Maria Sharapova Urged To Be 'Friendlier' As French Open Decision Looms - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Urged To Be ‘Friendlier’ As French Open Decision Looms

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova’s return to the tour provides her an opportunity to reinvent herself according to former world No.1 Boris Becker.

 

Sharapova will end her 15-month suspension from the tour next week after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. The Russian has argued throughout the controversy that she was unaware she was consuming a banned substance and has criticised the International Tennis Federation for the handling of her case. In October she successfully won an appeal to reduce her 24-month ban to 15.

Known by many as a divisive figure in the sport, Sharapova returns to action at the Stuttgart Open next week. Some have criticised tournament officials for rewarding her a wildcard into the tournament. Sharapova is banned from competition until Wednesday, the day she will play her first match.

Weighing in on the debate, former Djokovic mentor Becker believes the comeback could be the start of a new beginning for Sharapova. The seven-time grand slam champion has been branded as unfriendly by some of her rivals. Dominika Cibulkova once called her ‘arrogant, conceited and cold.’ Meanwhile, Barbora Strycova said Sharapova ‘doesn’t speak to anybody on the tour.’

“There’s no secret that she was one of the most unpopular players in the locker room so a lot of players have their opinions about her,” Becker told The Daily Telegraph.
“The question is on her and how does she treat the comeback? Will she behave the way she behaved before? That would not be so good.
“Will she be a bit more charming and a bit more friendly to everybody? I hope so. “

Earlier this year Becker said that 30-year-old ‘deserved a second chance’ following her ban. Repeating his words again this week, the six-time grand slam champion hopes Sharapova will raise her own ‘personal level’ on the tour.

“She’s still a young woman, there’s still room for improvement on a personal level. On a professional level she was a grand slam champion, she is a superstar in her sport. So I hope she can add to it a little bit on a personal level.” he explained.

French Open tension

Becker’s calls come as French Open officials mull whether or not to reward Sharapova a wild card into next month’s French Open. Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome have all granted her passes into their tournaments, but Roland Garros has expressed reservations.

“Integrity is one of our strong points. We cannot decide, on the one hand, to increase the amount of funds we dedicate to the anti-doping battle and, on the other, invite her.” French tennis chief Bernard Giudicelli previously told the AFP.

It has been confirmed that a final decision over her entry into the upcoming grand slam tournament will be made on May 15th. A two-time champion in Paris, the tournament risks losing two of the biggest names on the women’s tour. Serena Williams has already withdrawn after announcing her pregnancy. Nevertheless, Giudicelli remains undeterred by the prospect.

“Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are two unconnected cases,” said Giudicelli.
“We’re staging a Grand Slam, not a casting.”

Without a wild card, Sharapova will not get entry into the main draw at Roland Garros. She could still make the qualifying draw if she reaches the final in next week’s Stuttgart Open, which is a premier tournament.

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Jannik Sinner reaches the third round at the Australian Open for the first time in his career

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Eleventh-seed Jannik Sinner cruised past Steve Johnson 6-2 6-4 6-3 on Margaret Arena after 1 hour and 43 minutes to advance to the third round at the Australian Open for the first time in his third appearance of his career at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Sinner fired 29 winners and broke five times. 

 

“It’s a real pleasure to play here. I played on this pitch against Shapovalov in the first round last year. I love playing in Australia, so having a night game is very special”, said Sinner. 

Sinner raced out to a 4-0 lead with a double break and closed it out on his first set point after 26 minutes. The 20-year-old Italian star earned a decisive break in the ninth game to seal the 41-minute second set 6-4. 

Sinner broke serve in the first game of the third set to take a 2-1 lead. The world number 11 faced a break point in the fourth game to hold serve after three deuces. The Italian star held serve at love in the eighth game, when Johnson hit a backhand return into the net. The Italian star closed out the third set with his second break, when Sousa hit his forehand into net. 

“I started the match very well, which gave me a lot of confidence. When I had to break in every set, I was quite relaxed. I tried to stay focused on my service games which I think I have done. I am very happy to be through in three sets. It was not easy to play against him. We had already played twice, and I tried to return his serves because his first serve is very precise This was my first goal, and obviously trying to mix up a little bit the game, try to move him. I think I was solid. I had a couple of break chances which I used, so I am very happy”, said Sinner. 

