Murray and Skupski exit Salisbury left flying flag
British hopes at the US Open rest on Jay Salisbury’s shoulders in the men’s doubles, after his compatriots Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski lost in straight sets in their quarter-final. Murray’s former doubles partner Bruno Soares and Mate Pavic outmuscled them 6-2 7-6. Salisbury and his partner, American Rajeev Ram, play their semi-final today against Nikola Mektic and Wesley Koolhof.
After battling to qualify for her 16th US Open quarter-final last night, Serena Williams threw doubt on whether she would play at Roland Garros later this month, citing worries about the organisers’ plans to host a crowd.
Last month the 23-time grand slam champion said she definitely saw herself competing at the French major if it went ahead, but following updates to protocols in recent days, Williams was less sure.
Due to more flexible conditions at the US Open, Williams is staying at a private home in New York, while forking out for 24-hour security to make sure she does not leave her biosecure bubble. But it was announced on Sunday that the French Open – which starts on Sept 21 – would take a stricter approach, with all players required to stay in one of two tournament hotels.
“I was hoping to stay at my apartment in Paris, but I’m just taking it a day at a time,” Williams said after her fourth-round win over Greek No 1 Maria Sakkari last night, declining to give a definitive answer as to whether she would play. “[The organisers] are doing the best that they can. So I can’t point fingers.”
When it was pointed out to her that the French Open had still not ruled out hosting fans at 60 per cent capacity though, Williams became more concerned – citing her reduced lung capacity which puts her in a higher risk category when it comes to coronavirus.
“If there are fans, then we should be able to stay elsewhere,” she said. “I’m super conservative because I do have some serious health issues, so I try to stay away from public places, because I have been in a really bad position in the hospital a few times.
“I’m going to have to make the best decision for my health. Maybe it will be good for me to talk to the organisers just to see how that works with the crowd and how we will be protected. But I think it should be OK … I don’t know what the number [of spectators] will be and how close they will be. I still have some questions, but I’m really, ironically, focused on New York. It’s hard because these grand slams are so close to each other this year.”
Sakkari also voiced doubts, saying “it doesn’t make sense to have fans and have us in a bubble”, while British doubles player Jamie Murray echoed the worries after his and Neal Skupski’s quarter-final loss: “It increases the chances of players picking stuff up if they are in or around members of the public … Having been here and seen how much of a lockdown it was, you feel safe. The thought of going in to play
Full power: Serena Williams serves on her way to a three-set win against Maria Sakkari, of Greece
Molly McElwee with members of the public, how do they manage that?”
Coronavirus cases are spiking in Paris, and on Sunday French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said that it was “too early to say” whether any fans would be allowed. Hearing Williams’s thoughts may prove a factor in their decisionmaking, especially if she wins her record-equalling 24th grand slam title in New York, which she remains on track to do despite a tough challenge from Sakkari last night.
When Williams lost to the Greek No1 13 days ago at the Western and Southern Open, she described her growing inability to close out matches as “like dating a guy that you know sucks”. Yesterday, at Arthur Ashe Stadium against the same opponent, she definitely dumped him – but the 38-year-old had to recover from a break down in the third set to get the win, in what was a mesmerising and physical fourthround tie.
“Thank God I got rid of that guy,” she joked after the 6-3 6-7, 6-3 victory. “Never want to see him again. He was the worst.”
She will need to recover from the 2hr 27min three-setter, her second in a row at the tournament, for her quarter-final tomorrow, in which she plays Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova.