Naomi Osaka To Play Sloane Stephens In Indian Wells Opener - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka To Play Sloane Stephens In Indian Wells Opener

Who is going to win one of the most prestigious tournaments outside of the Grand Slam events?

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Naomi Osaka - Madrid 2019 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Two Grand Slam champions are set to lock horns in the first round of the women’s tournament at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

The draw for the WTA 1000 event took place on Monday evening with a blockbuster first round meeting between former champion Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens set to headline the opening round of matches. Osaka, who hasn’t played since the Australian Open, won her maiden Tour title in Indian Wells back in 2018. Meanwhile, Stephens will be making her 11th main draw appearance at the tournament with her best-ever run taking place in 2014 when she reached the quarter-finals. Stephens leads their head-to-head 2-0 but the last time they played against each other was almost four years ago at the WTA Finals.

In other notable first round matches, former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will take on Beatriz Haddad Maia. The American has received a wildcard into the tournament following what has been a turbulent time on the Tour in recent months. After Wimbledon last year she didn’t play another event that year due to a foot injury and then catching covid-19. This year she is currently on a five-match losing streak.

Lyon Open finalist Dayana Yastremska takes on former top 10 player Caroline Garcia in her opening match. The Ukrainian could then face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu if she wins.

All 32 seeds in this year’s draw have received a bye in the first round. The tournament will be headed by top seed Barbora Krejčíková who will be playing in the Indian Wells main draw for only the second time in her career. The Czech is projected to play Sorana Cirstea in the third round followed potentially by either Simona Halep or Coco Gauff. Krejčíková is yet to win a WTA 1000 event in her career.

At the other end of the draw Aryna Sabalenka could face an all-Belarussian clash with Victoria Azarenka in the last 16 should they both come through their earlier matches. So far this season Sabalenka has managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of five tournaments played.

Completing the top four seeds are Iga Swiatek and Anette Kontaveit. Two players who could end the tournament as the world No.2 depending on their results and the results of other players.

Indian Wells will also see the return of Karoline Pliskova who is yet to play a competitive match this season. The former world No.1 has been sidelined from the Tour after suffering a hand injury during the off-season.

Full draw

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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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Perspective And Fatigue: The Two Sides Of Iga Swiatek’s Dubai Defeat

Iga Swiatek spoke about perspective and fatigue after her semi-final exit in Dubai.

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Iga Swiatek showed two sides to her defeat in Dubai as the world number one surprisingly failed to win the title despite being the favourite in the semi-finals.

Heading into her semi-final in Dubai, Swiatek was heavy favourite to win her second consecutive WTA title after claiming the title in Doha the week before.

However Swiatek was unsuccessful in her bid to reach the final as she lost to Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Swiatek who missed a golden opportunity to establish even more dominance ahead of Indian Wells.

As all champions do Swiatek offered perspective to her defeat as she looks ahead to the rest of the season, “I mean, I’m angry but on the other hand, there aren’t many players that actually survive these kinds of tournaments so I just kind of have to let it go and accept it,” Swiatek was quoted by Tennis Majors.

There was not only perspective offered but also fatigue as expectations and pressure can force simple mistakes from the best players in the world.

The world number one acknowledged Kalinskaya’s performance but did admit her own performance contributed to the defeat, “Today I would say, I mean she [Kalinskaya] played well and for sure she deserves to be in the final, but I feel like it was more about me and my level,” Swiatek told Tennis Majors.

“I wanted to be focused on myself and I wasn’t really able to implement any tactics that I had. Usually, when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game but today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t. Day by day, it was a little bit worse.”

Swiatek will hope to re-energize herself ahead of the sunshine double in America.

Last year Swiatek lost to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals at Indian Wells before withdrawing from Miami.

The Pole will look to improve last year’s performance when she plays Indian Wells, which starts on the 6th of March.

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‘Speechless’ Mensik Reaches Maiden ATP Final In Doha

Jakub Mensik is into his first ATP final in Doha.

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Jakub Mensik admitted he was left speechless after reaching his first ATP final in Doha.

The 18 year-old continued his remarkable week with a 6-4 1-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Gael Monfils.

The Czech Republican produced clinical tennis as he beat the 2018 champion to reach his maiden ATP final.

After the match Mensik admitted he was left ‘speechless’ and spoke about the influence Monfils had on his career, “It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far,” Mensik told the ATP website.

“Today again with Gael, he played unbelievable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

“I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.

“I told him when I was young I watched him a lot on the TV. One of the biggest showman on court. He is a great guy, so hopefully in the future we will meet once again. The rallies were so fun with him.”

Mensik has so far beaten three former champions this week as he also defeated Andy Murray and Andrey Rublev this week.

Now Mensik will aim to win his first ATP title as he takes on Karen Khachanov in Saturday’s final.

Should Mensik win the title he could climb to 75 in the world as he started the week at 116 in the world.

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