Sinner set up a third round match against Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel, who beat Andy Murray 6-4 6-4 6-4. Daniel has already beat four Italian players this year, but Sinner has not dropped a set in his five matches this year. 

“Taro Daniel has reached the third round because he is playing very well. I did not know that he had already beaten four Italian players this year. It is not easy to beat them. Matches are always tough at any level. Daniel beat Murray and it is not easy to win against the Scotsman. I lost against Murray last year in Stockolm”, said Sinner. 

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Danka Kovinic becomes the first player from Montenegro to reach the third round at a Grand Slam tournament

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Danka Kovinic has become the first player from Montenegro to reach the third round at a Grand Slam tournament after a 6-4 4-6 6-3 win over last year’s US Open champion and number 17 seed Emma Raducanu after 2 hours and 38 minutes on Margaret Court Arena in the second round at the Australian Open. 

 

Kovinic had lost in the second round in her six previuos appearances at a Grand Slam tournament. The World number 98 recorded her fourth career top 20 win and her first on hard-court. 

Raducanu broke serve in the opening game and cruised into a 3-0 lead with a double break. Kovinic bounced back by winning the next two games to claw her way back to 2-3, before Raducanu took was hampered by a blister on her raquet hand and took a medical time-out for treatment on her hand. Raducanu double faulted, as Kovinic broke again to draw level to 3-3. Kovinic completed the turnaround by winning five consecutive games to take a 5-3 lead. Raducanu broke for the third time for 4-5, but Kovinic closed out the first set 6-4. 

Raducanu opened up a 3-1 lead in the second set with an early break in the first game but Kovinic broke back in the eighth  game to draw level to 4-4 . Raducanu broke for the second time in the ninth game with two consecutive forehand winners to take a 5-4 lead. The British teenager fended off two break points in the 10th game to clinch the second set 6-4. 

Raducanu missed four break points in the first and third games of the third set. Kovinic converted her break point in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. Raducanu broke straight back at love in the fifth game. Kovinic broke for the second time in the sixth game with a lob to take a 4-2 lead and sealed the win on her second match point with a backhand winner down the line. 

Kovinic was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo due to calf and back injuries. 

“Basically only one good result was in Charleston last year. Everything else was really struggling and trying to recover my body for next events, which I wasn’t really successful. I was rushing a little bit, so I never really healed my back injury, but I took some time during the pre-season to really take care of that, so hopefully that’s in the past”, said Danka Kovinic. 

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Andrey Rublev, Alex De Minaur and Taylor Fritz reach the third round at the Australian Open

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Andrey Rublev eased past Ricardas Berankis 6-4 6-2 6-0 in 1 hour and 24 minutes to advance to the third round at the Australian Open in Melbourne. 

 

Rublev earned breaks in the opening game of each set and did not face any break points.

Rublev set up a third round match against Marin Cilic, who beat Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos 6-2 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6). If Rublev beats Cilic, he could be on a collision course for a possible quarter final clash against his compatriot Danil Medvedev.

Rublev, who reached the quarter finals at Grand Slam level four times in his career, is aiming to reach his first semifinal in a Major tournament. 

Taylor Fritz beat Francis Tiafoe 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in an all-American clash to set up a third round clash against Roberto Bautista Agut, who cruised through Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-1 6-0 6-3. Fritz hit a backhand winner down the line to convert his match point. 

“Frances is one of my really good friends, and he is such a good guy. I said before the tournament too. He is probably one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw. I just keep playing my game, keep playing aggressive, like that last point. I have a really tough match next round, but it would be awesome to have a deep run here”, said Fritz. 

Alex De Minaur beat Kamil Majchrzak 6-4 6-4 6-2. The Australian player has now won six consecutive sets at the Australian Open this year after dropping the first set against Lorenzo Musetti in the opening round. De Minaur will take on Spain’s Pablo Andujar, who beat Slovakian wild card Alex Molcan 6-4 7-6 (8-6) 0-6 6-1. 

“For me to be able to play on Rod Laver Arena and at this stage on my merits, it’s not because I am playing one of the top guys, that’s a pretty cool feeling. It was a very solid win. I did everything I neeeded to do. I got the job done. I am very happy with my effort”, said De Minaur. 

Daniel Evans received a walkover into the third round when Arthur Rinderknech withdrew before the match with a wrist injury. 

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