Serena Williams Finding Life ‘Harder,’ But Still Inspiring The Next Generation At French Open - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Finding Life ‘Harder,’ But Still Inspiring The Next Generation At French Open

Life on the tour isn’t a walk in the park for the 37-year-old, but her legacy is already having a positive impact on some.

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Serena Williams (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

When Serena Williams made her debut at the French Open back in 1998, her second round opponent in this year’s tournament was only seven.

 

21 years after that debut, the former world No.1 remains a fierce opponent to face on the WTA Tour. At Roland Garros on Thursday she disposed of Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier. Recording her 65th win at the tournament and 801st overall. The fifth highest amount in the history of women’s tennis.

“I think she was playing tennis the whole time, really good tennis the whole time.” Williams said of her opponent. “She was just playing really tactical tennis, and I just had to play a little bit better.”

Contesting only her fifth tournament of the season, 2019 has been far from plain-sailing for the 23-time grand slam champion. Shortly after the Australian Open, an ankle injury derailed her off-court preparations. Meanwhile in Rome, she pulled out of the tournament after only one match due to her knee. This week is only the second time this year she has managed to achieve back-to-back wins on the tour since January.

“I have had a tough year since I twisted my ankle in Australia,” she said.
“It’s just been really tough after that. So everything definitely feels a little bit harder than normal, but at the same time, I know that it’s going to get better.”

The concerns are not just on the court. Last week Williams was seen at Disneyland Paris in a wheelchair. A picture that continues to baffle many. Williams refuses to discuss why she was in a wheelchair, but assures that everything’s ‘all good.’

Despite the concerns over her current form and fitness, Williams remains a heavyweight in women’s tennis for numerous reasons. Besides her 72 WTA titles, she is seen as a role model for many of her younger rivals. One being Amanda Anisimova, who stunned Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets to become the youngest American woman to reach the third round of the tournament since Williams back in 1998.

“She’s done so much for the sport. She’s a huge inspiration to me. I really look up to her.” Said Anisimova.

It was during the Miami Open where Anisimova got up close with one of her idols. Being consoled by her compatriot after getting knocked out in three sets by Anett Kontaveit. Something Williams felt she had a duty to do.

“I just needed to do that, and I know she’s super young. I really love all the new young players. It’s just so exciting.” Williams explained. “I feel like tennis has done so much for me, and to see a new generation come through is great.”

In the last 32 Williams will lock horns with another American youngster – Sofia Kenin. The 20-year-old is currently ranked 35th in the world and won her maiden WTA title back in January at the Hobart International. Like Anisimova, she has also caught Williams attention.

“I know her game really well. She had a really great run in Australia, and I have been watching her.” She said.
“I think it will be a good match. She has a lot to bring to the table. She has a lot of excitement, and she’s a good player.”

Neither Anisimova or Kenin was born when Williams made her grand slam debut at the Australian Open more than 20 years ago (1998). A true testament to the longevity of one of the most successful players in the history of the sport.

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win

The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.

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Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

 

” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.

The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.

Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.

After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.

At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.

At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.

At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.

” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.

Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.

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Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test

Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.

Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”

It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.

“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”

In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.

So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.

Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.

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