TENNIS AO2015 – Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will square off against tomorrow in a eagerly-awaited Australian Open final. It will be the first time since Justine Henin beat her compatriot Kim Cljisters in a all-Belgian clash in 2004 that both the top two players will meet in the Australian Open final. This is the fourth Grand Slam final between the World Number 1 and Number 2 players since 2004. Serena and Maria clashed in the 2013 Roland Garros when they were ranked Number 1 and Number 2. The other Grand Slam final between the top two players was played between Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka at the 2013 US Open. Diego Sampaolo
Serena and Maria will meet for the 19th time in their careers. Serena leads 16-2 in their previous matches. Maria has not beat her US rival since 2004 when the then-17 year-old Russian player scored her two only wins in the Wimbledon final and in the WTA Championships Final in Los Angeles. Since then Serena has won their last 15 clashes, 12 of them in straight set. The last time they met Serena beat Maria 6-4 6-3 in the Miami semifinal.
Serena will play her sixth Australian Open singles final and the first since 2010 with a winning record of 5-0.
“I think her power and aggressiveness has always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to. She is great at making players hit that shot that you don’t necessarily have to go for, maybe going for a little too much, going for the line. It’s been a difficult match-up for me but I am a competitor. I will go out and I will do everything I can to change that result around”, said Sharapova explain the reason why Serena is such a tough rival to beat.
Serena beat Garbine Muguruza in the Round of 16, last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter final, US teenager Madison Keys in the semifinal to qualify for the final. Serena recovered from a slow start when she went down a break in the opening set of the first set. Keys, who was playing her first Grand Slam semifinal, held serve for 2-0 before pulling away to 3-1. Williams broke back before winning the tie-break after 45 minutes. Williams pulled away to a 5-1 lead but Keys fended off seven match points and held her serve for 2-5. The US teenager saved the eighth match point but Williams hit her 13th ace of the match on the ninth match point to close out the match with 7-6 6-2.
Maria won the all-Russian semifinal against her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, who was playing her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal after the US Open last September. Maria raced to 3-0 and 4-1 leads but Ekaterina broke back to claw her way into the match for 4-3. Maria reeled off six consecutive games to pull away to 6-3 4-0 in the second set. Both players held their serve until the end before Sharapova clinched the win with 6-3 6-2 to qualify for her 10th Grand Slam final. With her semifinal Makarova will return to the top-10 after the Australian Open (she is projected at Number 9).
In the previous rounds Sharapova beat Zarina Diyas in the Round of 32, Peng Shuai in the Round of 16 and Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter final. She has a record of 5-4 in her previous Major finals. Only Serena and Venus Williams achieved 10 or more Grand Slam finals.
The two big stars of the circuit are the only two active players who achieved the Career Grand Slam. The other four players who managed to win all the four Majors in their careers were Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.
If Serena wins, she will become the second best player in history with 19 Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf who won 22 Majors. Before tomorrow’s final Serena is tied in second place with 18 wins alongside Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Maria is currently tied in 11th place with Martina Hingis
Serena is bidding to win the only Grand Slam title she has not clinched since her lay-off due to injury problems between July 2010 and June 2011 Maria is bidding to win her sixth Grand Slam after Wimbledon 2004, the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the Roland Garros twice in 2012 and 2014.
Serena has won 21 of her last 22 matches against top-10 players. Since the start of the 2014 US Open final she lost only against a top 10 Simona Halep in the round robin of the 2014 WTA Championships in Singapore.
Serena is the first US player to reach the Australian Open since she clinched her fifth title in 2010. Maria was the last Russian player to play the final at the Australian Open in 2012 when she finished runner-up-
Williams lifted five Australian Open singles titles in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, the most in the Open Era ahead of Margaret Court, who won four Australian Open titles in the Open Era in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1973.
Maria will be looking to beat a World Number 1 player for the eighth time in her career after defeating Lindsay Davenport (twice), Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki and Vika Azarenka twice.
Maria will be looking to win her first Grand Slam title from match point down. She had to fend off two match points in the second round against World Number 150 Alexandra Panova. Only four players managed to win a Major title after saving match points during the tournament. They were Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams twice and Li Na last year.
Both Sharapova and Williams are unbeaten on tour so far in 2015. Maria beat Ana Ivanovic in the Brisbane final and enters the final with a 11-0 record. Serena warmed up for the Australian Open with exhibition matches at the Hopman Cup where she lost against Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska but boasts a 6-0 record at the Australian Open.
Williams is looking to win her 100th career win against top-5 players. Sharapova has a 7-13 record against world number 1 players.
Sharapova has won her last five tour finals and suffered her last defeat in the final of the 2013 Roland Garros. Williams has won her last ten finals and lost her last final in Cincinnati in 2013. Williams becomes the oldest player to reach the women’s singles final at the Australian Open in the Open Era. Chris Evert held the previous record when she reached the final in 1988 losing to Steffi Graf.
Serena will be looking to win the US Open and the Australian Open back-to-back for the third time after 2003 and 2009. Only Steffi Graf achieved the feat to win the two tournaments back-to-back three times in 1989, 1990 and 1994.
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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