Wheelchair players now told they could play in U.S. Open

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There might be wheelchair tennis competition at the 2020 U.S. Open, after all.

The U.S. Tennis Association acknowledged Friday it should have consulted wheelchair athletes before announcing their events at Flushing Meadows were being canceled – and now is willing to change its stance.

USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said in a telephone interview that there are three options on the table for U.S. Open wheelchair tennis, including the original plan to offer a fund for those athletes in place of having them play in New York during the Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 Grand Slam tournament.

The plan announced Wednesday for holding a scaled-down tournament amid the coronavirus pandemic included cutting various competitions to reduce the number of people on-site for better social distancing. Wheelchair, junior and mixed doubles competitions were dropped altogether, singles qualifying was eliminated, too, and the fields for women’s and men’s doubles were halved to 32 teams apiece.

The USTA is giving $3.3 million to each of the men’s and women’s tours to distribute to players who will miss out on participating in singles qualifying or a full, 64-team doubles draw.

After some wheelchair athletes complained about their exclusion, the USTA said in a statement Friday that CEO Mike Dowse, U.S. Open tournament diector Stacey Allaster and wheelchair tournament director Jo Wallen spoke on the telephone with players and wheelchair tennis leadership from the International Tennis Federation.

“On the call, the USTA acknowledged that the Association should have communicated directly, and worked in a collaborative manner, with the wheelchair athletes when developing the plan for the 2020 U.S. Open, as it had done with both the ATP and WTA,” the statement said. “The USTA also committed to working with the players and the ITF to explore a number of potential scenarios for the Wheelchair Competition to determine the best approach moving forward for the athletes and the competition.”

Widmaier would not go into details about the options the USTA offered.

But wheelchair athlete Stephane Houdet — who has won two of his four Grand Slam singles titles, and four of his 18 Grand Slam doubles titles at the U.S. Open — tweeted about them:

— cancel the 2020 competition but have $150,000 in total compensation for wheelchair athletes;

— hold the U.S. Open wheelchair matches in Orlando, Florida, where the USTA National Campus is;

— hold the competition in Flushing Meadows during the U.S. Open but with a 5% reduction in compensation from 2019, which was $325,000.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.