Maria Sharapova made light of the injury rumours surrounding her participation at the 2019 Australian Open with a straightforward 6-0 6-0 win over Harriet Dart.
The Russian, 30, withdrew from the Shenzhen Open ten days ago with a thigh injury. However, she showed no ill effects in her first round match as she demolished the British qualifier with ease.
Sharapova set the tone for the rest of the match with a cultured backhand winner to finish off a comfortable first service game. She then unleashed a succession of blistering returns to break Dart immediately for a 2-0 lead.
And things did not get any better for the Brit. The five-time Grand Slam champion dominated most of the baseline rallies and broke Dart twice more to close out the first set 6-0.
In the second set, Sharapova remained untroubled on her serve and continued her assault on the qualifier’s serve. She ground down Dart’s resistance to break her in the second game, and then achieved two far simpler breaks to bring the match to a swift conclusion.
“I love competing and challenging myself to get better,” the Russian said in her on court-interview. “The youngsters are coming through and will eventually take our place, but not just yet.”
She continued, “You have to have a really positive vision in this sport because you can have a lot of let-downs and a lot of tough moments and I’ve certainly gone through many in my career.”
Tougher tests undoubtedly await for Sharapova, who could face Caroline Wozniacki in round three, but she has certainly made a great start to the first Grand Slam of the year.
Sabalenka, Garcia, Martic and Vekic cruise into round two
While the Russian achieved the most emphatic scoreline, there were plenty of other easy victories for seeded players in the women’s draw in the early part of the day.
Aryna Sabalenka, the 11th seed, was one of the first to make it through to round two. She polished off a 6-1 6-4 win over Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya in just 66 minutes.
Petra Martic, the 31st seed, was similarly speedy. She ended Heather Watson’s stay in the singles draw with a 6-1 6-2 victory in 64 minutes.
Caroline Garcia, the 19th seed, followed soon after. She beat French qualifier Jessika Ponchet 6-2 6-3 in 75 minutes.
And Donna Vekic, the 30th seed, celebrated her first Grand Slam appearance as a seeded player with a commanding 6-2 6-4 victory over Kristina Mladenovic.
Naomi Osaka Using Tour Shutdown To Overcome Mental Demons
How a run-in with musical royalty spurred the former world No.1 to change her ways.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is renowned for her introverted personality and shyness when it comes to being in the limelight. Although now she wants to bury that perception of her for good.
The two-time grand slam champion has proclaimed that she ‘is done’ with being shy after missing out on a series of opportunities due to being too quiet. She came to the realisation during her time in lockdown in Los Angeles. The WTA Tour has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is unclear as to when the sport will start going again. Early this month the 22-year-old publicly expressed her desire to be more outgoing in a Twitter post.
“I’m done being shy. It’s really a waste of my time. I could’ve shared so many ideas by now, I could’ve had conversations with so many different people. All the things I could’ve learned but no I’m over here actually putting my own limiter on myself,” she wrote.
The post wasn’t a one-off or a random comment – she means business. Following her tweet, she then reiterated her determination during an interview with CNN Sport. Saying that she would like to overcome her crippling shyness in the near future.
“For me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep, and most of the regret is that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking,” Osaka explained.
One of her biggest regrets never took place on the court or was even tennis related. It involved an encounter she had with music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce. Two of Osaka’s idols. During an interview with wtatennis.com back in 2018, she described Beyonce as one of the people who inspire her along with her mum, sister and fellow player Serena Williams.
“He started talking to me, but I got really nervous and started giving one word replies so he suddenly said, ‘Are you shy?’ and I said, ‘yeah,’ and the convo came to a screeching halt.” She remembers of her meeting with Jay-Z.
So what would Osaka have said to the musical couple if she had the chance again? For her, she wanted to pay tribute to the influence both of them has had on her.
“I want to take the chance to tell people I appreciate them while I can,” she said.
“I would like to thank Jay-Z and Beyoncé for making music that motivates me, because there was a period in my life where I just watched Beyoncé performances to get motivated.
“Even right now I’m listening to older Jay-Z songs because I feel like they’re really chill.”
Osaka is currently ranked 10th in the world. She started 2020 by winning five out of eight matches played on the Tour with her best run being to the semi-finals of the Brisbane International.
World No.1 Ash Barty Could Headline New Domestic Tennis Event
The reigning French Open is considering participating in a new initiative currently being drawn up by Tennis Australia.
After being sidelined from the Tour for almost two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ash Barty might be returning back to action sooner than expected.
The grand slam champion has indicated that she might play in a series of domestic events in her country that are currently being planned by Tennis Australia (TA). All WTA tournaments have been suspended since March and it is likely that the resumption date of July 13th will be delayed further. Due to the suspension, countries around the world are in the process of setting up their own events to give player’s some match practice.
