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Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final

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Osaka Gives Japan Maiden Major by Upending Serena in the U.S. Open Final


Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships - Day 6 - Saturday 7th July 2018 -  All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - Wimbledon - London - EnglandBoth U.S. Open finalists were on the precipice of history. For Serena Williams an eighth title at Flushing Meadows would have been another accolade by equalizing Margaret Court with a record 24th major. While for Naomi Osaka lifting the trophy would brand her as the first individual from Japan to ever capture one of the sports’ highest honors. Ultimately, it was the 20 year old who realized her dream. Osaka surprised Serena 6-2, 6-4 to capture the championship.

For Osaka, who as a youngster watched from the top bleacher as her idol held court at this same venue, to be in the final felt “a little bit, surreal. Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it. At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. Yeah, I shouldn’t really think of her as, like, my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.” That approach to the biggest encounter of her budding career served her well.

Perhaps it was a display of nerves at the start, but each player overcame a 0-30 deficit in her opening game. However, with Serena’s forehand flying long, Osaka had a break point. With the American miscuing with a double fault, Osaka went up 2-1. Soon, with an ace at 40-15, the Japanese protégé confirmed the break. In the next game, applying pressure with her groundstrokes, Osaka had Serena facing break point. When the American’s backhand found the net, Osaka secured a 4-1 cushion. With a forehand volley winner, Williams secured her initial break point. Coolly with an ace, Osaka was at deuce. With Serena failing to capitalize on another break point, Osaka built a 5-1 lead. Visibly flummoxed, Serena with the support of a boisterous crowd climbed out of 0-30 hole to hold. Yet, Osaka would not be denied. Up 40-15, she saw Serena dump a forehand return into the net to cap the opening set.

Osaka’s best previous showing at a major was the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open where she succumbed to world number one, Simona Halep. Thus far, her first and only career title came this year at Indian Wells. Her next tournament at the Miami Open, she stunned Serena in the early rounds who had been back from maternity leave. But, since March, Osaka’s results had been subpar. Although Osaka had a record 31-0 after winning the first set, this was the big league. The experience chasm which divided these two in terms of experience couldn’t be starker. However, the combination of Serena’s dire 38% first serve stat, her 2-7 mark in major finals after surrendering the first set, the last comeback being 13 years ago at the Australian Open, underlined that Osaka had history on her side.

In the second game with Osaka serving, Serena got saddled with a coaching violation by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s hand gesture, signaling for her to move forward caught the umpire’s eye but was not seen by Williams. Perhaps this infraction was the fuel Serena needed. Up to now, Osaka was a wizard at making break points disappear, 16 in her previous two matches, 13 alone in the semifinals against Madison Keyes and two already today. With a backhand return winner, Serena had her fourth break point of the fourth game. As Osaka’s backhand landed long, Serena finally had chiseled a 3-1 edge. But an ace for 30-15, followed by successive double faults and a backhand error was how Serena’s service game unfolded. She responded by smashing a racket. Tagged with a second code violation, Serena did not realize that it meant an automatic loss of point. With an ace at 40-0, Osaka comfortably held for 3-3. Next, with a backhand up the line return winner, the Japanese hopeful was at 30-40, she connected with a forehand up the line pass winner to seal the break for 4-3.

Incensed, Serena could not let go of what she viewed as an injustice. During the changeover, she labeled Ramos a “thief”. He retaliated by giving her a third code violation for verbal abuse. This time, the consequence was a loss of a game, “I called you a thief because you stole a point from me”. In shock and disbelief, Williams resorted to the referee. But, what was done, could not be undone, Osaka was awarded a game for 5-3 without striking a ball. After Serena’s love hold, it was Osaka’s turn to be under pressure. With an ace, the youngster arrived at 40-15. On her second try, with an unreturnable serve, Osaka closed out the match.

There was no outward excessive celebration by Osaka who had defeated her idol on the largest stage in tennis. Her reaction is reflective of her personality according to her coach Sascha Bajin, Serena’s former hitting partner, who began working with her last November “I think everybody. . .on this planet can learn a lot from that girl in order to maintain that innocence. I believe the more open we are and the more honest we are and show vulnerability sometimes and who we truly are, the better this world is going to be. And all the fake emotions, I’m not a fan of it. I believe that, yeah, she’s a star for that.” Serena hugged her at net and told Ramos “you owe me an apology”.

