TENNIS AO15 – Venus Williams fought back from a 4-6 3-5 deficit to battle past Italian Camila Giorgi in three sets with 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-1. Diego Sampaolo
Venus Williams survived a big scare when Camila Giorgi was leading 6-4 4-2 0-40 on Venus’s serve but the Italian did not convert three break points. Camila came within two points of winning the match when she was serving for the match at 5-4 but she made a forehand error and committed her 9th double fault. Venus bounced back from the brink of defeat and turned the match around. The US star saved two set points at 5-6 15-40 before clinching the tie-break with 7-3 before winning the decider with 6-1. Giorgi tried to fight back after losing the first two games of the third set when she won a very long third game of 17 minutes after saving seven break points. In the fifth game the young Italian went up 30-0 but she committed her 13th double fault to fall behind 1-4.
Venus collected her 223rd win on the WTA Tour in her legendary career which started in the 1990s.
Williams has reached the second week in a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2011. She will take on Agnieszka Radwanska who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-0 7-5. Lepchenko had a late surge when she rallied from 2-5 down to almost push the match to the decider but Radwanska held on to clinch the second set with 7-5.
Venus leads 5-4 in the previous nine head-to-head matches but Agnieszka won all the last three matches in straight sets since Venus recovered from the Sjogren syndrome which sidelined her for seven months from September 2011 to March 2012. Venus will be looking to qualify for the quarter final in a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2010 US Open.
“This old cat has a few tricks up her sleeve. She wasn’t doing anything wrong She was playing so aggressively. I had never played her before and to play someone of her level for the first time in a major, I didn’t know what to expect”, said Venus Williams in the post-match interview.
“Camila played amazing. I thought she played awesome and just so aggressive. Everything was working for her. I have never played her before, so it’s challenging to get a rhythm against her. It’s challenging to know what the exact plays are. As the match went on I think I was able to get a little bit more settled and figure that out a little bit. But she played great. I just kept trying to get games on my board so hopefully I would get an opening at some point”
Venus went down a break in the second set and faced a triple break point at 4-2 but Venus managed to keep her focus and managed to recover.
“When that was happening, my whole focus was: “Let me try to hold serve instead of saying: It’s almost over. I felt like I had some chances on the 5-4 return game. In the second set I just felt like if I play one or two points better then I am in there.
“It feels fantastic to reach the second week. Especially when things happen in your life and it’s not in your control. It just feels awesome to be here but I don’t want to leave it at that. I will try to keep going”, continued Venus.
Venus started her career against players who are now long retired and now faces rivals who are much younger than her.
“I think we talk maybe more about the players we see that aren’t playing anymore. We just can’t figure out how we are still here. That’s probably more on our mind. When you walk on that court, there is no such thing as age, height, any of that stuff. It’s really an even playing field. It’s a matter of: Can you get the ball in ? Can you win the point or not. It does not matter any of those variables. That’s what they are: I don’t think that enters our mind out there”
Venus praised Camila Giorgi saying that she is a potential to become a top-10 player. “I think that she has a potential for sure. She has a big game. She has motivation. She looks like she is working hard. She is moving up the rankings. I think the more she plays, she is going to learn. It’s about dealing with the pressure. I think that’s one of the hardest things to learn to do. Every point of the match. Every day that you are playing, it’s not easy for any player.
Venus’ sister Serena also got through to the fourth round. Serena fought back from a set down to overcome Elina Svitolina from the Ukraine in three sets with 4-6 6-2 6-0 to set up a fourth round against Garbine Muguruza who beat Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in three sets. It will be a re-match of the second round clash at last year’s Roland Garros where the young Spanish player upset Serena.
The last time both Williams’ sisters reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, Serena lift her fifth her fifth and last Trophy at Melbourne Park in 2010. She failed to advance the fourth round in 2012 and 2014 and was knocked out in the quarter final in 2013.
Viktoria Azarenka followed up her wins against Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to set up a fourth round match against last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova. Azarenka built up a 6-4 3-0 lead but Zahlavova Strycova clawed her way into the match by drawing level to 3-3. Azarenka broke serve in the seventh game for 4-3 but the Czech player broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. Azarenka broke again for 5-4 before serving out for the match in straight sets. Azarenka clinched 21 of her last 22 matches in Melbourne after winning two titles in 2012 and 2013 and losing to Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarter final in 2014. Her next match rival Cibulkova beat France’s Alizé Cornet 7-5 6-2. Cornet earned four set points at 5-3 and two more at 5-4 in the opening set and went up 2-0 in the second set but Cibulkova fended off all six set points and fought back in the second set by reeling off six consecutive games.
Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava
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.
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.
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.
Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill
One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.
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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