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.
In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title
Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.
Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012.
“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw.
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”
Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week.
“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.
There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open.
Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20.
Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury.
Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open.
“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.
“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”
Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them.
“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”
This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16.
“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.”
Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients.
“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.
This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open.
Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion
Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.
Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.
However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.
Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.
This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.
Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.
Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:
Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion
Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet
Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko
Qatar: R1 l. Garcia
Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek
Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur
Rome: R2 l. Collins
Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng
Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia
Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu
Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina
Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya
Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew
US Open: R1 l. Snigur
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