During the trophy ceremony, Serena did her utmost to shift the spotlight onto Osaka where it belonged “I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to do questions. I want to tell you guys, she played well, this is her first grand slam. I know you guys were here rooting for me. Let’s make this the best moment we can. . .Let’s give everyone the credit where the credit is due. . . Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”

Serena realized the gravity of the situation “I felt at one point bad because I’m crying and she’s crying. . . she just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were just sad tears because of the moment.. .this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. . . I definitely don’t want her to feel like that.”

Certainly, an awkward time for this 20 year old who with serenity and poise had a fairy tale outcome, but not quite the finish she dreamt of “I know everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this, [with tears streaming down], I just want to say thank you for watching the match. It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open final. I am glad I was able to do that. I’m grateful I was able to play with you, [turns to Serena and bows], thank you” Osaka displayed mixed emotions “I know she really wanted to have the 24th grand slam. Everyone knows, it’s on the commercials everywhere. When I step on the court, I feel like a different person. I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But when we hugged at net, I felt like a kid again. . .When I was growing up, I did a whole report on her in the third grade. [I said] I want to be like her”.

Following her win, she had a touching embrace with her mother “she sacrificed a lot for me. It means a lot for her to come and watch my matches because she normally doesn’t do that. All we are missing is my dad, he doesn’t physically watch my matches, he walks around I will see him later”

Serena is no stranger to controversy at the U.S. Open. In 2004 in the quarterfinals against Jennifer Capriati, at least three blatant ruling errors, including an overrule by the chair umpire on a clear out ball, likely cost her the match. Those flubs ushered in the era of electronic review. In the 2009 semifinals down 4-6, 5-6, a second serve foot fault at 15-30 brought on a harangue which resulted in a second code violation and point penalty to hand Kim Clijsters the match. Serena viewed the coaching violation as unfair “one thing I love about tennis is being out there and it’s the one time I don’t want to hear anyone tell me anything. It’s my moment of peace. You have to figure it out and you have to problem solve.” For Williams, the game penalty was a gender issue “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. For me to say thief and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said thief. It blows my mind. But, I’m going to continue to fight for women. . .[Alize] Cornet should be able to take off her shirt without getting a fine, it’s outrageous”.

The tennis world is warming up to this newly minted champion, the youngest U.S. Open titlist since Maria Sharapova at age 19 in 2006. Osaka contributes her success to Bajin in turning her from a top 60 player to a top 10 competitor, her ranking will shoot up from 19 to 7. “Sascha is a really nice person, he’s really positive and upbeat. I think for me that’s really important because I tend to be down on myself a lot”.

Has Serena’s behavior soiled her image in her eyes in any way? Osaka cited “I don’t know what happened on the court. For me, I will always remember the Serena that I love, It doesn’t change anything. . .She was really nice at net and on the podium. So I don’t really see what would change”.

Although born in Japan, Osaka represents the quintessential American story. Born to immigrant parents, father is Haitian, mother from Japan. She grew up in Brooklyn and trains in South Florida. If she continues to emulate her idol’s play on court, with her humble demeanor, the U.S. will want to adopt her as their own considering she holds dual citizenpship.

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Kerber Stymies Serena for Maiden Wimbledon Title

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Kerber Stymies Serena for Maiden Wimbledon Title



Angelique Kerber was at this stage twice before in 2016, meeting Serena Williams in finals. At the Australian Open, she surprised the American to obtain her first major. But Williams turned the tables on the grass to acquire her 7th Venus Rosewater dish. Today, Kerber’s steely defense once again proved impenetrable as she bested Serena 6-3, 6-3 to finally earn the coveted silverware.

This was their 9th meeting with Williams holding a 6-2 winning record. Subsequent to starting the match with 30-0, Serena committed a string of unforced errors to gift Kerber the opening game. The German backed up the break by claiming the second game. After seven unforced errors, the total of what she tallied the entire match in the semifinals facing Kerber’s compatriot, Julia Goerges, Williams settled down. With a break at love, she levelled the score at 2 all. But with consecutive double faults in the seventh game, the American found herself under the gun at 0-40. With Williams’ forehand landing long, Kerber secured a crucial break and by pocketing the next game led 5-3. With Serena’s backhand finding the net at 30-40, Kerber pocketed her third break and the first set.

