Simona Halep Named French Open Favourite By Four-Time Champion Henin - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Named French Open Favourite By Four-Time Champion Henin

The former world No.1 expects ‘one or two surprises,’ but believes the Romanian can achieve more success at Roland Garros.

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Simona Halep (photo by chryslène caillaud Copyright : @Sport Vision)

Former world No.1 Justine Henin believes Simona Halep will be the player to beat in the women’s draw at the French Open later this month.

 

The 36-year-old has spoken in favour of the Romanian by saying she is the ‘most complete player’ when it comes to playing on the clay. Last year in Roland Garros Halep won her maiden grand slam title at the age of 26. However, since then she has only won one more title at the Canadian Open. Halep has also failed to reach the quarter-finals at her past three grand slam tournaments.

“It is going to be a very interesting tournament. I think Simona Halep is going to be the favourite. I like her game, I like how she plays on clay because on clay you need to be a complete player, both physically and mentally,” the Indo-Asian News Service quoted Henin as saying.
“Every grand slam, you get one or two surprises. So, I am expecting that also to happen,” she added.

Halep’s win-loss record for this season currently stands at 18-6 with her best run being to the final in Doha. Her preparation for the European clay-court season has been hit with a blip. Last week she withdrew from the Stuttgart Open due to a hip injury. However, she is confident that she will be fit for next week’s Madrid Open.

Should Halep defend her title at the French Open, she would become only the fourth woman to do so since 1990. Following in the footsteps of Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Henin. Henin was undefeated in the tournament between 2005-2007.

“Roland Garros is in my heart, it’s in my body. Whenever I go there, even now I feel there is something for me. It’s connected to my history. My first connection towards tennis has been at the Roland Garros. I feel at home there. Roland Garros would be tough for me to miss.” The Belgian reflected.

Whilst Henin backs Halep for glory in Paris, it will be a far from simple process. Five months into the year and Petra Kvitova is the only player to have won multiple titles on the WTA title. The Czech will be one of a series of contenders challenging for the title.

Kvitova’s chances have been back by Martina Navratilova, who wrote about the Czech in her latest column for wtatennis.com. The world No.2 has only reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros once before, which was back in 2012.

“She is a threat on any surface, and could even win Roland Garros for the first time this year, though much will depend on the speed of the playing conditions in Paris, which can vary quite a bit. When Petra is on, she can beat anybody.” Navratilova wrote.

The French Open will get underway on May 26th.

How did the current top 10 women fair at the French Open in 2018?

  1. N. Osaka – R3
  2. P. Kvitová – R3
  3. S. Halep – Champion
  4. A. Kerber – QF
  5. K. Plíšková – R3
  6. E. Svitolina – R3
  7. K. Bertens – R3
  8. S. Stephens- Runner-up
  9. A. Barty – R2
  10. A. Sabalenka – R1

Note: rankings based on week commencing 29th April 2019

 

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Women’s No.1 Ash Barty Undecided On US Open Participation

The French Open champion speaks out about the possibility of her travelling to America later in the season.

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Australian tennis star Ash Barty has become the latest top name to express caution over the prospect of heading to the US Open in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

All professional tournaments have been either suspended or cancelled until at least July 31st due to the worldwide health crises. However, officials are hoping to kick-start the Tour again in August with the United States Tennis Association eager to hold their premier event in New York. With there yet to be any formal decision from the USTA, speculation is mounting over what is going to be done to make the tournament safe. Including the possibility of holding the event behind closed doors.

Barty, who won her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year, has cautiously welcomed talks about getting the Tour going again. Although she is not committing to heading to America until more information is known. It is unclear what the WTA’s plans are regarding their schedule, but it has been reported that the ATP will host a zoom conference with their players next Wednesday followed by coaches the week after.

“It’s exciting that tennis is being talked about again and things are moving in the right direction for us to start competing,” Barty told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“But I’d need to understand all of the information and advice from the WTA and the USTA before making a decision on the US events.”

The 24-year-old has said she needs to take into account how any upcoming plans will also affect her team. For example, if they will also be exempt from the 14-day quarantine like players. Torben Beltz, who is the coach of women’s player Donna Vekic, recently disclosed some of the approaches being considered by the WTA. Speaking to the Advantage Podcast, Beltz said the ideas include limiting players to only having one person travelling with them.

“It’s not just me, it’s my team I have to consider,” she said.

Barty’s comments come a day after reigning US Open men’s champion Rafael Nadal insisted that the Tour shouldn’t resume again until all players are able to travel. Asked if he would have gone to New York if the event was taking place right now, the 19-time grand slam champion said no.

“If we are not able to organise a tournament that is not safe enough or fair enough where every player from every part of the world needs to have the chance to play the tournament we can’t play, that’s my feeling.” Nadal told reporters on Thursday.
“My feeling is that we need to wait a little bit more. We are in a worldwide sport. For me it is not the same as football or a tournament that can be played in one country. When you mix people from all over the world the complications are completely different. I am a little bit worried about that.”

It is expected that the USTA will make a final decision regarding the US Open by the middle of this month. It is looking more likely the tournament will be going ahead in some capacity with reports suggesting the Cincinnati Open could also be moved to the same venue and take place a week prior.

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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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