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Azarenka Turns Up The Heat In Brisbane

Azarenka Turns Up The Heat In Brisbane

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

BRISBANE, Australia – Victoria Azarenka survived some tense moments early on but then absolutely powered through to the quarterfinals of the $1,000,000 Brisbane International on Wednesday.

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Facing unheralded lucky loser Ysaline Bonaventure, who replaced Simona Halep in the draw, Azarenka had some trouble early on – she dropped serve in the opening game and then, a few games later, had to battle for more than 16 minutes to break back, but she eventually did, evening it to 2-all.

From there the Belarusian ruthlessly powered past the Belgian, reeling off 10 of the next 13 games – and winning 12 of the last 13 points of the match – to prevail in an hour and 27 minutes, 6-3, 6-2.

“I think the beginning was definitely really tough,” Azarenka said after the match. “She played very well, and it’s also a little bit of a moment of adaptation when you don’t know who you’re playing. But I’m glad I could stay strong and turn it around at the beginning. It wasn’t going my way at first, for sure.

“Just to feel the momentum shift in the match was important, in the beginning of the year, and for me especially since I haven’t played in a while. It’s good to go through those moments. I’m happy the way I was looking for a solution, trying to stay in the moment, and fighting to take control back to me.”

Awaiting Azarenka in the quarters will be No.8 seed Roberta Vinci, who won through on Tuesday.

Azarenka has beaten Vinci in straight sets in all three of their previous meetings, but they haven’t played since 2012, and Vinci is on fire – she’s gone from No.43 to No.15 in the last four months.

“We’ve played quite a few times, but it’s been a while since we last played,” Azarenka said of the US Open finalist. “She’s still a very aggressive player. I think she has a lot to offer, and variety, and the slice is only one component of her game. It’ll be important to really just focus on my own game.”

Three more players snapped up quarterfinal berths at the Premier-level event during the day session, most notably No.4 seed Angelique Kerber, who cruised past Madison Brengle in 61 minutes, 6-3, 6-0.

Other winners were Andrea Petkovic, who edged fellow former Top 10 player Ekaterina Makarova, 7-5, 6-4, and American qualifier Samantha Crawford, who surprised No.7 seed Belinda Bencic, 7-5, 7-5.

Crawford – who hit 13 aces in the match – didn’t just score her first Top 20 win over the No.14-ranked Bencic, it was actually her first Top 50 win (she had never beaten anyone higher than No.59 before).

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Radwanska Shines Through The Rain

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Sunday was a complete rain-out at the Shenzhen Open, but WTA stars like Agnieszka Radwanska were still bringing smiles to the faces of the fans. See how they did it here.

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Injury Ends Muguruza's Brisbane Hopes

Injury Ends Muguruza's Brisbane Hopes

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

BRISBANE, Australia – No.2 seed Garbiñe Muguruza became the latest casualty at the Brisbane International when she was forced to retire from her second round meeting with Varvara Lepchenko on Wednesday evening.

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Following on from the last-minute withdrawals of Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep, the path to the title lay wide open, but Muguruza saw her chance of silverware scuppered when she aggravated a long-standing foot injury.

“I started to feel it at 3-3, something like that,” Muguruza said in her post-match press conference. “But it’s just a pain that sometimes you have in the foot, especially when you’re starting to compete and to run a lot.”

Visibly struggling for the remainder of the set, in which she coughed up 27 unforced errors, Muguruza played through the pain barrier, fending off four set points before finally succumbing in a tense tie-break. Despite lengthy treatment during the changeover, it was quickly apparent that her resistance would not last much longer, admitting defeat after Lepchenko held serve the following game.

The Spaniard remains optimistic that the injury, which she carried over from the previous campaign, will not jeopardize her chances at the upcoming Australian Open.

“Last year I felt it almost during the whole season. I felt it also in the pre-season a little bit, but especially here over the last few days, playing points, running more, more, more,” she said.

“I thought in the match I was going to be able to play with the pain, but it just got to a point where I’m like, ‘Hey it’s getting worse, so just stop and let’s treat it and hopefully it’s gone in couple of days.'”

Meeting Lepchenko, who had been leading 7-6(9), 1-0, for a place in the semifinals will be Muguruza’s doubles partner and fellow Spaniard, Carla Suárez Navarro.

“Carla’s a very tough opponent and she’s playing well so I’m expecting the best from her and I’ll have to fight for every ball,” Lepchenko said.

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Ruthless Wozniacki Wins In Auckland

Ruthless Wozniacki Wins In Auckland

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Caroline Wozniacki took tournament favorite to a whole new level at the ASB Classic on Wednesday night, dropping just two games to round out the quarterfinal line-up.

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The highest seed left after No.1 seed Venus Williams and No.2 seed Ana Ivanovic both succumbed to inspired underdogs on Tuesday, the No.3-seeded Wozniacki powered through to the quarterfinals of the International-level tournament with a ruthless 6-0, 6-2 victory against Christina McHale.

