Maria Sharapova Upset By Niculescu In Doha - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Upset By Niculescu In Doha




Maria Sharapova (

Maria Sharapova became the latest victim of Monica Niculescu and her box of tricks as she surprisingly lost 6-4 4-6 3-6 to the Romanian in the first round of the WTA Premier event in Doha.


The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, is not the force she once was but she would certainly have expected to beat Niculescu, particularly as she was ranked 50 places higher than the World No.92 before the match.

However, the Romanian upset the odds to make it through and will probably face Magdalena Rybarikova in round two. Provided the Slovakian successfully negotiates her encounter with Omani wild card Fatma Al-Nabhani (World No.521), the Doha crowds can look forward to an exhibition of clever slices, drop shots and deft volleys when she plays Niculescu.

“I love it how I play and I like to be unique, and I think my slice forehand is a weapon,” the Romanian said during her press conference. “And when I feel good on the court, then I play relaxed, I can be good and can be dangerous.”

Sharapova was always likely to find the ever-inventive Niculescu tough to put away unless she produced something approaching her best form and, for most of the first set, she managed to do exactly that. The Russian opened the match with a flawless return game to break the Romanian to love, and then responded to Niculescu levelling the match at 2-2 by breaking her twice more to race into a 5-2 lead.

But Sharapova faltered when she was serving for the set and Niculescu dragged the score back to 5-4. And, although the Russian held serve to clinch the first set, her level of performance steadily dropped off as her Romanian opponent battled, sliced and hustled her way to a 6-4 scoreline to take the contest into a third set.

Things got even worse for Sharapova in the decider as she failed to capitalise on an early break and then made a string of double faults and forehand unforced errors to lose three games in a row and gift Niculescu the set and the win.

In total, the Russian made 52 unforced errors and served 11 double faults in the match. Those are awful numbers, but she has coped with similar stats in the past by hitting just as many aces and winners. This time, however, she could only manage 31 winners and two aces, which was way short of what she needed.

“I did a good job of winning the longer rallies, even though that’s not really what I wanted to get myself into.” An upbeat Sharapova reflected about her performance.
“So, physically I felt good. I just got pretty passive in the end and starting making too many errors.”

Radwanska survives

Agnieszka Radwanska looked in danger of suffering a similar fate to Sharapova when she lost the opening set to Mona Barthel, who cracked 25 winners past the Pole to take it 6-3.

The 2012 Wimbledon finalist responded by stepping inside the court and being more aggressive in the second set in the hope of unsettling her opponent’s rhythm. It worked wonders, as Barthel suddenly found it much more difficult to time her shots. Before the German could fully adjust to the change, she was 4-0 down in the set and eventually lost it 6-3.

Radwanska initially kicked on in the decider and raced into a 5-2 lead. However, she wasted an incredible nine match points as she allowed Barthel to level the set at 5-5. Finally, the Pole took her tenth opportunity to close out the match and breathe a sigh of relief that she had not thrown it away. Sealing the marathon win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. She is likely to play Petra Kvitova in the next round.

In other matches, Dominika Cibulkova held her nerve to edge out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(8), 6-4. The Slovak, who has only won back-to-back matches in one tournament so far this season, will take on seventh seed Caroline Garcia next. American world No.48 Cici Bellis also progressed after her opponent, Daria Kasatkina, retired with a neck injury.

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.




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Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 


The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year




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

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook. 


The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury. 

Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open. 

“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.

“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”

Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them. 

“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”

This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16. 

“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.

Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients. 

“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.

This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open. 

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Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion

Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.




Simona Halep (@NewsCentralTV - Twitter)

Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.


The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.

However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.

Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.

This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.

Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.

Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:

Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion

Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet

Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko

Qatar: R1 l. Garcia

Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek

Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur

Rome: R2 l. Collins

Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng

Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia

Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu

Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina

Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya

Toronto: Champion

Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew

US Open: R1 l. Snigur

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