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Simona Halep eyeing maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne

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World No. 1 Simona Halep is chasing a maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne, especially after the withdrawal of defending champion Serena Williams, the Romanian is confident of breaking her Slam duck at the Australian Open.

Halep, who has been to two Grand Slam finals already, both times at the French Open, losing to Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko last year, has definitely got the game to win a Major title. However, on both the previous occasions, Halep became defensive and began playing conservative tennis when she needed to up the ante during the business end of her title clashes against Sharapova and Ostapenko.

Halep told WTA Insider: “In my opinion, I did a great job last year. It was a tough year, very emotional. I need to recharge the batteries, I need to feel every match, to feel every tournament, not think anymore about the results, because I did last year and it was pretty hard.”

After ending the 2017 season, failing to progress beyond the Group stage of the WTA Finals in Singapore, Halep took a four-week break from the game. She emphasized that she desperately needed the break to recharge her batteries.

She said: “I went out almost every day with my friends. I didn’t think about tennis. I did nothing. I didn’t think about the No.1 ranking.”

“It was a little bit more (attention) in Romania. Now, since I’m No.1, there are many people around, I went to the restaurant and the owners are paying the bills. Everything’s changed, to be honest. Darren (Cahill) went with me to dinner – he stayed like 12 days in Romania – and we never paid. He said I was a cheap date. It was funny.”

Halep also insisted she isn’t perturbed anymore with all the criticism coming her way for being ranked No. 1 in the world without winning a Grand Slam. “I touched it, I saw how it is, and it doesn’t matter anymore. I just want to win matches. We said that this year we have no goals. I have the goal of just being better on court. To try to win every match I play. No more rankings, no more other stuff. Just enjoying.”

“I’m in a place that I have never been,” Halep said. “Also with the happiness. Also with my inside feelings about everything happen this year. I think was my best year so far, and after I had so many difficult moments, I was able to come back stronger. So, yeah, it’s really nice, and for sure I will never forget.”

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Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open

The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.

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Garbine Muguruza - image via https://twitter.com/usopen

Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.

 

The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.

“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”

On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.

Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.

It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”

Swiatek and her new coach

Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.

“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”

Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.

“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”

Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.

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Petra Kvitova Links Lack Of Match Play, Health Issues To Australian Open Loss

The Czech reacts to her shock exit from Melbourne Park.

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

Former world No.2 Petra Kvitova has insisted that she still has the game to compete with the best players in the world after crashing out in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

 

Kvitova, who reached the final in Melbourne Park back in 2019, only managed to win four games during her 6-2, 6-2, loss to Sorana Cirstea. The Czech looked out of sorts on court as she hit a staggering 39 unforced errors compared to only seven winners. She also only managed to win 41% of her second service points and was broken four times in the match. It is the third time in Kvitova’s career she has lost in the first round at the Australian Open after 2014 and 2018.

“I don’t have much to say. It wasn’t really going my way the whole month. That’s how it is, I think. It’s a sport, and I just have to fight through and be better at it,” said Kvitova.
“I think that she (Cirstea) likes my game, she just is going to it and she has to risk, and everything (she hit) was in. I think for her I think it’s a little bit tougher when she has to create the game, and this time it was just there and putting fast balls back.”

Kvitova’s loss comes during what has been a lacklustre start to the season. Earlier this month at the Adelaide International she suffered a shock loss to world No.221 Priscilla Hon. A week later in Sydney she managed to reach the second round before losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who had to pull out of the Australian Open due to injury.

Despite her disappointing results on the Tour, the two-time Grand Slam champion is confident she will be able to turn her season around as she outlines two reasons behind her recent performances.

“I think it’s (my game) still there. It’s just I think I didn’t play a lot of matches at the beginning of this year,” she explained. “I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.’
“It wasn’t really as easy this beginning of the season, but the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around.”

Kvitova has won 28 WTA titles in her career with the last of those occurring in March 2021 at the Qatar Open. She is now on the verge of dropping out of the world’s top 20 for a second time this season.

“I think I need the matches on the other side,” she admits. “It’s really tough to see the future right now after this loss. I know I have to, first of all, calm down and see clearly more after some days.’
“I have to have a few days off to make my rest better, so that definitely will be one of the main goals, and then for sure some preparation before the next tournaments.”

As for Cirstea, she will play Kristína Kučová in the second round.

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Coco Gauff Reacts To Shock Australian Open Exit

The American produced an error-stricken performance at Melbourne Park on Monday.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Coco Gauff says ‘everything’ about her latest performance disappointed her after she suffered a surprise first round loss at the Australian Open.

 

The world No.16 struggled to find her footing on court throughout her 6-4, 6-2, loss to China’s Wang Qiang. A player who didn’t play a single match after the Olympic Games last year and started this season with two consecutive first round defeats. It is the first time the 17-year-old has failed to go beyond the first round of a Grand Slam since the 2020 US Open.

“I think today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to,” Gauff said afterwards.

Gauff’s latest experience at Melbourne Park saw her hit a staggering 38 unforced errors compared to only 15 winners. She also struggled behind her second serve where she won just 45% of the points.

The defeat is a stark contrast to earlier this month when the rising star looked to be on track to generating momentum on the Tour. In Adelaide she led world No.1 Ash Barty by a set and a break before losing. A week on from that she reached the semi-finals of another event before losing to eventual champion Madison Keys.

“I think just everything disappointed me about today,” she said. “I feel like in the preseason, like I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn’t perform well.
“And I think learning-wise, I think there’s a lot to learn from. I think I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal. So I think next time coming into the first round of a slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I need to just play more free and focus on the moment.”

As Gauff is left to reflect on her performance, Wang is relishing her return to the winner’s circle. The 30-year-old has been ranked as high as 12th in the world and has won two WTA titles. In 2019 she reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

“I lost two times against her last year so I just tried my best and focus on the court,” said Wang, who is coached by Pat Cash.

Wang will play Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round.

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