Naomi Osaka Rewrites History After Toppling Kvitova To Win Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Rewrites History After Toppling Kvitova To Win Australian Open

After failing to convert three consecutive match points in the second set. the 21-year-old has become the first Japanese player to win the Melbourne title.

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Naomi Osaka will become the first Asian player in history to reach world No.1 on Monday after battling past Petra Kvitova 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4, to win the Australian Open.

 

The 21-year-old, who was ranked 72nd in the world 12 months ago, produced an admirable display against her more experienced rival in what was a roller coaster clash. Seeing a trio of Championship points come and go in the second set before coming through the decider. Kvitova is a two-time Wimbledon champion, who was playing in her first major final since 2014. Ultimately, it was youth that prevailed over experience as Osaka battled her way to the title. Hitting 33 winners, nine aces and winning 76% of her first service points. Osaka, who also won the US Open in September, is the first player to win a second grand slam straight after winning her first since Jennifer Capriati back in 2001.

“I don’t think I would have made it through this week without you guys. Behind a tennis player is a team and I’m really grateful.” Osaka said in tribute to her own team afterwards.

In what was the first ever tour meeting between the two players, there was little to distinguish between the two throughout the opening set. Osaka’s fierce serve was matched by an array of deep-hitting shots from Kvitova. Both players had their chances to grab a breakthrough, but neither was able to prevail. At 3-3, Osaka was on the verge of getting broken after falling behind 0-40, before winning five consecutive points to nudge ahead 4-3. Her mini comeback in the match was aided by some tentative play from across the court. Meanwhile, Kvitova also illustrated her fighting spirit by saving a duo of set points whilst trailing 5-6.

It wouldn’t be until the tiebreak where Osaka would be able to dismantle her opponent. Two points into the tiebreaker, a blistering backhand return down the line elevated the Japanese player to a 2-0 lead as she rapidly gained momentum. A few points later, a somewhat ordinary shot from Kvitova was punished by Osaka, who slammed a winning forehand past the Czech to extend her lead to 5-2. The first set was then secured with the help of back-to-back Kvitova errors.

Despite her young age, Osaka has already established herself as a strong frontrunner on the women’s tour. Prior to the Melbourne final, she has won 59 consecutive matches after winning the opening set. However, Kvitova refused to take no for an answer as she increased her level to storm to a 2-0 lead at the start of the second. Prompting the first sign of frustration from Osaka.

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Facing some stern pressure, a relentless Osaka hit back with interest by breaking an erratic Kvitova two consecutive times. Edging to a game away from the historic win, Osaka’s momentum was halted and then destroyed by a fiery Kvitova. The Czech saved three consecutive match points to revive her title dreams. Prompting even more frustration from Osaka, who was close to tears on the court. Suddenly Kvitova was the one in control as she broke an error-stricken Osaka service game to love to force a decider.

Locked in a mental battle, as well as a physical one, a once smiling Osaka regrouped to break three games into the decider with the help of a backhand cross-court winner. Prompting a sense of relief among her entourage in the crowd. Continuing to weather the storm, the 21-year-old nudged closer to the finish line of what was a dramatic encounter. To add to the drama, speckles of rain started to fall on the Rod Laver Arena as Osaka served for the match for a second time. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop her. A perfectly placed serve down the centre of the court forced the error from Kivotva to reward her the title. Prompting a somewhat subdued celebration from the soon to be world No.1.

“I’ve always wanted to play you, you have been through so much and honestly, I would have not wanted this to be out first match-up.” The new Australian Open champion said in a tribute to Kvitova.
“You’re really amazing and I’m honoured to have played you in a grand slam.”

kvitova’s tears of joy

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Whilst missing out on the trophy, it was evident how much the occasion meant for Kvitova. Two years ago, she was left facing the prospect of never playing tennis again after a knife attack by an intruder resulted in extensive damage to her left playing hand. She had to undergo four hours of surgery and missed five months of the tour. Even now, Kvitova still hasn’t got the full feeling in one of her fingers.

“It’s a great day, I can’t believe I played in the final of a grand slam again. It was a great final.” An emotional Kvitova reflected during the trophy presentation. “You played well Naomi and congratulations on becoming world No.1, as well.”
“It’s been a great tournament for me. It’s a huge honour to hold this (runner-up) trophy. It’s been a while since I was in a final.”

Like Osaka, she also paid tribute to her team that supported her through her absence.

“Thank you for sticking with me, even if we didn’t know if I would be able to hold a racket again. You were there every single day supporting me and staying positive, which I really needed.” She said.

As the new No.1 player, Osaka is the youngest person to have held that position since Caroline Wozniacki back in 2010. She will also surpass the $10 million mark in prize money earning as a result of her latest win.

 

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Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka Victorious On Opening Day Of Elite Trophy

The higher ranked players have made a solid start at the penultimate tournament of the 2019 WTA season.

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Kiki Bertens (@MutuaMadridOpen on Twitter)

Top seed Kiki Bertens has kicked-off her campaign at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai with a roller coaster straight sets win over Donna Vekic.

 

Bertens, who hasn’t won a title on the tour since the Madrid Open in May, overcame some testing moments to see off her opponent 7-6(5), 6-2. Extending her head-to-head record against Vekic to 4-3. The Dutch No.1 dropped her serve once in each set on route to victory. Winning 74% of her first service points and converting four out of her seven break point opportunities.

