The Agony and Ecstacy of Roland Garros in 2022

The French Open aka Roland Garros may have come and gone, but we are slowing descending from the Agony and Ecstacy of this year’s Grand Slam tournament.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The 37 year old Frenchman and 2008 Australian Open finalist, who recently announced that was going to retire from tennis, bowed out of his home Grand Slam on 24 May 2022 with a four set defeat to the 8th seeded Casper Ruud of Norway, 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 2-6 6-7(0).

Emotions ran high on Court Phillipe-Chatrier, as Tsonga received a standing ovation whilst trying to fight back the tears and stay in the match. The tears continued to flow when family and friends joined him on court afterwards for a very special farewell.

Cori “Coco” Gauff

On 21 May 2022, Coco Gauff shared some High School graduation photos with the Eiffel Tower in the background. A special moment in which she described graduating from high school whilst on the road, being more difficult than playing tennis.

The 18 year old American rose to fame at the age of 15, when she defeated the seven-time Grand Slam champion and one of her idols, Venus Williams in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2019. In the same year, she won the Linz Open and became the youngest WTA title holder since 2004.

It is three years later and Gauff continues to go from strength to strength. Not only has she already won 2 Singles and 4 Doubles titles, she also holds the record for being the youngest player in the Top 100 of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour.

Despite being a Finalist in both the 2022 Singles and Doubles draws (seeded 8th with countrywoman, Jessica Pegula), Gauff has sent out the warning sounds of a player on the rise.

Her hard work is paying off as she now holds the No. 13 position in the Singles draw and the No. 5 position in the Doubles draw.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

The 21 year old Canadian player, who perforned well on the Junior circuit with a No. 2 ranking, is now knocking on the ATP title door, having already been the runner-up in 8 ATP finals.

His best Grand Slam performance was during the 2021 US Open, when he lost to Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

Auger-Aliassime added another notch to his belt, when he bacame only the third player (next to Novak Djokovic and John Isner) to push Rafael Nadal to five sets in Paris. Nadal needed four hours and twenty-one minutes to brush the Canadian aside, 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3.

With Toni Nadal on Auger-Aliassime’s coaching team, we are looking forward to the Canadian adding some trophies to his cabinet in future.

Alexander Zverev

Zverev, the 3rd seeded German player, was a hot contender next to Nadal, Djokovic and Alcaraz to lift this year’s French Open title.

After a tough quarter-final match against Alcaraz in the “Group of Death”, which included Nadal, Djokovic and Alcaraz, Zverev headed onto Chatrier to face Nadal in the semi-finals.

In a heart-stopping match, which after three hours of play, had just headed to a tiebreak (6-6) in the second set, Zverev took a nasty fall, appearing to damage his ankle and was forced to retire. Nadal had taken the first set 7-6(8).

Zverev has confirmed that the intial assessment shows multiple torn lateral ligaments in his right foot. He is back in Germany for further tests and treatment.

Casper Ruud

What a year Casper Ruud from Norway is having!

He is certainly been the most participant player for important matches in 2022, having lost to Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open (when Djokovic achieved his 1000th ATP win), defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his final match at the French Open and then losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final (Nadal winning the title for a record 14th time).

Ruud has already won 8 titles and reached his highest ranking of No. 6 on the ATP rankings today.

He is dangerous on Clay courts and a player to watch going forward.

Iga Swiatek

At the tender age of 21, World No. 1, Iga Swiatek of Poland has the world at her feet.

She brushed aside Coco Gauff 6-1 6-3 to claim her second French Open Singles title on Saturday.

Swiatek, who appeared more interested in breaking Serena Williams streak of 34 consecutive wins, and is now tied with Venus Williams on 35, has not lost a match since clinching the No. 1 ranking on 23 March 2022 at the Miami Open.

Although she showed some weakness during the earlier matches, and in particular against Qinwen Zheng during their fourth round encounter, she appears flawless during the finals.

