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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Alycia Parks Stuns Garcia To Win First Tour Title In Lyon

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Image via WTA Twitter

Rising star Alycia Parks is on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50 for the first time after stunning world No.4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets to win the Lyon Open. 

 

22-year-old Parks, who contested just three WTA main draws last year, battled to a 7-6(7), 7-5, win over Garcia who is the first top-five player she has beaten on the Tour. Throughout the final, the American didn’t drop serve after saving all four break points she faced. In total, she produced 28 winners with 15 of those being aces. It is only the second time she has beaten a top 10 player on the Tour after Maria Sakkari at the Ostrava Open last year. 

“I want to thank you for all coming out, this title means a lot to me,” Parks said afterwards. “France has a special part in my heart right now. I want to congratulate Garcia, you had an amazing week, keep playing how you’re playing.”

The victory caps off what has been a breakthrough week for Parks who dropped two sets in five matches played which was in her opening two rounds. Earlier in the tournament, she also defeated seventh seed Danka Kovinic and fourth seed Petra Martic to become only the third unseeded player to win a WTA event so far this year.  

Parks was ranked 199th in the world 12 months ago but has climbed up the rankings and is now set to break into the world’s top 70 for the first time on Monday. Towards the end of last year, she won back-to-back WTA 125 tournaments and has now won 16 out of her last 17 matches played. Her only loss was to Czech teenager Sara Bejlek in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

As for Garcia, Sunday’s clash was the first time she had contested a WTA final in her home city of Lyon. Coming into her clash with Parks, she had won 10 out of her last 11 finals played on the Tour. It is the 40th time in her career she has lost to an American player in a WTA main draw.

Congrats on an amazing week and the (past) couple of months have been unbelievable (for you),” said Garcia. “It’s your first WTA title today and it was well deserved. You played amazing and if you keep playing like this you are for sure going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks, who graduated from High School in 2019, is coached on the Tour by her father Michael who has been her main mentor since childhood. 

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Garbine Muguruza Switches Focus From Ranking Points To Enjoyment In Hunt For Form

Ranked outside the WTA top 80 for the first time since 2013, Muguruza is hoping to stage a comeback with the help of a new perspective.

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Garbine Muguruza (ESP) waves to the crowd after defeating Fiona Ferro (FRA) on No.2 Court in the first round of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 1 Monday 28/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

To say that last year was tough for Gabine Muguruza is a bit of an understatement. 

 

The Spaniard started 2022 among the best players in the world and was ranked No.3 as a result of her triumph at the WTA Finals just a couple of months earlier. However, the year didn’t go as planned for two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza who won just 12 matches. In total, she played in 17 tournaments but only managed to score back-to-back victories in two of them. In October she plummeted down the rankings from 13th to 57th. 

Muguruza’s problems have continued into this season. She is yet to win a match and is now down to 82nd in the world which is her lowest position in almost a decade. January 2013 was the last time the 29-year-old was ranked outside the top 100. 

“I’ve had so many moments in my career where I’ve been so high, and other moments when I’ve not been so high. It’s a process of trying to get back up there,” the former world No.1 told The National. “Now I’m focusing on training hard and being humble.
“You have to know that maybe you haven’t had the success recently as you had in other years, but that’s fine because things can change very quickly.
“With tennis, one week it can go wrong, then next week it can go well, then everything changes again. I think experience helps me to stay calm in the not-so-good moments when I haven’t been playing as well or results haven’t followed.”

It is a frustrating situation for somebody of Muguruza’s ability to be in. At the 2021 WTA Finals, she scored four wins over top-10 players but since then hasn’t beaten anybody ranked higher than No.31 in the world. 

Eager to get back to the top of the sport, she has decided to change her outlook on how she approaches the Tour. Muguruza, who is coached by Conchita Martinez, now says her main priority is enjoying her tennis. If this is achieved, she is confident the results will follow in due course. 

“I feel that this year it’s more about keeping it calm and more simple,” she said. “Last year I put myself under a lot of pressure, telling myself to keep going to stay at the top all the time. That definitely didn’t help me, and it was a bit of a struggle.
“This year, yes ranking is important – I’ve been at every possible ranking – but that is not my priority anymore. Now it’s about enjoying my time on court and taking the trophies back home, then we’ll see what the ranking is.”

Muguruza’s next test will be at the Abu Dhabi Open, which will get underway on Monday. She has been drawn to play Karolina Pliskova in the first round who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Then if she wins, she faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

“I played some good tennis [in Australia]. A bit disappointed about the quarter-final but overall my level is there. Of course, there are some things to improve to become more solid but overall the situation is quite good,” Pliskova said ahead of the first round clash. 

12 months ago Muguruza reached the third round in Abu Dhabi before losing to Maria Sakkari. 

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Injured Bianca Andreescu retires From Semi-Final match In Hua Hin

The Canadian was looking to book a spot in her first WTA final of the year but was forced to retire after injuring her right shoulder.

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Lesia Tsurenko booked her spot in the final of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire whilst down 7-6, 4-0.

 

The first set was extremely tight with the first four games being breaks of serve. Andreescu got the crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the first set but the Ukrainian fought back to level the set at 5-5. Then Tsurenko was the one to break serve but she was able to close out the first set.

After the opener, the semi-final clash went completely one-sided with Tsurenko taking over by winning four games off the trot before Andreescu decided to call it quits. The Canadian had a medical timeout during a second set changeover.

Tsurenko gave full credit to her opponent and despite the retirement says it was a very difficult match.

“Bianca is such an amazing player she said. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today”. She said.

Tsurenko is looking to win her fifth WTA title and will be playing in her first final since 2019 in Hua Hin. She faces the China’s Lin Zhu who earlier in the day beat the number seven seed Xinyu Wang 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 38 minutes to book her spot in the final.

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