Maria Sharapova Ends Her Season Early As Injury Doubts Loom - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Ends Her Season Early As Injury Doubts Loom

Maria Sharapova has ended her 2018 season as she looks to compete for titles in 2019.

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova has ended her season early as she aims to be fully fit for the 2019 season and once again compete for grand slam titles. 

 

The five time grand slam champion has withdrawn from Beijing and Tianjin as she aims to be fully fresh for the 2019 season. According to her team she will next play in Shenzhen in January, where she reached the semi-finals this year before losing to Katerina Siniakova.

This means that the Russian is unlikely to be seeded for the Australian Open as she is the defending champion at the Tianjin Open with also final points from Shenzhen coming off before the first slam of the year in late January. The 31 year old will also miss the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, a tournament that she would have loved to play in front of her fellow Russians.

A Positive Yet Frustrating Season

Despite a poor start to the season, Sharapova had a very good season with a semi-final performance in Rome, where she defeated Jelena Ostapenko in a very tough battle before losing to Simona Halep. The Russian then backed up that performance with a quarter-final showing at Roland Garros, where she was thrashed by Garbine Muguruza in the last eight.

However only five wins in three tournaments since the French Open has shown that the Russian has a long way to go if she wants to challenge for titles on a consistent basis. Also injuries have not helped Sharapova as she needs to gain her physicality during the off-season if she wants to go deep into grand slams again.

Here is Sharapova’s 2018 summary, with her 2019 season beginning in Shenzhen in January:

Shenzhen – Semi-Finals

Australian Open – Third Round

Doha – First Round

Indian Wells – First Round

Stuttgart – First Round

Madrid – Quarter-Finals

Rome – Semi-Finals

Roland Garros – Quarter-Finals

Wimbledon – First Round

Montreal – Third Round

US Open – Fourth Round

 

Grand Slam

Belinda Bencic overcomes first hurdle while Keys breezes through at Australian Open

Belinda Bencic won a tricky encounter against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova while Madison Keys hammered Daria Kasatkina.

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Belinda Bencic (@sport3laguna on Twitter)

Belinda Bencic secured safe passage through to the second round of the 2020 Australian Open with a hard-fought 6-3 7-5 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

 

The Swiss, 22, enjoyed an excellent 2019. She reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open, won two WTA Premier titles and returned to the top ten after a three-year absence caused by a series of injuries.

Now the pressure is on for Bencic as she seeks to consolidate her ranking, so she was understandably relieved to negotiate the first hurdle at the first major of the year.

“I think every first round is very difficult,” the Swiss said in her on-court interview. “It’s really tough to find rhythm so I think it’s all about fighting and I’m really happy I got through.”

The first set was a bit of a scrappy affair. Bencic capitalised on a poor start from Schmiedlova to move 4-0 up. Then the Slovakian benefitted from some sloppy tennis from the Swiss as she dragged herself back into the set at 4-3.

Games eight and nine could have gone to either player. However, Bencic made fewer errors than her opponent and that proved crucial as she won both to take the set 6-3.

Bencic recovers after slow start

Although she won the opening set, the World No.6 looked very frustrated as she walked to her chair. And that annoyance came through in her tennis for the next three and a half games as she struggled to find the court.

When Bencic did get the ball in, she frequently landed it short. And Schmiedlova punished her with a series of excellent winners.

Then, just as the set seemed to be running away from the Swiss player at 3-0 with the Slovakian serving, she re-discovered her rhythm.

Bencic hit a couple of winners and outlasted Schmiedlova in a couple of long rallies to prolong the game and force two break points. Then she benefitted from an error by the World No.202 which gave her the break she needed.

For the next two games, the World No.6 looked in total control. She bossed the points and quickly levelled the set at 3-3.

The Slovakian responded superbly. She cracked three big winners to break her opponent for the second time in the set.

This time, however, Bencic refused to let her get away. She broke back immediately and then held her serve to love to move 5-4 ahead.

Schmiedlova held comfortably in game ten. Then the Swiss player battled through a very difficult service game. She let out a roar of ‘come on!’ when her opponent’s last ball travelled beyond the baseline.

Buoyed by this, Bencic attacked the Slovakian’s serve. She extracted two errors from the World No.202’s racket and cracked a forehand winner to make it 0-40. Then she seized the third of her match points with a deep backhand that Schmiedlova could not get back over the net.

Keys powers past Kasatkina

Madison Keys started her 2020 Australian Open campaign in style as she thumped Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-1 in just 57 minutes.

The American began in blistering style as she hit seven winners in the first five games to move 4-1 up. Then she gathered herself after a brief blip to close out the set 6-3.

