Aryna Sabalenka Closing In On Australian Open Breakthrough But Serena Stands In The Way - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Closing In On Australian Open Breakthrough But Serena Stands In The Way

Could Sabalenka’s run of disappointing Grand Slam results be coming to an end?

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Prior to the Australian Open Aryna Sabalenka has won three out of her past four tournaments but ironically it was her loss that she is perhaps the most grateful for.

 

The 22-year-old Belarusian recorded a 15-match winning streak after claiming titles in Ostrava, Linz and Abu Dhabi. However, her run came to an end at a build-up tournament to the Grand Slam last week where she fell in three sets to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi. The same player who knocked defending champion Sofia Kenin out of the Australian Open on Thursday. Whilst no player likes to lose it has provided Sabalenka with some much needed relief.

“It was good to lose that match, not because of the pressure but because it kind of put me back into reality,” Sabalenka told reporters on Friday.
“I was trying to focus on the moment, but at that point I was thinking like nobody can beat me (laughing). This is so stupid, but like this is how it is.”

Along with the success comes higher expectations placed upon her shoulders, especially when it comes to the major tournaments. Sabalenka has faired well at Melbourne Park so far by winning three of her matches in the straight sets. In her third round clash with Ann Li she eased to a 6-3, 6-1, win in just over an hour. Hitting seven aces along with 28 winners.

Despite her talent on the Tour, it is only the second time in her career that Sabalenka has reached the fourth round of a major. The first was at the 2018 US Open. Even more surprising is that this year’s Australian Open is only the second major out of the past eight she has won back-to-back matches in.

“I’m trying to improve round by round and I’m just trying to prepare myself really well before each match and I’m just trying to do everything I can each match,” she said.
“I’m just trying to stay focused in the moment.”

Standing in the way of Sabalenka’s first Grand Slam quarter-final is the formidable Serena Williams who recorded her 90th win at the tournament earlier in the day. The American is already a 23-time major winner and one more title would put her level with Margaret Court’s all-time record.

“It’s a tough one, but I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match,” she said.
“She’s a great player, and it’s always a big challenge to play against these kinds of players. But I’m going to do everything I can to get this win and we’re all here for the wins and I’m going to do everything.”

Sabalenka is playing in the Australian Open main draw for only the fourth time in her career.

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Taylor Fritz saves two match points to upset Alexander Zverev in Indian Wells

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Taylor Fritz saved two match points to score the second top 5 win of his career against 2021 Olympic champion Alexander Zverev at he BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Fritz has reached his first Masters 1000 semifinal. 

 

After a trade of breaks at the start of the opening set, Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Zverev broke serve in the seventh game to win the first set 6-4. 

Fritz broke in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and served out 6-3 at deuce in the ninth game. 

Zverev earned an early break to take a 2-0 lead at the start of the third set and held on his next service games to open up a 5-2 lead. Fritz broke back in the ninth game, when Zverev made two double faults, as he was serving out the match.  

Fritz came back from 2-5 down in the third set and fended off two match points at 3-5 30-40 and 4-5 30-40 to beat Zverev 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) after 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Despite today’s defeat Zverev still leads 3-2 in his head-to-head matches against Fritz. The US player will face Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 2-6 6-4 to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal. 

“I was really down and out but I found a way to put myself into it. I really wanted to make him have to close me out and I was able to get back into the match Normally you would be so nervous in those situations and in the third set tie-break, but I felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It feels really great to play well with the pressure on”, said Fritz. 

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Nikoloz Basilashvili upsets Stefanos Tsitsipas in Indian Wells to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal

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Nikoloz Basilashvili upset world number 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 2-6 6-4 to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semfinal. 

 

Basilashvili, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter final, went up a 4-1 lead with a double break in the first and fifth games. Tsitsipas pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Basilashvili held on his next service games to claim the first set 6-4. 

Tsitsipas broke twice in the fourth and eighth games and did not face a break point to seal the second set 6-2. 

After a trade of breaks in the first and fourth games of the third set, Basilashvili earned his second break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and fended off a break point in the eighth game to hold serve after three deuces. He served out the win on his first match point in the 10th game.   

Despite the defeat Tsitsipas still leads 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against Basilashvili. The Georgian player had never won a main draw match in Indian Wells in his four previous appearances at this tournament. Earlier this year he won two titles at Doha and Munich. 

Tsitsipas was aiming to reach his third consecutive Masters 1000 semifinal in North America after advancing to the last four in two consecutive hard-court tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati. 

“I have played really great matches this tournament. I was not played with how I played today but I was happy with how I managed my stress levels. First time in the quarter finals and it is a big court and Stefanos is still a tough player. I had to keep my physical levels and energy levels in a really good shape because I knew mentally I would be a little bit tight and stressed”, said Basilashvili.

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Carlos Moya, Flavia Pennetta and Ana Ivanovic are among the candidates for the 2022 International Tennis Hall of Fame

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Carlos Moya, the first Spanish player the number 1, and former Grand Slam champions Flavia Pennetta and Ana Ivanovic are among the candidates for 2022 International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

 

Ivanovic lifted the 2008 French Open Trophy after a final at the 2008 Australian Open and a semifinal at 2007 Wimbledon and claimed 15 WTA titles during her career. Since her French Open triumph, she spent 12 weeks as world number 1 player. She would become the first player representing Serbia to be voted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

“Many of the women who I looked up to as a young girl are Hall of Famers and to be nominated to receive an honour that places my career alongside those who inspired me is just incredible”, said Ana Ivanovic. 

Flavia Pennetta became the oldest first-time Grand Slam champion when she beat her childhood friend Roberta Vinci in the all-Italian US Open Final in 2015. Pennetta teamed up with Vinci in guiding Italy to four Fed Cup titles. 

“I loved competing and to have my tennis career recognized in this way among the sports all-greats is such an incredible honour”, said Pennetta. 

Moya won the 1998 Roland Garros title and reached the 1997 Australian Open final. He became the first Spanish player to reach the top of the ATP Ranking and won 20 ATP titles, including three ATP Masters 1000 trophies. Moya lifted the Davis Cup title in 2004 for Spain after taking his his second singles win of the tie with his straight-set win over Andy Roddick. 

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