Angelique Kerber, Kristina Mladenovic Aim To Close Out 2017 On A High In Zhuhai - UBITENNIS
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Angelique Kerber, Kristina Mladenovic Aim To Close Out 2017 On A High In Zhuhai

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Angelique Kerber (zimbio.com)

12 months ago, Angelique Kerber ended her season as the best player in the world rankings. Now she has been relegated to the WTA Elite Trophy and fighting to stay in the world’s top 20.

 

Hosted in China, the Elite trophy features the 11 highest ranked players (plus a wild card) that failed to make the cut for the prestigious WTA Finals. Kerber will be aiming to win her first title of 2017 during what has been a turbulent year. Currently with a season win-loss record of 29-22, the German has failed to progress beyond the four round at every grand slam tournament. Losing in the first round at Roland Garros and the US Open.

“I was on top, now I’m not playing so good but I’m thankful for what I can learn from this,” Kerber told AAP.
“I think a lot of people think it is (easy) but athletes know how tough it is.
“They see you on the court when you’re winning, but don’t know how much energy you put into training and what you do away from court.”

In the round-robin tournament, Kerber has been drawn in the same group as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ashleigh Barty. She has already lost twice to Pavlyuchenkova this year in Monterrey and Tokyo. Meanwhile, Barty is a rising star of the women’s game. The Australian is at a ranking high of 20th in the world and reached the final of the Wuhan Open last month.

“She played good tennis in Brisbane and I knew she’d have a good year,” Kerber said about Barty.
“She has a really different style but this is how she does it and why she’s had success, beating some good players.
“If she is working hard she’ll have some great years ahead.”

Mladenovic out to end lull

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Top seed Kristina Mladenovic has been drawn in a group with two players she has a losing head-to-head record against. She will be aiming for revenge against Julia Goerges, who defeated her at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Mladenovic will also take on Wimbledon semifinalist Magdaléna Rybáriková for the first time since 2009.

Like Kerber, the French world No.10 is hoping to end her year of a positive note. Since Wimbledon she has only managed to win one match in ten tournaments played. A stark contrast to the first half of the season when Mladenovic reached four WTA finals, winning the St Petersburg Open.

“Definitely this is a chance to set the tone for 2018. The second half of this season was a real struggle for me but the positive note for me is that I now feel better physically and I managed to sort out the physical problem that I had. I feel kind of refreshed.” She said earlier this week.
“And I would like to compete better and play better and the results can also come in Zhuhai. Just to feel part of it is also a chance to relax in a way because it’s a great achievement and after a long year you can just give a little push and then afterwards you can absolutely relax, take time off, think with your team what was good and what was not good and start to build for the next season.”

The Elite trophy will see the winner of each of the four groups progress to the semifinals. US Open champion Sloane Stephens is also taking part in the tournament. Stephens hasn’t won a match on the tour since her triumph in New York.

List of groups

AZALEA GROUP
Kristina MLADENOVIC (1), France
Julia GOERGES, Germany
Magdalena RYBARIKOVA, Slovakia

BOUGAINVILLEA GROUP
CoCo VANDEWEGHE (2), United States
Elena VESNINA, Russia
PENG Shuai (WC), China

CAMELLIA GROUP
Sloane STEPHENS (3), United States
Anastasija SEVASTOVA, Latvia
Barbora STRYCOVA, Czech Republic

ROSE GROUP
Anastasia PAVLYUCHENKOVA (4), Russia
Angelique KERBER, Germany
Ashleigh BARTY, Australia

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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Venus Williams Explains Met Gala Photo With Maria Sharapova

The former world No.1 says she and her sister Serena have ‘respect and love’ for Sharapova.

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Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams at the 20201 Met Gala (image via Instagram)

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says there are no hard feelings between her, her sister Serena and Maria Sharapova after the trio took a photo together at the Met Gala.

 

The former world No.1s was seen smiling and laughing together at the New York fundraising event with both of the Williams sisters uploading a photo of them all on their Instagram story. Prompting surprise from some fans considering the at times icy rivalry between Serena and Sharapova that dates back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Serena’s name more than 100 times. She says the American hated her for beating her at Wimbledon that year and that the two were ‘not friends.’

“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”

Responding to the claims, Serena hit back at the book in 2018 by describing it as ‘hearsay’ and said she never had any ‘negative feelings’ towards Sharapova. The two clashed on the Tour no fewer than 22 times with Serena winning 20 of those meetings.

“So I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book,” Williams commented back in 2018. “So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.”

Three years later and it now seems that all parties have put their disagreements behind them. At the Met Gala they were seen getting on pretty well. Besides posing for a photo together, they were also seen together in the bathroom at the event. A photo taken by pop star Anitta and rapper Saweetie which showed them in the background.

Speaking about the event for the first time, 41-year-old Williams said she wishes Sharapova was still playing before adding that they still ‘respect and love’ each other.

“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained on Instagram.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria
.”

Williams, Serena and Sharapova have won a total of 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

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