Osuigwe & Liu: Worth The Thirty-Seven Years - UBITENNIS
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Osuigwe & Liu: Worth The Thirty-Seven Years

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Whitney Osuigwe (zimbio.com)

By Mark Winters

It had seemingly been eons since two Americans had met in the Girls’ final at the home of clay-court tennis. To be exact, it was thirty-seven years ago, but Claire Liu and Whitney Osuigwe put on a two-hour, seven-minute Roland Garros performance that made the lengthy wait well worth it.

 

Liu of Thousand Oaks, California, seeded No. 6, faced Osuigwe of Bradenton, Florida, seeded No. 7. It was a 17-year-old against a 15-year-old challenge, and the younger, lower seed ran the table. Youth, at a tournament that featured many of the best teenagers in the game, prevailed. Osuigwe got the better of her older opponent, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

The contest was staged on Court 1 known as the “Bullring” because of its similarity to a “corrida de toros”. The location, which will be demolished when Stade Roland Garros is expanded, may be the best place at the facility to watch tennis. Not only are spectators “reach out close” to the players, the intimate venue puts one in touch with the beads of sweat, emotion and effort being exerted. It is so personal that dashing slides practically spray those in the arena’s courtside seats with the gritty terre battue.

The small stadium amplified the shot making that took place. On a color chart, they could have been categorized as vibrant. The brightness changed as quickly as the players alternated serve. There was an ebb and flow to the contest. At times an explosive winner was followed by a pulverized error that carried long or wide. Part of the youthful exchange mix even included a shot or two looped deep into the backcourt. In short, it was an impressive display by participants who are not terre battue born and bred.

Following the match, when asked about having a substantial lead in the second set and losing the tiebreak, Osuigwe, who admitted that clay is her favorite surface, said, “My first three rounds were three-setters, and I was down in most of them. I just told myself to keep fighting, and I did and pulled it out.”

Queried about the difficulty of playing someone from the US, the champion admitted, “It’s not another American, but it is tough to play Claire. The last time at the Easter Bowl, she beat me pretty bad (6-1, 6-1 in April).”

She added, “I think, actually, we are going to go into town for dinner (tonight).”

Even though she was disappointed, Liu was very forthcoming when she offered, “I think we both started out a little nervous in the beginning. I capitalized on those nerves earlier so that’s how I went up the break. Then, she just started playing better and better, and I rushed a little bit.

“Overall, she played a really good match. I just tried to hang in there. I got a little lucky in the second (set). She played really well.”

Liu, who won the 2016 Wimbledon Girls’ doubles with Usue Maitane Arconada, pointed out, “I beat her fast at the Easter Bowl, but that was on hard court, and I knew she would learn from that match. I was expecting her to play well, and she did.”

In 1980, the last All-American Girls’ final took place. Kathy Horvath defeated Kelly Henry, 6-2, 6-2 for the Roland Garros Girls’ trophy. Horvath turned professional the year after her Paris success. While on the tour, which she played until 1989, her best Grand Slam singles performance took place at Roland Garros where she was a quarterfinalist in 1983 and ’84. Finalist Henry went on to become a four-time All-American at USC, and had a brief pro career after college.

With Team USA, the theme for the entire year has been ‘professionalism’,” said Erik Kortland, National Coach Women’s Tennis., who is guiding the effort in Paris. “All week we have preached about getting 1% better each day, enjoying the process, and enjoying the moment. The girls have embraced this and it takes away all the pressure.”

In 1993, Martina Hingis was 12-years-old when she became the youngest player to win the Roland Garros Girls’ championship (and the youngest to win a junior Grand Slam title, too). Though Whitney Osuigwe, who is playing in only her second Grand Slam event, is not the youngest to triumph, she brought a thirty-seven-year streak to an end, with performance that belied her age.

“Keep in mind how well all the other American girls did too,” Kortland said. “We had four Americans in the quarters.

“It’s been a pleasure and nothing but pure enjoyment and laughs and smiles the entire week and fun watching the girls become professional young women. We are very proud of them.”

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Australian Open: Iga Świątek stumbles past Kaia Kanepi to make the semis

Iga Swiatek outlasted Kaia Kanepi in a gutsy match to reach the last four in Melbourne.

