WTA Hong Kong: Heather Watson battles through - UBITENNIS
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WTA Hong Kong: Heather Watson battles through

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Watson survived to progress in Hong Kong

Watson survived to progress in Hong Kong

Heather Watson passed a stern examination from Kai-Lin Zhang, the world 191, but eventually prevailed 3-6,6-1, 6-2.

 

Zhang had taken the first set, as Watson struggled to find her range in the first set, broken twice, in the first set. The recovery of one break was not enough to dissuade Zhang, who was looking to cause the first major upset of the day.

It seemed like the game was up as Watson emphasised the gulf in ranking in the second set. The Briton broke three times, and looked far more solid on serve, not allowing Zhang a single break point. Watson proved dominant on Zhang’s first serve, winning an impressive twelve points of a possible eighteen.

Zhang would not give up however, and a massive tussle in the first game of the third set saw Watson hold from fifteen-forty, also denying Zhang a third break point at deuce-advantage. Zhang held comfortably in her first game, before Watson was forced to endure another tough hold to thirty. With the stakes in this set far higher, Watson’s erratic play returned, giving Zhang chances. Watson herself then forced break point at deuce-advantage, but failed to return the service. A second break point fell by the wayside, as Watson pushed a backhand past the baseline. Watson created another break point by passing her opponent at the net. This time she was able to break, a return of serve that landed on the baseline forcing Zhang into an error.

Zhang though, remained competitive and forced a break point in the following game when Watson sliced into the net. Watson saved with an ace. A second unreturned serve dealt with another, but the pressure continued as she missed with another backhand. Zhang mirrored Watson, a weak backhand falling in the net. Watson showed great tenacity to recover the deuce point, but the game was far from over. Another ace was required to save another break point. Watson finally held her service with an ace to lead four-one. Both players made comparatively light work of their next service games, holding to fifteen and thirty respectively.

Zhang’s game at two-five was not easy though, Watson winners and a double fault brought up match point. Watson then secured the match with the second break of the set to progress to the second round. Watson will play Ya-Hsuan Lee in round two.

There were no shocks in early action in Hong Kong, as seeded players Jelena Jankovic, Sam Stosur, and Caroline Garcia all progressed. Jankovic beat qualifier Ana Bogdan 6-4, 6-2, Stosur defeated Risa Ozaki 6-3, 6-1, and Garcia beat Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-3.

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Daniil Medvedev Hopes ‘To Raise His Level’ After Opening Win In Cincinnati

The former champion branded his first match as ‘tricky’ after losing a lead during the second set.

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Daniil Medvedev - (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Top seed Daniil Medvedev admits there are areas of his game he would like to improve after coming through a testing first round encounter at the Western and Southern Open. 

 

The reigning US Open champion ousted Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 7-5, in what was a mixed encounter for the Russian. After breaking at the start of the match, Medvedev eased his way to a 6-4 lead in under 40 minutes. However, it was far from straightforward in the second set with the world No.1 failing to maintain a break advantage. Trailing 4-5, he then had to save three set points before fighting back by winning three games in a row to secure victory. 

“The second set was not that clean,” Medvedev admitted afterwards. “The first set was great. Everything was working. I had three games where I had break points but managed to break in the first game, which was enough.”

Hitting a total of 17 winners against 17 unforced errors, Medvedev benefitted from some lacklustre play coming from his opponent. World No.24 Zandschulp produced a costly 38 unforced errors and struggled with his serve. Producing a total of 11 double faults and winning just 41% of his second service points. 

“He was not serving especially well today, doing a lot of double faults. So I tried to keep pressure, use my chances,” said Medvedev. “Actually on return, I feel like I did a good job. Two breaks on these fast courts is enough to win and I should have done a little bit better on my serve. But the first match is tricky and I’m happy that I managed to go through, and hopefully I will raise my level in the next matches.”

Tuesday’s victory in Cincinnati has put Medvedev back on track after a roller-coaster past couple of weeks. Earlier this month at the Los Cabos Open he won his 14th Tour title before losing his opening match at the Canadian Masters last week to the formidable Nick Kyrgios. 

The 26-year-old is facing the possibility of losing his No.1 ranking in Cincinnati should he fail to reach the quarter-final stage. If that were to happen, he would only be dethroned from the top if Rafael Nadal wins the title. Nadal is playing his first tournament since taking time away due to an abdominal injury. 

Medvedev will next play either Tommy Paul or Denis Shapovalov. 

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‘It Feels Amazing’ – Emma Raducanu Crushes Soon-To-Be Retired Williams In Cincinnati

After defeating the 23-time Grand Slam champion, Raducanu has named another idol of hers who she would like to play on the Tour next.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis

Emma Raducanu says she is fortunate to have been able to cross paths with Serena Williams after dropping just four games against the tennis great at the Western and Southern Open on Tuesday.

 

Raducanu, who is the current US Open champion, eased her way to a 6-4, 6-0, win over the former world No.1 who recently announced that she will be ‘evolving’ away from the sport in the coming weeks. The Brit hit a total of 14 winners against just one unforced error and converted five out of her nine break point opportunities in what was the first Tour meeting between the two. She is the first player to bagel Williams since compatriot Johanna Konta did so at the 2018 San Jose Open.

