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Point-counterpoint: Making the case for Barty and Andreescu – WTA Tennis



Ashleigh Barty is quick to tell reporters that while tennis is her profession, it is not her personal hobby. The World No.1 rarely has the television tuned to tennis when she’s kicking up her feet at home or hotel room.

“I’ve probably seen all of 30 or 40 minutes of tennis over the last 12 or 13 months,” Barty said earlier in the tournament. “It’s not something that I ever flick on and watch.”

Yet, going into her first-ever meeting against Canada’s Bianca Andreescu for the Miami Open championship, Barty had no problem breaking down the 20-year-old’s game perfectly.

“Bianca has shown in big tournaments that she’s got the ability to beat the very best, and I know from the little that I have seen that she’s got a way of moving around the court that’s extremely physical,” Barty said. “She’s got great hands and she’s got options off both sides. She’s got a chisel off both sides and has the ability to flip the ball up or hit through the court.

“I think that’s what makes her game exceptionally challenging is that she has so many different assets and so many different things that she can go to ultimately let her competitor in her figure it out.”

Barty might as well be describing herself.

With 24-year-old Barty taking on Andreescu, 20, in Saturday’s Championship Final at the Miami Open, it pits the two most tactically gifted young players against each other for the first time. Both women possess every shot in the book, the tennis IQ to construct the right play at the right moment and the creativity to improvise and problem-solve when needed.

Question is: Who has the advantage? WTA Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen and Web Editor Alex Macpherson state their cases:

Advantage, Barty

Ashleigh Barty goes into Saturday on an 11-match winning streak in Miami and looking to successfully defend a title for the first time in her career. It’s an impressive return to form for the World No.1, who is playing just her fourth tournament since the 2020 shutdown and has already made her second final.

Playing her first WTA 1000 event since 2020 Doha, Barty will once again have to go through three Top 10 players to capture her 10th career title and second of the season. In 2019, it was No.8 Kiki Bertens, No.2 Petra Kvitova and No.7 Karolina Pliskova. This year, Barty has gone through No.8 Aryna Sabalenka in three tough sets in the quarterfinals and No.5 Elina Svitolina in the semifinals. She has also knocked off two major champions in Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka. Andreescu would be her third.

Her even-keeled demeanor and perspective have obscured her dramatic heroics during the tournament. She had every excuse to bow out early against Kristina Kucova, where, after enduring a 50-hour journey from Brisbane to Miami, battling jet lag and playing her first match outside of Australia in over a year, Barty found herself down a match point late in the third set of her opener.

Instead, she fired a confident forehand return winner to wipe out the match point. Then, down 0-40 as she looked to serve out the match at 6-5, she hit back-to-back aces and a volley winner to get out of trouble and close the match and win 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. And in her best match of the tournament against Sabalenka, Barty saved 7 of 7 break points to withstand the barrage of power coming from the Belarusian and win 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.

If Barty were to lift the trophy on Saturday, she would be the second player to win a title after being down a match point. World No.2 Naomi Osaka did it at the Australian Open.

“I think the confidence, without a doubt, comes from the practice and the training, knowing that I have worked extremely hard with my team to refine my game,” Barty said. “But I think the calmness, almost seeming like everything will be OK in the end, [is because] I know that everything will be OK in the end.

“It’s not going to ruin my day whether I win a tennis match or not. Of course it’s disappointing [if I lose]. I want to try and be the best that I can be and the competitor in me loves to win, but in saying that, the sun will always come up the next day.”

Barty comes into the final battle-tested, rested and confident. Since the start of 2019, the Aussie has won six of the eight finals she has contested, most recently defeating Garbiñe Muguruza at the Yarra Valley Classic in February. She has also won 14 of her 20 matches against Top 10 opposition over that span, including her past five.

