Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – June 1, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts during his first round match against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Defending champion Rafa Nadal will mark his 35th birthday on Thursday with his first night-session match at Roland Garros but the Spaniard will have to celebrate the special occasion inside an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal’s second-round match against Frenchman Richard Gasquet is scheduled to begin after 9 p.m., when the government-enforced COVID-19 curfew forces organisers to ask fans to vacate the premises.
Third seed Nadal, who has an astonishing 101-2 record on the Parisian red dirt, has in the past described how difficult it is to maintain the same intensity without his fans spurring him on.
Amazon has the exclusive broadcasting rights in France for that ‘match of the day’ and organisers said that all top players would have to play at least one night session.
“Nadal-Gasquet is the ‘match of the day’, and we have committed to broadcasting it in prime time, especially in France,” tournament director Guy Forget said in a statement to sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday.
“In terms of sporting fairness, we would like each of the top players to be able to play at some point in an evening session with empty stands. I have already informed some of these players.”
If Nadal’s record against Gasquet is anything to go by, the 13-time champion should not have any problems.
Nadal has beaten Gasquet every single time in 16 matches — seven times on clay which includes their last meeting in the third round of the 2018 French Open.
Eighth seed Roger Federer has a stern test in the second round when he takes on Marin Cilic, who is seven years his junior but the Croatian says his Swiss rival’s age has not slowed him down.
“You don’t feel that he is almost 40 years old the way he moves, the way he hits the ball,” Cilic said.
“The way he actually plays the game is still, I would say, one of the quickest on the Tour. No matter the age, Roger has the formula.”
Top seed Novak Djokovic plays Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas, who has never moved past the third round in Paris but has notable scalps on clay which include Nadal, Alexander Zverev and Stan Wawrinka.
Women’s top seed Ash Barty plays Magda Linette, who has reached the third round at Roland Garros only once in her career, while defending champion Iga Swiatek takes on Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson.
EXCITING! Naomi Osaka To Feature on LeBron James’ Show ‘The Shop’
Things have not gone according to plan for Naomi Osaka off late. From unprecedented issues at the French Open to a dip in her form, it’s been a rough couple of months for the Japanese international. At the 2021 US Open too, she was unable to defend her title and ended up losing in the third round, failing to make it past teen sensation Leylah Fernandez.
However, it’s not all that bad for Naomi Osaka off-court. She has bagged a number of endorsement deals, becoming the face of several leading companies in the market. Notably, the Japanese star is quite the American favorite. Not just fans and commercial firms, but even entities from varied sports share a close connection with the 4-time major’s winner.
Naomi Osaka to feature in a basketball stars’ show
Fans have often spotted Naomi alongside legendary basketball players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Interestingly, Osaka will soon be featuring in “The Shop,” a show produced by LeBron himself. Undoubtedly, the youth icon will be a prominent addition to the show’s star-studded guest list. Fans can catch the episode on HBO.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 23: Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks during media day prior to the the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 23, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
On the business end of things, Naomi began the 2021 season brilliantly, winning the Australian Open. In doing so, she won her fourth Grand Slam title. However, it’s not all been rosy since then.
Citing mental health concerns, Naomi announced her withdrawal from the Roland Garros. Her decision was received with mixed reactions as it sparked controversy all across the globe. However, as her sabbatical continued, she also withdrew from the 2021 Wimbledon Championship.
Despite a memorable return at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she could not go deep and failed to bag a medal for the host nation. We wish her the best of luck for the rest of the season.
Ohanian on how his perspective has changed since marriage to Serena Williams
Speaking at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference in New York, Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian commented on how his perception towards tennis changed since he met Serena, whom he married in November 2017.
The couple is parents to a daughter, Alexis Olympia who was born in September 2017. “I played team sports my entire life and I thought tennis was a joke of a sport. I thought it was something people did for giggles when they wanted to get a little exercise.
I would change the channel when it came on,” confessed Ohanian. The Reddit co-founder added: “I was so naive and so wrong and my entire mindset of sport… no matter what day I was having, there were 10 other guys on the field or four other guys on the court who were there to help me out because it was team-based.
To take rejection and defeat and to be able to find that next gear and that higher level is something she has turned into an artform and is unparalleled at. That is a mental strength that doesn’t get enough credit in sport.
The mental strength it requires when you are alone out there with just one other person combined with the mental reset that is required between every serve is unmatched in terms of physical strength required to be great. That universal truth I see it in the beauty of the sport but not just when she’s playing it, also in the preparation leading up to it.”
Williams who returned to the Tour after giving birth to her daughter has reached four Major finals (2018 Wimbledon and US Open, and 2019 Wimbledon and US Open).
Tiger Woods, his caddie Joe LaCava in back
Tiger Woods continues to recover from the injuries sustained in a car accident in Southern California. His caddie, Joe LaCava, made the return to professional golf this week. LaCava, who was on Woods’ bag for the win at the 2019 Masters, is on Fred Couples’ bag at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa this week.
Joe LaCava, statements
“Yeah, loopin for Fred in Des Moines. Actually eating pasta watching hockey with him right now. Like nothing has changed 10 years later! Would kill to be working for TW in Columbus. Of course I miss it.
Love Fred like a brother” Alena Sharp is a 16-year LPGA Tour veteran and Olympic athlete from Canada. He wrote an article for the LPGA web site. “I’ve been married to my wife Sarah Bowman, who is also my caddie, since November of 2020 and our union is more accepted now than at any point in history.
People view us now as married people. We’re the couple, just like any other. That’s a big jump from just a few years ago and lightyears from where society was when I was a kid. I’m 40 now and have been on the LPGA Tour for 16 years.
When I was a rookie, my friends and family knew that I was gay. But it wasn’t something that I publicized. I didn’t want to alienate any potential sponsors and didn’t want to put any of my existing sponsors in an awkward spot.
I wasn’t closeted. I just lived my life quietly, keeping my orientation out of the public eye. Even that was better than the way society viewed us when I was young. I noticed when I was 15 years old that I was finding women more attractive than men.
I tried not to think about it, but it was always there. My last year of junior golf, when I was 17, I realized it more. It’s hard because you’re a kid and having feelings that you don’t understand. But who can you tell? I was raised Catholic where the teachings were clear: is a sin.
My grandparents and parents went to Mass and followed the precepts of their faith, so I couldn’t talk to them. I already knew what the priests would say. And this isn’t exactly a conversation that you have with teenaged friends.
Then when I went to college. I was really confused because I was dating men and afraid to date a woman. I knew I wanted to; I knew by then that I was strongly attracted to women, but at that time there was an inherent fear. A fear of rejection; a fear of discrimination; a fear of being shut out and closed off from the relationships that mattered most to me at the time.
And there was, at times, a palpable fear of physical harm. There were still parts of the United States and Canada where you could be assaulted because of your orientation. So, in addition to all the other things a college freshman goes through, I battled all those questions, feeling, and fears”