Naomi Osaka Toughs It Out in Madrid - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Toughs It Out in Madrid

Naomi Osaka survived a testing three-set encounter with Sara Sorribes Tormo to progress to the third round in Madrid for the first time.

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Naomi Osaka (@MutuaMadridOpen on Twitter)

Naomi Osaka drew on all her determination to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6(5) 3-6 6-0 in a second-round match in Madrid that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours.

 

The Japanese player, 21, only produced her best tennis in spurts. This enabled her Spanish opponent to drag her into long rallies that do not suit her style of play.

However, despite her youth, Osaka has been on the WTA tour long enough to know that tennis players must sometimes win without playing particularly well.

The opening set was the most gruelling. It lasted 73 minutes, featured four breaks of serve (two for each player) and was packed full of long games as both players struggled to find their rhythm.

Osaka finally found some fluency in the tie-break. She consistently hit the ball hard and deep to win five consecutive points and establish a 5-1 lead.

The World No.1 then faltered slightly and enabled Sorribes Tormo to cut the deficit to 5-4 and 6-5. But she recovered her poise to finish the set with a forehand winner.

She continued her form at the beginning of the second set to move into a 2-0 lead. However, the Spaniard soon sucked her into prolonged baseline battles once again and quickly levelled the score at 3-3.

Then Osaka fell away completely. She won just two points in the next three games as Sorribes wrapped up the second set 6-3.

Osaka shows her class in decider

Thankfully for the World No.1, she roused herself in the decider. She stepped up to the baseline and started to dictate the points more than she had done at any previous time in the match.

The difference this made was remarkable. Osaka won 26 of the 36 points played in the set to take it 6-0 and clinch an important win.

“I know that she’s really good on clay courts so I was expecting a hard match,” The Japanese player said in her on-court interview. “(In the third set) I just tried to focus more and cut down on errors.”

Osaka’s next task will be a last-16 clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich after the Belarussian earned a comfortable 6-2 6-2 victory over qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

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Former No.1 Ana Ivanovic Names The Toughest Opponent Of Her Career

The three-time grand slam finalist didn’t chose the likely candidates such as Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova when asked about her most difficult rival.

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2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic has played many stars of the WTA Tour throughout her career, but has made a surprising revelation about who she felt was the most difficult to play.

 

Ivanovic took on the likes of Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina in all three of the grand slam finals she contested. She only managed to win one out of her 10 meetings with Serena Williams and formed a high-profile rivalry with compatriot Jelena Jankovic. Nevertheless, when asked who her ultimate test is on the Tour, she mentioned none of them names.

Instead, she said her most troublesome rival during her career was Karolina Pliskova. The 2016 US Open runner-up who is currently ranked third in the world on the WTA Tour. The two clashed five times over a two-year period (2014-2016) with the Czech winning all of those encounters. Overall Ivanovic won just one out of 11 sets played between the two.

“For me the hardest player to play against was Pliskova. It was really hard. The last few years (of my career) we played a few times and to read her serve, you wouldn’t expect the shot to be coming the way it was,” she told Eurosport’s Hanging out with Babsi.
“She could really disguise her game very well and I like to read and play the game. Which is why I love playing on the clay. But with her it was very difficult.“

Fellow former tennis pro Barbara Schett, who conducted the interview with Ivanovic, agreed with the verdict on Pliskova. Pliskova has won 16 WTA titles so far in her career and earned $19,997,689 in prize money. Which is $4 million more than what Ivanovic has earnt.

“She takes control really early in the rally and doesn’t give you any time. I’ve never played against her but I can imagine it is very uncomfortable,” said Schett.
“You don’t really get into rallies and she has a great serve. She disguises (her shots) very well and it is not always easy to see,” Ivanovic then added.

Tough task for Clijsters

Besides looking back on her career, Ivanovic is still keeping a watchful eye on what is taking in place in the sport. Recently another former rival Kim Clijsters began her comeback to the Tour at the age of 36. The mother-of-three has played in two tournaments so far, but has lost both of her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.

Ivanovic, who is four years younger than the Belgian, says she has been impressed by the comeback. Although she believes it will be hard for her to return back to the top.

“I have been watching some of her matches and she has been striking the ball amazingly well, but I really hope she can get back to that level to play like she used to,” she said.
“Personally, I don’t think it’ll be easy after being out for so many years.”

Clijsters first retired back in 2007 before returning a couple years later by winning three out of her four grand slam titles. She then hung up her racket for a second time in 2012 before returning once again this season.

“It’s amazing what she achieved. I still respect her so much, it’s just difficult to imagine now after having three kids and being out for so long to make a comeback,” Ivanovic commented.
“Not because she’s not fit, but because your body just reacts differently. When you are out of competition you realise how much fine-tuning is necessary and she’s been out a while.”

