The 2022 US Open: 5 Unseeded Women to Watch - UBITENNIS
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The 2022 US Open: 5 Unseeded Women to Watch

There are plenty of dangers lurking around the early stages of the women’s tournament, including muliple unseeded players who have previously won Grand Slam titles.

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September 10, 2020 - Serena Williams in action against Victoria Azarenka during a women's singles match at the 2020 US Open. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)

By Russell Miller

The US Open is fast approaching, with the women’s singles draw coming out on Thursday. Following big wins for Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia of late, it is hard to predict who will triumph in the Big Apple. 

 

While many of the big hitters can’t face off until the third round, there are several stellar names who the big seeds will want to avoid early in the tournament.

Naomi Osaka

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2022 has been a roller coaster of a year for Naomi Osaka. Since reaching the Miami Open final, the two-time US Open champion has struggled with injury problems and has a losing record since playing in Madrid back in late April. However, there is no doubt that a fully fit Osaka is one of the most fearsome opponents on a hard court and considering that she has not gone a calendar year without winning a Major since 2017, all eyes will be on where she lands in Thursday’s draw.

Bianca Andreescu

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Many people will be looking elsewhere for dangerous floaters in the draw, but Bianca Andreescu has shown glimpses of her Major winning form in 2022. After taking a break from tennis early in the season to protect her mental health, there was much concern about whether Andreescu would even return to tennis.

However, her results have been promising over the last few months and she certainly has the self-belief to back herself in matches against the very best players in the world.

Qinwen Zheng

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It comes as no surprise that Qinwen Zheng is not the most talked about teenager in women’s tennis, considering the breakthroughs of Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff. However, the 19-year-old Chinese player has scored some exceptional wins this year over the likes of Simona Halep, Ons Jabeur and Bianca Andreescu. Zheng is currently at a career-high ranking of 40 and is projected to rise even further by the end of the season. The big names will be hoping to avoid Zheng early in the tournament, whose form on tour is accelerating at a rapid rate.

Angelique Kerber

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Angelique Kerber may be approaching the twilight of her career, but the German remains a huge threat on a hard court. The 2016 US Open champion has not played a match during the US Open build-up, but her leftiness can still cause havoc to anyone. The last time Kerber was unseeded at a Grand Slam was in New York back in 2011, where she reached the semi-finals. If that statistic is anything to go by, the 3-time Major champion will be one to watch out for at this year’s event.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the publication of this article Kerber has announced her withdrawal from the tournament due to pregnancy.

Serena Williams

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This year’s US Open’s headlines will be dominated by one player in particular: Serena Williams. The American has hinted that the tournament will be the very last of her career and may have one last magical fortnight left in her. Despite a slightly concerning performance in Cincinnati where an ailing Williams lost handily to Emma Raducanu, the American will be ramped up by a boisterous New York crowd and should benefit from having a few matches under her belt. Once again, very few players will want to see the name S. Williams next to theirs in the US Open draw.

Sloane Stephens

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Sloane Stephens is one of the five unseeded players who have triumphed before at the US Open. 2022 has been another topsy turvy year for the American, with a poor record besides her Guadalajara victory and Roland Garros quarter-final showing. Considering the shock she provided in 2017, where she won the US Open after recovering from foot surgery, Stephens will prove a tricky customer in the early stages in the final Slam of the season.

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Billie Jean King Praises Grand Slam Semi-Finalist Nadia Podoroska For Coming Out

The Argentine recently marked her girlfriend’s birthday with an Instagram post which was also the first time she went public about her personal life.

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King has congratulated Nadia Podoroska on being her authentic self after the tennis star recently confirmed she is in a same-sex relationship with another player. 

 

Podoroska, who shot to the limelight at the 2021 French Open by reaching the semi-finals before being hampered by injury, made a low key coming out on social media. In an Instagram post, the tennis star uploaded a series of photos of her with her girlfriend along with the caption “Today I celebrate you from afar, but I feel you by my side every day of my life.’ The post was done to mark her birthday. 

Fellow player Guillermina Naya is Podoroska’s partner and the two have been in a relationship for some time, according to Women’s Tennis Blog. Naya, who is also from Argentina, is currently ranked 814th in the world but has been as high as 533rd. Although she has not played on the Tour this year. 

Due to injury problems, Podoroska was unable to start her 2022 season until July on the lower-level ITF Tour. Since then she has made steady progress by reaching the final of an ITF W60 event in Gran Canaria and more recently reaching the semi-finals of the Chennai Open in India. 

“I had been suffering from physical discomfort in one leg. I decided to stop in order to recover. Then I had a bone oedema, I couldn’t walk, and I had to wear a boot. Then I got a knee injury in the other leg,” she said of her injury woes during an interview with Clay Tennis.

The 25-year-old credits her girlfriend Naya for the support she received during her 10-month absence from the sport. She is the latest player on the WTA Tour to open up about their sexuality, joining the likes of Daria Kasatkina, Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen.

“Congratulations to WTA player ⁦⁦Nadia Podoroska ⁩ on her announcement. Living authentically takes such courage, but it is always worth it,” multiple Grand Slam champion King wrote on Twitter. 

In response to the post, the tennis star also paid tribute to King for the impact she has had on the sport. King helped form the WTA Tour and was a key figure in the fight to equal prize money during the early part of the Open Era. She was also one of the first world-class athletes to publicly come out as gay back in 1981. 

Whilst there are various female LGBT players in tennis, there are still no openly gay players on the men’s Tour. 

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ITF Chief Addresses Iga Swiatek’s Concerns Over Unsafe Scheduling

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The head of the International Tennis Federation is ‘sorry’ that Iga Swiatek will not be participating in the Billie Jean Cup and has vowed to work on making improvements to the 2023 schedule. 

 

The women’s world No.1 issued a statement on Monday confirming her withdrawal from the team event after taking a swipe at both the ITF and WTA over their scheduling. Swiatek said she had hoped to represent Poland in the Billie Jean Cup but its proximity to the WTA Tour Finals is problematic. The end-of-season WTA event takes place in Texas and ends a day before the start of the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. 

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone,” Swiatek said in a statement published on her Instagram account.
“The situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.
“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our sport.”

ITF chief executive David Haggerty has insisted that his organization has been working with the WTA but they were unable to find a more suitable date as the venue for the Tour Finals wasn’t confirmed until late in the season. The event is likely to return to China next year. The women’s tennis body has suspended its events in the country amid concerns over the safety of player Peng Shuai who previously accused a senior government official of sexual assault.

“The ITF is sorry that Iga Swiatek is unable to take part… and recognises that the schedule for the two major year-end events presents a challenge for players competing in both events,” Haggerty told the Reuters news agency.
“We have been working with the WTA to try to coordinate suitable dates.
“While we were able to confirm the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow back in June, the WTA Finals venue in Fort Worth, Texas was confirmed during the U.S. Open and restricted in terms of available dates.”

The tennis official adds that negotiations are ongoing to find a more suitable schedule for 2023 for players to play both events if they wish to do so. 

We are committed to working with the WTA on the 2023 schedule so that we have a better transition between the two competitions,” he said. 

Haggerty states that provisions would have been made for Poland to play their opening match in the 12-team competition as late as possible to accommodate Swiatek’s travel from America if she had wished to play this year. 

The WTA Finals will be held between 31 October – 7 November and the Billie Jean King Cup will take place from 8 November – 13 November. 

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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