Aryna Sabalenka Cruises into Last Four of US Open - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Cruises into Last Four of US Open

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image via WTA Twitter

By Anshu Taneja

Aryna Sabalenka, who is going to be the new World Number 1 on Monday, raced into the last four of the US Open with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-4 victory over Qinwen Zheng in just 1 hour and 13 minutes, highlighting her credentials as the hot favourite for the women’s title.

“I think I definitely played great tennis today,” Sabalenka said on court after her win. “I’m super happy with the win against her, she played incredible tennis at the US Open this year.”

The number two seed, who had dropped just 16 games in first four matches played in New York, won the first seven points and broke serve immediately for a 2-0 lead after a Zheng forehand hit the net-cord and drifted wide. Moments later she was already 4-0 up and the Chinese 23rd seed, who was named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2022, had only won three points.

Zheng’s most impressive scalp in reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final was her surprisingly quick straight sets victory over much fancied Ons Jabeur in the previous round, a match in which she was able to exert her hard flat shots. But facing the brutal baseline power of the Belarussian in hot and humid conditions on the world-famous Arthur Ashe stadium was a true baptism of fire and she crumbled in the first set.

With the roof partially closed to give the players and fans some UV protection, Sabalenka cruised to the first set 6-1 in just 27 minutes with excellent serving stats, winning 89% of points both on her first and second serves, along with eight winners and converting all four net approaches. 

Zheng, who was aiming to become the third Chinese woman to reach the semis in the last ten years following Li Na in 2013 and Peng Shuai in 2014, started the second set much better and held her first three service games and even made small inroads on her opponents serve, although she couldn’t go as far as carving out a breakpoint. 

Although winning a 21-shot rally in the fifth game gave her renewed confidence and belief, she continued to miss first serves at important moments and was under more pressure in the seventh game when a double fault followed by three unforced errors meant she surrendered serve just when the crowd was hoping for a true contest. Even by gifting two double faults in her next game, Sabalenka still easily held for 5-3 before going to close out the match two games later. 

“Of course I’m happy … it’s incredible for me and my family,” Sabalenka commented on her rise to No.1.
“But I have some things still to do in New York this year and I’ll think about becoming No.1 after the US Open.”

In the first meeting between the two players, Sabalenka hit 17 winners to 13 and just 12 unforced errors compared to 16 from Zheng. But she won 55 points overall compared to 35 which underlined the true gulf in class.  She now faces the winner of Madison Keys and Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in the US Open Final. 

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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