Sara Errani, Tsvetana Pironkova and Timea Babos qualify for the Australian Open main draw - UBITENNIS
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Sara Errani, Tsvetana Pironkova and Timea Babos qualify for the Australian Open main draw

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The women’s singles qualifiers for the Australian Open main draw came to a close on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi. 

 

Sara Errani, Tsvetana Pironkova, Timea Babos and Elisabetta Cocciaretto have reached the Australian Open main draw after winning their third round qualifying matches. 

Errani came back from one set down to beat Croatia’s Ana Konjuh 3-6 6-2 6-4. 

Konjuh broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead in the first set. Errani pulled back one break and saved three set consecutive points in the eighth game, but she did not converted her five break points in the ninth game. Errani went up a 5-1 lead with two breaks en route to winning the second set. 

Errani went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead in the third set, but Konjuh pulled both breaks back to draw level to 4-4. Konjuh earned a break point in the ninth game, but Errani held her serve. 

Errani got the decisive break on her second match point to claim a hard-fought match. Errani won two of her five doubles titles with Roberta Vinci at the Australian Open in 2013 and 2014. Konjuh was a former top 20 player, but she dropped to world number 423 after a series of injury problems. 

Errani has qualified for her second consecutive Grand Slam main draw. Last autumn she lost to Kiki Bertens in an epic second round match at Roland Garros. 

“It’s a good opportunity to go there and play a good tournament. I love Australia, so I am really happy to go there”, said Errani. 

Former Australian Open Junior semifinalist Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy cruised past France’s Harmony Tan 6-3 6-1 to reach the Australian Open main draw for the second consecutive year. Errani and Cocciaretto join three more Italian players Camila Giorgi, Martina Trevisan and Jasmine Paolini in the main draw. 

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova beat Margaryta Gasparyan 6-3 7-5. The Bulgarian player made a successful come-back last year, when she reached the US Open quarter final after giving birth to her son Alexander in 2018. She has reached three consecutive Grand Slam main draws since her return from the maternity leave. 

“I am very happy. Now that I think about it, I have only played Grand Slams since I returned, three in a row. That’s extra motivation for me, because I I really love the Grand Slam tournaments, and I am so happy to be here. I have a lot of things to work on in my game. It’s the first matches of the season, but I am really happy that I was able to fight through all the matches, especially yesterday was a really tough match for me. Today was tricky, but I am happy that I fought through”, said Pironkova. 

Hungary’s Anna Timea Babos battled past Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 in a clash between two former to 30 players. Babos is fourth ranked doubles player in the world and is the reigning Australian Open women’s doubles champion. 

“I was in Dubai pretty much all December. I prepared very well, and I really wanted to play well and qualify, so I guess the effort paid off. That’s just something extra and it gives me even more motivation for the future. I am very happy that I did the job”, said Babos. 

Olga Danilovic overcame Ankita Raina 6-2 3-6 6-1. Olga’s father is former basketball star Predrag Danilovic, while her mother is Svetlana is a sports reporter for Radio Television of Serbia. 

Slovenia’s number 1 seed Kaja Juvan cruised past Slovakia’s Rebecca Stramkova 6-1 6-2 in 51 minutes without facing any break point. Twenty-year-old player Juvan pushed Serena Williams to the third set in the second round at Wimbledon 2019 and reached the second round at Roland Garros and at the US Open in 2020. 

“I think I have always been good dealing with these last-round matches, it’s not my first qualifying. I always just try to focus on the things I need to do, and today I was doing it pretty well. I think that a lot of things that we are are working on really showed, and I am happy that I was able to go through it”, said Juvan. 

Belgium’s Greet Minnen battled past former top 20 player Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 3-6 6-4 to reach her second consecutive main draw at the Australian Open. Last year the Belgian player reached the second round.

Egypt’s Mayar Sherif eased past Aleksandra Krunic 6-1 6-2. Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to reach a main draw of a Grand Slam. 

Whitney Osuigwe came back from 2-6 2-5 to edge former two 20 player Mihaela Buzarnescu 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-2. Liudmila Samsonova edged Lesla Tsurenko 7-6 (7-1) 6-2. Canada’s Rebecca Marino saw off Maryna Zanevska 6-4 7-6 (11-9) in her first tournament since July 2019.

