Naomi Osaka hammers Azarenka in Rome - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka hammers Azarenka in Rome

Naomi Osaka set up a second-round clash with Simona Halep by obliterating Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-3 at the Italian Open.

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Naomi Osaka produced a blistering performance to swat aside the challenge of Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open.

 

The Japanese, 20, is in the best form of her life in 2018. She beat Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova en route to her first WTA title in Indian Wells, reached the quarter-final in Dubai and the last 16 in Charleston and at the Australian Open.

And Osaka’s great year continued today. She dominated her more experienced opponent in the opening set as she served well and hit a string of superb winners.

Azarenka briefly threatened a revival by forging a 2-0 lead at the start of the second set. But Osaka was having none of it. She hit the ball hard and deep repeatedly to earn the break back and then went from strength from strength as she sealed a straight-sets win.

This display from the Japanese rising star is even more impressive when you consider that she has previously struggled on clay. In the last four seasons, Osaka’s win-loss record on the surface is 17-15.

However, it is clear from the way she just obliterated a two-time Grand Slam champion in Rome that she can perform well on clay.

And the Japanese may need to play even better to stand a chance in round two as she faces Halep – the World No.1 and best WTA clay court performer.

Konta survives

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Elsewhere in Rome, Johanna Konta ground out a vital 6-4 6-3 win over Magdalena Rybarikova to book a second round clash with either Su-Wei Hsieh or Aryna Sabalenka.

The Brit, who turns 27 on Thursday, never looked comfortable as she made 40 unforced errors.

However, she battled back from a break down in a tight first set and then repeated the feat during an equally gruelling second set to earn a hard-fought victory after almost two hours on court.

Keys to face Vekic

In the top quarter of the draw, Madison Keys produced an impressive display to take down Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-1.

It was sweet revenge for the American, who lost a tight three-setter to the Russian in Stuttgart. And she will now face Donna Vekic, whose round one exploits were even more remarkable.

The Croatian maintained her encouraging clay-court form in 2018 by thrashing surface specialist and Madrid quarter-finalist Carla Suarez-Navarro 6-1 6-2.

WTA

Madison Keys Collects Cincinnati Trophy With Battling Win Over Kuznetsova

Madison Keys capped an outstanding week by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to take home the Cincinnati title.

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Madison Keys (@CincyTennis on Twitter)

Madison Keys claimed the biggest title of her career by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 7-6(5) in the Western and Southern Open final in Cincinnati.

 

It was an amazing week for the American, particularly as she had only won one match in the last two months leading up the event.

The World No.18 referenced this lack of form when she thanked her team for their help and said to them, “If you told me a week ago this was where I would be, I would have laughed in your face.”

Conditions were slower for the final than they had been in previous rounds due to the high levels of humidity in the air, and Keys struggled to adjust initially. She dropped her serve in the opening game and fell 3-1 behind.

However, the American gradually began to adapt. She almost broke in game six, held off three break points in game seven and then eventually got the break she needed in game ten thanks to intelligent point construction and typically ferocious hitting.

With her confidence restored, Keys held easily to move 6-5 ahead. She then capitalised on some weak serving from Kuznetsova to break again and clinch the opening set.

Keys fights back again in the second set

Madison Keys (@CincyTennis on Twitter)

To the Russian’s credit, she responded well to her disappointment. She manoeuvred the American around the court and drew several errors from her racket to open up a 3-1 lead once again.

Keys did not panic. She hit a series of trademark winners during three excellent service games that enabled her to stay in touch with Kuznetsova at 5-4.

Unfortunately for the Russian, she seemed just as nervous when she served for the second set as she had been in the first. She did not make many first serves or put the American under much pressure with her groundstrokes. This produced a predictable result: another break of serve for the World No.18.

Keys survived a break point on her serve to make it 6-5. Then Kuznetsova steadied herself to hold comfortably and avoid losing four games in a row as she did in the opener.

After five routine points in the tie-break, the American earned a mini-break to go 4-2 up. She hit a deep backhand and the Russian could do nothing more than hit it into the net.

Keys maintained her two-point advantage to set up two championship points at 6-4. On the second, she sealed glory with a powerful serve that Kuznetsova found too hot to handle.

