Bernard Tomic Blasts Australian Open Over ‘Cheap’ Tennis Balls, Talks ‘Mentally Struggling’ Kyrgios - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Bernard Tomic Blasts Australian Open Over ‘Cheap’ Tennis Balls, Talks ‘Mentally Struggling’ Kyrgios

The former Australian No.1 didn’t hold back when asked his opinion about the new brand of balls.

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Less than a week before the start of the Australian Open, Bernard Tomic has hit out at organizers over the quality of the balls used.

 

The former top 20 player has branded them as ‘terrible’ following his first experience of using them. This year’s ball has been supplied by Dunlop after the Melbourne grand slams signed a five-year deal with the company. Previously the balls have been supplied by Wilson. They have been issued to all of the build-up tournaments leading into the Australian Open. Including the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament, which Tomic is playing in.

“I don’t know what the Australian Open has done, but it is terrible,” Tomic said. “I don’t know too much [about the balls], but I don’t feel like it is that good of a ball. I think they’re pretty cheap from what I’ve heard.”

Criticism aside, the world No.83 made a winning start to the event on Tuesday. In his opening match, Tomic defeated Jack Sock 5-7, 6-4, 10-6.  This season the Australian is bidding to return back into the world’s top 50 for the first time since July 2017. At the end of 2018, he made progress by winning his first ATP title for three years in Chengdu.

The next test for Tomic comes in the shape of Nick Kyrgios. Both players have been previously criticised for their at times controversial behaviour on the tour. The two have had a hot and cold relationship on the tour over the years. However, Kyrgios has recently stated that he doesn’t have any ‘bad blood’ against his compatriot. Although Tomic has since added fuel to the fire by taking aim at Kyrgios’ mental game.

“We’re good friends and it’s good for us to play – he’s needing it more than anything because he’s a little bit mentally struggling right now,” the 26-year-old said.

Regardless of his clash with Kyrgios, Tomic is hoping this week will put him on good footing going into the Australian Open. It is the 10th consecutive year he has played in the main draw of the event. His best performance was reaching the fourth round on three occasions (2012, 2015 and 2016). Something he hopes to emulate this year.

“Probably another third or fourth round like I’ve done a hundred times,” Tomic replied when asked what his expectations were for the first grand slam of 2019.
“Sometimes it’s good to not be seeded and sometimes it’s bad so we’ll see in two days.”

The main draw of the Australian Open will get underway on Monday.

Grand Slam

Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge

Simona Halep continued her impressive progress through the Australian Open draw with a straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens.

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Simona Halep (@Femei_din_sport on Twitter)

Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and secure her place in the quarter-final of the Australian Open for the fourth time.

 

The Romanian, 28, reached the final two years ago and lost an epic clash to Caroline Wozniacki. She has not dropped a set so far this year and she is probably quietly confident about her chances of winning the title (particularly with all the high-profile exits) but, as she said in her press conference after the previous round, she is focusing on each match as it comes.

“It’s a great performance by me to reach the quarter-finals again,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I played against (Mertens) in the final in Doha last year. I was leading a set and 4-2 and then lost the match, so I knew I had to stay focused.”

She continued, “I had to calm myself down. When I get a little bit nervous, I get crazy on court. So I had to stay cool to get the energy from my box.”

Halep makes life difficult for Mertens

Halep’s calmness was a feature of the day. She dealt with most of the challenging moments in a composed manner and never let herself get derailed by a poor shot or a lost service. Consequently, she ended up with outstanding statistics: 21 winners and just eight unforced errors.

These numbers reflect the pattern of the match, which was established early on. Mertens went for her shots and tried to hit as many winners as possible. Meanwhile, Halep defended brilliantly and made sure her opponent had to play plenty of long points.

Each extended rally brought with it an increased risk of the Belgian making an unforced error. And it was a method that worked well, as the Romanian won 15 points with this method in the first five games.

With the help of those 15 unforced errors from Mertens, Halep earned a 3-2 lead thanks to a break in game three. During that game, the Belgian cancelled out her own winners with unforced errors. Despite this, she still managed to save three break points before the Romanian eventually seized the break with an excellent forehand winner.

The World No.17’s aggressive approach eventually paid off in game six. She struck three impressive winners to break Halep and make it 3-3.

Unfortunately for Mertens, the Romanian then demonstrated why she is a two-time Grand Slam champion. She put the setback out of her mind immediately and put the Belgian under all kinds of pressure in game seven.

Then Halep raised her game again and hit two stunning forehand winners to break Mertens easily in game nine. She clenched her fist in celebration, and then re-focused to secure the hold she needed to clinch the set 6-4.

Halep withstands Mertens’ fightback

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

At the start of the second set, the World No.3 produced some sparkling tennis. She hit a precise forehand winner to seal an immediate break. Then she hit an extraordinary angled backhand winner at full stretch to move 2-0 ahead.

In game three, Mertens was 40-30 ahead. Then Halep hit three consecutive forehand winners to break the Belgian again. At that stage, it looked like she might run away with the set.

However, the World No.17 was not ready to concede defeat just yet. She struck two winners and a powerful forehand to earn three break points. Then the Romanian missed a backhand to confirm the break.

Both players enjoyed a rare love hold to move the score along to 4-2. Then Mertens won a series of long rallies to make it 4-3.

This gave the Belgian a platform to attack Halep’s serve. And she did it to great effect. She drove the Romanian back behind the baseline to win one point. Then she unleashed a huge forehand to earn a break point, followed by a classy volley to seal the break.

