Naomi Osaka Faces Four Threats In Fight To Maintain No.1 Position At French Open - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Faces Four Threats In Fight To Maintain No.1 Position At French Open

Ubitennis’ guide to the five women who could exit the French Open as world No.1.

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Naomi Osaka - Madrid 2019 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

For the 17th consecutive week Naomi Osaka is enjoying life at the top of the WTA rankings.

 

The 21-year-old first claimed the world No.1 spot after triumphing at the Australian Open in January where she defeated Petra Kvitova in the final. Osaka is the first Asian player – man or woman – to achieve the honour in the Open Era. She has already spent more time in the position than players such as Ana Ivanovic, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Venus Williams. An impressive statistic for a player who hasn’t won a WTA title since January.

Osaka’s next test will be at the French Open where she faces four players in the race to end the tournament as world No.1. She is yet to progress beyond the third round or win a WTA trophy on the clay in her career. Heading into this year’s tournament, she had to withdraw from events in Stuttgart and Rome due to injury.

“I would describe it as rocky.” Osaka commented about her clay season last week. “I can’t necessarily say it’s been ups and downs because if I think about it, it’s definitely been going up. Like every match that I’ve played, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned into the next match. I think I’ve done that well.”

Osaka will keep her No.1 spot if she reaches the final in Paris regardless of if she wins the title or not. However, if any of her four rivals reach the title match, her position at the top will be under threat.

Leading the challengers is Karolina Pliskova, who recently triumphed at the Italian Open. The Czech second seed is required to reach the final to have a chance of claiming the No.1 spot for the first time since September 2017. Pliskova has a love-hate relationship with Roland Garros. In 2017 she reached the semi-finals in what was her best run to date. However, in her six other appearances, she has failed to make it to the second week of the tournament. Overall, she has won nine out of 16 main draw matches played there.

“I want to put 100% into it and to give myself a chance to go deep in the tournament.” Pliskova commented about the French Open. “Of course, everything starts in the first round. You can have tough opponents. Doesn’t mean that I won (in Rome) that I have to go far in Paris. There is still seven matches, so it’s two more than here.”

If Osaka reaches the semi-finals, Pliskova is required to win her first ever grand slam title. Should she face Kvitova in the final, the winner world become world No.1.

The Netherlands has never had a No.1 player in the history of the sport, but 27-year-old Kiki Bertens could change this. After winning the Madrid Open earlier this month, Bertens became the highest ranked Dutch woman of all-time by reaching fourth in the world. She is a former semi-finalist at Roland Garros back in 2016, but hasn’t gone beyond the third round since.

“I think anything can happen there. If I play good, I can go really far. Hopefully that’s going to be the case.” The world No.4 commented about her chances.

For Bertens, if Osaka reaches the fourth round she would need to win the title. Should she face Kvitova in the final, the winner would claim the top spot.

Kvitova’s hopes relies on rival Osaka not reaching the semi-finals. If that happens, she would need to go on to win the tournament. The two-time Wimbledon champion has previously been to just one win away from becoming world No.1, but was denied the honour. She has already won two titles this season, including one clay event in Stuttgart.

“Becoming No.1 would be Petra’s dream, but we don’t talk about it because I don’t want to put too much pressure on her. At the same time, I think Petra also doesn’t want to talk about it because she doesn’t want to add to that pressure,” Kvitova’s coach Jiri Vanek told wtatennis.com.

Finally, Angelique Kerber can only potentially reach the top if she wins the title and Osaka failed to reach the quarter-finals. The German player has recently been hindered by an ankle injury.

French Open records at-a-glance

Name

Number of appearances (before 2019)

Best performance at Roland Garros

2018 result

Overall win-loss (main draw only)

Osaka (age 21)

3

Third round (2016, 2018)

Third round

4-3

Kvitova (age 29)

10

Semi-finals (2012)

Third round

23-10

Bertens (age 27)

7

Semi-finals (2016)

Third round

11-7

Kerber (age 31)

11

Quarter-finals (2012, 2018)

Quarter-finals

17-11

Points players could earn during the French Open

source: wtatennis.com

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Dayana Yastremska Appoints Former Naomi Osaka Mentor As Coach

The youngster is hoping to build on her 2019 breakthrough next year with a new coach by her side.