Rafael Nadal

The Spanish “King of Clay” captured his 14th French Open title and his 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday, after defeating Casper Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0.

Nadal, who seems immortal at the age of 36, despite dealing with multiple injuries throughout his career and living with continuous pain in his foot, has now clinched the first two Grand Slam titles of 2022.

Everyone sat with baited breath, waiting for him to announce his retirement at the trophy presentation, but as with the Australian Open, Nadal won’t commit to anything other than continuing to fight and play tennis for as long as possible.

If anyone has any doubt about Nadal’s commitment to fighting to the end, they should watch the 5th set of his fourth round match against Auger-Aliassime and his quarter-final match against Djokovic.

Sam Stosur enjoying her last Australian Open with a first round Singles win

It has been 20 years since Samantha Stosur first played in the Australian Open Tennis tournament and to say that is has been a tumultuous ride, is putting it mildly.

The former Australian No. 1, who only missed the tournament in 2008, has battled to find success in the Singles draw, having only reached the fourth round twice, in 2006 and 2010.

The Ladies and Mixed Doubles draws have certainly been more kind to her at her home Grand Slam.

Ladies Doubles – in 2006, she partnered with Lisa Raymond and were finalists. In 2019, she and Zhang Shuai won the title.

Mixed Doubles – in 2005, she partnered with Scott Draper to win the title and was a finalist with Matthew Ebden in 2021.

Time to bow out as motherhood awaits

In 2019, Stosur added her close friend and former No.1 multiple Doubles and Mixed Doubles Champion, ESPN commentator, coach and Racquet Magazine podcast host, Rennae Stubbs to her coaching team. Stubbs, who currently excels as a commentator, coach and tennis analyst has certainly added value to the Stosur game (and no doubt a lot of comedy too).

A lot has happened since the onset of Covid-19 in 2020, with Stosur already battling some injury niggles.

When her partner, Liz Astling gave birth to their daughter, Genevieve (Evie) Stosur on 16 June 2020, Stosur, who turned pro in 1999, decided that it was time to make some career decisions and at the end of last year, confirmed that this would be her last appearance in the Singles draw and that she will continue to play Doubles for the remainder of 2022.

Stosur enjoying the ride

The 37 year old received a Singles wildcard from Tennis Australia and today, faced the 28 year old American, Robin Anderson on the Show Court Arena. With a limited number of spectators allowed, who arrived to support their local favourite maybe one last time, Stosur, who has not reached the second round since 2015, managed to battle past her opponent with a 6-7(7) 6-3 6-3 win, setting up a second round match against her friend and former doubles partner, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Thursday.

During the media press conference, Stosur said she felt that she was playing with a bit more freedom and enjoying her time out there. Watch the full interview on www.https://ausopen.com/news

Tomorrow, Stosur and Zhang Shuai, who are seeded fourth, will face the unseeded Miyo Kato and Sabrina Santamaria in their first round Doubles match.

One certainly hopes that Sam Stosur can bow out of the Australian Open on a high note.

“Ole Ole” the Aussie Open is underway

Today marked the start of the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam Tennis tournament at Melbourne Park.

Following a fortnight of drama involving World No. 1 Men’s player and defending champion, Novak Djokovic, who was deported yesterday, the first day of play got underway without any hiccups, unless of course, you were one of the unlucky players who got ousted in the first round.

Tough day for the South Africans as Anderson and Harris are sent packing

It was not a good day for the South African players, with Kevin Anderson losing to the in-form American, Reilly Opelka 3-6 4-6 6-7(7).

Australia’s Alexander Vukic defeated Lloyd Harris 4-6 6-3 7-5 7-6(3).

Nadal breezes through as Zverev and Berrettini are tested on Day 1

The 6th seed, Rafael Nadal of Spain sailed past Marcos Giron of America, 6-1 6-4 6-2 in 1h49m on Rod Laver Arena.

