Once Again Serena Williams Faces The Burden Of Expectation At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Once Again Serena Williams Faces The Burden Of Expectation At Australian Open

The 38-year-old is used to playing under pressure, but can she deliver in Melbourne Park this year?

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For some the prospect of Serena Williams exiting the upcoming Australian Open without silverware will be nothing short of a disappointment.

 

In recent months it has become somewhat of a grand slam tradition when it comes to the 38-year-old former world No.1. Ahead of each major the question is asked – can she finally equal Margaret Court? The woman who currently holds the record for most grand slam singles titles won in the history of the sport at 24.

This year marks the third anniversary of Williams’ last grand slam triumph. Taking on sister Venus in the title match, she prevailed 6-4, 6-4, in Melbourne. The achievement made her the most decorated major winner in the Open Era and elevated her back to world No.1. Then roughly an hour after her jubilation on court, talk of her matching Court’s record began.

“One thing I learned in the past is you have to enjoy it. That’s the beauty of winning Australia, you have a few months to relax.” She replied.

Unknown to the public at the time, Williams had more than a few months to relax. During her last grand slam triumph, she was pregnant with her first child. Inevitably the American tennis star stepped away from the tour for over a year to spend time with her new family. Then when she returned, it was a case of settling for second best.

In four out of the last six grand slam tournaments, she has featured in the final. However, she succumbed in straight sets during all of them. Falling to Angelique Kerber (Wimbledon 2018), Naomi Osaka (US Open 2018), Simona Halep (Wimbledon 2019) and Bianca Andreescu (2019). The success has been sparse in recent times, but Williams continues to have admiration from her rivals.

“I’m very impressed about her, that she’s keep playing at this level, with being a mother and also being a little bit older than us. It’s impressive what she does.” Halep told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

It isn’t all doom and gloom for Williams, who made her Australian Open debut back in 1998. Earlier this month, she won the ASB Classic in Auckland. The first time she has claimed a trophy since becoming a mother 18 months ago. Could this be the breakthrough she needed to finally claim major title No.24?

“I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fit,” Williams said. “I’ve had some good matches – long matches, short matches, rallies, power players, the elements.
“This is exactly what I needed going into Melbourne.

Critics of the former world No.1 have previously said she at times lacked match play heading into the grand slams. In Auckland only one of her five wins in the tournament was over a top 30 player. That was Amanda Anisimova, who was in 25th position at the time. Her other victories were over Jessica Pegula (82), Laura Siegemund (73), Christina McHale (28) and Camila Giorgi (99).

Unlike her rivals, Williams didn’t do a press conference ahead to the Australian Open. Saying she was under no obligation not to. Although she has been training in Melbourne Park.

In her absence, it has been left to her rivals to speculate about her chances. Something Ash Barty, who will be the top seed in Melbourne, quickly distanced herself from.

“I think there are 128 players on the men’s side and there are 128 players on the women’s side that can win the tournament,” Barty commented on Williams’ chances. “I don’t think you can count anyone out. Everyone in this draw is deserving of their spot, has earned their right to be here.”

Williams will be seeded eighth this year at the Australian Open. In her opening match, she will take on Russia’s Anastasia Potapova. Should she progress through the first week, she will play nobody ranked higher than Johanna Konta (12) in the opening four rounds. Then Williams may have to score back-to-back wins over Naomi Osaka and Barty to even reach the final.

Projected route

  • First round: Anastasia Potapova
  • Second round: Tamara Zidansek
  • Third round: Qiang Wang [27]
  • Fourth round: Jo Konta [12]
  • QF: Naomi Osaka [3]
  • SF: Ash Barty [1]
  • F: Karolina Pliskova [2] / Simona Halep [4] / Elina Svitolina [5] / Aryna Sabalenka [11]

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Former Finalist Marketa Vondrousova To Miss French Open Following Surgery

The Olympic silver medallist will miss a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Czech world No.35 Marketa Vondrousova has pulled out of next week’s French Open after undergoing what she describes as a ‘small surgery.’

