US Open Women’s Roundup: Halep stunned By Qualifier, Sakkari Opens Up About Personal Struggles - UBITENNIS
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US Open Women’s Roundup: Halep stunned By Qualifier, Sakkari Opens Up About Personal Struggles

Some of the biggest names in women’s tennis were in action early on during day 1 of the US Open.

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SIMONA HALEP OF ROMANIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

By Russell Miller

The opening day of this year’s US Open has already been eventful in the women’s singles, with battling performances from some contenders in a wide-open half of the draw. The loss of Simona Halep to an inspired Ukrainian qualifier, Daria Snigur, has been the biggest story so far.

Here are the main takeaways from the first few hours of play on Monday.

Snigur Shocks Halep on Day One

20-year-old Ukrainian Daria Snigur produced an extraordinary performance on her Grand Slam main draw debut, knocking out one of the tournament’s favourites, Simona Halep, with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4, win on the Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The qualifier came out of the blocks quickly, racing to a 3-0 double break lead, and caught the eye with her unorthodox but effective groundstrokes. But after taking the first set 6-2, Halep found a much higher level, cutting down her unforced errors from 11 to 2 between that set and the second set which she took 6-0.

In a topsy turvy battle during the heat of the day, Halep appeared to be struggling physically in the deciding set, while Snigur stayed consistent throughout, breaking twice in the decider to go up 4-1. There was a slight scare at the end for the Ukrainian, who failed to serve out the match at 5-2, and saw two match points go begging at 5-3. However, she regained her composure and took the match at the second time of asking on her serve.

Snigur will face Magdalena Frech or Rebecca Marino in a winnable second round match on Wednesday.

Sakkari Through Despite Confidence Struggles

Third seed Maria Sakkari made her way through to round two with a 6-4 3-6 6-0 win over Tatjana Maria. The Greek lost to Maria at Wimbledon earlier this year but managed her game well in the decider to pull through.

Sakkari, who is defending semi-final points from last years event, spoke candidly in post-match press about the confidence issues she has had this year, and said that ‘there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed.’

“It was very tough but I have the right people around me; my family, my team, my boyfriend. They all really help me. My friends. It took time, because I lost myself.” She later added.

Since reaching the Indian Wells final, Sakkari has only reached one WTA semi-final since, but mentioned that she is feeling happier in New York than in recent weeks, and could be dangerous this fortnight.

Contenders Gauff and Garcia Impress

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Coco Gauff eased to a 6-2 6-3 over qualifier Leolia Jeanjean to reach the second round in New York. The American was playing her first tournament since retiring due to an ankle injury in Cincinnati, but showed no signs of any physical issues, and is a huge threat on the bottom half of the draw. She faces Elena-Gabriela Ruse or Daria Saville next.

Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia also impressed in round one, with a 6-2 6-4 win over Kamilla Rakhimova. The 17th seed is riding high on confidence after winning three titles this summer and takes on Anna Kalinskaya in round three.

There were also straight-set wins for 18th seed Veronika Kudermetova over Donna Vekic, and a 6-0 6-0 demolition from 15th Beatriz Haddad Maia over Ana Konjuh. The in-form Brazilian who beat Iga Swiatek en route to the final in Toronto faces Bianca Andreescu next.

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing

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Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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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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