It was a tale of two halves for Serena Williams in her opening match at the French Open on Monday.
Taking on compatriot Kristie Ahn she struggled early on during what was a roller-coaster first set before racing to a 7-6(2), 6-0, victory. To highlight the disparity between the two sets, the first lasted 74 minutes compared to 30 minutes in the second and Williams’ error count dramatically dropped from 28 to just eight. Although what was the reason behind this contrast?
The former world No.1 admitted that she lacked confidence early on against somebody ranked almost 100 places lower than her. Something that some may be surprised to hear given Williams’ established status as a sporting great. Her resume includes 23 Grand Slam titles and 319 weeks at the top of the rankings. The third longest stint in the history of women’s tennis.
“The biggest difference was just confidence. I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said during her press conference.
“So that was it. I just started playing like that. And I love the clay and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”
The 39-year-old says her occasional lapses in confidence is linked to her desire to be a perfectionist on the court. Something that can be problematic for Williams who once said the biggest threat she faces during matches is herself.
“I have put so much perfection into my habits that if it’s not perfect, then it’s not enough for me,” she explained.
“That is something I have been working on. I feel like I was able to get over that in the recent past couple of months. I feel like that has been what I needed to just deal with, just understand that my level of greatness is sometimes crazy high and a win is a win.”
Williams is a three-time champion at the French Open with her last triumph occurring back in 2015. Overall, she has won 66 main draw matches at the event which is her lowest tally out of all four of the Grand Slams. Her best is 106 victories at the US Open.
Besides her mental demons, physical issues have also been a problem for the American in recent times. Her latest problem is an Achilles issue which didn’t appear to trouble her too much in her latest match. Although she is taking nothing for granted.
“I’m doing so much for it. I did so much for it at Patrick’s (Mouratoglou) academy, I went straight from New York directly to his academy and started rehabbing it,” she said.
“One of the reasons I came into press a little bit earlier than normal is because I need to get back and start the protocol all over again.”
Williams will need to be in top form in time for a potentially tricky showdown against Tsvetana Pironkova who she beat in the quarter-finals of the US Open in three sets. It is only the second tournament the Bulgarian is playing since 2017.
“I’m ready to play her. She’ll be ready to play me. It will be a long match, she will get a lot of balls back, but so will I. I’ll be ready.” Williams concluded.
Lorenzo Sonego claims the title in Metz
Lorenzo Sonego beat seventh seed Alexander Bublik 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 after 87 minutes in the final of the Moselle Open in Metz to win the third title of his career and the first in 2022 without dropping a set in the whole week after beating Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinal. Sonego won his first tournament on hard-court.
Sonego, who was playing the fifth final of his career, saved three break points at 2-2 to hold serve in the fifth game of a hard-fought first set. Bublik saved a set point on return at 4-5 down with a backhand passing shot.
Sonego won four consecutive points from 3-3 in the tie-break with two mini-breaks to claim the opening set 7-3 after 57 minutes.
Sonego broke serve in the third game at 15 to take a 2-1 lead, as Bublik made a volley error on the break point. The former Vienna finalist earned a double break at 30 in the fourth game to take a 4-1 lead with a passing shot. Sonego closed out the win with a hold at 15 on his first match point.
Sonego has extended his lead in the head-to-head matches against Bublik to 4-0.
“I improved my tennis every day, and I am really happy for this match and this tournament. I like the atmosphere here. It was unbelievable today, yesterday and this week. It’s really tough to play against Alexander, because he is an unbelievable player with an amazing serve, good talent, and it is always tough to play him”, said Sonego.
Sonego has reached his first ATP Tour final since Eastbourne in June 2021. With this title he has moved up to world number 44 in the ATP Ranking.
Bublik had won his first ATP title on French indoor courts in Montpellier last February. “Big congratulations to Lorenzo. It’s always a pleasure to lose against you, as I told you at the net. Thanks to my team, thanks to everyone for supporting me and I was happy to be back in the finals in France”, said Bublik.
In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title
Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.
Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012.
“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw.
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”
Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week.
“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.
There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open.
Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20.
Team Europe leads 8-4 over Team World 8-4 heading into the final day at the Laver Cup
Novak Djokovic cruised past Frances Tiafoe 6-1 6-3 after 72 minutes to earn Team Europe a 6-4 lead over Team World at the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London.
Djokovic also won the doubles match with Matteo Berrettini to put Europe into a 8-4 lead before the final day on Sunday.
Djokovic was playing his first match since his 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last July, when he beat Nick Kyrgios. The Serbian player holds a 1-1 at the Laver Cup, after losing his only previous match at this tournament against Kevin Anderson in 2018.
Djokovic did not drop a point on serve in the first set against Tiafoe and faced just one break point in the entire match. He held serve at love in the opening game.
Tiafoe held in the second game with a service winner. Djokovic won his second service game to take a 2-1 lead before breaking serve in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead.
Djokovic hit another service winner in the fifth game to hold his third consecutive service game. Djokovic rallied from 0-30 down to earn his second break with a crosscourt forehand winner building up a 5-1 lead.
Djokovic closed out the first set at love 6-1 in the seventh game with a backhand down the line after 22 minutes.
Djokovic converted a break point in the opening game of the second set with a backhand winner. Tiafoe earned a break point with a backhand down the line winner in the second game. Djokovic saved it to build up a 6-1 2-0 lead. Tiafoe held serve in the third game with a winner at the net. Djokovic held serve with an ace down the T line at love In the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead.
Tiafoe fended off a break point in the fifth game with a backhand crosscourt winner and held another chance with a lucky net cord winner. Djokovic hit an ace to hold serve for 4-3. Tiafoe netted a backhand to face two match points, as he was serving to stay in the match in the ninth game. Djokovic converted his first match point to earn his 24th win this season.
“I have not played for two months and I am really glad to have continued the run, It was a pretty decent match from my side”, said Djokovic.
Earlier today Matteo Berrettini edged Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 10-7 in a hard-fought match to put Team Europe ahead 4-2. Berrettini sealed a very long tie-break on his sixth set point in the first set 13-11 in the first set after more than 20 minutes. Auger Aliassime needed just one break in the thirdto win the second set 6-4. Berrettini earned a 7-2 lead with two mini-breaks in the Super tie-break. Auger Aliassime pulled one mini-break back for 5-8, but Berrettini sealed the win 10-7 on his first match point after 2 hours and 15 minutes. Berrettini has extended his lead in his head-to-head matches against Auger Aliassime to 4-1. He beat his 22-year-old Canadian rival in last year’s edition of the Laver Cup.
“It’s always a great fight against Felix. We played for 2 hours and 15 minutes. He is a hell of a player. I had to play my best tennis in the Match tie-break to win. I am really happy because I didn’t win just for me but for the team. Having the chance to live what we lived yesterday is something that’s going that’s going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever. I am not lying when I say that I am here because of Federer. He was the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him”, said Berrettini.
Taylor Fritz then edged past Cameron Norrie 6-1 4-6 10-8 to draw the tie level to 4-4 before Djokovic cruised past Tiafoe to give Europe a 6-4 lead. The 21-time Grand Slam champion teamed up with Berrettini to beat Jack Sock and Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
Team Europe leads 8-4 heading into the final day. Europe will win a fifth cnnsecutive title with two more victories.
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