Rising Stars Not Ready To Dominate WTA Tour Yet, Says Donna Vekic - UBITENNIS
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Rising Stars Not Ready To Dominate WTA Tour Yet, Says Donna Vekic

The Croatian No.1 shared her views about the next generation of women’s tennis as she reviews her 2018 season.

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Donna Vekic is unsure that the rising stars of the women’s game are at a level of consistency to dominate the tour despite three players under the age of 21 finishing in the top 15.

22-year-old Vekic has hailed the achievements of her younger rivals before pointing out that they are yet to maintain their form. Citing Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko as an example. Ostapenko has only managed to win one title since her triumph at the 2017 French Open and only managed to reach one final on the tour this season.

“There are a lot [of 21-and-under players] in the top-20. There are a few of them winning, like Osaka and [Jelena] Ostapenko last year winning the Slams but you still don’t see it throughout the whole year,” Vekic told Sport 360.
“So for sure there are special moments like that, but can they have the consistency to be top-10, top-five the whole year? I’m not sure yet. But everyone can beat everyone at the moment and I think that’s what’s so good about women’s tennis right now, you don’t know who is going to win the tournament at the end whereas in men’s tennis it’s a little bit different.”

Naomi Osaka, Daria Kasatkina and Aryna Sabalenka are three players under the age of 21 who has ended the year in the world’s top 15. World No.4 Osaka has enjoyed the biggest success after winning the US Open in September. Since then, the Japanese player reached the final of the Japan Open and the semi-finals in Beijing. However, she lost all three of her round-robin matches at the WTA Finals. Kasatkina and Sabalanka have also won WTA titles in 2018.

Vekic’s comments are one that stems from experience. At the age of 17 she won her first tour trophy at the Malaysian Open, in what was the start of a roller coaster journey. She wouldn’t win her second title until three years later at the 2017 Nottingham Open. Meanwhile, she didn’t reach the fourth round of a major until this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Vekic made her grand slam debut at the 2013 Australian Open.

“There were lots of ups and downs. I was very good when I was very young and then I was struggling a little bit at 18, 19, but I feel like at 22 I’ve been through everything,” she reflected.
“I’ve been through the highs and through the lows and now I’ve matured a lot in the last couple of years and finally in the last two years I have some consistency throughout the year and this is really important to me because before when I used to play finals, I would lose first round the next couple of tournaments.”

The ability to find consistency in her game has elevated the Croat to a current ranking best of 34th in the world. Reaching the final of the Washington Open in July. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. Overall, Vekic has reached the quarter-finals or better at six out of 25 tournaments played this season.

Guiding Vekic on the tour is coach Torben Beltz. A German coach known best for guiding Angelique Kerber to her first two grand slam titles in 2016. The two have been working together for nearly 12 months.

“I really enjoy working with Torben. We’ve been working together since the off-season last year and we’ve been working really hard.” Said Vekic.
“He’s a really positive guy and he has a lot of experience and he’s definitely helped me a lot. Improved my game and gave me some insurance that if you do the right thing then the hard work will pay off and we’ve been working really hard and it’s definitely paying off and I’m really, really happy to be working with him.”

Vekic will kick-off her new season at the Brisbane International during the first week of January.

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Rivals Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep Speak Out About Naomi Osaka’s Rapid Rise

The two grand slam champions have given their insight about the world No.1 following her recent loss.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova believes Naomi Osaka needs to overcome her introverted personality in order to help her deal with being in the media spotlight.

Kvitova, who lost to the Japanese player in the final of the Australian Open, said she had a similar mindset growing up. Earlier this week Osaka admitted that she was finding it ‘tough’ dealing with her surge in popularity and media attention. Within the past 12 months, she has broken into the world’s top 40, won the Indian Wells Open and claimed two grand slam titles. The world No.1 crashed out in her opening match at the Dubai Tennis Championships this week.

“I don’t think I necessarily understand what position I’m in, in a way, because last year I wasn’t even anywhere close to this ranking. People didn’t pay attention to me. That’s something that I’m comfortable with,” Osaka told reporters earlier this week.
“I don’t know why I’m crying. Yeah. I don’t know why this is happening.”
“I don’t really like attention. It’s been a little tough.” She added.

Speaking about the 21-year-old, Kvitova believes she needs some more time to develop further on the tour. The Czech admits that she was once in a similar situation. Kvitova won her maiden Wimbledon title in 2011, but didn’t win her second until three years later.

“I think that she is kind of shy person, probably like me at the time. It was really difficult for me, that time, for sure. I totally understand Naomi.” She said.
“It’s not really easy to handle the pressure and attention and the media, press, whatever is happening in her life.
“Everything she’s been through, she really trying. That really count. That’s nice. I think she just needs little bit more time to get used to all of the things which happening in her life.”

On the other hand, Simona Halep’s journey to the top of the rankings was somewhat different. Growing up with the expectations of a nation on her shoulders, Halep’s steady rise to the top was a blessing in disguise. Becoming a regular fixture in the top 10 for a few years before rising to world No.1 in October 2017. As for Osaka, she rose from 72nd to 1st in the world in exactly a year.

“I didn’t feel very weird when I went to No. 1 seed. I didn’t have this pressure. Also I’ve been there for four years before, so No. 2, No. 3.” Said Halep.
“She’s (Osaka) different because she came last year from around 70 (in the rankings).
“I was okay. I didn’t have pressure of being No. 1.”

