Women's Australian Open Day Three: Favorites Are Safe, Shuai Zhang Out Of Quarterfinal Defense - UBITENNIS
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Women’s Australian Open Day Three: Favorites Are Safe, Shuai Zhang Out Of Quarterfinal Defense

Many exciting players like Elina Svitolina, Svetlana Kuznetsova or Jelena Jankovic advanced to the third round, without any major upsets so far.

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Upset of the day

 

Last year’s quarterfinalist Shuai Zhang is the upset of the day so far, losing to American Alison Riske in a close 6-7(7) 6-4 1-6 match. Zhang has been dealt very tough draws in the lead-up, losing closely to Cibulkova and Bouchard. This caused a lack of wins, which caused a lack of confidence for the Chinese player coming into the tournament. Riske had the exact opposite, as she reached the finals of Shenzhen, beating Radwanska on the way, her confidence was very high. Both players had a straight set win in the first round, Riske beat Brengle, and Zhang outclassed Sasnovich. Riske looked able to pull off the upset from the start, but failed to serve out the set at 5-4. The match went into a dramatic tiebreak taken by Riske. Zhang was very aggressive in the second set, when at one point, Riske had won only 9% of points after her second serve. In the deciding set, Riske just ran away with the match and advanced into third round. The American’s next opponent will be 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro or Sorana Cirstea.

Main favorites are through

The highest seed not to be written about so far is 8th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has been a beast so far, losing only 1 game to Duque-Marino in her first round, and beat Australian wild card Jaimee Fourlis 6-2 6-1 in Round of 64. Kuznetsova looks in good form at Australian Open so far, but she is yet to face a Top 100 player. She will get that opportunity in her next match, where in the 13th match of their 6-6 rivalry, Kuznetsova will face former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic. The Serb has had a much harder road, first grinding out a win over 27th seed Laura Siegemund, and today winning over another dangerous German, Julia Goerges. If Goerges gets the opportunity, she can take the match from her opponents, but Jankovic was able to prevent that today with a 6-3 6-4 win. 11th seed Elina Svitolina was also blessed with a pretty easy draw, yet to face a Top 100 player. Today it was a win over Julia Boserup of the United States that put her through to the 3rd round, 6-4 6-1. Svitolina has set up a 3rd round match against 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This match ought to test them both, as the Russian also didn’t have the toughest second round opponent. “Pavs” put on a confident display against her qualifier compatriot Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-2 6-2. Canadian Eugenie Bouchard is continuing to be in great form from her Sydney semifinal run, and a win 7-6(5) 6-2 win will put her in third round, which was originally projected to be Kasatkina’s spot. Bouchard will next face Coco Vandeweghe or Pauline Parmentier, both unseeded

‘Silent Meldonium vs. Chinese Davenport’ Marathon

With all these matches happening, one would think that the unsuspecting match between Varvara Lepchenko and Ying-Ying Duan would get little to no attention, however, that was not the case. Both players are well-known in the hardcore WTA fandom community, as silent Meldonium and Chinese Davenport. Some believe that Lepchenko’s absence on the tour between February and May 2016 was not due to injury, but that the American was serving a silent ban for taking the infamous substance Meldonium, made famous by Maria Sharapova’s case. Lepchenko has denied these allegations, but the nickname remains. Ying-Ying Duan has come into the public’s knowledge at Wimbledon 2015, where she upset Eugenie Bouchard, No. 12 at the time. She was immediately nicknamed “Chinese Davenport” due to her ability to pull off the upset of her life despite her movement being a bit subpar. The match definitely did not disappoint its spectators around the world, as after splitting sets it went into a third set. Both players started to focus on their service games, and it turned into a 10-8 marathon, out of which Duan came out victorious. In her post-match press conference, Duan was asked about her legendary upcoming opponent, Venus Williams, to which she replied: ‘I’ve never seen her play’

Some doubles for the end

Day 3 marks the start of doubles at Australian Open. Two matches really stood out of the crowd, first was No. 1 seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic opening against Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh. It turned a bit underwhelming, as Bencic/Konjuh played like the singles players they are, and Garcia/Mladenovic played like 1st that they are, and walked away with a 6-1 6-2 win. Other was Sara Errani and Kirsten Flipkens schooling the WTA Rising Stars, the “Dashas” Gavrilova and Kasatkina. Former Doubles World No. 1 and experienced Flipkens won 6-2 6-4. Upset of the day was 6th seeded Chan’s losing to Liang/Yang in straight sets, and newly formed team of Monica Niculescu and Abigail Spears falling Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Andrea Petkovic 1-6 4-6. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th seeds, with 3rd seeds Makarova/Vesnina being pushed to three sets by Aoyama/Ninomiya. American comebackers Liezel Huber and Megan Moulton-Levy both survived the first round, Huber with Maria Sanchez and Moulton-Levy with Lauren Davis.

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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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