May 19th, 2017

Friday Tennis Blog: Sharapova, Federer Out of French; Americans Rolling on Clay at Rome

General News


This week Roger Federer announced he will not play the French Open. The news was soon eclipsed by the French Tennis Federation announcing they wouldn’t give Maria Sharapova a wild card for the main draw or qualifying, which means the former champion won’t be appearing at Roland Garros.

The 35-year-old Federer said he will bypass the physically-punishing clay to concentrate on the grass court season and a run at Wimbledon. “In order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it’s best to skip the clay-court season this year,” he said. “The start to the year has been magical for me, but I need to recognize that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward.”

Sharapova, whose ranking is too low to get into the French Open main draw or qualifying, was denied a wild card in a stunner by tournament officials. “While there can be a wild card for return from injury, there can’t be a wild card for return from doping,” said FTF President Bernard Giudicelli



Millennialsthey’re so busy. Then there’s Generation Z (“Z” is not for zombies, unless you count walking while never looking up from your phone), and don’t even get started on Generation Alpha (born 2011 or later) who by middle school will have their phone implanted in their heads. Probably.

To attract these younger fans to tennis, the ATP World Tour in November will unveil the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, featuring the Top 7 players age 21-and-under on the ATP rankings, along with one wild card player. This week the ATP gave a glimpse at the rule changes to create a “high-tempo, cutting-edge, and TV-friendly product, geared towards attracting new and younger fans into the sport.” The tournament will feature a 25-second “shot clock” between points, a 5-minute warm-up, a no-let rule on serves, and first-to-four-game sets with no-ad scoring.

The event will likely feature a number of Americans, as Orlando’s Frances Tiafoe is currently No. 3 in the Next Gen standings behind No. 1 Alexander Zverev and No. 2 Borna Coric. Ernesto Escobedo is the only other American in the Top 7, while Americans Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz and Noah Ruben are in the Top 15 of the standings. The event will be held in Milan, Italy, on Nov. 7-11.



magazine shared some still photos of the upcoming “Battle of the Sexes” movie starring Oscar winner Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, detailing the 1970s exhibition match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs…The police officer charged with using excessive force against James Blake in a case of mistaken identity two years ago at the US Open “has reached a deal that allows him to avoid a public disciplinary trial, according to a person familiar with the matter,” and the punishment “may remain a secret”Venus Williams is set to star on the panel of “Deals in Heels,” a show where experts lend their expertise to women entrepreneurs. “As an advocate for gender and pay equality, I’m thrilled to be working on this project that fosters and supports trailblazing women,” said Venus, who will be an executive producer…Can Collier County defend their men’s 3.5 and women’s 4.5 titles from last year at this weekend’s USTA Florida Adult 55 & Over 3.5/4.5 League Sectional Championships at the USTA National Campus?…Athletic DNA is looking for a Florida sales rep., interested parties can contact…If you live in the Orlando area, the USTA National Campus is moving all evening adult programming for the summer into the six indoor courts (Australian Open playing surface) in the USTA Player Development’s Adidas Performance Center. Check out the offerings for Live Ball, Cardio Tennis, HITS, Tennis 101 and more…Japanese qualifier Rika Fujiwara for some reason performed push-ups on court between points during this loss at an ITF event…The NCAA, in partnership with the USTA, has announced that the team national championship matches of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships will be televised live on ESPNU.

Isner, Venus in Rome Quarterfinal Play Friday

Former No. 1 Venus Williams and the big-serving John Isner are waving the American flag heading into the weekend at the Italian Open after Thursday wins in Rome.

The No. 9-seeded Williams ended a three-match losing streak against Johanna Konta, upsetting the No. 5-seeded Brit 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 on the red clay.

“I love this tournament, and I love Rome,” Venus said after the match. “It’s one of my favorite places on earth, so that’s one of the reasons why I have always come here. I have had a good amount of success here. Probably sometimes that it wasn’t that great, but I’d never leave Rome early; let’s put it that way. I always stay.”

She stays for a Friday semifinal meeting with defending French Open champion and Rome No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza. Venus is 3-0 career against the Spaniard, but they have never played on clay.

Isner along with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro are the only unseeded players in the Rome quarterfinals. The American on Thursday stunned former French Open winner and Rome No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka 7-6(1), 6-4.

“I thought I played pretty well out there,” said Isner after improving to 3-1 career against Wawrinka. “Maybe I have a little bit less to lose than he does. I went out there with the belief that if I played well and executed my game plan, I could walk off that court with a win.” Through three matches in Rome, Isner has rained down 72 aces on opponents. American Jack Sock was also in action Thursday, falling to No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4, and unseeded Sam Querrey lost to No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7), as the Austrian saved three match points.

Isner’s Friday quarterfinal opponent is No. 6 seed Marin Cilic, who on Thursday defeated No. 9 David Goffin 6-3, 6-4. Friday ATP coverage is on Tennis Channel, and WTA coverage on beIN Sports, both beginning at 6 a.m. (EST).


They Said It

Brian Vahaly

“If you looked at it today I think the odds are it would be a much more welcoming environment than perhaps it was in the early 2000s.”
— Former American pro Brian Vahaly, the first Top 100-ranked player in the modern era to publicly disclose he is gay, speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim

“I don’t want to talk big, but I’m strong to change it so fast.”
Simona Halep, talking about hitting a mental low in March and splitting with coach Darren Cahill, then getting back together and winning her first title of the year last week at Madrid

“Money and everything speaks for itself. Maybe they should give a wild card to Lance Armstrong, too? He’s won the Tour de France a few times. How is it any different?”
— WTA player Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on the wild cards Maria Sharapova has received since her comeback from a doping suspension


Tennis on TV This Weekend

(EST, times subject to change)

6am — WTA Rome (live), beIN Sports
6am — ATP Rome (live), Tennis Channel

6am — WTA Rome (live), beIN Sports
8:30am — ATP Rome (live), Tennis Channel

7:30am — ATP Rome (live), Tennis Channel
11am — WTA Rome (live), beIN Sports