While Andreescu has had to go the distance in four straight matches, Barty has been more efficient. The Canadian has spent 12 hours and 4 minutes on court in Miami, compared to Barty’s 9 hours and 13 minutes. Notably, Andreescu’s last four matches have all been played at night. Barty has been a day-session mainstay throughout the tournament. The Queenslander will already be acclimatized to the heat and humidity of a 1 p.m. ET final.

“It’s been a lot warmer,” Barty said. “Physically it’s been quite demanding. I remember [in 2019] we had a lot of rain, a lot of late nights, and a lot of disrupted matches.

“So it’s been a little bit of an adjustment this year, but without a doubt, the quality of tennis has been just as good and just as consistent, which is what obviously you’re after in big events.” — Nguyen 

Advantage, Andreescu 

Back in 2011, Marion Bartoli told the press that the challenge of playing Serena Williams was that she felt Serena was “taking all the space” on court. Bartoli didn’t mean physical space but emotional and psychological space. Regardless of the scoreline, the match and its narrative centered around Serena – unless Bartoli could carve out some of that space for herself.

That’s an insight I often think about when watching Bianca Andreescu. The Canadian has become one of focal points on the WTA Tour, in the best possible way. Often, nothing separates her from her opponent on the scoreboard or even the level of tennis. Regardless, the 2019 US Open champion has a habit of turning every match she plays into the Bianca Andreescu ride. Both her wide repertoire of shots and her vocal exhortations feed into the sense that Andreescu is the star of the show. When she’s up, her tennis can seem irresistible. When she’s down, that’s just the canvas for her to demonstrate her clutch instincts.

The numbers bear this out. Since the start of Indian Wells 2019, Andreescu has played 38 completed matches. Twenty-three have gone to three sets, and she has won 20 of those. In two of her losses, to Simona Halep at the 2019 WTA Finals and Marie Bouzkova in the Phillip Island Trophy semifinals in February, Andreescu held match point. The other was to Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Beijing quarterfinals.

Returning from a year on the sidelines, Andreescu’s penchant for thrills has not been dimmed in 2021. The 20-year-old’s record in deciding sets this year alone is 7-1, a total boosted by four consecutive three-set victories this fortnight in Miami. All have been wild rides:

  • R2: d. [Q] Tereza Martincova 7-6(5), 6-2. Came from 3-5 down and saved two set points in the first set.
  • R3: d. [28] Amanda Anisimova 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-4. Went 0-10 on break points before winning the first set on a tiebreak; lost 2-0 lead in second set.
  • R4: d. [12] Garbiñe Muguruza 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Faced two break points to go down a set and a break.
  • QF: d. Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Won the first set from a double break down, did not hold serve in the second set.
  • SF: d. [23] Maria Sakkari 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4). Saved two set points in the first set, lost second set from a break up, was twice a break down in the decider.

It’s reminiscent of Andreescu’s 2019 Toronto run, in which she won four straight three-setters over Eugenie Bouchard, Daria Kasatkina, Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova en route to the title. That was her first tournament back from a shoulder injury. This is her third following her 2020 hiatus.

A first-time encounter against No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty in the final pits Andreescu’s chaotic spectacle against the Australian’s head-down businesslike demeanour. In tennis terms, a clash between two players who possess every shot in the book is tantalizing. But if Andreescu can drag Barty into playing the match on her terms – a scrap deep in the third set – you’d have to favour her to thrive and notch up another important title on North American hardcourts. — Macpherson 

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For Oilers, Archibald’s selfish anti-vaccine stance is not worth the risk –



EDMONTON — One is a player who opted to honour his commitment to his new team in Edmonton. The other, just another selfish anti-vaxxer who is betting on himself, somewhat foolishly.

One is a player the general manager staked his reputation on, with much pedigree and a handful of Stanley Cup rings. A guy who came to town billed as a leader, and then backed it up when he rolled up his sleeve despite obvious misgivings about being vaccinated.

