Aryna Sabalenka edges Ajla Tomljanovic to reach the third round in Abu Dhabi - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka edges Ajla Tomljanovic to reach the third round in Abu Dhabi

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World number 10 Aryna Sabalenka edged past Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-4 after 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach the third round at the Abu Dhabi WTA WTA Women’s Tennis Open. 

Sabalenka has extended her winning streak to eleven consecutive matches, as she followed up her back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz with her two match wins in Abu Dhabi. 

Sabalenka now leads 2-1 in her three head-to-head matches against Tomljanovic, who beat her Belarusian rival in Miami 2019.

Sabalenka went up a 4-0 lead with a double break after a double fault from Tomljanovic.

In the fifth game Tomljanovic got back one break on her fourth opportunity for 1-4. The Australian player drew errors from Sabalenka and pulled back the second break to level to 5-5. Sabalenka held serve to love to take a 6-5 lead. Tomljanovic earned two game points at 40-15, as she was serving to stay in the match, but Sabalenka won four consecutive points to seal the first set 7-5 with a break in the 12th game at love. 

Tomljanovic earned an early break in the first game of the second set. Sabalenka broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 with a backhand crosscourt passing shot. Both players traded breaks twice en route to 4-4. Sabalenka held serve to 30 to take a 5-4 lead and went up a 0-30 lead in the 10th game before Tomljanovic hit two forehands to draw level to 30-30. Sabalenka hit a return to force an error from Tomljanovic and brought up a match point. The Belarusian player sealed her opportunity with a forehand winner down the line. 

Sabalenka set up a Round of 16 match against 2020 Australian Open quarter finalist and world number 15 Ons Jabeur fom Tunisia, who beat Kateryna Bondarenko. Jabeur beat Sabalenka in their only head-to-head match at last year’s Roland Garros.  

“I am staying in the moment. I am just focusing on every match. I am just trying to focus on my game, work though everything, to try to do my best against every opponent, that’s it. This kind of mentality helped me to build my confidence”, said Sabalenka. 

Sara Sorribes Torno came back from one set down to beat Bernarda Perra 5-7 6-3 6-4. Both players traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the first set. Sorribes Tormo came back from 1-3 down by winning four consecutive games to take a take a 5-3 lead. Pera broke twice to win the first set 7-5 with four consecutive games. 

Sorribes Torno and Pera traded breaks twice en route to 3-3. Sorribes Torno won three consecutive games with two breaks in the seventh and ninth games to clinch the second set 6-3. Pera broke serve in the third game to open up a 4-2 lead, but Sorribes Tormo won four consecutive games with two breaks in the eighth and tenth games to seal the third set 6-4 after 2 hours and 23 minutes. 

“I am really back and proud about my attitude. I think I started playing not so well. I started feeling a bit worried on court because of the wind and it’s a fast court”, said Sorribes Torno. 

Spain’s Paula Badosa upset Alizé Cornet 6-4 6-4. In the first set Badosa went up a double break to take a 4-1 lead. Cornet pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4, but Badosa held her next service games to win the first set 6-4. Badosa claimed the second set 6-4 with a break in the fifth game. 

The 23-year-old Spanish player reached the semifinal in Istanbul and reached her first Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros last October. In the French Open she beat former Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko before losing to Laura Siegemund in the fourth round. 

“For sure that helped me a lot with my confidence. I did a very good pre-season. I think it was the best one of my career. Now I think I am prepared to play every single match, tough ones, and recover good for the next ones. I think I made a step forward”, said Badosa. 

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

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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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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

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

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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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