-4 victory over the American for the title at Flushing Meadows last month.

A few games later, Williams received another warning, this time for smashing her racket, and that second violation automatically cost her a point. Eventually, Williams called Ramos “a thief,” drawing a third violation, this one for “verbal abuse,” which cost her a game. Williams was fined a total of $17,000 the next day, including $4,000 for coaching, which is not allowed in Grand Slam matches.

The WTA does allow coaching during women’s matches at other tournaments. The tour’s CEO, Steve Simon, said in the aftermath of the U.S. Open final that it “should be allowed across the sport.”

The sport’s various governing bodies and Grand Slam tournaments have been looking at the issue, with some sounding more willing than others to consider permitting coaching. Wimbledon, for example, has made clear that it is “fundamentally opposed to any form of coaching during a match.”

Banning coaching, Mouratoglou wrote Thursday, “almost makes it look as if it had to be hidden, or as if it was shameful.”

He called the issue “symptomatic of the confrontation between two ways of thinking: The conservative, traditionalist way and the modern, progressive way.”

Besides, Mouratoglou said, “It is a very basic truth that the vast majority of tennis coaches are actually coaching on court, despite the rules. Look at how many times players look towards their boxes during a match. Some do it after every single point.”

That is true.

Those who argue against in-match coaching – and believe rules against it should be enforced more rigidly – say that lessens the individual, go-it-alone nature of tennis.

Mouratoglou thinks part of the appeal of allowing coaching is that it would help get viewers “emotionally involved.”

“You want spectators and TV viewers to have opinions about the players – and the coaches – and to know who they like and don’t like. Watching the interactions between players and coaches is a very good way of achieving this,” he wrote.

Mouratoglou added: “Moreover, emotions run high when coaches talk to their players during matches. Sometimes the players don’t like to hear what their coaches are saying, but this all adds to the drama, which creates engagement on social media.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports