WTA Hong Kong: Smooth sailing for top seeds - UBITENNIS
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WTA Hong Kong: Smooth sailing for top seeds



All four seeded players in action in Hong Kong safely navigated their way into the quarter finals. Venus Williams was once again relentless as she took just 63 minutes to take care of Wang Yafan by 6-0, 6-2, and thereby reaching her seventh quarter finals of the season.


She will next face Alize Cornet, who she has beaten in all four of their meetings, but who, funnily enough, has defeated sister Serena in their last three clashes. The number 8 seed struggled the most to book her place in the last eight as she had to battle back from a set down to knock out Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.

The top seed in action today was number two Angelique Kerber, who proved too powerful on the hard courts of Hong Kong for Kurumi Nara, annihilating the Japanese player 6-2, 6-2. The German will now face Caroline Garcia who brushed past lucky loser Anastasiya Komardina 6-0, 6-2.

With just one week of tournaments to go until qualification for Singapore is decided, Venus Williams now has her destiny in her own hands. With Safarova losing in the first round in Linz, the American could potentially climb all the way to sixth in the race if she wins in Hong Kong, depending on Radwanska’s performance in Tianjin.



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Iga Swiatek Cut Off Midway Through French Open Press Conference When Asked About Sabalenka



The WTA said a misunderstanding occurred when Iga Swiatek’s latest press conference with Polish media at the French Open was abruptly stopped as she was speaking about rival Aryna Sabalenka. 


Following a routine question and answer session with the English journalists, it is usual at tournaments for players to then speak with others in their native language. One of the questions Swiatek was asked concerned Sabalenka who on Friday announced that she would not be conducting an open press conference following her second round match due to mental health reasons. The decision came after an interaction the tennis player had with a Ukrainian journalist who quizzed her about her support for Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. 

“I heard that she did not attend the conference, but I do not know what the reason was. I heard she didn’t feel comfortable…Swiatek replied before the moderator stepped in and ended her conference

Due to the timing and the nature of the question, concerns were raised that organizers were trying to prevent such questions from being asked even though journalists are allowed to do so. Dominik Senkowski from sport.pl contacted the WTA for clarity of the matter after attending Swiatek’s press conference. The governing body issued Senkowski with an apology concerning what happened. 

“We apologize for the misunderstanding but there was a lack of Polish language comprehension and ended the press conference as we were simply out of time.” A WTA spokesperson said.

Even when there is time running out, it is still unusual for a moderator to end a press conference whilst the player is still speaking. No explanation was given as to why that happened. 

Tensions are high at this year’s French Open due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Both Russian and Belarussian players have been quizzed about their stance on the matter by reporters in Paris. Meanwhile, Marta Kostyuk was booed off the court following her first round loss after refusing to shake hands with Sabalenka. 

Sabalenka returns to action on Sunday evening. Her third round meeting with Sloane Stephens is the first women’s match this year to be given the night time slot on Court Philippe Chatrier. It is not known if she will resume conducting open press conferences or not. On Friday she agreed to answer questions from some journalists who were selected by the French Tennis Federation. It is unclear if those questions asked had to be pre-approved. 

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Week Begins on Sunday



Carlos Alcaraz on Friday night in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The round of 16 begins on Sunday in Paris.


The highest-ranked players in the world named Lorenzo, Italians Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego, face tall tasks in the fourth round.  Musetti plays World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, while Sonego plays Karen Khachanov, who has advanced to the semifinals at the last two Majors.  Plus the finalists at the last Slam, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both play their fourth round matches on Sunday.

On the women’s side, Elina Svitolina faces the toughest test yet in her impressive return from child birth, in ninth-seeded Daria Kasatkina, a semifinalist here a year ago.  And the FTT have finally scheduled a WTA match for the night session, where Major champs Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens will collide. 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Sunday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – 11:00am on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

While Khachanov’s recent Slam success has come at hard court Majors, this remains his best Major.  Karen is now 20-6 at Roland Garros, and has reached the second week in six of his seven appearances.  However, he’s just 1-4 in the round of 16 at this event.

Sonego outlasted Khachanov’s close friend and frequent doubles partner, Andrey Rublev, in five sets on Friday.  This is now a third career appearance in the round of 16 at a Major for the 28-year-old Italian, one of which came here three years ago.  However, he’s 0-2 in those prior appearances.

They have played three times before, with Khachanov taking two of those three meetings, though they’ve split the two that occurred on clay.  All of those matches occurred between four-to-five years ago.  On Sunday, I give the slight edge to Karen.  He has the bigger game which can more easily dictate play, and a huge edge in experience in the second week of Slams.

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (17) – Third on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is now 33-3 in 2023, and has lost only one set through his first three matches in Paris.  Carlitos is looking to equal his best result at this tournament, when he advanced to the quarterfinals a year ago.  But his potential road to the final is anything but easy, starting with the uber-talented Musetti on Sunday, then potentially Tsitsipas in the quarters, and Djokovic in the semifinals.

Musetti has not dropped any sets to this stage, impressively taking out Cam Norrie in the third round, losing just seven games in the match.  This equals Lorenzo’s best career result at a Major to date, when he reached the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, and was even up two sets against Djokovic, yet only managed one game in the last three sets.

This is only the second of what will likely be many tour-level encounters between 20-year-old Alcaraz and 21-year-old Musetti.  When they played last summer in the final of Hamburg on clay, Lorenzo prevailed 6-4 in the third after nearly three hours.  But in the best-of-five format, the red-hot and super-fit Carlitos is the favorite, though I’m quite curious to see how seriously Musetti can challenge Alcaraz on this big stage.

Elina Svitolina vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Kasatkina was just 12-12 this season, and is defending semifinal points here from a year ago.  Yet she has performed very well under that pressure, winning all of her matches decisively in straight sets.  This is easily her strongest Major, where she owns 20 career wins, while she’s yet to accumulate double-digit wins at any other.

But this is also Svitolina’s best Slam, where she’s now 25-9, with three previous quarterfinals.  And while this is just her fifth WTA-level tournament since becoming a mother, returning to action only two months ago, she’s on an eight-match winning streak, coming off a title run a week ago in Strasbourg.  Elina survived two consecutive three-setters to reach this fourth round contest.

And Svitolina has completely dominated their history, with a record of 6-0.  That includes a clay court match five years ago in Rome, which is only one of two occasions Kasatkina has even managed to take a set off of her.  So despite Elina’s lack of match play this past year, she should be favored to achieve her fourth French Open quarterfinal.

Sloane Stephens vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Sabalenka is an excellent 32-5 this year, and yet to lose a set in Paris.  This is the farthest she has ever advanced in this city, though she’s reached the semis or better at every other Major.  Aryna is looking to win her fourth title of the season, and her second Slam in a row.

Stephens’ Major title came nearly six years ago in New York, though she did reach another final here a year later, when she was even up a set and a break before losing to Simona Halep.  Sloane had quite a rough start to her year, but has now won 12 of her last 14 matches on clay, including a title run at an ITF-level event a month ago.  And unlike Sabalenka, Roland Garros is her best Major, where she’s now 35-11 lifetime, and she’s reached the second week in nine of her last 11 appearances.

Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 3-0, though all three of those matches went the distance.  I expect another tight encounter on Sunday evening, but Aryna must be considered the favorite based on her recent form, and how well her big serve and groundstrokes have been clicking.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Elise Mertens (28) – Pavlyuchenkova was the runner-up here two years ago, but this run to the round of 16 is a surprise, as she was just 8-9 on the year coming into this event after missing most of 2022 due to a knee injury.  Mertens is 18-11 this season, and has not dropped a set to this stage, upsetting third-seeded Jessica Pegula in the last round.  They have split two previous meetings, both of which took place in 2017.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Juan Pablo Varillas – Djokovic claimed all nine sets he played in the first week, even though four of them went to a tiebreak.  Varillas has amazingly won three five-setters, coming from two-sets-down in the first two.  The 27-year-old had never won a match at a Major prior to this fortnight, and is the first Peruvian to advance this far at Roland Garros in nearly 30 years. 

Karolina Muchova vs. Elina Avanesyan (LL) – Muchova is vying for her fourth Slam quarterfinal, and her first since Wimbledon 2021, as injuries have interrupted her career.  Avanesyan is a 20-year-old lucky loser who upset Belinda Bencic in the first round, and is appearing in only her second main draw at a Major. 

Sebastian Ofner (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Tsitsipas has only dropped one set thus far, while Ofner survived a five-setter against Fabio Fognini in the last round, and is another 27-year-old debuting in the second week of a Slam. 

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Sleep is One of the Secrets of Holger Rune’s Success



The 6th seed cruises past Genaro Alberto Olivieri to reach the fourth round and unveils an invisible source of his energy


Despite dropping service three times in the match, Holger Rune was never threatened in his third round by the Argentinian qualifier. As the match went on, the No. 231 in the ranking appeared more and more at loss for solutions.

Olivieri had got off to a brave start though, breaking the Dane in the second game with a forehand down the line and an excellent backhand return.

Rune broke back immediately and by winning 16 of the next 20 points soared to a 5-2 lead. After a glitch, he closed the first set 6-4.

He then dominated the second and third set displaying shots of all sorts: aggressive returns off both sides, an all-round pressuring forehand, serve variety, not to mention defensive skills, featuring millimetric lobs too. He sealed the match, in less than two hours, with an emphatic smash.

His mood was just as smashing in the press conference, where he did not conceal his ambitions: I believe I can win (the Roland Garros this year). But again, I have to play my best tennis, be in my best state of mind to do it, and I have to take one match at a time.

Not having used too much energy so far – he skipped playing the second round because of Monfils’ withdrawal – could turn out to be helpful. But where does he get his energy from?

I sleep a lot. I love to sleep. I probably sleep around, I don’t know, 9 to 13 hours if I can. It’s a lot (he laughs). I really like it. I think it’s the best recovery that you can have. You know, I actually think the muscles relax, everything relaxes when you sleep, so I try to sleep every time I can.

As well as allowing the body and brain to slow down and restore energy, sleeping is inextricably associated with dreaming.  

I think we all dream, no? says Holger, sometimes about tennis, sometimes not. Can be random things. I don’t know. Sometimes I have very good dreams that, you know, I stand there with the trophy and stuff, but then when you wake up, you’re, like, oh…, I’m just in bed. But then when you actually make the dreams to a reality it feels even better, because then you remember, oh, that’s actually what I dreamt about. You know, in this case can be fun. But then when you wake up from a good dream, it’s not as fun.

In the next round he is awaited by one of the most fired up players of the moment, Franscisco Cerundolo today held a Clay Tennis Masterclass before a most unfortunate attendee, 9th seed Taylor Fritz, whom he defeated 36 63 63 75.

Rune will need a full tank to keep his dreams afloat, ever so close to reality.  

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