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Next Gen Star Carlos Alcaraz Praises ‘Idol’ Nadal

The rising star talks Nadal, Ferrero and his hopes for the future.

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Growing up in Spain is unsurprising that Carlos Alcaraz is inspired by the achievements of tennis legend Rafael Nadal.

 

The 17-year-old tennis star is labelled as one of the most promising youngsters on the ATP Tour following a breakthrough 2020 season where he won a trio of Challenger titles. Becoming the second-youngest player in history to do so after Richard Gasquet. It was also during the same season where he became the youngest player to win an ATP 500 match since the series began in 2009 and he ended the year ranked 136th in the world.

Finding his footing on the Tour, Alcaraz is hoping that he will be able to follow in the footsteps of his idol Nadal who has won 20 major titles so far in his career. The teenager believes the mentality of his compatriot is one that can serve as an example for everybody to follow.

Rafa is my idol,” Alcaraz told itftennis.com. “His hunger, his attitude. It doesn’t matter if he plays a first match or a final, his level of concentration is the same. He wants to win every match.
“His mentality is an example for anyone, a tennis player or any person. He motivates everyone because he never surrenders. Everyone wants to be the best, no matter if you´re an athlete, a football player, a doctor, a journalist… everyone has an objective in life.”

Alcaraz is currently preparing for the Australian Open after successfully qualifying for the tournament earlier this month. In Doha he scored wins over Filip Horanský, Evgeny Karlovskiy and Hugo Dellien. It is the first time he has qualified for a grand Slam main draw in his career. An impressive achievement for a player who is also currently studying for his Segundo de Bachiller exams and driving test.

Guiding the tennis prodigy on the Tour is Juan Carlos Ferrero. A former world No.1 player who won the 2003 French Open. The two have been working together since 2019.

“I’m very proud to have Juan Carlos as a coach,” said Alcaraz. “He has great experience and knowledge and I’m very proud to be able to learn from him.
“He contributes to my knowledge in a way that other coaches probably wouldn’t be able to. He understands the situations that I’m living now, because he experienced them in the past. He knows how to manage the pressure.”

It remains to be seen just how successful Alcaraz will become but the expectations are high. He is already the youngest player ranked in the world’s top 600 and the only player born in 2003 to be inside the top 400.

“I don’t focus on the records or if I’m the youngest player,” he stated. “I want to improve every day and to focus on my objectives. My aims in 2021 are to play at Roland Garros, to be in the top 100 and to finish the season in the top 50.”

Alcaraz is set to return to competitive tennis next week.

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Filippo Volandri believes that Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti are the future of Italian tennis in the Davis Cup

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Former world number 25 Filippo Volandri has been named as the new captain of the Italian Davis Cup. 

 

Barazzutti served as Italian Davis Cup captain for twenty years and won the Davis Cup trophy in 1976 in the final against Chile. He also played in three more finals in 1977, 1979 and 1980 and served as Fed Cup captain from 2002 to 2016 guiding Italy to four titles with a great team formed by Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. Barazzutti was the longest-serving Italian Davis Cup team captain in national tennis history. 

Volandri made his debut in the Davis Cup in 2001 in a dead match against Finland. Later that year he beat Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic. He played in ten Davis Cup ties from 2001 to 2010, finishing with a 10-7 win-loss record. 

Volandri talked about his plans as Davis Cup captain in an interview to Italian Sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

Volandri has served as Italy’s national technical director since 2018 and worked on the Over 18 project aimed to guide Italian young players in their transition to professional tennis. Volandri’s work is now paying off, as eight Italian players are ranked in the top 100 and four players are in the top 40. Young stars like Matteo Berrettini, Lorenzo Sonego, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti have made their impact on the ATP Tour. 

