Aryna Sabalenka Survives Sanders Scare At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Survives Sanders Scare At Australian Open

The Belarussian was made to work hard during her opening match at Melbourne Park.

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Aryna Sabalenka (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka came back from the brink of defeat to seal her spot in the second round of the Australian Open.

 

The two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist struggled with her consistency throughout her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, win over wild card Storm Saunders, who is yet to win a Grand Slam main draw match in her career. At one stage Sabalenka looked to be on the verge of suffering a third consecutive Tour defeat after trailing by a set and a break to the underdog before staging an emphatic fight back. Doing so with the help of her rival who started to unravel as the match progressed.

“She played well, she’s a tough opponent and I’m happy I won today,” Sabalenka said of Sanders during her on-court interview.

Sabalenka’s roller-coaster victory is best illustrated by the match statistics. Dealing with inconsistencies in her serve, she produced a total of 12 double faults and won 43% of her second service points. Furthermore, she hit a total of 29 winners against 37 unforced errors en route to the victory.

Playing a top 10 player for only the second time in her career, 27-year-old Sanders started the match in clinical fashion as she produced a level of tennis which exceeded that of her current ranking. Three consecutive times she managed to dismantle the Sabalenka serve to open up a swift 4-1 lead. However, the second seed briefly managed to find her footing in the match to claw her way back and level the set at 5-5. Not to be disheartened, Sanders continued pressing her opponent who faltered at the worst possible moment. Granting the underdog another break before she closed out the set.

On the verge of suffering an upset, Sabalenka’s woes continued in the second set when she got broken once again three games in. Trailing 5-7, 1-3, she managed to turn her fortunes around with the help of a six-game winning streak. Exposing the inexperienced her opponent has of playing on the biggest stages of the game. Serving to level up, she triumphed on her third set point with the help of a serve down the center of the court which Sanders returned out.

Into her stride, Sabalenka charged towards the finish line by winning a further four games in the decider before Sanders managed to register another game of her own. Serving for the win, a blistering serve down the center of the court secured the victory.

“I was already (mentally) in the locker room. Maybe that was the key because I stopped thinking too much and started playing tennis. I tried to put the ball (on the court) as much as I could and I think I did it well. That’s why I came back (in the match),” Sabalenka commented on how she turned the match around.
“Now I will recover and then tomorrow I will speak with my team about my next opponent.”

Sabalenka will play China’s Wang Xinyu in the next round. She could claim the world No.1 ranking in Melbourne if one of two scenarios occur over the coming days. She reaches the final and Ash Barty loses before the quarter-finals or Barty reaches the Quarter-finals and Sabalenka goes on to win the title.

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REPORT: French Open Qualifying Match Under Investigation Over Irregular Betting Patterns

An unusual number of bets were placed on the match in three different countries.

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A first round match at this week’s French Open qualifying tournament is being looked into after an abnormally high number of bets was placed, according to a leading French newspaper.

 

L’Equipe have cited police sources saying that the clash between eighth seed Bernabé Zapata Miralles and Dudi Sela has flagged up irregular patterns. Miralles defeated his Israeli rival 6-3, 6-0, in less than an hour. It is understood that the focus of the investigation is on the second set which lasted less than 20 minutes. A total of 32 points was placed in that set with Sela only winning seven of those.

According to the source, an unusually high number of bets were placed on the match in three different countries – Cyprus, Ukraine and Armenia. Prompting judicial authorities to look into the possibility that the match could have been fixed but at present no formal investigation has been confirmed.

“There is no business,” the French Tennis Federation (FFT) was quoted by Le Parisien as saying on the matter.

37-year-old Sela is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400 but managed to get into the qualifying draw with the use of a protected ranking. He has only played in two singles tournaments so far this season with the other being at the Australian Open where he also lost in the first round of qualifying.

Sela confirmed in January that 2022 would be his last as a professional. A former top 30 player, he has reached the final of two ATP events in China (2008) and Atlanta (2014). He also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2009 and has beaten three top 10 players during his career.