“I think that a big part of the match was definitely the mental side, to not be intimidated by all her achievements,” Raducanu said during her press conference.
“That was what I was focusing the most on, just like being really, really present and thinking of my game, thinking of what I needed to do.’
“Physically I think that I held up pretty well. Like there were some longer exchanges and I held up well and I scrapped. I made her work. Sometimes I won the point when it mattered.”

The triumph brings Williams’ career at the Western and Southern Open to an end. She is a two-time champion of the tournament after winning back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. She was also runner-up in 2012. In total, she has played in the tournament nine times over 14 years.

“Watching her growing up, it was an amazing experience to just play her. I think from the beginning to the end, I maybe looked calm, but I just knew how important every single point was because you let up a little bit and she’s going to be all over you.” Raducanu said in tribute to the American.
“Playing Serena and managing to win, I’m really proud of myself, and it does give me confidence.
I think that at this level when you play anyone it’s a really difficult match. Each of those wins kind of builds confidence regardless of the level you’re playing, every single win counts. But of course, this one more so, because you’re playing like the greatest.” She added.

Raducanu’s triumph occurs during what is a roller-coaster season for the world No.13 who has been hampered by various physical issues. Since lifting the US Open title, she has won 14 out of 31 matches played with ten of those victories occurring in 2022. She is yet to defeat a top 20 player this year.

The next test for the 19-year-old will be Victoria Azarenka who defeated Kaia Kanepi in her first round match. Like Williams, the Belarussian is another player who has inspired Raducanu.

“She is a great champion. I remember more recently when she was playing in the US Open and made the final in 2020 during the bubble. I was studying for my exams. I hadn’t played tennis in like two, or three months, and I was kind of just dreaming that one day I’m going to play on Ashe, and one day I’m going to be at that level and play these great players myself. Everything felt so far away.” Raducanu recounted.
“Last year I have had great exposure to these great players, and every time you get to play them, you get to learn from them as well and what they do really well that has helped them in their careers.”

As for other players, she would like to face on the Tour, Raducanu has one in mind. That is two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep who the rising star describes as ‘the most complete player.’ Like Halep, Raducanu also has Romanian roots with her father coming from that country.

“I would love to play Simona, just because I think she is like, for me, all around the most complete player.” She said.
“She moves extremely well. She’s aggressive. She can defend. She makes you work so hard for every point. I think just to be able to feel that would be great.”

The only way Raducanu can play Halep in Cincinnati this week would be if both players reach the final.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Brits Andy Murray and Cam Norrie Meet in the Second Round

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A look at Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (twitter.com/cincytennis)

On Monday, Andy Murray overcame another three-time Major singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a three-hour thriller.  In the second round, he meets the new British No.1 Cam Norrie, who reached his first Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.

 

WTA action is headlined by three matches between Slam singles champs, which includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek.  Also on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Andy Murray vs. Cameron Norrie – 11:00am on Center Court

Murray will be happy he had a day of rest after his emotionally and physically taxing match against Wawrinka.  He has compiled a solid record of 23-14 this season, with 2022 being his most active year since 2017, when his hip issues began.  But Norrie has taken his place as the top British male, and has really come into his own over the past 18 months.  Cam is now 38-18 this season, and has reached 10 finals since the start of last year.  Their only prior meeting occurred three years ago in Beijing, with Murray prevailing in a long, tight three-setter that lasted nearly three hours.  But three years later, Norrie is a much-improved competitor.  While playing your fellow countryman is often tricky, especially when they’ve been knighted, Cam should be favored to even their head-to-head.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Sloane Stephens (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Grand Stand

Swiatek is vying for her 50th win of the season on Wednesday, with 37 of those victories coming consecutively between February and July.  But since those 37 wins in a row, Iga is only 3-3, and suffered a frustrating loss last week in Toronto to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-5 in the third after three hours of play.  Stephens continues to be a streaky player, as the 2017 US Open champion has gone on multiple winning and losing streaks of four matches or more throughout the year.  On Monday night, she crushed Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0.  Sloane often plays her best tennis in American hard courts, and advanced to the third round or better of this tournament in seven straight appearances between 2012 and 2019.  These two Major champs have never played before.  Stephens could be primed for another win streak, and it would be understandable if Swiatek experienced a dip in her level after all the tennis she’s played this year.  Yet after dominating the tour for most of the year, Iga should still be favored.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – It’s a two-time Australian Open champ against the reigning US Open champ.  Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi in three sets on Tuesday, while Raducanu easily prevailed over Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina vs. Garbine Muguruza (8) – It’s another two-time Major champ against the reigning Wimbledon champ.  Rybakina is 2-2 since her surprising run at The All-England Club, while Muguruza is a subpar 9-13 on the year.  They split two meetings last year, with Elena victorious in the more notable encounter, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Fritz started the summer by winning the title in Eastbourne, while Kyrgios was the champion in Washington.  This will be their first career meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Borna Coric (PR) – Despite his injury issues, Nadal is a staggering 35-3 in 2022, and 20-1 on hard courts.  Coric missed a full year of action due to shoulder surgery, and is just 12-12 at all levels since returning.  Borna has won two of their four previous meetings, including six years ago at this event.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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