Things heat up on Day 3 at the US Open - UBITENNIS
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Things heat up on Day 3 at the US Open

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TENNIS US OPEN – It was a scorching day at the US Open with temperatures soaring well into the 90oF/30oC range. This only served to heat things up on court. The day saw several upsets, near upsets and some red hot tennis in the women’s draw. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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

Agnieszka Radwanska (4) was first up on Louis Armstrong stadium against Shuai Peng. Radwanska as is her norm, took the early lead with 2-0 in the 1st set. However, from then on, she looked like a mere shadow of herself in the blazing sun as Peng came roaring back to take 6 of the next 7 games. Peng had 14 winners in the 1st set only compared to Radwanska’s 4. In the 2nd set, Peng got the early break for 4-2 and never looked back. She fought off several break points in the 10th game whilst serving for the match to close it out 6-3 6-4. Peng would later said that on those big moments, she played “no risk because I really really want[ed] to win.” Meanwhile, for Radwanska, her US Open woos continue. This is the only major she has yet to progress past the Round of 16.

Radwanska noted after the match “I didn’t play bad today. I think it was just her day. Of course I could do something different maybe or try something else, as well, but I really try my best and I was fighting till the end. I just couldn’t do it.” Interestingly enough, this was the first straight sets victory for either player against each other in all their five meetings.

Sloane Stephens (21) was another victim of an upset on Day 3. She faced 96th ranked Johanna Larsson. Stephens coming into this US Open had never lost before the 3rd round in all of her three previous appearances. It looked like it was going to be 4/4 as she was up a set and a break 7-5 3-0. However, she allowed Larsson to get back into the set to take 6 of the next 7 games. Larsson took the 2nd set 6-4. In the 3rd set, Stephens again took an early lead at 2-0 but then seemingly capitulated as she lost six straight games. Larsson took the match 5-7 6-4 6-2. Stephens was floundering at the baseline looking completely bothered by the weather but she quickly refuted the idea that the heat was not a factor in the match. She only offered the simply statement of “Things got a little shaky” to sum up her performance.

Maria Sharapova (5) avoided a near upset when she faced Alexandra Dulgheru. Sharapova led 2-0 to start off the match but Dulgheru broke her to level it at 2-2. In the 7th game, the Romanian broke Sharapova a second time to lead 4-3. She was able to maintain this break advantage to close out the set 6-4. However, no stranger as of late to making comebacks in matches, The Russian took control of the 2nd set to lead 4-2 and never relinquished it. She won the 2nd set 6-3 and then raced out to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd set. Dulgheru was unable to offer any positive response to this Sharapova charge. The Russian closed out the match 4-6 6-3 6-2 in just over two and a half hours. “It was difficult … It was a very long match. Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape that she was and I could have played another few sets.”

Other winners include Simona Halep (2) who seemed to have settled down after her rough 1st round match to win 6-2 6-1 over Jana Cepelova. Angelique Kerber (6) and Jelena Jankovic (9) also won in straight sets. Kerber took out Alla Kudryavtseva 6-2 6-4 and Jankovic won 7-5 6-4 over Tsvetana Pironkova. Caroline Wozniacki (10), 2009 finalist here, also won in straight sets as did Sara Errani (13), Alize Cornet (22) and Sabine Lisicki (26).

Several players needed three sets to get to the 3rd round. Andrea Petkovic (18) she overcame being down a double break in the 3rd set v Monica Puig to take the match in the breaker 3-6 6-3 7-65. Lucie Safarova (14) also had a 3-set battle as did Roberta Vinci (28). Belinda Bencic upset Kurumi Nara in three sets 6-4 4-6 6-1. Bencic will next play Kerber for a place in the Round of 16.

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Kim Clijsters Still Capable Of Top-Level Wins, Says Former world No.1 Murray

Murray gives his verdict on Clijsters’ current form and if she can return to the top of the game.

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Image via WTA Insider on Twitter

Andy Murray believes it is only a matter of time before Belgium’s Kim Clijsters is able to return to her winning ways on the Tour.

 

The 38-year-old is currently in the process of her latest comeback which has been hampered by both injury and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since returning to the Tour at the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships, Clijsters has only played in five tournaments and is yet to win a match. Her most recent defeat was at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells where she was ousted 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, by Hsieh Su-Wei.

