Leylah Fernandez Receives Advice From Sharapova Ahead Of Indian Wells - UBITENNIS
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Leylah Fernandez Receives Advice From Sharapova Ahead Of Indian Wells

The US Open finalist says she ‘can’t wait’ to be back on the Tour again.

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Leylah Fernandez reacts during the Women's Singles championship match at the 2021 US Open, Saturday, Sep. 11, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

A recent invitation to the Met Gala in New York was an eye opening experience for Canada’s Leylah Fernandez for many reasons.

 

The exclusive event is one of the most prestigious in the world which is said to raise millions. Some of the world’s biggest celebrities congregate in New York for the event which this year was co-chaired by Naomi Osaka. Fernandez received her invite shortly after reaching her first ever Grand Slam final at the US Open before losing in straight sets to Emma Raducanu. Besides being up close to an array of celebraties, the Canadian also unexpectedly received some valuable advice from a former tennis star.

It was at the Met Gala where Fernandez said she spoke with five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova who retired from the Tour in 2020. During her pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Tuesday, Fernandez said the former world No.1 gave her some ‘good advice’ but is reluctant to publicly share what was said.

“She gave me some pretty good advice,” she said. “I don’t want to disclose any of it because it’s very personal for me.
“She’s an amazing person. She told me her own experience and the way that she was able to bounce back and she’s just a great person, great inspiration to kind of look up to.”

The 19-year-old is currently at a ranking high of 28th in the world following her stunning run at Flushing Meadows where she scored three wins over top 10 players. Earlier this season she also won her maiden WTA title Monterrey Open in Mexico.

Now dubbed as the latest tennis sensation to emerge from Canada, which has turned into a tennis powerhouse in recent years, Fernandez’s attention switches to Indian Wells this week. She will be making her debut in the event and is seeded 23rd in the draw.

“I’m very lucky to have a great team around me to just let me focus on my craft, on my tennis, and not be overwhelmed with everything that’s going right now,” Fernandez commented on dealing with her surge in popularity.
“Honestly I just can’t wait to be back on the tennis court competing again.”

Granted a bye in the first round, Fernandez will open up her Indian Wells campaign against either experienced French player Alize Cornet or Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse. Then should everything go according to the draw, she is set to take on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the following round who reached the final of the French Open this year.

Nevertheless, Fernandez says her approach to the tournament will be no different to any other.

“Just going to be the same old Leylah, and have fun out there,” she concludes.

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Novak Djokovic Undecided Over Playing Australian Open, Slams Speculation Over His Vaccination Status

The tennis star says he is ‘irritated’ by some players’ passive attitude to the potential conditions related to the next Grand Slam and has accused the media of spreading fear related to the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Novak Djokovic during a Men's Singles championship match at the 2021 US Open, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Andrew Ong/USTA)

World No.1 Novak Djokovic says he has concerns over potential rules which may be implemented on players travelling to the Australian Open next year and is not ruling out the possibility of not attending the Grand Slam altogether. 

 

Djokovic, who has won the Melbourne major more times than any other male player in history, has accused some of his peers of not being interested enough in the topic and just accepting any conditions which may be implemented. In an interview with Blic newspaper, the Serbian said he is ‘irritated’ with what he brands as disinterest among players and believes there needs to be more unity on the Tour. 

“I am following the situation around Australia and as far as I understand, the final decision of the Government of Australia and Tennis Australia will be in two weeks, so it is the first or second week of November,” said Djokovic.

“I do not believe that the conditions will change much in relation to what we already know. As was the case this year, there will be plenty of restrictions. What I heard from my manager who is in direct contact with people from the Federation of Australia is that they are trying to improve conditions for everyone. Both for those who have been vaccinated and for those who have not been.”

One of the most worrying issues for the 20-time Grand Slam champion is the prospect of having to be isolated upon arrival in Australia if somebody on his flight tests positive for COVID-19. At this year’s Australian Open dozens of players have to spend 14 days in quarantine after coming in contact with a positive case. Should such rules be implemented again next year, he faces a dilemma of whether to risk going or not. 

“Put a professional athlete in that kind of quarantine so he can’t get out of the room, and then expect him to play on some level, really … Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me at this year’s Australian Open. If such conditions remain, I think that many players will think very well whether they will go or not.” Djokovic commented. 

