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Rising Star Naomi Osaka Believes Her Best Is Still To Come

Fresh off winning her first WTA title, the 21-year-old admits that she is still learning on the tour.

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Naomi Osaka (zimbio.com)

It has been less than a month since Japan’s Naomi Osaka stunned the tour by winning her maiden Premier title in Indian Wells.

 

At the tournament she defeated a duo of top 10 players, including world No.1 Simona Halep. Then in the final she dismissed an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to secure her first major breakthrough on the women’s tour at the age of 21. She continued her form into Miami with a straight sets win over her idol Serena Williams before going out in the second round to Elina Svitolina.

“I feel like these past few weeks have flown by since Indian Wells,” The Post and Courier quoted Osaka as saying. “Everything has gone by so fast, and I feel like I’m just mentally a little bit tired. I think that’s something I need to learn how to fix.”

Tipped as a future star of the sport, the world No.21 is aware that she still has far to go. Her best run at a grand slam event occurred earlier this year when she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. Prior to the start of the clay court series, she has won 14 out of 19 matches played so far this season.

“I don’t think that was the best I can play,” she admits. “I feel there’s a lot of things that I can improve on and every day I’m trying to get better at something.”

Finding the right balance

In the midst of a surge in form, Osaka finds herself in a dilemma. Playing more matches in a short period than before is starting to take a toll on her. Although she doesn’t want to stop her momentum. This week she is seeded tenth at the Charleston Open, her first clay event of 2018. On Wednesday Osaka edged out Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-3, 7-6(8), to reach the third round for a second consecutive year.

“I’ve been playing these tournaments back-to-back, and for sure I’ve played more matches this year than last year at this point,” Osaka said. “I want to take a break, but I also want to keep playing these tournaments and doing well. So, just balancing that has been the hardest for me.”

Before considering when to take a break to recover, Osaka’s immediate focus in on her upcoming clash against Julia Goerges. The fifth seed has also won a WTA title this season at the ASB Classic earlier in the year. Although her last trophy won on the clay occurred back in 2011.

“I’ve practiced with her in Wimbledon last year, and she’s really good.” Osaka said about the German. “She has a really good serve, and if she steps in, it’s basically like the point’s over. So I’m just really thinking of it as a challenge, and I’m just going to try to do my best and just have a really positive mindset.”

Despite her credentials, Osaka is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a WTA event on the clay.

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Sebastian Korda sets up quarter final clash against Ugo Humbert in Halle

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Sebastian Korda came back from one set down to beat Kei Nishikori 2-6 6-3 7-5 at the NOVENTI Open in Halle setting up a quarter final match against Ugo Humbert, who upset Alexander Zverev 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3 in 1 hour and 53 minutes 

 

Both players went on serve with no breaks of serve. Zverev won 84% of his first serve points. Humbert won the first set tie-break when Zverev netted a forehand. 

Zverev converted his first break point at the start of the second set to take a 2-0 lead, when Humbert sent his backhand long. Zverev held on his next service games to claim the second set 6-3. Humbert earned the break in the fourth game of the third set to close out the third set 6-3. 

“I don’t particularly know what I could have done differently. Ugo was serving incredibly well in the first set. We both barely won points on each other’s serve. Then in the third set, I think he found his rhythm from the baseline. He was outplaying me. It is not a great result for me, but I don’t know what I could have done differently”, said Zverev. 

Korda reached the first ATP Tour final of his first career at Delray Beach, the quarter final in Miami and won his firts ATP Tour title on clay at the Emilia Romagna Open in Parma. 

Nishikori broke twice in the first set to open up a 4-1 lead. The Japanese player won 67% of his second serve points and saved two break points in the eighth game to close out the first set 6-2 in 31 minutes. Korda broke serve in the sixth game after seven deuces and held serve in another hard-fought game to race out to a 5-2 lead. The US player served out the second set 6-3 to force the match to the third set. 

Nishikori saved three break points in a nine-minute first game. The decider went on serve until the 11th game, when Korda broke Nishikori with a lob. Korda fended off a break point as he served out the match at deuce in the 12th game. “I would say it was good level from both of us. I think I played almost too good in the first set. He then started making more balls and changed his position. He started playing better in the second set.I think the third set could go both ways. I had many chances, but he played good points and he deserved to win as he took risks”, said Korda. 