It was in Indian Wells where Clijsters held a hitting session with Murray who says he was impressed by her level of play. Speaking to reporters in Antwerp where he is playing in the European Open this week, the three-time Grand Slam champion believes she is heading in the right direction.

“She still hits the ball fantastic. I think the decision-making and things like that will come with more matches,” atptour.com quoted Murray as saying. “I think physically she can get stronger. I think that was probably one of her biggest strengths when she was at the top of the game and as successful as she was.
“With more time, more matches, more time on the practice court, physically she’ll keep getting better. It’s not easy after such a long time out of the game, but I’m sure she can still win matches at the highest level, judging on how she’s handled herself so well.”

Following her most recent match, Clijsters said she is progressing well on the Tour given her lack of match play in recent times. She has only played two matches this year. The other took place in Chicago where she lost to Keterina Siniakova in three sets.

“I think for me the most important thing is that, what I talked with my coach and my trainer about, my fitness coach, was physically being able to get through these matches without big concerns. That was the main goal,” Clisjters said following her loss to Su-Wei.
“I came close, but still have a good feeling about, you know I’ve made progression and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles during her career with the last of those occurring a decade ago at the 2011 Australian Open. She has held the world No.1 spot for 20 weeks and has earned more than $24.5M in prize money.

It is unclear as to what tournament Clijsters will be playing next.

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Aryna Sabalenka Believes Experience Is The Key To Grand Slam Glory

The world No.2 reflects on her year so far as she aims to end the season on a high.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

This year has been full of mixed emotions for Aryna Sabalenka when it comes to playing in the four most prestigious tournaments of the sport.

 

In the Grand Slams the world No.2 achieved the best performances of her career to date by reaching the semi-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open. A breakout run for the Belarussian who had never gone beyond the fourth round of a major until this season. She was denied a place in her maiden final by Karolina Pliskova and Leylah Fernandez with both of those matches being three-set encounters.

Whilst Sabalenka has a lot to be proud of when it comes to these results, does she have any regrets as well?

“I would go back to my semifinal matches at the US Open and Wimbledon. I would have tried to do everything differently – maybe I would have been less nervous,” she told reporters during her pre-tournament press conference at the Kremlin Cup. “The game was very nervous, and I would have returned to these matches to worry less.”

The 23-year-old believes her experiences will place her on a strong footing going into future Grand Slam events. In recent years she has also turned to the help of a sports psychologist but says it doesn’t fully prepare her for the real thing.

“I have been working with a psychologist for a very long time. In fact, if you look at me 4 years ago and now, I have improved my psychological condition,” she said.
“It seems to me that no psychologist will prepare me for these situations (in Grand Slams). You need to go through it yourself, feel it, get nervous, understand this situation for yourself.’
“I’m more than sure that the next semifinal at the Slam I won’t be so nervous. I will act more confidently, I won’t make the stupid errors that I made in important moments in the last semi-final. It’s a matter of experience, you need to go through it. I don’t think a psychologist will be able to prepare for this.”

So far this season Sabalenka has contested three Tour finals, winning titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid. Overall, she has won 43 matches on the WTA Tour which is the third highest tally after Barbora Krejcikova (44) and Ons Jabeur (48). She is also currently at a ranking high of second in the world and has defeated three top 10 players – Krejcikova, Ash Barty and Simona Halep.

However, Sabalenka believes there is still room for her to improve further. She is currently coached by Anton Dubrov who previously worked as her hitting partner for 18 months.

“I think I played very consistently this year, but, of course, it is possible to be more consistent. I have to keep working on myself, be more consistent. I think I’m moving in the right direction, I just need to keep working on myself.” She states.

This week’s Kremlin Cup will be the first tournament Sabalenka has played since the US Open. She was forced to miss Indian Wells after testing positive for COVID-19 which left her bed bound for four days. Whilst admitting she is yet to reach her full fitness since being ill, Sabalenka is not letting that get in her way.

“I’m not in my best shape, but I know that I need the upcoming matches in the Kremlin Cup, because I haven’t played for almost a month. Maybe I haven’t returned to 100% of my physical form, but psychologically I am at my maximum and ready to win no matter what.” She concludes.

Sabalenka is the top seed in Moscow and will begin her campaign against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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