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Serena Williams Becomes Most Successful Singles Player In US Open History

Serena Williams began her 2020 US Open campaign with a solid 7-5 6-3 win over compatriot Kristie Ahn in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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Serena Williams became the most successful singles player in US Open history with a solid 7-5 6-3 win over compatriot Kristie Ahn.

 

It was the American’s 102nd win at Flushing Meadows and she has now surpassed the total racked up by Chris Evert.

Williams has struggled to find her rhythm since the WTA tour resumed. All five of her matches at the Top Seed Open and the Western & Southern Open went to three sets, and she lost to Shelby Rogers and Maria Sakkari at the semi-final and last-16 stages respectively.

Although the American never found her best tennis against Ahn, this seemed like an important step forward. She overcame a slow start and got stronger as the match went on.

“It’s been years since I won a match in straight sets,” Williams joked in her on-court interview. “It felt really good. I told myself to just close it out and I knew I could do that.”

The American continued, “It’s quiet, but it’s such a big stadium with screens and atmosphere. And it’s a Grand Slam, so I’m still as passionate and intense out there.”

Williams re-groups after sloppy start

From 40-30 up in the first game of the match, Williams made an unforced error and hit two double faults to gift Ahn an immediate break.

However, the 23-time Grand Slam champion soon levelled the score. She unleashed a couple of huge strikes to break back in game four.

For the next few games, neither player really excelled. Both Williams and Ahn produced solid games on their serve to move the score along to 4-4. The more experienced American then safely negotiated a nervy moment when she saved a break point in game nine.

After that hold and one more, Williams had the chance to swing freely when Ahn was serving to stay in the set at 5-6. And the more experienced American did exactly that. She hit the ball hard and deep and put her younger opponent under all kinds of pressure. It proved too much for Ahn, as she made a couple of errors which handed Williams the break she needed to seal the set.

At the beginning of the second set, Ahn capitalised on some sloppy play from Williams to establish a 2-0 lead. However, the younger American did not manage to maintain her form, and this enabled the 23-time Grand Slam champion to take control of proceedings and win five games in a row and turn the set on its head.

Ahn steadied herself to force Williams to serve for victory. But the experienced American produced some trademark huge serves to accomplish it with ease.

Williams’ next task will be a second-round encounter with Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian recorded an impressive 6-3 6-7(0) 6-0 victory over 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig.

Kenin, Konta and Cornet advance

Sofia Kenin (@Australian Open on Twitter)

The experienced American will be joined in round two by the most recent Grand Slam champion on the WTA tour: Sofia Kenin. The young American clinically dispatched Yanina Wickmayer 6-2 6-2 in just 68 minutes.

Johanna Konta also secured a place in the next round. She came through a testing first set to beat compatriot Heather Watson 7-6(5) 6-1. The Brit will now play Sorana Cirstea, who defeated Christina McHale 6-4 7-5.

Some players sought out plenty of exhibition tournaments to participate in during the tour’s absence. Alize Cornet was certainly one of those players. She won six matches spread across three editions of the Challenge Elite organised by the French Tennis Federation. And she also reached the final of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown.

All of this match practice has served the Frenchwoman well so far in New York. She beat Kenin in impressive style in the Western & Southern Open. Then she continued her excellent form in round one of the US Open with a 6-3 1-6 6-0 victory over Lauren Davis.

Cornet will now play World No.121 Ysaline Bonaventure, who earned one of the biggest wins of her career when she beat 25th seed Zhang Shuai 4-6 6-3 6-2.

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Kim Clijsters Still Capable Of Top-Level Wins, Says Former world No.1 Murray

Murray gives his verdict on Clijsters’ current form and if she can return to the top of the game.

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Image via WTA Insider on Twitter

Andy Murray believes it is only a matter of time before Belgium’s Kim Clijsters is able to return to her winning ways on the Tour.

 

The 38-year-old is currently in the process of her latest comeback which has been hampered by both injury and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since returning to the Tour at the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships, Clijsters has only played in five tournaments and is yet to win a match. Her most recent defeat was at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells where she was ousted 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, by Hsieh Su-Wei.

