Garbine Muguruza says a women's Laver Cup would be 'awesome'

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World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza.

A Laver Cup-style tournament would be “awesome” for women’s tennis, world number one Garbine Muguruza said, but warned it would be difficult to schedule in an already packed calendar.

Muguruza said she had seen clips of Team Europe’s Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battling Team World for the maiden title last weekend in a packed stadium in Prague.

“I just love that people go and watch tennis and the stadium was full,” she said. “It would be awesome to also have it on the women’s side.”

But the 23-year-old Spaniard, speaking at the Wuhan Open in China, warned it would be tough to find a date.

“It could be a mess to figure out when we could do it. No matter what you want to do with our schedule, it’s very hard,” she told AFP.

The Laver Cup format, similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, saw Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych representing Europe against the Team World’s Sam Querrey, John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe.

World number two Roger Federer clinched the first ever title for Team Europe by beating Nick Kyrgios in a super tiebreak thriller.

The Swiss and his management company, Team8, are the people behind the event, and they got the backing of the USTA and Tennis Australia.

Federer was asked in Prague last weekend during the Laver Cup if he would be interested in being involved in launching a similar competition for the women.

The 19-time major champion said: “About a women’s Laver Cup, I don’t know, I have to speak to Tony (Godsick from Team8) and the group, but we would be open. Of course we would be. I love my women in my life, and they have been wonderful. And I follow the women’s game as much as I possibly can. A big fan. Sure, I’m happy to look into it.”

Caroline Wozniacki, the world number six, also warned a women’s Laver Cup would be tough to arrange.

“If it did happen on the women’s side everyone would have to stick together in wanting to play that week and not go for another tournament,” she said. “So I’m not sure if it would work. “

Early autumn is a particularly hectic period for the top female tennis players as they launch themselves into the Asian swing in Tokyo before zooming off to Wuhan and then Beijing in a bid to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Agnieszka Radwanska said Wednesday that players are exhausted after a long season after most of the seeds suffered early exits in Wuhan.

The Pole was speaking after she joined the exodus of tournament favourites including Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Johanna Konta, Sloane Stephens and Maidson Keys.

US Open winner Stephens said her travel schedule had stopped her from watching the Laver Cup and that she didn’t know the format.

“But if it’s good for guys, it’s good for girls,” she added.

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Will Muguruza hang on to the No. 1 ranking? Can Sharapova find some momentum? Five burning questions entering the WTA Asian swing

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At the helm: Garbine Muguruza.

The WTA’s Asian swing kicks off in earnest on Monday with action taking place in Tokyo (Premier), Seoul (International) and Guangzhou (International).

A marquee line-up will feature at the Toray PPO Tennis event, with five top-10 players — Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, Johanna Konta and Dominika Cibulkova — all taking part.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is the top seed in Seoul while top Arab Ons Jabeur is in the Guangzhou main draw.

Muguruza is the only player to seal qualification for the WTA Finals so far which means the battle for the remaining eight spots will heat up in the upcoming weeks.

Here’s a look at the main talking points as we head into the final strength of the season…

Who will end the year as No. 1?

Muguruza replaced Pliskova at the top of the world rankings after the conclusion of the US Open — a tournament which started with eight different players with a mathematical chance of claiming the No. 1 spot.

The Spaniard is just a mere 65 points ahead of Simona Halep in the rankings though and the fight for the year-end No. 1 ranking will feature prominently in the next few weeks.

The top four players — Muguruza, Halep, Elina Svitolina and Pliskova — have just 510 points separating them. Every point scored during these final two months of the season can make all the difference for the leading pack. Smart scheduling and injury management will prove key in the upcoming period.

Will Ostapenko make Singapore?

Fire power: Jelena Ostapenko.

Firepower: Jelena Ostapenko.

The reigning Roland Garros champion is currently clinging onto the No. 8 spot in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard.

Just last year when Muguruza sealed her Singapore spot fairly late in the season (she was the sixth player to qualify, secured her place on October 13, 2016), despite her winning the French Open earlier in the year, there is a risk in 2017 that a Grand Slam title holder might miss the WTA Finals.

Ostapenko did well by reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals following her Roland Garros exploits but has since gone 2-3 in matches. She needs a strong finish to make Singapore.

Can Sharapova build on her US Open run?

Coming back: Maria Sharapova.
The Russian ex-world No. 1 has struggled with physical problems since her return from a doping ban last April, but finally found some momentum at the US Open, where she made the fourth round before falling to Anastasija Sevastova.

It wasn’t the first time Sharapova had won three matches in a row since her return — she reached the semis in Stuttgart in her first week back — but she claimed far more convincing victories in New York, taking out Halep in a three-set thriller in the opening round.

So far, the Russian has received two wildcards for the Asian swing, in Beijing and Tianjin, where a combined total of 1,280 points are on offer.

