Karolina Pliskova cruises into Tianjin Open quarter-finals

Sport360 staff 11/10/2018
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Pliskova is through to the quarterfinals of the China open.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova eased herself into the quarter-finals of the Tianjin Open on Wednesday with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Polona Hercog.

The Czech, who won her second title of the year in Tokyo last month, was in control throughout and won the first five games of the match.

The second set was slightly tougher for Pliskova, who saved a break point with a drop volley and then sent down an ace to bring up a fourth match point. Another big serve forced a Hercog error to seal the win.

Pliskova won 80 per cent of her first serve points and faced just one break point against her serve, which came in the very last game of the match.

Aryna Sabalenka was also a comfortable winner as she saw off Magda Linette 6-1 6-3 in one hour and 13 minutes.

At the WTA Ladies Linz in Austria, German wildcard Andrea Petkovic pulled off a shock when she defeated top seed Julia Goerges in their first-round clash.

Petkovic beat compatriot Goerges, the world number nine, 1-6 7-5 6-4 after two hours.

Earlier, number three seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova came through her first-round match against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens with a 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5) win.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the sixth seed from Russia, had to come from behind to beat Vera Lapko of Belarus 5-7 7-6 (4) 6-3.

Ninth seed Katerina Siniakova, though, lost 7-5 6-0 to Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova and Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck recovered to beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three sets, 1-6 7-6 (3) 7-6 (5).

In Wednesday’s other later matches, Dutch world number 10 Kiki Bertens, the second seed, defeated home player Barbara Haas 6-2 6-1 before Italian Camila Giorgi beat Swiss Jil Teichmann in straight sets, 7-6 (2) 6-3.

At the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open, fourth seed Garbine Muguruza secured her place in the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-1 win over Romanian Ana Bogdan.

Number eight seed Alize Cornet, however, is out after the Frenchwoman was beaten in three sets, losing 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) to Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum, ranked 105 in the world.

Teenager Dayana Yastremska is through after the 18-year-old’s earlier 6-3 6-3 success against Zheng Saisai of China, while Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova coasted past Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova 6-1 6-0.

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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to play exhibition match in Saudi Arabia

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World number one Rafael Nadal on Sunday said he has agreed to play an exhibition match against fellow Grand Slam title winner Novak Djokovic in Saudi Arabia in December.

The match between the two stars will take place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City on December 22.

“Thanks for the invitation and looking forward to playing and visiting for the first time,” Nadal said on Twitter.

Nadal, the reigning French Open champion, has 17 Grand Slam titles to his name.

Former world number one Djokovic, now at three in the rankings, won Wimbledon and the US Open this year to take his majors collection to 14.

Djokovic and Nadal have played 52 times in their careers with the Serb leading their head-to-head 27-25.

Saudi Arabia has hosted a series of international sports events in recent months.

The first women’s professional squash tournament took place in January while last month saw Britain’s Callum Smith knock out compatriot George Groves in a World Boxing Association super middleweight boxing bout in Jeddah.

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Fatma Al Nabhani awaits conclusion of ITF investigation

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Omani tennis player Fatma Al Nabhani is still waiting for the ITF to conclude their investigation into the racism allegations she made against the officials of the $25k tournament in Clermont-Ferrand, and has revealed further information about what happened.

Al Nabhani walked out on the French tournament during the third set of her second round against Myrtille Georges last week after feeling that chair umpire, Maxime Frèche-Thibaud, was biased against her.

The 27-year-old, who is the Gulf region’s first female professional tennis player, said the umpire made wrong calls on multiple match points she had in the second set, overruling the line judge and then gave her a code violation for complaining, while ignoring her opponent’s swearing that went unpunished.

Al Nabhani also faced trouble in her first round when a different chair umpire asked her to take off the leggings she was wearing under her skirt, despite it being a legal outfit she has been wearing for 12 years on the tennis circuit. After she finally convinced him to check with the tournament supervisor, he allowed her to play with it, but asked her to hike it up by two inches.

“This much of extra skin you want to see, are you satisfied?” she told him then played and won her match.

This wasn’t the first time an official tried to prevent Al Nabhani from competing with leggings under her skirt, which she wears to respect her religious beliefs and one that is approved by the ITF and WTA.

“This wasn’t the first time having an experience with racism, a French supervisor called Frank Sabatier in Tunisia once didn’t allow me to play with leggings and his question was, ‘Do you wear them because it’s cold or because of your religion?’ I told him, ‘Because of my religion and also it’s cold’. He said, ‘Then you’re not allowed to play with it’. I reported this to [ITF head of officiating] Seoren Friemel in 2015.”

At the Clermont tourament, Al Nabhani also cited other incidents that occurred both on and off the court in a lengthy report she sent to the ITF, who have launched an investigation into the matter but are yet to reveal their conclusions.

In a phone interview with Sport360, Al Nabhani explained what she hopes to be the outcome of this entire unfortunate episode.

“First of all, I hope that we all be treated fairly and equally,” said the Omani.

“And the second thing, is for them to respect the way I dress and what I compete in, and not to get insulted because of just the way I dress and compete.

“I hope something is going to change, because this is not the first time that I get comments on the way I wear leggings under my skirt. Enough is enough. I hope we all get treated equally and that everyone respects each other, that’s how we’ve been raised on the tennis court, that we all respect each other.

