US Open: Errani stops Venus and Lucic-Baroni beats Halep - UBITENNIS
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US Open: Errani stops Venus and Lucic-Baroni beats Halep

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TENNIS US OPEN – The action in the bottom half of the women’s draw has been hot on Day 5. The temperatures again remain moderate like Day 4 but it seems as though there was a strong wind as top seeds and favourites fell by the wayside in a violent manner. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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

The biggest story of the day has to be the 3rd round dismissal of Venus Williams (19) by Sara Errani (13). Williams came into this match with a 3-0 lifetime record against the Italian. Playing in front of home crowd and considering her past success her at the Open, Williams was the definite favourite. However, Williams had one of the worst starts to a match ever. She dropped the opening set 0-6 in 26 minutes. Williams was simply too erratic with 18 errors alone in the 1st set. She won only 8 points on serve whilst Errani dropped only 5 points on her serve. Who would have thought that Sara Errani could be outserving Venus Williams? “[F]irst set I start very good, very aggressive … She didn’t put too many first serves, so maybe that was a bit [of] the key,” Errani said. Of the 23 first serves that Williams attempted to put in, she only made 7; a staggering 30%.

As if the opening set was not a weird aberration in and of itself, the 2nd set rolled around and it was more of the same but only this time, Williams was the one in control. The American bageled Errani, 6-0, in 29 minutes. Williams lost only 9 points on serve and Errani only won 6 points on serve. The match was level and after two sets, no two players had won games in any of the set. Oddly enough, this is not the first match with such a strange scoreline that Williams has been involved in. In the 4th round of the 2009 US Open, Williams fell to Kim Clijsters 0-6 6-0 4-6 in the 4th round.

The 3rd set finally saw both players holding serve in their respective opening service game. Then there were four successive breaks of serve. It was not until the 7th game of the set that Williams held serve again to lead 4-3. She then broke Errani for the third consecutive time to lead 5-3 with a chance to close out the match. However, Williams problematic serve came under extreme scrutiny again as Errani broke her to get back on serve. Williams said after the match “I think at that point I went for too much … I hit some balls, you know, I think maybe early in the rally.” The aggressive returning that saw Williams break Errani 6 of the last 7 times, the Italian served was gone. Williams was appearing timid on court and Errani regained confidence to be the more aggressive one.

Williams held serve and again could not break Errani to finish the match. Hence at 6-6 in the 3rd set, a tiebreak was necessary to decide the winner. Errani got a 2-0 lead when Williams committed 2 errors on her backhand. She would extend this lead to 5-2 when again made 2 more errors on her backhand. Williams then won the next 3 points for 5-5. The crowd was beside itself. They were chanting and cheering Williams on with everything they had. In this clutch moment, Errani with two serves and the chance to close it out, the Italian withstood the pressure to secure the win with two amazing winners, 6-0 0-6 7-6(5).

Errani’s opponent in the Round of 16 is a bit of a surprise as she will play qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who upset the Simona Halep (2) in straight sets, 7-6 6-2. Fans were still reacting to the Williams/Errani result when they realized that the world’s number 2 was sent packing. Halep was leading 5-2 in the 1st set and had two set points but failed to convert allowing Lucic-Baroni to gain the necessary confidence boost to knock out a top player. “[S]he came back really well and she started to hit every ball. Everything was in for her. It wasn’t my best day, but still I did everything I could on court,” Halep said. In the 2nd set, Lucic-Baroni continued to hit out and Halep wilted under the pressure. The Croat closed out the match in just over an hour and 34 minutes. Lucic-Baroni noted after the match, “I finally been able to play the tennis that I love the way I love to play … being very aggressive and consistent at the same time.”

No sooner had this match concluded than yet another upset took place. Angelique Kerber (6) was dismissed in straight sets by Belinda Bencic 6-1 7-5. Bencic raced out to a 3-0 lead before Kerber got on the scoreboard but this made little difference as the momentum was clearly in Bencic’s favour. She closed out the set by taking the next three games. In the 2nd set, Kerber seemed to be on the comeback trail as she was up 5-2. However, poor play from the German continued to plagued her as Bencic fought her way back into the set and claimed the match by winning the last 5 games. “[I]t feels amazing. I played a really good match right from the start, and then I had a little bit timeout in the second. But I’m happy that I came back. It’s amazing that after last year I played juniors here, and this year I’m in the fourth round. So it’s incredible,” Bencic said after the match.

