Simona Halep Plays Down Australian Open Chances Following Surprise Sydney Exit - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Plays Down Australian Open Chances Following Surprise Sydney Exit

The French Open champion admits that she is yet to find her top form heading into the first grand slam of 2019.

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Simona Halep (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision

World No.1 Simona Halep has suffered a setback in her preparations for the Australian Open after crashing out of her first match at the Sydney International on Wednesday.

Halep, who was playing her first competitive match since the China Open in September, crashed out 6-4, 6-4, to Australia’s Ashleigh Barty. A player who she had defeated on two previous occasions. The Romanian was broken four times as she hit 22 unforced errors to nine winners.

During both sets, Halep crumbled during the business ends. In the opener, the French Open champion was broken whilst serving 4-5 down. Then in the second set, Halep held a 4-3 advantage before losing four consecutive games to be knocked out of the tournament. Making it the first time she has lost her opening match of a season since 2014.

“I think it was a great match after almost four months since I played one full match, US Open. I think I played a good level of tennis. I had no inspiration in some important points,” Halep said afterwards.
“She played really well. Her slice was great today, so she deserved to win this match.
“But also I was very close to winning. I had so many chances to break her and to take advantage, but I couldn’t. I can feel that I don’t have the rhythm yet.”

The past few months have been a turbulent one for the Romanian, who ended her 2018 season early due to a back injury. Opting instead to have a longer off-season break. Looking ahead to the Australian Open, Halep has openly admitted that she has no expectations at the upcoming grand slam despite being the No.1 seed. Last year she finished runner-up in Melbourne to Caroline Wozniacki. An early loss this time round could put her No.1 ranking in jeopardy.

“I took a longer break because I needed it. Also mentally, also physically.” She said.
“So I have no expectations (in Melbourne). That’s what I always say because I cannot expect myself to be at the highest level in this moment, because I didn’t play matches.
“But tennis is good, so I have just to believe in myself more.”

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Halep embarks upon the Australian swing without a main coach following the departure of Darren Cahill. Cahill announced in December that he wanted to take a break in order to spend more time with his family. Halep is yet to replace him, but remains confident that the situation will not have a negative impact on her performance on the tour.

“The situation is that for the next three to four months, I don’t want to take the coach … I go with the flow and I see how it works,” Halep recently told wtatennis.com.
“He (Cahill) took the decision because of family and family always comes first. I wasn’t disappointed or upset, I fully understood. We have a very good relationship.”

As Halep looks ahead to Melbourne, Barty now has a shot of becoming the first Australian woman to win the Sydney title since Alicia Molik in 2005. In the quarter-finals she will play either Elise Mertens or Anett Kontaveit.

“I finally learnt my lesson,” Barty said of her win over Halep.
“She gave me a belting in Montreal. I learnt a little bit more in Cincinnati, but today I knuckled down and really thought about it and really gave myself a chance.
“The biggest thing, I believed that I could I win. We’re both out here on the same court. Just very happy I was able to come out and execute.
“I felt like it was really clean, considering the conditions. It was very swirly down at court level so I figure if I’m going to play ‘Sim’ at any time, it’s her first match and in conditions like this.
“So I was very happy I was able to make the most of it. Yeah, extremely pleased.”

Elsewhere in the tournament, Timea Bacsinszky outlasted Sam Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, in a marathon encounter. The Swiss player was at one point and set and a break down against Stosur, but rallied back to secure the win.

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WATCH: Fans Fight Over Aryna Sabalenka’s Headband Before Security Takes Item Away

Watch the moment two tennis fans lose it over a headband!

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It is traditional for a player to celebrate their victory by throwing some of their unwanted items into the crowd. However, at the Australian Open Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka got more than she bargained for.

The 11th seed moved into the third round of the tournament on Wednesday following a 6-3, 6-4, win over Great Britain’s Katie Boulter. Recording her seventh win of the season. Shortly after her victory, she threw her headband into the crowd at the Melbourne Arena. Inadvertently creating a tug of war between two stubborn tennis fans. Resulting in them both being escorted off the premises!

https://twitter.com/JeddZetzer/status/1085438472863633408

Following the both bizarre and funny showdown between the two spectators, many are wondering who the winner was. Ironically, it was neither. According to Sporting News, security escorted both women away and then took the item from them as they couldn’t agree as to who should get it.

