Lacklustre Serena Williams Struggles Past Qualifier In Western And Southern Opener - UBITENNIS
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Lacklustre Serena Williams Struggles Past Qualifier In Western And Southern Opener

It was a brutal day at the office for the world No.9 as she bids to generate some momentum ahead of the US Open next week.



Former world No.1 Serena Williams overcame a huge scare to progress into the third round of the Western and Southern Open on Monday.

The third seed struggled at times throughout her marathon 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(0), win over Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus who had already won a trio of matches in the tournament. Illustrated by the 52 unforced errors she hit compared to 41 winners. Despite the roll-coaster encounter that featured world-class play at times from both players, the home favourite would not be denied victory as she snatched the win with the help of a perfect score in the decisive tiebreaker.

“I’m trying to think of the last time I played a three-hour match. I think it was in Madrid. That was good and it was a real physical match out there,” Williams said during her on-court interview.
“I really thought I played pretty well. I was aggressive, hitting some good shots and she (Rus) kept fighting.’

Heading into the match Williams was the overwhelming favourite given her resume that includes a total of 23 Grand Slam titles. However, former junior world No.1 Rus refused to be intimidated by the third seed which paved the way for a nail-biting 59-minute opener. Williams’ usual tactic of powerful shot-making to dictate the rallies was matched by the world No.72 who didn’t seem intimidated in any way. The first 12 games went to serve as neither player managed to work their way to a break point opportunity. Heading into the tiebreaker, Williams continued to be tested as she trailed by a mini-break on three separate occasions. Nevertheless, with almighty shouts of ‘come on’ to motivate her the 39-year-old fought back and rallied her way to a set point advantage before sealing the opener after a wide shot forced Rus to return the ball out.

The problems continued for a tentative-hitting Williams in the second set with her rival refusing to back down. Despite initially getting off to a perfect start in the second frame by breaking Rus, she soon found herself on the back foot after losing four straight games. The resurgence enabled the Dutch player to draw level in the match and revive her chances of clinching her first win over a top 10 player since 2012.

With all to play for at the Billie Jean Tennis Center, proceedings was halted for 10 minutes due to the heat rule in what was a blessing in disguise for the former champion. Returning to the court, Williams re-established her edge in the match with the help of a three-game winning streak in the decider. Although there was another blip to come.

Serving for the match, a lacklustre Williams service game enabled Rus to retrieve the break and then have a chance herself to serve the match out at 6-5. However, Williams yet again clawed her way back before winning seven consecutive points in the final tiebreak to seal the epic victory.

“If I can do this, I mean…I trained really hard for several months and I’m surprised I’m even tired. It was really physical out there,” Williams commented on her performance.

Williams is the highest seed left in the draw after Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin crashed out of the tournament on Sunday. Awaiting her in the next round will be Maria Sakkari who downed Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 7-6(9). She leads the Greek 1-0 in their head-to-head with her sole victory occurring at the Hopman Cup last year.

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai



Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro



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One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards



Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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