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
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
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.
Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis
Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.
Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.
“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.
Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.
She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.
Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.
“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.
Karolina Pliskova Splits From Coach With A Possible Replacement Already In The Pipeline
The Czech made the surprise announcement on social media as she enters negotiations with an unnamed individual.
World No.2 Karolina Pliskova has ended her collaboration with Conchita Martinez after working together for more than a year.
Pliskova, who has won four WTA titles this season, had been working with the Spaniard since the 2018 US Open. She originally joined the team on a part-time basis before being upgraded to a full-time position in February this year. Martinez is a former player best known for winning the 1994 Wimbledon Championships.
“I decided I will no longer work with Conchita,” Pliskova posted on Instagram. “It was a tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!”
The decision comes after what has been a solid year on the tour for the 27-year-old. Overall, she has won 51 out of 68 matches played. Recording five wins over top five opponents. In the grand slams she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in what was her best ever performance at the tournament. However, she failed to repeat that success at the other three majors. Reaching the third round of the French Open followed by the last 16 in both Wimbledon and the US Open.
“Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year.” Martinez wrote in a statement. “It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future.”
It may not be long before the identity of who replaces Martinez is revealed. Michal Hrdlicka, who is Pliskova’s manager and husband, has confirmed to Czech News Agency CTK that discussions are underway with an unnamed individual.
“After the Champions Tournament (WTA Finals), we started negotiations on the engagement of a new coach. Negotiations are underway and we will inform the fans when they are over.” He said.
In her last tournament of 2019, Pliskova reached the semi-finals of the WTA Finals. She was knocked out of the event by top seed Barty who went on to win the title.
Pliskova has finished the year ranked No.2 on the WTA rankings. The highest year-end ranking she has ever achieved so far in her career.
Top WTA Coach Accused Of False Advertising
Kamau Murray, who was shortlisted for WTA coach of the year in 2018, has been accused by a top 100 player of ‘taking credit for things he has not done.’
American tennis player Taylor Townsend has launched an attack on a tennis coach who guided Sloane Stephens to her first grand slam title at the 2017 US Open.
Kamau Murray has been accused of ‘misrepresenting himself’ in the sport by the former world No.1 junior player. The criticism has been sparked by the USPTA Illinois Mini Conference, which will take place on November 17th. In the advertisement it states that Murray is Townsend’s coach. Something she has denies in a lengthy Instagram post.
“Zina Garrison was my primary coach from September 2013-March 2,” she wrote.
“I did not to go public in the past because I had hoped to resolve this matter directly with Kamau Murray. I will no longer remain silent while he (Murray) continues his lies and false advertisement.’
“I did not give Kamau consent to use my name and likeness for his ongoing personal and business monetary gain.”
Townsend, who reached the fourth round of the US Open this year, also took a swipe at Murray over his previous work with Monica Puig. In August the Puerto Rican confirmed that her partnership with the coach has ended after he returned back to working alongside Stephens. Puig told reporters at the US Open that she was informed by ‘people close to her’ that Murray was working with another player in secret. Branding it as a ‘slap in the face.’ Stephens responded to Puig claims by stating that there were ‘two sides to every story.’
“I can no longer remain silent while he continues to deceive professional players, aspiring players, sponsors, and the tennis community by misrepresenting himself and taking credit for things he has not done.” Said Townsend. “Monica Puig is a recent victim of his deception.”
Murray is the founder of the XS Tennis and Education Foundation and has his own tennis facility in Chicago. According to the WTA, he helped guide Townsend to the third round of the 2014 French Open in what was her grand slam debut at the age of 18.
There has been no reply from Murray concerning Townsend’s allegation.
View this post on Instagram
If you know me, then you know that this is NOT something that I would normally do, but I feel that it’s time to set the record straight about Chicago’s Kamau Murray of XS Tennis Academy. I can no longer remain silent while he continues to deceive professional players, aspiring players, sponsors, and the tennis community by misrepresenting himself and taking credit for things he has not done. @monicaace93 is a recent victim of his deception. I started my tennis with Donald Young SR. and Illona Young, who taught me to play tennis from 4 years old and assisted in me being number 1 in junior in the world. From 2010- August 2013, I trained at the USTA under the instruction of Kathy Rinaldi and briefly Juan Todero. Zina Garrison was my primary coach from September 2013- March 2015. Zina brought Kamau on board as an assistant coach during that time. I did not to go public in the past because I had hoped to resolve this matter directly with Kamau Murray. I will no longer remain silent while he continues his lies and false advertisement. I did not give Kamau consent to use my name and likeness for his ongoing personal and business monetary gain. Kamau is currently stating that he is my coach in promotion of the upcoming USPTA Illinois Mini Conference on November 17, 2019 held at XS Athletic Club. His latest actions have prompted me to expose his past and ongoing pattern of deceit. If you are a fan of mine, please support me and have my back regarding this matter. In doing this, I am clearing my conscience and telling another piece of my story! Thank you so much! I love you guys! 💕
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