Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year

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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 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. 

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Brandon Nakashima continues his winning streak in Tokyo

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Brandon Nakashima continued his winning streak with a 6-3 6-2 win against Shintaro Mochizuki at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

 

“ I am still learning a lot about it, but it’s very exciting. It’s beautiful so far. My father’s side of the family is Japanese. That’s where I get my last name from. Any time I get to learn more about my background I am super excited, so I am happy to be here. The atmosphere is really amazing. I feel right at home”, said Nakashima. 

Nakashima won nine of the final eleven games from 3-3 in the first set. The US Next Gen player did not face a break point and won 84% of his first serve points. He is aiming to qualify for the Next Gen Finals for the second consecutive year. 

“I am serving well. It affects all the other parts of my game. I am happy that I served wel. It was definintely one of my goals at the beginning of the year, to win my first ATP title. To do in my home town was very special”, said Nakashima. 

Nakashima will take on eithTer Borna Coric or Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. 

Frances Tiafoe beat Japanese wild card Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3 6-4. The US 24-year-old player saved both break points and fired eight aces to win seven of his nine past matches. 

Tiafoe, who reached the semifinals at the US Open last September, will face Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who beat Taro Daniel 7-5 7-5. 

Pedro Martinez saw off Pedro Martinez 7-5 6-4 to stop a eight-match losing streak. The Spaniard will face either Casper Ruud or Jaume Munar. 

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Elena Rybakina comes back from one set down to beat Madison Keys in Ostrava

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Wimbledon champions Elena Rybnkina and Petra Kvitova advanced to the Round of 16 at at the Agel Open in Ostrava after three-set battles. 

 

Rybakina came back from one set down to beat Madison Keys 5-7 6-3 6-3 in 2 hours and 14 minutes. The 2022 Wimbledon champion ended a two-match losing streak. 

Keys, who beat Rybakina in their previous head-to-head matches at Roland Garros and Cincinnati earlier this year, went up a set and a break to build up a 7-5 1-0 lead. 

Rybakina earned her first break in the second game of the second set. The Kazakh player broke Keys in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and held on her next service games to win the second set 6-3. Rybakina took a 3-2 lead with her second break of the third set. Keys saved three match points at 5-3. Rybakina sealed the win on her fourth match point with a forehand winner. 

Petra Kvitova overcame US qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-3 2-6 6-4 in just over two hours. Kvitova hit 35 winners to 21 unforced errors. 

Kvitova raced out to a 5-0 lead with two breaks of serve in the second and fourth games. Pera pulled one break back in the seventh game to reduce her deficit to 3-5. Kvitova saved a break point to hold serve in the ninth game for 6-3. 

Pera earned an early break to take a 2-0 at the start of the second set. Five of the first seven games went against serve. Kritova went up a break at 4-3. Pera fired her first ace to hold serve for 5-4. Kvitova earned two match  points with her 10th ace. She fired her 11th ace to close out the match. 

Kvitova set up a second round match against Paula Badosa. Kvitova and Badosa have drawn level to 1-1 in their two head-to-head matches.  

Ekaterina Alexandrova overcame Victoria Azarenka 6-4 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes to reach the second round. 

Alexandrova has extended her winning streak to six consecutive matches, that includes her recent title in Seoul. 

Alexandrova was ranked outside the top 50 for the first time since 2019, but she came back by reaching two semifinals in Charleston and Madrid. In the past four months she clinched two WTA titles in S’Hertogenbosch and Seoul. She has recorded 29 wins to 10 defeats since April. 

Alexandrova will face either number 5 seed Daria Kasatkina or 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu. 

Azarenka earned the first break in the second game to take a 3-0 lead. Alexandrova broke back in the fifth game for 2-3, but Azarenka broke for the second time after a four-deuce battle to take a 4-2 lead, when Alexandrova sent a backhand wide on the seventh break point.

Alexandrova came back by winning four consecutive games to clinch the first set 6-4. 

A Hawkeye overrule denied Alexandrova a break point at 3-3. Alexandrova held serve before breaking twice in the eighth and tenth games to win the second set 6-4. 

Aleksandrova broke in the third game of the decider after a six- deuce battle with a pass on the third break point. The Russian player sealed the win with a service winner with her second match point. 

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Roberto Bautista Agut beats Felix Auger Aliassime to reach the second round at the Astana Open

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Roberto Bautista Agut upset eight-seed Felix Auger Aliassime 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 55 minutes to reach the second round at the Astana Open in Nur Sultan. 

 

Bautista Agut earned his first break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and held his next service games to seal the first set 6-4. 

Auger Aliassime went up a break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Bautista Agut pulled one break back in the fifth game and held on his serve to draw lo draw level to 3-3. Bautista Agut went up a mini-break twice in the tie-break, but Auger Aliassime pulled back on serve both times to draw level to 4-4. Bautista Agut sealed the win on his second match point. 

“It is my first time here. I played great in these conditions. I am very happy to win against a top 10 player. It’s not easy to beat Felix, especially on hard courts. That means I had to playa very good match. I was very solid and and very aggressive. I am very happy”, said Bautista Agut. 

Hubert Hurkacz edged past Francisco Cerundolo 6-2 7-6 (7-2) after 82 minutes in the first round of the Astana Open. 

Hurkacz broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the first set 6-2. The Polish player fired 11 aces and saved the one break point he faced in the second set. Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Hurkacz earned three mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The 2021 Miami Open champion set up a second round match against either Alexander Bublik or Tallon Griekspoor.

Hurkacz is currenly ranked ninth in the ATP Race to Turin, just 20 points behind Alexander Zverev, who has been sidelined by an injury. 

Andrey Rublev advanced to the second round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Laslo Djere in 71 minutes. Rublev saved all three break points and broke in the 10th game of the first set and in the 2nd game in the second set. 

Rublev set up a second round match against Chinese qualifier Zhizhen Zhang, who came back from one set down to beat Aslan Karatsev 4-6 6-4 6-1. 

Adrian Mannarino rallied from one set down to beat Stan Wawrinka 1-6 6-2 6-3 to extend his lead to 2-0 in his two head-to-head matches against his Swiss rival. Botic van de Zandschulp eased past Beibit Zhukzhiev 6-1 6-1. 

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