Simona Halep wins a gruelling match against Maria Sharapova to set up re-match against Elina Svitolina in Rome - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep wins a gruelling match against Maria Sharapova to set up re-match against Elina Svitolina in Rome

Simona Halep battled past Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in two hours and 23 minutes in a hard-fought semifinal at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Setting up a re-match of last year’s final against Elina Svitolina.

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World Number 1 Simona Halep has scored her second consecutive win over three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova in their ninth head-to-head match to reach her 30th career final.

 

Halep will be looking to win the 17th title of her career and the second of the year after Shenzhen.

Halep and Sharapova played a hard-fought match with 19 breaks of serve. Halep won 63 % of her return points and converted 11 of her 19 break point chances. Sharapova got eight breaks.

Halep came back from one set down to secure her spot in her second consecutive final in Rome. She will face Elina Svitolina, who triumphed in the Eternal city last year.

The first set started with six straight breaks of serve. Halep got an immediate break in the first game of the opening set, but Sharapova earned a break point that Halep saved with a good first serve. The Russian star converted her second break point, when Halep made a double fault at deuce. Halep got another break to take a 2-1 lead, when Sharapova made two consecutive double faults and misfired twice. Sharapova hit a dropshot winner on break point to break back at 30. Halep got the fifth consecutive break, when Sharapova double faulted. Halep went up 40-15 in the sixth game, but Sharapova got it back to deuce. The three-time Rome champion hit her third drop-shot winner of the match to earn a break point and converted it, when Halep hit a ball long.

Sharapova was the first to hold serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and this proved to be crucial. The Russian player brought up two break points in the eighth game. She converted it with a crosscourt winner. In the ninth game Halep earned three break points. Sharapova saved the first break point with a backhand into the corner, but Halep converted her second break-back chance to trail 4-5. Sharapova broke Halep for the fifth time in the first set at 15 to seal the opening set.

Halep saved both break points she faced and broke serve three times to win the second set 6-1.

Both players traded breaks in six of the first seven games. Sharapova held serve to draw level to 4-4. Halep held serve at 15 in the ninth game and got the decisive break in the 10th game to close out a grueling match, when Sharapova served to draw level to 5-5.

Halep had already secured the world number 1 spot after her win in the semifinal and the defeat of Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter final.

“It was a very tough match. I had to play aggressive against Sharapova. It’s always a pleasure to come back here in Rome. I will have to play a great match against Elina Svitolina tomorrow. She is a tough opponent. I invite all my Romanaian fans to come here to support me”, said Simona Halep.

Sharapova was tired after the long marathon battle against Jelena Ostapenko in yesterday’s quarter final.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball well in the first set, but I didn’t serve well throughout the match. I just didn’t have enough velocity and pace on that shot, and I lost the accuracy on the return in the last few sets. It’s obvious that the amount of hours that we played before the match is quite different, but when we go on court, that does not really matter. That’s all thrown away, and you still have to play the match. I think I battled well. It’s always going to be a physical battle against Simona, but despite everything I was there physically. There is a lot of good things I can take away from a week like this”, said Sharapova.

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 

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NAOMI OSAKA OF JAPAN - PHOTO: ALVARO DIAZ / MMO

Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 

 

The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?

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WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 

 

Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

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