Iga Swiatek survived a stern scare before booking a place in her first US Open final after outlasting Aryna Sabalenka in a roller-coaster showdown.
The world No.1 came from a set down the edge out Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, after more than two hours of play. It was a far from straightforward encounter for Swiatek who also found herself down a break in the decider before battling her way back. It is the third time in her career she has reached the final of a major tournament after winning the French Open twice before.
“I felt a huge difference between the first set and last two sets. I’m pretty happy that I got my level of energy up a little bit,” said Swiatek.
“Aryna made it difficult, for sure. I felt like she was serving pretty solid. It was hard to come back in third but I’m pretty happy that I did.”
Coming from behind, it was a quick bathroom break following the first set which helped Swiatek turn the match around in her favour. During her brief time away from the court, she conjured up a plan to change her game tactics. Upon returning she didn’t face a single break point in the second set. However, in the decider, she was down 2-4 before winning four games in a row to seal the victory.
“I tried to use that time to think about what to change because I remember when I was younger all I would do in the bathroom between sets after I lost was cry,” she said of the toilet break.
“But this time I could think about what to change and actually solve the problem.”
Coming into the US Open, Swiatek had found it tough going on the Tour. At tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati, she failed to win back-to-back matches. Prior to that, in her native Warsaw, she suffered a shock quarter-final loss to Carolina Garcia at the Poland Open which was played on her beloved clay.
The 21-year-old admits that the North American hardcourts remain a surface that she does struggle with. She has also in the past criticized the balls used at the US Open which are different to what the men used.
“I trust myself for sure on clay, and maybe also other surfaces,” she said.
“Here I just try to accept maybe that sometimes I’m not going to trust myself, and I still need to prove myself in a couple of matches against heavy hitters.”
“It’s not something negative for me. For sure, having doubts is not nice, but I also find it pretty motivating to get better and find new skills to get as close to the trust as possible.” She added.
Standing in Swiatek’s way of the US Open title is Ons Jabeur who is through to her second consecutive major final. Jabeur dropped just four games during her dominant 6-1, 6-3, win over Garcia. In doing so she has become the first African woman to reach a title match at the US Open.
The top seed has played the Tunisian four times on the Tour with their head-to-head tied at 2-2. This most recent encounter occurred at the Italian Open in May when Swiatek, who was in the middle of her 37-match winning streak, prevailed in straight sets.
“She has a different game style than most of the players. She has a great touch. All these things mixed up, she’s just a tough opponent,” Swiatek said of Jabeur.
“That’s why probably our matches are always kind of physical and really tight.
“She’s just a tough opponent and fully deserves to be in the final. I think it’s going to be a great battle.”
Swiatek has won her last nine finals played, including six this season. Should she win the US Open she would become the first Polish woman to do so. She is only the second female player from her country to reach the final after Jadwiga Jedrzejowska did so back in 1937.
In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title
Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.
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.
Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury.
Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open.
“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.
“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”
Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them.
“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”
This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16.
“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.”
Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients.
“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.
This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open.
Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion
Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.
Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.
However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.
Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.
This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.
Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.
Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:
Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion
Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet
Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko
Qatar: R1 l. Garcia
Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek
Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur
Rome: R2 l. Collins
Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng
Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia
Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu
Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina
Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya
Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew
US Open: R1 l. Snigur
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