Caroline Wozniacki, Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova get through to the second round at the Australian - UBITENNIS
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Caroline Wozniacki, Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova get through to the second round at the Australian

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Defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki made a winning start to her campaign at the 2019 Australian Open with a 6-3 6-4 win over Alison Uytvanck on the Rod Laver Arena after 1 hour and 33 minutes in the opening day of the first 2019 Grand Slam tournament.

 

Van Uytvanck produced one of the biggest upsets at Wimbledon last year when she beat Garbine Muguruza, but she lost against Serena Williams in 2015 and Victoria Azarenka in 2016 in her previous first-round appearances at the Australian Open.

In the opening game of the first set Van Uytvanck hit a couple of drop shots to earn a break point, but Wozniacki saved it with her break. The Danish player brought up a break point in the second game, but Van Uytvanck saved it with an ace. Wozniacki held serve at love before breaking serve in the sixth game on the fourth break point after Van Uytvanck made a double fault.

Wozniacki got the only break of the second set in the third game with a forehand passing shot in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. The Dane did not face any break points in the second set and brought up a double break point in the seventh game. Van Uytvanck saved the first match point after a 20-shot rally, but Van Uytvanck converted her third chance with a forehand winner.

“It was a good match in general. I am relieved that I came through a very tricky opening match. I was surprised by the consistency that she had. I think that she played extremely well. I played against her in Rome, where I felt like the rallies were nota s long. Today we a lot of good, long rallies. I felt like I played well. I served well. She served well. She really stepped it up with her serves in the second set. I was just happy i got the win. It was not an easy match”,said Wozniacki in the post match interview.

Wozniacki set up an all-Scandinavian clash against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.

“I have not played her for a long time. I don’t know that we have played on tour before”, said Wozniacki.

Australian star Ashleigh Barty cruised past world number 67 Luksika Kumkhum 6-2 6-2 in 57 minutes two days after losing the Sydney final against Petra Kvitova 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-3). Kumkhum went up an early break to open up a 2-0 lead but she came back by winning six consecutive games to wrap up the first set 6-2. Barty broke serve to win her seventh consecutive game at the start of the second set. Kumkhum broke back to draw level to 1-1 and saved two break points, but Barty converted her third chance with a crosscourt forehand winner to take a 3-2 lead. Barty earned a break point in the seventh game after a double fault from Kumkhum and converted it earning the chance to serve for the match in the next game.

“I just want to come out here to enjoy it. I just want to make sure I am as ready as possible, prepare in the right way, so that I can play with freedom and enjoy. I want to keep winning matches for myself, my team and every single person sitting here in this stadium”, said Barty.

Last week’s Sydney champion Petra Kvitova beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour in one hour and seven minutes to continue her excellent start to the season. The Czech star dropped her serve twice, but she converted five of her ten break point chances. Both players traded breaks four times in the first seven games. Kvitova dropped her serve in the seventh game, but she broke in the eighth game and sealed the first set with a hold of serve at love. In the second set Kvitova dropped three points on serve and closed out the match with a double break in the seventh game.

“I was nervous. I think I showed it during the first set. In the second I played a bit better but I am happy to be through. It’s already a better result than last year”, said Kvitova.

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Elina Svitolina Not Giving Up On Grand Slam Dreams

The 25-year-old tennis star speaks out about her chances of winning a major title in the future.

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Elina Svitolina (@usopen on Twitter)

Ukraine’s top player Elina Svitolina is hoping that she can one day emulate the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep by using her experience on the WTA Tour to guide her to Grand Slam success.

 

The world No.5 says the openness of the women’s tour makes her believe that she can still win a major title. Since 2018 seven different women have won Grand Slam titles with Halep and Naomi Osaka being the one players to have won multiple trophies within that period. As for 25-year-old Svitolina, she is yet to contest a major final. Although she did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

Speaking to tennis website BTU, Svitolina says the diverse range of major winners is a confidence boost for her. Saying the key aspect for her to potentially succeed is maintaining a high level of physical and mental health throughout a two-week period at a Grand Slam.

“In recent years, we see that tennis players had different paths to victory. Someone won right away as soon as they announced themselves on the tour. Others patiently gained experience to finally win the major, for example, Simone Halep and Caroline Wozniacki. Different paths are also due to different styles of play,” she explained.
“It gives me hope and energy to work hard so that one day I can take this chance. The key point for me is to keep my best level for two weeks. This requires a lot of effort, both psychological and physical. Everything should work at the same time. And you need to add a little luck.”

Svitolina is yet to fully commit to playing at the next major event, which will be the US Open in August. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will be taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and strict measures are in place with players being kept in what is described as a ‘bubble.’ Although some have reservations about playing in New York amid a rising number of Coronavirus cases in the country. On Friday health officials reported 66,528 new cases.

Prior to the US Open, the women’s Tour will officially restart on August 3rd at the Palermo Open in Italy. Although Svitolina says there are many ‘unanswered questions’ about returning to competitive tennis and the potential travel restrictions she may encounter.

“They (the WTA) organize video conferences every week, sometimes they invite ITF or USTA representatives, since the US Open is now in the centre of discussions,” she said.
“So, they inform us. But, I think, it all depends on local authorities. As we can see, the rules vary from country to country, changes occur every week. There are still many unanswered questions.”

Svitolina started 2020 by winning 11 out of 17 matches played before the sport was suspended due to the pandemic. At her most recent tournament in Monterrey, she won her 14th title by dropping only one set in five matches played.