Alexander Zverev, the 3rd seed from Germany built up a sweat in defeating fellow countryman, Daniel Altmaier 7-6(3) 6-1 7-6(1). Zverev is currently one of the favourites to lift the Norman Brookes trophy.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, seeded 7th this year, dropped the first set before battling past the American Brandon Nakashima, 4-6 6-2 7-6(5) 6-3.

The Barty party gets underway

World No. 1, Top seeded Ladies contender and local favourite, Ashleigh Barty needed just 54 minutes to dismiss Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-0 6-1 in a masterclass performance. Barty’s great 2021 form is continuing, having recently won the Adelaide International Singles and Doubles (alongside Storm Sanders) titles and she is the firm favourite to lift the Daphne Akhurst trophy.

Badosa continues to chip away towards her first Grand Slam title

Paula Badosa of Spain, seeded 8th, is another hot favourite in the Ladies draw. Badosa added the Sydney International title to her collection on Saturday and today, wasted no time in dashing another local favourite, Ajla Tomljanovic’s hopes 6-4 6-0.

It was good to see Naomi Osaka back on the tour as she advanced to the second round after defeating Camila Osorio 6-3 6-3.

In an all American match, Madison Keys, who won the Adelaide International 2 title on Saturday, battled past the 11th seed, Sofia Kenin 7-6(2) 7-5.

Coco Gauff also found her singles title hopes dashed, when she lost to Wang Qiang of China, 6-4 6-2.

“The Unforgivable” Movie review

Sandra Bullock gives us another stellar performance with her portrayal of Ruth Slater, a woman who served twenty years in prison for the murder of a sheriff, who came to her childhood house to evict her and her sister, Katie after their father’s passing.

When she is released from prison, she is assigned to a Parole Office, Vincent Cross (Rob Morgan), who takes her to a place of shelter and secures her two jobs.

Ruth’s only objective is to find Katie, but being labelled as a “cop killer” has put a price on her head.

She also has to deal with Katie’s adoptive parents who have withheld all Ruth’s letters in order to protect Katie, and with the sheriff’s two sons, who want revenge.

Ruth finds unexpected assistance from the couple who purchased her childhood home and when a twist and mistaken identity take place, she finds herself fighting for survival again.

This is definately Sandra Bullock’s best performance since “The Blind Side”.

Starring – Sandra Bullock, Aisling Franciosi, Vincent D’Onofrio, Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, Richard Thomas, Rob Morgan and Linda Emond.
Directed by Nora Fingscheidt
Based on “Unforgiven” by Sally Wainwright
Available on Netflix

Naomi Osaka brushes Tig and the press aside in Paris

Naomi Osaka during her first round match against Patricia Maria Tig today.
Photograph courtesy of EWN.

World No. 2, Naomi Osaka from Japan, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, when she announced on Twitter that she would not be doing any press during the French Open – read her statement below.

Fellow tour players, tournament officials, members of the press and the public were clearly taken aback with her decision, but she received support and great advice from various sources.

Rennae Stubbs (former Grand Slam Titles winner and Olympian, turned commentator and coach) – “4 someone who now works in media & knows how important quotes & sound bites are, I was also a player, with feelings! This move from Naomi is really an amazing moment 4 the media to LISTEN to these players & understand how tough it is for many of them & to do better & get better!”

Ellen DeGeneres (American talk show host, actress, comedian, writer and producer) – “Sending you so much love and support.”

Zina Garrison (Mixed Doubles Grand Slam Title winner and Olympics Doubles Gold medallist) – “Naomi Osaka has a point. But it is two side to this coin. She will be able to pay for the fine most Athletes can’t. Love you are bring awareness to mental health in sports. Come together with all sides and work on a solution now. Love your honesty.” @gamessetchatlive@Chanda_Rubin

At the tender age of 23, Osaka has already notched up four Grand Slam Singles titles, two Laureus Sports Awards, she is the world’s highest paid female athlete of all time and an investor in several businesses and organisations.

Following her first round win over Patricia Maria Tig of Romania 6-4 7-6(4) today, she received a $15,000 fine for not attending the post-match press conference. All four Grand Slam tournaments have apparently issued a joint statement saying that she could face even harsher consequences should she continue not to honour her media duties.

