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


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



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.








Iga Swiatek Criticises WTA’s Reform Of 2024 Calendar



Iga Swiatek has hit out at the WTA by claiming that only a handful of players were made aware of changes being made to the Tour calendar before they came into effect.


In recent weeks there has been an increase in frustration among players on the women’s Tour with letters being sent to the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, about their concerns. Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body. According to The Athletic, some of the concerns that have been raised relates to higher pay on the Tour, adjustments to scheduling to help support players, expanded childcare and calls for a member of the PTPA to be present on the WTA Player’s Council.

The WTA has also been in the firing line concerning their management of the Tour finals which took place in Cancun last month and was won by Switek. Some of those who took part complained about the court conditions and lack of preparation they had. The stadium court wasn’t fully constructed until the same weekend the tournament began. 

Although, for the world No.1 her principle criticism concerns the 2024 calendar and the rules in place reagrding playing in mandatory events. Swiatek says some of the decisions have been made following discussions with ‘third parties’ and believes players are not being listened to. 

“There is room for improvement,” she said during an interview with newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“As players, we are dissatisfied with the calendar for next year and the increase in the number of mandatory tournaments and restrictions related to withdrawing from them.’
“We want to change this. We need more balance and time to get back home. Sometimes, however, we beat our heads against the wall. Some decisions seem to be the result of promises made to third parties, federations and tournament organizers.’
“We find out about them after the fact. This causes frustration. Only a handful of players were aware of the calendar reform and the WTA cannot lead to such a situation again, since it considers itself an organization created for tennis players.”

The 22-year-old argues that these changes would give players more time to rest and see their families. Although Swiatek admits that she is in a more fortunate situation than some of her peers from a financial perspective. This season the Pole has earned $9,857,686 in prize money this year which is more than any other female player. 

“I hope that we will be able to change something – for example in the rules regarding withdrawing from tournaments,” she continued.
“Fortunately, I am in a situation where I can afford for my family to go on a trip with me, but not everyone can afford it. Many players rather save all their money to pay their coaches.’
“However, there is a difference between taking your family with you and returning home, when you can wash your clothes and spend time in the place where you grew up. I often miss Warsaw.”

Swiatek has won 68 out of 79 matches played this season, claiming six titles on the Tour. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. She currently has a 245-point lead over second-place Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA standings. 

Continue Reading


‘A Long Way to Go’ – Iga Swiatek Must Improve A Key Element Of Her Game, Says Navratilova



Martina Navratilova has hailed Iga Swiatek’s winning end to her season but believes the Pole needs to continue working on a certain aspect of her game to become a better player. 


Swiatek reclaimed the world No.1 ranking during the WTA Finals where she clinched the year-end title in Mexico. She closes out the year on an 11-match winning streak after also winning the China Open before playing at the WTA Finals. Overall, she has reached the semi-finals or better at 12 out of 17 Tour events played and has won 68 out of 79 matches during 2023. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. 

Now sitting at the top of the WTA rankings with a 245-point lead over second place Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has begun her off-season which is the period that players normally use to work on their game. 

As to what she needs to work on, Navratilova believes a key issue for the four-time Grand Slam champion involves her volleying technique. Speaking to, Navratilova says there is ‘still a long way to go’ for the former world No.1 but adds that she will become a more formidable player on the Tour if she makes improvements. 

“The thing I’d target is getting to the net. I mean, she’s gotten better but there’s still a long way to go on the volley front, particularly that first volley — the transition volley, which is probably the most difficult shot in the game,” said Navratilova. 
“I think that’s where she can improve the most. Iga still has a tendency to run back to the baseline when she really should be going forward. And if she gets that going? Watch out. She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.”

Continuing her analysis, the 67-year-old believes Swiatek can also increase the speed of her serves even more. 

“She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.” She added. 

Navratilova has also highlighted areas that she believes other players need to work on. In her view, Sabalenka’s goal should be to work more on her movement during matches. Meanwhile, for US Open champion Coco Gauff, the development of her forehand will play an important part in her game. 

Swiatek ends the season with five WTA titles to her name. 

Continue Reading


Naomi Osaka Eager To Reclaim No.1 Spot, Says Coach




Naomi Osaka is targeting a return to the very top of the women’s game when she begins her comeback, according to a member of her team. 


Performance coach Florian Zitzelsberger has told that the four-time Grand Slam champion is ‘balanced and happy’ with herself after taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, a baby girl called Shai. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since the 2022 Pan Pacific Open and currently doesn’t have a ranking due to her inactivity. She has already confirmed her intention to resume her tennis career in 2024 but it is still unclear as to what her first tournament will be.

Providing a glimpse into Osaka’s current progress, Zitzelsberger says she is setting her sights on chasing after more Grand Slam titles. Zitzelsberger is the co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie and has worked with Osaka in the past. He has also collaborated with the likes of Kevin Anderson, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova. 

“Where she is today is what makes working with her so inspiring,” he said. “She wants to get back to world No. 1, she wants to win Grand Slams. She gives me the impression of someone who is totally balanced and happy with herself. She’s very much grounded, mature and embracing the beauty of motherhood.”

In recent months there has been a growing trend of players returning to the sport after giving birth. Notable examples include Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki.

Zitzelsberger says his recent work with Osaka has been getting her back into shape and then working on certain areas of her game. 

“To reach the highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby!” He explains. 
“Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”

Part of the training process has been trying to change what type of player Osaka is to adapt to the current level of the women’s Tour. After winning the 2021 Australian Open, she only reached one more Tour final which was the following year in Miami. During this period, she struggled with some injury issues and has been open about her experiences with mental health. 

“She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” Zitzelsberger commented.
We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot.”

Osaka has won seven WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $21M in prize money. 

Continue Reading