For Naomi Osaka, Her Five-Way Battle To Stay At No.1 Continues In Miami - UBITENNIS
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For Naomi Osaka, Her Five-Way Battle To Stay At No.1 Continues In Miami

Five players and one position – here are the different scenarios Osaka and her rivals are facing in Miami.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Once again, there is more than a hefty amount of prize money at stake for Naomi Osaka as she enters the Miami Open.

 

The two-time grand slam champion is targeting a strong run at the Hard Rock Stadium in order to maintain her place as the top ranked player on the WTA Tour. Osaka became Asia’s first ever No.1 on January 28th following her Australian Open triumph. However, since then she has failed to reach the quarter-finals at two consecutive tournaments. Losing in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships to Kristina Mladenovic, and in the fourth round of Indian Wells to Belinda Bencic.

“Miami is a tournament that I grew up watching. Since I live in South Florida, I literally went to the venue and watched all the pros, and I always wanted to be like them. I’m fortunate enough to be in this situation now.” Osaka said after her loss to Bencic.

A total of five players have a shot of becoming world No.1 by the time the tournament ends. The most straightforward way for Osaka to maintain her top spot is by reaching the final in Miami. This year will be her four main draw appearance in the tournament, but she is yet to progress beyond the third round and has lost in the second round the past two years. Osaka can also remain No.1 if she reaches the quarter-finals and Simona Halep or Petra Kvitova doesn’t win the title.

Kvitova has already been agonisingly close to the top spot. Losing in the final of the Australian Open to Osaka in a match where the winner became world No.1. The Czech can claim the position by winning the tournament. If she reaches the final, she needs Osaka to lose before the fourth round.

https://twitter.com/Petra_Kvitova/status/1107400247322570753

Kvitova has already contested two finals this year, but Miami is statistically her worst performing Premier Mandatory event. Heading into this year, she has only won 50% (9/18) of matches player. She has never been further than the Quarter-final in Miami back in 2014. Although the Czech will be hoping the change of venue (Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium) will play in her favour.

Halep has achieved a win-loss of 12-5 so far this season, but she is yet to win a title. The Romanian’s chances of claiming the top spot is resting very much on how her other competitors perform. Should she reach her maiden Miami final, she would need Osaka to lose before the third round and both Kerber and Kvitova to not win the title.

Kerber has already spent a total of 34 weeks as the queen of the WTA rankings. Fresh off reaching the final in Indian Wells, which she lost to Bianca Andreescu, the German is hoping to continue her momentum. However, to dethrone Osaka she is required to win the title to have a chance. On top of that, Osaka must lose before the third round.

“Miami, it’s a new tournament completely. The conditions are completely different. Everything starts from zero.” Said Kerber.
“I’m really looking forward because for me, it’s the first time there with the new venue and everything.” She added.

Finally, Elina Svitolina is also required to win the tournament is she wants to become world No.1. Furthermore, she needs Osaka to not win a match and Kvitova to reach the final. A tough ask, but the women’s game is known for its unpredictability.

In the draw, all seeded players have a bye in the first round.

Race to No.1

R128
R64
R32
R16
QF
SF
FNL
CHAMP
player
Osaka  5966
5991
6021 6076 6171 6346 6606 6956
Kviotova  5440
5465
5495 5550 5645 5820 6080 6340
Halep 5402
5427
5457 5512 5607 5782 6042 6392
Kerber
 5110
5135
5165 5220 5315 5490 5750 6100
Svitolina
 5020
5045
5075 5130 5225 5400 5660 6010

Focus

Karolina Pliskova gets through to the third round

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Karolina Pliskova beat Laura Siegemund 6-3 6-3 after 86 minutes. Siegemund went up an early break to take a 3-1 lead, but Halep came back by winning five consecutive games to win the first set 6-3.

 

Pliskova earned an early break at the start of the second set and won a long fifth game to come two games away from the win. Siegemund fended off a break point at 1-4 and held a break point in the sixth game. Pliskova fended it off and held on her serve to secure her spot in the third round on her third match point.

“I am not sure if it was really nice tennis today. I think she has a very ugly game for me, so I am never going to feel amazing playing her. I am just happy to be through because this was an ugly match for me. Last time we played was on clay, so I am just happy I am through and hopefully I can feel better in my next round”,said Pliskova.

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Simona Halep Rallies To 90th Grand Slam Win At Australian Open

The world No.4 has achieved a new milestone at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

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Simona Halep’s quest for a first Australian Open title is gaining momentum after she strolled into the third round with a solid 77-minute victory at Melbourne Park.

 

The 2018 runner-up overcame some late resistance en route to her 6-2, 6-4, win over British qualifier Harriet Dart. A world No.172 player who was making her main draw debut at the tournament. Separated by 162 places in the rankings, the disparity between the two players was noticeable. Dart produced glimmers of her talent, but was undone by an array of unforced errors. Which amounted to 34 in total. Enabling Halep to dictate proceedings throughout the majority of the match.

