Sloane Stephens fights back to beat Azarenka and reach Miami final - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens fights back to beat Azarenka and reach Miami final

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Sloane Stephens beat Victoria Azarenka 3-6 6-2 6-1 in a bizarre match to reach the final of the Miami Open for the first time.

 

The result also means the American has now won 23 of the 28 matches she has played in North America since returning from injury last June.

Victory for Stephens looked an unlikely outcome after she went 3-0 down due to a sluggish start, lost the opening set 6-3 and then slipped 2-0 behind at the beginning of the second set.

However, the 2017 US Open champion managed to motivate herself to raise her game and she went on an extraordinary run as she won 10 of the last 11 games to earn a place in the final.

After Azarenka dictated the opening exchanges and moved into a 3-0 lead, Stephens got herself warmed up and into the match by levelling the score.

The Belarussian responded by increasing her aggression and hitting deeper. And her approach worked as she again strung three consecutive games together to take the first set 6-3.

A Remarkable Turnaround for Stephens

Azarenka extended her run of successive games to five by racing into a 2-0 lead in the second set. But it was a false dawn for the two-time Australian Open champion as Stephens suddenly roared into life.

When Azarenka made a couple of double faults to slip down 0-30, Stephens pounced on the opportunity and broke to love. She then withstood considerable pressure from the Belarussian to hold and level the score.

Game five was pivotal. Azarenka made a couple of errors to gift Stephens three break points, and then saved all three with a series of trademark groundstrokes.

But the American seemed determined to break and she saved two game points before earning her fourth break point. She took it by hitting a fierce forehand that Azarenka was only able to deflect wide of court.

The Belarussian was clearly shaken by the turn-around and she was outplayed by Stephens for the rest of the set as the American stormed through the remaining three games to win it 6-2.

Stephens immediately went up a break in the decider against an increasingly frustrated Azarenka by producing a stunning forehand winner to clinch a closely-fought opening game.

By this point, the Belarussian seemed preoccupied with certain individuals making too much noise in the crowd and the unforced errors were beginning to mount up.

After a comfortable hold, the American broke down Azarenka’s resistance again to earn a double break and suddenly the final was within reach.

Unfortunately, the Belarussian seemed to be suffering with some kind of fitness issue during the latter part of the final set and, although she managed to earn one hold, it became something of a procession as Stephens wrapped up the set 6-1.

“We played some really good points”

“I think she came out playing really well, and I knew I was going to have to fight regardless of what happened last week,” said Stephens in her press conference.

She continued, “I wasn’t playing terribly. I had a lot of errors, but I didn’t feel like I was just not in the match. So I knew if I stayed with it I would be able to get my opportunities, and I did.”

Stephens was asked about her exuberant reaction to winning the match. She said, “That’s obviously a good win for me. It’s someone I have lost to three times prior to last week. So I had to play some of my best tennis today.”

“I thought it was a really great match. Some of you might not agree, but I thought that we played some really good points. Yeah, I’m excited. I’m happy to be in the final. I think anyone would be. Hopefully I take that good tennis into Saturday’s final.”

Stephens was also asked about the incredible run of qualifier Danielle Collins, who she might face in an all-American final. She said, “I think it’s awesome. The last time I played her was in a 14s designated in Florida. I think it’s really awesome to see girls who go to college and then are able to play on tour.”

“I think that’s really cool. Education is really important. I think she said at Indian Wells she was the first person in her family to graduate. I respect that and I think it’s really awesome. For her, growing up, playing junior tennis with her, that’s really incredible and I think she’s a great story. I’m super happy for her.”

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International Tennis Hall Of Fame To Mark Emma Raducanu’s US Open Win

The teenager has donated some of her clothing to the ITHF collection.

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2021 US Open Women's Singles Champion Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open, Saturday, Sep. 11, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

The outfit worn by Emma Raducanu during her historic run at the US Open has a new home after the tennis star agreed to donate it to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

 

Raducanu stunned the tennis world in New York by becoming the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam title. The 18-year-old defeated two top 20 players en route to the title and didn’t drop a set in 10 matches played. She is the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade in 1977 and the first in history to win a Grand Slam on what was only her second main draw appearance.

To celebrate Raducanu’s rapid rise in the sport, her Nike Heritage classic style V-neck red tank top with contrast trims and a blue skirt with red pleats will be put on display in the Tennis Hall of Fame’s museum in Rhode Island.

“A legendary run: preserved,” the Tennis Hall of Fame tweeted.
“Thank you, @EmmaRaducanu, for donating your memorable #USOpen outfit to the ITHF collection!”

Raducanu is currently at a ranking high of 22nd in the world which is more than 300 places higher than the position she was in at the start of the year. She is currently on a search for a new coach after parting ways with Andrew Richardson. Raducanu says she wants to collaborate with somebody who has more experience of the WTA Tour.

In the wake of her US Open success, there have been suggestions that the rising star could be among the favourites to win the Australian Open which will take place in January. Coincidentally next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the last time a British woman won the tournament. However, Raducanu has dismissed such suggestions.

“If I’m seeded, then I’m seeded, but favourite? I think one tournament, you can’t really say I’m a favourite. I’m still so new to everything.” She said during a recent LTA event celebrating British winners of the US Open.
“I just feel like I’m learning and absorbing all the knowledge that I’m gaining like a sponge and soaking it all in.
“That’s what I really want to do. I’m not focused on results, I’m focused on how much I can learn because that’s what’s really going to drive me forward.”

Raducanu has pulled out of this week’s Chicago Fall Tennis Classic but she is expected to return to action next week in Indian Wells.

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Ash Barty Joins Osaka And Williams In Skipping Indian Wells

Will the Australian play again this year?

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) Credit: AELTC/Florian Eisele

The decision by Ash Barty to withdraw from next week’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells has cast doubts on the chances of her playing again this year.

 

The world No.1 has been absent from the Tour ever since her third round loss to Shelby Rogers at the US Open. Since then, Barty has not spoken publicly about her plans for the rest of the season and if she will play again.

On Monday the official social media feeds of Indian Wells confirmed the 25-year-old will not be playing in the tournament but didn’t provide a reason as to why. She is the latest high profile name to miss the event along with Naomi Osaka who is taking a break from the Tour due to personal reasons and Serena Williams. This year’s tournament, who is one of the most prestigious outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money awarded, is taking place more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest development has raised further doubt over the prospect that Barty will defend her title at the WTA Finals in November. The season-ending championships has been relocated from its usual home of Shenzhen, China to Guadalajara, Mexico due to the pandemic.

Craig Tyzzer, who is Barty’s coach, told the Australian Associated Press two weeks ago that the reigning Wimbledon champion may skip the WTA Finals due to the conditions and time of year it is taking place. In Barty’s native Australia she is required to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival back into the country and therefore the later she returns, the less time she will have to prepare during the off-season.

“It certainly isn’t easy for us to get there and to play that event in Mexico and then to come back and have to do two (more) weeks (in quarantine) and then your summer is sort of ruined as well. It’s a decision we’ll have to sit and mull over quite a bit.” Said Tyzzer.

So far this season Barty has achieved a win-loss record of 42-8 and has won five WTA titles which is more than any other player on the WTA Tour. Besides lifting her second major trophy at Wimbledon, she also triumphed at tournaments in Melbourne, Miami, Stuttgart and Cincinnati. Barty also currently leads the 2021 WTA Prize Money leaderboard with earnings of $3,945,182.

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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