Taking A Knee In Support Of Black Lives Matter

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Before the start of each match in the Schroders Battle of Brits this week at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England, all competitors are taking a knee in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s a basic human right that everyone should be treated the same, but I’m aware that obviously isn’t the case,” said Andy Murray, 33, who took a knee along with countryman Liam Broady and the chair umpire before their match on Tuesday. During a virtual press conference, Murray added: I’m trying to learn and understand more about the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism, and sport is not free from that.”

In a BBC interview Murray suggested: “In some ways it’s seen as being radical. I think it’s a very fair thing that everyone gets treated exactly the same regardless of their skin color, sex or whatever. It’s basic.”

After winning his first match since last November, when he beat Broady in straight sets, the 129th-ranked Murray faced British No. 2 Kyle Edmund in the second of his three group matches on Wednesday. They battled for two hours and 32 minutes before the No. 44 Edmund prevailed, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 10-5, to earn his second win in two days of the week-long charity exhibition tournament. It secured Edmund a berth in the weekend last four. Edmund broke Murray’s service twice in the third-set super tie-break to go ahead 4-1 and coasted, winning on his first match-point opportunity.

“Everyone wants to do their best and win,” said Edmund during a post-match interview. “Today I felt a bit of pressure, expecting too much of myself. But in the end, I did a bit of problem solving. You just have to play your game.

“I just tried to hang in there and give myself a chance to win. In the end I found a way.”

Despite losing, Murray showed a lot of positives – putting his body through a lot – in just his second match back from a six-month layoff. He has one more match to go, on Thursday against James Ward, with a chance of advancing out of group play.

Other winners Wednesday: Ward defeated Broady, 6-4, 6-1 and Cameron Norrie bested Ryan Peniston, 3-6, 6-1, 10-4.

Weather (almost) cooperates at Credit One Bank Invitational

After rain washed out the evening portion of Tuesday’s opening-day schedule at the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston, S.C., it meant a packed lineup on Wednesday, featuring Danielle Collins against Amanda Anisimova as well as the debuts of team captains Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Keys on the green clay.

The weather cooperated during the afternoon session, but rain returned and delayed the start of the night session. Before it did, Anisimova defeated Collins, 7-5, 6-4, ending their two-day battle; Ajla Tomljanovic bested Shelby Rogers, 6-1, 6-2, and Mattek-Sands – famous for her knee-high compression socks – beat Monica Puig, 6-1, 6-3. However, Keys never got to take court for her match against Caroline Dolehide. Ditto for Jennifer Brady versus Victoria Azarenka. They’ll try, again, on Thursday.

US Open wheelchair events are green-lighted

After much backlash a week ago, when the US Open said the 2020 Grand Slam would not include wheelchair competition, the United States Tennis Association has reversed its original decision. It will take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., from Sept. 10-13. A formal announcement by the USTA was made on Wednesday afternoon. In its news release, the USTA said the switch came after “multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week.”

The 2020 US Open wheelchair competition will include men’s and women’s singles and doubles as well as quad singles and doubles. Draw sizes will be similar to past US Open events.

After learning of the decision, US Open singles and doubles champion Andy Lapthorne wrote on Twitter: “So excited to defend my singles and doubles titles this year. 👍”

According to Russell Fuller of BBC Sport, the players “will be given access to the official hotels on the weekend before the wheelchair events begin, and allowed to practice at Flushing Meadows from the Monday. 

“The prize fund will be 95% of last year’s total, with the International Tennis Federation– like all of the tours – still grappling with how best to restart rankings which have been frozen since March.”

Blame game over Adria Tour Covid-19 outbreak

A day after Novak Djokovic confirmed he had become the fourth player from the beleaguered Adria Tour to contract the coronavirus, joining Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki – and eighth person overall – a finger-pointing war broke out between Djokovic’s father and Dimitrov’s agent over who’s to blame.

As Simon Briggs from The Telegraph of London reported on Wednesday:

When Srdjan accused Dimitrov of being the source, Peter Stoimenov – who is Dimitrov’s agent – suggested that the tournament organisers were “the ones responsible for the safe running of the event”.

There was also an intervention from Nick Kyrgios, who has been the most vocal locker-room critic of the Adria Tour. Writing on Twitter, Kyrgios posted an image of Srdjan accompanied by his quotes on Dimitrov and said: “Nah bruh don’t push the blame.”

Interviewed by Croatian broadcaster RTL, Srdjan Djokovic, Novak’s father, said: “Grigor came sick from who knows where and so it happened. He caused great damage to you (Novak) in Croatia and to us as a family and Serbia.”

Stay tuned. This may be far from over.

A sensible discussion

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated executive editor and Tennis Channel contributor Jon Wertheim and Tennis Channel analyst Paul Annacone, shared a sensible conversation discussing what can be learned from the Adria Tour catastrophe and what should Novak Djokovic do next?

Way Back Machine – 11 hours, 5 minutes long, 10 years ago

What they’re thinking

John Millman, Australian No. 3, “I think that @jamie_murray has done well here. The @BattleofTheBrit has got great players competing in an environment that is following strict health and safety guidelines in what is a refreshing scoring format.”

Hannah Wilks, tennis writer, Livetennis.com, “Who else just realised with dawning delight that the absence of crowd noise means we’ll be able to hear every single word Andy Murray yells at himself? So far it’s all been perfectly unexceptionable but the night and the event is young.”

What they’re writing

Steve Tignor, Tennis.com writer, from “A Lesson for Djokovic: Limits Are Not Just ‘Illusions of Your Ego’”:

Djokovic didn’t force any of the other players to join the Adria Tour. He wasn’t the only person involved in the decision to stage it without COVID-19 restrictions. And we don’t know how the infections started. But he has earned the criticism he has received, because he was the ringmaster of the show, and because he’s a leader in men’s tennis. Djokovic’s positive test, and those of his wife and fellow players, are a lesson for everyone, not just for the tennis world – about reopening too quickly, about flouting science, about trusting in the wellness movement and power of positive thinking, and, most importantly, about the continuing danger of the coronavirus.

What makes it worse to me is how happy and proud Djokovic was to bring tennis to Belgrade. He beamed when Thiem and Zverev joined him for dinner there, and he cried when the weekend was over and his childhood memories of the city flooded back. Djokovic’s critics say he “wants to be loved”; in this case, he wanted his home to be loved. But it was the wrong time to try to live without limits.

Jerry Bembry, senior writer ESPN’s The Undefeated, from “At 16, Coco Gauff’s voice is already as strong as her serve”:

If you follow Gauff on social media, you get a sense of the passion she brings to her followers in light of recent killings of Black Americans. The willingness and ability of Gauff to use her platform has brought pride to a few of the Black women tennis players who, in the era before the emergence of Serena and Venus Williams, believed that expressing outrage would have derailed their careers.

“When I was coming along in the ’80s, I knew I was ‘representing the race,’ ” said Leslie Allen, a former player and USTA tennis executive who outlined her issues with the sport in her first-person story for The Undefeated last week. “I didn’t have the luxury of being disruptive because I wanted to keep the door open for the Black players that followed me — players like Zina Garrison, Chanda Rubin, Serena, Venus and now Coco.”

What they’re podcasting

ESPN tennis analyst and former Andre Agassi coach Brad Gilbert guests on the latest episode of The Craig Shapiro Tennis Podcast, taking about “new beginnings in tennis, and what the sport is going to look like if/when it comes back. … A walk down memory lane, always great conversation.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Johanna Konta/ Hello, again, Wimbledon

Sven Groeneveld / Let’s stop pointing fingers 

Blair Henley & Nick McCarvel / #TennisTuesday Episode 18