Iga Swiatek Expresses Caution Over Tennis' Move To Saudi Arabia After Australian Open Win - UBITENNIS
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Iga Swiatek Expresses Caution Over Tennis’ Move To Saudi Arabia After Australian Open Win

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Iga Swiatek says she is unsure if Saudi Arabia’s push to become a force in tennis is a positive step after coming through her opening match at the Australian Open. 

The world No.1 rallied to a 7-6(2), 6-2, win over former Grand Slam champion Sofia Kenin in her opening match on Tuesday. It was a far from straightforward encounter for Swiatek who was down a break twice during the first set before clawing her way back to triumph in the tiebreaker. Then in the second frame, she gained momentum by winning five games in a row en route to victory. Overall she hit 30 winners to 21 unforced errors and won 65% of her first service points. 

“It wasn’t the easiest first round. She played really well. I tried to find my rhythm, especially in the first set.” Said Swiatek.
“I’m happy at the end of the set I could win the most important points.
I’m happy that I am through and I could play a little bit better in the second set.”

Swiatek, who is spending her 86th week at the top of the WTA rankings, has now won 17 consecutive matches on the Tour with her last defeat occurring at the Japan Open last September. She is bidding to win her fifth Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open. 

“I felt a little bit off in terms of the timing. You could see I played a couple of frames,” she admits. 
“The temperature was higher than any match I played this season. I needed to adjust to that. The balls were a little bit flying out of control but that’s normal in these conditions.”

Amid her latest victory, the 22-year-old weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding Saudi Arabia’s aim to move into tennis. The Middle Eastern nation held its first ATP event last year and on Monday it was confirmed that Rafael Nadal has been appointed as an ambassador for the Saudi Tennis Federation. The Spaniard is also set to open an academy there and play a role in the development of junior tennis. 

However, there are concerns that Saudi Arabia is using sport to improve its image which has been damaged by allegations of human rights violations. A concept known as sportswashing. Something that doesn’t sit too well with Swiatek who has expressed caution over the topic. 

“It’s hard for me to sum up in one sentence.” She said. 
“It was always hard for me to say if it’s good or not because it’s not easy for women in these areas. Obviously, these countries also want to change and improve politically and sociologically.’
“Also in terms of many events that were held, there were rumors about sportswashing. I have nothing to do with Rafa and his decisions, it should be up to the federations and the governing bodies who decide if we (the players) are going to play there or not. If there would be some negative backlash, they should take the responsibility.
“I’s hard to straightforwardly go one way and say anything. I don’t know if it’s a good decision or not.”

Whilst the debate concerning Saudi Arabia continues, Swiatek’s immediate focus is on Melbourne where she will play Danielle Collins in the second round on Thursday. Collins beat Angelique Kerber 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, in her opening match. 

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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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Image via x.com/twitter

The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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Jasmine Paolini Looks Great, But Krejcikova Is Next At Wimbledon

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Jasmine Paolini’s path to a Grand Slam title might have fallen apart in Wimbledon’s semifinals.

Barbara Krejcikova is just the kind of player Paolini might not want to face.

Otherwise, grass is good for Paolini. She just eats up all of those low ball-sliding grass shots that her opponents have been providing. Those shots are perfect for the 5-3 Italian. She doesn’t have to get down very low since she is naturally there already, and she has great quickness. So,  Wimbledon’s grass was made for someone like Paolini.

CAN PAOLINI HANDLE KREJCIKOVA’S BAG OF TRICKS

Krejcikova has a bag full of tricks to throw at Paolini. Balls come off her racket twisting and turning just enough to throw Paolini’s reach-back cocked forehands off their mark. And Krejcikova has the experience needed to bring home an overall 12th Grand Slam title.

But you have to admit that the stubby Paolini is quite a player. She’s like a bouncing ball running loose on the court.

Paolini definitely was a superb player against new star Emma Navarro, who could do little right against the little Italian. Paolini just did everything to Navarro’s game that Navarro had been using to dominate the Italian.

THE SLY GAME OF KREJCIKOVA

Navarro couldn’t take charge of the points against Paolini in the quarterfinals, just the opposite of Navarro’s play against powerful Coco Gauff in the round of 16.

But Krejcikova is so sly with her game that she can take the rhythm right out of Paolini’s game.

After all, Krejcikova won the 2021 French Open singles title. She also has been a part of doubles champions at all four Grand Slams, and has won a total of seven Grand Slam doubles titles and three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

That’s 11 Grand Slam titles. What’s another title to the 28-year-old Czech?

VEKIC HAD HER CHANCES

Donna Vekic had her chances to end Paolini’s march to Saturday’s final, but the 28-year-old Croatian seemed to go for broke every time down the stretch when she had an add or deuce point. That’s probably why the 28-year-old Vekic has never been ranked higher than 19th in the world.

Time after time Vekic went for the jugular with sizzling  cross-court shots that narrowly missed the lines late in the third set before losing, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6.

Of course, Paolini’s amazing quickness may have had something to do with those misses.

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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