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Patrick Mouratoglou's brave new world of tennis, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, is back in play with its third edition taking place this weekend in Antwerp from 16-18 October.
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Osaka withdraws from Paris, fans reduced

Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury, while the FFT is reducing the number of fans that will be allowed to attend Roland Garros due to the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year. My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay - these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time. I wish the organisers and players all the best. Naomi Osaka

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the 22-year old World No 3 wrote on social media in English and Japanese. “My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time.

“I wish the organisers and players all the best.”

The French Open starts on Sunday, 27 September, and runs until 11 October after being postponed from its usual late May-June slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hamstring issue prompted Osaka to withdraw from the final of the Western & Southern Open in the run-up to the US Open but did not appear to hinder her at Flushing Meadows.

Osaka made headlines in New York as much for her performances on court as for her commitment to social justice causes, wearing a different mask for each of her seven US Open match appearances that carried the name of a Black American, aiming to highlight racial injustice in the United States to a wider audience.

The withdrawal of Osaka, who has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros, comes as another blow to the tournament after World No 1 Ashleigh Barty said she would not be defending her title due to COVID-19 concerns, preferring to remain at home in Australia.

Osaka’s absence improves Serena Williams’s chances of winning a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title if the American chooses to play after the 38-year-old pulled out of the Italian Open this week with an Achilles issue.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer will not compete as he continues to recover from knee surgery, while  Jo-Wilfred Tsonga has announced he will miss Paris and the rest of the 2020 season as his persistent injury problems continue.

The World No 52 is a former four-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, with two of those coming at Roland Garros, but has had a torrid few years with knee problems and back pain.

“2020 is to be forgotten,” Tsonga said on Twitter. “But I still have the morale, the rage, the desire & the motivation to come back in 2021, hoping that things will evolve positively.

“Finding the courts and fighting against all these incredible players would be a dream.

“I still have the morale, the rage, the desire and the motivation to come back in 2021, hoping that things will develop for the better.”

Popular Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has written 2020 off due to on-going injury problems

© Manan Vatsyana/AFP via Getty Images

Fewer fans

Organisers of the French Open will permit only 5,000 spectators per day following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, L’Equipe reported on Thursday.

The FFT had announced earlier this month that the tournament will allow a maximum of 11,500 fans per day at the clay court major, with the aim of hosting daily crowds of 5,000 at both the Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen show courts while 1,500 fans were slated to watch matches at the smaller Simonne-Mathieu court.

The report said organisers are still looking to host 5,000 fans a day at Philippe-Chatrier, but none on Suzanne-Lenglen or Simonne-Mathieu court.

France has recorded over 438,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 31,000 deaths, according to a Reuters

© Christophe Guibbaud/FFT



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