“I like to play under pressure. It is more fun and exciting. But I would prefer to finish the matches when I have the chance to.” Halep said during her on-court interview.

Under the guidance of Darren Cahill once again, the latest performance saw the former world No.1 win 67% of her first service points and break Dart five times in total. However, it was a far from a perfect match with the Romanian’s unforced error count overshadowing her winners at 23 to 14.

“It’s very nice to have him back. It gives me confidence and I’m really happy about my team.” She commented on her reunion with Cahill.

Both sets of Halep’s latest encounter featured a similar pattern of her dismantling the fragile serve on her opponent. During the opener, the two-time grand slam champion broke three consecutive times en route to clinching a 6-2 lead.

It was a much more testing time in the second frame with the underdog staging a last-minute fight back. Leading by a set and 5-2, Halep looked to be on course for a one-sided victory. However, Dart wasn’t finished yet. The underdog produced her best tennis to retrieve one of the breaks to the annoyance of a growlingly frustrated Halep. Who made glares towards her camp in the crowd. Despite the scare, it was not enough to derail the world No.4. On her fourth match point Halep prevailed with the help of a forehand shot from her opponent landing beyond the baseline.

“It was a little bit dangerous before I lost my focus a little bit at the end. She started to play very well, so it was more difficult for me to hold. But I’m happy I went through it.” Halep reflected after.

Thursday’s victory hands the Romanian her 90th main draw win at a grand slam level and 21st at the Australian Open. Improving her overall record of wins in the second round of grand slam tournaments to 20-7. Halep is the only player to have had a top four seeding at the Australian Open every year since 2016.

Awaiting the 28-year-old in the next round will be either 2019 semi-finalist Danielle Collins or Yania Putintseva. She hasn’t played Collins on the tour since 2014 and is yet to face Putintseva.

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Grand Slam

Garbine Muguruza Maintains Strong Start To Season At The Australian Open

Garbine Muguruza advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a hard-fought three-set win over Alja Tomljanovic.

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Garbine Muguruza (@TheFirstServeAU)

Garbine Muguruza beat Alja Tomljanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 in a fascinating duel to earn a place in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open.

 

It is a result that enables the Spaniard, 26, to maintain her encouraging start to the new season. She won three matches in Shenzhen and two in Hobart. Then she beat Shelby Rogers in three sets in the first round at Melbourne Park.

All these wins are significant for Muguruza because of her struggles in 2019. Between the end of the French Open in June and the end of her season in September, the two-time Grand Slam champion only won one match.

During that three-month dry spell, the Spaniard parted with long-time coach Sam Sumyk and did some work with Spanish Fed Cup captain Anabel Medina Garrigues.

However, that arrangement did not last long. Muguruza announced in November that Conchita Martinez would become her coach again in 2020. Martinez famously guided the younger Spaniard to Wimbledon glory in 2017.

So far, the Muguruza-Martinez partnership is paying off. The Spaniard has re-discovered her assurance on court and she looks much calmer than she did for most of 2019.

Muguruza deals well with Tomljanovic

In the match against Tomljanovic, the former World No.1 had the right approach. She played a solid first set while the Australian was a little wayward and won it 6-3.

Then Muguruza’s form dipped and she lost the second set. But, crucially, she did not seem to be too bothered by this setback.

Instead, the Spaniard simply focused on the decider and produced her best tennis of the match to overcome an undeniably talented opponent who also played a good set.

“It was a tough battle,” Muguruza said in her on-court interview. “I think Alja played very well so I had to level up my game and stay in the fight until the last moment.”

The Spaniard continued, “I’m very excited to work with Conchita again. I’ve known her since I was 14 so we understand each other very well.”

Muguruza will take on either Elina Svitolina or Lauren Davis in the last 32.

Bencic passes Ostapenko test

Players often say that they struggle to find any kind of rhythm against Jelena Ostapenko because she tries to hit virtually every ball for a winner.

Given this, it will come as no great surprise to anyone that the Latvian employed that exact approach against Belinda Bencic in their second-round match.

While Ostapenko was going for everything, the Swiss player at the other end did everything she could to stay in contention at all times. If the Latvian pulled ahead, Bencic tried to make her play extra shots. If the World No.6 faced break points, she tried to hit aces so that her opponent had no chance of hitting a winner.

On this occasion, Bencic did not play particularly well, and she did not execute a particularly high percentage of the shots she attempted. However, she did enough to win a rollercoaster first set that included seven breaks 7-5. Then she recovered well from 2-5 in the second set to win it by the same score as the first.

It is a very useful skill to be able to win without playing at your best. Bencic has now done that in both of her matches so far. She will now play either Annet Kontaveit or Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round.

Elsewhere in Melbourne, Donna Vekic continued her impressive progress at this year’s Australian Open. She hit 38 winners during a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Alize Cornet.

 

 

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