Serena Williams Drawn To Face Maria Sharapova At US Open 2019 - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Serena Williams Drawn To Face Maria Sharapova At US Open 2019

Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova is the headline clash in an intriguing 2019 US Open Women’s Singles Draw.

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Serena Williams (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Serena Williams will play Maria Sharapova in the first round of US Open 2019. It will be their first-ever meeting at Flushing Meadows.

 

When these women clash, it is always a talking point, always a reason to get excited. The American and the Russian are such high-profile athletes that it does not even seem to matter that the American has beaten Maria Sharapova an incredible 18 times in a row.

The sense of anticipation for the encounter is even higher in some ways because it is so long – three years and seven months – since they last faced each other. That was in the quarter-final of the 2016 Australian Open. They were due to play last year at the French Open, but Williams pulled out with a pectoral injury. Hopefully fitness issues will not ruin things this time around.

Barty and Kerber join Serena and Sharapova in packed quarter

The winner of the Serena-Sharapova match will emerge into a favourable section of the draw. Crafty 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei is the only real obstacle between them and the last 16.

However, if either the American or the Russian makes it to the fourth round, their route will then become much more difficult. 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova, a quarter-finalist on each of her last three appearances at Flushing Meadows, is their most likely opponent at that stage.

In the other half of the quarter, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber faces a tricky opener against Kristina Mladenovic, while World No.2 Ashleigh Barty takes on Zarina Diyas. The German and The Australian should be wary of 30th seed Maria Sakkari. The Greek beat Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka during excellent runs in San Jose and Cincinnati.

After an easy start, things will get tough for Osaka

Naomi Osaka (@PorscheTennis on Twitter)

The World No.1 and reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka has endured a difficult few months, so she will be happy to see that the draw has been relatively kind to her.

The Japanese player will face Anna Blinkova in round one and then either Astra Sharma or Magda Linette in round two. If she gets through those, she could face difficult matches against teen sensation Cori Gauff in round three and 13th seed Belinda Bencic in round four.

If Osaka makes it to the last eight, there are number of potential opponents who could cause her problems. Aryna Sabalenka is one, if she can negotiate a tricky opener against Victoria Azarenka and a challenging third-round meeting with Donna Vekic.

Vekic is another possible quarter-finalist, as is Julia Goerges, who could cause an upset in the third round by beating the 7th seed with a poor record at Flushing Meadows: Kiki Bertens.

Halep well-placed to put first-round exits behind her

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has fallen at the first hurdle at the last two US Opens. In 2017, she lost to Sharapova. And then she was thrashed by Kaia Kanepi in an error-strewn display in 2018.

Both of those were tough first-round draws, so the Romanian will be glad to be taking on a qualifier this time around. The fourth seed should reach the last 16 with relative ease, but that is where the real challenges are likely to begin with a possible clash against rising star Bianca Andreescu.

In the other half of the quarter, a potential third-round encounter between 11th seed Sloane Stephens and 24th seed Garbine Muguruza catches the eye. To reach that stage, the American and the Spaniard may have to beat tricky second-round opponents in the shape of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko respectively.

6th seed Petra Kvitova is also in that section. The Czech will be keen to put a spell of patchy form behind her by coming through a relatively calm section of the draw that also include 25th seed Elise Mertens.

Pliskova, Svitolina and Keys feature in a quarter full of potential winners

 

Madison Keys (@CincyTennis on Twitter)

While other sections steal the headlines for obvious reasons, the quarter that includes Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina may be the toughest of all.

2016 runner-up Pliskova could face Caroline Garcia in round three and Johanna Konta and Marketa Vondrousova in round four.

Five-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Svitolina might have to beat Venus Williams in round two, 32nd seed Dayana Yastremska in round three and Sofia Kenin or Keys in round four to reach the last eight again.

Keys will be feeling confident again after she won the title in Cincinnati. She will probably face Kenin in the third round, Svitolina in the fourth round and then Pliskova in the quarter-final if she makes it that far.

Grand Slam

Simona Halep Destroys Kontaveit With Sublime Display To Clinch Semi-Final Spot

Simona Halep moved a step closer to a third Grand Slam title with a dominant win over 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.

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Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

Simona Halep put on a masterclass on Rod Laver Arena as she dismantled Anett Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 to seal her place in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open.

 

The Romanian, 28, looks to be in exceptional form as she chases her third Grand Slam title. She is yet to drop a set at the event and, naturally, she is hoping to continue in the same vein.

“I’m really happy that I can play my best tennis,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “For the first time in my life, I did my off-season away from home so I could focus on what I had to do. I had no days off and I’ve started the year very well. I’m feeling much stronger than I did before.”

The Romanian also paid tribute to her coach Darren Cahill. “He’s been very important since I met him four or five years ago,” she said. “We’ve worked hard on my attitude and my game and today I’m a better person and a better player, so I really want to thank him for the help he gave me. He’s a great person and he understands me so that makes the job easier.”