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Matteo Berrettini beats Andy Murray to reach the quarter finals in his debut at the Queen’s

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Top seed Matteo Berrettini beat former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 6-3 6-3 after 1 hour and 25 minutes at the cinch Championships to reach the quarter final at the Queen’s Club in London without dropping a set in his debut at this event. 

 

Berrettini won his fourth ATP Tour at the Serbian Open in Belgrade, reaached the final at the Madrid Mutua Open and the quarter final at Roland Garros. 

Murray, who won the Queen’s title five times in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016, has made his come-back from a groin injury with a wild-card in his first ATP Tour level tournament since March. He was seeking his seventh quarter final at the Queen’s tournament and his first since lifting this title in 2016.

Berrettini fended off all three break points and his 28 winners to just seven unforced errors. The Italian top 10 player broke twic in the fifth and ninth games to close out the first set 6-3. He earned an early break in the second game of the second set and held his next service games to close out the second set 6-3. 

“This was really hard. We all know who Andy is, he is a great player and he was always there even until the last point. I am really happy for my performance. I know how tough it is to come back from an injury, so I wish him the best of luck. I played better. I am just happy that he is back. I have worked really hard on my serve in my career since I was a kid. I grew up on clay, so I waas serving more kick serves, but we figured that I had to hit hard like this. Today it worked really well”, said Berrettini. 

Murray is unlikely to play in Eastbourne next week because of the logistics around the tournament bubble. 

“I made some good moves on court but my tennis was not very good. That’s the thing I will need most rather than the movement. There are some slight niggles in the groin and I will have to try and get rid of between now and Wimbledon. I need matches and I need to practise with top players over the next ten days”, said Murray. 

Berrettini set up a quarter final match against British player Daniel Evans, who beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4 7-6 (9-7) in 1 hour and 43 minutes. Evans won 81% of his first serve points and fended off five of the six break points. 

“I am just pleased to come through. I knew that he was good on grass. I knew that it was going to be a difficult match, but I didn’t envision it being that tight and obviously I did not want it that tight either. It was a tough match, mentally more than anything, trying to hold my serve when I was a set down”, said Evans. 

Denis Shapovalov cruised past Feliciano Lopez 6-2 6-3 with two breaks in the sixth and eighth games of the first set and in the fourth game of the second set. 

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Dominic Thiem Signs Up To New Athlete Management Agency Launched By Kosmos

The world No.5 has become the first athlete to ever be represented by Kosmos.

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Dominic Thiem says he is ‘proud’ to be joining a new agency that has been launched by Kosmos which specialises in athlete management.

 

Kosmos, which was founded by Barcelona F.C star Gerard Pique, says their venture is aimed at supporting those in the world of sport. In a statement issued on Thursday, their objective is to provide ‘comprehensive service to athletes where, in addition to representation, commercial and public relations, it will also provide sports, legal and financial advice.’ The new division will be headed by Galo Blanco who is a former player and coach. Blanco previously served as the Competition Director of Kosmos.

“We are very excited about this project. Many people who have been linked to sport for many years and specialise in different key areas in the development of an athlete’s career work at Kosmos. We know what is important for the active player and for their future, because many of us are or have been professional players,” says Gerard Piqué, President of Kosmos.

27-year-old Thiem is the first athlete to have signed up to the agency. Coincidentally the Austrian was co-coached by Blanco on the Tour between 2017-2018. Blanco ended their collaboration in order to focus on the redevelopment of the Davis Cup. Thiem is now coached on the Tour by Nicolas Massu, as well as his father Wolfgang.

“I am very happy that Galo is part of the team again. He has been very close to me and my family, even when he stopped being my coach,” said Thiem.
“The season has not started as I would have liked, I am working very hard to get back to the level of the end of 2020, and adding Galo and the rest of the Kosmos team can bring a lot of positive things.”

Kosmos has become a growingly influential business in tennis since its launch. The company are the financial masterminds behind transforming the Davis Cup and have pledged to invest $3bn into the competition over a 25-year period.

This year’s Davis Cup finals have been spread across three cities in Madrid, Innsbruck and Turin over 11 days. Pique said the decision to use multiple cities is to prevent late-night finishes in the competition which was a problem back in 2019. Two year’s ago, Italy’s clash with the USA concluded at 4am.

“Some of the matches ended very late, so we made the decision to go to other cities and to play in 11 days instead of seven,” he said at the event’s official launch earlier this year. “The event has been evolving, maturing.”

Albert Costa, who is currently the Davis Cup Finals Director, will also take on the role of Competition Director for Kosmos.

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