Coming into the finals, the American had the fewest unforced errors compared to the rest of the field with Kerber second in that category. By the way she littered the lawn today, no one would have deduced that. Moreover, in the opening set, Williams won one point off her second serve. As the match progressed, Kerber continued to sure up her defensive play. What would have been uncontested winners against any other opponent, resulted in errors, whether forced or unforced, on Williams’ stat sheet. A prime example was with Serena serving at 2-3, Kerber sprinted to a casual volley on her part to blast a winner for 15-40. Soon with a running forehand winner up the line, Kerber sealed the next game for 5-2, four points from her maiden Wimbledon title.

By securing the next game at love, Serena kept her hopes for an 8th Wimbledon title alive momentarily. Promptly, with a sensational forehand up the line winner, the German arrived at championship point. Serena’s return miscue ultimately cemented the victory for Kerber. In defeating Williams, Kerber becomes the first German since Steffi Graff, her idol, in 1996 to triumph on the All England Club. Also, She stopped the American, at least for now, who remains knotted with Graff, 23 majors and 7 Wimbledon trophies.

Following a long hiatus due to pregnancy, Williams seeded 25th but ranked 181st, made it to this final after only her fourth tournament after rejoining the tour. Although despondent that she could not leave with the grand prize, her voice cracking a bit, she cited it “was an amazing tournament for me. I was really happy to get this far. It’s obviously disappointing, but, I cannot be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.” With so many physiologic changes, it’s remarkable how Serena could get back to this form. She doesn’t believe that she is either “superhuman or supermom”, according to the American “I am just me. For all the moms out there I was playing for you today. I tried. Angelique played really well. . . I look forward to being back out here and doing what I do best. Angelique is an incredible person. She is a really good friend, I am really happy for her. It’s her first title [here], I know she is going to enjoy it”

Runner up in 2016, Kerber was overwhelmed by the occasion confessing “when I was a little kid, I was always dreaming of winning, it’s a dream come true. I knew that I had to play my best tennis against a great champion like Serena. It’s an honor for me to share the court with her”. Indeed, Kerber’s defense was stellar, 11 winners and only 5 errors in 2 sets. She commented that Serena’s comeback is “an inspiration for everybody, it’s amazing watching you. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title”

After a brilliant 2016 including reaching number 1, Kerber’s stock declined finishing 2017 ranked 21. A new coach, a title in Sydney this year, her first since the U.S. Open in 2016, the German is once again on the rise at age 30. On Monday, her ranking will improve from 10 to 4. For her part, Serena Williams gained a lot of ground with her showing, her ranking will catapult to number 28.

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Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match

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Marvelous Monday at Miami Open Features Federer versus Del Potro as the Marquee Match


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From the outset of the draw, the most anticipated potential third round encounter was Roger Federer against Juan Martin Del Potro. The fans got their wish since these two will battle it out for a fourth round berth.

Secondary to injury, Del Potro has off the tennis circuit for long stretches at a time the last four years. The last time Federer and he collided was in 2013 at the Barclays’ world tour finals. Federer holds a 15-5 record over the Argentine. As always the X-factor is the South American fans. Without question, the stadium will be sizzling which means anything can happen.

After the heights of Federer and Del Potro, John Isner clashes with youngster Alexander Zverev. The 19 year old, currently ranked 20th, won their sole prior meeting at the 2016 ATP Masters tournament in Shanghai.

For the women, the daytime’s most compelling match is Garbine Muguruza taking on former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. The 2016 French Open champion clawed her way to this stage needing three sets in both matches while Wozniacki sailed through. Muguruza has a 3-1 lead in their head to head. However, the two have not competed against each other since 2015.

Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka has the honor of opening the night session against 33 year old Tunisian veteran Malek Jaziri who is this far at Miami Open for the first time. He has a Herculean task in keeping his hopes for a fourth round spot alive as the two meet for the first time.

The night ends with two former Miami Open champions Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova duking it out for a quarterfinal spot. They’ve fought it out on court nine times previously with the Russian banking 5 wins over the American.

With the women seeking advancement to the quarterfinals, there is a plethora of interesting matches to pick from on Monday including world number one Angelique Kerber’s and second seed Karolina Pliskova’s.

Click here for for Monday’s complete order of play.

