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.




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.


Seb Korda Wins First Match Since Injury At French Open



Image via ATP Twitter

After what has been a rollercoaster past few months, Sebastian Korda has returned to the winner’s circle at the French Open. 


The 22-year-old started the year set to become one of the sports rising stars after reaching the final of the Adelaide International and then the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. However, he was forced to retire from his match against Karen Khachanov at Melbourne Park due to a wrist injury that ended up sidelining him from the Tour for weeks.

 “I went two, three months without touching a racquet, basically,” the American said of his injury woes in Paris on Sunday. “I even still had a little bit of pain in Madrid, and then Rome was the first tournament where I kind of had nothing, which was a really big positive for me. Now I have zero pain in my wrist.” 

Finally pain-free, Korda clinched the first win of his comeback at the French Open on Sunday by defeating Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. The player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open. It was a solid performance from the world No.20 who hit 52 winners and had an average first serve speed of 173 km/h. 

During his recent hiatus, the American used the opportunity to build on his physical development with the help of Jez Green. A highly experienced fitness coach who has previously worked with Andy Murray, Emma Raducanu and Dominic Thiem. 

“It was a tough period for me but a blessing in disguise. I had three, four months to really build the body and set a base that will basically be with me for the rest of my career.” Korda said of his work with Green. “I think that was one of the things I needed most was to kind of get the body right. The tennis I always had. It was just kind of getting the body right and getting ready for these long best-of-five matches to make deep runs.” 

It was at the French Open where Korda had his first major breakthrough. In 2020, when the tournament was held during the autumn due to Covid-19, he reached the fourth round on his debut. 

Korda will play Austria’s Sebastian Ofner in the second round.

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‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’ – Stefanos Tsitsipas’ High Praise For French Open Rival Alcaraz



Carlos Alcaraz’s rapid rise in the sport has left an impression on many, including his recent training partner Stefanos Tsitsipas.


The two top 10 stars held a practice session together at Roland Garros a day before this year’s tournament began. Alcaraz leads Tsitsipas 4-0 in their head-to-head and has only ever dropped three sets against him on the Tour. Whilst they are rivals on the court, there is a lot of admiration between them. This was highlighted by Tsitsipas following his 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) win over Jiri Vesely in the first round on Sunday. 

“I had a practice session with Carlitos the other day and did throw in a “thank you” just randomly, and I don’t know if he understood that or not. I owe a lot to Carlitos because he’s such a breath of fresh air, the fact that he’s on the tour.” Tsitsipas said during his press conference.
“The fact that he’s so competitive and he’s always with a smile on his face, and almost so much charisma to him and so much positive energy that he distributes. I think that’s contributed a lot to his growth as a tennis player and his consistency too. He seems to be enjoying having fun.”

Despite being four years older than the Spaniard, Tsitsipas admits he has been inspired by his rival to make certain changes to how he approaches the sport. Currently ranked fifth in the world, he is yet to win a trophy this season. Although he finished runner-up at the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic and at the Barcelona Open to Alcaraz. 

“Last year during preseason I was, like, I want to apply that more into my game. Players focus maybe more on technical stuff and stuff that doesn’t focus on these aspects of the game,” he explained.
”I kind of admire him for who he is. I have the capacity of being that person. I truly believe that. That is also the reason that I’m just much more joyful and happy when playing this sport, due to him.”

Besides his high regard for the Spaniard, part of Tsitsipas must be secretly hoping Alcaraz will suffer an early exit in Paris. He is in contention for claiming the No.1 position but can only do so if he wins the title and Alcaraz loses before the third round and Daniil Medvedev loses before the quarter-finals. 

However, to even have a chance of winning his maiden slam Tsitsipas admits he needs to improve his game after saying he was ‘very inconsistent’ throughout his clash with Vesely. He will next play either former champion Stan Wawrinka or Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round. 

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Aryna Sabalenka Powers Through French Open Opener



World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka kicked off her French Open bid with a dominant win over Marta Kostyuk in the first round on Sunday.


Sabalenka, who is yet to reach the second week of Roland Garros in her career, overcame an early setback en route to a 6-3, 6-1, victory. The win is her 30th of the season which is more than anybody else on the WTA Tour. Against Kostyuk, Sabalenka fired a total of 18 winners and converted four out of nine break point opportunities. It is the second time she has beaten the Ukrainian after their inaugural meeting at the 2022 Dubai Tennis Championships. 

“I always thought that my first Grand Slam (title) would be at the French Open. I have no idea why because I couldn’t play on the clay but it was on my mind,” the reigning Australian Open champion said during her on-court interview.
“It’s another goal and I am doing everything that I can to bring my best tennis to the court every time.”

It had been widely expected that the match would be a tense encounter given the current political climate. Sabalenak’s country is accused of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine which is where Kostyuk is from. On Friday the world No.2 said she didn’t expect a handshake to be taking place at the net and has called for politics to be kept outside of sport. A stance that has been criticized by her opponent. 

“Sabalenka might become number one in such a popular sport. Having such a large platform and such a large influence in the world, she refuses it. What kind of message is this for the world?” Kostyuk told BTU 24 hours before their match. 
“We are talking about people being murdered and as a response, we hear that we should leave sport outside of politics. But war does not choose whether you are an athlete or not when it comes to your home.”

However, on Court Philippe Chatrier there was little friction between the two. 20-year-old Kostyuk came into this year’s French Open with a dismal 0-13 record against top-10 opposition on the Tour. However, she was the first to strike in her clash with second seed Sabalenka. After saving two break points during the fourth game, she broke for a 3-2 lead with the help of a delicate drop shot followed by two consecutive errors from her opponent. 

Sabalenka responded instantly by increasing the intensity of her shot-making to once again establish her dominance. A four-game winning streak from the Belarussian enabled her to close out the opening set despite her blip. She secured the 6-3 lead with a clean backhand winner.  

In cruise control, the power of the 25-year-old continued to overwhelm her opponent throughout the second frame. In less than 20 minutes she broke Kostyuk two more times en route to a 4-1 lead. Serving for a place in the second round, Sabalenka battled back from 15-40 down before prevailing on her first match point after hitting a blistering forehand winner.

As expected, Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Sabalenka afterwards and ended up being booed off the court.

“It was a very tough match. It was tough emotionally. At first, I felt that this (the crowd booing) was against me so I was a little surprised but then I felt their support. It’s really important,” said Sabalenka.

It is the 11th time in a row that Sabalenka has won her opening match at a Grand Slam tournament. Besides competing for the trophy, she could also snatch Iga Swiatek’s No.1 ranking and will achieve the milestone if the Pole fails to reach the quarter-finals. 

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