Simona Halep Struggles But Prevails Over World No.93 Hercog In Miami Open Epic - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Struggles But Prevails Over World No.93 Hercog In Miami Open Epic

The world No.3 battled on the court for almost three hours before securing a place in the fourth round.

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Simona Halep (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Second seed Simona Halep has kept her chances of returning back to world No.1 alive after outlasting Slovakia’s Polona Hercog 5-7, 7-6(1), 6-2, in a marathon third round encounter at the Miami Open.

 

Halep, who was also troubled by an injury issue throughout the match, struggled to dictate the clash due to some inspired play from her rival. Hercog has only defeated one top 10 player in her career and hasn’t been ranked in the world’s top 50 since 2012. Nevertheless, Halep was pushed to her limits as she rallied from a set down. Hitting 20 winners, but a costly 39 unforced errors.

“It was a tough match. She played unbelievable.” Halep said during her on-court interview. “I think both of us played much better in the end than at the beginning.’
“I’m really happy with this victory. It means a lot. The fact I stayed there, running like crazy for three hours. It makes me happier and more confident.“

On paper Halep was the clear favourite to win. During her career the reigning French Open champion had earned almost $26 million in prize money than her opponent and 16 more WTA titles (18-2). Nevertheless, it was the Romanian that was on the back foot throughout the opening set. Lacking energy initially, Halep’s patchy play was rightfully punished by Hercog’s ability to mix up her shots with both aggression and slice.

Besides facing a determined opponent, the second seed also required a medical time out five games into the match. Requiring tape on her left knee, which was causing her some discomfort. However, visually she was still able to run and move freely around the court.

There were glimmers of Halep’s top form as her grunting decibels rose on route to retrieving a break to level 4-4. Despite the mini resurgence, a calm Hercog continued with her offensive. Pushing Halep around the court with a clever use of angle shots and some sublime defensive play. Something she illustrated perfectly in the 11th game to break once again for the opportunity to serve the set out. A task she achieved with the help of a Halep backhand ploughing into the net. Prompting a roar of ‘come on’ from the Slovak.

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Halep’s frustrations continued with the smashing of her rackets on the ground. Every time it looked as if the former world No.1 was gaining in momentum, she was denied by some audacious play by Hercog. Who clawed her way back from a 3-5 deficit in the second frame. It was in the tiebreaker where Halep finally got the breakthrough she desired. Elevating her aggressive play she powered her way past Hercog to take proceedings into a decider. Prompting an almighty cheer from her fans in the crowd.

Avoiding becoming the latest high-profile casualty at the Hard Rock Stadium, Halep continued to battle towards the finish line again her tiring opponent. A decline in Hercog’s form paved way for her to break twice during the decider to close in on the victory. Serving for a place in the fourth round, Halep closed the match out with a love game that concluded with a forehand cross-court winner.

“Slowly I’m finding my rhythm again. The fact I’m not giving up any points means a lot. It gives me confidence to go through and believe that I can win every match I play.” The 27-year-old evaluated about her latest performance.
“If I have this feeling like last year, when I finish at number one, I have to keep doing this. If I keep doing this I think I have a chance to be back to world number one.”

Halep is one of two players that has a shot of dethroning Naomi Osaka from the top of the rankings in Miami. To do so she needs to reach the final to have a chance.

The next test for the Romanian comes in the shape of 38-year-old Venus Williams, who made her Miami debut back in 1997. The American encountered little difficulty during her 6-3, 6-1, win over Daria Kasatkina. Williams is a three-time Miami champion, but last won it back in 2001.

Halep is tied at 3-3 in her head-to-head with Williams, but has won their three most recent meetings on the tour. Including the Australian Open earlier this year.

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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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Garbine Muguruza Beats Kontaveit To Win Season-Ending WTA Finals

Muguruza caps off what she describes as her ‘best year’ on the Tour by becoming the first Spanish woman to win the season-ending title.

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

Garbine Muguruza is the 2021 WTA Finals champion after beating the world’s number eight Anett Kontaveit  6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 38 minutes in Guadalajara, Mexico.

 

The Spaniard hit 16 winners while the Estonian hit 38 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth during both sets before the Caracas native was able to secure the win.

” I want to congratulate Anett (Kontaveit) on her amazing year and managing to qualify for the finals in the last event of the year,” Muguruza said during the trophy ceremony. ”I want to thank everyone who made this possible to play in Latin America and it was a dream come true to play”.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza got off to an aggressive start by looking for the early break in the first game of the match but the world number eight held her ground and managed to hold serve.

At 1-1, the Spaniard had three more chances to take the lead and she was able to break serve at the third time of asking but failed to consolidate it as Kontaveit broke right back the following game.

Once again at 3-3, it was the world number five who got another break and this was able to hold serve the following game. She then broke serve for a second time to take the first set.

The 28-year-old was put under pressure early in the second set and faced two early breakpoints at 1-1 but dug deep and saved both. At 3-3, it was Kontaveit’s turn to apply pressure, and this time she was able to get the break. The 25-year-old had a chance to serve out the second and force a deciding third set but cracked under the pressure as Muguruza broke right back to even the set at 5-5.

At 6-5, Muguruza found herself with three match points on her opponent’s serve and broke one last time to seal the victory and the title.

“I’m just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the ‘maestra,’ like how we say in Spanish,” Muguruza said in press. “That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.”

Muguruza ends her season with three WTA titles to her name after triumphing in Dubai and Chicago earlier this year. Making it the first time in her career she has won a trio of WTA events within the same year. Overall, she has won 42 out of 69 matches played during 2021.

“Overall I think it’s the best year for me. I might not have won a Grand Slam, but I deeply feel like I’ve been happier and more stable, less dramatic, and in general very happy about it.” She concludes. 

The former world No.1 takes home a whopping 1.6 million dollars for winning the tournament and her ranking will go up to number three when the new world rankings come out on Monday.

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