I guess you can’t win them all!

The two ladies involved in the tussle (image via https://twitter.com/standardsport)

 

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Kiki Bertens knocked out by Pavlyuchenkova

Pavlyuchenkova earned a big win over 9th seed Bertens, while Sasnovich also stunned 20th seed Kontaveit.

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Kiki Bertens became the highest seeded casualty in the women’s draw so far when she lost an entertaining three-set encounter 3-6 6-3 6-3 to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

The Dutchwoman, 27, had her best-ever year on the WTA tour in 2018. She won three titles, including the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati, but she will not back up those successes with a good run in Melbourne.

In the first set, Bertens looked comfortable as she broke Pavlyuchenkova twice to establish a 5-1 lead. However, the Russian gained a foothold in the match when she earned her first break in the seventh game.

Pavlyuchenkova built on that momentum in the second set when she went 3-0 up thanks to an early break. And she continued to serve impressively to level the match at one-set all.

The decider was more unpredictable. The Russian broke in the first game, but her Dutch opponent responded with an immediate break back.

However, Pavlyuchenkova’s groundstrokes looked in excellent working order by this stage and she used them to great effect to break Bertens twice more in the fifth and ninth games to take the set 6-3 and clinch a superb win.

“I’m really happy with the win and the way I played today,” the Russian said in her post-match interview. “She is a very tough opponent so that is a great win for me.”

Sasnovich shocks Kontaveit

Pavlyuchenkova’s opponent in round three will be another seed-killer after Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat 20th seed Anett Kontaveit 6-3 6-3.

The Belarussian claimed a headline-grabbing win over Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon last year and she is in scintillating form so far in 2019.

Sasnovich, 24, reached the quarter-final in Brisbane and the semi-final in Sydney and she has carried that momentum into the Australian Open.

She thrashed former Grand Slam semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-1 in the first round and then beat Kontaveit almost as convincingly.

Stephens, Garcia and Martic advance

Sloane Stephens had no such trouble in her match against Timea Babos. She beat the Hungarian 6-3 6-1 to set up a third round meeting with Petra Martic, who took out Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 7-5.

Caroline Garcia also looks to be in good form. She backed up a first-round victory over qualifier Jessika Ponchet with a 6-3 6-3 win over Australian wildcard Zoe Hives.

 

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Naomi Osaka takes straight set win to cruise through to the second round

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Last year’s US Open champion and number 4 seed Naomi Osaka beat Magda Linette 6-4 6-2 in 58 minutes to cruise through to the second round at the Australian Open.

Osaka avenged her 6-2 3-6 6-3 defeat against Linette, who won their most recent defeat in the second round at Washington last summer.

The US-based Japanese player claimed four breaks of serve and hit 30 winners to just 16 unforced errors.

Both players traded breaks in the third and fourth games to draw level to 2-2. Osaka earned her second consecutive break in the fifth game to take  a 3-2 lead and held three consecutive service games at love to close out the opening set 6-4. The Japanese player held his service games in his service games and got two breaks in the third and seventh games to close out the second set 6-2.

Osaka won 24 of her 25 points behind her first serve and fired six aces.

The 21-year-old Japanese player will take on Tamara Zidansek, who stunned Daria Gavrilova 7-5 6-3 in her debut at the Australian Open.

“I had a lot of fun. It’s not often that I get to play a night match at Rod Laver. For me it was the first time. I did not feel nervous either, which was a bit unexpected. I thought that I would, being that it’s the first match. I just felt like I had a lot of fun today. For me it was more a test. I was testing myself on how well I can move”,said Osaka.

This year’s Brisbane International champion Karolina Pliskova broke serve four times and dropped her serve twice to cruise past her compatriot Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-2.

Elina Svitolina dropped just three games in her 6-1 6-2 win over Viktorija Golubic with five breaks of serve.

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