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Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Venus Williams and Kerber Move on to the Fourth Round at the Miami Open


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Three time Miami Open champion Venus Williams took another step forward in the hope of seizing another trophy at the Miami Open. She defeated 22 year old Romanian qualifier Patricia Maria Tig 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the fourth round where she will face 2006 winner and 2016 finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian put a stop to American qualifier Taylor Townsend’s dream run with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph.

The first point of the match was a double fault by Williams. The 36 year old struggled to find the rhythm on her first serve which cost her in the third game, permitting Tig to capitalize on break point for 2-1. Undeterred, Williams broke back at love to even up the scoreboard.

Up to that point, the Romanian had been quite impressive knocking out Heather Watson of Great Britain in her maiden main draw match. Subsequently, she dismissed 2017 Indian Wells semifinalist and 18th seed Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.

Once up 4-3, Venus seemed to find her form and by feasting on the second serve offerings by Tig. She got the second break of the set for 5-3. Later with a winner, she closed out the deal on her serve.

The 2017 Australian Open finalist and 7 time major title holder cruised through the second set pocketing six successive games to get to the next stage.

Williams did not get out of the gate as expected, “I’ve never played her, so you have to get used to patterns or rhythm. So I thought she played well. She’s got a great game. Every game was competitive. Definitely a lot of credit to her.”

As the adage goes, it’s not how one starts but finishes. Venus turned on the afterburner in the second set “no matter what, I’m going to leave everything on the court: all my guts, blood, sweat, tears. Obviously you don’t want to wait until you’re a set down to find your best game. Today I was quite happy to acclimate quicker.”

On court coaching has been an aspect of the sport that Venus has hardly utilized, she likes to earn her victories the old fashion way “I hadn’t thought a ton about it. From my understanding, on-court coaching was supposed to be a selling point to build the game and get more interest . . . If it’s doing that, then it’s a plus. We want the game to grow and people to watch because it’s exciting. I don’t necessarily have an opinion. If it’s helping the game, I’m like down. I’m good.”

Regarding her next challenge, Kuznetsova who holds a 5-4 lead in their head to head, Venus made these comments pre match ” We’ve had a lot of great matches. I played her in the very beginning of her career and now we both have had great careers that are continuing to be amazing. I know her game. I don’t think there will be any surprises. She knows mine. I just want to continue to control the court. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Earlier in the day, world number one and top seed Angelique Kerber had to work to obtain a 6-4, 7-5 win over American Shelby Rogers. In the first set, the top seed fell behind 3-0. However, she went on a five game streak to move ahead 5-4. Soon, with Rogers committing her 21st miscue, Kerber had triple set point which she banked as the American misfired again.

In the second set, with Rogers’ backhand winner clipping the line, Kerber faced triple break point. As the 2 time major champion dumped a forehand into the net, Rogers secured a 4-2 edge. But her joy lasted only a few minutes. The very next game she surrendered the advantage due to a litany of mistakes. In the eleventh game, Kerber allowed her opponent to press while she stayed consistent with her stroke. That strategy banked her the break for 6-5. With a swift hold, she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Next up for the German will be 23 year old Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki who upset 16th seed Kiki Bertens in the second round, then booted Julia Goerges ranked 47th.

Madison Keyes’ comeback from left wrist surgery is still a work in progress. Today the world number 9 was send packing by Lara Arruabarrena, ranked 72nd, 7-5, 7-5.

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On Tap Thursday at the Miami Open:  Pliskova, Muguruza and Wozniacki

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On Tap Thursday at the Miami Open: Pliskova, Muguruza and Wozniacki



IMG_0720_MuguruzaIt’s an all American ladies’ line up on Stadium court at the Miami Open on Thursday as second round action gets underway. World number 3 Karolina Pliskova opens play on center court against American Madison Brengle. Later in the afternoon, 2012 Miami Open semifinalist and former world number one Carolina Wozniacki battles another American Varvara Lepchenko. The night cap has reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza taking on Christina McHale. With the former Spaniard by way of Venezuela, it should be an electric evening on Miami’s main show court.

On the men’s side, 19 year old American qualifier Frances Tiafoe tussles with Russsian Konstantin Kravchuk in his first round match. 20 year old promising Croatian Borna Coric precedes Tifae’s match as he squares off against Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers. Novak Djokovic’s slayer in the second round at this year’s Australian Open, Denis Istomin, faces Russian Andrey Kusznetsov.