I have watched several post-match interviews and often wondered if the journalists actually watched the match or just looked at the score line and thumb sucked a few questions. The on-court interviews, which are carried out by ex-players and commentators are a lot more professional and interesting.

Osaka has clearly given this a lot of thought and honestly owes no-one an explanation. One can only hope that an amicable solution will be found by all concerned and that the press will be more thoughtful when asking post-match questions.

I thought this quote by Analis Bailey, a USA Today sports reporter summed it up perfectly

Quote card. Naomi Osaka pumps her fist during a second-round match in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium in March 2021. Quote: "It's time to accept that (Naomi) Osaka is a human being before she's an athlete. Stepping away from the things that do not serve as an essential practice for your well-being, regardless of how mandatory society makes those things, is smart, not problematic." Endquote. Analis Bailey. USA TODAY Sports reporter.

Domestic Workers can now claim for Injury on Duty

In November 2020, the Constitutional Court handed down judgement in which Domestic Workers in South Africa are now eligible for compensation under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

The terms were gazetted on Wednesday and include cover for Permanent Disablement, Temporary Total Disablement, Permanent Disablement Pensions, certain Medical Expenses and in some cases, funeral expenses to the deceased’s family.

Employers will need to register their Domestic Workers, whether they have an express contract or not, by submitting the following documents to the Compensation Fund via e-mail (RegistrationCF@labour.gov.za or CFCallcentre@labour.gov.za):

a) Completed CF-1E application form for the registration of a Domestic Worker
b) Copy of the employer & employee’s ID Book or Passports
c) Proof of the employer’s residential address
d) A copy of the employment contract, if available

The employer must also submit an ROE (Return of Earnings form) on an annual basis.

For more information and to register, visit https://cfonline.labour.gov.za/OnlineSubmissions/?1

Serving up some Covid-19

Since the onset of the coronavirus in December last year, the world has been brought to its knees, with all sporting events since March this year either being postponed or cancelled.

Tennis was no exception with two of the three remaining 2020 Grand Slam tournaments hanging in the balance, after Wimbledon was cancelled.

As the ATP and WTA had cancelled several events, Novak Djokovic, the World No. 1 Men’s Player arranged four Adria Exhibition Tour Events to be held in June and July.

The lineup included Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Marin Cilic and several other players.

With each country determining their own lockdown rules, and with Serbia’s coronavirus stats on the decline, the Serbian Government gave the go ahead and the first leg kicked off in Belgrade, Serbia.

Thousands of tennis faithful flocked to the event, where social distancing was not adhered to and only a few spectators wore masks. The players were also engaging in many social activities on and off the courts. Djokovic was grilled by the press but maintained that they had followed the Serbian Government’s instructions and that it was not his call to make.

Grigor Dimitrov drops the “bomb”

The second leg, which was played this past weekend in Zadar, Croatia, saw a seemingly unwell Grigor Dimitrov suffer an easy loss to Borna Coric and then withdraw from his second match.

Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev had advanced to Sunday’s final and shortly before they were expected to walk on to the court, Dimitrov announced on his Instagram account that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and asked anyone who was in contact with him to also get tested.

It was then up to Djokovic’s coach and former Grand Slam Champion, Goran Ivanisevic, to make the announcement on court which saw the final and remaining two events cancelled.

Although Dimitrov was the first person to confirm his positive coronavirus test result, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki, Aleksandra Troicki, Novak Djokovic, Jelena Djokovic and several support staff have also tested positive for the virus.

This has cast an unfortunate shadow on the rest of the 2020 season with Djokovic receving lots of flak from around the tennis globe.

The USTA announced some stringent rules for the upcoming US Open, which is scheduled to start on 31 August. These include regular testing, residing at hotels close to airports, limited number of players and staff and no spectators.

Djokovic, Serena Williams and several other players have voiced their opinions and are considering withdrawing from the event.

