Osaka beats Azarenka in a thriller; Serena, Djokovic, Halep win

Osaka beats Azarenka in a thriller; Serena, Djokovic, Halep win

Osaka beats Azarenka in a thriller; Serena, Djokovic, Halep win

S.Rajesh  * 

World No.1 Naomi Osaka has had a good time at the Slams winning the last two majors and currently on a winning streak of 15 matches. That streak appeared to be in grave danger when she went down a set and break to former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in a second round blockbuster but the Japanese top seed again showcased her fighting skills to get the win in three sets 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Defending champion Halep too was troubled by sickness but fought hard to get the win over Magda Linette 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. There were no problems for Serena Williams who beat Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-2 to advance. She was joined by men’s top seed Novak Djokovic who cruised past lucky loser Henri Laaksonen 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Osaka made a slow start for the second straight match but this was more due to the high quality of play from Azarenka who despite her lower ranking of 43 has been playing at a high level. The Belarusian rushed to a 5-1 lead before Osaka won three games in a row but Azarenka held on to take the led 6-4. In the second set Azarenka got the break to lead 4-2 and seemed to be in control but 21 year old Osaka is one of the best fighters in the women’s tour and she got back on level terms at 4-4 finally breaking through on her seventh opportunity in that set. Osaka then leveled the match with a backhand winner.

In the third set, Osaka appeared in control getting an early break as Azarenka’s level dropped off a bit as she made quite a few unforced errors. The top seed led 5-1 but again Azarenka showed fighting spirit of her own to retrieve one of the breaks and got to 3-5 and also saved two match points as Osaka began to get a little nervous. When Osaka served for the match again, Azarenka reached breakpoint but couldn’t get the vital break and Osaka came up with some good serves to clinch the win in two hours and 50 minutes of dramatic tennis.

Osaka said that she respected the game of her opponents but also had the confidence to win in tight situations. “I mean, because they beat a lot of people to get there, I can’t think I’m the only good tennis player in the world. It would be kind of, like, I don’t want to say rude, but kind of arrogant to just think, like, everything is on my racquet. I know that there are some matches that it is like that, but, I mean, I’m playing against the best players in the world. I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire, if I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that.”

Halep appeared to be on course for a straight set win when she led Linette by a set and break. She served for the match and even had three match points in the second set at 5-3 and 5-4 but her opponent went for broke and produced some of her best tennis to break serve and then leveled the match by breaking Halep again. In the third set Halep again was able to put pressure on her opponent and broke twice to take a 3-0 lead. Linette got back one of the breaks but Halep went on to close out the match 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. “I don’t feel that great. I’m a little bit sick. I just said that I have to fight until the end,” Halep said after the match.

Serena Williams had played only one match on clay in 2019 and had appeared rusty in her opening round but she appeared to be getting back to her best as she pounded 36 winners past 5’1” Kurumi Nara to advance with a 6-3, 6-2 score line and will face compatriot Sofia Kenin for a place in the fourth round. Teenaged rising star Amanda Anisimova upset 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-2 to enter the third round. This was the second straight slam where the 17 year old has beaten the hard hitting Sabalenka.

Djokovic is rounding into form in time for the French Open where he is looking to win his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title and his second round opponent Laaksonen had no answer to the accuracy of the top seed’s ground strokes and returns in the first set as the Serb took the opener easily 6-1. In the second set again Djokovic went up an early break but this time Laaksonen broke back for 3-3. But again Djokovic took the lead and then served out a two sets to love lead surviving two break points. His 4 year old son Stefan watched the whole match for the first time and Djokovic closed out the match in just over an hour and half winning 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. Fourth seed Dominic Thiem won a close four set match against Alexander Bublik who came up with a few underarm serves to counter the deep return position of Thiem. There were quite a few drop shots as well but Thiem roared back from 2-5 down in the fourth set to wrap up the match.

Eighth seed Juan Martin Del Potro survived a 5 set battle against Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka to advance to the third round. The Argentine player received treatment for a knee injury and will look to recover well before his next match. It was an easy day for Alexander Zverev as the German beat Mikael Ymer in straight sets to advance.

In a mixed doubles first round match, Divij Sharan and his partner Shuko Aoyama went down 3-6, 6-2, 7-10 to Santiago Gonzalez and Lyudmyla Kichenok in a match that saw only two points separate the two doubles pairings. This ends the Indian participation in mixed doubles after Rohan Bopanna had bowed out earlier with Lucie Hradecka.

Senthil Trinitymirror

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