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Dayana Yastremska - Zhuhai 2019 (photo credit: WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai)

Rising star Dayana Yastremska will head into the 2020 season under new guidance of the 2018 WTA Coach of the Year winner Sasha Bajin.

 

The 19-year-old confirmed her new coach in a Facebook post published on Thursday morning. Bajin is best known for his work with former world No.1 Naomi Osaka, who won two grand slam titles whilst working with him, as well as her first Premier title in Indian Wells. The two ended their collaboration shortly after the Australian Open earlier this year. Since then, Bajin briefly worked with Kristina Mladenovic before deciding to depart.

“I am very happy to share the news that I am starting the 2020 season with a new coach!” Yastremska wrote.
“I am extremely happy, and I am very excited to start our collaboration as it is going to be very interesting and impressive work. I am confident that he (Bajin) can help me in achieving my ambitions.’
“I’m Super excited for the beginning of our pre-season preparation and I am confident that everything works out!”

In recent weeks there has been speculation about the two joining forces on the tour. During the WTA Elite finals in China, the world No.22 was asked about the rumours concerning her team speaking with Bajin. However, at the time she dodged the question by replying ‘I would like to build a great team, but for now I won’t say anything about it.’

Yastremska has enjoyed her best season on the tour yet in his career and broke into the world’s top 30 back in September. She is currently at a career ranking high of 22nd. On the tour in 2019, the Ukrainian has clinched two WTA titles in Hua Hin and Strasburg. In the grand slams, she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time.

As of this week, Yastremska is one of only four players under the age of 20 who are in the world’s top 30.

Elsewhere on the WTA Tour there has been another development on the coaching front. Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber has confirmed that she will be working with Didi Kindlmann. A former hitting partner with Maria Sharapova, who have previously worked with Elise Mertens and Ajla Tomljanović. Kerber is currently ranked 20th in the world compared to 12 months ago when she was in second spot.

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Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis

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Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.

 

Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.

“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.

Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.

She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.

Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.

“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.

 

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Karolina Pliskova Splits From Coach With A Possible Replacement Already In The Pipeline

The Czech made the surprise announcement on social media as she enters negotiations with an unnamed individual.

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World No.2 Karolina Pliskova has ended her collaboration with Conchita Martinez after working together for more than a year.

 

Pliskova, who has won four WTA titles this season, had been working with the Spaniard since the 2018 US Open. She originally joined the team on a part-time basis before being upgraded to a full-time position in February this year. Martinez is a former player best known for winning the 1994 Wimbledon Championships.

“I decided I will no longer work with Conchita,” Pliskova posted on Instagram. “It was a tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!”

The decision comes after what has been a solid year on the tour for the 27-year-old. Overall, she has won 51 out of 68 matches played. Recording five wins over top five opponents. In the grand slams she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in what was her best ever performance at the tournament. However, she failed to repeat that success at the other three majors. Reaching the third round of the French Open followed by the last 16 in both Wimbledon and the US Open.

“Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year.” Martinez wrote in a statement. “It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future.”

It may not be long before the identity of who replaces Martinez is revealed. Michal Hrdlicka, who is Pliskova’s manager and husband, has confirmed to Czech News Agency CTK that discussions are underway with an unnamed individual.

“After the Champions Tournament (WTA Finals), we started negotiations on the engagement of a new coach. Negotiations are underway and we will inform the fans when they are over.” He said.

In her last tournament of 2019, Pliskova reached the semi-finals of the WTA Finals. She was knocked out of the event by top seed Barty who went on to win the title.

Pliskova has finished the year ranked No.2 on the WTA rankings. The highest year-end ranking she has ever achieved so far in her career.

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