Roger Federer Believes ‘A Different Mindset’ Could Be Key To Barty’s Australian Open Hopes - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer Believes ‘A Different Mindset’ Could Be Key To Barty’s Australian Open Hopes

During his first promotional event in Australia this year, the Swiss maestro shares his opinion about the French Open champion and his current fitness.

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Roger Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London (photo Roberto Zanettin)

20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has said it is a ‘pleasure’ watching Ash Barty play on the tour as he issues his own advice to the women’s world No.1 ahead of the Australian Open.

The 38-year-old believes Barty will feel more at ease after winning her maiden grand slam title last year at the French Open. Although she has failed to reach the quarter-finals at her two most recent major tournaments, getting knocked out in the fourth round of both of them. In 2019 Barty enjoyed the best season of her career so far after winning four out of her seven WTA titles. She also managed to clinch the year-end top spot for the first time.

“What a great year she had, it was a pleasure watching her play.” Federer told reporters at a promotional event on Monday. “I like how she mixes it up, uses her slices with great effect, and then she’s got variety.’
“She doesn’t need to breakthrough anymore, for her it’s just a matter of can she defend.”

It has been almost 42 years since an Australian player managed to win a singles trophy at the Melbourne event. That was Chris O’Neil back in 1978, who claimed the women’s title as an unseeded player. Expectations are high for Barty to break the drought, however, she has had a far from perfect start to 2020. Losing her opening match at the Brisbane International last week to Jennifer Brady.

“She needs a different mindset maybe,” Federer said.
“But you can really explore all your potential you have.
“That’s what happened when I won my first major and I rose through to world No.1. After that I thought, ‘I’m the guy to beat’. I’d prefer to be in this position than being a contender.
“I hope Ash is also going to see that way.”

Speaking to reporters at a separate press conference on Monday, Barty said she still needs to do more work in order to be a ‘complete player.’ Insisting that her current position at the top of the rankings has no effect on her desire for improvement.

The next test for the 23-year-old is this week in Adelaide where she if the top seed of the women’s draw.

No ATP Cup, no problem

Federer himself enters into the Australian Open with a question mark over his current form. Unlike his rivals on the tour, he opted to skip the inaugural ATP Cup in order to rest and spend more time with his family. The Swiss player also experienced a packed off-season where he played numerous exhibitions across South America and China.

Despite the lack of competitive tennis, the world No.3 is confident that he is in good shape. At the Australian Open he is bidding to win the title for a record-equalling seventh time along with Novak Djokovic. Only once had he lost in the final of the Australian Open, which was against Rafael Nadal back in 2009.

“I’ve trained long and hard in the off-season and I didn’t have any setbacks, which is crucial,” Federer assessed about his current fitness.
“Last week I was asking myself ‘am I happy to go to Australia, or I should rather just stay here and stopping pack immediately? Because I can.
“I could easily just stay home and I was like, ‘no, no, I’m really happy to go to Melbourne and kick off the season there’.
“I have kept myself in good shape, obviously I had an amazing team around me.”

Whilst remaining positive, Federer acknowledges that his quest for grand slam title No.21 will be far from easy. Both Nadal and Djokovic have already displayed glimmers of their best tennis during the ATP Cup. The two also clashed in the final of the tournament on Sunday, which Djokovic won in straight sets.

“Both guys are already showing great signs,” Federer said.
“I was watching a little bit of their ATP Cup match and thought that was a great match.
“Both guys, injury free, are always tough to beat.”

The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th.

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing

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Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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