Sloane Stephens will make her debut in the world’s top ten next Monday after reaching the semi-final of the Miami Open with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Angelique Kerber.
“I’m so tired of them being, like, career-high ranking, No. 11,” the American said in her post-match press conference. “Finally I can move in there. That’s really exciting.”
Stephens continued, “Obviously (it is) something I have wanted to do for a while, and it’s not easy. It’s really not easy. Getting to 11 was hard, and so getting into the top 10 is pretty special. I’m super excited about that. It’s something I have worked hard for for a long time. I couldn’t really be any happier.”
Hard Work Pays Off
The American explained that the most difficult matches are often the unglamorous ones and not clashes with the likes of Kerber or Garbine Muguruza.
She said, “I think where the work is done is when you’re on, like, Court 75 and you’re playing Niculescu, and she’s slicing and dicing you to Beijing, basically, and you’re having to really fight and struggle. I think those are where you fight your tail off to be able to get to Centre Court and play girls like that.”
Against Kerber, Stephens also had to deal with the wind, but she argues that is just part of the life of a professional tennis player.
She said, “Today it was obviously super windy. I don’t want to play in wind. She doesn’t want to play in wind. It’s uncomfortable for both of us, but there are always going to be things that you can’t control whatsoever and you’ve just got to go with it.”
“Sometimes it’s not a bad thing because you kind of push yourself to places that you really would not normally go if the conditions were perfect and we were both playing great,” she continued. “I have just learned to embrace it because it’s totally out of my control.”
Finding Form Again
While Stephens’ performances have definitely gone up a notch in Miami, she was happy with her form in Indian Wells too, and she expressed her relief at finding form again.
She said, “I wanted to get back to where I was. Obviously playing well in Toronto and Cincinnati and US Open, that was all great, but to do it over time and keep it going is the hardest part.”
“So I think that I’m in a little bit better shape, a little bit better place,” the American continued. “Last week (in Indian Wells) I didn’t play poorly, but obviously tough result. I lost to the person who made the final, which isn’t bad.”
Stephens also talked about the negative press and comments she has had to deal with during her poor run of form stretching from the US Open last September until Acapulco at the end of February.
She said, “Obviously if you don’t win, people are super upset and they’re, like, ‘You’re never going to be the same.’ All the things that you guys write about are rather insane to me.”
“But I think that patience will outdo anything, hard work will outdo anything, and sometimes life happens and things happen and you have to just go with it. Like I said, I didn’t plan to win the US Open. It wasn’t in my brain that I’m going to win the US Open and then everything is going to be great.”
The American continued, “Winning the US Open was an amazing experience, and everything that came after that. And I think now, after Australia, I knew what I had to do to get myself back in shape and back ready to play, and I just stayed patient with myself.”
In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title
Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.
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.
Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year
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.
Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion
Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.
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
Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew
US Open: R1 l. Snigur
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