US Open: Williams and Azarenka move through to the 2nd round - UBITENNIS
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US Open: Williams and Azarenka move through to the 2nd round

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TENNIS US OPEN – The 2013 women’s singles finalists were both in action yesterday but they have completely different paths to the 2nd round. Serena Williams (1) easily triumphed over Taylor Townsend 6-3 6-1 whereas Victoria Azarenka (16) had to battle hard to get past Misaki Doi 6-7 6-4 6-1. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

For the past 3 years at the US Open, Serena Williams (1) and Victoria Azarenka (16) have meet at some stage in the tournament, most notably in the last two finals with Williams winning all the encounters. However, it seems as though this year, their usual US Open meeting might not take place. Azarenka is struggling to get herself back into major contention shape, battling injuries for much of the season. Williams on the other hand, is looking poised to make her 4th straight final here if she keeps up this great form.

Williams took on young American Taylor Townsend in the last match on the main court, Arthur Ashe. This match of course has special significance besides the fact they represent the current and future generations of American tennis. Williams and Townsend, both African Americans, are continuing the legacy of the great Althea Gibson, the first black athlete to win a major tennis tournament. The first day of the Open this year incidentally would have been Gibson’s 87th birthday were she alive today. Gibson won two US Open titles (pre-Open era) in an era when black athletes were not afforded the same opportunities as they are now. Gibson had to leave the tour in 1958 after winning 11 major titles in an effort to seek out more profitable ventures.

Today, near 60 years later, there are numerous black athletes on the circuit not only in the US but in Europe who are making a very decent living playing professional tennis. Even more poignant about this match is the fact that Williams and Townsend played on Arthur Ashe stadium, so named after another African American barrier breaker in the world of tennis.

Nonetheless, regarding the match between the two, Williams was most impressive. She won in straight sets 6-3 6-1 in less than an hour. This was Townsend’s US Open debut but she handled the moment surprising well. “It was just a lot of different emotions and feelings that were coming. It was hard to deal with … I was playing against one of my tennis idols, someone I’ve been watching for years and years. Playing in my home, the last slam of the year in front of an American crowd.” Williams was simply stellar on her serving. She dropped only 5 points on serve with 16 winners and 8 errors. The top seed is set to play another American Vania King in the 2nd round.

Williams said of the matchup, “She gets a lot of balls back. She likes to hit lots of rallies. She’s another American. So it’s a shame that Americans have to keep playing each other. But, hey, at least an American can go to the third round.”

Azarenka’s matchup against Misaki Doi was a battle. The former number 1 player simply looked uncomfortable against her opponent. This time last year, Azarenka would have made quick work of Doi in under an hour but this year, she was on court for near 3 hours. In the 1st set, Azarenka could not put away Doi who kept getting the ball back into play. The diminutive Japanese player was pulling off some big shots particularly on her forehand wing. The lefty swing was causing Azarenka a lot of problems. This only added to the serving issues Azarenka was having on the day. She double faulted 11 times for the match, 3 of which came in the crucial opening set tiebreak allowing Doi to take it 7-63.

In the 2nd set, Azarenka got the early break for 4-2 but her serving woos continued as she was unable to consolidate the break. Doi broke back for 3-4 but she too could not hold serve as Azarenka lead 5-3. Serving for the set, Azarenka was broken again but it would not matter as Doi was unable to level the set at 5-5 and Azarenka took it 6-4. It was clear that this 2nd set meant a lot to the Belarusian as she screamed out “Come On!” in full battle cry. The 3rd set saw a different Azarenka on court as she lifted her game to level that got her to the final stage of this tournament two years in a row. She closed it out 6-1.

After the match, Azarenka said, “In any match you play, you got 50/50 chances. No matter how much of a favorite you are or somebody else is, you still got to go and win … [Y]ou got to fight hard, and that’s it. Anything can happen. So to have respect to my opponent, I definitely had that.” Azarenka had 47 errors for the match to 36 winners. The only reason why these errors did not hurt her as badly is because Doi made 49 errors to 30 winners. Azarenka will next play American Christina McHale for a place in the 3rd round.

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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