Melbourne Scare A Blessing In Disguise For Naomi Osaka - UBITENNIS
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Melbourne Scare A Blessing In Disguise For Naomi Osaka

The world No.3 says she ‘couldn’t ask for better preparation’ despite dropping a set in her latest match.

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Naomi Osaka (image via https://twitter.com/WTA)

It was a tough day at the office for Naomi Osaka on Wednesday after she was forced to battle back from a set down against world No.371 Katie Boulter at the Gippsland Trophy.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion was on course for a shock defeat after dropping the opener in just 40 minutes before clawing her way back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. During what was a roller-coaster match the Japanese No.1 effectively utilized the use of her serve as she won 86% of her first service points, as well as producing 33 winners. During the final two sets Osaka broke Boulter in five out of her eight service games.

I thought she played really well. I sort of had to raise my level, kind of go within myself,” said Osaka.
“I felt the entire first set and sort of halfway into the second set, I felt like I was on my back foot a lot. I felt like I was letting her dictate most of the balls. I never really settled that well. I think in the second and third set I was sort of able to find what I needed to do, sort of impose my pace onto the rally, as well.”

This week’s Melbourne event is Osaka’s final chance to tune up her game ahead of the Australian Open where she will be seeking to win the title for a second time after doing so in 2019. Unlike previous years players have less time to get matches under their belts ahead of the Grand Slam after going through a 14-day quarantine. For Osaka, she is drawing positives from her scare against Boulter.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation match,” she stated. “I think it was very different from my first-round match. That’s something I couldn’t practice.’
“So I’m very happy with how it went actually. Even though it was long, I think there are a lot of things that I learned in this match. I feel like it’s nice to play someone like Cornet and then someone like Boulter because they have two different styles. That’s something I’m going to have to deal with in a Grand Slam setting, too.”

Besides playing in Melbourne, Osaka has also been spotted watching matches from the sidelines like she does at other tournaments. When asked by the press which live match stands out to her, she made reference to Andy Murray’s five-set win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the US Open last year. Two players whom she has great affection and respect towards.

“I just like watching matches in person because I feel like you can gauge the speed of the ball,you can sort of see the atmosphere, feel the conditions. I think, I don’t know, it’s just much more engaging than watching on TV,” she explained.

Next up for the second seed will be a quarter-final clash against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu.

In other matches at the Gippsland Trophy, Elina Svitolina was another player who was forced to overcome a stern scare. Taking on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the third seed rallied to a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2, win after more than two hours of play.

“It was a bit windy and it was really tough to find the rhythm, and it’s not easy to play against her because she’s going for a lot of shots and you have to really be on your toes,” Svitolina said.
“I was a bit flat in the first set and I wasn’t happy with the way I started. Afterwards, I was just trying to make an extra ball back and tried to make a difference on the balls I had a chance on,”
she added.

Svitolina, who could play Osaka in the semi-finals should they both reach that stage, faces Elise Mertens in her next match.

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Reigning Champion Simona Halep Pulls Out Of Wimbledon

The Romanian says she is ‘down and upset’ about missing the major.

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There will be a new Wimbledon champion in the women’s draw this year after Simona Halep formally withdrew due to injury.

 

The former world No.1 was in London training with her team but has been forced to pull out of the grass-court major after failing to fully recover from a calf injury. An issue which also sidelined her from the French Open. It is the first time the Romanian has missed Wimbledon since making her Grand Slam debut at the tournament back in 2010.

“It is with great sadness that I’m announcing my withdrawal from The Championships as my calf injury has not fully recovered,” the 29-year-old said in a statement.
“I gave it everything I had in order to be ready to play Wimbledon and after having such special memories from two years ago, I was excited and honoured to step back on these beautiful courts as defending champion.
“Unfortunately, my body didn’t cooperate and I’ll have to save that feeling for next year.”

Halep first sustained the injury back in May when she was playing Angelique Kerber in the first round of the Italian Open. After undergoing an MRI, it was confirmed that the multiple Grand Slam winner had a tear in her left calf.

“I can honestly say that I’m really down and upset about having to take this decision. This period has been difficult but to miss the last two majors has made it even more challenging mentally and physically,” she said.
“We will see what the future holds but I’m hoping it will make me a stronger person and athlete.”

As a result of the withdrawal, Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova has moved into the seedings at 32nd. She has only won one match in four previous appearances at the Championships.

Halep has won 22 WTA titles during her career and has won more than $37.5M in prize money.

The Wimbledon Championships will get underway on Monday.

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Lorenzo Sonego reaches the semifinal in Eastbourne

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Third seed Lorenzo Sonego beat Alexander Bublik 6-1 7-5 in 79 minutes to reach the semifinal at the Viking International in Eastbourne. Sonego claimed his 17th tour-level match win of the year. 

 

Sonego broke twice in  the second and sixth games to win the first set 6-1. The Italian player won 65 % of his first service points  in the opening set. 

The 2021 Sardegna Open champion went up a break in the third game of the second game, but he missed two double break points at 4-2. He saved a break-back point at 4-3 before dropping his serve at 5-4. Sonego broke serve from 0-30 down to win the second set 7-5. 

Sonego has improved to 3-0 in his head-to-head matches against Bublik. 

“I am full of energy because I like playing here. My serve is good for grass court and I like playing in Eastbourne. There are a lot of Italian fans, and it is good for me. Sasha is an amazing player”, said Sonego. 

Sonego will face Max Purcell, who beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-4 1-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 58 minutes. Seppi had won his previous head-to-head against Purcell in Kitzbuhel in three sets. 

Purcell bounced back from losing the second set, winning 82 % of his first service points. 

Purcell went up a break twice in the first set to take a 3-2 lead, but Seppi broke back both times to draw level to 4-4. Purcell broke for the third time in the ninth game to claim the first set 6-4. Seppi broke twice to take a 4-0 lead, but wasted two set points in the sixth game. Seppi broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, but Purcell broke straight back to draw level to 3-3. Purcell earned three match points at 5-4 and converted his second chance on Seppi’s serve. 

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Danil Medvedev reaches the third grass-court semifinal of his career in Mallorca

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Top seed Danil Medvedev beat Casper Ruud 7-5 6-1 at the Mallorca Championships to reach the third grass-court semifinal of his career without dropping a set. Medvedev had prevously reached two semifinals in Eastbourne in 2017 and at Queen’s in 2019. 

 

Medvedev hit 8 aces and won 87 % of his first service points. He did not face a break points and dropped one point behind his first serve. 

Medvedev broke serve in the 11th game to win the first set 7-5. The Russian player went up a break in the first game. Ruud broke straight back in the second game. Medvedev broke three times in a row to win nine of the last ten games. He closed out the match with a drop shot and a volley to reach the semifinal after 1 hour and 17 minutes. 

“I feel like it was a funny match. Maybe it was not the highest level, but I am really happy to win and be in the semifinals here. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I don’t think grass is his best surface, but in the first set he was playing top level and I could not get any break points. As soon as he started serving a bit worse and making some errors, I tried to use it as fast as I could. It was important to win the first set and not not in a tie-break”, said Medvedev.

Medvedev will face Pablo Carreno Busta, who fended off all three break points he faced in his 6-4 6-4 win over Jordan Thompson. Medvedev leads 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against Carreno Busta.   

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