Still, the day belongs to the women undoubtedly as 2012 Miami Open Champion Agnieszka Radwanska hopes to get back on track with a victory over China’s Qiang Wang. Australian Open 2017 semifinalist Coco Wandeweghe tries continue her wonderful 2017 with a deep run in South Florida. She takes on qualifier Jana Cepelova. Newly minted Indian Wells titlist Elena Vesnina starts her quest for the double crown as she looks to breeze through against Ajla Tomljanovic.

Click here for Thursday’s complete order of play.

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Kuzentsova and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Finals

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Kuzentsova and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Finals


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Karen Pestaina @TennisNewsTPN

A pair of former Miami Open winners and two-time major champions have reached the women’s final. Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 2006 winner of the Miami Open held off Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. 2009 and 2011 Key Biscayne winner, 13th seed Victoria Azarenka gained a little revenge from the Australian Open by beating No. 2 Angelique Kerber. Kerber beat Azarenka in the quarterfinals of Melbourne and went on to beat Serena Williams in the final to capture her first major title.

Kuznetsova knocked out eight-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round of Miami and survived four straight three-set wins to reach the semifinal.

The 30-year-old Russian at No. 19 in the world has become the lowest ranked finalist since 2005, when No. 38 Kim Clijsters won the Miami title.

Should Kuznetsova win the title, she would return to the top ten. She talked about her tournament so far.

“I just take match by match and I just go,” she said. “It’s one more match. I’ll play with another amazing opponent. I had great wins this week, but one match, it’s a lot. It’s almost like everything. It’s great, you know.

“I start really well playing in Sydney, and then Australian Open didn’t happen to me to play good there. But I still felt I was in good level. Then I kind of mess up with Fed Cup and all that results. It was not good for me.

“I didn’t feel going in that good shape going to the U.S. swing. I was not feeling confident at all. After I had a loss in Indian Wells I tried to work a lot and training every morning a lot just to get confidence back, get my fitness.

“I’m doing better. I’m appreciate, I am blessed I have my body to play so many years and to win against good players, top players. It’s great when things come together. Either way, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a great week. I’m really pleased and happy the way I fight through all these tournaments and weeks and players.”

On-court after the match, the former French Open and U.S. Open champion said she was happy wrapping up the match in straight sets.

“I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down,” said Kuznetsova.
“I’m happy I’m still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest.”

Azarenka advanced during the Thursday night session, improving her record this year to 21-1, not dropping a set during the tournament. Should the Belarusian win, she’d become only the third woman player to win the Indian Wells – Miami double in the same year.

Both Azarenka and Kerber produced hard-hitting shots with very exciting rallies. Azarenka had her serve broken, serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set but won the next two games to close it.

Azarenka broke the German’s serve seven time during the match, hitting 29 winners and only making 16 unforced errors.

“Vika, she is doing amazing,” Kuznetsova said about potentially playing her in the final. “She is extremely prepared. Playing really confident taking all her chances.”

Azarenka is 4-4 against Kuznetsova in head-to-head competition. The last time they faced each other was in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. Azarenka won the match and went on to win her second straight Melbourne crown.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Kerber and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Semis

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Kerber and Azarenka Advance to the Miami Open Semis


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Karen Pestaina @TennisNewsTPN

Victoria Azarenka stands two wins away from achieving the rare Indian Wells- Miami double. The 13th seed and two-time major winner defeated Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the Miami Open on Wednesday.

Only two women have won Indian Wells and Miami in the same year and they are Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996.

“If I’m able to make it, it’s great,” Azarenka said after the match. “It seems so close, but it’s really far. I want to stay in the present. I want to continue to fight and keep getting better.”

“Great player,” Azarenka said of Konta. “I was very impressed with her improvement taking from last year and seeing how well she’s handling the pressure and going in big stages and playing really well. That’s impressive. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of her in the future.

“I think especially for England not having women player stand out, she’s going to be the one, I think.”

“I think it’s exciting to watch her journey and see happens. She’s definitely playing top 10 level right now.”

The Belarusian who has struggled with injuries the last few years said that she always believed in herself but she still hasn’t reached her peak. “I never doubt my abilities,” said the 2009 and 2011 Miami Open winner. “What came to my mind is definitely after being for so long injured, the doubt was to get healthy. So always been a little bit on my mind.

