World No.3 Naomi Osaka was issued with a stern test during her opening match at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.
The two-time grand slam champion was pushed to her limits during her two-hour win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari. Osaka, who is the third seed in the tournament, recovered from a 0-2 deficit in the deciding set to prevail 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3. Claiming her third victory against the world No.23 in their four meetings on the tour.
“I knew going into it that it was going to be a really hard match,” wtatennis.com quote Osaka as saying during her on-court interview. “I think in the second set, I was just complaining a lot in the tie-breaker. I was just trying to calm down and stay positive.”
Osaka, who is now under the guidance of coach Wim Fissette, achieved the latest victory with the help of a solid service display. Hitting 16 aces past Sakkari and being broken just once. A much needed confidence boost for the Australian Open champion who ended her 2019 season with a shoulder injury.
“I’m really happy with how I served,” Osaka said during her press conference. “I had to retire from my last match [in 2019] because of my shoulder thing, so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to serve today, but I was told I hit 16 aces, so that’s pretty good for me.
“Yeah, I think I served well. Return could be better, but it’s not anything that is so extreme that I’m nitpicking at it right now.
“I think I learned a lot during the match as the match went on, so hopefully that skill kind of hones during this entire tournament.”
Sofia Kenin will be the next test for the 22-year-old, who currently has five WTA titles to her name. The world No.14 enjoyed a slightly easier route into the last 16 after disposing of Anastasija Sevastova 7-6(1), 6-4, on Monday.
2011 champion Petra Kvitova endured a roller coaster start to her campaign. After dropping the opener, she went on to win 12 out of the last 13 games to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-1, 6-0.
“I’m really happy that I stayed positive and came back to win,” Kvitova said during her on-court interview.
“It’s always tough playing Anastasia. She is a great hitter, moves very well and has a great serve. So it is always tough.” She added.
Kvitova will next play Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova, who knocked former US Open champion Sloane Stephens out of the tournament. Earlier today Stephens hit out at organizers over the scheduling of women’s matches.
Also making their way into the next round is Madison Keys. Who dropped only five games during her 6-3, 6-2, win over Marie Bouzkova.
Chaos in China
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Meanwhile, in Asia there was a duo of shock losses at the Shenzhen Open. Second seed and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka could only win eight games during her 6-4, 6-4, loss to Kristyna Pliskova. Ending her hopes of winning a fifth WTA title on Chinese soil this week.
“She’s playing so fast, so I had to be ready from the first point. My serve was there, which is always important, so I’m happy that I won,” wtatennis.com quoted Pliskova as saying after the match.
“I’m happy because I reached the quarterfinals here two years ago, so I’m happy to be back there and looking to see if I can do more.”
Pliskova will take on former top 30 player Kateryna Bondarenko in the quarter-finals. The Ukranian knocked out eighth seed Zhang Shuai in straight sets.
Joining Sabalenka on the casualty list is Belinda Bencic. The only top 10 player participating in this year’s event. The Swiss world No.8 was knocked out of the tournament by Anna Blinkova who recorded her first ever win over a top 10 player. Blinkova produced 12 aces during her 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, win. Setting herself up for a clash with Zarina Diyas in the next round.
“It was a great performance from me today,” said the world No.58. “I prepared very carefully and I’m happy that I played good tennis. I was thinking to just fight for every point. I’m feeling really good and I’m so happy.”
Finally, there was better fortunes for Elise Mertens, who saw off Chinese wild card Wang Xiyu 6-4, 6-3.
Marketa Vondrousova eases past Anastasija Sevastova in Dubai
Last year’s Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova eased past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour and nine minutes to reach the second round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Vondrousova saved all five break points she faced and converted three of her four chances. The Czech player built up a 4-1 lead with a break in the opening set. Sevastova earned two break-back points at 4-2, but Vondrousova held her serve after four deuces.
Sevastova held serve at love for 5-3 forcing Vondrousova to serve for the set. Vondrousova earned three set points with a dropshot winner and converted her first chance with a drop volley.
Vondrousova earned an early break to take a 2-1 lead in the second set and backed it up to open up a 3-1 lead. Vondrousova went up a double break in the seventh game and converted the first of her three match points with an ace to set up a second round match against either Elina Svitolina or US qualifier Jennifer Brady.
Vondrousova made her come-back at last January’s Australian Open after undergoing surgery last year.
“I know Sevastova is a good player. We played once. I expected a tough match. It was a late match, so I had to stay calm. I am just happy with my win”,said Vondrousova.
