Tennis Stars Past And Present Dominate Laureus Sports Awards - UBITENNIS
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Tennis Stars Past And Present Dominate Laureus Sports Awards

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have come out on top as Billie Jean King receives her own special honour.

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Naomi Osaka pictured with her 2021 Laureus Sports Award (image via https://twitter.com/usopen)

The annual Laureus World Sports Awards have been a big success for the world of tennis with stars of the sport winning three separate awards.

 

World No.2 Naomi Osaka has become the first Japanese player in history to win the Sportswoman of The Year award. The 23-year-old won her third Grand Slam title at the US Open last year before going on to also triumph at the Australian Open in February. She was at one stage in a 23-match winning streak before losing to Maria Sakkari at the Miami Open earlier this year.

It was during the US Open where Osaka received widespread praise for her social activism. Prior to every match played she won a mask branding the name of somebody who has been the victim of police brutality. Her actions coincided with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’ve watched so many of my role models win this Award, so it definitely means a lot now to be holding it,” said Osaka. “I am so happy to receive it. It really means a lot to me.
“I think it is important to use my voice, because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it.
“Looking ahead my main hopes for the future would be just to have helped or impacted as many people as I could and, hopefully be a better person.”

Osaka is only the fourth tennis player to have won the award after Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin.

20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal took home the Sportsman of The Year award for the second time in his career after 2011. Last season the Spaniard won a record 13th French Open title with a comprehensive win over Novak Djokovic in the final. He has won more ATP titles on the clay than anybody else in the history of men’s tennis.

Nadal’s triumph saw him fight off strong competition from the likes of Lebron James, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Lewandowski. It is the fourth time he has won a Laureus Award.

I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to the Laureus Academy. I have had some amazing competitors,” Nadal said. “The rest of the sportsmen probably deserve the trophy the same as me, but this was the year for me and I can’t be happier.
“Winning the French Open and equalling the 20th Grand Slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment. It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It’s something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court.
“The pandemic that we are facing is something unprecedented and I want to send a message of support to all the families that have suffered or lost somebody.”

Finally, tennis icon Billie Jean King has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The American won 129 singles titles with 12 of them being in the majors during her career. She also won a further 16 grand slam titles in the women’s doubles and 11 in the mixed doubles.

King is also known for her involvement in the evolution of women’s tennis with her campaigning for equal prize money. She also founded the WTA Tour and the Fed Cup has been renamed in her honour.

The Laureus World Sports Academy, who are described as a ‘unique group of sporting legends,’ decide on who wins the awards. Boris Becker, Li Na, Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova are all members of the academy.

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Daniil Medvedev Searching For Confidence Boost Ahead Of Wimbledon

The two-time Grand Slam finalist says he is not the same player as he was two years ago when he last played Wimbledon.

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When it comes to playing on the grass this year Daniil Medvedev admits that the biggest issue for him might concern the mental side of the sport as opposed to the physical side.

 

The world No.2 kicked-off his grass swing last week in Halle where he was stunned in the first round by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the Tour in 2020, that was the first time the Russian had played a match on the surface in almost two years. Short on matches, Medvedev is back in action this week in Mallorca after taking a wildcard into the tournament.

“I like to play on grass, I just need to get some confidence in my game on the surface, because we didn’t play [on it] for two years. Two years ago, I was not the same player as I am right now,” Medvedev told atptour.com. “It is tough for me to say where I see myself, but I know I can play very good on this surface. I just need to find the right balance.”

Since he last played at Wimbledon, Medvedev surged on the ATP Tour by winning six titles with all of them being on a hardcourt. Furthermore, he also reached the final of the US Open in 2019 and the Australian Open this year. He is the first player outside of the Big Four to be ranked in the world’s top two since July 2005.

Despite his previous success on the grass, Medvedev admits he remains wary about playing on the surface and the conditions he may face.

