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Pennetta, a positive example for all Italians

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TENNIS- Flavia Pennetta has crowned her fantastic career on Sunday when she won the first Premier Mandatory Tournament of her tennis life by beating Agniewska Radwanska in straight sets 6-2 6-1 in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells at the age of 32. Diego Sampaolo

 

Pennetta has moved from World Number 21 to 12 in the WTA Ranking, a sensational result considering that she dropped to World Number 166 last year after a career-threatening wrist injury which required surgery and sidelined her for six months. The tennis player from Brindisi did better in August 2009 when she became the first Italian player to reach the top-10 in the WTA Ranking.

After so many years and so much work, this is the moment I have been waiting for. It’s coming when you don’t expect because at the beginning of the week I did not expect to be the champion or to be in the final and in the semifinal”, said Pennetta.

Pennetta considered retiring from tennis at the beginning of last year but the fourth round reached at Wimbledon followed by an impressive semifinal at the US Open last September made her change her mind about her future. At the beginning of 2014 she picked up where she left off last year reaching the quarter final at the Australian Open, where she lost to eventual champion Li Na. After losing in the quarter final against Venus Williams at Dubai, Pennetta beat 2013 Australian Open semifinalist Sloane Stephens and the two top-seeds players Li Na in the semifinal and Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. It was the second time in a row that Pennetta beat the Polish player one month after the win in Dubai. Her win against Radwanska was her seventh victory against a top-3 player. She enjoyed her first win against a top.3 player in Zurich in 2008 when she beat Jelena Jankovic. She then defeated Venus Williams in Cincinnati in 2009, Vera Zvonareva in Sydney 2011, Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing 2011, Agnieszka Radwanska twice in Dubai and Indian Wells in 2014 and Li Na in Indian Wells 2014.

It was just at Indian Wells last year when she lost in the first round against Francesca Schiavone that she seriously contemplated the idea of hanging up her tennis racquet.

It’s amazing because I perfectly remember after the match in Indian Wells with Francesca last year, the day after I was in the garden talking with my physio, almost crying because everything was so bad. After one we have the trophy. He is happy because we worked so much. Without him, my coach Salvador Navarro, my family, perhaps I would not be here. Indian Wells has been my first triumph since Marbella in 2010. I wanted to win my tenth title and reach the double figure. Ten sounds good”, said Pennetta.

Pennetta kept a lot of tennis fans glued in front of television on Sunday when she lifted her biggest trophy. It was a well-deserved prize for one of the nicest players on the WTA Circuit, admired not only for her tennis style but also for her personality and her determination not to give up after a difficult period.

Pennetta has started the golden period of Italian tennis in 2009 becoming the first player to reach the top-10 when she won in Los Angeles. Her achievement was just the beginning. Less than one year later Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian player to win a Grand Slam when she triumphed at the Roland Garros in 2010. One year later Schiavone reached her second consecutive Roland Garros final losing to Li Na. In 2012 Sara Errani surprisingly qualified for the Roland Garros final losing to Maria Sharapova.

Pennetta also won the WTA Championships doubles trophy in 2010 and the Australian Open doubles title with her close friend Gisela Dulko from Argentina. Pennetta and Dulko teamed up together in many doubles tournaments and have become close friends outside the tennis circuit.

The other highlights of her career include the four Fed Cup wins with the Italian team in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013 and ten tournaments (Sopot in 2004. Bogotá and Acapulco in 2005, Bangkok 2007, Acapulco and Vina del Mar in 2008, Palermo and Los Angeles in 2009, Marbella in 2010 and Indian Wells in 2014).

Pennetta has built most of her success in her favourite US hard court tournaments. She reached her first Grand Slam semifinal last year at Flushing Meadows and three more US quarter finals in 2008, 2009 and 2011. She scored 12 of her 13 wins over top-5 players on hard-court tournaments.

The US Crowd are always nice with me. They support me all the time, even when I play against a US player”, said Pennetta.

Pennetta grew up in a family with a strong passion for tennis, especially her father Oronzo and her mother Concetta who have always supported her daughter in both good and bad days. Flavia was introduced to tennis at the age of 5 inspired by her tennis idol Monica Seles.

“Flavia has done a lot of sacrifices in her life and she is now reaping the fruits of her hard work”, said Oronzo Pennetta when he interviewed by Italian tennis channel Supertennis after the Indian Wells final.

I called my dad after the final and he couldn’t breathe. My father is the most important person in my life”, said Pennetta

After the Indian Wells win even a Grand Slam is not an unrealistic goal but Pennetta prefers going ahead step by step without setting too big goals, “Last year I just said:  “If I finish the year in the top 100, it will be okay. I finished 20, so it was much better. Now I am still in the same way. I never had a goal. I never had a big goal in my mind. I have always been like this. I have few days to enjoy and start to focus again because I have to play my next match in Miami. The worst thing about tennis is that you cannot enjoy a win too much. After beating Li Na, I had to return to the court the day after to play against Radwanska”

Beating the top-two players Li Na and Radwanska was a very important result but It’s a long way before I will be able to return to the top 10. The most important thing is that I can play at the same level with everyone. I have matured as a person. The other reason for my success is my relationship to my coach Salvador Navarro,” said Pennetta.

Pennetta has always seen as a positive example in Italian sport. “I would like to become a positive model for Italian people and give energy to those who are getting through difficult times. I want to show them that it is important not to give up”, said Pennetta.

 

 

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook. 

 

The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury. 

Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open. 

“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.

“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”

Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them. 

“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”

This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16. 

“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.

Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients. 

“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.

This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open. 

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Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion

Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.

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Simona Halep (@NewsCentralTV - Twitter)

Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.

However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.

Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.

This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.

Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.

Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:

Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion

Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet

Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko

Qatar: R1 l. Garcia

Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek

Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur

Rome: R2 l. Collins

Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng

Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia

Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu

Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina

Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya

Toronto: Champion

Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew

US Open: R1 l. Snigur

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