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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Chris Evert On Why Coco Gauff Winning The US Open May Not Be A Good Thing

The former world No.1 speaks out about the teenage tennis prodigy.

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Cori Gauff - Wimbledon 2019 (photo via Twitter, @Wimbledon)

At next week’s US Open, one of the talking points of the women’s draw will be rising star Coco Gauff who will be making her main draw debut at Flushing Meadows.

 

The 15-year-old tennis prodigy grabbed the attention of many during the Wimbledon Championships. It was at the event where she became the youngest player in the Open Era to successfully qualify. Then she stunned former world No.1 Venus Williams, Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog en route to the fourth round. Where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Gauff’s rapid rise in the sport has caught the attention of both her rivals and sponsors. She already has deals with Barilla and New Balance. Amounting to an estimated $1 million, according to Forbes Magazine. Those brands will be hoping for the teenager to make another deep run at the final grand slam of the season. However, one former champion has warned against any potential success.

18-time grand slam champion Chris Evert is concerned that too much is happening to Gauff at a young age. Going as far as saying that success at the major event could be counterproductive. Gauff is currently ranked 141st in the world and is the youngest player in the top 500.

“I don’t know if it’d be necessarily great for her to win the Open.” Evert said during an interview with The New York Post.
“If she continues to play the way she is, have some big wins, still develop her game and be a normal 15-year-old with some semblance of privacy, then that’d be the most successful picture of her.’
“There’s no doubt there is Grand Slam potential in her, after watching her at Wimbledon. But I am very cautious because she is so young and so many things can happen between 15 and 20 (years old), mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Evert was 19 when she won her first major title at the 1974 French Open. In total she contested 34 grand slam finals over a 15-year period.

Earlier this week Gauff made an appearance at the Winston-Salem Open. A men’s tournament that is categorised as an ATP 250 event. She took to the court to play an exhibition match against world No.2 Ash Barty. Gauff edged out the reigning French Open champion 6-4, 2-6, [10-8].

“It was super fun. It’s different to kinda play in an atmosphere like that and not be in a tournament. It was cool to play with Ash and hopefully we can do it again sometime,” Gauff told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m kind of sad to leave [Winston-Salem] because New York is busy but it was good to get the calm before the storm.”

Gauff will take on Russian world No.76 Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the US Open. There is a chance that she could play defending champion Naomi Osaka in the tournament if they both reach the third round.

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Bronx Open Recap: Siniakova Saves Match Points to Oust the Last American Standing

All four quarterfinals were decided on a busy day in the Bronx.

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The first quarterfinal saw Katerina Siniakova, the No.4 doubles player in the world, face American wild Bernarda Pera. Siniakova advanced to the round of 16 in singles earlier this year at Roland Garros, taking out world No.1 Naomi Osaka in straight sets along the way. Pera upset Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova here on Tuesday.

 

Both players became frustrated early on with close line calls, as well as a lack of net calls on serves. These players are accustomed to Hawkeye challenges and electronic net calls, but those technologies are not being utilized at this tournament. This has been the root of aggravation for players all week long. In the first set, Siniakova would say to the chair umpire, “We play four games and there’s already five mistakes.” While she couldn’t know this for sure, the lack of technology leaves doubt in players’ minds. It also requires chair umpires to assert themselves more so than is customary nowadays.

Siniakova went up a break in the first and had a point for a double break, but a controversial line call would turn the set around. Pera struck an inside-out forehand extremely tight to the sideline, which was called in, to Siniakova’s dismay. Pera would go on to hold and then break in the next game, evening the set. And some big forehand returns at 5-4 would earn the American a second consecutive break and the set.

From there Pera’s punishing ground game continued to open up, gaining her the early break in the second. But with the set and a break lead, Bernarda’s winners started to turn to errors, allowing Katerina to break right back. Both held their serves for the remainder of the set, setting up a pivotal tiebreak. And these two would slug it out in the breaker, with some long, grueling rallies. A costly Siniakova double fault gave Pera two match points at 6-4, which Katerina saved by forcing the action just enough to goad Pera into making errors. At 6-6, a backhand down-the-line winner granted Siniakova a set point on her serve, which she converted by moving Pera all around the court.

In the third, Siniakova’s superior court coverage would earn her a break and a 3-1 advantage. Katerina would face multiple break points in the next game, but held for 4-1. And unlike Pera, Siniakova would not give back the lead, and took the third set 6-3.

The next quarterfinal was a serving battle, which was refreshing in a week where matches have contained so many breaks of serve. The tenth seed Karolina Muchova and qualifier Magda Linette would play 34 games and two tiebreaks in their three-setter, with only one break in the entire match. The 27-year-old Linette of Poland would not only claim that sole break to give her the second set, but also prevail in the third set tiebreak. She’ll face Siniakova in tomorrow’s semifinals.

