Naomi Osaka Powers Past Collins To Set Bencic Clash - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Powers Past Collins To Set Bencic Clash

Naomi Osaka maintained her chance of a second consecutive title in Indian Wells with a comprehensive straight-sets win over Danielle Collins.

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Naomi Osaka (@BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Naomi Osaka kept her title defence alive in Indian Wells with an impressive 6-4 6-2 victory over rising star Danielle Collins.

The Japanese superstar, 21, was ranked 44 in the world before last year’s event. This time, she is playing with an entirely new type of pressure as the World No.1.

But Osaka does not seem bothered that she is the favourite. She is simply playing the same aggressive game that got her to the top.

The Australian Open champion started well when she broke Collins in the third game. However, the American was not discouraged. She attacked Osaka’s serve and broke straight back.

During the next four games, both players tried to hit each other off the court. Their approach generated a string of powerful winners and wild unforced errors and eventually resulted in two holds apiece that moved the score along to 4-4.

In game nine, Collins’ serve deserted her. She made two double faults and then sent down a weak second serve that Osaka swatted away for a winner.

The World No.1 unleashed another superb backhand winner to bring up break point. Then she produced an equally impressive forehand winner to clinch the break.

Osaka builds on her advantage

Osaka took full advantage of the momentum she had now established. She held easily to finish the first set and then broke Collins to love in the third game of the second set to take complete control of the match.

The Japanese player then ended any lingering resistance from the American when she battled back from 40-15 behind to break for a 4-1 lead.

To her credit, Collins saved a match point in game seven and ensured that the World No.1 would have to serve for the win. She did exactly that – thanks to an ace, two huge forehands and a crisp backhand winner.

“I really love this tournament,” Osaka said in her press conference. “I think that some people say it’s kind of slow. But for me, I feel like it’s kind of perfect for the way that I like to play.”

The Japanese player’s next assignment is a mouth-watering clash with Dubai champion Belinda Bencic, who maintained her impressive form with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Caroline Wozniacki’s conqueror Ekaterina Alexandrova.

“I think the things she’s done are really amazing, and (I’m impressed by) the fact that she was able to come back from her injury and still play at a really top level,” Osaka said. “I know we both really want to win this next match.”

She continued, “I think we are both looking forward to it. Because we are the same age, I know that people are going to hype this match up. It should be fun.”

Goerges crashes out; Pliskova and Sabalenka advance

Aryna Sabalenka (@BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Elsewhere in Indian Wells, there was a shock exit for 15th seed Julia Goerges, who lost 7-5 1-6 6-4 to compatriot Mona Barthel.

The German is normally one of the strongest servers on the WTA tour. However, she struggled in the slow conditions on a cold day in the desert. She only won 53% of points on her serve, fired down just one ace and made six double faults.

These difficulties enabled her Barthel to break her three times in the first set and, crucially, three times in the decider to claim victory.

Other high-ranked players enjoyed much better days. Karolina Pliskova brushed aside Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3 6-2 in just 69 minutes. Aryna Sabalenka overpowered Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 7-5. And Venus Williams overcame fellow American Christina McHale 6-2 7-5.

The final match that took place in the women’s draw was cut short by illness, as 11th seed Anastasija Sevastova was forced to retire with a virus when she was trailing 5-0 to 21st seed Anett Kontaveit.

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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Image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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