Sure, Duncan Keith should have gotten vaccinated a month sooner. But give him some credit for putting the team — society and the Oilers — ahead of himself. Even if he waited until the 11th hour to do it.

Then there is depth winger Josh Archibald, who will be replaced by Game 1 of the regular season if he doesn’t give his head a shake. He is from that young, conspiracy-oriented demographic that has been suckered in by far-right disinformation, and tweets about idiocy like “the plandemic.”

“I’m happy that he’s going to be part of our team this year, fully vaccinated,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said of Keith, a player Holland had seriously dug in on to convince him to get vaccinated. Mike Smith took some work, too, we are told, but now both are vaccinated and ready to do what they were brought in to accomplish.

The other player is more selfish than that.

Archibald is a nice, fourth-line penalty killer in a normal season. He’ll get you 10 goals a year. But for this, the third COVID-affected NHL campaign, an unvaccinated Archibald just isn’t worth it.

Holland and head coach Dave Tippett sat down with Archibald on Tuesday and spelled out how many games he would miss and what it would mean to be Canada’s only unvaccinated NHL player. It would cost him up to 40 per cent of his $1.5 million salary. Maybe more.

Now Holland sits, and hopes that Archibald changes his mind before the GM has to send him to AHL Bakersfield. He is virtually untradeable, as Archibald could not play games in Canada for a U.S.-based team, and poses a risk that no fourth-liner can justify.

“There are a team or two out there that have made the decision that unvaccinated players are not welcome at training camp. I have not made that decision as of this time,” Holland said on Wednesday. “I think the player is going through the process to decide. It’s a difficult decision. I’ll give [Archibald] the appropriate time, and I’ll see where I’m at in a week, 10 days from now. We’ll see.”

Editor’s note: With overwhelming consistency, research has shown vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Residents of Alberta who are looking to learn more about vaccines can find up-to-date information here. Further details on COVID-19 and the country’s pandemic response are available on Canada’s public health website.

In a strange twist of fate, Keith — who received his vaccination in the United States only this week — is in quarantine until next Friday, while the unvaccinated Archibald is undergoing daily testing while attending Edmonton Oilers training camp.

But here’s the reality of all this: A Canadian team simply can not have an unvaccinated player on its roster.

By Holland’s math, an unvaccinated player who must serve a 14-day quarantine every time he comes over the U.S. border and into Canada, would miss “30-plus games” this season. He’d also miss a ton of practice time, and would lose one-200th of his pay for every day missed due to the federally mandated quarantine.

It would be impossible to hold his place on an NHL roster.

“After you quarantine for 14 days, if we’re playing well you’re not just taking someone out to put that person in,” Holland said. “The number of times we cross the border, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Had Keith and Smith not relented, the Oilers’ season would have been derailed.

Related reading: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock contracted COVID-19 before the shortened 56-game season. Now, the 34-year-old is likely going to miss the 2021-22 season due to a heart condition.

Now that Holland has his starting goalie and No. 3 defenceman in the fold, why on earth would you want an unvaccinated, 13:33-minutes per game player flying on the same charter and inhabiting the same dressing rooms as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

Between the peer pressure, the risk of lost salary, and the ridiculous nature of his stance, I expect Archibald to relent and get the jab. Let’s face it: It’s a business, and there is no moral high ground in sport.

“In July I heard talk that there were 80, 90 unvaccinated players,” Holland recounted. “We had a Board of Governors meeting (Tuesday), and Bill Daly said we’ll be in single digits of players unvaccinated going into the season. So, basically, 70, 80, 90 players eventually made the decision to get vaccinated.”

Some because they didn’t want to lose the salary, and some because they put their team and others before themselves.

There is one player left on a Canadian team who puts himself before everything else, and his name is Josh Archibald.

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Kiermaier on getting hit by pitch by Blue Jays' Borucki: 'Oh yeah, it was intentional' – Yahoo Canada Sports



The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a spot in the postseason on Wednesday, but that was the secondary story against the Toronto Blue Jays.

