Let’s talk about tennis and politics

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini emerged from that section to reach the semifinals. But the last four men are all stars or superstars and all are in the top eight. Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas have both reached the Grand Slam final. Daniil Medvedev won the US Open last year and Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest players in the long history of the sport and tied with Djokovic on 20 Grand Slam titles. So I think the men’s tournament has maintained its legitimacy and interest, even if no one can ever say it was a full-strength event that lacked Djokovic.

I’m curious what you think about how the Peng Shuai case has been handled by the tennis world. Do you think Australia’s response fits with the general consensus or diverges?

Like too many things in tennis, the reaction was far from unanimous. Power and governance are fragmented in the sport, with the WTA, ATP, International Tennis Federation and each of the four Grand Slam tournaments making their own moves and decisions. While all of these entities have raised concerns about Peng’s safety, the only one taking action is the WTA, the women’s tour, which has suspended tournaments in China and has called for a full Chinese investigation into Peng’s allegations of sexual assault and for an open line of communication with her.

Seen through that prism, Tennis Australia, which leads the Australian Open, is no outlier. But there is more at stake in China than in the other Grand Slam tournaments. It has a major Chinese sponsor, who has his name on one of the Australian Open show courts. Tennis Australia also has offices in China and has promoted Chinese tourism to the tournament. It also wants TV coverage in China, as the time difference to Europe and North America isn’t ideal for those broadcast windows.

The Australian Open promotes itself as the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific, in part because it aims to block the rise of potential rivals for its Grand Slam status in the burgeoning region. But Tennis Australia, like the sport, is at a crossroads with China. Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated. Peng’s predicament and the censorship of her allegations in China underscore the nature of the Chinese regime.

For the time being, Tennis Australia, unlike the WTA, is playing a wait and see game.

Let’s go back to the game. What has been your favorite match so far?

There are a few that will stay with me. Matteo Berrettini barely stopped the dynamic Spanish 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in a tiebreak in the fifth set. France’s Alizé Cornet felt all the emotion of reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal on her 63rd attempt with a grueling win over Simona Halep. Rafael Nadal held on in the heat at the age of 35 to beat young Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who did not sit still, accusing the seat umpires of being “corrupt” for favoring Nadal and the biggest stars.

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