“When I started playing on grass, I played in Challengers and even in [ATP] Tour tournaments on the outside courts, not on the central courts, and I can tell that the central courts are quite slow,” he said. “Especially the match I played with Gilles Simon at Queen’s [Club], we had rallies of 40 shots every second point. That is what makes it a little bit tougher.
“When I practise on practice courts, I feel like I am playing so good as the ball is so fast. Then I come onto the centre court to play the match, and the ball just stops after the bounce, and you have to adapt your game, so it can be tough. But I know I can play really well on grass.”

In Mallorca Medvedev has a bye in the first round. His opening match will be against either South Africa’s Lloyd Harris or France’s Corentin Moutet.

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Samsonova Battles Past Bencic To Win Maiden Title In Berlin, Gets Wimbledon Wild Card

The Russian qualifier has stunned the tournament with a run that also seen her defeat Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

Liudmila Samsonova is the 2021 Bett1 Open champion after pulling off another upset by beating number five seed Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a capacity crowd on Steffi Graff Stadion under hot and humid conditions.

 

The 22-year-old underdog caps off what has been a fairytale run in Germany for the qualifier. Prior to the tournament Samsonova had never beaten a top 20 player in her career or reached a Tour final. Against Bencic she hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors and won 66% of her service points.

” I was so nervous today even before the match and during the first set so after the first set I took a toilet break and told myself to play a more aggressive game and it worked,” Samsonova said following her triumph.

It was world No.12 Bencic who got off to a fast start by holding serve comfortably and than the following game setting up the first break chance with a return forehand winner before the Russian would double fault twice in a row to give the early break. At 3-0 the Swiss found herself again at double breakpoint and managed to seal the it en route to taking the first set in just 28 minutes.

However, the second set was the total opposite with underdog Samsonova holding serve and breaking the very next game with a powerful forehand winner. Like Bencic in the first set, she turned her lead into a double break and served out the second set.

The Russian carried the momentum into the third and deciding set earning a chance to break in the first game and the world No.12 would double fault to give the break. At 4-2 the world No.106 had a chance to go up a double break but Bencic managed to save it and hold serve before going on the offensive. The Swiss had two chances of her own to go back on serve but the Russian saved all three breakpoints she faced.

At 5-3 the Samsonova had two chances to seal the match and the title on her opponents serve. Bencic saved the first one but the world number 106 would seal the win on the second.

In her post match press conference Samsonova explained how once she levelled the match was able to close it out.

” I was trying to keep my game going and try to be aggressive on my first shot and my serve and on the return and that is what I was focusing on”.

The young Russian now has her sights sets on Wimbledon as she awarded a main draw wild card after the match.

“They just told me that I’m going to have the wildcard for the main draw, so I’m so happy,” she said.

Samsonova is the 10th first-time WTA champion this season.

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Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka To Team Up For Olympic Bid

The two players say their main focus is on playing singles but a ‘great opportunity’ has presented itself.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

The two highest ranked WTA players from Belarus are being considered as strong contenders to win an Olympic medal later this year after they recently confirmed plans to join forces.

 

Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are set to play in the women’s doubles tournament despite only playing together five times before on the WTA Tour. The duo has illustrated their potential at the Bett1 Open in Berlin, where they clinched the title on Sunday. In the final the pair upset top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, to claim their first ever trophy together.

We both brought a different level, mindset than a few years ago. It was important to play together to feel each other’s game, see what we can try, apply what works, what we can work on. Our priority is singles but it’s a great opportunity at the Olympics to team up,” WTA Insider quoted Azarenka as saying following the final on Sunday.

Whilst they are both best known for their singles game, they have also had previous success in the doubles. Sabalenka won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open alongside Elise Mertens, as well as three Premier titles.

“We’ll play at the Olympics. To win a title, it gives us a lot of confidence and we feel each other better and players will know that we are playing good with each other and it’s more confidence for us and more pressure for other players,” the world No.4 commented.

Azarenka has already enjoyed success at the Olympics in her career. In 2012 she defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in straight sets to win a bronze medal. During the same year she won gold in the mixed doubles alongside Max Mirnyi. Making her the only Belarusian tennis player in history to have won multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park and will get underway on July 24th.

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