Ahead Of Clay Campaign Naomi Osaka Draws Inspiration From Nadal And Hails His Compatriot Alcaraz - UBITENNIS
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Ahead Of Clay Campaign Naomi Osaka Draws Inspiration From Nadal And Hails His Compatriot Alcaraz

The tennis star is yet to shine on the clay but is that about to change?

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2021 04 30 MADRID - MUTUA MADRID OPEN DE TENIS 2021. WTA Naomi Osaka of Japan vs Misaki Doi of Japan

A candidly speaking Naomi Osaka heads into the clay swing with a fresh mindset, a new technical approach and the temptation to implement a certain skill she learned from watching Rafael Nadal.

 

In recent years Osaka has established herself as one of the biggest names in women’s tennis by claiming a quartet of Grand Slam titles and spending a total of 25 weeks as world No.1. However, the clay has always been an achilles heel for the Japanese player who is currently ranked 36th in the world. She is yet to play a Tour final on the surface or go beyond the third round at the French Open. To date, her best run at a WTA clay-court event was reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 Stuttgart Open.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old is a player who isn’t deterred when faced with adversity. She is currently coached by Wim Fissette who oversaw Simona Halep’s run to the 2014 French Open final and has worked with a string of other high-profile names, including Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber.

I changed a couple of things,” Osaka revealed during media day at the Madrid Open on Wednesday. “I think you guys will be able to tell when I play. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I would say I did change a couple of things to suit myself more for clay.”

Osaka is keeping coy about what might be in store when she returns to action at the Caja Magica, venue of the Madrid Open. Although she hints she may deploy a tactic which is commonly used by Nadal. As to what that is, she is keeping silent. It is understandable as to why she chose to draw inspiration from the Spaniard who has won more ATP titles on clay (62) than any other player in history.

“I think I stole one of the things that he did and I’ve been practicing it recently,” she said. “It’ll either go really good or really bad. There’s like no in between. But I think as I’ve been doing it, it’s been going pretty well.
“Honestly I’ve been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I’m the type of person that learns really fast if I see it up close, and honestly it’s a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them.”

Madrid isn’t like other clay events on the Tour due to its high altitude which makes the ball travel faster than usual. Therefore the theory is that the conditions favour the heavier and more powerful hitters such as Osaka. Although she has only managed to reach the last eight in one out of three main draw appearances.

“I know that every kid growing up playing tennis in the world has pretended to be Nadal at least once.” Osaka continued.

Osaka’s admiration for Spanish tennis doesn’t solely focus on Nadal. Another player to have caught her attention is rising star Carlos Alcaraz who has enjoyed a sensational 2022 so far. The 18-year-old became one of the youngest Masters 1000 champions in history at the Miami Open and has also won two ATP 500 events. This week he officially broke into the world’s top 10 to become the youngest man to do so since Nadal back in 2005.

“I feel like he’s genuinely made everyone excited about the ATP and I haven’t seen that in a very long time,” Osaka said of the teenager.
“I’m not even really thinking about his age, like every time someone brings up his age, I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I forget, that’s so cool.’
“I think just his game style, just how pumped he is, how I feel like I’m watching him learn with every tournament.
“I don’t know what his ranking was last year here, but I’ve watched almost every tournament that he’s played, the US Open when he played (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and just to see the growth I think is really exciting for everyone.”

The former world No.1 knows what it is like to be in the media limelight at a young age. Before her 20th birthday she had won the Indian Wells title and two Grand Slam tournaments. It has been a roller-coaster journey for Osaka who has had to deal with problems concerning her mental health in recent years.

Fortunately the tennis star seems to be back on track and hungry to improve further on her ranking. In Madrid she will begin her campaign against the dangerous Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova who won the Istanbul Open last week.

“I always say I want to have a good time, which is true, even off the court I want to have a good time. I’m trying to take it one tournament at a time. Of course winning matches and leading up into the French (Open), I want to get to the semis of either here (in Madrid) or Rome, hopefully win. But I’m going to set a little goal first.” Osaka concludes.

Grand Slam

(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) The Wimbledon Clash Between Djokovic And Sinner Could Have Been Better

It was an epic five-set clash but imagine how better the match would have been if both were playing well at the same time…

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Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis’ Ubaldo Scanagatta analyse the dramatic events that unfolded on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

 

Top seed Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to oust Jannik Sinner in a match of two halves. Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie brought delight to the British fans.

On the other side of the draw, how will Rafael Nadal fair against the in-form Taylor Fritz? The Spaniard recently sidestepped a question about a potential new injury. 

As for the women’s draw, Ons Jabeur made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a major quarter-final. She will next play 34-year-old mum-of-two Tatjana Maria who had never been beyond the third round of a major until now. 

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WIMBLEDON: 10 Facts About Semi-Finalist Ons Jabeur

All you need to know about the Trailblazing Tunisian who has created history at The All England Club.

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image via twitter.com/wimbledon

Second seed Ons Jabeur achieved a new milestone for both her and her country at Wimbledon on Tuesday. 

 

The world No.2 battled back from a set down to defeat Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the last four of a major event for the first time in her career. Jabeur has now dropped only one set in five matches played and is the highest ranked player remaining in the draw. Her major breakthrough comes seven years after she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2015 Australian Open. 

“I played really good from beginning of the second set, especially having a early break kind of helps me gain confidence,” said Jabeur.
“I know it wasn’t easy playing Marie. She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me. I’m glad I stepped in with my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially tactically I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much.”

To mark Jabeur’s Wimbledon milestone, here are 10 facts to know about her:-

  1. She is the first North African player – male or female – to reach a Grand Slam semi-final. The last woman from the entire African continent to reach a major semi-final was Amanda Coetzer at the 1997 French Open. 
  2. Her win over Bouzkova is Jabeur’s 26th Tour-level win on the grass.
  3. Jabeur has now won 83 matches over the past two seasons. This is more than any other player on the WTA Tour. 
  4. Has won 21 out of her last 23 matches.
  5. She is the only Tunisian woman currently ranked in the world’s top 700.
  6. Jabeur had failed to win back-to-back matches on her three out of her four previous appearances at Wimbledon in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She reached the quarter-finals in 2021.
  7. Coming into Wimbledon she has already earned more than $6.2m in prize money in her career.
  8. She has won three Tour titles in Birmingham (2021), Madrid (2022) and Berlin (2022). 
  9. Has beaten a top 10 player four times in her career – Dominika Cibulkova (2017 French Open), Simona Halep (Beijing 2018), Sloane Stephens (Moscow 2018) and Karolina Pliskova (Doha 2020).
  10. In October 2021 she became the first Arab player (mae or female) to crack the world’s top 10 in tennis. 

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Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood

The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.

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Image via twitter.com/wta

Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals. 

 

The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.

“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.

Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.

“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said.  “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”

Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name. 

“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”

Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.

However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.

“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”

Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007. 

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