‘This kid Was Depressed’ - Naomi Osaka Opens Up About Personal Struggles - UBITENNIS
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‘This kid Was Depressed’ – Naomi Osaka Opens Up About Personal Struggles

It has been a rough ride for the two-time grand slam champion in recent months.

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

World No.1 Naomi Osaka has shed light on the drawbacks she experienced from her rapid rise to fame following her opening win at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Germany.

 

In January the 21-year-old became the first Asian player in history to top the tennis rankings after winning the Australian Open. Her second grand slam title in a row. However, since Osaka’s Melbourne triumph she has experienced some lacklustre results on the tour. Winning back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. On top of that, Osaka also split with coach Sascha Bajin, who now works alongside Kristina Mladenovic, and hired Jermaine Jenkins.

The sudden rise of fame has elevated Osaka to the limelight and turned her into one of the most sought after tennis players in terms of sponsorships. Highlighted by her recent deal with Nike. However, it hasn’t all been a fairy tale for the Japanese player.

“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive towards me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.” Osaka said following her win over Hsieh Su-wei in Stuttgart.
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly.”
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.”

Osaka’s troubles have been more mental than physical on the court. It was at the Dubai Tennis Championships, where the world saw how vulnerable the rising star is as she cried following a shock loss in the first round. Detailing how she has struggled to get use to being in the spotlight.

“The worst has been the expectation I put on myself, but I think we are good now.” She commented about life as world No.1.

To put into perspective the rise of introverted Osaka, she went from outside the top 40 without a title to a two-time grand slam champion and Asia’s first ever No.1 within a 12-month period. She is the first player to follow up on her maiden major win by claiming another since Jennifer Capriati back in 2001.

Now seemingly back on track mentally, Osaka will be hoping to extend her stronghold on the tour throughout the European clay-court season. She has just 200 points to defend during that period, compared to 2900 points for Simona Halep. Halep is currently the closest person to her in the WTA rankings.

“I set goals, but they are like short term.” She explains. “It’s not like winning the whole tournament. Of course I think about that. Now I’m just having fun, which is the mentality I had before I was number one. Hopefully it will go well.”

The next test in Stuttgart for the top seed will be Croatia’s Donna Vekic. Vekic has already defeated two top 10 players this season – Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens. Osaka leads their head-to-head 1-0.

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Kim Clijsters Handed Wildcards For Top American Tournaments

The four-time Grand Slam champion says she is ‘excited’ to be returning to the Tour.

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Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters isn’t giving up on her comeback to tennis anytime soon after confirming that she will play at the Miami Open later this month.

 

The Belgian has been awarded with a wildcard to play at the prestigious WTA 1000 event which is held at the Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the first tournament Clijsters has played since the US Open last year and the first time she has played in Miami since 2012. She is a two-time winner in Miami after triumphing in 2005 when she was unseeded in the draw, as well as 2010.

“The Miami Open was always a favorite stop on tour for me,” said Clijsters. “I have great memories and also had great results there. I’m excited to be coming back to Miami.”

Clijsters is currently in the process of her second comeback to the Tour. She first retired from the sport in May 2007 before returning two years later. She would continue playing for another five years before calling it quits at the 2012 US Open following a lengthy battle with injuries. Last year she played in a total of three tournaments but lost her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza in Dubai, Johanna Konta in Monterrey and Ekaterina Alexandrova at the US Open.

James Blake, who is the tournament director of the Miami Open, has hailed the return of Clijsters to the tournament. Paying tribute to her both on and off the court.

“We are very excited to have Kim returning to Miami,” he said. “She is a tremendous player and an even better person. Plus, it’s not often you get the opportunity to see someone who has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame compete at an event of this level.”

After Miami, Clijsters will kick-off her clay court campaign in the country after receiving a pass to play at the Charleston Open which takes place the week after Miami. It will be the first time in her career she has played at the event which has been part of the women’s Tour for more than 30 years.

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Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles so far in her career with the most recent occurring back in 2011 at the Australian Open. She has spent a total of 20 weeks as world No.1 which is a longer period than Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Jankovic.

The Miami Open will get underway on March 22nd.

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‘Very Happy’ Madison Keys Stuns Bencic In First Match Since September At Qatar Open

The world No.19 speaks out about her comeback win after recovering from COVID-19.

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Madison Keys (@usopen on Twitter)

Former US Open finalist Madison Keys has marked her return to the WTA Tour with a straight sets triumph over Belinda Bencic in the first round of the Qatar Open.