“The first set was really close. We were both fighting for the first set. I think Donna was a little bit injured, but in the second set, I was just trying to get my best from every point and I did that really well.” Bertens said during her on-court interview.

The latest clash between the two was a tale of two halves. To begin, it was Vekic who got off to a better start as she broke right away before the world No.10 clawed her way back to draw level midway through the opener. With little to separate the two, Bertens seized her chance in the tiebreak. Tied at 5-5, she broke the Vekic serve with the help of a clean backhand passing shot for a chance to serve the set out. An opportunity she converted with the help of a forehand error from her opponent.

Clinching the lead, the proceedings were interrupted by a medical time out for Vekic. Who underwent some treatment on her lower back. Upon resumption it was a one-way show with Bertens racing to a set and 5-0 lead. Even a wobble at the very end, where she lost two games in a row, failed to deny the top seed victory.

“I think I went for her shots there and hit a few good returns. My concentration was maybe not there, but I am happy that I could close it (the match) out at 5-2.” Bertens commented about the end to the match.

It is the fourth time Bertens has played Vekic this season. She has won three of those encounters.

Earlier in the day Aryna Sabalenka was another player to make a winning start at the tournament. The fifth seed ousted Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-4. Sabalenka saved all five of the break points she faced throughout the 89-minute clash and dropped just four points behind her first serve (24/28).

Sabalenka is playing in the Rose Group of the round-robin tournament, which also features Elise Mertens. Meanwhile Bertens heads the Azalea Group with a clash against Dayana Yastremska lurking in the coming days.

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Kristina Mladenovic Dropped By Coach After Six Months

The 26-year-old reacts to the unexpected departure of her mentor.

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Former top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic has suffered an off-court blow following the departure of her coach Sascha Bajin.

 

The 26-year-old had been working with Bajin since April and has made steady progress on the tour by rising more than 20 places to back inside the world’s top 40. Last Month Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of the Zhengzhou Open, in what was one of her best runs on the WTA Tour this year. During 2019 she has also recorded four wins over top 10 players, including Naomi Osaka when she was No.1 in the world.

It is understood that the departure of Bajin was on his own terms and not of a mutual agreement. Bajin is the former hitting partner of Serena Williams (2008-2015) and help guide Osaka to her two grand slam titles prior to his departure in February. In 2018 he was awarded the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year Award.

“I’m very disappointed about Sasha’s decision not to continue our relationship next season, I enjoyed our work, we had some great wins and I truly felt my game was on the rise again.” Mladenovic wrote on Twitter.
“I think that there was a lot more to achieve together, but I can’t change his opinion and decision. On my side, I am proud of my year and progress and I will keep working hard and build strong to be even better in 2020.”

Last week at the Kremlin Cup Mladenovic reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. At the tournament she scored wins over seeded players Anastasija Sevastova and Kiki Bertens. Whilst her season has been mixed, the Frenchwoman believes she has the ability to beat the best players in the world.

“When I put together everything on court I can beat anyone.” She told reporters in Moscow.
“And no matter what the season, no matter what ranking, I always have some upsets here and there but now it is really about coming back in the rankings where I was at my highest. And already this year, I am still not satisfied with my ranking but I have a lot of wins against very good players.”

Mladenovic, who is also a top five doubles player that won the French Open title in June, is currently ranked 39th in the world. She is set set to end the season inside the top 50 for the fifth year in a row.

There has been no information released about who may potentially replace Bajin next year.

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Belinda Bencic ‘Happy’ After Qualifying For WTA Finals In Moscow

Belinda Bencic is delighted after not only reaching the Moscow Final and qualifying for the WTA Finals.

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Belinda Bencic (@usopen - Twitter)

Belinda Bencic expressed her happiness after qualifying for the WTA Finals after a 6-3 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in Moscow. 

 

The world number 10 had to reach the final before this week started to secure her place in the season-ending finale and that’s what has happened after beating Mladenovic in straight sets.

Hitting 24 winners, Bencic powered past her French opponent to seal her spot at the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.

After the win Bencic is relieved to achieve a goal that she had set at the start of the year, “I’m so happy I reached the top eight,” the Swiss admitted to wtatennis.com.

“It was a huge goal for me this season and so last-minute. I was so nervous before the match, but also reaching the final here tomorrow is amazing. I’m so happy.

“It was such a good level from us. We know each other well so that’s why it was very tactical. I just tried to really focus on myself and keep my emotions under control.”

As a result of Bencic’s qualification, the field for the WTA Finals is set, which starts on the 28th of October:

  1. Ashleigh Barty
  2. Karolina Pliskova
  3. Naomi Osaka
  4. Elina Svitolina
  5. Bianca Andreescu
  6. Simona Halep
  7. Petra Kvitová
  8. Belinda Bencic

The first alternate for the season-ending finale will be Serena Williams, with Kiki Bertens being the second alternate in Shenzhen.

As for Bencic, her week in the Russian capital isn’t done yet as she is set to play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Karolina Muchova in tomorrow’s Kremlin Cup.

Should the 22 year-old win tomorrow she will win her second title of the season following on from her victory in Dubai in February.

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