Maria Sakkari Opens Up About Personal Struggles After Record-Breaking US Open Win - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari Opens Up About Personal Struggles After Record-Breaking US Open Win

After coming through a marathon encounter, the world No.18 revealed that the past few weeks have been far from easy for her.

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Maria Sakkari celebrates her win during a Women's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Monday, Sep. 6, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari says she has been struggling with her own identity in recent times and had ended up in tears during her practice sessions after reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open.

 

The world No.18 outlasted Bianca Andresscu 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in what was a three-and-a-half-hour blockbuster. Sakkari finally crossed the finish line at 2:15 am to make the match the latest women’s match to ever finish in US Open history. In the decider, she battled back from a 0-2 deficit by breaking Andreescu in three of her next four service games. During the clash, Sakkari hit eight aces and 46 winners.

“It was an incredible match. I didn’t have control of the match until the middle of the second set. I felt like she was better than me, but then somehow I digged in and found a way to just turn things around,” Sakkari told reporters afterwards.
“I was more brave after a certain point of the match, then got my energy level a little bit higher.”

It is only the second time Sakkari has reached the last eight of a Grand Slam after the French Open. Prior to Andreescu, she also scored wins over Petra Kvitova, Kateřina Siniaková and Marta Kostyuk.

Reaching the quarter-finals in New York has been far from easy for the 26-year-old who admits in recent weeks she has been struggling on the Tour. Following her loss to Angelique Kerber at the Western and Southern Open less than a month ago, Sakkari said she, ‘lost her identity‘ on the court, but managed to regain it with the help of her coaches and psychologist.

After my loss with Angie, I just practiced for two weeks. I had some very tough practices where I was crying because I could not feel my shots, I could not feel my tennis. But thankfully I had Tom and Yannis, my hitting partner, that supported me a lot,” she said.
“I lost my identity. That’s how I called it. I lost myself, part of myself. With my psychologist, as well, I found a way to come back and feel again what I felt out there today.”

Sakkari praises her team for helping her to become ‘more brave’ during matches where she isn’t afraid to go for her shots on the big points. Something she believes she lost after her run to the French Open semi-finals earlier this year.

“By telling myself to be more brave, it’s not like, Maria, now be brave, and you’re brave. It’s just a process in practice and everything that has helped me to be more brave,” she said.

Awaiting Sakkari in the next round will be Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova who defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4, in her fourth round match. They are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head but are yet to lock horns on a hardcourt. In one of their previous matches at the Italian Open, Pliskova made headlines for smashing her racket against the umpire’s chair out of frustration.

“We practiced before the tournament started. She’s a very funny girl. We have a great relationship even though some people think that after what happened (in Rome) we don’t. Actually we do,” she commented.
“She has played the final here. She has more experience than me. But I’m just going to stick to what I’m doing best, try to return as good as I can, because that’s I think the most important thing against Karolina. Just keep fighting, that’s it. That can take you far.”

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Jasmine Paolini lifts her first WTA title in Portoroz

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Jasmine Paolini claimed the first WTA Tour title of her career in Portoroz. The Italian player came back from two breaks down in the opening set to beat Alison Riske 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in the final after 1 hour and 45 minutes.

 

“I think it’s been an amazing week here in Portoroz. I just feel very happy. It’s a big achievement for me, to win my first title. On hardcourts, it’s special. I think I was maybe a bit relaxed. I understood more about the game. I tried to change the rhythm of the game with higher balls, and I think that was the key”, said Paolini. 

Paolini beat Dayana Yastremska in the first round, Sorana Cristea in the quarter final, and Yulia Putintseva. The 25-year-old Italian player beat three top 50 players in a row in her final three matches this week. 

After a trade of breaks in the opening two games, Riske went up a double break to take a 5-2 lead. Paolini pulled one break back in the eight game from 3-5. The Italian broke at love in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5, as Riske was serving for the set. Riske rallied from 2-5 to 4-5 in the tie-break. 

Paolini earned two set points at 6-4 and converted her first set point when Riske sent an overhead long. Paolini broke serve in the fifth game with a forehand winner down the line to take a 3-2 lead. Paolini won the final five games and sealed the second set 6-2 with an error-forcing forehand.

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Clare Tauson claims her second WTA Tour title at the age of 18

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World number 70 Clare Tauson has won the second WTA Tour title of her career at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open this season beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 4-6 6-4 in the final after 2 hours and 3 minutes. 

 

Tauson enjoyed a great week in which she up number 4 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-1) in the second round and this year’s Olympic finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the semifinals. Tauson won her first title as a qualifer in another indoor tournament in Lyon last March in just her second Tour-level tournament. Tauson also won the WTA 125 trophy in Chicago last August beating Emma Raducanu, who went on to win the US Open last week. 

Tauson is one of the four players born in 2002 ranked in the the tpè 100 alongside Raducanu, the other US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and Marta Kostyuk. 

The Danish teenager is the seventh player to claim more trophies, joining Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty, Barbora Krejikova, Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Danielle Collins and Daria Kasakina. 

Ostapenko won the Luxembourg tournament on her debut at this tournament in 2019 and had been undefeated before today’s tournament. 

Tauson has become the fourth player to successfully defend the Luxembourg title after Jana Novotna, Martina Navratilova and Kim Cljisters. 

Ostapenko hit a smash to break Tauson to take a 6-3 lead. The Latvian player earned an early break to take a 2-1 lead. Tauson broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ostapenko fired return winners to take a 2-1 lead with a break. Tauson broke back with two straight return winners. Tauson fended off two break points to hold serve after a marathon five-deuce for 3-2. Ostapenko was broken after a fourth double fault, when she was serving to stay in the match at 4-5. 

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