Aryna Sabalenka Stuns No.1 Swiatek To Set Up A Clash With Garcia For WTA Finals Title - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Stuns No.1 Swiatek To Set Up A Clash With Garcia For WTA Finals Title

The Belarussian has defeated the world No.3, No.2 and No.1 en route to the title match at Fort Worth.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider/

Aryna Sabalenlka has ended Iga Swaitek’s run of 15 consecutive wins over top-10 players to book her place in the final of the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. 

 

 Sabalenka, who is currently ranked seventh in the world, hit 26 winners past the top seed during her 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, win. It is the first time this season she has defeated Swiatek after suffering four straight losses to the Pole, including in the semi-finals of the US Open. Coincidentally her only other previous win over the three-time Grand Slam champion was also at the WTA Finals when it was staged in Mexico 12 months ago. 

“It was a great match. She played unbelievable tennis and I played unbelievable tennis. I’m just super happy with this win.” Sabalenka said during her press conference. 
“I was really calm on the court. And the mindset was just I wanted to make her work for it. I didn’t want to give her another easy win like she got with her first three wins. That’s the mindset I had during this match.” She added. 

It is the first time in her career that Sabalenka has defeated all of the world’s top three players in the same tournament. Earlier in the week she also scored wins over No.3 Jessica Pegula and No.2 One Jabeur. Until this tournament, she had only defeated two top 10 players in 2022.

“I think I’m doing pretty well during this season, mentality. It’s been an unbelievable week for me. I have worked really hard during the season even when things weren’t working well for me,” said Sabalenka who has struggled with her serve throughout the season. 
“I worked a lot during this season and being in the final is a lot for me. I’m just super happy and I’ll stay free. It’s the last match of the season and I’m ready to give everything I have.”

Sabalenka is only the second player from Belarus to have ever reached the title match at the WTA Finals after Victoria Azarenka in 2011. 

As for Swiatek, her standout year has come to an end. Overall, she has won 67 matches on the Tour and claimed eight WTA titles, including two Grand Slams and four WTA 1000 events. Her year-end ranking points tally is the highest achieved in women’s tennis since Serena Williams back in 2013. 

“I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve been waiting for that moment because last week it was pretty hard to see the finish line but still be fully motivated and ready for every match,” said Swiatek. 
“On the one hand I’m sad that I lost, but on the other hand, I have one more day off. That’s something on the bright side. This season has been so intense and I’m so proud of myself that I could play so well till the end of it. I’m happy that it’s done.”

Garcia awaits

The title match will be contested between the two lowest-ranked players in the field. Standing in Sabalenka’s way of the title is Caroline Garcia who stormed to a 6-3, 6-2, win over Maria Sakkari in less than 80 minutes. The Frenchwoman hit a total of 21 winners against 17 unforced errors and dropped serve only once en route to the victory.

“Yesterday, I was a little bit tired — nothing unusual after such a big match,” Garcia said in her on-court interview. “This morning, obviously the legs were a bit heavy, but I was just so excited, the emotion and the win yesterday to be playing a semifinal today of the WTA Finals.
“I was feeling very pumped. This morning I talked to my physio [Laura Legoupil] and I said, `I hope it’s going to last long enough to go to the match.’”

Defeating Sakkari could be a good omen for Garcia who also beat the Greek en route to titles at the 2017 Wuhan Open and 2022 Western and Southern Open. She is the oldest player to qualify for the season-ending event since Venus Williams in 2017 and is only the third player from her country to reach the final. 

Garcia’s head-to-head record against Sabalenka is currently tied at 2-2 but three out of their four meetings occurred back in 2018. Their most recent clash was earlier this year in Cincinnati where Garcia prevailed in three sets. 

“Aryna is a very powerful player. Huge serve, huge forehand and she look like she’s playing some great tennis here so far,” Garcia previewed of the final. 
“We know that she’s always showing a lot of emotion on the court, going for her shots. I played her a couple of months ago in Cincinnati. I would like to put pressure on her obviously and to be able to use their ball as well. But I will try to play my game.”

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 

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NAOMI OSAKA OF JAPAN - PHOTO: ALVARO DIAZ / MMO

Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 

 

The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?

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WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 

 

Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

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