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Iga Swiatek (@TennisPodcast - Twitter)

Former French Open winner Iga Świątek overcame some serious woes to outlast Kaia Kanepi in a 3-hour battle.

 

The 20-year-old bounced back from losing the first set to eventually triumph 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.

This included the Pole serving 12 double faults.

She will have to improve dramatically in a short turn around of just 24 hours, as she faces the power play of Danielle Collins on Thursday.

The American will no doubt be the fresher of the two, winning in contrast, a comfortable straight sets.

https://twitter.com/BJKCup/status/1486212998796648448

Świątek and Kanepi both held their first three service games, before things began to get really interesting mid-way through the opening set.

A sloppy game from the Pole, including two double faults, gave the break on a plate to the Estonian.

At 36, Kanepi is one of the most experienced players on the WTA, and the seventh seed could ill afford to be handing out freebies.

The veteran made every use of the new balls, serving powerfully and tucking away a forehand smash to move 5-3 up.

Świątek then stumbled through her own marathon service game, that included a whopping nine deuces, and four break points/set points saved.

Kanepi’s service game was far from straight forward also, as she finally took the opening set after four deuces, and on her ninth set point, 6-4.

At the beginning of the second set, Świątek played another shaky service game to surrender the break to Kanepi.

A powerful cross-court backhand drive from the Estonian left her opponent on the floor, and it didn’t look like being the Pole’s day.

But Świątek dug in, and after four deuces on the Kanepi serve, she broke back.

At this point, the momentum suddenly shifted towards the Pole as she held serve before stealing the double break.

Świątek soon surged into a 4-1 lead, having won four games in a row, and looked to be cruising towards the second set.

But Kanepi held and broke back, before a comfortable hold saw her level at 4-4.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486206899263528962

The second set trickled away on serve and a tie-break was needed to separate the pair.

But Świątek played the smarter tie-break, and four straight points saw her seal it 7-2, as Kanepi’s wayward backhand went long.

After a 69-minute second set, the youngster clenched her first, as Rod Laver Arena roared, with the match going to a decider.

All the energy was with Świątek, who broke at the beginning of the third, as she moved ahead 2-0, with Kanepi panting and struggling after over 2 hours in the Melbourne heat.

To her credit, she fought back, breaking the Warsaw native to level at 2-2.

But in a topsy turvy match, Swiatek broke and held to lead 4-2 and close in on a semi-final place.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486279587634245633

The pole secured the double break but surrendered her own before finally prevailing in a marathon match point, to make the semi-finals for the first time in Australia.

After the match she had this to say: “I’m really glad that I still have my voice because I was shouting so loud.

“This match was crazy and without the energy of the stadium I think it would’ve been really hard to win it.”

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486209694964273156

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Madison Keys unlocks Barbora Krejčíková to make the Australian Open semi-finals

Madison Keys is into the Australian Open semi-final after dismantling Roland Garros champion Barbora Krjecikova.

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Madison Keys (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

America’s Madison Keys returned to a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time in nearly four years with a resounding win over Barbora Krejčíková.

 

The current French Open champion went down in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 25 minutes.

For Keys, it’s her first Grand Slam semi-finals since New York back at the US Open in September 2018, and prior to that, the French Open semis the same year.

It’s been a long road with injuries for Keys, but having won in Adelaide at the start of the year, the American is on a 10-match win streak, and looking dangerous again.

She will next play Australian world number one Ash Barty, who powered past American Jessica Pegula in a quickfire straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

Keys came out firing in her opening service game, winning four straight points and thumping a forehand winner to seal the game.

In Krejčíková’s opening service game, at 30-15 down, Keys produced a stunning backhand drive down the line to send early warning signs to her opponent.

In the battle of the 26-year-old’s, the Czech was moving Keys well around the court, and held serve.

Both players continued to hold and at 2-2, Keys was pushed all the way, saving three break points in a mammoth game of six deuces.

Mentally this affected the world number four who eventually crumbled, as Keys got the break, converting on her fifth break point.

The unseeded American stormed into a 5-2 lead, but Krejčíková called on the trainer, struggling with heatstroke in the sheer 33-degrees Melbourne heat.