 

Keys, who last played at the French Open prior to this week, looked to be in top form as she dismissed the sixth seed 6-1, 6-4, in just over an hour. The American hit 24 winners against 13 unforced errors as she won 83% of her first service points. She was only broken once in the match which was during the closing stages of the opening set.

“It’s amazing to be back. I’m smiling under my mask,” Keys said during her on-court interview. “Disappointed that I couldn’t go to Australia, but very happy to have the first match of my season like this.”

The 26-year-old is looking to get back on track after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this year which ruled her out of the Australian Open. Keys endured a lacklustre 2020 season where she only played five tournaments due to the pandemic and registered eight wins on the Tour.

“I just had super, super mild symptoms, so I was really lucky and got back on the court as soon as I was over it.” She explained.

This week the world No.19 is seeking her first title of any sort since the 2019 Cincinnati Open and the sixth in her career. Next up for the American will be a clash against Maria Sakkari who kicked off her campaign in Doha on Monday with a clinical 6-0, 6-3, win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.

Unlike other tournaments, Keys has the luxury of playing in front of fans under strict COVID-19 regulations. Visitors are required to use a contact tracing app, undergo temperature checks and wear masks at all times. The number of spectators has been capped at 20% of its normal capacity.

“To come out and play in front of fans again is so amazing. We (the players) really appreciate everyone who comes out and cheers us. I’m super happy to see them back,” said Keys.
“It’s going to be a really tough match (against Sakkari). She got me the last time we played. I’m going to have to look at that match to see what she did better than what I did and hope I do a better job next time,” she later added.

In other matches, Germany’s Laura Siegemund set up a meeting with Victoria Azarenka after battling past Elena Rybakina 7-6(7), 7-6(5). Also through to the next round is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, One Jabeur and Jessica Pegula who won their matches in straight sets.

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Former Tennis Star Reveals 2016 Retirement Was Linked To 18-Month Ban

The former world No.66 says she was suspended from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player following one of her matches.

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Ekaterina Bychkova (image via Wikicommons)

A top 100 player who stunned Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round of the 2005 US Open when she was the defending champion has made a shock revelation about the reason why she retired from the sport.

 

Ekaterina Bychkova, who peaked at a ranking high of 66th in her career, was a familiar face on the women’s Tour that played in 15 Grand Slam main draws between 2005-2011. During her career, she won 10 ITF singles titles and five in the doubles. She hung up her racket in 2016 after playing one qualifying match in St Petersburg but the decision to retire wasn’t entirely her choice.

In a recent interview Bychkova revealed for the first time she was slammed with a 18-month suspension from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player. The incident took place following her match against Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova at an ITF $100,000 event in Nanjing, China.

“In the third set Kuchova began to suffer from convulsions (cramps). But according to the rules, you cannot call a doctor for convulsions and you cannot lie on the court for five minutes. However, she lay on the court for several minutes, then the supervisor came, who said that it was not a seizure, which means that a break was needed. He clearly sympathized with her,” she said during an interview with website Bookmaker Ratings.
“Kuchova returned to the match and immediately began to serve powerfully, kick the ball and move well. She was released psychologically, but on the contrary, I was shackled.”

A furious Bychkova ended up losing the first round match 7-5, 6-7(1), 3-6, to Kucova who is currently ranked 149th in the world. Although the incident between the two players didn’t take place on the court. It occurred later on that day when they crossed paths again.

“I was asked to take a walk for 20-30 minutes. Suddenly this beauty floats past me, cheerful. I broke down and started a fight,” she said.
“Two days later, the supervisor announced to me that our fight was on camera. It was a hostel on the court grounds, not an official hotel, and in fact the fight did not take place on the territory of the tournament.”

Reflecting on her actions, which was caught on CCTV, the Russian says they were in no way justifiable and she regrets how she reacted. Not only did she end up with a 18-month ban from the sport, she was also fined $3,150.

At the time Bychkova said she had the option to appeal the decision but opted not to do so because she didn’t want to go through the process of hiring lawyers and travelling to London for an ITF hearing. Claiming that the fight didn’t actually occur on the tournament site but at a hostel located on the surrounding grounds. She also said her decision to not to appeal was because she was ‘tired of tennis.’

Now at the age of 35 she has decided to give playing professional tennis another go. This week she played her first match in five years at an ITF event in Moscow where she lost in the first round to world No.611 Anastasia Tikhonova.

There has been no public comment from Kucova regarding Bychkova’s account of what happened in China.

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