Unseeded Shuai Peng followed up her 2nd round upset of Agnieszka Radwanska by taking out another seeded player in the 3rd round. Roberta Vinci (28) lost 4-6 3-6 in an hour and 14 minutes. “I was for sure really happy win today. Before the match, actually I was nervous. I really want to win because I know I have the chance,” Peng said after the match. An interesting note about all these 3rd round upset victims, they all struggled in the earlier part of the tournament. In particular Halep, Kerber and Williams all struggled mightily in their opening round matches having to come through in 3 sets. Vinci had a tough 3-set match in the 2nd round.

All the other winners in the draw stayed on course as the higher seeded player won in relatively easy fashion. Maria Sharapova (5) in last women’s match of the day, took out Sabine Lisicki (26) in straight sets 6-2 6-4. Sharapova used to the night matches on the Arthur Ashe stadium looked quite at home as Lisicki struggled to maintain any momentum in the match. Sharapova will next face Caroline Wozniacki (10) who took out Andrea Petkovic (18) also in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

Luci Safarova (14) is continuing her success at the majors this year as she knocked out Alizé Cornet (22) in a hard fought encounter 6-3 6-7 6-4. Safarova will take on Peng in the Round of 16 for a place in the quarterfinals. The other winner on the day was Jelena Jankovic (9), 2008 finalist who is quietly moving through the draw. She dismantled Johanna Larsson 6-1 6-0 in under an hour. After the match Jankovic stated, “[I]t’s quite hot out there … I wanted to get the job done as soon as possible. I was very focused from the beginning to till the end.”

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Why Peng Shuai’s Video Call With The IOC Has Failed To Ease The Concerns Of The WTA

The WTA said the video hasn’t changed their stance on the matter.

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The governing body of women’s tennis says they still have concerns about the welfare of former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai despite her appearing in a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.

 

Shuai attended a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach in what was her first public interaction with an international official since making allegations of sexual assault against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. On November 2nd Shuai published a post on her Weibo account detailing the alleged assault and revealed she had an on-and-off affair with the former influential political figure for a decade. The post was removed less than an hour after it went live and her Weibo account is still restricted.

In a statement issued by the IOC, Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ and would like some privacy. It is understood that the video call lasted roughly 30 minutes, which also included IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. However, in the statement there was no mention of the sexual assault allegations which was made by Shuai.

This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.” The WTA told Reuters in response to the video.

There are fears by the WTA that Shuai is under the control of the state and is restricted as to what she can and can’t say. Lingwei, who participated in the video call, is a former athlete who has since worked with the Chinese government and is a member of the people’s congress.

Recently China’s media, which is controlled by the Communist party, has posted a series of photos and videos of Shuai. However, the WTA confirmed at the weekend they will have been prevented from getting in contact with her despite making numerous efforts.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said.

China’s Global Television network, which is owned by state media, hasn’t posted a single article about Shuai in recent weeks following her allegations. However, for the first time on Monday they published a story about her meeting with the IOC but made no mention of the allegations.

Hu Xijin is the editor of the Global Times newspaper. He claims that the world wouldn’t believe what Shuai is saying unless they are in line with the Western media who he accuses of trying to damage the reputation of his country. Hu is an influential political figure in his country, whose publications have been used to send messages to the outside world. He has also been accused by some of being a political propagandist for the community party.

“As long as what Peng Shuai said doesn’t accord with the expectation of the Western media, they won’t believe it. They only believe the story about China that they imagine. I’m surprised that they didn’t say the lady who showed up these two days is a fake Peng Shuai, a double,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
“For those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai, her appearances of these days are enough to relieve them or eliminate most of their worries. But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them.” He later added.

Like all of the Chinese state-run media and their journalists, Hu has made no mention of the allegations concerning Mr Gaoli.

The WTA have said they are willing to withdraw tournaments from China if their concerns of Shuai’s welfare are not properly addressed.