Osaka is far away from being in a crisis, despite recently separating from her coach. She lost three consecutive matches before going on to win the US Open and also endured a roller coaster journey on route to her triumph at the Australian Open.

“She just needs the time. I don’t think there’s any advice (to give her). I think that she just need to live it and find experiences from it. She will be fine.” Said Kvitova.

At the Dubai Tennis Championships, Kvitova and Halep will play their quarter-final matches on Thursday. Meanwhile, Osaka is set to return to action next month at the BNP Paribas Open.

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Following Career-Best Win, Félix Auger-Aliassime Achieves Another Milestone In Rio

The former US Open boy’s champion is a win away from reaching the semi-finals of a ATP Tour event for the first time in his career.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime - Toronto 2018 (via Twitter, @rogerscup)

Félix Auger-Aliassime’s week at the Rio Open keeps getting better and better.

The 18-year-old Canadian began his campaign at the tournament on Tuesday with a shock straight sets win over second seed Fabio Fognini. The Italian veteran, who is currently ranked 16th in the world, is Auger-Aliassime’s biggest win in terms of ranking. Furthermore, that sole victory has ensured that the Canadian will break into the top 100 next week for the first time in his career.

Continuing his momentum at the tournament, Auger-Aliassime followed up on his first round triumph by defeating Chile’s Christian Garin 7-5, 6-4, in the second round. Hitting 27 winners to 31 unforced errors. Auger-Aliassime will now play in only his second quarter-final on the ATP Tour and his first in a 500 event.

“It’s been good, I didn’t know what to expect when I got here, hadn’t won many matches this year. I knew I was playing well from the practices. I thought I had the chance to have tournaments like these. I came in, believed in my game and it’s paying off now. I was able to stay strong physically and mentally at these conditions,” tournament website rioopen.com quoted the Next Gen star as saying.

Wildcard Auger-Aliassime has been tipped as a future star in the sport since his teenage years. At the age of 14 he qualified for the main draw of a Challenger event for the first time. He is a former US Open boys champion and is one of the youngest players of all time at win a Challenger title at the age of 16 years and 10 months. In total, the Canadian currently has four Challenger titles to his name.

Awaiting Auger-Aliassime in the next round will be another rising star on the men’s tour. Spain’s Jaume Munar prevailed in a marathon clash against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie. The Spaniard required almost three-and-a-half hours to defeat Norrie 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-6(4).

“It’s probably the toughest game I’ll have to play so far this week. Munar has been playing good, having good results. He already beat me two times on clay last year so I’m expecting a tough match. But I believe in myself and I know I have what it takes to beat a guy like him”, Auger-Aliassime said about his upcoming opponent.

In their head-to-head, Auger-Aliassime is yet to defeat Munar after losing to him twice last year.

Following a series of shocks, there are only one seeded player remaining in the Rio Open draw. That is fifth seed Joao Sousa, who will play his second round match on Thursday.

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After Latest Injury Setback, Juan Martin Del Potro Is Raring To Go In Delray Beach

The world No.4 speaks ahead of his return to the tour.

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Juan Martin del Potro at the 2018 US Open (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision

It was just typical luck in the career of Juan Martin del Potro that his stellar 2018 season ended the way it did.

Last year the Argentine claimed his first maiden Masters title in Indian Wells, reached his first grand slam final in nine years at the US Open and climbed to a ranking high of third. Qualifying for the ATP Finals for the first time since 2013, it was injury that ended his momentum. At the Shanghai Masters a fall resulted in him damaging his Patella Bone (kneecap) and has sidelined him from the tour for four months.

“[I was thinking] horrible things. I thought that was the final of my life. I got the fracture in the knee that I never expected to have,” Del Potro told reporters on Monday. “After bad days I started believing in my doctor’s again that I’ll play tennis soon and I think I’m in a good way again to be competitive. After four months, I’m going to be playing a tournament, which is good [recovery] time.”

Fortunately, coming back from injury has become somewhat of a specialty for Del Potro, who has undergone no fewer than four wrist surgeries. The venue of his return is this week’s Delray Beach Open. An ATP 250 event in Florida that Del Potro last won in 2011. Last year he was knocked out in the second round by Frances Tiafoe, who went on to win the title.

“I have the experience doing comebacks, but it’s not good for me and for other players. I know it takes time and then you have to be having enough confidence to move 100 per cent, to feel the body in good shape and then the tennis part comes,” Del Potro said. “First of all I have to be healthy, and then I will start to think about tennis. But Delray Beach is a good time to see how my knee works during a match and then we’ll decide where’s going to be next.”

Del Potro is the top seed in Delray Beach, but he isn’t getting too carried about about his chances in his first event since October. This year’s field features six players in the world’s top 40. In his draw, he will open up again Yoshioto Nishioka. Then a potential second round clash with New York Open champion Reilly Opelka awaits.

“It’s a tough tournament,” Palm Beach Sports quoted Del Potro as saying. “You have big players like Isner and Frances. Kyrgios, who never knows what could happen with him. He has the power to win all the titles. And, also, many other players who can be a surprise.”

The former US Open champion will play his first round match against Nishioka on Tuesday.

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