British Women's Charge At The US Open Falters As Konta And Watson Fall At The First Hurdle - UBITENNIS
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British Women’s Charge At The US Open Falters As Konta And Watson Fall At The First Hurdle

Joshua Coase

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Johanna Konta

British number one Johanna Konta became the heaviest casualty on day one at the US Open as she was outclassed by Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic.

 

The world number 78 recovered from two breaks down in the opening set to give world number seven Konta a scare before the Brit managed to edge over the line in set number one. The level of tennis which the Serb had produced in flashes midway through the first set resurfaced in the final three games of the second and through much of the decider as one break in each set was enough to get Krunic over the line.

This win marks just the second top 10 win of her career and afterwards the Serb was delighted with the level of tennis she had produced. She said: “I feel amazing obviously. I’m happy with the way I played and with the way I fought. She’s an awesome player so I had to be at my best from the first point.”

Meanwhile, Heather Watson also left Flushing Meadows much earlier than she would have liked after losing in the first round at the US Open for the seventh year in a row. The British number two succumbed to world number 46 Alize Cornet this time around in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Konta’s collapse paves the way for Krunic’s headline making win

Konta asserted her dominance early on in the contest, breaking her opponent in the third game with a backhand return of serve winner up the line following a double fault and forehand unforced error from her Serbian opponent.

The British number one was seemingly cruising towards taking the opening set after securing a double break to take a 4-1 lead, but Krunic began to raise her level. The Serb secured one of the breaks back with some brave hitting, taking on a backhand down the line to leave Konta flat footed as it clipped the top of the tape on its way to being a winner. With Konta’s lead now reduced to just one game nerves got the better of the Brit as a couple of double faults and rushed points left the Brit facing two more break points. The recent Wimbledon semi-finalist saved the first with a trademark backhand down the line winner, but that weapon let her down on the following point as the Serb levelled the score at four games all.

With momentum on her side it came as a big surprise that Krunic’s level suddenly dropped dramatically, with a double fault and poor unforced errors leaving her 0-40 down. Konta took full advantage and broke her opponent to love before closing out the set in a far more comfortable service game than her two prior ones to take the first set 6-4.

Konta had opportunities to stamp her authority on the match early in the second set but was unable to capitalise on two break point chances in Krunic’s opening service game, or another chance in the third game. Those missed opportunities came back to bite the Brit and helped the Serb grow in confidence with her game.

The seventh seed came through a marathon game on serve to level up at 3-3 but only won one point thereafter as Krunic took complete control. Konta’s groundstrokes became erratic and she failed to make returns of serve back onto court as two holds to love helped the Serb take the set 6-3 to force a decider out on Grandstand.

Having played one of her worst sets of tennis in her year to date Konta struggled to regroup early in the final set as a double fault left her down a break at 2-1. With the prospect of securing the biggest win in her career since defeating then world number four Petra Kvitova in New York in 2014, the moment looked to get a bit too much for the Serb. Krunic was brave and did well to stave off three break points, but her opponent was not to be denied at the fourth time of asking as the seventh seed ripped a cross court backhand winner to get back on even terms.

The Serb did not fade away despite losing her advantage and broke once more to pile the pressure on Konta, who had reached the fourth round here the past two years. There was to be no comeback from the world number seven this time around as Krunic wrapped up victory in two hours and 16 minutes 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Watson’s woes in New York continue

Watson was always going to be facing a stern test against an opponent ranked 28 places above her in the WTA World Rankings and could not have got off to worse start, dropping serve in the opening game of the match.

The Brit had half a chance to break back in the sixth game up 0-30 and at deuce on her opponent’s serve, but Cornet, once ranked as high as 11 in the world, dug deep and kept Watson frustrated as she clung on to her break advantage.

Serving to stay in the match, Watson saved three set points in the ninth game with a couple of unreturned serves and a backhand down the line winner. The Brit then had half a chance to break back at 15-30, but the Frenchwoman hung tough as she had done throughout the match so far to seal the set 6-4.

There was to be no Big Apple dreaming for the Brit as Watson found no great joy in the second set either. Despite hanging in with her opponent up to four games all, the Brit’s game collapsed at a crucial time. The British number two squandered several game points, hitting a double fault to let one slip by before a few errors resulted in her serve being broken leaving Cornet to serve for the match.

The Frenchwoman looked solid from the baseline throughout the match and used that to full advantage, closing out the set and the match to complete a 6-4, 6-4 victory after one hour and 36 minutes of match play out on Court 4.

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Why Peng Shuai’s Video Call With The IOC Has Failed To Ease The Concerns Of The WTA

The WTA said the video hasn’t changed their stance on the matter.

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The governing body of women’s tennis says they still have concerns about the welfare of former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai despite her appearing in a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.

 

Shuai attended a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach in what was her first public interaction with an international official since making allegations of sexual assault against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. On November 2nd Shuai published a post on her Weibo account detailing the alleged assault and revealed she had an on-and-off affair with the former influential political figure for a decade. The post was removed less than an hour after it went live and her Weibo account is still restricted.

In a statement issued by the IOC, Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ and would like some privacy. It is understood that the video call lasted roughly 30 minutes, which also included IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. However, in the statement there was no mention of the sexual assault allegations which was made by Shuai.

This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.” The WTA told Reuters in response to the video.

There are fears by the WTA that Shuai is under the control of the state and is restricted as to what she can and can’t say. Lingwei, who participated in the video call, is a former athlete who has since worked with the Chinese government and is a member of the people’s congress.