Halep’s game plan against big hitters like the Estonian is very simple, but much harder to execute. She makes them hit as many shots as possible (preferably from difficult positions) because this increases the chances that they will make errors. To do this, the Romanian needs speed, flexibility immense skill and variety of shot, and the ability to make smart decisions during rallies.

Halep has all these things in her arsenal. At her best, she combines them to make life extremely difficult for her opponents. If they play well, she beats them narrowly. If they play poorly, she thrashes them.

Halep applies pressure early on

In the Romanian’s quarter-final against Kontaveit, she looked focused from first minute to last. And she cranked up the pressure in just the third game.

During it, the Estonian hit some high-quality winners. However, she also made several errors to repeatedly return the score to deuce. Eventually, she cracked, and made an error on break point.

Two games later, the World No.31 saved three break points to recover from 0-40 down. Unfortunately for her, Halep was not discouraged. She outlasted Kontaveit in a 14-shot rally to seize the fourth break point of the game and extend her lead to 4-1.

Some players would relax a little at this stage. Some days, Halep might even do that. But not this time. She relentlessly closed out the first set (with a hold and another break) without giving the Estonian an inch.

Halep reaches new heights

Simona Halep (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

Extraordinarily, the standard of play from the two-time Grand Slam champion seemed to increase at the start of the second set. She came up with some brilliant shots as she raced into a 3-0 lead to extend her run of games to nine.

At that point, Kontaveit looked disconsolate. She made two wayward errors as she dropped her serve for the fifth time in a row.

The Estonian tried her best to make something happen in the next game. During one remarkable point, she hammered the ball as hard as she could to try and get it past her opponent. Maddeningly for Kontaveit’s supporters, Halep retrieved it every time and eventually won the point thanks to a let-cord. Minutes later, the score was 5-0.

The World No.31 finally stopped the rot after losing 11 games on the spin. But it hardly mattered. The Romanian held her serve easily to seal one of the most convincing wins of her whole career.

Halep recalls 2018 Final

In the last four, Halep will face either Garbine Muguruza or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. If she wins that encounter, she will contest an Australian Open final for the second time in three years.

“(My previous final) wasn’t negative at all,” the Romanian said in her on-court interview. “It hurt a lot because I lost 6-4 in the third. I had 4-3 and serve but I couldn’t finish the match. Maybe I was too nervous at that moment. But now I have more experience. That match helped me to win the two Grand Slams that I have already. Maybe I’m on my way to the third one. But it’s very far still, so I just want to focus on my next match.”

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Grand Slam

Rising Stars Of Men’s Tennis Lacking ‘Guts And Balls’ To Shine In Majors, Warns Boris Becker

The former player and coach of Novak Djokovic has issued a stern wake-up call to the future stars of the ATP Tour.

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Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes there needs to be more criticism towards the Next Gen of men’s tennis over their mixed results at grand slam tournaments.

 

Becker, who won his first grand slam title at the age of 17, have called upon the likes of Alexander Zverev to have ‘more balls’ and seize the moment in the big tournaments. At this year’s Australian Open only two out of the eight players to reach the quarter-final stage in the men’s draw are under the age of 26. Zverev at 22 and Dominic Thiem at the age of 26.

The outcome in Melbourne comes at a time where many are tipping 2020 to be the season where the next generation will breakthrough in the majors and end the dominance of the Big Three. A trio consisting of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Between them they have won the past 12 major titles.

“The young guns are missing a bit of guts. A bit of balls. A bit of “Ok, I’m here and I want to win and I’m going to do whatever it takes.” They all fit into the system a little bit and the question is who is advising them, who is coaching them.” Becker said on Eurosport’s Tennis Legends Vodcast.
“I think the whole picture knowing what it takes to win a major is not there with the younger players. They think it’s about tennis; it’s not about tennis, it’s about attitude and putting it out there on the line.”

In Becker’s view he believes that the young gun haven’t been able to cope well with the pressure placed on them. Linking their inability to breakthrough to the mental side of their game and not the physical.

“You don’t want to see Federer at 45 years old still winning against someone half his age! I think we should, in context, be a little more critical of them to wake them up.” He said.
“Everyone is catering to them and sugarcoating them –they are not winning any majors! That’s not good!”

Following his second round win at the Australian Open last week, Zverev warned that younger players are under more pressure than their predecessors. Blaming the growing impact of social media. The German has stated that he is limiting the time he spends on social media during his time in Melbourne, where he is yet to drop a set.

“Do I think is it more difficult for us than 20 years ago? Yes, maybe, because of the social media, mobile phones, of the opinions that everybody can spread out on the Internet.” Zverev commented on the pressure he and others players face.
“Even though when people say they don’t care, they still read it. In the back of their mind, they’re aware of it. So I think that is a massive difference.”

Weighing in on the debate, John McEnroe believes the problem goes beyond the mental side. Also criticising the next Gen, the self-proclaimed ‘commissioner of tennis’ says they lack a back up plan when something goes wrong.