Both players contested the next game like their lives depended on it. They engaged in a series of long rallies, and eventually it just came down to which woman held her nerve. Halep eventually took it on her fifth break point when Mertens volleyed just wide.

The Romanian closed the match out clinically. She hit an unreturnable serve, a forehand winner and an ace to move 40-0 up. Then the Belgian missed a backhand and the clash was over.

Halep will now face either Anett Kontaveit or Iga Swiatek in the last eight. She will be the heavy favourite to win whichever player makes it through.

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Grand Slam

Karolina Pliskova And Belinda Bencic Join Mass Exodus Of Seeds At Australian Open

The list of upsets in the women’s draw at the Australian Open grew ever longer as Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic lost.

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Karolina Pliskova (@tribundergi on Twitter)

It was all going so well for the seeded players in the Women’s Singles at the 2020 Australian Open. 21 of them made it through to the last 32. And, for the first time since 2007, that contingent included all of the top ten.

 

Then the third round began on day five and all hell broke loose. First, 8th seed Serena Williams lost to Wang Qiang. Then 10th seed Madison Keys was defeated by Maria Sakkari. And, as if that was not already enough for one day, 3rd seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out by Coco Gauff.

It is now day six, and 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova and 6th seed Belinda Bencic have joined the list of high-profile casualties in round three due to losses to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anett Kontaveit respectively.

The Czech, 27, competed very strongly with her Russian opponent throughout. She matched her in almost every department, and both sets of the match went to a tie-break.

However, Pavlyuchenkova outgunned Pliskova in both tie-breaks with some impressive ball-striking as she hit a series of winners to earn a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) victory over the 2nd seed.

Bencic has a day to forget

Bencic experienced something of a waking nightmare. She made ten unforced errors and won just ten points as she lost the first set 6-0 to Kontaveit in just 21 minutes.

The second set started in a similar fashion. The Swiss lost the first three games and faced the embarrassing prospect of joining the list of players who have suffered a 6-0 6-0 loss in a Grand Slam if she did not get her act together.

Then Bencic finally won a game to make it 3-1. After that, she competed much better with the Estonian for the remainder of the match. But of course, by then it was much too late. Kontaveit completed a dominant 6-0 6-1 win in 49 minutes.

Donna Vekic was due to meet the Swiss in the fourth round if both players made it that far. Ultimately, neither did, as the Croatian also sustained a surprising loss when she went down 7-5 6-3 to 18-year-old rising star Iga Swiatek.

The defeats of Pliskova and Bencic mean that five of the top ten have now departed from the draw at the last-32 stage. 5th seed Elina Svitolina and 9th seed Kiki Bertens play this evening. Will they survive or will they join the ever-growing list of top players that have suffered unexpected exits?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grand Slam

Caroline Wozniacki Bids Emotional Farewell To Tennis After Defeat to Jabeur

Caroline Wozniacki gave her last on-court interview and said goodbye to the fans after she lost the last match of her career.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@Reuters on Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki brought the curtain down on her exceptional tennis career with a tearful farewell on Margaret Court Arena.

 

Appropriately, the Dane’s last professional match was the kind of pulsating three-set battle she is famous for. Ultimately, she lost it 7-5 3-6 7-5 to Ons Jabeur, but the occasion was about so much more than that.

It was a time for Wozniacki to look back at what she achieved and celebrate her triumphs. And, although she was clearly emotional that it was all over, there was no regret in her voice.

“I think it’s only fitting that my last match would be a three-setter, a grinder, and that I would finish my career with a forehand error,” the Dane said in her on-court interview.

“Those are the things that I’ve been working on my whole career, and I guess this was just meant to be.”

Wozniacki continued, “There’s so many things I will remember. Obviously the achievements I had on the court were amazing. The feelings that the fans give us players when we’re out here are really amazing.”

“I will remember the support I’ve had from my family – especially my dad who has coached me all these years.”

“Those are the special memories that I will always cherish. The journey we’ve been on together has been really amazing. It’s been a great ride. I really am happy, but I’m ready for the next chapter (in my life) and I’m excited for what’s to come. You may see me around – off the court.”

Players pay tribute to Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki and her team (@wwnrradio)

During a special tribute, some of the players Wozniacki competed against gave their thoughts on the Dane. Several mentioned that she was a great fighter, while others praised her positive attitude.

Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens summed up many an opponent’s feelings when facing Wozniacki. “Most annoyingly, she just got every ball back – literally every ball,” the American said. “And she had that backhand which was just not fun (to face).”

“I have a lot of really nice memories of her of just being a really genuinely nice person,” added Naomi Osaka.

The last words were left for one of the Dane’s best friends: Serena Williams. “It’s going to be really hard for me to not have Caroline on the tour,” she said. “I’m really happy for her and I know that she’s doing what she wants to do and that’s what it’s all about.”

Wozniacki was then asked how she fought so hard on court but made so many friends on tour.

“When you’re on the court, you’re there to compete and there to win,” the Dane responded. “But when we’re off the court, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all travelling to the same tournaments and I think it makes it a lot more fun if you have friends on tour.”

After her final on-court interview, all that remained was for Wozniacki to say goodbye. Tournament director Craig Tiley gave her a hug and presented her with a koala. Then her dad Piotr lifted her up and carried her across the court.

Finally, the Dane walked around the stadium thanking the fans for their love and support with happy tears in her eyes. She will be remembered very fondly by the tennis community.

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