During the game prior, Rays centrefielder Kevin Kiermaier was the centre of attention as he snatched a dropped data card from Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk, which the Rays refused to hand back to the visiting club. Less than 24 hours later during the series finale between the two AL East teams, Kiermaier re-entered the spotlight as he was struck by a pitch thrown by Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki in the eighth inning.

Borucki was ejected after the umpires met to review the struck batter, which then caused Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo and a very red-faced pitching coach Pete Walker to storm onto the field.

Walker was also tossed from the game for his outburst.

Kiermaier didn’t let up after the 7-1 victory, focusing on the late-game dramatics.

“Oh yeah, it was intentional,” Kiermaier said of the incident. “Pretty much almost went behind me. I thought it was a weak move, to be quite honest. It’s over. It didn’t hurt by any means, so I don’t care. Whatever. We move on. We got a series win, and I hope we play those guys, I really do.”

When Kiermaier was asked why he wants to face the Blue Jays again, it was mysterious to say the least. “The motivation is there,” he said. “That’s all that needs to be said.”

Despite Kiermaier being so sure it was intentional, Montoyo had a different idea of what happened, but was certainly sympathetic to the Rays’ reaction.

“Pete’s reaction told me everything about it,” the Blue Jays manager said. “He missed. He hit him, but I understand what it looks like. I understood how the Rays got upset about it. That thing was on for two days.”

With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto is on a hot Wild Card race with fellow divisional rivals Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The two clubs involved in the ruckus will not face each other again unless the Blue Jays earn a spot in the postseason and are able to beat their opposition in that single-game playoff matchup.

As if the MLB postseason wasn’t dramatic enough, now there’s an underlying narrative ready to boil over at any moment if the two face each other in a series.

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Eichel stripped of Sabres captaincy, placed on LTIR – TSN



Jack Eichel is no longer captain of the Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Thursday morning Eichel has been stripped of the ‘C’ after three seasons in the role.

“I spoke to Jack two days ago, I spoke to the team yesterday and addressed this, Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “From our perspective, the captain is your heartbeat of your team, and we are in a situation where we felt we needed to make that decision.”

Adams added the Sabres will not have a captain this season.

Adams also confirmed that Eichel will start the season on long-term injured reserve as he remains in a holding pattern with the team on how to best treat his neck injury.

“I think we would all agree that we were hoping to avoid surgery…unfortunately, yesterday Jack did not pass his physical. At this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting…we will continue to work toward a solution,” Adams said.

TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported Wednesday that there is nothing close on the trade front for Eichel, who has been looking for a trade throughout the off-season.

“Well, it’s tough to pinpoint a timeline but we do know there is ongoing discussions with Jack Eichel’s agent Pat Brisson and Kevyn Adams, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. They’re on good terms, they have an excellent relationship,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “We also know that Jack Eichel will start the regular season on LTIR. Now, he saw a team of specialists over the course of the off-season. Some encouraged the artificial disc replacement surgery; however, the Buffalo Sabres remain adamant that the fusion surgery is the best option.

“It’s possible that Eichel gets traded and has the disc replacement surgery under the blessing of a new club, but there’s no guarantee and it doesn’t seem like anything is real close on that front.”

Eichel was limited to 21 games last season due to the neck injury and there has been a long-standing dispute with the team this summer over how to treat the injury.  

The 24-year-old centre has been the subject of trade talk since the end of last season and his former agents released a statement in July trying to spur a trade. He switched agents to Pat Brisson in August.

“What’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process,” Adams said in July, prior to the statement from Eichel’s then-agents. “We have a player under contract. We don’t feel any pressure.

“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that’s going to help us improve – whether that’s improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things weigh – we’d be open to it. But we’re not in a position where we feel we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Eichel had two goals and 18 points in 21 games last season and has five years remaining in the eight-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Sabres in 2017.

He had served as captain of the Sabres since 2018.

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