“We’re right in the thick of that and we’ll soon be rolling it out,” TA chief Craig Tiley told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on April 24th.
“We’ve got one competition which we’re going to be announcing and rolling out and, who knows, it may become a new normal for us at that time of the year, which could be pretty cool.”
The full details about the events are yet to be disclosed to the public. Barty has told the Australian Associated Press that she will not make a final decision about whether or not to participate until more information is provided. Australia recently announced a three-stage plan to lift their lockdown and restart the economy by July.
“There are a lot of details that need to be worked through,” Barty told The AAP.
“I’m interested to see what TA’s plans are but I’d have to understand all the details before I make a decision.
“We are lucky to be at that point in Australia that we can think about tennis coming back in some form.”
During the lockdown, 24-year-old Barty has said she has been able reflect on what was a breakthrough 2019 season for her. Last year she won four WTA titles, including her maiden grand slam trophy at the French Open, as well as the Tour Finals. In June she became the first Australian woman to reach No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1976.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the last year in particular and how special it was – 2019 was just incredible for my team and I,” she said.
“Remembering all of those special moments has made me hungry to get back out there and compete again.”
Barty currently heads the WTA rankings with a 2641-point lead over second place Simona Halep. She started 2020 by winning 11 out of 14 matches played. Winning her 13th WTA title in Adelaide before reaching the semi-finals of both the Australian Open and Doha Open.
‘My Body Was Cracking And Popping’ – Danielle Collins Opens Up On Arthritis Diagnosis
The former Australian Open semi-finals speaks out about how the pain related to the autoimmune condition has affected her.
American tennis star Danielle Collins said she struggled to fold her own clothes in the lead-up to her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis due to the intense pain she was feeling in her hands.
The 26-year-old announced last October that she has been diagnosed with the autoimmune condition that causes pain and swelling in numerous joints of her body. Collins’ revelation came just eight months after her fairytale run at the Australian Open where she reached the semi-finals whilst ranked outside the world’s top 30. Although at the time it was a new diagnosis for the world No.51, she believed she had been suffering from symptoms for many years.
“While in college I would get sick all the time. My college coaches were always pushing me to see doctors and stay on top of it because the health challenges they saw I was constantly facing.” Collins wrote for behindtheracquet.com.
“No one could figure it out. I continued to get bloodwork every two months and nothing came of it. During this time I had wrist surgery, a meniscus tear and a lot of joint related issues.’
“Orthopedics diagnosed me with tendonitis. Unfortunately I think there were many times many of my symptoms were pushed under the rug because I was an athlete.”
A former star of college tennis in his home country where she won two NCAA singles titles, Collins was initially dismissive that she could be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis due to her age. Although the condition does run in her family with her grandmother also suffering from it. According to the British National Health Service, women and those with a family history of the condition are most at risk of developing it.
“I pushed it off for a long time,” she admits. “ Periodically I would get bad joint pain, around my menstrual cycle, and it would be debilitating.’
“I would have a hard time getting out of bed and on the worst days would sleep for 15 hours straight. I constantly felt drowsy and tired. The weird thing is I got accustomed to feeling this way. I forgot what it was like to feel healthy and energetic.”
It was last summer where Collins said she reached ‘the last straw.’ Following her Australian Open breakthrough, her results of the tour towards the end of the season dropped significantly. Out of her last 11 tournaments played that year, she managed to win back-to-back matches in only one of them.
Following more checks, she was finally given the diagnosis shortly after her second round loss at the US Open.
“They found normal bloodwork with erosion in my neck, hands and feet, which was consistent with RA. It took a lot of bloodwork to rule out other diseases, such as lupus, but they finally diagnosed me with RA after the US Open,” Collins remembers.
“I have been on two different medications since then that have worked very well. I have mixed that with a pretty strict diet.” She added.
Collins is not the first tennis star to have the condition. Another is Caroline Wozniacki who discovered that she had it back in 2018. The Dane continued playing for another year before retiring from the tour. Although her decision was not due to her health.
Prior to the Tour suspension, Collins had enjoyed a solid start to 2020. Reaching the semi-finals of two Premier 700 events in Brisbane and Adelaide. However, she crashed out in the second round of the Australian Open to Yulia Putintseva. Now getting back on track, she hopes her story will hope inspire others.
“I didn’t want people calling me sick or let this disease define me. I had to take my situation and find the positives. I have moved forward in many areas the last few months but it still makes me nervous to think I may be a role model for others. I’m not the most outspoken person but I am working on being more comfortable with trying to help others through my experiences.” She concludes.
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