Recently China’s media, which is controlled by the Communist party, has posted a series of photos and videos of Shuai. However, the WTA confirmed at the weekend they will have been prevented from getting in contact with her despite making numerous efforts.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said.

China’s Global Television network, which is owned by state media, hasn’t posted a single article about Shuai in recent weeks following her allegations. However, for the first time on Monday they published a story about her meeting with the IOC but made no mention of the allegations.

Hu Xijin is the editor of the Global Times newspaper. He claims that the world wouldn’t believe what Shuai is saying unless they are in line with the Western media who he accuses of trying to damage the reputation of his country. Hu is an influential political figure in his country, whose publications have been used to send messages to the outside world. He has also been accused by some of being a political propagandist for the community party.

“As long as what Peng Shuai said doesn’t accord with the expectation of the Western media, they won’t believe it. They only believe the story about China that they imagine. I’m surprised that they didn’t say the lady who showed up these two days is a fake Peng Shuai, a double,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
“For those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai, her appearances of these days are enough to relieve them or eliminate most of their worries. But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them.” He later added.

Like all of the Chinese state-run media and their journalists, Hu has made no mention of the allegations concerning Mr Gaoli.

The WTA have said they are willing to withdraw tournaments from China if their concerns of Shuai’s welfare are not properly addressed.

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REPORT: China Censors Naomi Osaka’s Weibo Account Over Peng Shuai Support

It has emerged that followers are being prevented from commenting on her posts as the WTA warns China they are prepared to stop doing business with them if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Restrictions have been placed on the official Weibo account of former world No.1 Naomi Osaka after she posted a statement expressing concern about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, according to a leading financial newspaper.

 

Nikkei Asia confirmed on Thursday that they have found ‘censoring activity’ on Osaka’s account less than 24 hours after she spoke out about her fellow tennis player. It is understood that comments have been disabled on her latest post even though it is unrelated to Shuai. Weibo is the main social media service in China which is used by millions every day but it is regulated by the country’s strict laws. Other sites such as Twitter is officially banned in the country.

In her post, Osaka wrote on Twitter that ‘censorship is never OK at any cost’ and that she hopes Shuai is safe. It has since been retweeted more than 19,000 times.

On November 2nd a post was uploaded on Shuai’s Weibo account in which she said she was pressured into sex by the former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and she had an on-and-off affair with him over a intermittent period of 10 years. The post was removed less than an hour after it was uploaded but observers took screenshots of it which was then reposted online. Since then, Shuai hasn’t been heard of or seen in public.

There are now mounting concerns over Shuai’s current whereabouts after the international branch China’s state-broadcaster published a letter which they claimed the tennis star wrote to the WTA. The letter says that the tennis star denies making the accusations and she is not missing. However, Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has expressed serious concerns about the authenticity of the letter.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her.”

In recent years China has been a crucial location for the WTA Tour and has generated millions in revenue for the sport. No tournaments have taken place in the country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but 10 are expected to resume next year, including the prestigious WTA Finals. Nevertheless, the WTA has stated that they are prepared to cut ties with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

“If at the end of the day we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that’s what it came to,” Simon told The New York Times.

In 2014 Shuai became the first Chinese player in history to top the world rankings in doubles. During her career, she has won two major titles with Hsieh Su-wei and has been ranked as high as 14th in singles.

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Garbine Muguruza Beats Kontaveit To Win Season-Ending WTA Finals

Muguruza caps off what she describes as her ‘best year’ on the Tour by becoming the first Spanish woman to win the season-ending title.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider/

Garbine Muguruza is the 2021 WTA Finals champion after beating the world’s number eight Anett Kontaveit  6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 38 minutes in Guadalajara, Mexico.

 

The Spaniard hit 16 winners while the Estonian hit 38 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth during both sets before the Caracas native was able to secure the win.

” I want to congratulate Anett (Kontaveit) on her amazing year and managing to qualify for the finals in the last event of the year,” Muguruza said during the trophy ceremony. ”I want to thank everyone who made this possible to play in Latin America and it was a dream come true to play”.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza got off to an aggressive start by looking for the early break in the first game of the match but the world number eight held her ground and managed to hold serve.

At 1-1, the Spaniard had three more chances to take the lead and she was able to break serve at the third time of asking but failed to consolidate it as Kontaveit broke right back the following game.

Once again at 3-3, it was the world number five who got another break and this was able to hold serve the following game. She then broke serve for a second time to take the first set.

The 28-year-old was put under pressure early in the second set and faced two early breakpoints at 1-1 but dug deep and saved both. At 3-3, it was Kontaveit’s turn to apply pressure, and this time she was able to get the break. The 25-year-old had a chance to serve out the second and force a deciding third set but cracked under the pressure as Muguruza broke right back to even the set at 5-5.

At 6-5, Muguruza found herself with three match points on her opponent’s serve and broke one last time to seal the victory and the title.

“I’m just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the ‘maestra,’ like how we say in Spanish,” Muguruza said in press. “That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.”

Muguruza ends her season with three WTA titles to her name after triumphing in Dubai and Chicago earlier this year. Making it the first time in her career she has won a trio of WTA events within the same year. Overall, she has won 42 out of 69 matches played during 2021.

“Overall I think it’s the best year for me. I might not have won a Grand Slam, but I deeply feel like I’ve been happier and more stable, less dramatic, and in general very happy about it.” She concludes. 

The former world No.1 takes home a whopping 1.6 million dollars for winning the tournament and her ranking will go up to number three when the new world rankings come out on Monday.

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