Aryna Sabalenka is aiming to continue her winning streak in Melbourne - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka is aiming to continue her winning streak in Melbourne

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Aryna Sabalenka won the WTA title in Dubai last February and two back-to-back trophies in Linz and Ostrava last autumn in the season affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic. The world number 7 player picked up where she left off by winning the first tournament of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi. She rose three places from 10th to 7th in the WTA Ranking.

 

Sabalenka extended her impressive winning streak to 15 matches. Her ninth career title in Abu Dhabi is a confidence-booster ahead of the Australian Open, where she will chase her first Grand Slam title. She has not lost a match since the third round defeat to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at Roland Garros last October. 

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning in Abu Dhabi and I am happy to start the season with a title. I am going to Australia. I am confident that I will do everything I can to win matches”, said Sabalenka. 

In the Abu Dhabi final Sabalenka beat Veronika Kudemertova 6-2 6-2 after converting six of her thirteen break points. 

“I am proud that I was fighting no matter what. In some matches I didn’t feel my serve, some matches, I didn’t feel my forehand or backhand, but I would just keep fighting, finding my shots, and this is what I am really proud of”. 

Sabalenka is 9-4 in her career finals and won all her six finals in the past 16 months, but she does not rest on her laurels, as she is looking ahead at news goals. 

“Abu Dhabi was an amazing week for me. I have been fighting through everything. To start the season with a title with a title is something really unbelievable. This was a new beginning. I am not focusing on the past. What happened there, happened there. Now it’s a clean sheet and I have to start from the beginning. I am actually surprised by this title because I have been practicing indoors on a different surface and coming here, the outdoor courts are a really different bounce. It’s a little windy here. To handle these conditions and win the title is something I am really proud of. I am really happy”, said Sabalenka to the WTA website. 

Sabalenka showed impressive form in Abu Dhabi, where she dropped just one set during the tournament. 

“Before the tournament, I didn’t play well and it was tough to adjust. I was staying calm and kept working and kept trying to find it. I didn’t have any expectations. I was focusing on my game, on my movement. I think this was the key. In the matches, my focus was on my game and the movement. I wasn’t focusing on the conditions or anything. I was just playing with what I had. Some days I didn’t feel my forehand, some days I didn’t feel my backhand. Some days I didn’t have my serve, but I am proud that I kept going and kept fighting and trying to find my shots. This is what worked really well this week and what I am really with”. 

Sabalenka started playing more relaxed and this contributed to her winning streak of 15 consecutive matches. Sabalenka explained how her perspective has changed after the death of her father in 2019. 

“It started a little bit earlier when I lost my father. I think after that moment I just understood there are so many things in life to be worried about and tennis is just a small part of my life, in the big picture. Of course, I don’t like to lose and I am worried about tennis and doing everything I can, but we have to enjoy our life, we have to enjoy our time on the court, enjoy our time on the court, enjoy the opportunities. This happened one year ago, but to find this kind of mentality takes some time. I began to have a more settled mentality about my tennis in Ostrava last October. In the match against Sara Sorribes Tormo I was down 0-6 0-4. After that one I understood anything can happen. No matter what you have to keep fighting. You don’t have to get upset about anything. You just have to do your job and that’s it. After that match in Ostrava, everything just clicked”. 

Sabalenka is aiming to continue her winning streak at the Australian Open. 

“This will be tough. I know that I can lose. Everyone can lose. I will do everything I can to continue winning. If I lose then it’s fine. I just want to make sure I did everything I could. It’s really tough, but I think I can handle it”. 

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Kim Clijsters Handed Wildcards For Top American Tournaments

The four-time Grand Slam champion says she is ‘excited’ to be returning to the Tour.

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Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters isn’t giving up on her comeback to tennis anytime soon after confirming that she will play at the Miami Open later this month.

 

The Belgian has been awarded with a wildcard to play at the prestigious WTA 1000 event which is held at the Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the first tournament Clijsters has played since the US Open last year and the first time she has played in Miami since 2012. She is a two-time winner in Miami after triumphing in 2005 when she was unseeded in the draw, as well as 2010.

“The Miami Open was always a favorite stop on tour for me,” said Clijsters. “I have great memories and also had great results there. I’m excited to be coming back to Miami.”

Clijsters is currently in the process of her second comeback to the Tour. She first retired from the sport in May 2007 before returning two years later. She would continue playing for another five years before calling it quits at the 2012 US Open following a lengthy battle with injuries. Last year she played in a total of three tournaments but lost her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza in Dubai, Johanna Konta in Monterrey and Ekaterina Alexandrova at the US Open.

James Blake, who is the tournament director of the Miami Open, has hailed the return of Clijsters to the tournament. Paying tribute to her both on and off the court.

“We are very excited to have Kim returning to Miami,” he said. “She is a tremendous player and an even better person. Plus, it’s not often you get the opportunity to see someone who has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame compete at an event of this level.”

After Miami, Clijsters will kick-off her clay court campaign in the country after receiving a pass to play at the Charleston Open which takes place the week after Miami. It will be the first time in her career she has played at the event which has been part of the women’s Tour for more than 30 years.

Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles so far in her career with the most recent occurring back in 2011 at the Australian Open. She has spent a total of 20 weeks as world No.1 which is a longer period than Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Jankovic.

The Miami Open will get underway on March 22nd.

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Andy Murray – “It’s Just Not Good Enough”

The three-time Grand Slam champion spoke to the media about his current form and plans for the coming weeks following his loss in Rotterdam on Wednesday.

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After falling to world number 8 Andrey Rublev in the second round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Andy Murray shed light on his current form on the Tour.

 

The former world No.1 fell 7-5, 6-2, to the Russian in what was only his second match on the ATP Tour this season. Murray missed the Australian Open at the start of the year after testing positive for COVID-19 and subsequently turned to the Challenger Tour. Against Rublev, the illustrated Brit illustrated glimmers of her usual grit but admits that there is still more work that needs to be done as he aims to return back into the world’s top 100 for the first time since 2018. Below is a summary of the key quotes from Murray in his latest press conference :-

He started by answering what positives he could take from the match despite the loss.

“From the positive side I thought I moved well for the first hour or so. He (Rublev) is one of the bigger hitters on the tour and in the first set I felt like he wasn’t getting that many free points from the back of the court and he’s having to work hard to get the ball through me so I thought that was positive. I did some things quite well in the first set but when it mattered I didn’t play well.”

Murray would continue to add what he felt he did wrong and what was the main reason he lost to such a young talented player who in the second set basically dominated from start to finish.

“It’s just not good enough and your playing one of the best players in the world like in those moments they come up with something great to win those points it’s understandable and you expect that but I felt in the moment at the end of the first set that I blew it. The second set he was for sure much better than me no question about that, there are things like I’m not used to making those errors in those moments and I find it quite frustrating mentally and find myself looking back on those moments little bit too much which affected me a bit in the second set, I’m disappointed and felt like I should have won that first set”

He was then asked about his upcoming schedule and the fact there aren’t a lot of hard court tournaments left before the clay court swing.

“So I don’t play well on clay is that the suggestion”

He would continue his answer and say the following.

“I want to play as much as I can but baring in mind that I still have to be smart with the decisions about which tournaments I play and how many events in a row I play, the last time I played four weeks in a row and a lot of consecutive matches I picked up an issue and I need to be mindful of that but I wanna try and play. Next week, I will have off, I will go home now and then hopefully be able to play in Dubai and Miami and than see from there. There is the option to play the full clay court swing, there’s the option to drop down and play challengers to get more matches and build more robustness in my body, I kinda feel like I want to play at this level because I learned a lot from a match like tonight even though I lost.”

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Clara Tauson reaches her first WTA Tour quarter final in Lyon

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Former world junior number 1 and 2019 Australian Open Junior champion Clara Tauson advanced to her first WTA Tour quarter final with a 6-2 6-3 win over Timea Babos after 71 minutes at the Open 6ème Sens-Metropole in Lyon.

 

The 18-year-old Danish rising star came back from a break down in each set. Tauson converted her match point with an ace. 

Babos earned an immediate break to take a 2-0 lead in the opening set. Tauson reeled off six consecutive games with three breaks to win the opening set 6-2. 

Babos broke serve in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Tauson got back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Tauson reeled off three consecutive games from 3-3 with a break in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. 

Earlier this week Tauson beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4 in the opening round. The Danish player beat a top 50 player for the second time in her career. She won the 2019 Australian Open Junior tournament beating Leylah Fernandez. Last year she upset Jennifer Brady (Australian Open finalist in 2021) at Roland Garros. 

“It’s only the second time I have played a top 50 player, so I don’t have a lot of experience with that, but we can say it’s gone well these two times. Going into these matches, I just try to play as free as I can and show what I can do. I actually called my dad after the match and he said: ‘What, did you win ? She has won so many matches indoors. I had hoped that I would be drawn to play either her or Fiona Ferro because they are two really good players. I definitely want to play Simona Halep. She is just a champion. She plays 100 percent every tournament she plays and no matter what the score, she is always there. I love watching Petra Kvitova play. I want to play like her”, said Tauson

Tauson set up a quarter final against Camila Giorgi, who came back from one set down to Nina Stojanovic 1-6 6-1 7-5 after 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Giorgi earned her second break of the third set in the seventh game but Stojanovic broke back to draw level to 5-5. The Italian player saved two match points at 5-6 15-40 to hold serve at deuce. Giorgi did not convert her first match point at 6-4 but converted her second chance at 7-5. 

Another former world junior number 1 Clara Burel overcame Alizé Cornet 6-1 1-6 6-3 to score the best win of her career by ranking. 

Burel went up a 4-0 lead with a double break in the third set. Cornet pulled the break back to 3-4. Burel converted her third break point on the fourth deuce to win the decider 6-3. 

Burel set up a match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a spot in the quarter final. 

Last year’s Palermo champion Fiona Ferro reached the quarter final after Tereza Martincova withdrew from the match while she was trailing 6-2 4-1. 

Viktorja Golubic rallied from one set down to beat Vera Lapko 5-7 6-4 6-3. 

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