The Grand Slam Champions And Underdog Looking To Shake-Up The WTA Finals On Their Debut - UBITENNIS
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The Grand Slam Champions And Underdog Looking To Shake-Up The WTA Finals On Their Debut

Naomi Osaka heads a trio of debutants bidding to make their mark in Singapore.

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During a season where she has claimed her maiden grand slam title and broke into the world’s top five for the first time, Naomi Osaka is once again embarking upon new territory at the WTA Finals.

 

The US Open champion is the first Japanese player to play in the tournament for 22 years after Kimiko Date back in 1996. She now has a shot of being the first player from her country to reach the final of the year-end spectacular, which started back in 1972. Despite being only 21, Osaka is on course to become a global marketing superstar as her fan base explodes. Highlighted by her recent deal with Nissan and a reported $10 million contract being offered to her by sportswear company Adidas.

“I’m playing tournament after tournament, so I don’t really have time to think about my life changing or anything.” Osaka told reporters in Singapore.
“For me, I’m just more thinking about my next match and my next tournament. So I feel like I would need the year to end to maybe process more.”

Seeking her third title of the season, the world No.4 is relying on the past experience of her coach at the WTA Finals about what to expect. Sascha Bajin is by no means a stranger to the women’s tour. Prior to working with Osaka, he has previously collaborated with the likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki.

“Throughout this year he’s really taught me a lot of things and I’m really grateful for it. We have this one last tournament, and he’s constantly sharing with me things that is new.I just hope that I can apply it.” The 21-year-old said about her coach.
“I hope I don’t get overwhelmed. I don’t know. You never really know how you’re gonna feel until you’re in that moment.” She later added.

Should she triumph at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, another record would be made. Osaka won the 2015 WTA Rising Star Invitational, which is also held in Singapore. Defeating France’s Caroline Garcia in the final. An Invitational winner is yet to go on to claim the WTA Finals trophy. Something Osaka aims to break.

Definitely, I would take my experience playing on centre court and stuff.” She said.
“I just remember the Rising Stars event being my first big tournament sort of, like I have never played on a centre court that big before. So definitely it’s always in my memories.”

Stephens eyes glory

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Osaka will begin her WTA Finals campaign against Sloane Stephens on Monday, who is also making her debut in the event. The American former grand slam champion is hoping for a happy ending to what has been a lacklustre past few weeks. Since the conclusion of the US Open, Stephens has only managed to win three out of six matches played. On the other hand, she won the Miami Open in March and reached her second grand slam final at the French Open.

“I think playing the whole year and making it here (to Singapore), I think that’s pretty cool. I had some great results, a lot of very high highs and tough lows. I think I managed it well. I guess that’s all part of the sport.”

Despite a seeding of fifth, the threat posed by Stephen can never be underestimated. She has a winning head-to-head against six of the seven other players featuring in this year’s tournament. The only exception is her record against Caroline Wozniacki (1-4). Furthermore, she is a player who thrives on the big stage despite her lack of experience of playing in round-robin events.

“I haven’t played a round robin since I started playing tennis at Sierra Sport and Racquet Club, and you had to play the round robin to advance in your ladder.” Said Stephens, who forgot about her participation in the 2017 Elite Trophy.
“So I’m really not sure how it works. I saw the chart and everything. But I think you just play and try to win and whatever happens happens.”

Other than the Williams sisters, an American player hasn’t won the WTA Finals since Lindsay Davenport in 1999.

Bertens’ outside challenge

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Kiki Bertens didn’t know she had qualified for the event until Thursday following the withdrawal of Simona Halep. After previously never ending a season in the top 20, the 26-year-old has enjoyed a stellar year. Claiming titles in Charleston, Cincinnati and Seoul. Scoring ten wins over top 10 players.

“You always want to finish your season on good terms, because it’s been an incredible season so far.” Said Bertens.
“I think the last few weeks were a little bit more stressful. You try not to think about it, try just to play your match and go from there, but in your head you know like how many points you need to make Singapore.”

Unlike the two other newcomers, Bertens has the advantage of previously playing in Singapore. In 2017 she finished runner-up in the doubles competition alongside Johanna Larsson. Becoming the first Dutch player to reach the final of the tournament – in either singles or doubles – since Manon Bollegraf in 2000.

“I have reached all my goals for this year, so I can be really proud of that and happy of that. Hopefully we can also finish it really well here.”

All three newcomers have been drawn in the Red Group alongside Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber.

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Former No.1 Karolina Pliskova Hits Out At Men Worrying About Equal Pay In Tennis

The world No.4 explains why she personally doesn’t want equal pay on the tour, but criticises those who worry that women players might do so in the future.

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Czech tennis star Karolina Pliskova has labelled men who voice opposition against equal pay as ‘super weak’ as she becomes the latest player to throw her backing behind the possibility of a merger of the two premier tennis Tour’s.

 

Pliskova, who is a former US Open finalist, spoke out about the topic when questioned by the PA Press Agency. In recent weeks there has been growing calls for the ATP and WTA to be merged into one. Support for the idea gained momentum when Roger Federer tweeted his support for it. However the heads of the two governing bodies have already been in discussions about working closer together in some capacity since the start of this year.

Although the prospect of a merger remains low due to the complex process that it would involve, both the ATP and WTA have vowed greater collaboration to help enhance the future of the sport. One of the main talking points behind the calls is pay. There is equal prize money at all of the grand slams, however, it does differ behind the men and women on the Tour. Last year six men earned more than $7 million in prize money compared to one on the WTA Tour (Ash Barty).

Weighing in on the topic, Pliskova has interestingly said that she is not interested in campaigning for her to be paid similar to her male counterparts. Arguing that the two genders should not be compared. However, she has voiced her frustration at those who are against the concept of equal pay.

