Hail Marias: Sharapova dismantles Kirilenko in the battle of Marias - UBITENNIS
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Hail Marias: Sharapova dismantles Kirilenko in the battle of Marias

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TENNIS US OPEN – Maria Sharapova started off slow but shifted into second gear for a routing of her fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova came back from 2-4 hole to reel off 10 straights games for a 6-4 6-0 victory in an hour and a half. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

US Open: All the interviews, results, draws and OoP

At the beginning for last year’s summer, Maria Kirilenko was ranked 10 in the world. Now today, she is the world’s number 113. A combination of poor play and injuries has contributed to her rapid descent in the ranking. However, she is not a player to be overlooked. She earlier this summer knocked out Sloane Stephens, then ranked in the top 20, at Wimbledon. This matchup against Maria Sharapova (5) had the potential for opening night dramatic as the last time, Sharapova (5) lost in the 1st round of a major was to Kirilenko at the 2010 Australian Open. Sharapova knew not to slight her compatriot and showed off her aggressive brand of tennis in full force for a comprehensive victory 6-4 6-0 in just 90 minutes.

Last year, Sharapova was absent from the US Open but she was well prepared this year for the opening night session on Arthur Ashe, dressed in a black dress and pink shoes. Sharapova opened the match a bit sluggish, having to dig herself out of a 0-30 hole and then failing to convert two break points on Kirilenko’s serve. They remained on serve till the 5th game when Kirilenko stepped up her intensity to break for a 3-2 lead. In an effort to consolidate the break, Kirilenko had to fight hard to get to 4-2 as Sharapova looked determined to break back immediately. However, Kirilenko held serve but it was no easy feat as she was up triple game points then suddenly found herself at deuce. Looking back, this was the turning point in the match. Through the first 6 games, Kirilenko reminded us how she got in the top 10 last year and then for the rest of the match, she showed why she is outside the top 100.

Facing a deficit at 2-4, Sharapova lifted her game to a level where she was virtually unplayable against Kirilenko. Every advantage Kirilenko gained, Sharapova quickly imposed herself on the court and wrest control away from her. Sharapova broke back for 4-4 and never looked back. She closed out the set 6-4 in just 53 minutes. In the 2nd set, Sharapova continued her winning streak by offering up the bagel to Kirilenko 6-0 in 37 minutes. Kirilenko had no answers for the Sharapova game and feeling the pressure from the Russian number 1, Kirilenko double faulted on match point. Kirilenko in several of those games where she was broken, actually had game points. However, the relentlessness of Sharapova proved to be too much for her to hold serve. Sharapova had this to say of the match, “I thought there [were] a few times where I could have broken her in the beginning of the match. But I think she started off playing well and solid. Despite not taking those opportunities in a couple of her service games, I felt pretty good, especially towards the end of the match.”

Sharapova had a good serving day with 71% 1st serves in and winning 76% of those points. Kirilenko on the other hand was getting a similarly high percentage of 1st serves in but was only able to win 48% of the points. She had nothing on court to hurt Sharapova who only faced that lone break point in the 1st set. Sharapova had 15 winners to 18 errors whereas Kirilenko had 12 winners and near double the amount on errors at 23. Sharapova also spoke of her overall game particularly the transition from the clay courts where she has been most successful the past few years. “I think maintaining the good balance between being aggressive but not overdoing it. I always play my best when I’m moving, feel like I’m hitting my shot, moving forward, taking the next one out of the air or hitting an approach shot. Sometimes when you try to create those opportunities you go for a little bit more than you want to. So it’s about finding that good range.” Sharapova will play Alexandra Dulgheru in the 2nd round.

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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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