MADRID: Simona Halep has kept her hopes of a second consecutive Madrid Open title alive after fighting back to defeat Roberta Vinci 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(2).
Facing one of the favorites for the title, Vinci’s chances appeared slim. She previously lost to the Romanian three times on the clay between 2012-2014. Furthermore, she has never progressed beyond the third round of the tournament. A sharp contrast to Halep, who reach the final in 2014 and won the title in 2016.
Halep’s convincing start to the match saw her roar from a break down to win four consecutive games to seal the opening set. A similar scenario occurred in the second, but this time it was in Vinci’s favor. An elevation in the Italian’s form saw her forced a decider with relative ease.
“Her game is not easy to play. Her slices are very difficult to return. She was also hitting pretty strong with her forehand today, serve, everything.” Halep said about Vinci.
Vinci’s resurgence was one that tested Halep’s morale and hopes of a second Madrid title. An 11-point winning from the Italian saw her hit a series of spectacular forehand winners, on route to a 4-1 stronghold in the decider. Still, it was not enough to deny Halep, who battled back to take proceedings into a tiebreaker.
With everything to play for, the match ended with a one-way show in Halep’s favor. Her comeback had ripped Vinci’s spirit and mentality in the match to pieces. A series of errors from the former US Open finalist guided Halep to the win after almost two hours of play.
“I was close to losing the match.But I stayed strong. I stayed focused. I didn’t give up. That makes this match much more like bigger for me. It means a lot.”
The match saw both Halep and Vinci hit a total of 28 winners, but the telling factor was their error count. Halep’s total of 14 was overshadowed by her opponents 25.
Awaiting the world No.8 in the third round will be Australian Sam Stosur in what will be a rematch of last year’s semi-final. The 16th seed claimed an impressive 82% of her first service points to dismiss Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino 6-3, 7-5. Halep is currently tied 4-4 in her head-to-head with Stosur.
“I know Sam pretty well. We played many times together. It’s going to be very difficult. Her topspin is not easy to return.” The Romanian explained.
“I played her here last year, so I know what I have to do. Still, it’s going to be a tough match.”
The Sharapova debate comtinues
In the wake of Eugenie Bouchard’s latest comment regarding Maria Sharapova, Halep weighed in on the debate. The Canadian said yesterday that people on the tour has been wishing her luck ahead of her clash with Sharapova, which she won in three sets.
“I didn’t wish good luck to Bouchard because we don’t speak, actually. She’s different, I can say.” Halep said of her frosty relationship with Bouchard.
Rumors of an anti-Sharapova contingent among players has been publicized in recent weeks. Some have been vocal critics of the world No.1, who recently returned from a 15-month doping ban. Halep however, refuses to get caught up in the limelight.
“She’s back. I’m not thinking that much, because many players are difficult at this level of tennis, the highest level of tennis.” She said. “For me it’s the same if Maria is here, if Maria is not here. I don’t feel extra motivated.”
Halep had recently stated her opposition to Sharapova’s wildcard into the Stuttgart Open following her suspension.
Naomi Osaka Using Tour Shutdown To Overcome Mental Demons
How a run-in with musical royalty spurred the former world No.1 to change her ways.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is renowned for her introverted personality and shyness when it comes to being in the limelight. Although now she wants to bury that perception of her for good.
The two-time grand slam champion has proclaimed that she ‘is done’ with being shy after missing out on a series of opportunities due to being too quiet. She came to the realisation during her time in lockdown in Los Angeles. The WTA Tour has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is unclear as to when the sport will start going again. Early this month the 22-year-old publicly expressed her desire to be more outgoing in a Twitter post.
“I’m done being shy. It’s really a waste of my time. I could’ve shared so many ideas by now, I could’ve had conversations with so many different people. All the things I could’ve learned but no I’m over here actually putting my own limiter on myself,” she wrote.
The post wasn’t a one-off or a random comment – she means business. Following her tweet, she then reiterated her determination during an interview with CNN Sport. Saying that she would like to overcome her crippling shyness in the near future.
“For me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep, and most of the regret is that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking,” Osaka explained.
One of her biggest regrets never took place on the court or was even tennis related. It involved an encounter she had with music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce. Two of Osaka’s idols. During an interview with wtatennis.com back in 2018, she described Beyonce as one of the people who inspire her along with her mum, sister and fellow player Serena Williams.
“He started talking to me, but I got really nervous and started giving one word replies so he suddenly said, ‘Are you shy?’ and I said, ‘yeah,’ and the convo came to a screeching halt.” She remembers of her meeting with Jay-Z.
So what would Osaka have said to the musical couple if she had the chance again? For her, she wanted to pay tribute to the influence both of them has had on her.
“I want to take the chance to tell people I appreciate them while I can,” she said.
“I would like to thank Jay-Z and Beyoncé for making music that motivates me, because there was a period in my life where I just watched Beyoncé performances to get motivated.
“Even right now I’m listening to older Jay-Z songs because I feel like they’re really chill.”
Osaka is currently ranked 10th in the world. She started 2020 by winning five out of eight matches played on the Tour with her best run being to the semi-finals of the Brisbane International.