She could potentially get more invites. Sharapova is currently No. 103 in the world and would need a few wins to boost her ranking ahead of the 2018 season, where she will surely want to guarantee her place in the main draw of the Australian Open via direct entry rather than waiting for another wildcard.

Will Venus keep rising?

The 37-year-old legend has had a tremendous Grand Slam season in 2017, making the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the semis at the US Open and the last 16 at Roland Garros. Positioned nicely at No. 5 in the Race to Singapore, Venus Williams has the chance to qualify for her first WTA Finals since 2009. She went there as an alternate last year but has a real shot at a top-eight finish this time around.

Can Kerber salvage her season?

This time last year, Angelique Kerber was ranked No. 1 in the world and was holding two Grand Slam titles. Today, she is No. 14 in the world, No. 18 in the race and has won just one match post-Wimbledon. Finishing the season with a few solid wins can help the German regain some confidence and start 2018 in a better position. Will she be able to capitalise on Asia?

She has a rematch with Naomi Osaka in her opener in Tokyo. Osaka beat Kerber in the first round of the US Open. Revenge could be the pick-me-up Kerber needs at the moment.

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Maria Sharapova defends her choice of words in describing Serena Williams' physical appearance in her book

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Sharapova and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah (Credit: Twitter/@TheDailyShow)

Maria Sharapova has responded to criticism regarding the words she used to describe Serena Williams in her book ‘Unstoppable: My life so far’ during an interview on the American talk show ‘The View‘ on Tuesday.

The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion officially released her memoir on Tuesday and made numerous television appearances to promote it.

In her book, Sharapova talks about the first time she faced Williams in a match — in Miami in 2004 — saying: “First of all, her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realise watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. And tall, really tall.”

Sharapova’s words were deemed racist by some and she was asked about the controversy by one of the The View‘s hosts, Sunny Hostin.

“You’re receiving a lot of flak from the African-American community the way you described her in the book. You say she had thick legs and thick arms. What do you say to people that are saying ‘why would you use those terms in describing your opponent’?” asked Hostin.

Sharapova replied: “I think you have to understand that I’m speaking from an image of being a 17-year-old girl and seeing Serena Williams in front of me for the first time. I wasn’t physically developed at all, I did not belong at a Wimbledon final, so everything about her presence was intimidating to me.”

Sharapova, who reached the US Open fourth round earlier this month, playing her first Grand Slam tournament back from her doping suspension, said she had to discuss her rivalry with Williams in her book because her win over the 23-time major champion in the Wimbledon final in 2004 played a huge part in her career.

“The whole experience of playing Serena as a 17-year-old girl was incredible, because I grew up practicing in an academy in Florida for so many years and I watched Serena and Venus practice at the academy, hundreds of spectators were watching – literally I was watching the next 25 years of my life right in front of me, unknowingly.

“And then you find yourself at 17 across the net from her. It was like someone just put me inside a TV screen and said ‘here you are, you’ve got a chance to play Serena’,” the ex-world No. 1 added.

“It was our second meeting and the first one, we had just played a few months beforehand, I lost easily, I thought it would take me years to get to her level. She was way above and beyond my level at the time. So playing against her, she was the two-time defending champion, and I speak about that rivalry in the book because that match was a huge part of my life and my career, it’s where it all started for me.”

Sharapova, who returned from her doping ban last April, fielded multiple questions regarding her failed drugs test throughout the day, which started with an appearance on Good Morning America, before stopping by The View and The Daily Show.

Hostin did not make it easy for Sharapova, asking her about the drug meldonium, that led to her failing the test.

“What do you say to the people that are now saying ‘well, the only reason you were No. 1 in the world, the only reason you that you were so dominant is because you were taking a supplement?” said Hostin.

Sharapova replied: “I think it’s such an interesting thing, because when something is legal for so many years, and you take it once during the time that it wasn’t and then people are able to say that, then that’s not facts. So, it was what it was, I went through it, I got through it and I found myself playing at the US Open so…”

Michael Strahan of Good Morning America tried to get Sharapova to talk about how she and her team did not know meldonium was added to the prohibited substances list at the start of 2016.

“We’re going to dive right into it as you do in the book,” said Strahan. “We’re going to talk about the suspension. In the beginning of the book you talk about it, you call it a sloppy mistake. You say you didn’t realise that meldonium was illegal at that time, or on the suspended list, how does that happen?”

She deflected by saying: “It’s a question I was asking for quite some time but once you get past that, it’s time to move on.

“The US Open was an incredible moment for me, I knew what I went through, I knew all the ups and downs I had faced over the last couple of years. Being away from the sport was really difficult, I’ve done this since I was a young girl, so to get that back – that was my dream, that was my wish and I made that happen.”

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