Naomi Osaka Eyes Breakthrough On The Clay Following Miami Loss - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Eyes Breakthrough On The Clay Following Miami Loss

The four-time Grand Slam champion is yet to reach a Tour final on the dirt in her career but is hoping to change that in the coming weeks.

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Naomi Osaka training at the 2021 Madrid Open (image by Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka has vowed to approach the upcoming clay swing ‘really seriously’ in hope that she can continue her momentum from the Miami Open.

Osaka, who has fallen to 77th in the rankings, produced one of her best runs in recent time at the American WTA 1000 event with wins over Angelique Kerber, Danielle Collins and Belinda Bencic. It was the first time she had reached a Tour final since the 2021 Australian Open 13 months ago. However, she was denied the title by Iga Swiatek who defeated her 6-4, 6-0, on Saturday.

Iga was quite different from all the players that I’ve played previously, so it was a bit hard to adjust to what she was doing. But I think hopefully, if I play her next time, it will be a much better match,” said Osaka.
“I’m not as disappointed as I normally would be, like I think normally I would be crying in the locker room or something, but now I’m kind of like chilled. I feel like I know what I want to do better, and I just want to go back and start training again to like hopefully win a tournament next time.”

The next test for Osaka will be the clay which is a surface that she has had limited success on so far in her career. She is yet to reach the final of a clay court event on the WTA Tour and is yet to go beyond the third round at Roland Garros.

However, the 24-year-old is eager to prove that she can also be a threat on the European dirt. Her next tournament will be at the Madrid Open which is played at a higher altitude than other events during this time of the season. Meaning that the balls will travel quicker which will benefit heavy-hitting players such as Osaka.

“I’m gonna try to take this clay court season really seriously, so I’m actually going to go to Europe a week before to train on the red clay,” she said.
“I’m clearly not a clay expert but I feel like if I get my movement together, I should be pretty good. I grew up on green clay so it shouldn’t be that foreign to me.’
“(Aryna) Sabalenka won (Madrid) that last year, so I think that there are opportunities for me to do well, as well.”

Guiding Osaka on the Tour is coach Wim Fissette whom she has been working with since 2019. Fissette has also previously collaborated with the likes of Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta. One of the areas Osaka says she wants to work on following her loss to Switek relates to her strategy during matches.

“I would say for me right now there is a plan A and a plan B, and the plan A wasn’t working (in the Miami final). The plan B is to get more balls in the court. But like doing that, I hit a bit slower, and I can’t do that against her (Swiatek) because she just comes in automatically,” she explains.
“I think I need to find a way to make my base bigger. It will be interesting to see how that goes on clay.”

So far in her career Osaka’s best clay season was in 2019 when she reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart, as well making quarter-final appearances in Madrid and Rome.

This year’s Madrid Open will begin on April 26th.

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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