Naomi Osaka’s Rise Down To ‘Hard Work,’ Explains Mentor Sascha Bajin - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka’s Rise Down To ‘Hard Work,’ Explains Mentor Sascha Bajin

Sasha Bajin reflects on his work with the reigning US Open champion.

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Coach Sascha Bajin believes Naomi Osaka has the upper hand in her upcoming match against Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open on Saturday.

 

Osaka will take on the Czech for the chance to win her second consecutive grand slam title at the age of 21. Also up for grabs will be the world No.1 ranking. Should she claim the top spot, Osaka would be the first Japanese player – man or woman – in the history of the sport to do so. An impressive achievement for a player who had a ranking of 72 a year ago.

“I kind of want her to approach the match like she approached (Karolina) Pliskova. She’s also a big server. Just kind of like the opposite, because she’s a lefty.” Bajin commented of the tactics he advises Osaka to use.
“Both of them are very dangerous off the first two, three shots, but I believe once the rally keeps going, Naomi with her current state of mind and physique has the upper hand.”

Since her US Open breakthrough, where she defeated Serena Williams in the final, Osaka has managed to remain consistent on the tour. She has now reached the semi-finals or better at five out of her past six tournaments. Showing no signs of succumbing to the pressure that other young players have done in the past. She is the first active player on the WTA Tour (after Venus Williams in 2000) to win her maiden grand slam title and then reach the final of the next.

“She really wants it. People say they want it, but she really wants it.” Bajin stated. “We had an unbelievable great season last year, but after having just two weeks’ break, she came back and showed up and really worked her butt off.”
 “She’s a hard worker, and she wants to be, and that’s why she’s here.”

Bajin has established himself as a formidable force behind the scenes on the WTA Tour. In the past, he has been the hitting partner for players such as Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams. Then in 2017 he joined forces with Osaka in what has been blossoming partnership. Last year he was the recipient of the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year.

During their time together, Bajin’s main focus has been on telling the Japanese player that power isn’t everything in the game. At the Australian Open, Osaka has hit 50 aces, which is more than any other player in the women’s draw. Her fastest serve was 191 KM/H. The joint-fifth fastest in the tournament alongside Serena Williams.

“From the very beginning, she was a big hitter. I didn’t have to teach her how to hit the ball or anything.” Said Bajin. “Maybe it was a little bit more like telling her there are other things out there than just hitting very hard. We worked on her angles. We worked on just a little bit more of everything. Slicing. Wanting her to come in a little bit more. Just a little bit of everything.”

“This is one of the biggest assets in her game, I believe. If a power hitter like that can move like someone who is defensive, the opponent’s going to have to play really well.”
He added.

Should Osaka win the Australian Open, she would become the youngest world No.1 since Caroline Wozniacki back in 2010.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova completes her come-back by reaching the semifinal in Cincinnati

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Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to secure her spot in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

 

Kuznetsova, who was sidelined by a knee injury in the first half of the season, bounced back last week when she reached the third round at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. She beat Anastasija Sevastova, Dayana Yastremska and Sloane Stephens en route to the semifinal.

Kuznetsova hit 30 winners and broke three times to close out the match after 2 hours and 23 minutes.

Pliskova converted her only break point at love in the second game to win the opening set 6-3.

Pliskova saved three break points to hold serve at deuce in the fourth game before breaking serve at 15 to take a 4-3 lead. Kuznetsova broke back at 15 in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Kuznetsova earned four set points and converted her first chance to seal the tie-break 7-2.

Kuznetsova went up a break at love in the third game of the decisive set to take a 2-1 lead. Both Pliskova and Kuznetsova saved two break points in the fifth and sixth games. Kuznetsova sealed the win with a double break in the ninth game.

The Russian player set up a semifinal against 2019 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty, who came back from one set down to beat Maria Sakkari 5-7 6-2 6-0.

 

 

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Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks

Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?

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Madison Keys (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

 

Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.

Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.

“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”

The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.

“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”

Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.

“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.

The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.

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Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati

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Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.

 

Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.

After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.

Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.

In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.

Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.

“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.

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