Ivanovic retired from Tennis in December 2016 at the age of 29.

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Wimbledon Champion Simona Halep Wary About Return To Tour

The world No.2 is expecting a tough time when she returns to action following the lengthy suspension of the sport due to COVID-19.

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Simona Halep has admitted that she has concerns about returning to tennis following a lengthy period away from the sport.

 

The two-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since winning the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended or cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are hoping to get the sport back on its feet during the summer but an exact return date is still to be confirmed with the US Open set to announce next month if their tournament will go ahead or not.

Spending her lockdown in Romania, Halep is expecting a tough time when she returns to action due to having a lack of match play. To fill the void, some top 10 players have entered into domestic tournaments. Both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova are playing tournaments in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina is set to play in a behind the doors event in Berlin in July. Halep is yet to publicly commit to playing any such event.

“My longest break before the lockdown has been of 3-4 weeks and [returning to competitions] was very difficult for me. You lose pace, you lose focus … and then physically, if you idle about for a whole week you’ve lost half a year,” news agency AGERPRES quoted the 28-year-old as saying.
“ I don’t know what others have done during this time, maybe some did training runs, maybe they did strength workouts, I don’t know, I can’t assume. But I feel it on my own skin that it will be a bit difficult for me. It matters a lot that I haven’t had official matches. You can train five hours a day for a whole year, if you are not on an official game, you’re out when you step on court … I mean, you’re not in the game at all. There’s a big difference.”

Despite her concerns, Halep’s time away from the sport has allowed her to appreciate things she wouldn’t usually have time to do due to the demanding travelling requirements of tennis. Speaking about the lockdown, she says it has enabled her to evaluate her time on the Tour as well as the future.

“I learned a lot from the two-month isolation. I realized that in the last 6 years I’ve been actually on a total lockdown,” she explains.
“It occurred to me that I have to change something in my life, in order to also develop on the emotional and personal side. The fact that I’ve been on lockdown for 6 years has helped me become world No. 1, but now, for me to have a happy life without tennis, I am slowly trying to experience new feelings, see something else.”

Halep started 2020 by winning 10 out of 12 matches played. Besides her triumph in Dubai, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open before losing to Garbine Muguruza. Halep is one of four women to have already made more than $1 million in prize money this season.

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Former No.1 Karolina Pliskova Hits Out At Men Worrying About Equal Pay In Tennis

The world No.4 explains why she personally doesn’t want equal pay on the tour, but criticises those who worry that women players might do so in the future.

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Czech tennis star Karolina Pliskova has labelled men who voice opposition against equal pay as ‘super weak’ as she becomes the latest player to throw her backing behind the possibility of a merger of the two premier tennis Tour’s.

 

Pliskova, who is a former US Open finalist, spoke out about the topic when questioned by the PA Press Agency. In recent weeks there has been growing calls for the ATP and WTA to be merged into one. Support for the idea gained momentum when Roger Federer tweeted his support for it. However the heads of the two governing bodies have already been in discussions about working closer together in some capacity since the start of this year.

Although the prospect of a merger remains low due to the complex process that it would involve, both the ATP and WTA have vowed greater collaboration to help enhance the future of the sport. One of the main talking points behind the calls is pay. There is equal prize money at all of the grand slams, however, it does differ behind the men and women on the Tour. Last year six men earned more than $7 million in prize money compared to one on the WTA Tour (Ash Barty).

Weighing in on the topic, Pliskova has interestingly said that she is not interested in campaigning for her to be paid similar to her male counterparts. Arguing that the two genders should not be compared. However, she has voiced her frustration at those who are against the concept of equal pay.

“I don’t think so and I am not the one who wants it. But I don’t like the men who are complaining that we would get the same money. I think it is super weak from them that they complain we have the same money as them,” she said.
“The only time it is true is at grand slams. I understand they play longer, but they are men. They are stronger than us. I don’t see the reason why we should compare each other. I don’t need to have the same prize money as men. But to have the same chance to play on centre court or to have the same chance to be on TV, that should be possible with these changes.”

As of March 20th Pliskova has made $19,997,689 in prize money throughout her career, which is the 19th highest tally in the history of women’s tennis.

Speaking more specifically about a possible merger, the 28-year-old believes it would help enhance the women’s tour. Although she is staying cautious about the prospect of such a thing happening in the future.

“I think for the women’s tour it can only help. I don’t know exactly what they are discussing but if there is any chance to say yes, then I would say yes,” Pliskova said.
“It needs to be positive also for the ATP so they need to find a balance so it is a forward step for both. It might take a couple of years to get going. It will be different, but I don’t think for the players it would change that much. It would be a good step.”

Pliskova is currently ranked third in the WTA rankings and has won 16 WTA titles. She is set to return to action next week at the LiveScore Cup in Prague.

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