Venus Williams given US Open wild card

By Sports Desk August 18, 2021

Two-time US Open champion Venus Williams has been given a wildcard entry to participate in this year's tournament.

The 41-year-old American will be making her 23rd appearance at Flushing Meadows and a 15th in a row.

Williams, who has not missed a grand slam since Wimbledon in 2013, is one of eight wild card selections for the women's singles draw.

Former semi-finalist CoCo Vandeweghe and Emma Navarro are joined by teenagers Hailey Baptiste, Ashlyn Krueger, Caty McNally and Katie Volynets.

Storm Sanders has been awarded a reciprocal wild card in agreement with Tennis Australia.

Naomi Osaka will be looking to defend her title in New York, with the main draw scheduled to run from August 30 to September 11.

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    The WTA has suspended its upcoming tournaments in China amid concern over the safety of Peng Shuai after she made allegations of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official.

    Peng was not seen in public for several weeks after leveling the accusations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

    She posted the allegations on social media site Weibo in early November, though her post has since been removed and her whereabouts have been unclear.

    In mid-November, an email allegedly sent by Peng was received by WTA chairman Steve Simon, who expressed his confusion and disbelief at the message, which claimed the sexual assault allegations were false and that the tennis star was safely at home.

    The WTA also welcomed pictures of Peng on a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, but a spokesperson for the women's tennis organisation insisted that did not alleviate the concern.

    Simon called for a full investigation into the incident as he said the prior email only heightened his worries over Peng's safety, also threatening to suspend WTA tournament action in China until the matter was resolved.

    He has since confirmed the suspension will be imposed on tournaments in China in a statement released on Wednesday.

    "When on November 2, 2021, Peng Shuai posted an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official, the Women's Tennis Association recognised that Peng Shuai's message had to be listened to and taken seriously," Simon's statement read. 

    "The players of the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less.

    "From that moment forward, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved.

    "As Peng said in her post, 'Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.' She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage."

    The statement outlined a number of grievances with the way the Chinese state has handled the matter, before adding: "As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong.

    "In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault."

  • Former British number one Konta retires from tennis aged 30 Former British number one Konta retires from tennis aged 30

    Former British number one Johanna Konta has announced her retirement from tennis after a continuous battle with a knee injury.

    Konta, who is a three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, has not featured on the WTA Tour since August and decided to step away aged 30.

    She became the first British woman in 39 years to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2017, while also making the last four at the Australia Open a year earlier and at the French Open in 2019.

    Australia-born Konta, a former world number four, collected four titles on the WTA Tour and represented Great Britain in the Fed Cup.

    In a statement posted on social media on Wednesday, Konta said: "Grateful. This is the word that I've probably been used to the most during my career, and is the word that I feel explains it best at the end.

    "My playing career has come to an end, and I am so incredibly grateful for the career that it turned out to be.

    "All the evidence pointed towards me not 'making' it in this profession. However, my luck materialised in the people that came into my life and impacted my existence in ways that transcended tennis.

    "I am so incredibly grateful for these people. You know who you are."

    Konta made her last tour-level appearance at the Cincinnati Open on August 18 when she lost in the first round to Karolina Muchova.

    The Briton had only one win in her last five majors since reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in 2019 and dropped to 113th in the rankings but remains thankful for the opportunities she has been granted.

    "Through my own resilience and through the guidance of others, I got to live my dreams," she added. "I got to become what I wanted and said as a child.

    "How incredibly fortunate I count myself to be. How grateful I am."

  • Novak Djokovic likely to skip Australian Open, claims world number one's father Novak Djokovic likely to skip Australian Open, claims world number one's father

    Novak Djokovic is unlikely to play at the Australian Open in January unless COVID-19 vaccination rules are relaxed, according to the player's father.

    Organisers recently confirmed that players must be vaccinated against coronavirus to compete in the tournament, which begins on January 17.

    World number one Djokovic, who won a record ninth title in Melbourne last year, has not publicly stated whether he has had the jab.

    Srdjan Djokovic told Serbia's TV Prva that being vaccinated is a personal choice, and that Tennis Australia's rules are essentially "blackmail".

    "As far as vaccines and non-vaccines are concerned, it is the personal right of each of us whether we will be vaccinated or not," he was quoted as saying by news website B92.

    "No one has the right to enter into our intimacy, it is guaranteed by the constitution. Everyone has the right to decide on their health.

    "Whether [Novak] is vaccinated or not, that is his exclusive right. Will he publish it, I don't think so. I don't know that decision either, and if I did, I wouldn't share it with you. He has the right to decide as he wants."

    When asked about Djokovic's decision to play in Australia, his father added: "Whether he will appear there depends on how [the organisers] position themselves. He would want it with all his heart because he's an athlete, and we would love that too.

    "Under these blackmails and conditions, he probably won't. I wouldn't do that. And he's my son, so you decide for yourself."

    Djokovic, who is tied on 20 major singles titles with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, recently said he was unsure of his participation following his appearance at the ATP Finals in Turin.

    "I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be and now that I know we'll just have to wait and see," he said.

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