The French Open organisers moved their tournament date from May to September, which means that “The King of Clay”, Rafael Nadal, will probably skip the US Open in order to prepare for a record thirteenth title on clay.

With the coronavirus cementing it’s hooks around the globe, the idea of cancelling all events for the rest of this year may not be the worst idea.

Bianca Andreescu too strong for Serena Williams in the US Open Ladies final

Tennis fans across the world were treated to an historical US Open Ladies final in the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York yesterday afternoon.

The “Veteran champion”, 37 year old Serena Williams of America, took on the “NextGen superstar”, 19 year old, Bianca Andreescu of Canada, in what turned out to be one hour and forty minutes of powerful tennis.

Williams, one of the greatest tennis players and the current Open Era record holder with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name, is still chasing the elusive 24th title to equal Margaret Court’s overall record.

Williams started this year’s US Open with an impressive 72 WTA career title wins, compared to Andreescu’s 2.

The players met for the first time, less than a month ago in the Rogers Cup (Canadian Open) final. Andreescu was leading 3-1 in the first set, when a distressed Williams was forced to retire with an upper back injury. Andreescu handled the situation with utmost respect towards the 3-time former champion and gave the tennis world a taste of what to look forward to.

Both were in great form going into yesterday’s final. Andreescu had two tough three-set matches, whilst Williams was only pushed to the limits by fellow American, Caty McNally in the second round.

With her tennis clock ticking, and in typical Big Apple style, the stars turned up hoping to witness Williams bag another title.

Williams boasted a powerhouse box, which included husband and internet entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian, Oracene Price (Mom), Venus Williams (sister), Patrick Mouratoglou (coach) other family members, Anna Wintour (“Queen” of the Fashion world) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

In contrast, the Andreescu box included Nicu and Maria Andreescu (Bianca’s Romanian parents) and Sylvain Bruneau (coach). One notable absentee was her now “celebrity” poodle, Coco, who has been in attendance for most of her matches at this year’s US Open.

Andreescu drew first blood by breaking Williams opening service game and then holding her own. Williams sent out a strong warning during the third game. The players exchanged shots at the net when Williams blasted a winner past her young opponent, much to the delight of the partisan New York crowd.

Andreescu continued to apply pressure, forcing a frustrated Williams to make a string of errors and with her service game failing her, she served a double fault to lose the opening set.

Andreescu continued her dominant form in the second set and soon found herself 5-1 up with a double break.

In the Williams box, Oracene Price could hardly bare to watch, looking away and shaking her head and Venus Williams, head buried in her hands, both I’m sure, praying for divine intervention.

On the other hand, Nicu Andreescu was looking relaxed and Maria Andreescu, as we have come to know her, hiding behind her dark glasses, giving nothing away.

But Williams, whose purple Nike dress was now drenched in sweat, sensed her opponent’s maiden Grand Slam title jitters and somehow clawed her way back to level the set at 5-5. The crowd was on their feet, with husband Ohanian leading the charge.

It was however too little, too late as Andreescu managed to hold serve and then belt a forehand winner past Williams for a 6-3 7-5 victory and with it, become the first Canadian tennis player to win a Grand Slam Singles title.

There were heaps of praise exchanged between the players, both during the on-court presentation and post-match interviews.

Andreescu will arise in New York today with a whole new world awaiting her.

As for Williams, she will need to find the “inner” Serena that has won her twenty three Grand Slam titles and work on that before the Australian Open in January next year.

The Children Act (Movie)

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 Based on Ian McEwan’s 2014 novel, and led by the Academy Award winning actress, Emma Thompson, “The Children Act” revolves around Thompson’s character, Judge Fiona Maye, who whilst in the midst of dealing with her own marital crisis, has to … Continue reading

Breathers for Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza

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The much anticipated showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova did not get underway today after Williams withdrew from the French Open with a suspected pectoral injury. The announcement was made just hours before the two ladies were supposed to … Continue reading