Tokyo Olympic tennis schedule set

The official schedule for the tennis event at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo has been announced.

It will take place from Saturday, July 25 to Sunday, Aug. 2, during the event’s first week. The Olympics conclude Aug. 9.

Men’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles gold will happen on what the event is calling “Golden Sunday”. The women’s singles will be played on “Super Saturday”. The men’s doubles goes Friday.

Matches will be at Ariake Tennis Park. The men’s and women’s WTA events held there in September were relocated last year, as the venue was renovated for the Games.

Gabriela Sabatini receives Chatrier Award

Former player Gabriela Sabatini is the 2019 recipient of the Philippe Chatrier Award.

Named after the former ITF President, the award is given to “individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the sport of tennis both on and off the court.”

Per the release, Sabatini “spends a significant amount of time promoting tennis and helping children around the world, working with UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Olympics and as an Athlete Role Model at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games.”

It will be presented in Paris at the ITF Champions Dinner, during the French Open.

ITF revamps senior tennis, too

The ITF is not just instituting major change on the pro circuit.

Even the seniors (the over-35s) are feeling it.

A “strategic development plan” for 2019-2021 was announced in January.

And now, for July 1, come changes to the seniors’ ranking system. In the meantime, as the new ITF Tour did, they will have shadow rankings.

(A quick sampling reveals that most players’ rankings have changed).

They’re talking about things like “evening and weekend” formats, shortened formats and, on the plus side, expanding the number of tournaments.

Currently, some 75 per cent of ITF seniors events are held in Europe.

Former junior Ramirez suspended 4 years

After a provisional doping suspension issued last June (which we wrote about here), former top junior César Ramirez has learned his fate.

The Mexican player received a four-year ban, backdated to April 12, 2018.

The story is complex. (You can read the full report here).

In a nutshell, either Ramirez wanted a trainer he was working with to take the fall.

Or the trainer, Alvaro Gonzalez, switched to banned drugs to get better results – to advance his own career.

Either way – the lesson is obvious: don’t deal with random trainers in random gyms that you don’t know very well.

Best-of-three for Tokyo singles gold

Among the events in men’s tennis that should be decided in a best-of-five formats, you’d have to include the Olympic gold medal match.

Right?

But the ITF has decided to shorten it to best-of-three for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

As well, all doubles matches will have match tiebreaks in lieu of third sets (in Rio, only the mixed did that).

The reason? To “reduce concerns of overplay for players who reach the latter stages of all three events – singles, doubles and mixed doubles.”

Note: only six of the 29 total men’s doubles matches in Rio went the distance.

Tainted meat negates doping suspension

Mexico’s Marcela Zacarias has escaped a doping suspension because of the prevalence of the anabolic steroid trenbolone in her country’s cattle supply.

The 24-year-old was able to prove “on the balance of probabilities” that the positive test came as the result of eating meat.

According to the case file, Zacarias ate 10 1/2 ounces of meat for both lunch and dinner from the hotel buffet, during a Fed Cup tie, the day before her test. No reports so far of other teammates testing positive.

Her suspension, imposed last August (she hasn’t played since), was lifted “with immediate effect”.

Roland Garros to add quad wheelchair events

Wimbledon announced in November that it would add the quad division to its wheelchair events as of 2019.

Last week, Roland Garros announced it would do the same, meaning all four Grand Slams now will have it.

That’s great news for five-time Australian Open champion Dylan Alcott – the face of the sport and also the reigning US Open champion.

He can now go for a Grand Slam.

The quad draws are still very small.

But Uniqlo has gotten involved as a sponsor and, with these additional exposure opportunities, the sport can only grow.

Leather required for Fed Cup party

Female tennis players spend so much time in tennis gear they generally relish the opportunities to get fancied up for tournament player parties and Fed Cup dinners.

But the American squad hosting Australia in Asheville, NC this weekend decided to reverse that, going for a more casual look.

On first review, the thought was … “Hmmm”.

But on second look, how sweet are those leather coats and boots?

Australia obviously got the heads’ up. Because their matching jackets were leagues above some of their “air hostess” costumes from past years.

Germany leathered first, though.

Without Nishikori, Japan advances

The qualifying for the “new” Davis Cup had a lot of stories that began, “Despite the absence of (top player X) …”

Japan was no exception. They met China without rock star Kei Nishikori.

But the No. 2 player, New York-born Taro Daniel, saved the day with two singles victories.

Again, the new format hurt as Chinese No. 1 Zhe Zhang (also the team’s best doubles player) played the second singles Friday, then a 2 1/2-hour doubles match to open Saturday.

Yibing Wu, 19, stepped in to face Yoshihito Nishioka. The Japanese No. 1 needed just 52 minutes to even the tie at 2-2.

*Shauger* rules in Bratislava

Denis Shapovalov’s straight-sets win over Slovakia No. 1 Martin Klizan, with Canada down 1-2, was terrific. 

A decade Klizan’s junior, the 19-year-old had more legs left after both played doubles to open Saturday’s play.

But it was Félix Auger-Aliassime – in his live Davis Cup debut – who impressed.

Just 18, Auger-Aliassime recovered mentally from losing singles Friday and losing the doubles earlier Saturday. He defeated Norbert Gombos 6-3, 6-4 in the decider to send Canada to the finals.

“Obviously it’s crazy, the best moment of my career, my life. I’ve never felt these emotions before, it’s just pure happiness,” Auger-Aliassime told Sportsnet.