TENNIS – Day 4 ladies action was going along quite placidly until the match up of Serena Williams v Heather Watson. Watson came within two points of scoring this major upset but alas the 20-major champion Williams hung tough for the win Cordell Hackshaw
Serena Williams (1) found herself in an unexpected battle against British hopeful Heather Watson on Centre Court. It goes without saying that Williams was the clear favourite. However, after the American took the opening set 6-2 in 25 minutes. However, in the 2nd set, things got complicated. Watson spurred on by the clearly partisan crowd, broke Williams for a 3-2 lead. Williams broke back and was up 4-3. One figured that Williams would take control of the match but it was Watson who went into the ascendancy. She broke Williams for 5-4 and served it out to level the match at a set apiece.
The crowd was rabid. They were fervently cheering on their countrywoman. Watson fed off this charge and spurred herself on into the the 3rd set as Williams became noticeably rattled by the fever pitch. Williams was erratic and soon found herself down 0-3, a double break. Williams put her head down and reeled off 4 straight games for a 4-3 lead. However, serving to extend this lead at 4-4, she was broken at love. Watson served for the match up 5-4 and the crowd was delirious. Serena looked to be on her way out and her hopes of a “Serena Slam” and the “Grand Slam” were in serious jeopardy.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played the crowd here like that. They were really vocal – in between points, during points… I’ve never heard boos here, that was new for me. They were rooting for their champion. You can’t blame them – I would be too,” said Serena.
As Watson served for the match, Serena quickly asserted herself to get two break points to level it. The crowd became utterly unstoppable, calling out during points and at one point booing Serena, a 10-time champion here. It was distasteful. Serena held it together to level the match 5-5. Watson missed her opportunity as she came within 2 points of winning the match at deuce. Serena sensing the hesitation and the need for her own urgency, broke Watson and held comfortable for 6-5.
Now the pressure was all on Watson’s shoulder to serve to stay in the match. The Briton could not withstand the moment as Serena soon broke her to take the match 6-2 4-6 7-5 in 2 hours and 14 minutes. Watson said this of the match, “I was two points away so I’m pretty disappointed. Even now I just wish I could go back and play one point different to see if it would have changed things. It was a tough, tough ask. I was super, super close. That’s what hurts the most.”
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to win … How I pulled through I really don’t know. I was thinking I would be hanging around to watch Venus play. I couldn’t keep up with her. I thought maybe it just wasn’t my day. I should have won the second set and I didn’t. This was a match I think I would have lost last year or the year before. Mentally I’m stronger now. The older I get, the tougher I get upstairs,” said Serena after the match.
Serena will play her older sister Venus Williams (16) in the Round of 16 on Monday. Venus took out Aleksandra Krunic 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 11 minutes. Venus is looking to be in impeccable form. Her serve in particularly which has recently been a liability is now a valued asset. Venus is winning 85% of the points on her 1st serve and 73% behind her 2nd serve. These are amazing numbers which would definitely bode well for her against Serena.
Maria Sharapova (4) and Victoria Azarenka (23) both were tested in their matches but got through in straight sets. Sharapova was broken by Carmila Begu (29) in the opening game of the match. However, Sharapova broke back and ran away with the match up 6-4 5-0 before Begu was able to break her again. However, Sharapova closed out the match 6-4 6-3. Azarenka had to contend with Kristina Mladenovic. Mladenovic was able to break Azarenka but she could not get a significant lead. Azarenka remained dogged in her pursuit to get back to major form. She took out the Frenchwoman 6-4 6-4.
There were several interesting matches on the day. American Coco Vandeweghe found herself down 0-2 at the start of her match against Australian Sam Stosur (22). Vandeweghe then reeled off 12 straight games to take it 6-2 6-0. Stosur capitulated inexplicably but then again, this has come to be her norm at Wimbledon. Bethanie Mattek-Sands looked to be in full control of her match verses Belinda Bencic (30) up 5-1 in the opening set. However, Bencic called for the trainer and upon resumption of play, took the next 6 games to take the set 7-5. In the 2nd set, Bencic got another crucial break for 6-5 and served out the match 7-5 7-5.
Sloane Stephens started off her match against Lucie Safarova (6) in good form. She was up 6-3 and had break points in the opening game of the 2nd set. Stephens failed to convert any of those break points and that allowed Safarova the leverage she needed to take over the match. Stephens never looked the same thereafter. Safarova broke Stephens and raced to a 4-1 lead to later take the 2nd set 6-3. Stephens just lost her way in the match as she only won a single game in the decisive set. Safarova through to the Round of 16 3-6 6-3 6-1.
In the other ladies’ match of the day, Zarina Diyas upset another seeded player at this tournament. She took out Flavia Pennetta (24) in the opening round and not has knocked out Andrea Petkovic (14) in the 3rd round 7-5 6-4. Diyas was leading 4-1 in the 2nd set, double break in hand when Petkovic broke down in tears. However, the tears helped as Petkovic was able to level to get one of the breaks back and saved two match points. Diyas sensing the door of opportunity for her to win this match might be closing, quickly closed out the match 7-5 6-4. This is the 2nd year in a row that Diyas has made it to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, she will face Sharapova as she did at the Australian Open.
Dayana Yastremska Heads To Australia Despite Doping Violation
Did the 20-year-old break the rules with her trip?
Tennis Australia says they are ‘investigating’ after it emerged that Dayana Yastremska boarded a plane funded by the governing body despite failing a drugs test.
Last week the International Tennis Federation issued a statement confirming that the Ukrainian tennis star has been issued with a provisional suspension after testing positive for the banned substance mesterolone metabolite. An anabolic agent prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency which can be used for the treatment of people with low testosterone. Yastremska was pictured boarding a plane to Australia on Thursday in a post uploaded by two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova which has since been deleted.
Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is. The world No.29 has the right to appeal her provisional suspension but according to the latest ITF statement she hasn’t done so. One way her ban can be lifted is if the appeals board accepts her contamination argument which would allow her to play right away.
“Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” Yastremska wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”
Despite Yastremska’s plea, it is unclear as to if she or Tennis Australia has broken any rules. As of January 15h the ITF still lists her as a player who is provisionally suspended from the sport. Richard Ings, who is the former chair of the Australian anti-doping agency, points out that suspended players are not allowed to participate in any activity organised by a tournament. Raising questions as to if a Tennis Australia funded plane journey counts as one of these ‘activities.’
Yastremska is currently on the Australian Open entry list and is set to be allowed to train during her 14-day quarantine like other players unless anything changes. Tennis Australia has not made a public statement but news agency AAP has confirmed that an investigation has been launched. Should it turn out that the 20-year-old is ineligible to play, it is unclear if she would be required to pay back the cost of her plane trip.
The Australian Open starts on February 8th.
Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus
Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.
The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.
Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.
“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.
“I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.
“Thank you for all your support.
“Stay Healthy and safe.
Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.
Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.
Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.
While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.
Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title
Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.
Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.
The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.
With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.
It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”
The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.
There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.
“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”
Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.
“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”
Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.
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