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Naomi Osaka Dedicates Latest Grand Slam Win To Those Affected By Hardship

The tennis star has issued a statement to her fans in Japan and around the world following her latest triumph.

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Naomi Osaka hopes her Australian Open victory will help inspire tennis fans around the world as she aims to continue her surge in form on the Tour.

The world No.2 clinched her fourth Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park on Saturday after defeating Jennifer Brady in straight sets to clinch her 21st consecutive win on the Tour. At the tournament she also scored wins over former world No.1 players Garbine Muguruza and Serena Williams. She is the first woman to have won her first four major finals played since Monica Seles during the 1990s.

In the wake of her latest triumph, the 23-year-old issued a statement through her management company in which she said her win is dedicated to those still recovering from the 2011 Japan earthquake.

“I would like to thank everyone in Japan for their continued warm support,” she said. “Since I heard there was another large quake in Japan recently, I also want to dedicate this win to those whose lives have still yet to be fully put back together following the ravages of the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami.”

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated the country on March 11th with more than 15,000 people being killed. It also caused the worst nuclear accident in Japan’s history after a reactor released radioactive material. Last week a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the same region in what scientists described as an ‘aftershock’ from 10 years ago.

Continuing her tribute to those who have faced difficult times, Osaka has also dedicated her victory to those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Australian Open took place under strict rules with all players having to go through a 14-day quarantine upon aerial into the country.

“Seeing as we are still contending with the coronavirus on a daily basis, I would like to dedicate this victory to the people around the world who are doing what they can to help us escape its shadow,” she continued in her statement.
“Although there has been a lot of sad news lately regarding the coronavirus and earthquakes, I think that we need to remember the importance of life and have an open heart to help one another in times like these.”

Given her recent dominance on the Tour, Osaka has been backed for even more future glory in the future with Mats Wilander saying she will win at least 10 major titles. Something has only ever been achieved by five women in the Open Era. However, Osaka insists that she will not be thinking too far ahead.

“I like to take things not big-picture. For me, I like to live in the moment,” she explains.
It’s an honour that he said that, of course. But I don’t want to weigh myself down with pressure and expectations.
“I know that the people that I’m playing against are the best players in the world, and, you know, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.
“But for right now I can only control what I can control, and that’s working hard and giving myself opportunities.”

Osaka is only the fourth active player to have won a quartet of major titles after the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters.

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Andrey Rublev comes back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen in Dubai

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Number 2 seed Andrey Rublev came back from one set down to beat Zhang Zhizhen 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 51 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Rublev hit 18 aces and saved both break points he faced to improve to 2-0 in in his head-to-to-head series against Zhang Zhizhen. 

The first set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Rublev opened up a 4-1 lead, but Zhang Zhizhen won six consecutive points to win the tie-break 7-4. 

Rublev broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the  second set 6-2. 

Rublev broke in the third game of the decider. Zhang Zhizhen earned two break-back points in the fourth game but Rublev saved them. Rublev held on his next service games and sealed the win on his first match point. 

“I was so happy because the conditions were super tough. He played amazing in the first set. He was not missing at all on serve, serving 220 and it was so tough to return and do something on return. I am happy that I was able to be there and as soon as I had a chance in second set I was able to take it”, said Rublev. 

Hubert Hurkacz saved all six break points to battle past Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Struff saved the three break points he faced. 

Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-2 lead in the tie-break. Struff pulled back one serve for 3-5 but Hurkacz sealed the first set on his third set point. Hurkacz saved three break points in the 12th game. Struff earned two mini-breaks to win the second tie-break 7-4. Both players saved break points in the first two games of the third set. Struff earned two match points at 6-4 in the tie-break, but Hurkacz won four consecutive points to win the decisive tie-break 8-6. 

Botic Van de Zandschulp edged Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 to clinch his first win against a top 20 opponent. Van de Zandschulp set up a second round match against Sebastian Korda, who cruised past Pavel Kotov 6-0 6-2. 

