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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Iga Swiatek avenges her Wimbledon defeat against Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter final in Dubai

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World number 1 Iga Swiatek beat two-time former world champion Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 24 minutes in the third round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Swiatek has extended her winning streak to six straight victories in the Middle East after claiming the Doha title last year. 

 

Swiatek won seven consecutive games from 1-1 in the first set. The Polish player won a tighter second set that featured five consecutive breaks to reach the quarter finals in Dubai for the second consecutive year. 

Swiatek earned leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the second set before breaking serve to take a 5-4 lead. She served out the win after saving a break point for 5-5.

Swiatek avenged her defeat to Svitolina, who beat her Polish opponent in three sets in the quarter finals at Wimbledon last year. Svitolina has returned from a back injury she sustained at last January’s Australian Open. 

Swiatek now leads 2-1 in her three head-to-head matches against Svitolina. The four-time Grand Slam champion has won 25 of her last 26 matches dating back to a fourth-round defeat to Jelena Ostapenko. She has extended her winning streak to 13 matches against top-20 players.

Swiatek will face either Zheng Qinwen or Anastasia Potapova in the quarter final. 

Swiatek finished runner-up in the final in Dubai last year. 

“I really wanted to improve my focus compared to yesterday. I am happy I did not lose my focus and I remembered what I have to do and it worked. I was a little bit calmer than I was yesterday”, said Swiatek. 

Coco Gauff came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 2-6 6-4 6-3 reaching her second consecutive quarter final in Dubai. Gauff stopped Pliskova’s 11 match winning streak. The Czech player claimed her first title since 2020 at Cluj Napoca and reached the semifinal in Doha before withdrawing ahead of her scheduled semifinal match against Swiatek due to injury. 

Gauff has won 23 of her last 24 matches players ranked outside of the top 20. The US player has reached the quarter finals or better in three of her last four appearances in Dubai, where she advanced to the semifinal last year. The young US player has reached her third quarter final in 2024 after winnin her second title in Auckland and reaching her first Australian Open semifinal. 

Gauff saved two break points in the first game of the third set before earning a decisive break with a forehand down the line to take a 5-3 lead. Pliskova earned two break points in the final game, but Gauff pulled back to deuce with her strong serves. The US player sealed the win on her second match point with her unreturned serve. 

Gauff set up a quarter final match against this year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Anna Kalinskaya, who beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 7-5 in 93 minutes. 

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Andy Murray wins his first match of the 2024 season in Doha

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Andy Murray beat Alexandre Muller 6-1 7-5 to clinch his first win of the 2024 season at the Exxon Mobil Open in Doha. Murray won two Doha titles in 2008 and 2009 and reached three finals in 2007, 2017 and 2023.

 

Murray converted three of his five break points he earned. 

Murray came back from 0-40 down to break serve on Muller’s first service game. The British player held serve to open up a 3-0 lead, but he asked for a medical time-out due to a knee issue. The double Olympic spoke to the physiotherapist on court, explaining that he had been feeling pain in the area for a few days and had received for a cyst on his meniscus the day before Tuesday’s match. 

Nevertheless, Murray returned on court and did not convert two break points. The Scotsman earned his second break and held serve to seal the opening set in 46 minutes. 

Murray did not convert break points in the fourth game of the second set. Both players held on their service games before Murray earned a break with another winner to take a 4-3 lead. Muller broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. Both players on serve in the next four games en route to the tie-break. 

Muller earned the first mini-break with a drop-shot to take a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Murray pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5. Murray won the next two points and sealed the win with a backhand return. 

“Obviously the past few months have been really tough on the court for me. I have not won many matches and lost a lot of close ones as well and it was getting tight at the end there as well, so obviously I am delighted to get through”, said Murray. 

Murray set up a second round match against Jakub Mensik, who upset Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in just his eighth tour-level match to clinch his first win against a top 30 player. 

Mensik came back from a break down twice en route to winning the tie-break of the first set 7-3 with four mini-breaks. The 18-year-old Czech player earned a decisive break in the first game of the second set before sealing the win after 93 minutes on his first match point. Mensik won 70% of his first service points. 

Mensik, who is the youngest player in the top 200 in the ATP Ranking, reached the third round at last year’s US Open and beat Denis Shapovalov as a qualifier on his Australian Open debut last January. 

Mensik will face either Andy Murray or Alexandre Muller. 

“I just tried to play my best. It’s a crazy opportunity to play an ATP 250 here in Doha, so I reached the second round and I will do my best to show this performance in the second round”, said Mensik. 

Christopher O’Connell beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 to improve his head-to-head lead to 2-0. O’Connell broke twice in the second and seventh game to take a 5-2 lead. Struff pulled one break back in the eighth game from 3-5 but O’Connell closed out the first set 6-4 on his first set point. O’Connell broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 and sealed the win on his third match point. 

O’Connell set up a second round match against world number 46 Emil Ruusuvuori, who beat Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 in one hour and 47 minutes. Both players went on serve with no break points en route to tie-break. Ruusuvuori, who reached the quarter final in Rotterdam last week, earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. Ruusuvuori earned his first break of the match in the opening game and saved four break points to hold serve at deuce in the second game. Zeppieri broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ruusuovori converted his second break point in the 11th game and sealed the second set 7-5 on his first match point. 

Gael Monfils beat Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1 7-6 (11-9). Monfils broke twice in the second and fourth games to win the first set 6-1. Van de Zandschulp broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Monfils broke back in the ninth game. Both players held on serve in the next games en route to a tie-break. Monfils earned three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break, but Van de Zandschulp  won three consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Both players traded mini-breaks to draw level to 8-8. Monfils won two consecutive points to win the tie-break 11-9 on his fourth match point. 

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Jasmine Paolini beats Leylah Fernandez to reach the round of 16 in Dubai

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Jasmine Paolini beat 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-3 6-4 in on 1 hour and 37 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

 

Fernandez earned an early break at love in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke straight back in the second game, but Fernandez broke again at love in the third game and held her first service game to take a 3-1 lead. Paolini pulled back on serve in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 before saving four break points to go up 4-3. The Italian player converted her third break point in the eighth game with a forehand passing shot and served out the first set with a hold at love. 

Fernandez won 12 of the first 15 points and broke serve in the second game to race out to a 3-0 lead in the second set. The Canadian player earned a double break point in the sixth game, but Paolini saved it to hold serve after two deuces. Paolini won five consecutive games from 1-4 down with two breaks of serve to seal the second set 6-4 on her second match point. 

Paolini set up a Round of 16 match against Maria Sakkari, who beat Emma Navarro 6-2 6-4. The Italian player, who reached the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open, has won consecutive matches against former Grand Slam finalists (Angelique Keber at the United Cup and and Fernandez in Dubai).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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