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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Belinda Bencic stuns Simona Halep to set up semifinal against Elina Svitolina in Dubai

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Unseeded player Belinda Bencic rallied from one set down to claim a 4-6 6-4 6-2 win over former world number 1 and 2018 Roland Garros champion Simona Halep securing her spot in her ssecond semifinal of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she will face Elina Svitolina, who beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3.

The Swiss player has reached her first Premier-level semifinal since her run to the St. Petersburg final in 2016 and has scored her first back-to-back wins against top 10 since Tokyo 2015 after saving six match points in her win over Aryna Sabalenka yesterday.

Halep hit eight aces to build up a 6-4 4-3 lead before dropping nine of the last games of the match.

Bencic got an early break  and held her serve in a four-deuce second game. In the following game Bencic earned her chances for a double break, but Halep held her serve before breaking back to draw level to 2-2. Halep broke serve in the eighth game to open up a 5-3 lead, but she dropped her serve with a double fault, when she was serving for the set. Halep broke back in the 10th game to close out the opening set 6-4 when Bencic netted a forehand.

Bencic went up an early break in the first game of the second set, but Halep broke straight back in the second game to draw level to 1-1. Halep earned a break point at 2-2 and another chance at 3-3, but Bencic won three consecutive games and got a crucial break in the eighth game at 4-4, when Halep sent a backhand long. Bencic hit a service winner, when she was serving for the set in the next game.

Bencic went up a double break to build up a 3-0 lead. Halep pulled one break back and held her serve to close the gap to 2-3. Bencic broke again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead, but had to save three break points before sealing the win on her third match point.

“It feels great. I am just really happy to be back. I knew it was still in me even after the injuries. You cannot just come back like this and play right away. Otherwise, it would not show how good tennis is. Players are playing two, three years at this level. They are playing semifinals, finals. You cannot just expect to be back after the injury and play like this. I had no problem with being in the shadow. Actually it felt really good, playing 25ks where there is no one there, just you. There is no stream. There is just a live ticker. You can play free. There is no expectation, no attention. It felt good. I did not even take the protected ranking. I started in the lower tournaments. I tried to build my confidence up”,said Bencic.

Bencic set up a semifinal against 2017 and 2018 Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, who beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3 after 78 minutes. The first set went on serve in the first five games, before Svitolina rallied from 30-40 down to break serve on her second opportunity at the fourth deuce for 4-2 in a seven-minute game. The Ukrainian player sealed the first set with a double break in the eighth game after just over half an hour.

Suarez Navarro converted her second break point chance in the first game and held her serve at deuce after saving a break point to take a 2-0 lead. Svitolina broke back on her second chance in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Suarez Navarro rallied from 15-40 down to break serve at the third deuce for 3-2, but Svitolina reeled off the final four games with two consecutive breaks in the sixth and eighth games and closed out the second set 6-3 on her fourth match point with a forehand winner.

“I am going to give everything to play my best tennis. This matters the most for me. I have been working on this for a long time. I want to just focus on what I have to do my next match. The semifinal is going to be another tough one. It’s important to take a match at a time, not to look so much ahead”, said Svitolina.

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Hsieh-Su-Wei fights back from 1-5 down to upset Karolina Pliskova in Dubai

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Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei came back from 1-5 down in the third set by winning the final six games to upset 2015 Dubai finalist and number 4 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4 1-6 7-5 reaching the semifinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Only one break point was held by either player until 3-3. Pliskova held serve in the seventh game for 4-3, before she came back from 0-40 down to earn a break point after two double faults from Hsieh.

Hsieh saved the break point with a backhand winner. Pliskova brought up two more break points in the eighth game, but Hsieh saved both chances to hold serve for 4-4.

Hsieh broke serve at love with a a backhand winner in the ninth game and held her serve at love 6-4.

Pliskova broke early in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead and held a hard-fought service game at deuce for 4-1. The Chinese Taipei player got a double break in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead. The Czech player earned a set point with an ace and converted it with a backhand winner down the line to win the set 6-1 sending the match to the third set.

