Sloane Stephens: "I am happy that I was the last person to win at Key Biscayne" - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens: “I am happy that I was the last person to win at Key Biscayne”

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Sloane Stephens fulfilled her dream to win her favourite tournament in the tennis venue, where everything bagan.

Sloane Stephens crowned a perfect Miami tournament with her first Premier Mandatory title in Miami after beating Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 in the final. For the 24-year-old the Miami triumph in front of her family and friends was the perfect farewell to Crandon Park.

The Miami Open will be relocated from Crandon Park to the Hard Rock Stadium (the venue of the Miami Dolphins NFL team) next year and for Stephens her triumph was the perfect way to say goodbye to tennis courts, where her career began.

Stephens has become the fifth US player to win the Miami tournament following in the footsteps of legends Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and sisters Venus and Serena Williams.

“I grew up playing tennis here. Obviously this place is pretty special to me. When the USTA was here, we played Orange Bowl and all sorts of tournaments here. I am definitely happy that I could be the last person to win here. I have had some amazing experiences here, and I will definitely miss it, but I will definitely miss it. I just feel fortunate that I was able to do that here in South Florida with all my friends and family watching. It’s pretty awesome. Obviously I did not start the year off great, so to have a good result here is really important”, said Stephens to WTA Insider.

Sloane Stephens came into the Miami Open with a record of just three wins in four tournament but she found her rhythm in the home tournament beating four consecutive Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Viktoria Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko en route to her first WTA Premier Mandatory title. With the second biggest title of her career after the 2017 US Open Stephens has maintained her perfect record winning her sixth WTA title in as many title matches.

“Everyone is complaining that I play the easiest players when I win a tournament and I don’t play anyone in the top 10. I beat four Grand Slam champions. That’s pretty incredible and I am really pleased with that”.

Stephens felt that beating Monica Niculescu in the first round was more difficult than playing against Grand Slam champions on Centre Court.

“I think that a lot of the work is done when there is no crowd and there is no one there and you are playing a player who is extremely difficult to play. Someone that chop you up at any point. It’s not easy. You work so hard during those matches to be able to play on Center Court against top three players in those great matches. I think the easy part is when you are playing on the Centre Court ! When you are playing someone like Monica, that’s when you really get pushed to your limits. Those types of things are the learning lessons that I need to be able to improve and get better and play my best tennis on the Centre Court”.

Stephens admitted that the injury at the start of 2017 has helped her change her perspective in tennis and life in general.

“When I was told that I had to undergo surgery, I thought that this was the end for me, as tennis was the only thing I was able to do. Injury gave me a new perspective on tennis and on life. I don’t think there is anything else I would rather be doing. I worked for Tennis Channel and I finished my studies at the University. I felt that I was able to do something else in my life apart from tennis. I felt that I had other goals and this has helped me see things in a different way”.

Sloane Stephens is looking forward to the next tournaments starting from the clay season.

“I have not played in Rome for the past two years. I am looking forward to this tournament. Clay is my favourite surface. I hope I will be able to continue playing well on clay”.

 

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After Latest Australian Open Win, Naomi Osaka Creates History Once Again

The world No.4 reflects on her current form as she climbs to a new ranking high.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

A straight sets win over Elina Svitolina didn’t just reward Naomi Osaka a place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, it has also sealed her place in the history books.

The 21-year-old roared to a 6-4, 6-1, victory over an injury-stricken Svitolina, who was bothered by issues with her shoulder and neck throughout the match. Osaka has become the first Japanese woman to reach the last four in Melbourne since Kimiko Date in 1994. Not only that, the victory has secured her a spot in the world’s top 3 next week. Making Osaka the first player from her country – man or woman – to achieve the milestone in the history of the sport.

“This is something that I have been working on a lot, which is trying to get deeper in tournaments more consistently. I think I have been able to do that.” Osaka commented afterwards.
“Right now I just try to keep looking forward. So I’m not really satisfied, I am happy that I’m here (in the semi-finals), but at the same time, I want to keep going. There is more matches to win.”

Already the first player from her country in the Open Era to win a grand slam title in singles, the current world No.4 is eager to add to her collection. Her consistency on the tour has improved in recent months. Since her US Open win, Osaka has reached the semi-finals or better in four out of five tournaments she has played in. The only exception was the WTA Finals where she lost all of her round robin matches.

“You want to do the next big thing. And especially now that I won a Grand Slam, and I feel like I want to win another one, and I’m so close and I just want to keep going.” she said.

Guided on the tour by coach Sascha Bajin, who received the inaugural WTA coach of the Year award in 2018, Osaka credits one thing to her rise – an ‘inner peace.’ In recent time she hasn’t been afraid to express her emotions on the court. Earlier this year at the Brisbane International, the American-based player said she had the ‘worst attitude’ and was ‘sulking’ during her match against Lesia Tsurenko.

It appears Osaka is struggling to find a right balance between showing too much and too little emotion on the court. However, she wants to stick with a more quiet and reserve personality.

“Most people know me for US Open, right? And during the US Open, I didn’t show any emotions most of the time.” She explained.
“When I’m not calm, it just makes my life harder. There is an inner peace I can tap into sometimes during my matches, and it’s kind of hard to get to, but once I’m there, it’s really easy. Not easy, but nothing can really bother me. So that’s just something that I’m trying to learn how to do consistently.” Osaka added.

