Maria Sharapova Receives Lukewarm Welcome From Rivals Ahead Of US Open Return - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Receives Lukewarm Welcome From Rivals Ahead Of US Open Return

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

The return of Maria Sharapova to Grand Slam tennis has been greeted by a somewhat muted response from other players on the tour.

The 30-year-old Russian is set to play in her first major tournament for almost two years, thanks to a wild card from the US Open. Sharapova has been absent from the majors following a 15-month suspension for violating anti-doping rules. She returned to the tour in April, but the French Open declined to award her a wild card. Then injury ruined her hopes of playing at Wimbledon.

“When it comes to tennis, good or bad – there’s really only one thing that I know for certain – I’ve missed it,” Sharapova wrote on the Players Tribune website. “Though these last two years have been tougher – so much tougher – than I ever could have anticipated… my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it has only grown stronger.”

Sharapova’s New York return is set to be a blockbuster. In the first round on Monday she faces second seed Simona Halep. A player who she leads 6-0 in their head-to-head. The Romanian was recently asked about her view concerning Sharapova’s wild card, but refused to be pulled into the debate.

“About wildcard, the tournament decided, so they can do anything they want. Is not my position to talk about this.” Explained Halep.
“Facing her, it’s going to be a big challenge, first round of Grand Slam to face her. She beat me six times. So maybe I will change this.
“I just want to do my best, to try to win the match and of course to enjoy it. It’s a big, big match.”

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Defending champion Angelique Kerber was another player reluctant to talk about Sharapova. Earlier in the year she voiced opposition to the former world No.1 being given a pass into the Stuttgart Open instead of a young German player rising up the ranks.

“This is not my decision.” Kerber said about Sharapova’s wild card. “This is a decision, of course, from the tournament. Yeah, this is all actually I can say.”

Garbine Muguruza is not one to underestimate the 30-year-old. On the tour, she has lost to her in all three of their previous meetings. Although the Spaniard admits that she hasn’t been keeping an eye on Sharapova’s performance this year. The Russian has only managed to play one competitive match since Rome due to leg and forearm injuries.

“To be completely honest with you, I haven’t seen much of her playing this year. But I think we all knew it was inevitable that she’d be back in majors and playing. I’m sure this first round is going to be interesting.” Said Muguruza.

Five-time champion Sharapova last won the US Open in 2006. Regardless of the doping controversy, she has maintained a loyal fan base. Illustrated by a Facebook tally of 15.3 million likes and a Twitter following of 6.72 million.

“I think she’s very professional in all of the things what she’s doing, on the court and off the court with the media.” World No.1 Pliskova commented about the Russian.

Sharapova will play Halep on the Arthur Ashe stadium at 19:00 local time on Monday.

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Rafael Nadal makes a winning come-back against Flavio Cobolli in Barcelona

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Rafael Nadal made a winning come-back by beating Italy’s Flavio Cobolli 6-2 6-3 in 1 hour and 26 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. The twelve-time Barcelona champion won his third match this year. 

Nadal is playing just his second tournament of the year and his first since last January, when he reached the quarter final in Brisbane. 

Nadal converted two of his eight break points and held four service games in the first set. The Spaniard held serve from 0-30 down in the first set. Cobolli faced two break points in the fourth game and saved them. The Italian player wasted a game point and was broken on Nadal’s third break point after a backhand error. Nadal consolidated the break by holding serve with a service winner to take a 4-1 lead. Cobolli faced four break points in the sixth game, but he saved three of these break points with service winners and held serve with a powerful serve to reduce the gap to 2-4. Nadal held serve at love in the seventh game with a service winner.

Cobolli missed a game point after Nadal’s backhand crosscourt winner, as he was serving to stay in the set in the eighth game. Nadal earned a set point after a forehand error from Cobolli and converted it, when the Italian player netted a forehand. 

Cobolli earned his first break point in the opening game of the second set. Nadal fended it off with a drop shot winner to hold serve after Cobolli’s forehand error. 

Nadal earned two break points, as Cobolli netted a backhand in the second game. The home star converted his break point to open up a 2-0 lead, as Cobolli hit a forehand long. Cobolli broke back in the third game after Nadal made a backhand error. 

Nadal broke serve again in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead, when Cobolli made a double fault. The former world number 1 player held his service game with a service winner in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. 

Cobolli held serve to love in the sixth game with a forehand winner to reduce the gap to 2-4. Nadal held serve in the seventh game after a forehand error from Cobolli to open up a 5-2 lead forcing the Italian player to serve  to stay in the match. Cobolli held at love to cut the deficit to 3-5. 

Nadal served out the win with a hold at 15 after Cobolli’s backhand error. Cobolli made 41 unforced errors, including 27 in the opening set. 

Nadal set up a second round match against Alex De Minaur. The 92-time titlist leads 3-1 in his four head-to-head matches against his Australian opponent. 

“Every time it is more difficult and especially when you are at an advanced age. It makes things even tougher. I am going through tough moments but at the same time, when I am able to be on Tour for a few days and practise with the guys then be able to compete a little bit, it means a lot to me. It’s still enjoyable enough to keep going. I am happy to start with a victory without a doubt”, said Nadal.

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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