“It was a better start than yesterday,” Wozniacki said, having dug out of an early 4-0 hole in her first round match on Tuesday. “I got a little nervous in the end. It was going a little too well – I know she’s a good player, and I’ve had trouble against her in the past, and I blew a few match points at 5-0 and 5-1. But I just kept focusing on every point and I’m glad that I was able to finish it off in the end.”

And what worked so well for the two-time US Open finalist and former World No.1?

“I think I served well, returned pretty well, I think I had patience but came to the net and mixed it up well,” the Dane said. “Defense offense, offense defense – I think overall I did pretty well today.”

Two more of Wozniacki’s fellow seeds fell on Wednesday as well, with No.4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova falling to Austrian qualifier – and two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist – Tamira Paszek, 6-2, 6-3, and No.7 seed Barbora Strycova losing out to fellow former Top 20 player Julia Goerges, 6-4, 7-6(7).

Sloane Stephens, the No.5 seed, managed to avoid the upset bug, though she did have a fight on her hands, rallying from a set down to outlast German up-and-comer Carina Witthoeft, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Other winners were Alexandra Dulgheru, Nao Hibino, Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens and British qualifier Naomi Broady, who had the most dramatic victory of the day, rallying from 5-2 down in the second set and 5-1 down in the third set to edge Latvian wildcard Jelena Ostapenko, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5.

Broady also saved two match points – one serving 2-5 second set, one serving 3-5 third set.

The big-serving Brit, who had taken out Ivanovic a day before, rifled 21 aces against Ostapenko.

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Naomi Broady's Dramatic Comeback

Naomi Broady's Dramatic Comeback

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Drama. The 2016 WTA season already has plenty of it.

A day after notching the biggest win of her career, Britain’s Naomi Broady saved two match points and rallied from 5-2 down in the second set and 5-1 down in the final set to beat Jelena Ostapenko, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Powering down 21 aces, No.122 Broady saved a match point in both the second and third sets to make her second WTA quarterfinal (2015 Québec City). The win came less than 24 hours after she scored her first Top 20 win, beating No.2 seed Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 6-4 behind another top-notch serving performance, hitting 14 aces in the match and serving at 68%.

Beyond Broady’s gutsy comeback, which was aided by a nervous attempt to close the match by the 18-year-old Latvian wildcard – she served for the match three times – controversy nearly derailed the match late in the second set.

At 2-2 in the tiebreaker, Ostapenko ran to chase down a backhand and flung her racket towards the backstop. The racquet bounced off the ground and hit a nearby ballboy. Broady was incensed, believing that Ostapenko should be defaulted from the match for hitting the ballboy. The chair umpire issued a code violation to Ostapenko and the Latvian then pled her case, arguing that the racket slipped out of her hand.

With tempers at a boil, Broady was able to hold onto her lead in the tie-break to force a third but quickly fell behind. Finding some of her best form, Ostapenko settled down and took control from the baseline, running the rangy Brit from side-to-side to open the court and earn errors.

But from 5-1 up, Ostapenko got tight. Her shots began to fall shorter, giving Broady plenty of chances to take big swings with her forehand. Ostapenko’s serve, already shaky for much of the match – she hit 13 double-faults to four aces – increasingly became a liability. From 5-1 down in the final frame, Broady reeled off six straight games to seal the upset.

The two continued to trade verbal volleys after the match, both during the handshake and afterwards. On-court microphones picked up Broady telling Ostapenko after the handshake, “You hit the ballboy with your racket!” before returning to the court to salute the crowd.

Broady took to Twitter after the match to clarify her side of things:

Needless to say, 2016 has not been short of fireworks. Broady plays Sloane Stephens in then quarterfinals after the American needed three sets to beat Carina Witthoeft, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

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Get To Know Samantha Crawford

Get To Know Samantha Crawford

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

BRISBANE, Australia – Twenty-year-old American qualifier Samantha Crawford scored the biggest win of her career at the Brisbane International, beating No.7 seed Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5 to advance to the her first Premier quarterfinal. In her three qualifying wins, beating top qualifying seed Tsvetana Pironkova along the way, and two main draw wins, the Atlanta, Georgia native has lost just one set in Brisbane.

“I played her in juniors at the US Open one year,” Crawford told reporters. “We had a close match then. I think I was a little nervous, but I just told myself it was okay to be nervous. Like I should be nervous. Kind of just wanted to be more excited about it than anything.”

Crawford channeled that excitement by executing her aggressive gameplan perfectly, flummoxing Bencic with her power game. The American powered down 13 aces and saved six of seven break points, while breaking Bencic three times. The fact that Crawford was familiar with Bencic from their junior days kept her nerves steady.

“I obviously remember playing her,” Crawford said. “I think maybe not as intimidating, not someone that I grew up watching on TV, which is intimidating sometimes.”

Currently ranked No.120, the win puts Crawford ever closer to finally breaking into the Top 100. A junior US Open champion, her young career was derailed in 2013 after undergoing knee surgery after her third meniscus tear.

“I think coming back from that I had really high expectations, and after you’re injured you expect to be where you were at when you left off,” she said. “It doesn’t happen, and I think that’s discouraging sometimes.”