Ons Jabeur edges Alison Riske to advance to the second round in Dubai
This year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Ons Jabeur came through a tough battle to edge US Alison Riske 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 13 minutes in their first head-to-head match at the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
Jabeur hit 28 winners to 31 unforced errors, while Riske committed 34 unforced errors to just 11 winners.
Riske won the first eight points of the match to break serve in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead. Jabeur broke back in the fourth game with a forehand down the line to draw level to 2-2. Jabeur saved three break points in the seventh game to hold serve to hold serve for 3-4. Riske fended off two break points in the tenth game to hold serve for 5-5. Riske held serve in the 12th game to draw level to 6-6 after four double faults from Jabeur. The Tunisian player raced out to a 5-0 lead before closing out the first set on her fourth set point.
Riske went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead and closed out the second set with two dropshots. Jabeur received a medical time-out for blisters on both feet while she was trailing 0-5.
The third set started with four consecutive holds. Both players saved break points in the next four deuce games. Jabeur faced two break points at 3-3, but she saved them with two forehands before holding with a backhand winner. Jabeur converted her second break point chance at deuce to take a 5-3 lead before serving out the win at love. Jabeur will face Simona Halep in the second round.
World number 35 Barbora Strycova claimed five of the last six games of the third set to beta last year’s French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes to advance to the second round. Strycova, who lost her only head-to-head match against Anisimova in Auckland last year, converted her second break point chance at deuce in the opening game. Anisimova broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Strycova earned her second break to take a 4-3 lead after unforced errors from Anisimova.
Anisimova broke serve at love to draw level to 5-5 and held serve without dropping a point to take a 6-5 lead. Strycova held serve at 30 to draw level to 6-6 before winning the tie-break 7-3.
Anisimova earned an early break in the first game with a backhand down the line. After an easy hold Anisimova broke twice in a row to draw level to a 5-0 lead. Strycova pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game but Anisimova served out the second match at 30 in the eighth game.
Anisimova went up a break twice in the third set to take a 4-3 lead, but Strycova broke back to draw level to 4-4. Strycova broke for the third time in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4 setting up a second round match against her doubles partner Hsieh Su-Wei or number 8 seed Petra Martic.
Sofia Kenin Out To Prove Australian Open Triumph Wasn’t A One-Off
The world No.7 is out to make a statement in Dubai this week.
Life has certainly changed for American rising star Sofia Kenin since the start of this year.
In the first week of January the Russian-born player was ranked 14th in the world and had only reached the fourth round of a grand slam tournament on one occasion. Then at the Australian Open she stunned the field by winning the title after defeating the more experienced Garbine Muguruza in the final. Not only did the milestone gift Kenin her maiden major title, it propelled her inside the world’s top 10. Becoming the youngest player from her country to do so since her idol Serena Williams back in 1999.
Now ranked seventh in the world, Kenin is looking to continue her momentum at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships. Where she will be seeded fifth in the draw. It will be her first WTA event since Melbourne. Although she did feature in America’s Fed Cup play-off tie with Latvia earlier this month where she won two out of three matches played.
“I think it was better I played Fed Cup instead of taking a few days off,” Kenin told reporters in Dubai on Sunday. “I feel like I have more rhythm and I kept the momentum going. Hopefully, it’s going to help me here.”
The surge in expectation and interest in Kenin places her in uncharted territory. Young players in the past have struggled to live up to their grand slam achievements due to various reasons. Naomi Osaka has spoken openly about her struggles of coping in the media limelight. Meanwhile Jelena Ostapenko, who is now 22, has struggled to maintain her consistency on the tour since lifting the 2017 French Open crown.
“It’s a different pressure: you have more expectations from other people from the outside,” Kenin explained. “For me, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well, so it’s nothing really different.
“The other expectations are a little bit different. I’ve got to somehow figure out how to manage it. We’ll see.”
At present the 21-year-old appears to be unfazed by the surge of interest in her as she vows to work even harder on the court. Kenin has in recent years been one of the tour’s most promising young players. A former world No.2 junior player, she won her first three WTA trophies last year. During 2019 she scored five wins over top 10 players such as Williams, Osaka and Ash Barty.
“It’s just more stuff to do. Everything is about the same. I’m still practicing, still working hard. Just going to keep grinding it and hopefully have more of those good results,” she said.
“It’s different, obviously. It’s a different pressure. You have more expectations from other people from the outside. For myself, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well. So it’s nothing really different.”
In Dubai Kenin will start her campaign against Elena Rybakina later this week.
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