Aryna Sabalenka Leads Title Contenders’ Surge At Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Leads Title Contenders’ Surge At Wimbledon

Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Karolina Pliskova Madison Keys advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon 2021.

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Aryna Sabalenka (@Wimbledon on Twitter)

The first real title contenders usually emerge around day five of Wimbledon. This is because it is the earliest moment when it is possible for players to seal a coveted second week spot.

 

Sabalenka Seals Rybakina Clash

Contender number one is Aryna Sabalenka. The big-hitting Belarussian survived a tricky encounter with Great Britain’s Katie Boulter in round two, but she had a much more comfortable time in round three as she dispatched qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0 6-3.

The Colombian teenager performed superbly in the opening two rounds to reach her first-ever Grand Slam third round. However, she struggled with a thigh injury throughout her match with Sabalenka and she was never able to offer a serious challenge to the number two seed.

Next up for the Belarussian will be Elena Rybakina. The Kazakstani booked her place in the last 16 with an impressive 6-1 6-4 win over Shelby Rogers, the American who knocked out French Open semi-finalist Maria Sakkari in round two.

Rybakina could prove to be a very difficult opponent for Sabalenka. Therefore the match will provide a true test of her title credentials.

Swiatek Earns Jabeur Meeting

The second contender is Iga Swiatek. The 2020 French Open champion has proved to be a quick learner on grass. She is yet to drop a set at Wimbledon this year. And even though today was just her 11th professional match on the surface, she destroyed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 6-0 in just 55 minutes.

The Pole’s reward is a devilishly tricky-looking meeting with Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian possesses a huge repertoire of shots, which makes her a very difficult opponent for anyone when she performs well.

To make matters worse for Swiatek, Jabeur just produced one of the best displays of her entire career to knock out 2017 champion and Garbine Muguruza.

The 11th seed was not at her best, but she did not play badly by any means. Her Tunisian opponent was just brilliant on the day, as her 44 winners to 27 unforced errors ratio suggests.

She had to work hard for her victory though – particularly on the Spaniard’s serve. Muguruza saved a remarkable 24 break points during the match.

Pliskova Reaches Round Four Again, Plays Samsonova Next

Title contender number three is Karolina Pliskova. The Czech has always had sufficient talent to win a Grand Slam, but she has never produced her best when she has needed it most.

The 8th seed has had a particularly torrid time at Wimbledon. She has never made it past the fourth round. However, she will have another chance to break her quarter-final duck after she notched up a relatively straightforward 6-3 6-3 triumph over compatriot Tereza Martincova in round three.

Ludmilla Samsonova stands in her way in the last 16. The Russian was ranked outside the top 100 less than a month ago, but she has enjoyed a meteoric rise courtesy of her first WTA title in Berlin and her progress so far at SW19.

During her current 10-match winning streak, Samsonova has beaten Marketa Vondrousova, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Belinda Bencic and Jessica Pegula. Today, she added Sloane Stephens to that list after battling to beat the American 6-2 2-6 6-4. She could prove to be a very dangerous opponent for Pliskova.

Keys Marches On

The fourth contender to emerge from the bottom half of the draw is Madison Keys. The American loves the grass and has won two of her five WTA titles on the surface. However, this has somehow never translated to success at Wimbledon, where she has never gone further than the last eight.

Things look promising for the 23rd seed this time around though. She has won all three of her matches so far in straight sets and has rarely looked troubled. And the American was understandably pleased with her 7-5 6-3 victory over 13th seed Elise Mertens today.

“I am absolutely beyond happy,” Keys said in her on-court interview. “I think I just played a really great match. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve ever won on this court, so that’s a bonus.”

Viktorija Golubic awaits the American in round four. The Swiss is currently enjoying arguably the best year of her career so far, and she dismissed Madison Brengle 6-2 6-1 in impressive style to reach the last 16. Despite this, it is hard to imagine her beating Keys unless the 23rd seed has a bad day.

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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