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Simona Halep takes down Venus in style to earn Serena showdown

World No.1 Simona Halep took down Venus Williams in straight sets to progress to a last-16 encounter with Serena Williams.

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Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 and set up a mouth-watering clash with Serena Williams in the last 16 at the Australian Open.

 

The Romanian, 27, missed the last month of the 2018 season with a herniated disc in her back, but she seems to be rapidly re-discovering her form once again.

Halep put Venus’ serve under intense pressure immediately and challenged her in every way in the opening set. Initially, the American responded well and saved three break points in her first two service games.

However, the World No.36 eventually succumbed in the fifth game and Halep got the break she wanted.

What happened next was arguably even more crucial, as Venus had four chances to get an immediate break back. But the World No.1 made it difficult for her on every break point, and she was unable to take advantage.

Buoyed by holding serve, Halep immediately broke again and soon clinched the opening set 6-2.

The Romanian enjoyed a lot of success by attacking Venus’ forehand and drawing errors from it in the first set. However, the American tightened up that side in the second set, and it began on a more even keel when the players traded breaks.

The World No.36 also reacted well to hold onto serve after Halep hit three excellent winners to earn two break points in game three.

The score moved on to 3-3 as the next few service games passed without a hitch for either player. The World No.1 held in particularly impressive style as she only dropped one point in two games.

Halep raises her game again to seal victory

Venus’ foothold in the match did not last long, however, as Halep stepped up her returning in game seven and broke with relative ease.

The Romanian finished off the match in impressive style. She hit a brilliant backhand to secure a hold in game eight, and then an excellent forehand to clinch her fifth break and earn a 6-3 scoreline in the set.

“It was a great match,” Halep said in her post-match interview. “I think it was the best match I’ve played so far this year so I’m really happy.”

“It’s always a big challenge to play against Williams sisters so I was super-motivated today. I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot so thank you everyone for coming and being so nice to me.”

When the interviewer mentioned the Romanian’s upcoming encounter with Serena, she laughed nervously and said, “Yeah, not easy – I just have to enjoy it and give my best. I actually have nothing to lose. I will be playing against a great champion so it’s going to be a bigger challenge but I’m ready to face it.”

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Maria Sharapova – A Closer Look

Many followers of the game have an opinion about Maria Sharapova both as a player and a person. Mark Winters, who traveled on a portion of her career tennis journey, offers personal insight about the remarkable Russian.

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Wednesday, February 26th, Maria Sharapova, in a story written for Vanity Fair and Vogue, announced she was retiring from competitive tennis. The resulting Maria features created an avalanche of hurrahs. The tales touched on the youngster coming, practically penniless, to the US from Russia with her father; her scoring a career Grand Slam winning all the majors, (including Roland Garros twice). Some mentioned that since the age of 21 she has contended with not only with formidable opponents but nearly constant right shoulder pain. The financial success she enjoyed on and off the court was detailed. Her suspension for using Meldonium was widely covered, as was the fact that the former No. 1 had seen her ranking slip to No. 131 at the end 2019. It disintegrated further, bottoming out at No. 373 when she called it a day. There were enough Hallelujahs to complete an oratorio. There were also a few “she’s not a saint” exhalations. They touched on her being a loner, standoffish and seemingly, haughty. Reading the Maria narratives caused me to reflect on one of tennis’ most unique players who transcended the game.

 

Sharapova was born April 19, 1987 in Nyagan, Russia, after her parents Yuri and Yelana had left the area near Chernobyl where the nuclear meltdown changed their lives as they knew it, in 1986. Two years after her birth, the family moved to Sochi. Shortly before her seventh birthday, she and her father arrived in the US. Her mother, who was unable to obtain a visa, didn’t make the journey.

Most tennis fans are aware that she and her father, Yuri Sharapov, migrated to the US in 1994. They ended up in Bradenton, Florida, after the six-year-old had impressed Martina Navratilova at a 1993 clinic that was held in Moscow. The Hall of Famer suggested that Yuri, who was coaching his daughter, should find an established instructor and suggested contacting Nick Bollettieri, who was based at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

I first met Sharapova and watched her practice in the spring of 2001, just before she turned 14. She was working with legendary coach Robert Lansdorp in Southern California. He had begun mentoring her when she was 11.

