Naomi Osaka Powers Past Pliskova To Reach Maiden Australian Open Final - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Powers Past Pliskova To Reach Maiden Australian Open Final

The 20-year-old is now on a 13-match winning streak in grand slam tournaments.

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World No.4 Naomi Osaka has become the first Japanese player in history to reach an Australian Open final after blasting her way past Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, on Thursday.

The reigning US Open champion produced a strong display in what was a roller-coaster clash against Pliskova, who was on a 10-match winning streak entering into the Melbourne semi-final. Against the world No.8, Osaka fired 15 aces and 56 winners past her. Furthermore, she claimed 81% of the points behind her first serve and saved six out of the eight break points she faced in the match.

“I kind of expected it a little because I played her so many times and honestly, she beat me more than I have beaten her. I was expecting a hard battle. Osaka commented about her latest win over the Czech.
“I just told myself to regroup in the third set and no matter what, just try to serve as hard as I can.” She added.

Playing for a place in a grand slam final, it was inevitable that nerves would play a factor early on. Nevertheless, it was Osaka’s powerful hitting that prevailed against her opponent throughout the first set. Three games into the match, the Japanese No.1 secured her first break for a 2-1 lead after hitting back-to-back backhand winners down the line. Firmly in control of proceedings, Osaka continued to pile the pressure onto her opponent with a series of baseline exchanges. Easing to a double break for a 5-2 lead with the help of a Pliskova double fault.  She went on to close out the set with two consecutive aces.

Heading into the clash, Osaka has won 58 consecutive matches after clinching the opening set. However, an elevation in Pliskova’s game saw her start to trouble her rival as they exchanged breaks at the start of set number two. Pliskova’s determination was similar to that of what she shown against Serena Williams two days ago after coming back from 1-5 in the decider. Matching Osaka game-by-game, it would be just one patchy service game that proved pivotal. As Osaka served 4-5 down, a series of errors unexpectedly handed the Czech a trio of chances to take the match into a decider. She capitalized on her first opportunity with the help of a deep forehand shot to draw an error from Osaka.

Following her disappointing end to the second set, Osaka went out guns blazing in the decider with the help of a 10-point winning streak to nudge ahead 3-1. Battling for a spot in her second consecutive grand slam final, she earned her first match point with the help of a forehand cross-court winner. Victory was then sealed with an ace down the centre of the court, which was originally called out. However, a successful hawk-eye challenge from Osaka reversed the verdict. Prompting delight and relief on her face.

“Just the experience of playing matchers like this.” Osaka replied when asked if her US  Open triumph helped her stayed calm. “To be honest, I was so scared serving second serves, I was like ‘oh my god please.’ Somehow I made it. I guess that’s experience, I don’t know.”

Awaiting Osaka in the final will be another Czech in the shape of Petra Kvitova. Kvitova downed Danielle Collins in straight sets earlier in the day to record her best grand slam run since winning the 2014 Wimbledon Championships. The upcoming meeting will be the first between the two on the tour.

At stake in the final will also be the world No.1 ranking for the winner. Osaka has already ensured that she will enter the world’s top three when the standings are updated on Monday.  Becoming the first Japanese player – man or woman – to do so in the history of the sport. Should Osaka clinch the No.1 spot, she would become the youngest player to do so since Caroline Wozniacki back in 2010.

21-year-old Osaka is the youngest player to reach back-to-back grand slam finals since Ana Ivanovic back in 2008.

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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Image via https://x.com/WTAMeridaOpen/

A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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