It was in Indian Wells where Clijsters held a hitting session with Murray who says he was impressed by her level of play. Speaking to reporters in Antwerp where he is playing in the European Open this week, the three-time Grand Slam champion believes she is heading in the right direction.

“She still hits the ball fantastic. I think the decision-making and things like that will come with more matches,” atptour.com quoted Murray as saying. “I think physically she can get stronger. I think that was probably one of her biggest strengths when she was at the top of the game and as successful as she was.
“With more time, more matches, more time on the practice court, physically she’ll keep getting better. It’s not easy after such a long time out of the game, but I’m sure she can still win matches at the highest level, judging on how she’s handled herself so well.”

Following her most recent match, Clijsters said she is progressing well on the Tour given her lack of match play in recent times. She has only played two matches this year. The other took place in Chicago where she lost to Keterina Siniakova in three sets.

“I think for me the most important thing is that, what I talked with my coach and my trainer about, my fitness coach, was physically being able to get through these matches without big concerns. That was the main goal,” Clisjters said following her loss to Su-Wei.
“I came close, but still have a good feeling about, you know I’ve made progression and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles during her career with the last of those occurring a decade ago at the 2011 Australian Open. She has held the world No.1 spot for 20 weeks and has earned more than $24.5M in prize money.

It is unclear as to what tournament Clijsters will be playing next.

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Aryna Sabalenka Believes Experience Is The Key To Grand Slam Glory

The world No.2 reflects on her year so far as she aims to end the season on a high.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

This year has been full of mixed emotions for Aryna Sabalenka when it comes to playing in the four most prestigious tournaments of the sport.

 

In the Grand Slams the world No.2 achieved the best performances of her career to date by reaching the semi-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open. A breakout run for the Belarussian who had never gone beyond the fourth round of a major until this season. She was denied a place in her maiden final by Karolina Pliskova and Leylah Fernandez with both of those matches being three-set encounters.

Whilst Sabalenka has a lot to be proud of when it comes to these results, does she have any regrets as well?

“I would go back to my semifinal matches at the US Open and Wimbledon. I would have tried to do everything differently – maybe I would have been less nervous,” she told reporters during her pre-tournament press conference at the Kremlin Cup. “The game was very nervous, and I would have returned to these matches to worry less.”

The 23-year-old believes her experiences will place her on a strong footing going into future Grand Slam events. In recent years she has also turned to the help of a sports psychologist but says it doesn’t fully prepare her for the real thing.

“I have been working with a psychologist for a very long time. In fact, if you look at me 4 years ago and now, I have improved my psychological condition,” she said.
“It seems to me that no psychologist will prepare me for these situations (in Grand Slams). You need to go through it yourself, feel it, get nervous, understand this situation for yourself.’
“I’m more than sure that the next semifinal at the Slam I won’t be so nervous. I will act more confidently, I won’t make the stupid errors that I made in important moments in the last semi-final. It’s a matter of experience, you need to go through it. I don’t think a psychologist will be able to prepare for this.”

So far this season Sabalenka has contested three Tour finals, winning titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid. Overall, she has won 43 matches on the WTA Tour which is the third highest tally after Barbora Krejcikova (44) and Ons Jabeur (48). She is also currently at a ranking high of second in the world and has defeated three top 10 players – Krejcikova, Ash Barty and Simona Halep.

However, Sabalenka believes there is still room for her to improve further. She is currently coached by Anton Dubrov who previously worked as her hitting partner for 18 months.

“I think I played very consistently this year, but, of course, it is possible to be more consistent. I have to keep working on myself, be more consistent. I think I’m moving in the right direction, I just need to keep working on myself.” She states.

This week’s Kremlin Cup will be the first tournament Sabalenka has played since the US Open. She was forced to miss Indian Wells after testing positive for COVID-19 which left her bed bound for four days. Whilst admitting she is yet to reach her full fitness since being ill, Sabalenka is not letting that get in her way.

“I’m not in my best shape, but I know that I need the upcoming matches in the Kremlin Cup, because I haven’t played for almost a month. Maybe I haven’t returned to 100% of my physical form, but psychologically I am at my maximum and ready to win no matter what.” She concludes.

Sabalenka is the top seed in Moscow and will begin her campaign against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic.

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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