Indian Wells: Serena Williams drawn with Halep. Sharapova with Ivanovic - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells: Serena Williams drawn with Halep. Sharapova with Ivanovic

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TENNIS INDIAN WELLS – The Main Draw Ceremony for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the first WTA Premier Mandatory Tournament of the Year, took place on Monday. The tournament in the Californian desert will feature 18 of the best 20 players in the WTA Ranking. The only top-20 players who will not feature in the 96-strong draw are Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova. Venus’s younger sister Serena will make her her much-awaited return to Indian Wells after 14 years of absence. The star-studded field features Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki and rising stars like Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza who made a major impact this year. The possible quarter finals could be Williams-Makarova, Halep-Radwanska, Bouchard- Wozniacki and Ivanovic-Sharapova. Diego Sampaolo

 

Serena Williams, who recently won her 19th Grand Slam title last January at the Australian Open, has accepted a wild card and will make her comeback to the Indian Wells after a 13 year-old boycott. She won this tournament in 1999 and 2001. Serena had vowed not to return to Indian Wells after being booed in 2001. She had to play the semifinal against Venus who withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury. Serena was booed while she was playing the final against Kim Clijsters. Serena’s father said that he heard racial slurs in the crowd.

Serena will make her debut against the winner of the match between Monica Niculescu and Aleksandra Krunic before facing a possible third round match against Zarina Diyas and a Round-of 16 match against Svetlana Kuznetsova or Angelique Kerber or Sloane Stephens. Serena lost 4 of her 18 matches against these three players. On hard-court Serena was beaten by Kuznetsova in Cincinnati in 2012 and by Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open. However, their form has been shaky in the recent months. Kerber has won just two matches since the Australian Open and Stephens won just two matches in the whole season.

Serena could face a very tough match in the quarter finals against Ekaterina Makarova, who reached two consecutive Grand Slam semifinals at the US Open and the Australian Open. Makarova beat the US legend in Melbourne in 2012 but lost their last two head-to-head matches. Before the possible clash against Serena, Makarova could face a second round match against her doubles partner Elena Vesnina and a third-round clash against Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, who won two consecutive titles on Mexican soil in Acapulco and Monterrey beating Caroline Garcia after two hard-fought battles and has moved up to World Number 26, and a fourth-round against Lucie Safarova, who won her most prestigious tournament in Doha.

Serena is projected to meet Simona Halep in the semifinal and Maria Sharapova in the final (in a possible re-match of this year’s Australian Open final).

In the second quarter last year’s Indian Wells semifinalist Simona Halep could meet Agnieszka Radwanska in a possible quarter final that could be a re-match of last year’s semifinal won by the Polish player. Radwanska, who lost last year’s final in Indian Wells against Flavia Pennetta, could face Mirjana Lucic Baroni in the second round and Camila Giorgi in the third round. The Italian, who will open against the winner of the match between Julia Georges and Heather Watson, won her only head-to-head match against Radwanska in Beijing 2012. Radwanska has had a win-loss record of 2-4 in her six matches since the Australian Open.

Halep, who was forced to withdraw from Doha because of a rib injury, could face a very tough Round of 16 match against the winner of the third-round match between Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova, two of the most interesting rising stars of the circuit who could square off against in the third round. Pliskova reached two WTA Premier finals in Sydney and Dubai. Pliskova won her last head-to-head match against Muguruza in the Dubai semifinal. Another interesting match in this section of the draw could be played between Carla Suarez Navarro (finalist in Antwerp) and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

The most prominent name in the third quarter of the draw is Number 4 seed and 2011 Indian Wells winner Caroline Wozniacki who will face Kaia Kanepi in the second round and Swiss rising star Belinda Bencic. Wozniacki, who won the Kuala Lumpur title last week, could face 2010 Indian Wells champion and last year’s quarter finalist Jelena Jankovic. Wozniacki could meet this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys in the Round of 16 and Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter finals.

Keys will take on Daniela Hantuchova in the second round.

Bouchard, finalist at Wimbledon and twice semifinalist at the Australian Open and the Roland Garros in 2014, lost her only match since the Australian Open against Mona Barthel in Antwerp. The most interesting match in this section of the draw could be played between Alizé Cornet and Andrea Petkovic who could meet in the third round.

The fourth quarter of the draw features Maria Sharapova (twice winner at Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013) who could take on Karin Knapp. Sharapova, who finished runner-up at the Australian Open and boasts a 15-1 record in 2015, won their previous two head-to-head matches but won a hard-fought third set with 10-8 after saving three match points at the 2014 Australian Open. Sharapova could face a blockbuster third round against 2012 Indian Wells champion Viktoria Azarenka who recently reached the final in Doha after being sidelined for most of 2014 because of an injury. Vika leads 7-6 but she is 6-1 in their previous hard-court matches but Masha won their last clash on this surface at the 2012 WTA Finals.

In the Round of 16 Masha could meet Indian Wells defending champion Flavia Pennetta who will have to overcome the winner of the match between Madison Brengle and Sasai Zheng in the second round and either Bethanie Mattek Sands or Tiffany Townsend. Pennetta recently reached the quarter finals at Dubai on hard-court. Pennetta and Sharapova tied 2-2 in their four previous four matches but the Italian player won their two previous matches in Los Angeles and New York.

Sharapova may renew her rivalry against Ana Ivanovic in a blockbuster quarter final match. The two glamorous stars played some of the best matches of 2014 in Stuttgart, Rome and Cincinnati. The Serbian player could renew her battle against this year’s Acapulco and Monterrey Caroline Garcia in the second round in a re-match of last week’s Monterrey semifinal won by the French player before possibly meeting Sara Errani (semifinalist in Monterrey last week) in the Round of 16. Errani could face two potential all-Italian matches against Francesca Schiavone in the second round and Roberta Vinci in the third round.

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year

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

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook. 

 

The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury. 

Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open. 

“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.

“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”

Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them. 

“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”

This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16. 

“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.

Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients. 

“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.

This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open. 

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Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion

Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.

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Simona Halep (@NewsCentralTV - Twitter)

Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.

However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.

Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.

This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.

Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.

Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:

Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion

Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet

Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko

Qatar: R1 l. Garcia

Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek

Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur

Rome: R2 l. Collins

Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng

Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia

Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu

Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina

Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya

Toronto: Champion

Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew

US Open: R1 l. Snigur

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