Pliskova went up in the third game of the third set with a drop-shot winner to build up a 3-0 lead. The Czech player held her service games to cruise through to a 5-1 lead. Hsieh pulled the break back with a forehand on the break point in the seventh game for 2-5.

Hsieh broke at love in the 10th game to get back on serve to 5-5 and held her serve at love to take a 6-5 lead. She earned her second match point with a backhand down the line and converted it to seal the win, when Pliskova sent her backhand wide. Hsieh scored two back-to-back wins over two top-10 players in two consecutive days.

“The second set was slowing down a bit, so it’s not a good sign. I still make some mistakes, but I am glad I keep trying. Finally it works, so I survive”, said Hsieh.

Hsieh set up a semifinal match against number 2 seed Petra Kvitova, who beat Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0.

Hsieh Su Wei will face 2013 finalist and number 2 seed Petra Kvitova, who cruised past Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0 following up her hard-fought wins over Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady.

Kvitova saved three of the four break points she faced. The double Wimbledon champion and 2019 Australian Open finalist earned an early break in the second game with a deep return and saved a break point in the next game to hold on her service game for 3-0. Kuzmova broke back in the fifth game, when Kvitova sent her backhand long, and backed it up with a hold of serve for 3-3. Kvitova broke serve at love in the ninth game, when Kuzmova was serving to stay in the set. Kvitova held a tough service game with an ace and a service game before breaking three times in a row to take a bagel win in the second set.

“I am pleased. I did not give Kuzmova any time to do her job, maybe turn the match on her way. Hsieh is definitely a tough and tricky opponent. I played her in Sydney in a really tough match. It will be probably some rallies tomorrow. I need to be ready for every shot what she is going to bring to the game”,said Kvitova.

 

 

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Alison Van Uytvanck and Anastasia Potapova reach the quarter final in Budapest

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Number 1 seed and defending champion Alison Van Uytvanck beat Vera Zvonareva 7-5 7-5 in just under two hours in a hard-fought first round match to reach the quarter final at the Hungarian Ladies Open in Budapest.

Zvonareva broke back in the eighth game of the first set to draw level to 4-4, but Van Uytvanck broke again to take a 6-5 lead, when Zvonareva sent a forehand wide. The Belgian player served out the first set in the 12th game.

Van Uytvanck got an immediate break in the second game of the second set and held a double break points for 3-0 and three more chances for 3-1 but Zvonareva held her serve and broke back with a backhand return to draw level to 2-2.

 Van Uytvanck went down 2-5 in the second set after losing five consecutive games. The Belgian player saved two set points at 3-5 and won the last five games to close out the match in straight sets with her fifth ace of the match setting up a match against 17-year-old qualifier Iga Swiatek.

Russian 17-year-old rising star Anastasia Potapova beat number 6 seed Andrea Petkovic 6-2 7-5. The teenager saved five of the eight break points she faced and broke six times.

Potapova broke three times in the opening set, but she wasted a match point at 5-4 in the second set to drop her serve, when Petkovic hit a forehand. The young Russian player broke again in the 11th game and served out at 30 on her second match point.

“When I was 10 years, I was watching Petkovic play the quarter finals in all the big tournaments. She was in idol of my grandmother”, said Potapova.

Pauline Parmentier beat Tereza Smitkova 6-1 7-5 in one hour and 24 minutes. Parmentier cruised through to winning the first set with three breaks. Smitkova saved three match points in the tenth game before Parmentier got the break in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead.

Sorana Cristea beat Aleksandra Krunic 6-3 6-3 after one hour and 23 minutes. The Romanian player fended off seven of the nine break points she faced.

Ekaterina Aleksandrova came back from one set down to beat 39-yera-old qualifier Greta Arn 4-6 6-1 6-4.

Twenty-year-old Marketa Vondrousova cruised through to a bagel win in the first set before battling through in the second set in her 6-0 7-6 (8-6) win over Georgina Garcia Perez.

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