Meanwhile, Miralles sealed his place in the French Open main draw on Thursday after coming from a set down to beat Luca Nardi 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that either player has been involved in match-fixing. According to statistics from L’Equipe, there has been a 177% increase in online bets concerning the French Open over a five-year period to 128M euros in 2021.

This year players who lose in the first round of qualifying at the French Open will earn €14,000, which is a 40% increase on 2021.

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“Healthy Mind In A Healthy Body”: Asics To Include Psychological Support In Sponsored Players’ Contracts

Matteo Berrettini and Iga Swiatek are among those who will benefit from the help of mental health experts

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Iga Swiatek - Roma 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

by Andrea Mastronuzzi, translated by Massimo Volpati

The more the years pass, the more professional sport assumes the contours of a job like many others (certainly more profitable, but in some ways even more stressful), and the more officials realise how essential it is to be able to count on mental coaches or psychologists. Both to withstand external pressures and to achieve one’s goals and therefore endure another type of pressure, which comes from one’s inner self. 

 

Tennis players increasingly talk about their difficulties in terms of mental strength and underline the crucial role played by the psychologists who support them: From women’s world No.1 Iga Swiatek (she also spoke about it in the press conference after her victory over Andreescu in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open) to Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Naomi Osaka. The new queen of women’s tennis, signed up by ASICS, will be able to take full benefit from psychological support provided by the Japanese company.

It is no coincidence that ASICS is the first sponsor to include this aid in the partnership agreements it has entered into with its tennis players. The company name is in fact the acronym of a variant of the famous Latin phrase “mens (which becomes anima) sana in corpore sano”, namely “healthy mind in healthy body.” The brand collaborated with some researchers from Kings College London on the realisation of a study (“State of Mind”) which allowed to identify a positive link between tennis and mental health. In the wake of these results, ASICS has set up a facility in Paris where fans are offered the opportunity to play tennis and deal with their psychological state at the same time.

In addition to its initiatives centred on mental health, ASICS has kicked off a mental health support project involving their sponsored professional tennis players. Among these there are Matteo Berrettini, David Goffin and de Minaur. Everyone will rely on a team of experts made available by the Japanese brand and led by Daria Abramovicz (who spoke with ubitennis.net last year) who has been working with Swiatek for some time. The young psychologist said that “by offering confidential support, it is possible to help normalize what is normal and assist players along their journey towards a healthy mind in a healthy body”.

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Richard Gasquet upsets Danil Medvedev in Geneva

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Richard Gasquet upset Danil Medvedev 6-2 7-6 (7-5) with three breaks of serve in 90 minutes to reach the second round at the Gonet Geneva Open. 

 

Gasquet scored his first win over an opponent ranked in the top 2 since he beat world number 1 Roger Federer at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters 2005. 

Medvedev had beaten Gasquet in their only previous head-to-head match at the 2021 US Open en route to his first Grand Slam title. 

Medvedev was playing his first match since Miami in March after undegoing hernia surgery.

Gasquet won six consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set and built up a 6-2 2-0 lead.  

Medveved dropped his serve after three double faults with three double faults. The Russian player broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 and held serve at love with an ace. 

Medvedev recovered from a mini-break down in the tie-break. Gasquet earned his third mini-break to win the tie-break 7-5. 

The Frenchman will face Kamil Majchrzak, who cruised past Marco Cecchinato 6-2 6-3.

Thanasi Kokkinakis earned his first win on clay in seven years with a 6-4 6-3 win over Fabio Fognini in 1 hour and 28 minutes. 

Kokkinakis went up a break to take a 4-1 lead. Fognini broke back in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4.  Kokkinakis broke serve at love in the tenth game to claim the first set 6-4. 

Fognini made two double faults and missed three game points before dropping serve in the second game of the second set. Kokkinakis did not face any break points in his remaining four service games. 

Christopher O’Connell edged past Albert Ramos Vinolas 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to set up a second round match against Reilly Opelka. 

Paulo Sousa cruised past 2021 semifinalist Pablo Andujar 6-1 6-4. Sousa will face Nikoloz Basilashvili, who was leading 6-4 before Facundo Bagnis retired from the match.

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