Keys whipped up two sets points, only needing one, as she slammed down an ace to take the first set 6-3.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1485803935508365312

The world number 51 continued to defy the script, breaking the fourth seed at the beginning of the second set.

She consolidated it with a hold of serve, before wrapping up the double break for a 3-0 lead.

But the match was far from over, as Krejčíková broke back, against the run of play, and soon only trailed 3-2.

Keys wasn’t shaken by this. The 2017 US Open finalist produced a strong service game and a tidy forehand gave her a 4-2 cushion.

The American continued to play some inspired tennis, and nabbed another break with a wonderful forehand return winner, to put her on the cusp of victory.

And Keys opened up two match point opportunities, only needing one, as she powered into the semi-finals once again.

After the match, she opened up to the Rod Laver Arena crowd.

“I think I’m going to cry. It means a lot,” she said.

“I’m really proud of myself and so thankful to my team, my friends and my family for helping me through what was a really tough year.”

The American continued. “I did everything I could with my team to reset this off-season.

“Focus on starting fresh, just starting from zero, and not worrying about last year. That’s gone well so far.”

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‘A Lot Of Fun’ – Ash Barty Storms Into Australian Open Semis

The top seed required just over an hour to secure her place in the last four at Melbourne Park.

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Image via twitter.com/australianopen

Ash Barty is two wins away from becoming the first the first home player to claim the Women’s Australian Open title in 40 years after producing a dominant display during her quarter-final clash on Tuesday.

 

The world No.1 experienced little difficulty throughout her 63-minute 6-2, 6-0, triumph over an error-stricken Jessica Pegula who was far from her best. Barty won 81% of her first service points and broke her rival five times en route to her latest victory. She is the only player remaining in this year’s women’s draw who is yet to drop a set in the entire tournament.

“It was solid tonight. I had a lot of fun out here,” Barty said afterwards. “I was able to serve and left quite a lot of forehands in the center of the court. I was happy to take the game on, be aggressive on my forehand and not worry if I missed a couple. As long as I was doing the right thing and I felt that I was able to do that throughout the match.”

21st seed Pegula posed a stern test for Barty coming into the match and had recorded a series of notable wins following their meeting in the first round of the 2019 French Open. Since the start of 2021 the American has recorded eight wins over a top 10 player and also reached the last eight at Melbourne Park 12 months ago. In the previous round she beat fifth seed Maria Sakkari.

However, it was the world No.1 who got off to the dominant start in their latest encounter by fighting back from a 40-0 deficit to break Pegula in the opening game. Capitalizing on what was some lopsided play coming from across the court, Barty extended her lead later in the set by securing a double break. Using her slice to force Pegula out wide, a backhand shot from her crashed into the net which gifted the top seed her second break for a 5-2 lead. After just 35 minutes of play the home favorite secured the opener with a perfectly placed ace down the center of the court.

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with Barty once again breaking instantly against her growingly frustrated opponent. Comfortably in the lead, the top seed began hitting more loosely as she continued to dominate the match with her tactics of the slice and hitting deep towards the baseline. From then on, the match was a foregone conclusion as the two-time Grand Slam champion raced towards the finish line.

Jess is an incredible person. I love to test myself against her and she came out here and made me play my best tennis so far this week,” Barty said of Pegula. “A credit to her, she had an exceptional couple of years and she is definitely a top 20 player. She deserves to be in these later ends of the slams and she still has a few more to come, that’s for sure.”

Barty will next take on Madison Keys who has already beaten three seeded players in Melbourne Park this year. Keys’ latest triumph was over reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejčíková who she beat 6-3, 6-2. The 26-year-old is through to the last four of a major tournament for the first time since 2018.

“It is so nice to have Maddie (Keys) back playing her best tennis. She is a top player and she deserves to be at the top of our game,” Barty commented. “I know she had a rough time last year with injury and illness.’
“I’ve had plenty of battles with Maddie before. We’ve had the Fed Cup, played in all different circumstances and this (their upcoming match) is just going to add to it. I can’t wait, I know it is going to be a good one.”

It is the second time in Barty’s Career she has reached the Australian Open semi-finals after 2020.

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