Coco Gauff Ousts Sabalenka To Win Maiden Grand Slam Title At US Open - UBITENNIS
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Coco Gauff Ousts Sabalenka To Win Maiden Grand Slam Title At US Open

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Coco Gauff has become the third American teenager in history to win the women’s US Open title after staging a triumphant comeback against Aryna Sabalenka in a roller-coaster final. 

The 19-year-old struggled with nerves and some powerful play from her opponent early on before fighting back to prevail 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, and win the biggest title of her career. It is the first time in Gauff’s career that she has beaten a top-10 player in a major after dropping the opener. She has now won 12 matches in a row on the Tour which is her longest-ever streak. 

In what was a tense encounter at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, one of the most significant features of the match was Sabalenka’s erratic play. The Belarussian produced some blistering hitting but struggled with her consistency which is best illustrated by her winner-unforced error ratio of 25-46. Meanwhile, Gauff gradually weathered the storm en route to her fourth victory over Sabalenka in six meetings.

“I just knew that if I didn’t give it my all, then I would have no shot at winning,” the new champion said during her on-court interview. 
“Aryna is an incredible, incredible player. Congratulations on the No.1 ranking. It’s well-deserved. I always tell my team all the time that you’re a real nice person behind the scenes and the the competitiveness and that fire that you bring is what makes sports better.”

From the early stages of the match, it was evident that Sabalenka planned to dictate play with the use of some thunderous hitting. Although this all-or-nothing approach by the second seed produced some erratic tennis as she hit 14 unforced errors compared to eight winners during the opening set.

Sabalenka first drew blood in the opening game when she broke Gauff by firing a backhand winner. However, she squandered that lead just two games later with an error-stricken performance that allowed her opponent back into the match. Despite that blip and some inspiring defensive play from Gauff, she closed out the opener with relative ease with the help of a Gauff forehand shot into the net on set point. 

Since 2000, only one player had won a women’s US Open final after dropping the opener, which was Naomi Osaka in 2020. However, Gauff refused to back down. After saving break points at the start of the second frame, she capitalized on some patchy play coming from across the court to move to a 5-2 lead. Triggering an almighty cheer from a highly animated crowd. Sabalenka struggled at times with her footwork on the court, as well as dealing with slower balls. Best illustrated by a wild forehand from the soon-to-be world No.1 that gifted Gauff the second set. 

As Sabalenka continued to misfire on the court, Gauff surged through the decider without showing any signs of emotion. Nudging to two games from victory at 4-1, proceedings were briefly halted after Sabalenka requested a medical timeout for treatment on her left leg.

When play resumed yet another twist occurred with Gauff losing one of her break advantages but it didn’t derail her from the milestone victory. On her first championship point, she prevailed with a winning shot down the line. Prompting her to finally let out some emotion as she dropped to the ground in sheer relief. 

“Thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me,” said Gauff. “A month ago, I won a 500 title, people were saying I would stop at that. Two weeks ago I won a Masters title, and people said that was as big as it was going to get.’
“Three weeks later I’m here with this trophy now. To those who thought they were putting water on my fire, they were adding gas to it. Now I’m burning so bright now.”

As for Sabalenka, the loss is a bitter pill to swallow. Since winning the Australian Open, she has been beaten in two Grand Slam semi-finals and the US Open final after claiming the first set. She was bidding to become the first singles player from her country to win the New York title. 

“​​I felt the love through the couple of weeks,” a tearful Sabalenka said. “I wanted to say congrats to Coco, you were unbelievable and deserve this title. I hope we play many more titles but with a different result!’
“My family are awake and watching so want to send them my love – sorry for this result! Thank you to my team, thank you guys.”

Gauff is the first American teenager to win a major title this century and the first to do so since Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open. As a result of the win, she will rise to No.3 in the WTA rankings on Monday behind Iga Swiatek and Sabalenka. 

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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