WASHINGTON, August 1, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
The last time that Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund faced each other three days ago, in a matchup of the current and recently unseated British No. 1 men’s players taking place this week at The Battle Of The Brits, the match ended “on beefy terms,” as one London tennis writer described it. Evans won the match in straight sets – he was the better player that day on Centre Court at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England – but in the eyes of many, he celebrated too vigorously. And, therein, lies the beef.
With a post-match racquet tap by players at the net now the new normal, having replaced the traditional handshake, when Evans offered his racquet for a tap after his Tuesday triumph, Edmund whacked it hard. No polite tap there, chaps. “Be very careful, Kyle, be very careful, mate,” Evans said. His words were clearly picked up by the on-court microphone.
Fortunately, according to reports in the British media, Evans and Edmund settled their “beef” over dinner that night. On Friday afternoon, when they met again on Centre Court, there was no animosity between the two and from all appearances, no new aggro broke out. This time, it was just good, solid tennis and Edmund won 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 25 minutes under sunny conditions.
Edmund played steady and reliable tennis, in which he hit 16 winners while converting four of five break-point opportunities against Evans. The outspoken, current No. 1 of British men’s tennis mustered just seven winners and hit 12 unforced errors as his slice backhand, which can be devasting at times, just didn’t seem to have any magic powers. While Evans converted both of his break-point opportunities, he had difficulty winning points on his second serve.
— LTA (@the_LTA) July 31, 2020
During his post-match interview, the soft-spoken Edmund said that staying grounded while finding his rhythm proved to be a winning combo in beating Evans. “I settled down a lot quicker in the match,” he said. “I found my game and the rhythm of the match and was able to impose myself. That was the main thing and just managing it at times.”
Although this week’s mixed team exhibition has been played without the benefit of fans, there were plenty of Union Jack teammates on the squad’s back bench in support of Evans while Edmund drew inspiration from other British Bulldog players.
“I’d say it’s a little more intense at Davis Cup with Leon, but it’s still trying to get the job done,” said Edmund in reference to Leon Smith, Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain. This week, Smith is a co-coach along with British Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong for the British Bulldogs. Edmund added: “It’s so many matches that it’s tough to be intense every match but it’s little pockets of information here and there at key times is what helps.
“Today was a good example because I lost [previously], and then used the information from losing to him to put it right today.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) July 31, 2020
Elsewhere, British No. 2 Heather Watson won her fourth consecutive women’s singles match for the Union Jacks with an easy and efficient 54-minute victory over No. 368 Maia Lumsden. In winning 6-0, 6-1, the 28-year-old Watson served three aces, hit 11 winners and converted six of seven break-point opportunities against the over-matched Lumsden. Her victory enabled the Union Jacks to cut the lead on the British Bulldogs to one point.
“Getting loads of matches in and that’s definitely what I’ve got,” said the 50th ranked Watson, who will head for the United States to re-start her season at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky. “I’m glad it was a quick one today because I spent a lot of time on court yesterday. The body’s getting used to the matches again.
“I’ve played every day. I want to play as many matches as possible but I’m being smart about it as well. I’m pretty tough like that. I can play day in, day out. I’m quite used to it. Playing long throug the week and these are the only matches I’ve had going into Lexington, so I want to make the most of it.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) July 31, 2020
Also, Jodie Burrage and Naomi Broady, both from the Union Jacks, beat Beth Grey and Eden Silva, respectively in earlier singles matches which helped to narrow their deficit. Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie, who has been a stellar performer for the British Bulldogs all week, remained unbeaten after pulling out a three-set thriller, 7-5, 3-6, 10-8, against Ryan Peniston.
Finally, the British Bulldogs won a pair of mixed doubles matches in back of Harriet Dart and Liam Broady and in the last match of the day with Norrie and Johanna Konta. By winning these matches to go with Edmund’s victory, Day 5 of the week-long competition ended with the British Bulldogs leading the Union Jacks 41-32.
— St. James’s Place Battle of The Brits Team Tennis (@BattleofTheBrit) July 31, 2020
UTS 2 – Plenty of dream matches this weekend
The final weekend of UTS 2, the second edition of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, commences at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice, France, on Saturday. The list of fixtures includes five men’s and two women’s matches. Both World No. 7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime from Canada, who have been seeded into Sunday’s semifinals, will play a friendly Saturday evening after the men’s competition and in advance of a pair of women’s matches.
— Alexander Zverev (@AlexZverev) July 29, 2020
France’s Nicolas Mahut has been placed into the men’s competition replacing Alexei Popyrin of Australia and will face No. 19 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. With a semifinal berth out of reach, it will be a chance for Dimitrov to try to earn his first win in the UTS competition in just his third competitive match since testing positive for Covid-19 in June while playing in the Adria Tour. Later, Benoit Paire will face Corentin Moutet in an all-France matchup and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco meets Dustin Brown from Germany in one group. Meanwhile, in the other group, Richard Gasquet of France opposes Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in a battle of undefeated players with the winner advancing to Sunday’s semifinals.
Then, late Saturday evening the women’s semifinal will pair No. 59 Alizé Cornet of France against 13-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtov from the Czech Republic followed by No. 39 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia against No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia. The winners will play Sunday.
Can a 13-year-old brave the elements? ⚔️⚡️
— UTS | Ultimate Tennis Showdown (@UTShowdown) July 29, 2020
WTT champion will be crowned Sunday
The World TeamTennis season has wound down to the last four teams, who will battle over the weekend to determine the champion of the 45th season. This year, unlike any other, all nine World TeamTennis teams quarantined over the three-week regular season at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. All matches were played on site under a strict health and safety protocol – and it’s worked well. With the exception of Danielle Collins breaking quarantine to drive home to Charlottesville, Va., a couple of hours away, which was against league rules and disqualified her from further competition, there have been no positive tests among the nearly 60 players who have competed.
The four playoff-bound teams are the regular-season champion Philadelphia Freedoms (12-2), Orlando Storm (10-4), Chicago Smash (9-5) and New York Empire (7-7). The Freedoms come into Saturday’s semifinal against the Empire on a four-match winning streak, while the Storm are the hottest team in the WTT. Orlando enters its match against Chicago on a seven-match winning streak.
World Team Tennis, which I’ve watched a lot of this year and enjoyed, will have its playoffs this weekend. Fast-paced format. Plenty of quality despite the circumstances. Been particularly impressed with Jessica Pegula.
Major network coverage for the final on CBS on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/92VrFbCT6b
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) July 30, 2020
WTA re-launches in Palermo amid tough going
Once upon a time, World No. 2 Simona Halep was set to be top seed in the Palermo Ladies Open, which begins main draw action on Monday as the WTA re-launches its 2020 season following five months on inactivity due to the coronavirus crisis. Last weekend, however, Halep abruptly pulled out citing coronavirus concerns. A few days later, the new top seed, No. 14 Johanna Konta, also withdrew from the tournament. Since then, six others have also pulled out of the clay-court event: No. 26 Karolina Muchova, No. 32 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 40 Veronika Kudermetova, No. 41 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 43 Anastasija Sevastova, No. 49 Iga Swiatek and No. 61 Anna Blinkova.
Only three Top 20 players are still in the field: new top seed and No. 15 Petra Martic, last year’s French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova (ranked No. 18) and No. 20 Maria Sakkari. Other top players still in the field include last year’s US Open quarterfinalist Donna Vekic (ranked 24th) this year’s Adelaide runner-up, 25th-ranked Dayana Yastremska.
Qualifying begins today and continues through tomorrow. Russia’s Varvara Gracheva, ranked No. 101, is the top seed in the qualifying draw.
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