Frustration over vaccination obsession 

Novak Djokovic at the 2021 US Open (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

One of the most uncertain aspects relates to the fate of unvaccinated players wanting to play at the tournament. Recently the Victorian government issued a health mandate requiring essential workers, including athletes, to be vaccinated. Sports minister Martin Pakula recently told the Sports Entertainment Network that he is unsure if unvaccinated players will even be allowed in the country. That decision will be made by the national government who will likely implement extra restrictions on those players should they get the green light. 

Djokovic, who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020, has previously said he disagreed with the concept of being forced to have a vaccination but has dismissed suggestions that he is an anti-vaxxer. Pressed by Blic about his current vaccination status, he refused to reveal it and instead hit out at the media for their obsession with it.

“Considering all that, I still do not know whether I will play in Melbourne,” he said. “There is excessive speculation, from the media as well, which bothers me a lot. I have not spoken too much (on vaccination) because everyone was making assumptions based on something I have said a year ago,” he argues.

“Not only in sports, but in the world in general, I am disappointed with the discord being made between the vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If we discriminate against someone because a person wants to make a decision for themselves, whether they want to get vaccinated or not, I think that is horrible… Media is putting pressure on a lot of people. At this moment, there are too many things that are not clear, too much information that is not valid, and then they turn out to be valid, then they are not again. Everything is changing.”

The 34-year-old has also accused the media of ‘spreading fear and panic’ and he does not want to be part of the ‘storm.’ Branding their attitude to the subject as ‘unfriendly.’  

“I have my own stance,” he said. “I won’t disclose whether I am vaccinated or not. It is a private matter, I think it is inappropriate to ask a person that. Too many people allow themselves the freedom to ask and then to judge. Whatever you say – I have, I have not, maybe, I do not know or I am thinking about it – they will use it against you.

“I think the media is spreading fear and panic and I do not want to take part in driving people against each other. I feel that the general media attitude is unfriendly so I do not want to give anyone the reason to write about me. Your editors can take what I have just said and turn it into a scandal. I do not want to be a part of that storm.”

Whilst Djokovic’s Australian Open presence is in doubt, there is clarity concerning his plans for the rest of this year. After taking a break following his loss in the final of the US Open to Daniil Medvedev, he is set to return to competition at the Paris Masters which will start on November 1st. He will also play the ATP Finals in Turin followed by the Davis Cup. 

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Lost Shoes Fails To Stop Cameron Norrie From Becoming First Brit To Win Indian Wells

Heading into the biggest final of his career, the Brit and his team launched a search party to find the missing pairs of shoes.

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Image via https://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN

Cameron Norrie has capped off his breakthrough run at the BNP Paribas Open by fighting back from a set down to win his first Masters 1000 title at the age of 26.

 

Norrie, who had never won a main draw match at the tournament until this year, beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, to become the first ever player from Britain to win the tournament. Going one step further than Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski who have all settled for runner-up in the past. In the final Norrie broke his opponent five times and hit 10 winners past him. It is the second time this year he has beaten Basilashvili on the Tour following their meeting in Rotterdam.

“What an incredible week I’ve had here,” said Norrie. “It was just a strange match. It was over quite quickly, and then the last kind of set I was expecting it to be longer. He made a couple errors towards the end.’
“I still don’t really know what I’m experiencing. It was an amazing couple weeks and I’m so happy with how I treated all the occasions, all the big moments, all the matches. I’m so happy, so pleased to win my biggest title.”

The triumph occurs during what has been a breakthrough season for the 26-year-old who is a former No.1 American collegiate player. Indian Wells was his sixth Tour final of 2021 and he has now won 47 matches. The only other player to reach six finals this year on the men’s Tour is Novak Djokovic.

Heading into the title match in Indian Wells, Norrie encountered a peculiar setback to his preparations after three pairs of his shoes went missing. Something which also happened to compatriot Andy Murray during the tournament.

“Every day I left my shoes on top of the locker. I think someone, I don’t know who it was, maybe someone from the cleaners or something last night, came through and they threw the three pairs of shoes that I had away,” he said.
“I looked all day. I had everyone looking. I don’t know what the people have against the Brits with stealing the shoes, but I didn’t manage to get them back.
“Yeah, it was just difficult. Luckily, I didn’t have a wedding ring attached [unlike Murray],” he added.

