Sloane Stephens overcomes Naomi Osaka in her first match at the WTA Finals - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens overcomes Naomi Osaka in her first match at the WTA Finals

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In the clash between the winners of the past two editions of the US Open Sloane Stephens started her WTA Finals campaign with a 7-5 4-6 6-1 win over Naomi Osaka after 2 hours and 22 minutes in the opening match of the round-robin Red Group. Both players are making their debut at the WTA Finals.

Last year’s US Open champion Stephens beat reigning Flushing Meadows winner Osaka 6-3 7-5 in their only previous head-to-head match in Acapulco in 2016.

Stephens, who won the Miami title and reached the French Open final in 2018, converted 7 of her 19 break points and dropped her serve four times from the twelve break points she faced. Osaka, who won at Indian Wells and at the US Open in her breakthrough year, hit seven aces but made 46 unforced errors.

Stephens earned the first break at 30 in the opening game taking advantage of a few loose errors from Osaka, but the young Japanese player broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. Osaka was the first to hold serve at love in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Stephens tied 3-3 after three consecutive holds of serve.

In the seventh game Stephens earned a double break point at 15-40 and converted it two points later with the help of a netcord to get the break for 4-3. Stephens made two double faults in a row on game point at 40-30 and at deuce to face a break-back point in the eighth game. Osaka broke back with a forehand winner to draw level to 4-4 after the longest exchange of the match. Osaka fended off a break point to hold a tough service game at deuce for 5-4. In the 11th game Osaka rallied from 0-30 down with her sixth winner but Stephens earned her third break of the first set after two backhand errors from the 2018 US Open champion. Stephens earned three set points to close out the opening set at 6-5 and convertted her third opportunity, when Osaka fired an error into the net.

Osaka hit a great backhand pass to earn a game point in the opening game of the second set and held her serve with a volley into the open court after a long rally. Stephens held serve at 30 to draw level to 1-1. After a comfortable hold from Osaka in the third game Stephens came back from 0-40 down and saved four break points to hold serve for 2-2.

Stephens hit a forehand return winner to bring up two break points at 15-40, but she saved the second break point with a backhand drive volley to hold her serve for 3-2.

Osaka fired a backhand winner to force the sixth game to deuce before breaking serve, when Stephens made her fourth double fault of the match.

Osaka saved a break-back point to hold her serve for 5-2 after four deuces. After missing out on her break point Stephens held her serve at 15 to trail 3-5. In the ninth game Stephens earned a break point, when Osaka made a double fault. The 2017 Open champion broke serve to close the gap to 4-5, when Osaka hit a forehand volley wide.

In the 10th game Osaka took a 15-40 lead, as she was serving for the second set. Stephens saved the first set point, but Osaka broke serve to close out the second set 6-2, when Stephens made her sixth double fault of the match.

Stephens brought up three break points on Osaka’s serve in the first games of the decisive set and converted it with her retur winner.

Osaka went up 0-40 in the opening game of the the third set to earn three break points. Stephens  fended three break points to hold serve for 2-0 at deuce. In the third game Osaka saved a break point from 30-40 down to hold her serve after three deuces for 1-2. Stephens held her serve at 30 to open up a 3-1 lead.

Osaka trailed 0-40 in the fifth game, but she saved two break points. Stephens got the break with a forehand pass to race out to a 4-1 lead and held her serve at love to come a game away from the win. Stephens sealed a one-sided third set 6-1 with a break on her second opportunity to move to 1-0 in the Red Group, when Osaka made her fourth double fault on the second match point.

“I am just happy to get through and play a good competitive match. I never gave up. I knew she is playing well and I had to play really well to beat her”, said Stephens on court in the post match interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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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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Image via https://x.com/WTAMeridaOpen/

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.

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(@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 WAS JUST TOO GOOD

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.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

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.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

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 Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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