Finally injury-free in 2015, Crawford relocated to Charleston, South Carolina to train alongside Jessica Pegula under the tutelage of Michael Joyce, Maria Sharapova’s former coach.

“He coached Sharapova for so long,” Crawford said. “That’s someone I always grew up watching and I feel like I want to play like that and try to be aggressive. So it’s really cool when he tells me stuff like, Sharapova did this or [that]. It’s just cool being able to get that input.”

The results paid off. She played an astounding 31 tournaments last season, winning her first ITF title in the fall and winning the USTA wildcard playoff to earn main draw slots at the US Open and the upcoming Australian Open, where she’ll make her Melbourne debut.

Crawford returned to Florida during the off-season as part of a USTA training camp. But she’s without a coach here in Australia. So she turned to fellow American Madison Brengle.

“She came on-court for every match except for this one because she was playing,” Crawford said, laughing. “I was like, Maybe she can shout things.”

Crawford will play Andrea Petkovic in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The German came through with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Ekaterina Makarova.

Get to know Sam Crawford:

WTA Insider: When do you get here in Australia?
Crawford: I got here last Monday and didn’t play until Friday so feel like I had enough time to get over the trip and time change and everything. Going through qualies was good. Got some good matches in and pulled out some tough matches out too.

WTA Insider: You’re from Atlanta, Georgia. Did you go to high school down there?
Crawford: I started homeschooling in fifth grade. I lived in China in fifth grade (Crawford’s mother is Chinese). Came back from China and moved to Florida after that when I was 11 or 12. And then I went back and forth between Florida and Georgia. And then last year I was in Charleston and now I’m back in Florida.

WTA Insider: Was the move to Florida for tennis?
Crawford: Yeah. I’m an only child…

WTA Insider: So it’s all about Sam’s tennis?
Crawford: Yeah. (Laughs)

WTA Insider: So how did you get into tennis?
Crawford: I started playing at when I was four and half. Someone told my parents I had good hand-eye coordination and that was the end (Laughs). I think I played my first tournament when I was six and I made the finals. By fourth grade I was already missing school for tennis but my teacher liked me and liked tennis. I think from a young age I always knew I wanted to play tennis.

WTA Insider: Why? Why tennis?
Crawford: I think I always was a very aggressive player, even when I was 12. It would either be really really good or really really bad. I never hit lobs or anything. At times it could be really frustrating. I could hit winners or I hit the fence. But I never strayed from that.

I had surgery when I was 12 on my knee. I was away from tennis during that period. All I wanted to do was to get play tennis again. It was sad for me because I had never been away from tennis for that long since I started playing. It was just something I always loved.

WTA Insider: You won the US Open as a junior in 2012. In the last six months or so we’ve been seeing and hearing more about you and your results have been steadily improving. What’s made the difference?
Crawford: I think I just have gotten to play a lot of matches and a lot of different players. I had a lot of matches where I could have lost easily but I pulled it out. I think that helps with confidence. You learn more about yourself and that you’re tough enough to stay in a match and pull it out. I think that’s helped a lot. I think it’s easy to think after you’ve lost a set that you’re not in the match. I think that’s the great thing about tennis. Anything can happen.

WTA Insider: Not many people have seen you play on the tour level. How would you describe your game?
Crawford: Aggressive. Big serve. Big forehand. I like to hit pretty hard. Go big.

WTA Insider: How about your personality?
Crawford: I would say I’m pretty easy-going. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t know, I’m always happy. I love taking naps. Food. Normal stuff.

WTA Insider: How do you find tour life? Is it lonely or do you feel like you have a community around you?
Crawford: Yeah, definitely. I always feel like I know people that are around and have a good time. I think it’s cool to travel. It’s tiring obviously. But it’s awesome that I get to play tennis and travel the world.

WTA Insider: What do you remember about your first time in Australia?
Crawford: 2012 juniors. I remember being very miserable on the flight and then being so excited to finally land. I think it was the only other Slam that I had played other than US Open juniors.

It was really exciting to be in Australia. We went to an animal sanctuary and saw some koalas. I fed a tree kangaroo and it bit my hair. I remember that. I remember being in Melbourne and being on site and thinking that this was so cool. I grew up watching this and now I’m here.

WTA Insider: What’s the most used app on your phone?
Crawford: Instagram. (Her username is @samcrawford18.)

WTA Insider: What’s the last song you listened to on your iPod?
Crawford: Shake It Off. I’m a Swiftie.

WTA Insider: What’s your favorite cuisine?
Crawford: I have a big sweet tooth. Dessert is up there. But probably Italian. I like a good margherita pizzas.

WTA Insider: What’s the worst thing about being a tennis player?
Crawford: The off-season. Pre-season training is the worst. You’re working so hard to get ready to play tournaments but you’d rather just play tournaments. But it’s worth it.

WTA Insider: What’s the best thing about being a tennis player?
Crawford: Getting to play tournaments and traveling. It’s what you work for.

WTA Insider: What are your goals for 2016?
Crawford : I’m very big on one-day at a time. I get overwhelmed if I get too far ahead. But I think breaking into the Top 100 is a big thing. And being able to play in the main draw at all the Slams would be nice.

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