Making Adjustments To Her Game, Victoria Azarenka Storms Into Indian Wells Semis - UBITENNIS
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Making Adjustments To Her Game, Victoria Azarenka Storms Into Indian Wells Semis

At the age of 32, Azarenka believes there is still room for improvement as she closes in on her first title of the season.

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Victoria Azarenka (image via https://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Victoria Azarenka is closing in on her first Indian Wells title since 2016 after defeating Jessica Pegula in straight sets to reach the last four of the tournament.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion secured a 6-4, 6-2, win over the world No.24 and is still yet to drop a set in the tournament. In her latest match Azarenka won 81% of her first service points and broke her opponent five times. It is the third time this year she has reached the semi-final stage of a Tour event but the first time she has done so since June.

“I thought it was a really good match. Very high quality from both players,” said Azarenka. “Very consistent in terms of level for me. I felt that I really played well in the crucial moments. I felt like I stepped up a lot to the occasion. That’s what I’m really happy with.”

Seeded 27th in the draw, Azarenka’s triumph follows her wins over Petra Kvitova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich earlier in the week. She has now won 32 matches at Indian Wells in her career which is the joint-third highest tally among female players along with Caroline Wozniacki. Only Maria Sharapova (38) and Lindsay Davenport (47) have won more.

Despite her history of success in the Californian desert, Azarenka believes her latest win this year has been aided by a change in her tactics. Earlier this week she told reporters that she wanted to be more aggressive during matches.

“I think the court coverage and taking maybe less shots to win the point, that’s something that is important for me to improve,” Azarenka explains. “I think on the baseline, counterattacking, having high intensity, that’s something that worked really well for me. It doesn’t necessarily work all the time. It’s more demanding.’
“I’m looking for things that I can implement that will make it a bit easier for me. I’m also not in the beginning of my career to grind every match. It’s not necessarily tougher physically, but from one match to another it adds up. I’m looking how I can be more efficient as a player.”

Seeking a place in Sunday’s final, the Belarussian will take on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the next round who is on a resurgence herself. The Latvian recently reached the final of the Luxembourg Open and defeated second seed Iga Switek in Indian Wells. Ostapenko dismissed Shelby Rogers 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in her quarter-final match.

“She’s a great player. She’s such a champion, a great fighter I think. Both of us are great fighters. It’s going to be an interesting match,” Ostapenko said of facing Azarenka.
“I just have to play my game. I’m more focused on my game. Of course, she’s very consistent. It’s going to be hard. But if I play my game and choose the right shots, I will be consistent, I think it will be a very interesting match.”

Azarenka is the lowest ranked player left in this year’s draw but she is the only one to have previously won the title.

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

Tomas Martin Etchevery edged past 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-7 (0-7) 6-4  scoring the biggest win of his career. 

Arthur Rinderknech came back from one set down to beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Rinderknech set up a second round against third seed Diego Schwartzman. 

Emil Ruusuvuori broke serve five times in his 6-3 6-2 win over J.J Wolf. 

Sebastian Korda beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 6-4 6-4 setting up a second round match against Maxime Cressy. Novak Djokovic is the top seed of the Tel Aviv tournament, which returns for the first time since 2021.

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Holger Rune reaches the second round at the Sofia Open

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Danish Next Gen rising star Holger Rune edged past Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round at the Sofia Open in his first appearance at this tournament. 

 

Both players went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Rune earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks in the first two games. There was little to separate both players in the next games, which went on serve en route to the tie-break. Rune saved a set point at 5-6 in the tie-break of the second set and won the final three points to close out the second set 8-6. 

Rune won his first title in Munich and reached his maiden Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros. 

 “I did not want to go to three sets. I had the break and led 5-2 in the second set tie-break. If it had happened, I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I am very happy to win in two. I am really working hard every day and trying to improve any small things I can. I think today I stayed very focused all the time. I lost my focus one time on serve, when maybe I should not have been broken, but other than that I am very happy with my first match. The first match is always a  bit difficult”, said Rune. 

Australia’s Alexander Vukic beat Fabio Fognini 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 after 1 hour and 11 minutes. Vukic broke serve in the fifth game to take a 4-2 lead. Fognini converted his fourth break-back point to draw level to 4-4 before saving a break point at 5-5. Fognini went up a 6-3 lead, but he wasted six set points in the tie-break. Vukic closed out the tie-break 13-11 on his third set point. 

Fognini earned a break to take a 2-1 lead. Vukic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 in the fourth game. Fognini lost four consecutive points from 4-5 30-0. Vukic earned the decisive break on his first match point to seal the second set 7-5. 

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