Simona Halep Fights Back To Win Following Scare At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Fights Back To Win Following Scare At Australian Open

It was a case of sweet revenge for the Romanian.

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World No.1 Simona Halep overcame a severe scare at the Australian Open to defeat Nemesis Kaia Kanepi 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2, in her opening match on the Margaret Court Arena.

 

The first round clash in Melbourne was a sense of deja vu for both women. Just four months ago, they clashed in the first round of the US Open. On that occasion Kanepi prevailed in straight sets. Halep looked on course to suffering the same fate in Melbourne, but produced a gutsy display to fight back from a set and a break down in what was a roller coaster encounter. Illustrated by Halep’s winner-error ratio of 25-16, compared to Knepi’s 50-62.

“I don’t want to remember that match because it was a tough one.” Halep joked about her previous US Open loss.
“It was a great atmosphere and it was a pleasure to come back here (to Melbourne) and win the match”
“I knew what I had to do to play against her, I knew that she is a very tough opponent. I had to be strong on my legs and believe that I could win the match.”

During what was a highly competitive first set, both players demonstrated their fighting spirit. Kanepi’s all or nothing shot-making was being matched by some sublime defensive play by Halep. Nevertheless, it was the Estonian that piled the pressure onto the world No.1. Leading by 6-5, Kanepi rallied her way to two set point opportunities, but failed to capitalize. However, the aggressive playing world No.71 dominated the tiebreaker to race to a 6-2 advantage. The 7-6 lead was then secured with the help of a delicate drop shot.

Breaking once more during the early stages of set number two, it appeared as if Kanepi would cruise towards the finish line. However, a tentative service game which concluded with a double fault enabled Halep to break back and revive her chances.

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The turn in events played into the hands of a determined Halep, who was forced to battle hard. Leading 5-4, she pounced on the Kanepi serve. Working her way to three set point opportunities before being denied by her opponent. It was on her fourth chance that Halep prevailed with the help of a backhand from her opponent landing beyond the baseline.

With a place in the second round at stake, both women refused to budge early on in the decider. It wasn’t until the sixth game where Halep got the breakthrough she desired. Kanepi, who began to be bothered by a blister on her left hand, hit two consecutive unforced errors from her forehand side that resulted in the top seed breaking for 3-2. From then on, the match was a foregone conclusion. Moving to a game away from victory, Halep clinched the win with the help of another mistake from across the court.

“It was good from me tonight and I’m really happy that I will play in the second round.” The world No.1 evaluated.

Scoring her 17th main draw win at the grand slam since making her debut back in 2011, Halep said she was feeling ‘confident’ as a result of her latest triumph. The world No.1 was yet to win a match this year going into the tournament and was hampered by a back injury towards the end of 2018.

“A lot of confidence because it is not easy to play against Kaia. Definitely the next round will be tough, but I look forward to getting back on court to try my best.” She commented when asked what she took from the match.

Halep will take on America’s Sofia Kenin in the second round. The 19-year-old defeated Veronika Kudermetova 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, in her opening match.

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Emma Raducanu Crowned Action Woman Of The Year

The US Open champion has received another accolade in recognition of her season on the Tour.

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Emma Raducanu reacts to her win during a Women's Singles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Pete Staples/USTA)

Emma Raducanu’s breakthrough season has ended on a high note after she received a top honour on Monday evening.

 

The 19-year-old has been named BT Sport Action Woman of the year following a public vote which took place. The annual awards celebrates ‘the achievements of brilliant and inspiring female athletes’ and started back in 2013. Past athletes to win the award include sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and England footballer Jodie Williams.

“I just wanted to say a massive thank you for voting me as your Action Woman of the Year and I’d really like to congratulate all the other amazing nominees on their incredible achievements over the last 12 months,” Raducanu said in a video published on Monday.
“For me to win this achievement is an absolute honour, so I just wanted to say thank you and hope you’re all having a brilliant evening. I’ll see you soon.”

Raducanu made headlines earlier this year by stunning the field to win the US Open in what was only her second appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam. The Brit became the first qualifier to ever win the title and didn’t drop a single set in 10 matches played. Players she defeated in New York include Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari. She is the first British woman to win a major title since Virginia Wade back in 1977.

The rising star didn’t make her WTA Tour main draw debut until this year’s Nottingham Open. She also reached the fourth round of Wimbledon and was the finalist at a WTA 125 tournament in Chicago. However, she suffered a slight dip in her results after the US Open by winning only two out of five matches played across three tournaments.

Raducanu, who is currently sitting at a ranking high of 19th, is preparing for the 2022 season alongside her new coach Torben Beltz who is known for his previous work with Angleique Kerber. She will return to action next week in Abu Dhabi by taking part in an exhibition match against Belinda Bencic at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.