The second set was even more one-sided. Keys crunched 19 winners and broke Kasatkina three times to take it 6-1 in 26 minutes. She will now face either Magda Linette or Arantxa Rus in round two.

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WTA

Cori Gauff: “My goal is to win as many Grand Slam titles as possible”

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Fifteen-year-old US tennis sensation Cori Gauff stunned former world number 1 player Venus Williams 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne in a re-match of their first-round clash at Wimbledon last summer, where the teenager beat her compatriot to clinch her first Grand Slam main draw match.

 

Gauff, the youngest player in the draw, was ranked inside the top 700 at the age of 14 one year ago. She crowned her breakthrough 2019 season with her maiden WTA title in Linz.

Gauff earned two breaks and dropped her serve once to book her spot in the second round. She broke at 15 in the opening game with a deep return, and held serve with a service winner in the second game, before saving a break point with an ace in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. Williams saved two set points in the seventh game on serve at 3-5 before breaking back to draw level to 5-5 after a double fault from Gauff sending the match to the tie-break.

Gauff earned a mini-break in the first point of the tie-break, but Williams pulled it back to draw level to 5-5. Gauff won the next two points and sealed the first set, when Venus netted a volley on the 12th point.

Gauff reeled off five consecutive points to open up a 3-0 lead with her break of the second set and sealed the win after 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Gauff ended the match with 17 winners and won 64 % points at the net.

“I definitely was more confident this time. I think I was used to playing on big courts, so the crowd did not startle me as much as last time. I was definitely a bit more positive coming into this match this time around. My mission is to be the greatest. That’s my goal, to win as many Grand Slams as possible. For today my mission was to win. I did not want to let the nerves come to me. I know I had a couple of set points, and she played well. I knew I had to take it from her. She wasn’t going to give it to me. That was really the mission”,said Gauff.

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‘It’s All Good’ – Ash Barty In High Spirits Following Australian Open Wobble

The Australian favourite experienced a difficult start to her match on Monday.

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A lacklustre playing Ash Barty was given a big scare early on in her opening match at the Australian Open after being forced to come back from a set down against Lesia Tsurenko.

 

The world No.1 rallied from behind to down Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. A player who is ranked more than 100 places lower than her. Barty’s opening encounter at Melbourne Park this year was very much a match of two halves. During the first 45 minutes, she looked tentative on court and struggled to find consistency in her shot making. Hitting 19 out of her 30 unforced errors during the opener. However, as the match progress Barty’s level elevated as she ended up racing towards the finish line with the help of a seven-game winning streak between the second and third set.

“I think in the first set I was still in control. It was just a little bit of execution.” Barty said during her on-court interview.
“I was just rushing a little bit, trying to finish off points too quickly. Once I was able to get my physicality into it, I felt more comfortable and I was able to look after my service games a little bit better.”

Barty, who won the Adelaide International last week, struggled with her serve early on against her Ukrainian rival. Throughout the first set the world No.1 went down a break twice before fighting her way back to draw level. The at times erratic hitting from Barty, ended up costing her the opening set against Tsurenko. Who clinched the lead at the expense of a double fault from the top seed.

With a muted silence around the usually animated Rod Laver Arena, Barty finally managed to find her footing in the match and rapidly did so. Significantly elevating her form and benefiting from a slight lull in the intensity coming from across the court, she charged through the second set in just 27 minutes. Impressively winning 27 out of 39 points played that triggered a huge roar from her home crowd.

Continuing to turn her fortunes around, Barty broke once again at the start of the decider with the help of a Tsurenko double fault. Continuing to exert her dominance on proceedings, the double break was sealed shortly afterwards, when the Australian broke to love two games later. In the lead, it was only a matter of time before victory was Barty’s, who converted her first match point following Tsurenko’s eighth double fault.

“It’s all good.” She joked about her minor scare. “It’s amazing to be back out here (on the Rod Laver Arena). Obviously it’s a tight turnaround from Adelaide but it’s nice to sort it (my game) out at the start of the second set. I sharpened up and did what I needed to do.”
“This is the moment I’ve been looking forward to the most. Through the off-season I couldn’t wait to walk out on this beautiful court and play in front of so many people who gives me so much love and support. It’s incredible.” She added.

Barty, who is yet to go beyond the quarter-finals in Melbourne, is bidding to become the first Australian player to win a singles title at the tournament since 1978. In the second round she will play either Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson or Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

Barty’s first round stats

  • Aces – 10
  • First serves won – 78% (32/41)
  • Second serves won – 48% (15/31)
  • Winners – 20
  • Unforced errors – 30
  • break points converted – 7/10

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