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.



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

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.

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing



Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities



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A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.



(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.


Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.


The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.


No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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