Lacklustre Ash Barty Struggles But Wins US Open Opener - UBITENNIS
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Lacklustre Ash Barty Struggles But Wins US Open Opener

It was a tough day at the office for the second seed at Flushing Meadows.

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Former world No.1 Ash Barty survived a huge scare during her opening match at the US Open on Monday.

The Australian produced an at times erratic performance during her 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, win over Zarina Diyas. A 25-year-old Kazakh player currently ranked 80th in the world who has lost in the first round in three out of the past four grand slam tournaments. Despite the disparity in the form of the two players, it was Barty who struggled to find her footing early on before coming through. Illustrated by her 36 unforced errors as she only managed to get 43% of her first serves in.

“Zarina was able to put it (the ball) in difficult positions today, even off my slice.” Barty reflected during her on-court interview.
“I think she handled it particularly well, but for me it was just about continuing to try and deal with it under pressure and make her come up with some really good stuff.”

A sluggish start to the match from Barty enabled the underdog to claim five consecutive games with relative ease. Diyas moved freely around the court and placed pressure on her opponent from the onset. Meanwhile, a tentative hitting Barty produced an uncharacteristic 15 unforced errors to go down a double break (0-4). Eventually she managed to get onto the scoreboard, but the damage was already done. Serving for the first set, Diyas sealed the 6-1 lead with a love service game that ended after a Barty forehand landing beyond the baseline.

Coming into Flushing Meadows, Diyas had only managed to win two out of 21 matches against top 10 opposition. The most recent being over Andrea Petkovic back in 2015. As for 2019, she was yet to defeat a player ranked higher than 32nd (Barbora Strycova at the Sydney International). In contrast, Barty has developed a reputation of being one of the most consistent players on the tour with 42 wins this season.

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The fight back

A surge in Barty’s form paved way for a considerably more competitive second set. Matching each other game by game, she finally got the breakthrough she was searching for. Leading 4-3, a Diyas shot into the net gifted Barty her first break in the match and the chance to take proceedings in a decider. Something she did with the help of a 109 mph ace down the centre of the court.

Continuing to turn her fortunes around, Barty snatched a double break in the third set to close in on victory. Aided by an increase in her first serve percentage, the 23-year-old rallied to the finish line as she capitalized on her rivals rapidly increasing error count. Securing victory on her first match point after a Diyas forehand landed out.

“I think for me, I just had to start with my serve.” The world No.2 commented about how she managed to come back in the match.
“I really wasn’t giving myself enough chances on my serve and I don’t know what my percentage was in the first set, but it certainly wasn’t very good. I just started from basics and start again. Try to figure it out.”

It was the first time Barty had played on the Arthur Ashe stadium since winning the doubles title 12 months ago. Her first major title of any sort. Since then, she has added the French Open singles title to her resume.

“It was a bizarre. We (my team) walked out here to practice the other day and a few memories came flooding back.” Said Barty.
“We’re just pleased that we managed to solve this riddle today and stay alive in the tournament.” She added.

Barty will play either Lauren Davis or Johanna Larsson next.

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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