Osaka is now in sight of the world No.1 ranking. As it currently stands, she will claim the top position unless Petra Kvitova reaches the final or Karolina Pliskova wins the title. If she reaches the final, she will become world No.1 unless Kvitova wins the title. Osaka can also secure the position be winning the Australian Open title.

In the semi-finals, Osaka will take on Pliskova, who knocked Serena Williams out in three sets. She currently trails their head-to-head 1-2.

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Karolina Pliskova Stuns Serena Williams With An Epic Comeback

Serena Willams was trailing by one set and one break. She rolled her right ankle on match point and then went on to dissipate a 5-1 lead in the third set

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Karolina Pliskova - Australian Open 2019 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

It’s one of those matches that fans will remember for a very long time. One of the most incredible collapses by Serena Williams, most certainly impaired by an ankle incident occurred while she was just a few points from the finish line, who squandered a 5-1 lead in the deciding set to lose a match she had recovered after having been down by a set and a break. Karolina Pliskova played an excellent first set, was almost paralyzed by tension when she served up 3-2 in the second set and almost gave the match away in the third. “My mind was in the locker room, but I was still here,” she said immediately after her victory, as while Serena Williams was slowly crumbling in front of her, she managed to keep her cool in a sunny and windy day in Melbourne to pull off this amazing comeback.

The beginning was very cautious for both player: it was a hot day and they both respected each other. Serena’s start was particularly slow, her first serve was at least 20 km/h slower than usual and Pliskova took advantage of it with an early break and a 3-1 lead. The American champion “woke up” at 1-3 0-40 when facing three chances to go down a double break when she put the foot down on her serve and managed not to let her opponent run away in the first set. But it still wasn’t the best Williams, unable to limit her unforced errors and incapable of making a dent in Pliskova’s serve. After 40 minutes of play, the Czech player won the first set 6-4 clinching her fist towards her coach Conchita Martinez in the stands.

Williams continued to struggle on her serve, especially on the “sunny” side of Rod Laver Arena, she had to face break points on the first game of the second set while still unable get any chances to break Pliskova. Another tentative service game for Serena at 2-2 gave Karolina the crucial advantage of a break, but at that point, Pliskova did not have the instinct to kill the match an 8-points to 1 streak got the American back in the game. From that moment, Serena Williams won nine of the following eleven games and looked on her way to her 50th Grand Slam semifinal, when the unexpected happened: what looked like a minor wiggle at William’s right ankle turned out to be the key of the match. One game at a time Pliskova came back from 1-5 down in the third set, brushed off four match points and managed to pull off one of the most surprising comebacks of her career to reach her first Australian Open semifinal.

Karolina Pliskova on Thursday will face Naomi Osaka who defeated Svitolina in two sets.

 

 

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Naomi Osaka Swats Aside Svitolina To Move Ahead In Race For No.1

Naomi Osaka progressed to the Australian Open semi-final and moved ahead in the race for World No.1 with a dominant win over Svitolina.

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Naomi Osaka (Australian Open Twitter account - @AustralianOpen)

Naomi Osaka continued her impressive rise to the top with a commanding 6-4 6-1 win over Elina Svitolina that sealed her place in the Australian Open semi-finals.

The result moves the Japanese player, 21, into pole position in the race for World No.1 and she will stay there unless Petra Kvitova reaches the final or Karolina Pliskova wins the tournament.

The first five games of the opening set of the quarter-final were closely-contested, but both players still held serve without ever being taken to deuce.

All of that changed in the sixth game. Osaka really started to trouble Svitolina with her weight of shot, and the Ukrainian eventually succumbed to the third break point she faced.

The Japanese player surrendered her advantage immediately with a poor service game. Then she re-discovered her rhythm immediately to break Svitolina again.

But the World No.6 justifiably has a reputation as a fighter, and she drew on all her battling qualities to break straight back for the second time in a row.

That made it 5-4 to Osaka, and many would have expected the set to settle down again at this point. It did not happen, as the Japanese player put the Ukrainian’s serve under pressure again to force 0-40 three break points.

Svitolina dug in to save all three but, when she faced a fourth, she netted a backhand and the set went to Osaka.

Osaka races through the second set

Elina Svitolina (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

The World No.6 completely fell apart on serve in the second game of the second set. Consequently, she rapidly found herself facing a set and 0-3 deficit in the match.

At the changeover, Svitolina called for the trainer because she was suffering from pain in her right shoulder. She received some treatment and then the action continued.

Victory looked almost certain for the reigning US Open champion at this stage. And she cemented that impression when she – incredibly – broke the Ukrainian for the fifth time in succession to make it 4-0.

Osaka had a slight wobble in game five. She made a couple of unforced errors to hand Svitolina a break point.

However, the World No.6 did not take advantage of the chance and, although she finally held serve in game six, she must have known the fight was over.

The Japanese player completed the formalities with a comfortable hold. She finished the match with two aces and a decisive smash and celebrated with a low-key fist-pump and a smile for the crowd.

“I tried to be as consistent as I can,” Osaka said in her post-match interview. “She’s a really great player and it’s unfortunate that she got injured.”

She continued, “Today I just had one goal – to try as hard as I can and not get angry. I didn’t do it well in the last two rounds but I think I did it well this time so I’m really happy with how I played.”

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