Sharapova taking care of business in Miami - UBITENNIS
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Sharapova taking care of business in Miami

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TENNIS – Maria Sharapova (4) perhaps has a love/hate relationship with Miami. She lives close by and so it is presumed that she is fond of the surroundings. However, she must find this tournament particularly frustrating as she has made it to the final five times (2005, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013) and has yet to win the title. Cordell Hackshaw

 

Maria Sharapova (4) perhaps has a love/hate relationship with Miami. She lives close by and so it is presumed that she is fond of the surroundings. However, she must find this tournament particularly frustrating as she has made it to the final five times (2005, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013) and has yet to win the title. Her form so far at the tournament has not been the best as she was pushed to three sets by her last two opponents and now she was facing a red-hot Petra Kvitova (8) who simply destroyed Ana Ivanovic (12) in previous round handing the former World No. 1 double bagels in the last two sets. Sharapova has a 4-2 head-to-head with Kvitova winning their last three encounters. However, it was their 2011 Wimbledon encounter when the Czech beat the Russian in straight sets to take the title that most tennis fans remember. Since then Kvitova has faded much to her fans’ chagrin and is now embroiled in the gossip columns with her ongoing affair with fellow Czech Radek Stapanek who was in the stands.

Kvitova continued her fine form from her previous match to break Sharapova in her opening service game. She quickly got to 4-2 saving two break points along the way. At this point, Kvitova started to lose focus and began getting careless with her shots. Sharapova upped her game and intensity. She exploited Kvitova’s lack of agility on the court and constantly had her off balance. Sharapova broke and was up 5-4 with Kvitova now serving to stay in the set. Kvitova was able to get it to 5-5 but at the crucial stage of 5-6, she was unable to hold her serve to force a tiebreaker and handed the set to Sharapova 7-5.

As the match went on, Sharapova just got better. She would later say, “I started getting more chances as we played more games in the first set, and little by little I started getting myself back in the points more and playing my game, playing well, going inside the baseline.”She was winning more points on her serve and applied the pressure to her opponent who only seemed to be dwindling as she became more error prone and reckless with her shots. Consider that in the 2nd set, Sharapova was only getting in only 62% of her 1st serve but won 81% of them and dropped only 8 points on serve. Kvitova on the other hand got 80% of her 1st serve in but only won 58% of them. She was unable to come up with any answers for Sharapova’s groundstrokes and aggressive stance at net. The only question that remained for the match was whether Kvitova was going to get a bagel as Sharapova was ahead 5-0 in the 2nd set. Kvitova saved face and held serve but it did little to deter Sharapova from taking the match 7-5 6-1 and a spot in the semifinals.

Sharapova noted of her opponent in the post-match interview “Petra is a Grand Slam champion. ..You can never underestimate someone that goes on the court and has that experience. She’s capable of playing really great tennis, and I think everyone knows that.” Sharapova has now improved to a 6-0 lifetime record in Miami at the quarterfinal stage and is 5-0 in the semifinals. However, Sharapova next faces the winner of the Serena Williams (1) v Angelique Kerber (5) quarterfinal match. There is no doubt that she would much prefer to face the German over the American if she hopes to be 6-0 in the semifinals.

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Garbine Muguruza moves into the second round in Dubai

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Last year’s Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza beat Irina Camelia Begu 6-3 7-5 after 96 minutes to move into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

 

Muguruza hit 23 winners to just 10 for Begu. The Spaniard earned a break in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead, but Begu pulled back the break. Muguruza broke for the second time with a backhand winner down the line to open up a 5-3 lead and consolidated the break with a hold to close out the first set 6-3. 

Begu went up a break twice in the second set. She served for the set at 5-3, but Muguruza pulled back on serve with a forehand winner off the netcord on break point. Muguruza broke again to take a 6-5 lead and sealed the win with a forehand winner. 

Muguruza has improved her 2021 win-loss record to 13-4. 

“Begu and I have played before, we have also trained together, so we know each other’s games. I gave her a big battle and in important moments I tried to be focused and be smart and efficient”, said Muguruza. 

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion will face Amanda Anisimova, who eased past qualifier Ana Konjuh 6-2 6-2. 

Elise Mertens came back from one set down to beat lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova 4-6 6-2 6-4. Tomova was a last-minute replacement for last week’s Lyon semifinalist Fiona Ferro. Mertens converted eight of her nine break points. Tomova broke for the fourth time in the opening set after a six-deuce game to clinch the first set 6-4. Mertens never dropped her serve and broke serve with a backhand winner down the line to seal the second set 6-2. Mertens went up a break at 1-0 and 4-2 but Tomova pulled back both breaks. Mertens broke to love to take a 5-4 lead, but she had to save two break points, as she was serving for the match. The Belgian player broke serve in the 11th game to close out the match.