“But I still feel that I’m far from my best, and that’s what’s really exciting for me, to be motivated, to keep improving. Everybody has doubts. We’re human beings. I always trust my ability and I believe in myself.”

Azarenka will face-off against No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber who defeated No. 22 Madison Keys 6-3, 6-2 in the evening session.

For the reigning Australian Open champion Kerber, this will be her first semifinal in Miami.

Kerber dominated her American opponent, Keys made 39 unforced errors during the match. Kerber rushed need just a little over an hour to complete the victory.

“It’s nice to play a match like this,” Kerber said. “I was feeling good. Madison is always a tough opponent. I know this because we had a lot of tough battles in the past.

“I knew that I must play very good to beat her because she played very well here in the last few matches. So it’s good. It’s good.”

She continued: “I was really trying to stay focus(ed) and stay really concentrate point by point and actually trying to really only focusing on points, on point by point.

“Because I know the tennis game, and sometimes one ball can change and turn around the match. That was my goal: to be focus(ed) and playing my game until the last point.”
Kerber notched her first win over Azarenka in the most recent quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Coming into that match, the Belarusian had a 6-0 advantage over the German.
“I went out there and trying to be really aggressive from the first point, trying to really believe in myself, because until this time I never won the match against her,” Kerber said. “It was 0-6; now it’s 1-6. I will try to go out there again like in Australia and try to believe in my game and myself and, yeah, trying to challenge her.

“It will be not easy. It will be tough match. But this is for what I am practicing, for the big matches out there, to really show what, yeah, we can do and playing the best tennis.

“So I’m really looking forward to play against her again this year.”

As for playing Azarenka in the next round, Kerber said: “She had a great start of the year, of course. She is like, yeah, on fire I think right now. I will just trying to play my game go out and try to beat her. I mean, we played two times already this year and that’s the third time.

“Yeah, I will try to enjoy it. I know that I must play really my best tennis to beat her because she won Indian Wells; she’s here now in the semis.

“Yeah, I will try to take this challenge against her.”

The other semifinal which will take place on Thursday will pit No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated No. 1 Serena Williams in the third round, against No. 19 seed Timea Bacsinszky who knocked out two straight top 5 seeds to reach the final four.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Bacsinszky Upsets Halep at the Miami Open

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Bacsinszky Upsets Halep at the Miami Open


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Karen Pestaina @TennisNewsTPN

The women’s upsets continued at the Miami Open on Tuesday when No. 5 seed Romanian Simona Halep lost to No. 19 seed Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
The Swiss player backed up her defeat of the No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round for her second straight win over top five players.

It marked the first time that Bacsinszky had even taken a set off of Halep.
For the Swiss, it’s been five years since she last made an appearance at Key Biscayne and this year, making the semifinals is by far the longest run she’s made in the tournament.

After Halep took a tight first set, Bacsinszky jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set to take control. The Swiss notched two breaks early in the third set to go up 3-0 and never had to look back.

After her first service break in the second set, rain halted play for 10 minutes.

Bacsinszky’s effective use of the slice, movement and varied game, put her opponent off guard throughout most of the almost two-and-a-half-hour match.

“Well, in the second set I think I was pushing her to play long rallies,” she said. “I was like probably trying to hide where I was playing; then she was like — she couldn’t be able to guess if it was on the backhand or the forehand.

“Well, even though I felt that she raised her level and her intensity at the end the second set, I stayed — I’m happy that I stayed really strong. I felt that she was like going up, pushing, pushing, but I showed that, Okay, I’m here. I know you’re pushing, but I can keep the level.

“Then it helped me a lot for the third set. I raised then probably my intensity at the beginning of the third set and it made a big gap between us.”

With Halep out, the only top ten seed left in the women’s draw is No. 2 Angelique Kerber.

“The ranking is only a number,” said the Swiss in reference to beating two top five players, “so sometimes you can play very good, better than your ranking, and sometimes less good than your ranking is.

“So for the next match, I mean, obviously for sure it gives me a big confidence to have those two wins, but it doesn’t change that I’m going to have a fierce opponent and it’s going to be tough.

“I just hope I’m going to be able to play well — I mean, not especially well, but be efficient in the next match. Hopefully I win the last point. If not, then it’s okay. I’ll try for the next tournament.”

Bascinszky will next play Russian No. 15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the finals. Kuznetsova is fresh off of her win over No. 1 Serena Williams in the fourth round. In a topsy-turvy match, Kuznetsova defeated Ekaterina Makarova 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals.