“I don’t think so and I am not the one who wants it. But I don’t like the men who are complaining that we would get the same money. I think it is super weak from them that they complain we have the same money as them,” she said.
“The only time it is true is at grand slams. I understand they play longer, but they are men. They are stronger than us. I don’t see the reason why we should compare each other. I don’t need to have the same prize money as men. But to have the same chance to play on centre court or to have the same chance to be on TV, that should be possible with these changes.”

As of March 20th Pliskova has made $19,997,689 in prize money throughout her career, which is the 19th highest tally in the history of women’s tennis.

Speaking more specifically about a possible merger, the 28-year-old believes it would help enhance the women’s tour. Although she is staying cautious about the prospect of such a thing happening in the future.

“I think for the women’s tour it can only help. I don’t know exactly what they are discussing but if there is any chance to say yes, then I would say yes,” Pliskova said.
“It needs to be positive also for the ATP so they need to find a balance so it is a forward step for both. It might take a couple of years to get going. It will be different, but I don’t think for the players it would change that much. It would be a good step.”

Pliskova is currently ranked third in the WTA rankings and has won 16 WTA titles. She is set to return to action next week at the LiveScore Cup in Prague.

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Injury Scare Fails To Derail Petra Kvitova From Winning ‘Bizarre’ All-Czech Tennis Event

The world No.12 speaks out about the unusual circumstances she was playing in earlier this week as she sheds light on a recent injury issue she has been dealing with.

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During what was meant to be the first week of the French Open Petra Kvitova is still winning matches albeit in very different circumstances.

 

With professional tennis still halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time Wimbledon champion was one of the headline acts at the CTS President’s Cup earlier this week. A Three-day event that features eight men and eight women taking part in a all-Czech tournament. Umpires and ball boys had to wear face masks and there was limited spacing for spectators to watch from the sidelines with organizers mindful of social distancing.

“The gloves, face masks, the fact nobody handed us the towels, no handshakes, that was definitely bizarre,” said Kvitova.
“And playing without people, the atmosphere was not exactly what we are used to.”

Despite the unusual circumstances, it failed to prevent Kvitova for winning the event on Thursday. During a rain-interrupted final she saw off Wimbledon quarter-finalist Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-3. Earlier in the event she also scored wins over former world No.1 doubles player Kateřina Siniaková (7-5, 6-4) and Barbora Krejčíková (7-6, 6-2).

The trio of victories came only days after there was concern if Kvitova would be able to play at all. Leading into the tournament the Czech started to feel pain in her forearm, but was later given the all clear by her doctor. Speaking to reporters, she said the pain she felt was similar to what occurred this time last year when she was forced to withdraw from the French Open.

“Two days before the start of the tournament, my forearm started to stiffen, similar to last year before the French Open,” the 30-year-old explained.
“That’s why I didn’t train on Monday. I was waiting for Mr. Kolář’s verdict, but he said that I would be able to do it (play) in some way.”

Now her first taste of competitive tennis in over three months has concluded, Kvitova has relished the experience. It is still unclear as to when the WTA Tour will resume. At present the suspension is until July 31st. In recent days both the US Open and French Open have said they are optimistic that their events will be able to go ahead later this year in some capacity.

“Given the circumstances and the pandemic, it was a wonderful tournament,” Kvitova stated.

Whilst officials ponder when to restart the sport, Kvitova plans to take some time resting her hand in order to prevent aggravating it further.

“I’ll definitely feel my hand for a few days now, but I’ll take time off, there’s no hurry,” she concluded.

In the men’s final world No.450 Michael Vrbensky, who shocked top seed Jiri Vesely in the first round, won the title.

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Ice Hockey Great Gretzky Heaps Praise On ‘Truly Remarkable’ Bianca Andreescu

The tennis star has been branded a ‘hero’ for children in Canada by one of her country’s sporting icons.

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Reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has been praised for her work ethic by one of Canada’s greatest ice hockey players of all time.

 

Wayne Gretzky said he has been impressed with the world No.6 ever since watching her breakthrough run at the BNP Paribas Open last year. Where Andreescu defeated five seeded players en route to the title. At the time she was only able to enter the main draw of the event with the help of a wild card. Last year Andreescu scored eight wins over top 10 players and claimed three titles overall. Including her maiden grand slam at Flushing Meadows.

Speaking on Tennis United, Gretzy has hailed the 19-year-old for how she has been able to handle the pressure placed upon her at such a young age. Andreescu have already achieved a series of milestones for Canadian Tennis. Including being the first to win a grand slam title in singles and the highest ranked female player from Canada in WTA history.

“I remember watching her first match [at Indian Wells] and thinking that’s one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Gretzky.
“She went on to win the tournament and then, at the US Open, to play in front of all those fans and everyone cheering the American girl (Serena Williams) – and one of the greatest athletes of all time – was pretty special. My hat goes off to her for how she handled herself and how she handled the pressure.”

Gretzky is particularly impressed with how the tennis star has coped with life in the public eye and dealing with the media. Something he has plenty of experience in. Gretzky, who played in the NHL for 20 seasons, has been labelled as the “the greatest hockey player ever” by many pundits. The four-time Stanley Cup winner has scored 894 goals in the NHL which is 93 more than any other player in history.

“The thing that impressed me most about her – and I’ve said this to a lot of people – is not how good she is or how hard she works but how she handles herself with the media. She handled herself with such poise, she was so humble, so appreciative,” he said.
“I don’t think we could have a better hero in our country for young kids. She’s truly remarkable and deserves all the credit she’s getting.”

Andreescu hasn’t played a match since the WTA Finals last November due to a knee injury. She is set to return to action next month at a 16-player event set up in Charleston. The Credit One Bank Invitational, which is taking place during the Tour shutdown, will begin on June 23rd.

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