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Naomi Osaka Brands Appointment Of Female Olympic Chief As Inspiration For The World

The world No.2 sees the development as one that let young girls know ‘anything is possible.’

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Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has hailed the recent appointment of a woman to oversee this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

 

Seiko Hashimoto was named as the head of the Tokyo Olympic Committee last month following the resignation of Yoshiro Mori. Mori was accused of being sexist after saying women should be limited to how much they speak during meetings because they talk too much. He said that if more female members were appointed to the board they will have to ‘make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.’

Controversy aside, Osaka believes Hashimoto’s appointment could have a significant impact on gender equality. A former professional speed skater and cyclist, Hashimoto have participated in seven Olympic Games which is more than any other Japanese athlete in history.

This is such an important moment for Japanese women, and women around the world; and I hope it’s an inspiration to a young girl with big dreams to know that anything is possible,” the world No.2 told the International Olympic Committee.

Osaka’s comments coincide with International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Tennis is considered as one of the top sports in the world when it comes to gender equality with equal prize money being awarded at every Grand Slam since the 2007 Wimbledon Championships. Last year Forbes magazine concluded that nine out of the 10 highest paid female athletes in the world are tennis players.

“I love seeing women in leadership roles like Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama,” Osaka commented. “In sport I’ve seen progress too, with women involved in various positions even in men’s sport, like Kim Ng, who is now the General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Then you have myself and Serena [Williams] as owners of NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League] teams – so I hope these kinds of leadership positions inspire the next generation of women and reflect some level of progress and change.”

The 23-year-old is a part-owner of North American women’s football team North Carolina Courage. Whilst her direct involvement in the club will not be substantial she will be acting as a ‘strategic advisor.’

Osaka is currently on a 21-match winning streak on the WTA Tour. Last month she defeated Jennifer Brady to win the Australian Open for the second time in her career.

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Elina Svitolina Admits Cut In Prize money Due To COVID-19 Affecting Motivation

The 26-year-old says it is not easy adjusting to the changes after being ‘spoiled’ by the WTA.

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Elina Svitolina says that a decline in financial incentives at tournaments could alter her schedule over the coming weeks.

 

The world No.5 says less money available at smaller events compared to previous years are having an influence on her decision to play them. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic tournaments across the world have been forced to slash or adjust their prize money pool’s. For example at this year’s Miami Open the singles winner will take home $300,110 which is a massive 80% reduction on what was awarded in 2019 ($1.354 million).

Svitolina will be the top seed in the upcoming Dubai Tennis Championships, which has also been forced to cut their payouts. This year’s winner will walk away with 68% less than what the previous champion won ($221,500 compared to $696,860).

“I had to adjust, like for example with my team, with my daily life,” AFP news quoted Svitolina as saying during her Dubai press conference on Sunday. “Maybe be a little bit smarter and I think for everyone it’s important to readjust because right now there is definitely a significant change in the prize money,”
“I think it’s really not easy for some players to adjust and for me, personally, it’s maybe also a little bit [tough] right now, because we’re a bit spoiled from the years that the prize money was really high.”

As of the week commencing March 1st, 2020, 26-year-old Svitolina is the 18th highest earning WTA player of all time in terms of prize money won. Her earnings currently stand at $20,112,704. This is more than what Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Li Na and Jelena Jankovic won during their entire careers. So far the Ukrainian has won 15 titles but is yet to reach the final of a Grand Slam.

Speaking about the current situation on the Tour, Svitolina admits she now feels more inclined chose to skip lower level events.

“Now for sure it gets into your head that you know you have less motivation at some tournaments to play because the prize money is much lower and you’re playing for example a smaller tournament and you’re tired afterwards to play a big one, so you would skip it,” she explained.
“So that, for sure, plays a little role in the motivation, in my opinion. Hopefully we can step by step improve and get back to where we were before.”

Recently the ATP confirmed revealed a series of new initiatives to support players during the pandemic including the use of a ‘covid-19 protected ranking.’ Although the women’s Tour hasn’t revelled any similar measures yet and it is unclear as to if they will. The WTA has already adjusted their ranking calculations.

Svitolina will start her campaign in Dubai against Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova who she leads 4-1 in their head-to-head. It will be the fifth tournament of her 2021 season but she is yet to progress beyond the quarter-final stage.

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