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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Simona Halep eases through her first final of the season in Dubai

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Simona Halep cruised past US qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-2 6-0 after just 62 minutes to reach her first final of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

 

Halep saved the only two break points she faced and hit 16 winners to 8 unforced errors. Halep earned an early break in the opening game before saving two break points to hold serve for 2-0. The 2019 Wimbledon player went up a double break and held serve to race out to a 5-1 lead. Brady hit a backhand winner to win her service game for 5-2. Halep wrapped up the first set on her first set point in the next game.

Halep went up an early break in the first game of the second set. She hit a forehand winner on her third break point to race out to a 3-0 lead. Halep earned her third consecutive break in the fifth game for 5-0. Halep earned a match point with a backhand winner and sealed the win after a backhand error from Brady. Halep set up a final against Elena Rybakina, who beat Petra Martic 7-6 7-6.

“It felt much better than previous matches. I played really well. Everything went in my side. I felt the ball great. I feel like I played the best match since I came here. It’s amazing what Rybakina has done already this year”, said Halep.

 

 

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Elena Rybakina saves a set point in each set to overcome Petra Martic in Dubai semifinal

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Elena Rybakina came back from a break down and saved a set point in each set to overcome Petra Martic 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) after 2 hours and 11 minutes reaching her fourth final this season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

 

Rybakina has won 19 of her first 22 matches this season. She lost in Shenzhen before clinching her first title of her title in Hobart. She lost to Ashleigh Barty in the third round at the Australian Open. She advanced to her third final of the 2020 season in St. Petersburg before losing to Kiki Bertens.

Rybakina has won 19 of her first 22 matches this season. She lost in Shenzhen before clinching her first title of her title in Hobart. She lost to Ashleigh Barty in the third round at the Australian Open. She advanced to her third final of the 2020 season in St. Petersburg before losing to Kiki Bertens.

Rybakina has reached the sixth final of her career and her second at Premier level. She won two titles in Bucarest and Hobart and finished runner-up in Nanchang, Shenzhen and St. Petersburg. Earlier this week the Kazakh player beat two top ten players Sofia Kenin and Karolina Pliskova before beating Petra Martic in three hard-fought sets in the semifinal. Rybakina hit 32 winners to 23 unforced errors.

The opening set started with three consecutive breaks. Martic broke twice and maintained her lead until 5-4. Rybakina broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5 to force the first set to the tie-break.

Rybakina saved a set point with a forehand pass to draw level to 5-5, as she was serving for the set. Rybakina built up a 6-2 lead. Martic saved three chances but Rybakina sealed her fourth set point with a volley at the net.

Martic earned an early break to open up a 3-0 lead. Rybakina saved a point to trail a double break at 0-4. Rybakina broke back in the seventh game, as Martic netted a dropshot. Both players saved break points in the final three games at deuce. Rybakina was just two points from losing the set, while she was serving at 4-5. Rybakina saved a set point at 5-6 with backhand winners forcing the second set to the tie-break.

Rybakina raced out to a 6-1 lead in the tie-break and sealed the win on her second match points with a backhand.

“I have to adjust because everything is new to me. It is always great to beat a player from the top 5  I alway try to do my best and want to win every match. I was focusing on on what I had to do”, said Rybakina.

 

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Elena Rybakina comes back from one set down against Karolina Pliskova to reach her fourth semifinal of the year in Dubai

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Elena Rybakina came back from a break down in the opening set to beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 reaching the semifinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

 

Rybakina has qualified for her fourth semifinal this season. She opened the year with the final in Shenzhen followed by a title in Hobart. After losing to Ashleigh Barty in the third round at the Australian Open, the Kazakh player finished runner-up to Kiki Bertens in the final in St. Petersburg.

Rybakina hit 33 winners (including 11 aces) to 20 unforced errors and saved 10 of the 11 break points she faced.

Pliskova fended off a break point in the opening game of the first set before breaking serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead after a pair of double faults from Rybakina.

Rybakina broke straight back in the seventh game with forehand return winners. The Kazakh player missed a break point at 4-4, but she held her serve in the 12th game with three consecutive aces to force the first set to the tie-break. Rybakina raced out to a 6-0 lead in the tie-break and sealed the tie-break on her second set point 7-1.

Rybakina broke serve in the second game to open up a 4-1 lead. She had to overcome a total of eleven deuces and saved six break points in her first three service games. She held serve for 1-0 with three consecutive service winners and hit a backhand crosscourt winner in the third game and a forehand down the line down break point in the fifth game.

Rybakina earned her first break in the second game of the second set to open up a 2-0 lead after a double fault from Pliskova.

Pliskova saved three break points in the sixth game to hold serve for 2-4. Rybakina held serve at deuce to take a 5-2 lead and rallied from 0-30 down to serve out the win.

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