In the first set Kuznetsova lead 5-2, 40-0 and also served for the set at 5-4 but could not close the set when errors crept into her game, especially on her powerful forehand side. Makarova took advantage and won the set in a tiebreak 7-6(3).

Kuznetsova was broken serving for the second set at 5-3, but broke Makarova right back for the third break in the set to even the match at one-set all.

The two-time major winner started off the third set, digging out of a break point to hold then break for a 2-0 lead. Makarova got the break back in the seventh game drawing closer to her countrywoman at 3-4. Kuznetsova battles for the break back and served for the match at 5-3. This time the 15th seed held to close out the match in two-hours and forty-four minutes.

Kuznetsova has a 2-0 record against Bacsinszky. Their last meeting came in 2012 at Indian Wells when the Swiss retired down 6-3, 2-0.

For Kuznetsova, who won the Miami Open in 2006, this will be her first trip to the semifinals since 2009. Should Kuznetsova win the tournament, she would move back into the WTA top ten.

Wednesday’s women’s quarterfinal match-ups will pit 13th seed Victoria Azarenka against 24th seed Johanna Konta and No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber faces No. 22 seed Madison Keys.

Karen Pestaina is a contributor to MiamiTennisNews. She writes for various tennis and news outlets and is the Editor-in-Chief of Tennis Panorama News. Follow her on Twittter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Kuznetsova Topples Serena Williams in the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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Kuznetsova Topples Serena Williams in the Fourth Round at the Miami Open


IMG_0642_Kuznetsova

Serena Williams’ ninth title at the Miami Open has been deferred another year. The world number one was upended 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 by 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Although Williams’ battled her way into the fourth round, history was on her side. The ultimate time she was bounced prior to the quarterfinals was in 2000 by compatriot Jennifer Capriati.

With a 3-0 lead to open the match, Williams appeared in control. Not surprising considering her 8-2 record over her rival. However, the world number 19 returned the favor by capturing the next three games. After salvaging three break points on her serve to get 4-3, Williams failed to capitalize on two opportunities on her rival’s serve. As the Russian dug in her heels, the first set went to a tiebreaker. Serena claimed it in dramatic fashion with a return winner, a primordial scream followed.

At that point, Kuznetsova could have wilted under the humid South Florida weather. To the contrary, it was Williams who faded. Up 2-1, Kuznetsova performed like the two time majors champion that she is, forcing Williams into a bevy of mistakes. In less than 30 minutes, she pocketed the next four games to assure that the quarterfinalist would be settled by a third set.

For Williams the three time defending champion, more bad news was on tap. The top seed surrendered the initial gave of the decider at love. Soon, Kuznetsova sealed a double break 3-0 edge. Williams finally halted a run of eight consecutive games by her rival for 3-1. With an uncooperative serve and a sleuth of miscues from both the forehand and backhand wings, Williams had no reply to Kuznetsova’s brilliance. The Russian finished off the world number one and the match with a love hold.

Williams admitted that the loss is “obviously disappointing, but I’ve won here a lot, so it’s okay”. Neither climate nor injury was the cause “I’m used to this weather. . . This is what I practice in. . . physically I’m fine. . . I guess I didn’t move today. Maybe that was one of the things that didn’t work out for me. . . Actually don’t really feel pressure when I play here normally. I usually feel good.”

According to the world number one “I did the best that I could. I can’t win every match. The players come out and play me like they’ve never played before in their lives. . . I have to be 300% every day . . . I think overall I put a lot of expectations on myself more than anything. So that’s pretty hard to live up to.”

After losing a close first set, Kuznetsova did not sulk “I had opportunities and my goal was to keep a good level the whole match. . . I just knew I [could] hang in there and keep playing my game.”

The weather could be a distraction, so for Kuznetsova the key was to stay focused on her game “it’s really hot out there. . . I was trying to take longer time in between the points. . . I was trying to bring as many balls back as I could. . Some days she makes more winners; some days you should make her move more so she doesn’t do it. I think I did quite well what I had to do.”

The two clashed in the same round last year with Williams pocketing a straight sets triumph. Kuznetsova’s last win over the American was the French Open quarterfinal in 2009. The Russian recognizes that the road is long and treacherous to a second Miami Open trophy “I have so many people saying congratulations [they] feel like I won the title already. Not real. Now these days the tennis is extremely tough and each opponent is really difficult to play. I’m just focusing on tomorrow’s match. I don’t have too much time to rest. Really looking forward to give my best another day tomorrow.”

