WTA

Injured Osaka withdraws from Melbourne Summer Set 1 as Halep reaches final

By Sports Desk January 08, 2022

Naomi Osaka will be hoping to be fit for the Australian Open after the reigning champion withdrew from the Melbourne Summer Set 1.

Osaka, who won the most recent of her four grand slam titles last year at Melbourne Park, has looked in fine form this week in her first appearances since returning from the break she took from tennis last year.

The top seed beat Alize Cornet, Maryna Zanevska and Andrea Petkovic en route to the semi-finals, but could not compete against Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday, citing an abdominal injury.

Osaka explained that her body had taken a hit from playing such intense matches in consecutive days, and she instead is looking to rest and recover ahead of the first grand slam of the season, which starts on January 17.

"Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took," Osaka tweeted.

"Thank you for all the love this past week [Red heart] I’ll try to rest up and I’ll see you soon!"

Osaka's injury has prevented what looked to be an enticing showdown with Simona Halep, who guaranteed a place in a WTA Tour singles final for a 13th successive season by beating Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2.

Halep's first final came in 2010 and she has taken just a week to get back into her stride after an injury-ravaged 2021 season.

The Romanian, a two-time grand slam champion, went into the week ranked at world number 20, her lowest position at the start of a season since 2013.

However, she has now reached at least the semi-final stage in three successive tournaments, and she will fancy her chances against third seed Kudermetova, who is into her third singles final.

Related items

  • French Open: 'I stopped playing for years but never gave up' – rookie Jeanjean revels in Pliskova upset French Open: 'I stopped playing for years but never gave up' – rookie Jeanjean revels in Pliskova upset

    Leolia Jeanjean became the lowest-ranked woman to beat a top-10 player at the French Open since 1988 as the world number 227 stunned Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.

    French player Jeanjean was a promising youngster whose career looked to have been scuppered by knee trouble, but at the age of 26 she is making her grand slam debut in Paris and is through to the third round.

    On Court Simonne-Mathieu, she crushed last year's Wimbledon runner-up Pliskova 6-2 6-2, surprising herself with the way she brushed off the eighth-seeded Czech.

    It made Jeanjean the lowest-ranked woman to beat a top-10 opponent at Roland Garros since a 16-year-old Conchita Martinez upset ninth seed Lori McNeil at the 1988 tournament.

    The then little-known Martinez would go on to win Wimbledon in 1994 and reach number two in the world.

    As a teenager, Jeanjean reached 676th in the world in 2013, but she had slumped to 1,180th by November 2020. A once-promising career looked set to end with Jeanjean sliding into obscurity, but she thrilled the Roland Garros crowds with her dismantling of Pliskova.

    Mixing her studies in finance with college tennis at Lynn University and the University of Arkansas has helped Jeanjean climb inside the top 250 on the WTA Tour, and her big-stage breakthrough has finally arrived in her homeland.

    "I'm very, very happy," she said. "What's happening right now is something I never imagined before. When I stopped playing for four to five years I never imagined I'd be in the third round of a grand slam.

    "The fact I never gave up and always believed in myself is probably why I'm here today. Now I'm 26, and it's my first grand slam. I thought I would have lost in the first round in two sets and I find myself beating a top-10 player.

    "I don't know how it's possible that it's happening."

    It was after Jeanjean sustained her knee injury that she chose to go down the US college route with her career, knowing many tennis stars have come through the system.

    "I wanted to give myself another chance," she said.

    Pliskova lost on clay to a player from outside the WTA top 200 for the first time since going down to Arina Rodionova in qualifiers for a tournament in Fes, Morocco, more than 10 years ago. Irina-Camelia Begu awaits Jeanjean in the third round.

    Pliskova's exit was the latest in a string of shocks which have meant that for the first time at Roland Garros, six or more of the top 10 seeds have been eliminated in the first two rounds. She joined Barbora Krejcikova, Maria Sakkari, Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur and Garbine Muguruza on that list of casualties.

    The 30-year-old Pliskova said Jeanjean's variety made her an awkward opponent, and suggested the courts played slowly.

    "I think this court is a bit too brutal,," Pliskova said during a news conference. "My serve was not working. I don't have a horrible feeling but, of course, like you lose, so of course I'm not happy about it, but I just want to give credit to her, I think she played a great match."

  • French Open: Novak Djokovic says energetic crowds are 'one of the biggest reasons' he continues to play French Open: Novak Djokovic says energetic crowds are 'one of the biggest reasons' he continues to play

    World number one Novak Djokovic highlighted the joy of having fans back in full attendance after he collected his second consecutive straight sets win to advance to the third round of the French Open, beating Alex Molcan 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

    In his first-round fixture against Yoshihito Nishioka, Djokovic won 55 per cent of the total points in the first set, and increased that number in the second and third.

    This time, however, it was Molcan who was slowly improving as the match wore on, as Djokovic won 70 per cent of the first-set points, 57 per cent in the second and 53 per cent as he was taken to a tie-breaker in the third.

    Speaking to the media after his win, the Serbian star said he feels in good touch, and gave credit to his "tricky opponent".

    "I'm pleased with the way I'm feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball," he said.

    "I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. 

    "It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well."

    He went on to discuss how energising it is to have a full crowd after there was a limited capacity for his 2021 triumph.

    "It's great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts," he said. "Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see.

    "It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis."

    Djokovic will play Slovakian Aljaz Bedene in the third round, and despite being aware of his collision course with Rafael Nadal set for the quarter-finals, he said looking ahead that far serves little purpose.

    "You are aware what's going on with the other guys, at least in my case, and I know that everyone else is watching everybody else," he said.

    "[But] that cannot be dominating most of your time and energy that you invest in a day. 

    "So you are aware, but then of course it's really not up to you what they do. It's what you have to do, win matches and make good results."

  • French Open: How triumphant Alcaraz kept nerves at bay when facing match point French Open: How triumphant Alcaraz kept nerves at bay when facing match point

    Carlos Alcaraz kept the nerves at bay when facing match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas by forgetting that he was playing at the French Open.

    The sixth seed saved match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to complete a 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 success on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

    Teenager Alcaraz enjoyed an emphatic start against his fellow Spaniard, but the experienced Ramos-Vinolas showed admirable poise to take the second and third sets in Paris on Wednesday.

    Ramos-Vinolas' ability to fight off break points – coupled with Alcaraz's lack of ruthlessness – gave him the upper hand, and he came within one point of knocking out the Madrid Open champion.

    But he crumbled on his own serve at 5-4 in the fourth, and from there Alcaraz's greater mobility and relentlessness when chasing seemingly lost causes had the 19-year-old looking the favourite.

    Eventually he came out on top after the longest match of his fledgling career at four hours and 34 minutes, setting up a third-round clash with Sebastian Korda.

    "You always have nerves in the match, but I think today I wasn't nervous," said Alcaraz.

    "Just maybe at the end of the fourth when I had the match point [to save]. I maybe thought I was one point away from losing, but just try not to think that I'm in the French Open.

    "I'm trying to enjoy the moment. I think that in the fourth set, and in the fifth, I smile with my team.

    "I enjoy the battles. I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world."

    Alcaraz was won four titles this year, including success at two ATP 1000 events, and feels at home playing on the show courts.

    "I'm still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now," said Alcaraz.

    "I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in grand slams. Physically. I'm strong. Mentally, I'm strong as well.

    "I think I'm ready to play these kinds of matches in these situations, these tournaments. I'm ready."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.