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REPORT: China Censors Naomi Osaka’s Weibo Account Over Peng Shuai Support

It has emerged that followers are being prevented from commenting on her posts as the WTA warns China they are prepared to stop doing business with them if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

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

Restrictions have been placed on the official Weibo account of former world No.1 Naomi Osaka after she posted a statement expressing concern about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, according to a leading financial newspaper.

 

Nikkei Asia confirmed on Thursday that they have found ‘censoring activity’ on Osaka’s account less than 24 hours after she spoke out about her fellow tennis player. It is understood that comments have been disabled on her latest post even though it is unrelated to Shuai. Weibo is the main social media service in China which is used by millions every day but it is regulated by the country’s strict laws. Other sites such as Twitter is officially banned in the country.

In her post, Osaka wrote on Twitter that ‘censorship is never OK at any cost’ and that she hopes Shuai is safe. It has since been retweeted more than 19,000 times.

On November 2nd a post was uploaded on Shuai’s Weibo account in which she said she was pressured into sex by the former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and she had an on-and-off affair with him over a intermittent period of 10 years. The post was removed less than an hour after it was uploaded but observers took screenshots of it which was then reposted online. Since then, Shuai hasn’t been heard of or seen in public.

There are now mounting concerns over Shuai’s current whereabouts after the international branch China’s state-broadcaster published a letter which they claimed the tennis star wrote to the WTA. The letter says that the tennis star denies making the accusations and she is not missing. However, Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has expressed serious concerns about the authenticity of the letter.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her.”

In recent years China has been a crucial location for the WTA Tour and has generated millions in revenue for the sport. No tournaments have taken place in the country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but 10 are expected to resume next year, including the prestigious WTA Finals. Nevertheless, the WTA has stated that they are prepared to cut ties with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

“If at the end of the day we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that’s what it came to,” Simon told The New York Times.

In 2014 Shuai became the first Chinese player in history to top the world rankings in doubles. During her career, she has won two major titles with Hsieh Su-wei and has been ranked as high as 14th in singles.

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Garbine Muguruza Beats Kontaveit To Win Season-Ending WTA Finals

Muguruza caps off what she describes as her ‘best year’ on the Tour by becoming the first Spanish woman to win the season-ending title.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider/

Garbine Muguruza is the 2021 WTA Finals champion after beating the world’s number eight Anett Kontaveit  6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 38 minutes in Guadalajara, Mexico.

 

The Spaniard hit 16 winners while the Estonian hit 38 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth during both sets before the Caracas native was able to secure the win.

” I want to congratulate Anett (Kontaveit) on her amazing year and managing to qualify for the finals in the last event of the year,” Muguruza said during the trophy ceremony. ”I want to thank everyone who made this possible to play in Latin America and it was a dream come true to play”.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza got off to an aggressive start by looking for the early break in the first game of the match but the world number eight held her ground and managed to hold serve.

At 1-1, the Spaniard had three more chances to take the lead and she was able to break serve at the third time of asking but failed to consolidate it as Kontaveit broke right back the following game.

Once again at 3-3, it was the world number five who got another break and this was able to hold serve the following game. She then broke serve for a second time to take the first set.

The 28-year-old was put under pressure early in the second set and faced two early breakpoints at 1-1 but dug deep and saved both. At 3-3, it was Kontaveit’s turn to apply pressure, and this time she was able to get the break. The 25-year-old had a chance to serve out the second and force a deciding third set but cracked under the pressure as Muguruza broke right back to even the set at 5-5.

At 6-5, Muguruza found herself with three match points on her opponent’s serve and broke one last time to seal the victory and the title.

“I’m just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the ‘maestra,’ like how we say in Spanish,” Muguruza said in press. “That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.”

Muguruza ends her season with three WTA titles to her name after triumphing in Dubai and Chicago earlier this year. Making it the first time in her career she has won a trio of WTA events within the same year. Overall, she has won 42 out of 69 matches played during 2021.

“Overall I think it’s the best year for me. I might not have won a Grand Slam, but I deeply feel like I’ve been happier and more stable, less dramatic, and in general very happy about it.” She concludes. 

The former world No.1 takes home a whopping 1.6 million dollars for winning the tournament and her ranking will go up to number three when the new world rankings come out on Monday.

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