Van de Zandschulp earned the first break to take a 2-1 lead. Mannarino saved a break point at 1-3. Mannarino broke back to draw level to 3-3. Both players traded breaks in the 11th and 12th games. Van de Zandschulp earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-1 lead in the tie-break. Mannarino pulled one mini-break back, but Van de Zandschulp eanred another mini-break to win the tie-break 7-3. The second went on serve until the 12th game, when Van de Zandschulp earned the decisive break. 

This year’s Montpellier champion Alexander Bublik came back from one set down to beat Tomas Machac 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5). Bublik set up a second round match against either Tallon Griekspoor or Abdullah Shelbayh. 

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Karen Khachanov wins his sixth career title in Doha

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Karen Khachanov beat Czech Next Gen Jakub Mesnik 7-6 (14-12) 6-4 to clinch his the sixth title of his career and the first of his career. Khachanov did not drop a set during this week. 

Khachanov saved four set points in the first set before hitting a forehand return to seal the first set on his fourth set point. 

Khachanov broke serve in the opening game of the second set. The Russian player did not face a break point in the whole match and won 83% of his first serve points. 

Khachanov claimed his first ATP title since Zhuhai last September. 

“Every title is a special one. Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure here in Doha here in Doha it is one of the nicest trophies”, said Khachanov. 

Mesnik made a major breakthrough this week beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and three former Doha champions Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils en route to his first tour level final. Mesnik is projected to a career-high number 87 in the ATP Ranking. He is currently in the lead in the ATP Race to Jeddah. 

“For sure this week will be unforgettable for me. From the beginning, I did not even get to the tournament on my own ranking. I had to use the Next Gen spot, so I tried to enjoy every moment on the court. I did not expect that I will go through to the final. I am really happy with my performance”, said Mesnik. 

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Jasmine Paolini wins the first WTA 1000 title of her career in Dubai

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Jasmine Paolini came back from one set down to beat qualifier Anna kalinskaya 4-6 7-5 7-5 in 2 hours and 13 minutes in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

Paolini rallied from one break down in each of the second and third sets to clinch he the second WTA Tour title of her career and her first trophy at WTA 1000 level. Paolini has become the third Italian player to win a WTA 1000 title following in the footsteps of Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells in 2014 and Camila Giorgi in Montreal 2021. 

Kalinskaya earned an early break in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke back in the fifth and sixth games. 

Kalinskaya broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead with a passing winner and closed out the first set at 15. 

Kalinskaya broke Paolini with a return winner in the opening game to build up a 6-4 3-1 lead. Paolini slammed a return winner to break back for 3-3. Paolini forced and error on set point with a crosscourt backhand to break serve in the 12th game. 

The third set started with three consecutive breaks. Kalinskaya broke for the second time in the third game and held at 15 with an ace in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.  Paolini broke back in the 10th game  to draw level to 5-5 when Kalinskaya was serving for the match. 

Paolini earned three championships point at 6-5 after Kalinskaya made a double fault. 

Paolini drew a long error from Kalinskaya on the first match point. 

Paolini wo 60% of her first serve points.

Paolini beat Kalinskaya in Portoroz in 2021 en route to winning the first WTA title of her career. The Italian player played in three more finals in Cluj Napoca, Palermo and Monastir, but she lost all of them. Kalinskaya beat Paolini in the Round of 16 at last January’s Australian Open. 

Paolini has become the second Italian player to win the Dubai title after Sara Erraini claimed this trophy in 2016. The Italian player is projected to move into the top 15 in the WTA Ranking. 

“I am really happy how I managed to come back. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know. I am just so happy. I am proud of all the work I made this year. It’s not easy to bring this work in the match sometimes. I am playing good tennis. I played well at the end of the last season I started the season well with the second week at the Australian Open. Now I try to be more relaxed on court, to try to think more what I have to do, to be more present every point. I think it works. It’s not going to be every week like this, but I am going to do my best”, said Paolini during the post match press conference. 

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