World No.1 Ash Barty Could Headline New Domestic Tennis Event
The reigning French Open is considering participating in a new initiative currently being drawn up by Tennis Australia.
After being sidelined from the Tour for almost two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ash Barty might be returning back to action sooner than expected.
The grand slam champion has indicated that she might play in a series of domestic events in her country that are currently being planned by Tennis Australia (TA). All WTA tournaments have been suspended since March and it is likely that the resumption date of July 13th will be delayed further. Due to the suspension, countries around the world are in the process of setting up their own events to give player’s some match practice.
“We’re right in the thick of that and we’ll soon be rolling it out,” TA chief Craig Tiley told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on April 24th.
“We’ve got one competition which we’re going to be announcing and rolling out and, who knows, it may become a new normal for us at that time of the year, which could be pretty cool.”
The full details about the events are yet to be disclosed to the public. Barty has told the Australian Associated Press that she will not make a final decision about whether or not to participate until more information is provided. Australia recently announced a three-stage plan to lift their lockdown and restart the economy by July.
“There are a lot of details that need to be worked through,” Barty told The AAP.
“I’m interested to see what TA’s plans are but I’d have to understand all the details before I make a decision.
“We are lucky to be at that point in Australia that we can think about tennis coming back in some form.”
During the lockdown, 24-year-old Barty has said she has been able reflect on what was a breakthrough 2019 season for her. Last year she won four WTA titles, including her maiden grand slam trophy at the French Open, as well as the Tour Finals. In June she became the first Australian woman to reach No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1976.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the last year in particular and how special it was – 2019 was just incredible for my team and I,” she said.
“Remembering all of those special moments has made me hungry to get back out there and compete again.”
Barty currently heads the WTA rankings with a 2641-point lead over second place Simona Halep. She started 2020 by winning 11 out of 14 matches played. Winning her 13th WTA title in Adelaide before reaching the semi-finals of both the Australian Open and Doha Open.
‘My Body Was Cracking And Popping’ – Danielle Collins Opens Up On Arthritis Diagnosis
The former Australian Open semi-finals speaks out about how the pain related to the autoimmune condition has affected her.
American tennis star Danielle Collins said she struggled to fold her own clothes in the lead-up to her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis due to the intense pain she was feeling in her hands.
The 26-year-old announced last October that she has been diagnosed with the autoimmune condition that causes pain and swelling in numerous joints of her body. Collins’ revelation came just eight months after her fairytale run at the Australian Open where she reached the semi-finals whilst ranked outside the world’s top 30. Although at the time it was a new diagnosis for the world No.51, she believed she had been suffering from symptoms for many years.
“While in college I would get sick all the time. My college coaches were always pushing me to see doctors and stay on top of it because the health challenges they saw I was constantly facing.” Collins wrote for behindtheracquet.com.
“No one could figure it out. I continued to get bloodwork every two months and nothing came of it. During this time I had wrist surgery, a meniscus tear and a lot of joint related issues.’
“Orthopedics diagnosed me with tendonitis. Unfortunately I think there were many times many of my symptoms were pushed under the rug because I was an athlete.”
A former star of college tennis in his home country where she won two NCAA singles titles, Collins was initially dismissive that she could be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis due to her age. Although the condition does run in her family with her grandmother also suffering from it. According to the British National Health Service, women and those with a family history of the condition are most at risk of developing it.
“I pushed it off for a long time,” she admits. “ Periodically I would get bad joint pain, around my menstrual cycle, and it would be debilitating.’
“I would have a hard time getting out of bed and on the worst days would sleep for 15 hours straight. I constantly felt drowsy and tired. The weird thing is I got accustomed to feeling this way. I forgot what it was like to feel healthy and energetic.”
It was last summer where Collins said she reached ‘the last straw.’ Following her Australian Open breakthrough, her results of the tour towards the end of the season dropped significantly. Out of her last 11 tournaments played that year, she managed to win back-to-back matches in only one of them.
Following more checks, she was finally given the diagnosis shortly after her second round loss at the US Open.
“They found normal bloodwork with erosion in my neck, hands and feet, which was consistent with RA. It took a lot of bloodwork to rule out other diseases, such as lupus, but they finally diagnosed me with RA after the US Open,” Collins remembers.
“I have been on two different medications since then that have worked very well. I have mixed that with a pretty strict diet.” She added.
Collins is not the first tennis star to have the condition. Another is Caroline Wozniacki who discovered that she had it back in 2018. The Dane continued playing for another year before retiring from the tour. Although her decision was not due to her health.
Prior to the Tour suspension, Collins had enjoyed a solid start to 2020. Reaching the semi-finals of two Premier 700 events in Brisbane and Adelaide. However, she crashed out in the second round of the Australian Open to Yulia Putintseva. Now getting back on track, she hopes her story will hope inspire others.
“I didn’t want people calling me sick or let this disease define me. I had to take my situation and find the positives. I have moved forward in many areas the last few months but it still makes me nervous to think I may be a role model for others. I’m not the most outspoken person but I am working on being more comfortable with trying to help others through my experiences.” She concludes.
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