Four-Time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka Targets First Title On Clay In Madrid - UBITENNIS
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Four-Time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka Targets First Title On Clay In Madrid

She is yet to play a WTA final on the surface but could that be about to change?

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Despite the various accolades Naomi Osaka has already achieved in her career, there remains one surface which she is yet to conquer – the clay.

 

Still only 23, the Japanese star has already won both the US Open and Australian Open twice, as well as becoming the first Asian player in history to reach No.1 in the world. Overall she has featured in 10 WTA finals and has won seven of them with all of those occurring on a hard court. She had been on a 23-match winning streak before losing to Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals of the Miami Open earlier this year.

Osaka’s focus now turns to the clay and in particular Madrid where she will play her first tournament on the surface this season. It has been almost two years since she last played a WTA event on the clay at the 2019 French Open where she lost in the third round.

“I feel for me it’s exciting to go into the clay court swing because I haven’t won a tournament on clay yet,” she told reporters ahead of the Madrid Open. “Even though that does make me a bit excited, it also gives me a bit of, like, stress because I really want to do well here.’
“I think I was just preparing for anything.”

In the past there has been numerous theories as to why the world No.2 is yet to excel on the clay. In Osaka’s view she believes a key aspect is related to the mental side of the game. She is coached on the Tour Wim Fissette who has also previously worked with the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters and Angelique Kerber.

I think for me, I do better when I don’t stress myself out and tell myself that I have to win a tournament. But it’s really hard to fight that feeling when you really want something,” she said.
“At the end of the day, I haven’t played a clay tournament in, like, two years. I haven’t touched clay in two years either, so… I’m just going in here (Madrid) just trying to have fun and trying to build match play for the French (Open).”

In one respect the conditions in Madrid do favour Osaka’s game style. The city has an elevation of more than 600 meters above sea level which means the high altitude makes the ball travel faster compared to other clay events. Osaka has played in the tournament on three previous occasions with her best run being to the quarter-finals in 2019.

“I can’t remember how I felt the last time I was here playing. But I do know that I think I’m hitting the ball pretty well,” she commented.
“I can only hope that for now that’s good enough. Maybe when I play my matches I’ll be able to adjust a lot better. As of right now, I don’t really have that much experience to be able to tell what’s good on clay and what’s not good on clay.”

Seeded second in Madrid this year, Osaka will start her campaign against either a qualifier or lucky loser.

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Andy Murray Surging In Confidence After Reaching First ATP Quarter-Final Since 2019

The 34-year-old believes he is getting better with every match played on the Tour as he eyes a spot in the final later this week.

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Andy Murray (image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES)

Former world No.1 Andy Murray says he is starting to gain more belief in his game after reaching the quarter-finals of the Moselle Open on Wednesday.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion rallied to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the French city. Murray dropped serve only once at the start of the second set but broke his opponent four times en route to the victory. It is the first time he has registered back-to-back wins on the ATP Tour since Wimbledon and it is the first time he has reached a quarter-final since winning the 2019 Antwerp Open.

Murray showed glimmers of his best tennis recently at the US Open where he took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the first round before losing. However, in his following tournament on the Challenger circuit he lost in the second round to world No.154 Roman Safiullin. Despite the mixed performances, the Brit says his fitness continues to improve and he believes he is heading in the right direction.

“For me, this period of the last few years has been the most I have played really,” Murray said following his win over Pospisil.
“My body feels good and I am starting to gain just a little bit of confidence with each match, starting to see the points and how I want to play them, which is great.
“There have been times in the past year where I have been a little bit confused and not seeing how the points are developing which was always a strong part of my game.
“It made me feel quite uncomfortable on court when I was feeling that way, so I am starting to get that back and the results are coming, my tennis is getting better.”

The 34-year-old, who now plays on the Tour with a metal hip after undergoing two operations, is targeting a return back into the world’s top 100 for the first time since 2018. He came agonisingly close in July when he reached 102. At present, he is currently ranked 113 but will climb at least four places following his run in Metz this week.

In the next round Murray will play either top seed Hubert Hurkacz or former top 10 player Lucas Pouille. Both players are likely to be a stern challenge for the three-time Grand Slam champion who is hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2007.

“I would love to get another opportunity to play here in the final, but there is a lot of tennis to be played before then potentially against the number one seed in the next round,” he reflected.
“It is not going to be easy if I want to reach the final, but I am playing well and have an opportunity.”

Murray has won 42 ATP titles and has earned more than $62M in prize money so far in his career.

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Pablo Carreno Busta beats Mikael Ymer in Metz

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Second seed Pablo Carreno Busta beat Mikael Ymer 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 52 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the Moselle Open

 

Carreno Busta set up a quarter final match against Danish Next Gen Holger Rune, who battled past Lorenzo Sonego 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 after 2 hours and 40 minutes. 

Lucas Pouille rallied from one set down to beat Brayden Schnur 3-6 6-4 6-4 in 1 hour and 59 minutes. 

Peter Gojowczyk battle past lucky loser Antoine Hoang 6-2 3-6 6-4. Gojowczyk also beat Hoang in three sets in the final round of qualifying. 

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John Millman beats Jaume Munar in three sets in Nur Sultan

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John Millman battled past Jame Munar 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 after 3 hours and 9 minutes to advance to the quarter finals in Nur Sultan. 

 

“These long matches are not good in my age, I tell you !. It was such a physical battle out there. It was such a physical battle out there. I thought the level was extremely good. I thought I improved from yesterday in terms of how I was playing: Munari s a tough competitor. His body probably let him down a little bit towards the end. I have got to tell you, my body wasn’t feeling all that great, either. It was such a physical match and just so happy to extend my stay here”, said Millman.

Laslo Djere overcame Lorenzo Musetti 6-4 6-7 (3-7) after 2 hours and 48 minutes. Djere will face either Dusan Lajovic or Soonwoo Kwon. Ilya Ivashka beat wildcard Timofey Skatov 6-2 6-3. Carlos Taberner knocked out Ricardas Berankis 7-5 6-4. 

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