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.




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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Dayana Yastremska Heads To Australia Despite Doping Violation

Did the 20-year-old break the rules with her trip?




Tennis Australia says they are ‘investigating’ after it emerged that Dayana Yastremska boarded a plane funded by the governing body despite failing a drugs test.


Last week the International Tennis Federation issued a statement confirming that the Ukrainian tennis star has been issued with a provisional suspension after testing positive for the banned substance mesterolone metabolite. An anabolic agent prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency which can be used for the treatment of people with low testosterone. Yastremska was pictured boarding a plane to Australia on Thursday in a post uploaded by two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova which has since been deleted.

Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is. The world No.29 has the right to appeal her provisional suspension but according to the latest ITF statement she hasn’t done so. One way her ban can be lifted is if the appeals board accepts her contamination argument which would allow her to play right away.

“Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” Yastremska wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”

Despite Yastremska’s plea, it is unclear as to if she or Tennis Australia has broken any rules. As of January 15h the ITF still lists her as a player who is provisionally suspended from the sport. Richard Ings, who is the former chair of the Australian anti-doping agency, points out that suspended players are not allowed to participate in any activity organised by a tournament. Raising questions as to if a Tennis Australia funded plane journey counts as one of these ‘activities.’

Yastremska is currently on the Australian Open entry list and is set to be allowed to train during her 14-day quarantine like other players unless anything changes. Tennis Australia has not made a public statement but news agency AAP has confirmed that an investigation has been launched. Should it turn out that the 20-year-old is ineligible to play, it is unclear if she would be required to pay back the cost of her plane trip.

The Australian Open starts on February 8th.

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Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus

Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.




Madison Keys (@SporArena - Twitter)

The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.

Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.


Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.

I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.

“Thank you for all your support.

Stay Healthy and safe.


Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.

Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.

Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.

While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.

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Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title

Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.




Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.


The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.

With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.

It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”

The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.

There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.

“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”

Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”

Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.

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