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.
Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname
The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.
Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.
Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.
“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”
Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.
“I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”
Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.
Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.
Why Ash Barty Isn’t Staying At The Olympic Village In Tokyo
The two-time Grand Slam champion has opted to stay at an alternate venue heading into the Games.
Ash Barty will prepare for her debut at the Olympic Games by staying at a base located outside of the athletes village as part of her ‘performance plan.’
The world No.1 heads into Tokyo as one of the favourites for gold following her triumph at Wimbledon where she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the final. She is one of six top 10 players set to play in the women’s singles tournament which will start on Saturday.
Leading up to the Games, the head of the Australian Olympic delegation has told reporters that Barty’s decision not to stay in the village will enhance her gold medal chances. In previous Games athletes have stayed outside of the villages but this year it is more challenging to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency and fans are banned from attending the event amid fears of the virus spreading if they do so.
“Ash is staying elsewhere,” chef de mission Ian Chesterman told the Australian Associated Press.
“We have a number of athletes staying outside the village. We allow that, it’s just what works best for them.
“Something I’ve always been very big on is driving performance takes a whole lot of flexible decisions, flexible options.
“In terms of her performance plan, it’s best served by her being able to control her environment and we respect that.”
The exact location of Barty’s base has not been disclosed but it is near to the village where she was said to have visited and had a cup of coffee on Tuesday morning.
“She is staying in an Australian environment where she can still easily access the village,” Chesterman stated.
The 25-year-old is bidding to become only the second Australian in history to win a medal in the women’s singles at the Olympics. The first was Alicia Molik who claimed a bronze medal back in 2004.
During a recent interview with The ITF, Barty said playing at the event is a dream come true for her as she describes representing her country as the ‘highest honour.’
“Being an Olympian has always been a dream of mine as a kid, I think representing your country is the highest honour,” Barty told the ITF.
“For an Aussie it’s the best thing you can do and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to wear the green and gold.
“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing to represent your nation. You’re playing to make people proud and that’s not just with results it’s with your attitude.”
Bianca Andreescu pulls out of Tokyo Olympics
The world number five has officially pulled out of the Olympics in Tokyo stating reasons due to the ongoing pandemic situation.
Bianca Andreescu will not be making the trip to Tokyo to play in the Olympics after withdrawing due to the current pandemic situation.
The former US Open champion issued a statement concerning what she describes as a ‘difficult decision.’ Andreescu is the latest top name to pull out of the Olympics. Last week Nick Kyrgios also said he wouldn’t be playing for similar reasons. Due to a a surge of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, the city has gone into a state of emergency which prompted organisers to ban spectators from attending Olympic events in the city. Athletes will be subjected to tough restrictions during their time at the event, as well as regular testing.
” I would like to inform you that I have made the very difficult decision to not play in the Tokyo Olympics later this month,” Andreescu wrote on Instagram. “I have been dreaming of representing Canada at the Olympics since I was a little girl but with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know that deep in my heart, this is the right decision to make for myself. I look forward to representing Canada in future Fed Cup ties, and competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris! “
The Canadian hasn’t played since losing in the first round of Wimbledon to Alize Cornet of France and most recently split with her coach Sylvain Brunneau after a four-year partnership.
Her 2021 season has been up and down starting in Australia where she lost in the second round before making the semifinals at the Phillips Island Trophy event. She then made the final at the Miami Open before taking a fall in the final against Ash Barty and was forced to retire due to injury.
Then the clay-court season came and Andreescu tested positive for Covid. She was forced to miss events in Madrid and Rome, so she headed to Strasbourg for some preparation before the French Open. The world No.5 won two matches in Strasbourg before pulling out due to an ab injury. She then lost in the first round of the French Open.
The Canadian moved on to the grass-court season heading to Berlin but again would get upset in the first round by Alize Cornet before winning one round in Eastbourne and losing to Anett Kontaveit.
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