“It’s more the mental part, but technically they haven’t advanced their games enough and they think it’s just going to happen.” McEnroe argues.
“You need to have a plan B or plan C if it’s not working particularly well. When you saw Federer play against Millman, he’s 38 years old,his opponent is playing out of his mind, and is really taking it to him –you can see his mind working, trying to figure out how do I break this guy down.’
“Federer tried four, five, six different things.He’d bring him in with the slice, he hit top spin, he tried to go down the line, he moved more cross-court, he started serving and volleying, he tried to bring Millman in –all those things happened within the match and he still barely won it.’
“I want to see Shapovalov and some of these young players make adjustments on the fly and that’s what the big thing is.”

At present on the men’s tour, Thiem and Daniil Medvedev are the only active players under the age of 30 to have won a set in the final of a grand slam tournament.

How have the top 20 players under the age of 26 performed at the Australian Open?

Name

Ranking and age

2020 Australian Open result

Daniil Medvedev RUS

WR 4, AGE 23

R4

Dominic Thiem AUT

WR 5, AGE 26

QF*

Stefanos Tsitsipas GRE

WR 6, AGE 21

R3

Alexander Zverev GER

WR 7, AGE 22

QF*

Matteo Berrettini ITA

WR 8, AGE 23

R2

Denis Shapovalov CAN

WR 13, AGE 20

R1

Andrey Rublev RUS

WR 16, AGE 22

R4

Karen Khachanov RUS

WR 17, AGE 23

R3

Note: Based on rankings as of 27/1/2020
* still in tournament

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Grand Slam

Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge

Simona Halep continued her impressive progress through the Australian Open draw with a straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens.

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Simona Halep (@Femei_din_sport on Twitter)

Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and secure her place in the quarter-final of the Australian Open for the fourth time.

 

The Romanian, 28, reached the final two years ago and lost an epic clash to Caroline Wozniacki. She has not dropped a set so far this year and she is probably quietly confident about her chances of winning the title (particularly with all the high-profile exits) but, as she said in her press conference after the previous round, she is focusing on each match as it comes.

“It’s a great performance by me to reach the quarter-finals again,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I played against (Mertens) in the final in Doha last year. I was leading a set and 4-2 and then lost the match, so I knew I had to stay focused.”

She continued, “I had to calm myself down. When I get a little bit nervous, I get crazy on court. So I had to stay cool to get the energy from my box.”

Halep makes life difficult for Mertens

Halep’s calmness was a feature of the day. She dealt with most of the challenging moments in a composed manner and never let herself get derailed by a poor shot or a lost service. Consequently, she ended up with outstanding statistics: 21 winners and just eight unforced errors.

These numbers reflect the pattern of the match, which was established early on. Mertens went for her shots and tried to hit as many winners as possible. Meanwhile, Halep defended brilliantly and made sure her opponent had to play plenty of long points.

Each extended rally brought with it an increased risk of the Belgian making an unforced error. And it was a method that worked well, as the Romanian won 15 points with this method in the first five games.

With the help of those 15 unforced errors from Mertens, Halep earned a 3-2 lead thanks to a break in game three. During that game, the Belgian cancelled out her own winners with unforced errors. Despite this, she still managed to save three break points before the Romanian eventually seized the break with an excellent forehand winner.

The World No.17’s aggressive approach eventually paid off in game six. She struck three impressive winners to break Halep and make it 3-3.

Unfortunately for Mertens, the Romanian then demonstrated why she is a two-time Grand Slam champion. She put the setback out of her mind immediately and put the Belgian under all kinds of pressure in game seven.

Then Halep raised her game again and hit two stunning forehand winners to break Mertens easily in game nine. She clenched her fist in celebration, and then re-focused to secure the hold she needed to clinch the set 6-4.

Halep withstands Mertens’ fightback

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

At the start of the second set, the World No.3 produced some sparkling tennis. She hit a precise forehand winner to seal an immediate break. Then she hit an extraordinary angled backhand winner at full stretch to move 2-0 ahead.

In game three, Mertens was 40-30 ahead. Then Halep hit three consecutive forehand winners to break the Belgian again. At that stage, it looked like she might run away with the set.

However, the World No.17 was not ready to concede defeat just yet. She struck two winners and a powerful forehand to earn three break points. Then the Romanian missed a backhand to confirm the break.

Both players enjoyed a rare love hold to move the score along to 4-2. Then Mertens won a series of long rallies to make it 4-3.

This gave the Belgian a platform to attack Halep’s serve. And she did it to great effect. She drove the Romanian back behind the baseline to win one point. Then she unleashed a huge forehand to earn a break point, followed by a classy volley to seal the break.

Both players contested the next game like their lives depended on it. They engaged in a series of long rallies, and eventually it just came down to which woman held her nerve. Halep eventually took it on her fifth break point when Mertens volleyed just wide.

The Romanian closed the match out clinically. She hit an unreturnable serve, a forehand winner and an ace to move 40-0 up. Then the Belgian missed a backhand and the clash was over.

Halep will now face either Anett Kontaveit or Iga Swiatek in the last eight. She will be the heavy favourite to win whichever player makes it through.

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