Over the years, Bollettieri has received Clio Prize winning PR concerning his relationship with her. Overlooked is the fact that Rick Macci provided direction after Sharapova first arrived in the United States. But when she signed with IMG in 1995, Macci’s mentoring came to an end.

Lansdorp, who developed a legion of formidable players including Grand Slam tournament winners, Tracy Austin, Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport (to name but a few of the standout players he tutored), has received plaudits for his work with Sharapova. Long ago, he brought out that Yuri Sharapov had seen Davenport play and wanted his daughter to have a forehand like hers. So, when she was 11, Maria and Yuri came to Southern California and teamed up with Lansdorp.

The forehand he teaches, as it is produced along with the results it brings about,  is distinctive and renowned. The relaxed, almost rubbery, right arm is pulled wide from the side of the body. The elbow bends and flares out as the racquet extends into the contact point and carries the ball through the hitting zone. The stroke finishes above the left shoulder in a high follow through. The “Lansdorp Drive” uses the entire arm and more important, a “classic” grip, (not an extreme version like the one Nadal employs).

Over the years, having watched countless elite juniors hit forehands, I can quickly identify a player who has worked with Lansdorp based on his/her forehand – bent elbow on the take-back, then the long follow through. The mechanics seem to have been instilled in his players like a tattoo on their psyche. Videos of Austin, Sampras and Davenport hitting forehands during their pro careers clearly marked them as his pupils.

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Ubaldo Scanagatta’s 2020 Predictions: Tsitsipas To Rise, Federer To Fall And No Major Glory For Serena

For the first time on Ubitennis.net, my predictions for the 2020 season. Last year I got 24 out of 30, how will I fare this time around?

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Dear readers, first off I’d like to thank you for your ever-growing support. For this reason, I’ve decided to publish my annual Crystal… Bald predictions for the 2020 season, a long-standing tradition for my Italian readers.  

 

How did I do last year? Well, my numbers clearly came around, since I nailed the opening 11 prophecies, most of them not as easy to foresee, such as Federer not winning any Majors but reaching the French Open semis and joining the 100 Tournaments Club, or Nadal winning the Roland Garros for the 12th time, Osaka taking the AO, or a NextGen player making a Slam final, as well as the more pessimistic ones on Murray and Del Potro’s fitness – needless to say, I’m proud of this Federeresque record, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to replicate it in the future.

Obviously, I badly missed on some others: for instance, I predicted a great year from Sascha Zverev (actually, judging from his 2020 form so far, last year might have actually been triumphant in comparison), and a heroic Serena Williams comeback, whom I thought would tie Margaret Court’s record tally, but I fell a couple of finals short – especially recalling the Centre Court steam-rolling by Halep.

So, now that my ethos and credentials have been shown (sort of), let’s get going with a whole new teleological haul, i.e. what will happen in Year 1 of the new decade:

