BSP-01 Serena through to last 16 as fresh controversy hits US Open





Serena through to last 16 as fresh controversy hits US Open

NEW YORK, Sept 6, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Serena Williams battled into the US Open

last 16 Saturday as the tournament endured fresh controversy after New York

health officials ordered the women’s top doubles pairing be withdrawn over

coronavirus restrictions.

Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, came from a set

down to oust 2017 champion Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, in what she called an

“intense” encounter on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“In that first set I don’t think she made any errors, honestly. She was just

playing so clean and I just said, ‘I don’t want to lose in straight sets,'” said

Williams. With spectators barred from this year’s Flushing Meadows event due to

the pandemic, second and fourth seeds Sofia Kenin and Naomi Osaka took advantage

of suites they have been assigned to check out the competition.

“It’s cool us players can watch each other. It’s interesting, I like it,”

said Williams, who will play 15th seed Maria Sakkari for a place in the


The Greek player, who stunned Williams at the Western & Southern Open last

month, progressed with a 6-3, 6-1 dismantling of America’s 22nd seed Amanda


Off the court, number one seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos were

yanked from the women’s doubles competition after Mladenovic was instructed to

quarantine for coming in contact with French compatriot Benoit Paire, who tested

positive for COVID-19 last weekend.

“All persons who were identified as having prolonged close contact with the

infected player will quarantine in their rooms for the remainder of their

quarantine period,” the United States Tennis Association said in a statement.

The USTA said local public health authorities had issued the quarantine

notices, which prevented the players commuting from their hotel to the USTA

Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“The USTA is obligated to adhere to government guidance at the State, City

and County level,” the body said.

– ‘Brutal’ –

A spokesman for New York state’s health department said the decision was “in

the best interest” of health and safety.

But France’s Alize Cornet described the move as “very brutal.”

“It’s definitely weird because she could play her first round of singles and

first round of doubles, and now suddenly she’s kicked out,” Cornet added, after

progressing to the last 16 when Madison Keys retired injured.

The shock intervention came a day after government officials tried to prevent

Adrian Mannarino, who had also been in contact with Paire, from playing his

last-32 match.

The health department contacted the USTA to say Mannarino should be

quarantining in his hotel room.

The match got underway three hours after its scheduled start time, after

authorities ruled it could go ahead following discussions with tennis officials

that also included lobbying by world number one Novak Djokovic.

Mannarino and Mladenovic were two of 11, mostly French players, put under

enhanced safety protocols on Monday after Paire was withdrawn from the US Open

the previous day following his positive test.

– Pironkova wins again –

The players signed an agreement with New York City authorities that allowed

them to remain in the tournament under the enhanced restrictions, which involved

daily testing and barred them from communal areas in their hotel.

Mannarino said Friday that organizers told him that New York state

authorities had taken over the case and ruled that he was now not allowed to


Following her first-round singles win on Monday, Mladenovic said she had been

“living in a nightmare” following Paire’s positive test result.

The US Open is taking place behind closed doors because of the deadly


Players movements are tightly controlled and everyone onsite is being tested

regularly to minimize the risk of infection.

Paire, who later tested negative, exited the tournament in a huff, accusing

authorities of operating a “fake bubble.”

The players who were in contact with him have been told they won’t be allowed

to fly out of New York until next week.

Back on the court Saturday, Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev, Italy’s sixth

seed Matteo Berrettini and Andrey Rublev, all entered the last 16 with easy

three-set wins.

Second seed Dominic Thiem also progressed to round four, overcoming 2014

champion Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

And Canada’s 94th-ranked Vasek Pospisil shocked eighth-seeded Spaniard

Roberto Bautista Agut and Australia’s 21st seed Alex de Minaur upset 11th-seeded

Russian Karen Khachanov.

In the women’s draw, unranked Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, playing her first

tournament in three years, knocked out 18th seed Donna Vekic.

Second seed Sofia Kenin defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to set

up a match against Belgium’s Elise Mertens for a quarter-final place.

And former number one Victoria Azarenka said she had “a great opportunity” to

end her seven-year wait for a third Grand Slam after booking a last 16 berth

with a straight-sets win over Poland’s Iga Swiatek.