Zhu Lin upsets Maria Sakkari to reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career - UBITENNIS
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Zhu Lin upsets Maria Sakkari to reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career



World number 87 Zhu Lin upset number 6 seed Maria Sakkari 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in a late night match on Rod Laver Arena to set up a fourth-round match against 2012 and 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka, who beat Madison Keys 1-6 6-2 6-1. The match went past midnight and the Chinese New Year’s eve. 

Zhu earned 15 break points and fired 29 winners to 38 unforced errors. 

The first set started with three consecutive breaks, as Zhu took a 2-1 lead. Sakkari broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Zhu took the first set 7-3 on the tie-break with three mini-breaks. 

Sakkari bounced back by winning the second set 6-1 with four breaks of serve to force the match to third set. 

Zhu earned an early break in the third set, but Sakkari pulled back on serve to draw level to 4-4, but Zhu earned her decisive break on her 15th  and final opportunity of the match with a lob in the ninth game earning a chance to serve for the match. 

“I just keep telling myself. It’s just one break and then I need to put more for serving and be aggressive, trust myself. That’s all I tell myself, and he relaxed. Enjoy the stadium, enjoy the crowd”, said Zhu. 

Zhu has recorded the first win of her career against a top 10 player. The Chinese player will celebrate her 29th birthday on the women’s final day next Saturday. Zhu had never got beyond the second round at the Australian Open or at any other Grand Slam. 

“Is this real ? Am I in a dream ? Words cannot describe how I feel right now. Thank you my team for pushing me every day to become a better player. I would not be here without guys. I also want to thank the fans for coming to support. It means a lot to me. Can I say a few words in Chinese ? It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve today”, said Zhu Lin. 

Zhu took part in the WTA Rising Stars showcase at the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore alongside Naomi Osaka, Ons Jabeur and Caroline Garcia, but she has sidelined by injuries in the transition to the main WTA Tour.

“There were a lot of ups and downs. Even sometimes I thought about maybe I was not good enough for tennis. I thought about retiring sometimes, but my family, my friends, they always talk to me. They believe I can be a better player, so they were pushing me every day to become a better person. So I am really appreciating”, said Zhu. 

Sakkari was disappointed with her performance. The Greek player hit 42 winners to 52 unforced errors. 

“I think my level was not level was not good at all. I started the match by being too defensive and not hitting the ball. Just being scared of playing my game. Zhu had nothing to lose. She was playing free. She was playing free, She was enjoying herself. She was playing very good. I have seen her on the tour. I have never seen her playing that well, to be honest. Beating Jill Teichmann in the round before, and I didn’t remember her moving so well as she did today. As I said, she was pretty pumped and motivated to have a good result. She has achieved it already by beating two very good players”, said Sakkari. 

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco



Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit



image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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“It’s Purely Psychological” – Maria Sakkari Berates ‘Unacceptable’ French Open Defeat



Maria Sakkari - Roma 2023 (foto Francesca Micheli, Ubitennis)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari said she felt ‘intense anxiety’ before her first round match at the French Open after crashing out of the draw on Monday.  

The sixth seed suffered a shock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, loss to Varvara Gracheva who is currently ranked 88th in the world. Sakkari produced a costly 39 unforced errors and dropped serve five times in her latest match. It is the first time she has lost her opening match at a tournament since February.  

Heading into Paris, the 28-year-old had produced encouraging results on the Tour after reaching the semi-finals in Charleston before making fourth round appearances at WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome. 

 “It’s the first time I don’t know what to say…” Sakkari told SDNA
“I’ve been very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It’s definitely psychological, purely. It’s nothing else.” 

Since appearing in two Grand Slam semi-finals in 2021, Sakkari has struggled to make an impact at the major events. Her defeat to Gracheva makes it the fourth time she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since the start of last year. Overall, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of her nine most recent appearances at these tournaments. 

 “I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set,” she said of her latest performance.
“I was feeling a panic, it’s not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?’  
“It’s purely psychological, I’m not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another game in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I’ve recovered and I’m playing well in the other tournaments, but it’s proven that I’m not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it’s one thing, another thing.” 

Whilst praising her opponent, Sakkari describes her defeat as ‘unacceptable’ and hopes it will serve as a wake-up call for her.  

She now heads to the grass season with a win-loss record of 19-10 so far this year.

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