“I have not slept much in the last few days. I feel emotional and I wanted to talk to every Italian player. I contacted the most experienced and the youngest players. I want to build a solid relationship to them and I am planning to meet them frequently. I met Jannik Sinner in Bordighera before he left to Australia. Jannik has showed that he is a mature player and works hard in training. He will continue improving in the future. Lorenzo Musetti needs more time for his tennis style, but he made a big step forward and we follow him with great enthsiasm. Sinner and Musetti are the future of Italian tennis in the Davis Cup. Thanks to the Italian Federation I have built a team of professional people, who have contributed to the growth of Berrettini, Sinner and Musetti. I will work with mental coaches. I believe in the psycological aspect of tennis. We are working with tennis statistician Craig O’Shannessy. With his data we have been able to change our training methods and the ways to prepare matches”, said Volandri.

Volandri succeds Corrado Barazzutti, who let him debut in the Davis Cup in 2001 when he was a young player. The new captain wants to thank Barazzutti, who guided Italy to the semifinal in 2014. 

“At such an important moment for my coaching career I want to thank Corrado, who let me debut in the Davis Cup even though I was just a kid, when he was just named captain. I hope I am able to honour what he did in this position. I learnt a lot from Corrado. I know exactly what means to compete in a Davis Cup tie. It’s like playing four tounaments in a row. I played in the Davis Cup for many years, but I cannot compare to being Davis Cup captain. I have a big responsibility”, said Volandri. 

Italy secured its spot in the Davis Cup Finals in 2021 with a 4-0 win over South Korea in Barazzutti’s final tie as captain. 

“Italian tennis will always be grateful to Corrado Barazzutti for his extraordinary contribution for our movement, first as player and then as a coach”, said Italian Tennis Federation Angelo Binaghi 

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Dominic Thiem Training At ‘High Level’ Despite Absence Of Coach Massu

The manager of the US Open champion has given an update on his current condition ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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Dominic Thiem will play the Australian Open without his principal coach Nicolas Massu after it was confirmed that he is unable to find a way to travel to the region.

 

Massu, who has been part of the Austrian’s team since 2019, was unable to travel to Australia earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation that also affected former world No.1 Andy Murray. Thiem had originally hoped that his mentor would be able to join him at a later date but that is no longer possible under strict regulations set out by Australian health officials. All players and their teams are required to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel before they are allowed to play a professional match in the country.

The absence of Massu has been confirmed by Thiem’s manager Herwig Straka who is currently in Adelaide with the tennis player. Straka is a top tennis official who also sits on the ATP Board of Directors and is in charge of the Vienna Open.

Dominic’s father Wolfgang leads the training and is in contact with Nico a lot. Although he is now negative, he will still not make it to the Australian Open,” he told neue.at.

Fortunately for Thiem he has avoided the fate of many of his peers who have been forced to go into a strict quarantine after being declared a close contact of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. All 72 players who have been affected are staying in Melbourne. Thiem is among the top three players in the world who have been allowed to quarantine in Adelaide under a deal struck by Tennis Australia.

The training is going well and it is at a very high level. In his room he passes the time with series shows, computer games and reading,” Straka commented.

The 27-year-old is bidding to go one step better at the Australian Open than 12 months ago where he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic. In that final he led the match by two sets to one before losing. Since then Thiem has broken new territory by winning his maiden major title at Flushing Meadows in New York.

‘Like a student’

Providing a glimpse into what it is like staying in Adelaide, Straka says he still had ‘much to do’ during the two-week period as he drew parallels between the current conditions and when he was studying. He studied law and Business before going into the sports industry.

“Since there is no room service for security reasons, we have to make the beds, do laundry and cook ourselves. A washing machine, a microwave and a stove are available in the room. It feels like back in the college days.”

Some have said Thiem and Co are receiving preferential treatment from Tennis Australia with their current living conditions. In a recent interview with UbiTennis, doubles player Marcelo Demoliner said ‘the top tennis players always had these extras, we (the players) are kinda of used to it.’’ Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has also previously conceded that those in Adelaide are getting a better deal.

Although Thiem’s manager has played down just how significant the difference in treatment is between the two bubbles.

“It’s not that much better in Adelaide. The few advantages are that the player’s team can be bigger, that it doesn’t get so jammed during training times and that the rooms have a balcony,” he said.

Later this week Thiem will return to professional tennis by taking part in a one-day exhibition. Then he heads to Melbourne where will be leading the Austrian team in the ATP Cup which will be captained by his father Wolfgang.

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