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.
Simona Halep Beats Erractic Anisimova To Reach Wimbledon Semis
The former world No.1 dropped six games against her opponent who produced a series of costly errors.
Simona Halep has stormed into the last four at Wimbledon after producing a comprehensive win over Amanda Anisimova.
The 2019 champion survived a last-minute resurgence from her rival to prevail 6-2, 6-4, over the American on the Center court. Halep was able to dictate the play throughout with the use of her aggressive shot-making in a match that resembled their meeting in Bad Homburg just two weeks ago. It is the first time she has reached the last four of a major since the 2020 Australian Open.
“It’s great to be back in the semi-finals. I am very emotional right now because it means a lot,” said Halep.
“I played a tough opponent today who could crush the ball in the end and I didn’t know what to do. I just believe in myself. I believed until the end that I could win.”
The 16th seed hit fewer winners than her rival (11-13) but the most telling factor was the unforced error count. Halep’s tally of six was more than four times less than that of Anisimova (28).
Out of the active players on the WTA Tour, Halep is only the third to reach a fifth Wimbledon quarter-final after both of the Williams sisters. Taking on Anisimova, the Romanian got off to a blistering start by breaking just three games into their clash. Producing some powerful ball-striking Halep forced her rival to commit back-to-back forehand errors which granted her the early break. Two games later the lead was extended further after yet more Anisimova errors moved the former champion to 4-1. She took the opener after exactly 30 minutes of play with the help of a serve down the line Anisimova returned.
It was a case of deja vu in the second set with Halep’s game simply overwhelming her error-stricken opponent who looked growingly lost on the court. Anisimova continuously looked towards her entourage out of frustration. It eventually all got too much for the world No.25 who began to cry during a changeover after going down 1-4 once again.
Halep’s only struggle in the match occurred when she was tasked with serving it out. With Anisimova hitting more freely and with nothing to lose, suddenly she was the aggressor and retrieved one of the breaks to gradually close her deficit to 4-5. Prompting a big cheer from the crowd.
After going through a period where 13 out of 16 points played went to her opponent, Halep eventually held her nerve to clinch victory.
“I am definitely playing my best tennis (since winning the 2019 Wimbledon title),” she said.
“Last year I struggled a lot and now I am just trying to build my confidence back. My tennis here and all I need to do now is to start to believe in myself.”
Halep is yet to drop a set at Wimbledon after five matches played.
WIMBLEDON: 10 Facts About Semi-Finalist Ons Jabeur
All you need to know about the Trailblazing Tunisian who has created history at The All England Club.
Second seed Ons Jabeur achieved a new milestone for both her and her country at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The world No.2 battled back from a set down to defeat Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the last four of a major event for the first time in her career. Jabeur has now dropped only one set in five matches played and is the highest ranked player remaining in the draw. Her major breakthrough comes seven years after she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2015 Australian Open.
“I played really good from beginning of the second set, especially having a early break kind of helps me gain confidence,” said Jabeur.
“I know it wasn’t easy playing Marie. She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me. I’m glad I stepped in with my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially tactically I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much.”
To mark Jabeur’s Wimbledon milestone, here are 10 facts to know about her:-
- She is the first North African player – male or female – to reach a Grand Slam semi-final. The last woman from the entire African continent to reach a major semi-final was Amanda Coetzer at the 1997 French Open.
- Her win over Bouzkova is Jabeur’s 26th Tour-level win on the grass.
- Jabeur has now won 83 matches over the past two seasons. This is more than any other player on the WTA Tour.
- Has won 21 out of her last 23 matches.
- She is the only Tunisian woman currently ranked in the world’s top 700.
- Jabeur had failed to win back-to-back matches on her three out of her four previous appearances at Wimbledon in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She reached the quarter-finals in 2021.
- Coming into Wimbledon she has already earned more than $6.2m in prize money in her career.
- She has won three Tour titles in Birmingham (2021), Madrid (2022) and Berlin (2022).
- Has beaten a top 10 player four times in her career – Dominika Cibulkova (2017 French Open), Simona Halep (Beijing 2018), Sloane Stephens (Moscow 2018) and Karolina Pliskova (Doha 2020).
- In October 2021 she became the first Arab player (mae or female) to crack the world’s top 10 in tennis.
Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood
The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.
Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals.
The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.
“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.
Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.
“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said. “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”
Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name.
“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”
Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.
However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.
“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”
Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007.
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