Belinda Bencic Overcomes Rust And Lauren Davis To Reach Australian Open 2nd Round - UBITENNIS
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Belinda Bencic Overcomes Rust And Lauren Davis To Reach Australian Open 2nd Round

Belinda Bencic battled to a much-needed 6-3 4-6 6-1 first-round win over Lauren Davis at the 2021 Australian Open.

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Belinda Bencic (@alairelibrecl on Twitter)

Belinda Bencic battled to a much-needed 6-3 4-6 6-1 first-round win over Lauren Davis at the 2021 Australian Open.

 

The Swiss, 23, has not had much time to practice recently because she was one of the players forced to quarantine in her hotel room in Melbourne for two weeks to reduce the spread of Covid-19. And she has only played one match since September because she lost her opener in the Grampians Trophy warm-up event to Sorana Cirstea.

Bencic shows glimpses of quality during scrappy opener

Given these circumstances, Bencic looked understandably rusty to begin with. She made two double faults and a couple of errors as she surrendered her serve in the opening game.

However, she worked her way into the second game and put Davis under enough pressure to force her to make errors. This enabled the Swiss to break back straight away.

Both players settled a bit in the next couple of games and held serve with ease. Then Bencic made some more costly errors to drop serve again and fall 3-2 behind.

The sixth game was bizarre, as both players seemed distracted by the very loud noises of a helicopter circling overhead. At deuce, Bencic suddenly sprang into life. She punished two weak serves with winners to force two separate break points, and then seized the second with a fierce backhand that was too hot for Davis to handle.

The Swiss player struggled for consistency throughout the opening set, and the seventh game summed it up. She hit three stunning winners, two backhands and a forehand, but also made two double faults and two unforced errors. Despite the mistakes, Bencic eventually held to move 4-3 ahead.

After seven games that took more than 40 minutes to complete, the next two went by in a flash. Davis made a series of errors to hand the World No.12 a break. Then Bencic knuckled down from 15-40 on her own serve to win four straight points and hold to take the first set 6-3.

Davis digs in to level the match

Bencic fell 2-0 behind at the start of the second set due to a disastrous service game. Fortunately for her, Davis let her off the hook with an equally poor showing.

The Swiss earned two break points in game five with a series of excellent backhands. But the American saved them both by forcing her opponent to make errors. Then she won the next two points to secure the hold.

Bencic comfortably held. Then she cranked up the pressure again in game seven by hitting the ball deeper. This earned her a break point. However, much to her annoyance, Davis dug in and clung onto her serve.

After a medical time-out for the American disrupted her rhythm, the Swiss made a few errors in the next game. To her credit, she fought her way to an important hold to make it 4-4.

The set ended in surprising fashion. Davis held to love and then Bencic gifted her the decisive break by making three double faults in the space of one game.

Bencic raises her game

It did not seem to matter who served at the beginning of the decider. There were lots of long points in the first three games, which all went against the server, and Bencic fared marginally better than Davis to open a 2-1 lead.

The Swiss finally found some fluency in game four. She hit a winner and an ace during a love hold. Then the American made the mistake of allowing Bencic back into her next service game from 30-0 up and the World No.12 punished her by hitting a forehand winner on break point to establish a 4-1 lead.

Davis looked on course to reduce the deficit when she hit three winners at the start of game six. But Bencic responded in the best possible way with two aces and two winners to turn it around and hold serve.

By this stage, the Swiss player had her confidence back. She cracked three more winners to earn a break point. Then she benefitted from a Davis double fault to seal victory.

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 

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NAOMI OSAKA OF JAPAN - PHOTO: ALVARO DIAZ / MMO

Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 

 

The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?

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WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 

 

Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

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