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Collins’ Fairy Tale Continues Into Australian Open Semifinals

Danielle Collins reaches the semifinal on her maiden main draw Australian Open. Another crushing loss for Pavlyuchenkova

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Danielle Collins at the 2019 Australian Open (photo @Sport Vision - Chryslène Caillaud)

A. Pavlyuchenkova b. D. Collins 2-6 7-5 6-1

 

It was the match between the two “intruders” in the 2019 Australian Open quarterfinals, the match looking to determine who would be this year’s unseeded player to get to the semifinals, as it has been tradition in this tournament for the past five years (in 2018 there were two unseeded players in the semis, Coco Vandeweghe and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni). Both outsiders on this occasion, although both with a very respectable ranking (n. 35 Pavlyuchenkova, n. 44 Collins), the two players come from very different backgrounds: the Russian girl is the wonder-child turned into an unkept promise, while the American is the humble working-class girl who grew up on the public grounds in St. Petersburg, Florida and turned pro almost by accident after a college scholarship at the University of Virginia.

Both nervous at the start of the match, Anastasia was the quicker out of the starting blocks, winning a marathon 17-minute 28-point game facing five break points. The Russian player’s more powerful groundstrokes allowed her to pull away early in the first set as Collins looked unable to find the angles to move her opponent and contrast the effectiveness of her firepower. In a flash, it was 5-1 Pavlyuchenkova, who then closed the first set 6-2 in 49 minutes.

But Collins did not break into the Top 50 by giving up at the first hurdle: thanks also to her opponent making a few more unforced errors, the Floridians was able to gain a 5-2 advantage by avoiding the rallies in the middle of the court and forcing her opponent to run side-to-side. But Pavlyuchenkova came back to 5-5 crushing some returns on Collins’ second serve and placed herself only two games away from her first Grand Slam semifinal. The match was tense, but the reaction from the scarce crowd on the stands was underwhelming: it felt like the struggle on court did not concern them, as they counted down the minutes to the “Barty party” in the evening. At 5-6 two loose unforced errors complicated Pavlyuchenkova’s service game from 30-0 up, and Collins managed to take home the second set with an inside-out forehand winner.

Crippled by the pressure of another semifinal chance that she felt was slipping away (Anastasia had already been in the quarterfinals at each Major before), the Russian player let herself be overcome by her very fears that prevented her to fulfill her destiny of glory in tennis and allowed Danielle Collins’ fighting spirit get the best of her. The American, on the other hand, grew up scraping for court time in the public parks of St Petersburg and became a tennis warrior during those NCAA team competitions where rowdy fans chant just a few feet from the court. Collins got to 5-0 in the third set in the blink of an eye, and when two games later her opponent’s last forehand return sailed past the baseline, she could celebrate her first Major semifinal only at her second attempt in a Grand Slam tournament’s main draw.

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook. 

 

The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury. 

Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open. 

“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.

“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”

Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them. 

“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”

This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16. 

“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.

Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients. 

“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.

This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open. 

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Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion

Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.

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Simona Halep (@NewsCentralTV - Twitter)

Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.

However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.

Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.

This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.

Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.

Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:

Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion

Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet

Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko

Qatar: R1 l. Garcia

Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek

Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur

Rome: R2 l. Collins

Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng

Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia

Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu

Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina

Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya

Toronto: Champion

Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew

US Open: R1 l. Snigur

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