Torben is a super positive guy and he brings great energy,” Raducanu recently told reporters.
“He’s someone whenever you’re around him you can’t help it because it’s just like infectious. It’s really cool to have that in my team so he’s constantly lifting the mood. I’m really excited to work with him and I’ll get a better chance to get to know him better this off-season and see where it goes.
“We’ve been in communication a lot. I’ve just been doing a lot of fitness, like four to five hours a day training and start my tennis next week, so he’s coming in and we’ll be working hard together during the off-season and into Australia.”

Raducanu has risen up the WTA rankings by more than 300 places since January.

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Why Peng Shuai’s Video Call With The IOC Has Failed To Ease The Concerns Of The WTA

The WTA said the video hasn’t changed their stance on the matter.

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The governing body of women’s tennis says they still have concerns about the welfare of former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai despite her appearing in a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.

 

Shuai attended a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach in what was her first public interaction with an international official since making allegations of sexual assault against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. On November 2nd Shuai published a post on her Weibo account detailing the alleged assault and revealed she had an on-and-off affair with the former influential political figure for a decade. The post was removed less than an hour after it went live and her Weibo account is still restricted.

In a statement issued by the IOC, Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ and would like some privacy. It is understood that the video call lasted roughly 30 minutes, which also included IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. However, in the statement there was no mention of the sexual assault allegations which was made by Shuai.

This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.” The WTA told Reuters in response to the video.

There are fears by the WTA that Shuai is under the control of the state and is restricted as to what she can and can’t say. Lingwei, who participated in the video call, is a former athlete who has since worked with the Chinese government and is a member of the people’s congress.

Recently China’s media, which is controlled by the Communist party, has posted a series of photos and videos of Shuai. However, the WTA confirmed at the weekend they will have been prevented from getting in contact with her despite making numerous efforts.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said.

China’s Global Television network, which is owned by state media, hasn’t posted a single article about Shuai in recent weeks following her allegations. However, for the first time on Monday they published a story about her meeting with the IOC but made no mention of the allegations.

Hu Xijin is the editor of the Global Times newspaper. He claims that the world wouldn’t believe what Shuai is saying unless they are in line with the Western media who he accuses of trying to damage the reputation of his country. Hu is an influential political figure in his country, whose publications have been used to send messages to the outside world. He has also been accused by some of being a political propagandist for the community party.

“As long as what Peng Shuai said doesn’t accord with the expectation of the Western media, they won’t believe it. They only believe the story about China that they imagine. I’m surprised that they didn’t say the lady who showed up these two days is a fake Peng Shuai, a double,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
“For those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai, her appearances of these days are enough to relieve them or eliminate most of their worries. But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them.” He later added.

Like all of the Chinese state-run media and their journalists, Hu has made no mention of the allegations concerning Mr Gaoli.

The WTA have said they are willing to withdraw tournaments from China if their concerns of Shuai’s welfare are not properly addressed.

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REPORT: China Censors Naomi Osaka’s Weibo Account Over Peng Shuai Support

It has emerged that followers are being prevented from commenting on her posts as the WTA warns China they are prepared to stop doing business with them if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Restrictions have been placed on the official Weibo account of former world No.1 Naomi Osaka after she posted a statement expressing concern about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, according to a leading financial newspaper.

 

Nikkei Asia confirmed on Thursday that they have found ‘censoring activity’ on Osaka’s account less than 24 hours after she spoke out about her fellow tennis player. It is understood that comments have been disabled on her latest post even though it is unrelated to Shuai. Weibo is the main social media service in China which is used by millions every day but it is regulated by the country’s strict laws. Other sites such as Twitter is officially banned in the country.

In her post, Osaka wrote on Twitter that ‘censorship is never OK at any cost’ and that she hopes Shuai is safe. It has since been retweeted more than 19,000 times.

On November 2nd a post was uploaded on Shuai’s Weibo account in which she said she was pressured into sex by the former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and she had an on-and-off affair with him over a intermittent period of 10 years. The post was removed less than an hour after it was uploaded but observers took screenshots of it which was then reposted online. Since then, Shuai hasn’t been heard of or seen in public.

There are now mounting concerns over Shuai’s current whereabouts after the international branch China’s state-broadcaster published a letter which they claimed the tennis star wrote to the WTA. The letter says that the tennis star denies making the accusations and she is not missing. However, Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has expressed serious concerns about the authenticity of the letter.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her.”

In recent years China has been a crucial location for the WTA Tour and has generated millions in revenue for the sport. No tournaments have taken place in the country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but 10 are expected to resume next year, including the prestigious WTA Finals. Nevertheless, the WTA has stated that they are prepared to cut ties with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.

“If at the end of the day we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that’s what it came to,” Simon told The New York Times.

In 2014 Shuai became the first Chinese player in history to top the world rankings in doubles. During her career, she has won two major titles with Hsieh Su-wei and has been ranked as high as 14th in singles.

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