In other action, Camila Giorgi just crushed Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-1. The Italian will face the top seed Qiang Wang, who dropped the first set today to Anna Blinkova 6-0, but came back to claim victory in three.

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Bronx Open Tuesday Recap: Camila Giorgi And Andrea Petkovic Clash In Thriller

Four of the eight second round singles matches were decided on Tuesday.

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NEW YORK: Andrea Petkovic would start play on the main stadium court for the second consecutive day. Coming off a nice win on Monday over Wimbledon quarterfinalist Shuai Zhang, she faced another formidable opponent today in Camila Giorgi. The 27-year-old was herself a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year, but came into this event with a losing record in 2019. At one point this season, she went on a seven-match losing streak. Giorgi’s go-for-broke groundstroke approach can challenge almost anyone when it’s working, but can give away matches without much resistance when it’s misfiring.

 

In the first set, Giorgi would miss way too often. Petkovic was solid on the ground, putting pressure on Giorgi to go for too much and commit errors. Andrea took the first set 6-3 with two breaks thanks to some forceful forehands and a costly double fault from Camila.

The second set started off with more of the same. A deep forehand return from Petkovic would cause another error from Giorgi, giving Andrea a 2-0 lead. But Camila’s aggression would finally begin to pay off, as she broke right back due to some groundie winners, as well as Petkovic’s own costly double fault at deuce. They would trade more breaks as the second set progressed. At 5-5, Giorgi’s offense allowed her to dictate play and draw errors from Petkovic, who was too often on the defensive. Camila would break for 6-5, and Petkovic would slam a ball into the ground and toss her racket. Giorgi would serve out the second set 7-5.

The third set was nothing short of a roller coaster, with eight breaks of serve in this set alone. Despite the crowd being pretty thin on a weekday at this new event, they got rather loud for this battle. After Giorgi broke for 2-1, Petkovic would repeatedly swipe her racket against the court. It slipped out of her hand on the last swipe, almost hitting a ball kid who was rushing to hand Andrea her towel. Petkovic would be the first player to hold their serve in the third, earning her a 4-2 lead with some great scrambling around the court to counter Giorgi’s offense. Camila would break back by pouncing on some Petkovic second serves, and finally get her first hold of the third to even things up at 4-4. Giorgi earned a break point by smoking two forehand winners down the line, but slammed her racket on the ground and got a racket abuse warning of her own after not converting.

At 5-5, there were three extremely close line calls on the baseline. The chair umpire would overrule one particular line judge twice, with Petkovic complaining to the umpire regarding the missed calls. After that discussion, Giorgi would hit two winners to break and serve for the match. Yet Petkovic would bounce right back, prevailing in a few grueling rallies to break for 6-6 and force a deciding tiebreak. But the tiebreak would be all Giorgi. Despite a double fault giving away an early advantage, Camila would hit four winners in the tiebreak, and take it 7-3. In the end, the Italian’s oppressive ground game would prove too much. It was a captivating two-hour-and-forty-minute affair on a hot day in the Bronx.

The next match featured recent Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova against 24-year-old American Bernarda Pera, who received a wild card to enter this tournament, her first US Open Series event this summer. In the opening round, the left-handed Pera crushed Veronika Kudermetova 6-0, 6-2. Meanwhile Strycova is yet to win a match since Wimbledon last month, as she lost in both qualifying, and as a lucky loser in the main draw, last week in Cincinnati.

Today Strycova took the first set comfortably 6-3, winning two of the nine break points she earned. Pera would break first in the second, thanks to a lob that landed right inside the baseline which Strycova didn’t run for. After a second Pera break, Strycova would outdo Petkovic in today’s racket tossing contest, throwing hers nearly from the baseline all the way to her chair. Pera would claim the second set 6-2.

Bernarda would continue her momentum in the third and break Strycova four more times. Pera was feeling it at this point, with some deep returns and a few more excellent lobs. After going down two early breaks at 3-0, Strycova launched a ball well out of the stadium. The American was just too strong off the ground on this day, and took the third 6-1.

Tuesday’s other two singles matches ended in retirements. Alize Cornet was up 7-6(5), 4-0 when Zhu Lin retired with a leg injury. And Katerina Siniakova claimed the first nine games of the match before Anastasia Potapova retired in their match.

In doubles, the No.1 seeds Sam Stosur and Shuai Zhang were upset by Margarita Gasparyan and Monica Niculescu. That leaves the Taiwanese sister team of Hao-Ching Chan and Latisha Chan as the top remaining seeds, as they prevailed today in straight sets over Lyudmyla Kichenok and Galina Voskoboeva.

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