“And also we’re playing professional tournaments, the organisers and everyone also have to be professional, and not to act, or do things the way I’ve experienced in the past week. We just hope for the best for all of us athletes, to be just treated equal, that’s it.”

Al Nabhani revealed further details about what happened in Clermont-Ferrand, including the conversation she had with the supervisor Nicolas Peigné after she abandoned her second-round match.

The problems started when her opponent Georges refused to pick up the balls that were scattered all over the court, since the tournament doesn’t provide ball kids. Al Nabhani said she would make sure she picked up the balls on her side of the court but Georges wouldn’t, and when she realised Al Nabhani was getting annoyed and distracted by the balls on her side of the court, the Frenchwoman started to kick balls to the net on purpose.

Al Nabhani asked the umpire to tell Georges to remove the balls.

“He told me, ‘I can’t ask her to do this. It’s her side of the court’,” Al Nabhani said.

“With permission from the umpire, I used to go to her side of the court and remove the balls because it was really distracting.

“She kept doing it on purpose. I requested the supervisor. It’s my right to request the supervisor in an incident like this because the chair umpire wouldn’t intervene.”

But Frèche-Thibaud refused to bring the supervisor.

When the umpire overruled a ball on the sideline that is farthest away from him, which the line judge had deemed in for Al Nabhani on match point at 6-5 in the second set, the Omani went and spoke to him.

“The match was over. I had won. Even the girls who were next on court picked up their bags because they thought the match was over,” she explains.

“I told him, ‘Come on, this unacceptable, you have to be fair. How many match points do I have to win to win the match?”

The umpire then gave her a code violation for complaining.

Her mother was watching from the sidelines and also started to get angry at the situation.

“Later, the supervisor told me I got the code violation because of my mother getting angry. Meanwhile, the umpire tells me I got the code because I complained. So which is it? They were both giving contradicting reasons for the code.

“And on the other side of the court, my opponent is swearing in French, words that we all know are swear words. And she never got a code.”

Al Nabhani lost the second set, and when she got a bad call in the second game of the third set, she knew she had to stop.

“I was like I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt there was nothing else I can do,” she says.

“The umpire only called the referee, when I told him I was quitting the match. He didn’t even ask me why.

“After walking off court, I was so emotional and frustrated while talking to the referee.

“He kept threatening my mother, ‘Stop talking or else I’ll give a fine to Fatma. We are going to kick you out if you continue talking’. We never uttered a single bad word, we were just complaining about the situation.

“At the referee’s office, he kept threatening me with a fine. He refused to listen to me.

“I kept begging him, ‘Please listen to me, let me tell you what happened, hear me out’.”

Finally Peigné agreed to listen to her complaints, and her account of what happened to her from the start of the tournament, including the incident with her leggings.

“He told me, ‘Why are you complaining now, because you lost?’

“I told him it’s a sensitive topic, but when it piled up I could see clearly the situation.

“He had no response or explanation about the umpire refusing to bring him out during the match, even though I requested him multiple times to intervene about the balls she left everywhere on the court, as well as the bad calls.

“I felt insulted and humiliated during the match. I had no choice but to speak up.”

Al Nabhani publicly accused the umpire, and the tournament, of racism in a video post on her Instagram, as well as in the report she sent to the ITF.

“I was the only one treated like this in the whole tournament. My mother wears the hijab, they wanted me to take off my leggings. What else can it be?” she said.

“Either he is against me personally or he is fixing the match. I don’t see a third option.”

One of the players who watched parts of the match, Sviatlana Pirazhenka, believes the umpire was indeed biased against Al Nabhani but says it wasn’t necessarily racism.

“It’s a common problem that referees in France have the intention to help French players,” said Pirazhenka, who also reached out to Al Nabhani and sent her a message of support.

Meanwhile, Peigné denied all of Al Nabhani’s accusations in an interview with L’Equipe’s Quentin Moynet.

“These are totally inappropriate words; there has never been a question of racism,” he said.

“She released a flood of accusations about the tournament that did not make much sense. She felt rejected because she is Muslim. While that’s not the case at all. There are three other Muslims in the draw, we have a Turkish referee who officiates here and is Muslim, and one of the organising team is Muslim. There is no connection with that.

“The tournament has existed for 12 years and has always been very good. I made the effort to talk for a good 20 minutes to get her version and explain that we had nothing against her. She’s a girl I already had in another tournament, Le Havre last year, it had gone very well.”

In an interview with L’Equipe, Georges hit out at Al Nabhani’s accusations.

“It’s been two days that I’m receiving messages of insult, not very nice messages because of the story of a girl who was just not able to finish her match. I find it a pity. I am a little surprised by her message on social media. We are in no way in a story of racism,” said Georges.

“What is deplorable is that had she won one of her match points, there would never have been a word about the story. It hurts a French tournament. We do not have many, so if in addition to the players try to destroy us, it’s a shame. If she thinks it’s a question of religion, she’s wrong. It is unfortunate for the volunteers and all the people who for a year are working, who are doing their best. I think it hurt them a lot to hear that. They are adorable with all the players.”

The ITF team responsible for the investigation is currently in the due diligence process, gathering material and witnesses reports, Sport360 has learned.

Meanwhile, Al Nabhani returned to Oman to a big reception with fans and friends carrying banners of support.

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