One of the keys to the match was Kuznetsova capturing 75% of first and 61% second serve points ” I knew I had to go for my serves. I think I barely did double fault. I knew I had to go aggressive. If I would give some easy second serves I would get my ass kicked out there. . . I’m not sure if I served that well, but it was good.”

By 2015 standards, for Williams thus far, 2016 has been a forgettable year. However Kuznetsova cited “she struggled a little bit probably because she lost Australian Open, but, she is still No. 1 and she still plays great. I don’t see much to be depressed about. . . players out of like top 30, they can beat anybody on good day. The thing is they cannot keep playing this good game. You can see some surprise wins in first two rounds. Everybody plays good now and goes for their shots and everybody is really strong. Not everybody can keep doing this during the whole tournament. . . I think every round is extremely tough now. I think will level of tennis is increased now, so it’s difficult.”

Upsets was the order of the day. In the first match, Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszki shocked 2012 Miami Open champion Agnieszka Radwanska. Subsequent to winning only two games the first set, the Swiss outplayed the world number three to record a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to her maiden quarterfinal in Miami. Simona Halep, ranked fifth, came through her contest with Britain’s Heather Watson unscathed with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

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Federer is Back at the Miami Open, Faces Del Potro in Round Two

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Federer is Back at the Miami Open, Faces Del Potro in Round Two


IMG_1793_FedererAfter a few months’ hiatus due to knee surgery, Roger Federer is once again holding court. His initial stop is the Miami Open which marks the two time champion’s return to the Magic City since 2014.

In his first match, the 17 time major holder squares off against Juan Martin Del Potro the 2009 U.S. Open winner. The Argentine himself is on the road back from injury after a second wrist surgery sidelined him for almost two years. Del Potro bounced fellow countryman Guido Pella in straight sets last evening in order to book a second round date with the Swiss. Federer leads in their head to head 15-5. However, of late, their matches have been quite close with Del Potro besting Federer at home to take the title in Basel in 2012 and 2013.

At today’s press conference preceding this marquee showdown, Federer discussed a myriad of topics including the upcoming match.

Reflecting back on his injury, Federer cited ” very sad when I did get the news I did have to have an operation because I thought I was going to get through my career without any. It was a big shock. . . I’m excited. Anxious to find out how it’s going to react, is it going to be different day-to-day, how is it going to feel after the match and so forth. I’m just really pleased that I’m here. Couldn’t be more happy how rehab has gone. It’s baby steps. Still at the same time you go from crutches to walking to running to jumping to sprinting. It’s pretty incredible to see the progress I’ve been able to make in a short period of time.”

About his opponent, Federer commented ” I like Juan Martin. We’ve had good matches over the years, Paris, five sets twice, US Open obviously. It’s nice to see him back. I haven’t seen him play at all since he’s been back, so I’m not quite sure what to expect. At the end I’m going to focus on my own game tomorrow, my own mind, managing my problems that I’ve had the last few months. Just also enjoy it out there. We’re both in a similar situation. His injury was much, much greater. That’s why I’m really pleased for him that he was able to find a way back onto the tour.”

Tennis has seen it’s share of controversies in 2016 from match fixing to Maria Sharapova’s revelation of use of a prohibited substance, the season only three months old. The latest involves parity in prize money regardless of gender. Here is Federer’s take on the subject ” we don’t always get the same like the women, as well. I think it depends on what tournaments we are talking about . . . I’m all for equal prize money. When I was fighting for prize money increases, especially at the slam level, I was always very aware of the fact that it was always going to impact the women’s game, which I was very happy about. . . But then you have to look at the history of each and every event. Some tournaments were a men’s tournament, then the women joined or vice versa. It’s sometimes hard to make equal prize money there. It’s up to the tournament director to decide if he wants it to be that way. It’s already happening here, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid as well, all the slams. I’m happy that tennis has produced some of the greatest female athletes in the world. . . It’s a great platform. Equal prize money is a good thing.”

Federer’s campaign for the Miami Open title will be treacherous with world number one Novak Djokovic a likely semifinal rival should he get that far. The Swiss master’s first ball strike is on Friday.

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