Svitolina’s Grand Slams record

Year Australian Open Roland Garros Wimbledon US Open
2020 R32
2019 QF R32 SF SF
2018 QF R32 R128 R16
2017 R32 QF R16 R16
2016 R64 R16 R64 R32
2015 R32 QF R64 R32
2014 R32 R64 R128 R128
2013 R128 R64 R128 R64
2012 R128

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Dayana Yastremska Labels Controversial Twitter Photo A ‘Misunderstanding’

The world No.25 has been forced to delete photos from her social media accounts after a gesture to support anti-racism backfired.

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Ukrainian Tennis star Dayana Yastremska has been forced to remove a photo from social media and issue a statement after she was accused of being racially insensitive.

 

The 20-year-old tennis star attracted criticism on Thursday after uploading a photo of herself in different poses with the phrase ‘equality’ assigned to it. However, the images were controversial as they show Yastremska as half white and half back. Black facing, which is where a non-black person darker their skins to represent the race, has recently been under the spotlight in the wake of the Black Live Matter movement. Some episodes from TV shows such as The Mighty Boosh, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen have been removed from online platforms due to the black facing of characters.

Screen shot of Yastremska’s now deleted Twitter photo

In the aftermath of posting the photo, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka commented on Instagram ‘Girl I know you didn’t just do blackface,’ with a skull emoji. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, has spoken publicly about her support for the Black Live Matter movement. Yastremska responded to the comment with a prayer emoji.

Yastremska removed her photos from Twitter and Instagram soon after she received backlash online, however, she insists that she never meant to cause any offence. Posting a statement on Twitter, the world No.25 apologize to those who she offended. Although she insists that her photo has been ‘misunderstood’ and she doesn’t consider it to be a ‘black face.’

“Earlier today I posted pictures that I thought would spread a message of equality. It clearly did not and has been misunderstood,” she wrote on Twitter yesterday.
“I have been warned about the negative impact but I did not — and still don’t — consider it a ‘black face’.
“I did not intend to caricature but to share my feelings about the current situation: we should all be treated as equal.
“I am so disappointed my message has been corrupted. I sincerely apologise to all the people I have offended.”

Former Wimbledon junior finalist Yastremska has won three WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $1.8 million in prize money. In January she reached a ranking high of 21st.

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WTA’s Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments

Big blow dealt to the WTA calendar as Chinese Authorities cancel all international events in China for 2020, including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

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Group selfie at the WTA Championships in Shenzhen 2019 (photo Twitter @WTAFinals)

After many weeks of relative silence, the WTA had a very eventful day on Thursday releasing its revised mechanism for the calculation of the WTA Ranking and confirming some changes to its calendar. However, the organization managing the women’s pro tour had to face some terrible news coming from Asia, where the General Administration of Sport of China in an unexpected move decided to wipe away all international sports events in China, casting an ominous shadow over some of the most lucrative tournaments in the WTA calendar.

 

After the ATP announced on Monday a new ranking system based on results obtained in the last 22 months (from March 2019 to December 2020), the WTA unveiled a substantially similar system that allows players to maintain the points obtained in 2019 if they are unable or unwilling to participate to the corresponding tournament in 2020 or if they achieve a worse result in this year’s event. The only significant difference with the ATP’s new ranking system consists of allowing players to count only the best 16 results achieved in the considered 22-month window, while the men’s tour allows to count up to 18 results.

“In order to balance fairness and flexibility for all players, the WTA Rankings will generally follow the ‘Better of 2019 and 2020’ point model, in alignment with the ATP Tour,” the WTA said in a statement. “In reaching this decision, various elements were considered including the provisional 2020 revised calendar, various travel restrictions, varying levels of player comfort of traveling to compete, as well as the elimination of player commitment requirements for the remainder of 2020.”

Furthermore, the WTA announced two addition to its provisional 2020 calendar that sees professional tournaments resume on 3rd August with the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy. In fact, on the week of 10th August there will be one new event on clay in Europe and one on hard courts in the USA: they will be the Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic and the Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky.

The former event was originally planned to take place in the spring and was tentatively included in an earlier draft of the new calendar, but then almost immediately dropped. The latter tournament replaces the WTA International Citi Open, due to take place in Washington, D.C. at the same time as the ATP 500 event.

“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all of our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide playing opportunities for WTA players and continue to showdown women’s tennis to our community – said the Citi Open in a statement posted on their social media accounts – However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon [that owns the rights to the event] and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020. We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament. We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D. C. next year and long into the future”.

But the mood at the WTA Offices in St. Petersburg, Florida changed quickly when a press release coming from the Chinese press agency Xinhua announced a decision by the General Administration of Sport of China to cancel all international events due to be held in China in 2020, with the only exception of test events for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. This seems to include all tennis tournaments planned for the months of September and October, in particular the WTA Premier 5 in Wuhan, the WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing and above all the WTA Championships in Shenzhen, as well as the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The WTA relies on the year-end WTA Championships for more than 60 percent of its annual turnover, and overall is extremely dependent on the revenues generated by its Chinese swing during the Fall. The lack of official comments from the WTA Headquarters seems to suggest the announcement came out of the blue and no contingency plan is presently in place to limit the effect of a complete cancellation of the Chinese tournaments.

At this late stage, it appears problematic to replace those big events with other tournaments in other locations around the world, not only for the difficulty to source a sufficient number of high-paying sponsors, but also due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led many countries to place heavy restrictions to international travel.

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