Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches

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TENNIS – The opening day of Wimbledon saw a lot of ladies action. There were no major upsets as top favourites and former champions here Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova had very light workouts. Cordell Hackshaw

 

USUAL SUSPECTS
Serena Williams (1) opened her campaign for a second “Serena Slam” (winning 4 majors in a row) and the third leg for a  first “Grand Slam” (winning all  4 majors in the calendar year) got off to a sloppy start. An erratic Williams started off the match down 0-2 against Russian Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian continuously unleashed a nice one-handed backhand which is extremely rare on the ladies’ tour these days. Williams was able to hold serve with confidence for 1-2 however, it was clear that Gasparyan was ready for the challenge of defeating the number 1 player in the world. Williams had several break points to level set early but she missed them badly with poor errors. Gasparyan held serve for 3-1 and secured herself a break point to go up 4-1. It was at this point that Williams fully realized the urgency of situation. With some quick big serves, Williams was able to erase her problems for 2-3. Williams then wrest control of the match to break for 3-3 and then break again in the 10th game for 6-4.

Williams carried this momentum into the 2nd set as she raced out to a 3-1 lead. However, Gasparyan found herself with triple break points but could not convert any of them. Williams held and broke the Russian again for 5-1. With a smash winner, Williams moved into the 2nd round 6-4 6-1. Williams would later state that though she expected Gasparyan to be good, she did not expect her to be this good.

Victoria Azarenka (23) was the first player through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Azarenka did not play this event last year and has struggled at this event though she made it to the semifinals back in 2012 and won the bronze medal at the Olympics here. Both times she lost to Serena Williams. This is a really good start for the Belarusian who is trying to work her way back to major form after an injury plagued 2014.

Maria Sharapova (4) v Johanna Konta The young Brit had a break point in the opening game of the match. However, Sharapova was not about to let a young upstart dash her hopes of a second Wimbledon title. Konta failed to break the Sharapova serve and it was a routine victory for the Russian 6-2 6-2. Sharapova will face Richel Hogenkamp for a place in the 3rd round. Also having an easy day at the office was 5-time champion Venus Williams (16) who took out fellow American Madison Brengle 6-0 6-0 in 42 minutes. Also winning without dropping a game was Andrea Petkovic (14) with a 6-0 6-0 routing of another American Shelby Rogers. Williams would take on Yulia Putinseva in the next round. Petkovic will face Mariana Duque-Marino. Ana Ivanovic (7) won comfortably on the day 6-1 6-1 over China’s Yi Xu.

SURPRISES
Several seeded players found themselves in unexpected battles in their opening round matches. This year’s French Open finalist, Lucie Safarova (6) had to play 3 sets to get past American Alison Riske 3-6 7-5 6-3. Riske served for the match up 5-4 in the 2nd set but Safarova broke twice to take the set and push to a decider. In the 3rd set, Riske went up 2-0 but was unable to maintain the momentum. She lost 6 of the next 7 games. Fellow Czech, Karolina Pliskova (11) also had a tough time again an American, Irina Falconi, 6-4 4-6 6-1. Sara Errani (19) had to deal with fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone unrelentingly fighting spirit. Schiavone won 4 straight games in the 2nd set down 3-5 to take it to the 3rd. However, she could not keep up with the will of Errani who won 6-2 5-7 6-1. Belinda Bencic (30) fresh off her first WTA title in Eastbourne had to deal with the dangerous floater that is Tsetvana Pironkova. However, the Swiss player held her nerves to take it in three sets 3-6 6-1 6-3. Perhaps not surprising but more so interesting is the fact that Daniela Hantuchova easily dismissed Dominika Cibulkova  7-5 6-0. Cibulkova recently returned to the game after surgery but it was nonetheless a shocking loss.

UPSETS
Carla Suarez Narravo (9) was the biggest upset of the day as she was completely dismantled by the 2014 Junior Wimbledon Champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Suarez-Narravo just never looked comfortable in the match as she was outplayed from almost the first ball. The Spaniard had only had 1 winner compared to 30 from Ostapenko and was only able to break once in the entire match. She was only able to win 37% of the points on her 1st serve compared to 91% from the Latvian. Thus this encounter was a quick one as Ostapenko took it 6-2 6-0 in 53 minutes. She will face Kristina Mladenovic who took out Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2 6-1.

Flavia Pennetta (24) was another nearly casualty of the Championships. She spilt the opening sets with Zarina Diyas to force a decider. However, Diyas got out to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd set, a lead to great for Pennetta to recover. The Italian was able to claw her way back into the match and got one of the breaks back for 3-4. Diyas played aggressive on the big points to prevent another break and given Pennetta a real shot of regaining control. Serving for the match up 5-4, Diyas mixed it up, with some very aggressive serving and soon earned 2 match points. Pennetta saved one of the match points. Diyas double faulted on the 2nd one for deuce. Pennetta thought she had a winner for break point but the forehand was wide. She was unable to challenge as there is no players’ review on Court 10. Diyas with a third match point held her nerve and it was Pennetta who faltered as her shot went into the net. Diyas through 6-3 2-6 6-4.

OTHER WINNERS
Several Americans made it through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon: Lauren Davis, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Coco Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens who upset 27th seed and last year’s quarterfinalist, Barbora Strycova 6-4 6-4. Sam Stosur (22) also made light work of her opponent as she won in straight sets as did Urszula Radwanska and Irina Begu (29). Heather Watson took out Caroline Garcia (32) 1-6 6-3 8-6 over the course of two days. The match was suspended because of poor lighting on the opening day. It concluded on Day 2.

 

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 

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NAOMI OSAKA OF JAPAN - PHOTO: ALVARO DIAZ / MMO

Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 

 

The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?

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WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 

 

Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

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