Venus Williams joins World TeamTennis

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Venus Williams has signed up to play World TeamTennis for the 15th time, the league announced Thursday.

She will be a member of the Washington Kastles, one of nine teams that will gather at a resort in West Virginia for a three-week season starting July 12. Matches normally are played at various sites around the country, but WTT decided to bring everyone to one location because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Williams, who turned 40 last week, announced in 2011 that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can cause exhaustion and joint pain. Williams has since spoken about how she turned to a plant-based diet and learned other ways to get by.

The American is a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, with five titles at Wimbledon and two at the U.S. Open. She also has paired up with her younger sister Serena to win 14 Grand Slam trophies in doubles.

Up to 500 spectators will be allowed to attend each match at a 2,500-seat outdoor court at The Greenbrier. A maximum of 250 people – 200 fans and 50 staffers – can be at any matches that will be moved to an indoor court if it rains.

All fans will be required to wear face masks and pass a temperature check.

Other players who have committed to participating include 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and twins Mike and Bob Bryan, who have won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

WTT is increasing total prize money to $5 million this year, $1.5 million more than for its 2019 season.

All tennis events sanctioned by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation have been suspended since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are on hold until a planned return in August.

But WTT is not affiliated with those tours – no ATP or WTA ranking points are awarded for matches – and does not need to abide by their decisions about when it is OK to compete.

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.