 

Vondrousova, who reached the final at Roland Garros back in 2019, underwent a procedure on her left wrist after experiencing recurring pain. She decided to do so following a medical consultation and will be soon going through rehab. It will be the first Grand Slam event she has missed since the 2019 US Open which she also withdrew from due to a wrist injury.

“The last few weeks were not easy, I have been experiencing recurring pain in my wrist,” Vondrousova wrote in an Instagram post published on Monday. “After seeing a couple of doctors I decided to get this small surgery done to be able to play pain-free.”
“Staying positive through the recovery and can’t wait to be back on the court soon,”
she added.

The 22-year-old last played on Tour at the Stuttgart Open where she lost in the first round to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. So far this season she has achieved a win-loss record of 13-5 with her best run being to the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships as a qualifier. Vondrousova also reached the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and defeated Emma Raducanu in the Billie Jean Cup.

A former junior world No.1, Vondrousova has been ranked as high as 14th in the world. So far in her career, she has won just one WTA title which was back in 2017 at the Lugano Open in Switzerland. However, she has reached the final at another four events with the last being at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She has scored a total of six wins over top 10 players.

Another player in doubt for the French Open is defending champion Barbora Krejcikova who hasn’t played a match on the Tour since February. The world No.2 has been sidelined from action due to an elbow injury but remains on the entry list for the Grand Slam which will begin on Sunday.

The French Open draw will take place on Thursday.

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Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina Announces Pregnancy

Tennis’ power couple are set to become parents later this year.

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Former world No.3 Elina Svitoliva has announced that she is expecting a baby girl in October on social media.

 

The 27-year-old made the announcement on Sunday morning with a picture of her and her husband, French tennis star Gael Monfils. Known by some as the sports ‘power couple,’ the two tied the knot last July in Geneva ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games after first going public about their relationship in 2019. They even have their own Instagram account called ‘g.e.m.s. life’ which has more than 139,000 followers.

“With a heart full of love and happiness, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a baby girl in October,” the couple wrote on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/ElinaSvitolina/status/1525778313918177280

Svitolina hadn’t played on the Tour since losing to Heather Watson at the Miami Open in March after deciding to take time away from the sport due to events happening in her home country. Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine earlier this year which has claimed thousands of lives. Svitolina is one of the sport’s most outspoken players regarding the conflict. She has previously spoken out against the decision to ban Russian and Belarussian athletes from Wimbledon by arguing that they should be allowed to participate if they condemn the actions of their home countries.

We don’t want them banned completely,” Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.
“If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.”

Prior to announcing her pregnancy, Svitolina has achieved a win-loss record of 5-8 on the Tour this season with her best runs being to the third round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of a WTA event in Monterrey.

During her career, the Ukrainian has won 16 WTA titles and reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams during 2019.

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Bianca Andreescu reaches Rome quarterfinals after beating Petra Martic

The Canadian was able to get by her Croatian opponent in straight sets on Thursday afternoon in the Italian capital.

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Photo by Roberto Dell’Olivo

Bianca Andreescu is through to the quaterfinals of the Italian Open being played at the Foro Italico in Rome after beating Petra Martic in 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes.

 

The Toronto native served four aces and won 76% of her first serve points in a match that was pretty straight forward for the world number 90 who makes her first quaterfinal this season.

During the first set both players did a good job holding serve and it was pretty tight until 4-4 when the Canadian was able to convert and served out the first set to take a 1-0 lead.

Andreescu was hungry for the early break in the second set and she got it but the Croat broke right back the following game to level the set at 2-2. She was then put on the defensive as the world number 47 started putting pressure on the Canadian but Andreescu was able to save two breakpoints before being able to hold serve to make it 3-3.

The next game Martic produced a poor service game and the 2019 US Open champ took full advantage, getting the break and that one break was enough for her to serve out the match.

Her reward for reaching the quarterfinals a date with the world number one Iga Swiatek who had no issues beating the Minsk native Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1.

This will be their first ever meeting on the WTA Tour.

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