Norrie admitted the incident did partly distract him during what was the biggest final of his career because the new shoes ‘felt a bit heavy.’

“A couple times I was just thinking about it, probably not the best thing. You don’t want to be thinking about your shoes. At one point I said, All right, these are the shoes I got, I’m just going to focus on what I can control right now. I wore them in a little bit, and it came good in the end.”

Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Norrie is now in with a shot of qualifying for the year-end ATP Finals in Turin. He has moved to tenth in the race with 2830 points. Although one of those players ahead of him, Rafael Nadal, will not be playing in the event due to injury. This time last year Norrie was ranked outside the top 50.

“I’m playing Vienna, Paris, and Stockholm, the last three events indoors. It would be nice to make it (to the ATP Finals), but I’m going to keep going, keep taking care of what I can and handling what I can. We’ll see how it goes,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the indoor season. I really like the courts. I’ve never really made a deep run in one of those tournaments, but I always play well. I always lose tight matches. Hopefully those can swing in my favor this year.”

Norrie has made his top 20 debut this week and is currently ranked 15th in the world.

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‘Nothing Is Impossible’ – Paula Badosa Eyes WTA Finals Spot After Clinching Indian Wells Title

The former teenage tennis prodigy aims to end her season on a high after a fairytale run in the Californian desert.

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Paula Badosa - image via https://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN

Spain’s Paula Badosa outlasted Victoria Azarenka in a marathon encounter to win the biggest title of her career to date at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

 

The world No.13 battled on the court for more than three hours before prevailing 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2), over the two-time champion. Throughout the rollercoaster final Badosa had to battle back against Azarenka, who at one stage served for the match during the third set. Overall, she saved 10 out of 17 break points faced and won 52% of her service points. Badosa closed out the match by winning five out of the nine points played with outright winners in the final tiebreaker.

“It was a really tough match. I think it was a really good one, as well, because she played at an amazing level. I think I had to rise high level every set. In the final third set I think I played my best. It was the only option if I wanted to win, so I’m really proud of it,” said the new champion.
“It was like a roller coaster mentally, emotionally. It was my first final in a 1000. I had a lot of emotions,” she added.

Badosa has become the first Spanish woman in history to win the Indian Wells title and only the second in history to ever contest a final after Conchita Martinez. Her run to the trophy saw her impressively defeat four top 20 players en route, as well as Azarenka. Earlier in the tournament she defeated Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejčíková, Angelique Kerber and Ons Jabeur.

“The first thing that I’ve learned this week is that nothing is impossible. If you fight, if you work, after all these years, you can achieve anything,” she said.
“Sometimes you have tough moments. In my case I have been through tough moments. I never stopped dreaming. That’s what kept me working hard and believing until the last moment.”

The 23-year-old was widely tipped to be a star of the women’s game at a young age after lifting the French Open girls’ title back in 2015. However, that expectation weighed heavily on her shoulders with transitioning to the pro Tour proving to be a stern challenge. It wasn’t until four years after winning the junior Grand Slam title that she cracked the top 100. Since then, she has been rapidly rising on the Tour.

Badosa is not the first and probably won’t be the last teenage prodigy to be bombarded with high expectations from a young age. Asked to offer advice to others in a similar situation, she stressed the importance of having a support team.

“People think that when you’re a good junior, next year you have to be a top-20 player or top-10 player. You have a lot of expectations. People wait a lot of you, put a lot of pressure on you,” she commented.
“I think the key is to have a good team and to work day by day, to not listen a lot, and to make it simple. Sometimes we complicate things.”

Now with the Indian Wells title under her belt, Badosa has a serious shot of being able to qualify for next month’s WTA Finals in Mexico which will only feature the eight highest-ranked players in the race. She is currently eighth in the race.

“I wasn’t even thinking about that at the beginning of the week,” Badosa said of the season-ending event.
“I think I started thinking about that when I was maybe in the quarterfinals or something like that. I didn’t want to see it, but I start thinking about it. At the beginning it was impossible for me to think about that. When I saw the draw, it was a really tough one. It was tough for me to think I could win this tournament.”

Indian Wells is only the second WTA title Badosa has won in her career after the Serbian Open back in May. She will rise to a ranking high of 13th on Monday.

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