  1. Federer won’t squander any more match point leads.
  2. 2019 was the last year so thoroughly dominated by two of the Fab Four.
  3. A NextGen will win a Major. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were in for a brace of youngsters.
  4. Tsitsipas will reach the Top 3 – he is also the likeliest to win a Major.
  5. Nadal won’t be rude to me, and I will be more careful with the phrasing of my questions.
  6. However… Zverev might underperform in the first six months of the season (and especially in Melbourne and Paris) due to the many exhibitions played with Federer that are likely to hinder his conditioning. If that were to happen, I’d be all but compelled to remind Rafa that he said to me: “If Sascha doesn’t win a Major in two years, you’ll be allowed to tell me that I’m a tennis illiterate.” Diplomatic incident alert, y’all.
  7. I will scheme to get Djokovic to say “not too bad” one more time.
  8. I’ll be interviewed by Channel 9, the Down Under network that will broadcast the Australian Open for the first time, whose brass won’t want to miss a chance to discuss my viral gags with the Big Three.
  9. I’ll make peace with Fognini – okay, this is too far.
  10. The new ATP chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, will deny ever advocating a shortening of sets from 6 to 4 games. A very earnest bloke in the past, he’ll become a politician in his own right – it’s everybody’s fate. He’ll court the powers that be and he’ll forget about the small time reporters who saw him grow into this position.
  11. The NextGen ATP Finals will be moved to Turin in 2021 as a leading-up event to the actual Finals.
  12. Jannik Sinner, Italy’s most promising player, will have a similar progression to Djokovic’s. Nole finished as No.83 at 18 years old, in 2005, before reaching No.16 the following season. Sinner finished last season as No.78, and I believe he could be No.16 by the end of 2020.
  13. Benito Perez Barbadillo, Nadal’s manager, will mellow and learn to appreciate others for what they are, with no prejudice.
  14. Serena Williams won’t win a Major, thus not equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Slams. She betrayed me last year by not making it, so I’m tanking her this time around.
  15. Coco Gauff will experience some growing pains early in the year, suffering from the media pressure, but then will rise.
  16. Andreescu and Osaka will meet in a Major final.
  17. Denis Shapovalov will break the Top 10.
  18. The biggest letdown between the ATP No.10 and 20 will be David Goffin.
  19. Nick Kyrgios will rise from the ashes.
  20. Medvedev and Tsitsipas will re-assert their place as Slam contenders.
  21. ATP comebacks of the year: Del Potro and Chung.
  22. More letdowns: Zverev and/or Federer.
  23. ATP Top 5: Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Nadal, Thiem.
  24. WTA Top 5: Andreescu, Osaka, Barty, Halep, Bencic.
  25. WTA comebacks of the year: Muguruza and/or Stephens.
  26. Amanda Anisimova will also stage a comeback after a difficult end to last season.
  27. WTA letdowns: Serena and/or Pliskova.
  28. The biggest letdown between the WTA No. 10 and 20 will be Angelique Kerber.
  29. A final, chauvinistic prophecy: Matteo Berrettini won’t manage to keep the eight spot in the rankings – hopefully, he will get back to the top when the ATP Finals will move to Turin – while Fabio Fognini will come back to the Top 10 early in the year, and the will crash out after Monte carlo.
  30. A final, chauvinistic prophecy, Part II: Italy will have another great year in men’s tennis, with as many as three players in the Top 20.

PS: I know that No.22 will piss off a lot of people, but I’m prepared to take the heat. Happy 2020!

Translated by Tommaso Villa

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Former Rival And Top 10 Star Names Novak Djokovic The Greatest Of All Time

The two-time US Open quarter-finalist has issued his opinion on the Big Three of tennis.

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There is no easy way to establish the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, but according to Janko Tipsarevic it is his fellow compatriot.

 

Tipsarevic, who retired from the tour earlier this year, has named Novak Djokovic as the best player of all time based on his own experiences against the prestigious Big Three. A group that also features Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is a 16-time grand slam champion who has won more prize money than any other player in the history of the sport (over $139 million). He has also achieved the year-end No.1 spot five times so far in his career.

“I played against everybody, I know who plays them when they are the best version of themselves and, with all due respect to Nadal and Federer … I know that I view this subjectively, but Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player of all time.” Tipsarevic said during an interview with Telegraf.rs.

Interestingly Djokovic is the only member of the trio Tipsarevic has beaten on the tour. Doing so at the 2011 ATP Finals and 2012 Madrid Masters. He lost all three of his meetings with Nadal and six times to Federer.

Others may argue against the 35-year-old by saying Djokovic is yet to win more grand slam titles than the other two players. However, he is the youngest of them all. Tipsarevic believes that it is only a matter of time before Djokovic breaks more records in the sport. Emulating similar comments that have been made by Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

“Novak is the best tennis player of all time.” He stated.
“It’s very important that people look at the statistics for these ten years: who did what, who won the most tournaments.”
“I think when it is all over the next three or four years, Novak will statistically outperform the two and be internationally recognized as the best,” he later added.

Despite recently retiring, Tipsarevic will still be seen on the tour in 2020 in a new role. He has been appointed as the new coach for world No.40 Filip Krajinović.

How the Big Three compare

Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer

Age

33

32

38

Grand Slam titles*

19

16

20

Total titles*

84

77

103

Top 10 wins

171

205

224

Prize money earnings 

    $119,601,561

    $139,144,944

        $129,231,891

*ATP tournaments and grand slams only 

 

 

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