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Grand Slam

Carlos Ramos Won’t Umpire Serena Williams’ US Open Matches Following Infamous Clash

They two will be kept apart, but will it be enough to stop people talking about their previous confrontation?

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23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos will be kept apart during the US Open following their high-profile spat at the tournament 12 months ago.

 

During the final of the US Open last year, controversy erupted when Ramos issued Williams with a violation for receiving coaching from the stands. Something which is prohibited in grand slam tennis. A livid Williams denied any wrongdoing immediately after. Suggesting the decision was sexist before calling the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief.’ In total, Williams was hit with three violations that resulted in a game penalty.

Stacy Allaster, who is the president of the USTA, has confirmed that Ramos will not be allowed to officiate Williams or her sister’s Venus’ matches during the grand slam. Saying that she didn’t want to cause a ‘distraction.’ This decision is said to be applied only to the 2019 tournament.

“We don’t need to go there,” Allaster told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “There are more than 900 matches here over the three weeks, and there are lots of matches for Carlos to do.”
“We want to be focused on the competition and want to go forward,” she added.

Ramos, who is from Portugal, was never found guilty of doing anything wrong during the match. The International Tennis Federation issued a statement shortly after the incident. In it, they said that Ramos ‘undertook his duties as an official, according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.’

Regardless of the move by the USTA to try and stay clear of the Williams-Ramos incident, it is set to be thrown back into the media spotlight in the coming days. Sports network ESPN will air a documentary called “Serena vs. The Umpire” on Sunday for the first time. It will be narrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr.

“We’re exploring stories that are unresolved and have layers to them, and that’s certainly the case with what happened at last year’s US Open women’s final,” said John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Special Projects and Original Content. “With this and subsequent stories, viewers will follow along with Don on his deep dive for truth.”

The TV program is set to include Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Williams. Pam Shriver and Chris Evert are also set to feature.

The US Open will get underway on August 26th.

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WTA

Madison Keys Marches Into Cincinnati Final With Win Over Kenin

Madison Keys set up a intriguing final against Svetlana Kuznetsova with an excellent straight-sets win over Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals.

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Madison Keys (@CincyTennis on Twitter)

Madison Keys advanced to her ninth career final with an impressive 7-5 6-4 win over Sofia Kenin at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

 

The American, 24, has endured a patchy year on the WTA tour. But she found a rich vein of form in the early rounds to defeat Garbine Muguruza, Daria Kasatkina and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

And by the time Keys set about dispatching Venus Williams in straight sets in the quarter-final, she looked full of confidence.

The World No.18 started in similar fashion against Kenin. She dominated her first two service games and broke the younger American in the fourth game to establish a 3-1 lead. She then held off a couple of break points in game five to increase her advantage to 4-1.

But Kenin is a fighter and she had no intention of giving up on the set. She broke Keys in game nine to make it 5-4 and then saved two break points to level the score.

The older American did not panic. She held serve comfortably and then hit a couple of excellent winners to break the 20-year-old for the second time in the set and take it 7-5.

Keys triumphs in close second set

There were a few momentum swings in the second set. Keys held to love in the first game but dropped her serve during a sloppy third game. Kenin then consolidated the break with a comfortable hold.

In response, the World No.18 fired down three aces as she held serve to love in just 42 seconds. She then unleashed a stream of winners to break the younger American and level the score at 3-3.

Both women played superb return games as they traded breaks to move the score along to 4-4. Then Keys unleashed a series of ferocious groundstrokes to repel a break point and hold for 5-4.

After an intense conversation with her father at the changeover, Kenin looked a bit subdued in game ten. She sent down a weak second serve on the second point which was punished by a backhand winner from the World No.18.

The 20-year-old made a double-fault to slip 15-30 behind. Then she came into the net and could only watch and admire as Keys guided a sublime backhand pass into the opposite service box for a winner that set up two match points.

The World No.18 did not have to wait long to celebrate victory, as an unforced error from Kenin on the next point sealed her win.

Keys will play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final. The Russian continued her impressive week with an eye-catching 6-2 6-4 win over World No.2 Ashleigh Barty.

“I’m very happy to be in the final,” the American said. “Sveta has been playing incredibly well. She is a craftier player with a little bit of everything. It will be a pretty difficult match but I’m looking forward to it.”

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