Tagged in: singles

Simona Halep advances in Citi Open ahead of Venus Williams’ return

Simona Halep earned her opening match at the Citi Open on Monday hours before another former No. 1-ranked women’s player returned to singles action for the first time in 2022.

Venus Williams is set to play her first singles match in nearly a year when she faces Canadian Rebecca Marino on the same court where the third-seeded Halep beat Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-3, 7-5 earlier in the day at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open.

“I had a good run in Wimbledon, so it’s always tough to start,” Halep said of changing surfaces after the grass-court season. “But I’m really happy I won the match and I can play another match here.”

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Williams has not played a WTA singles game since losing to Su-Wei Hseih 6-2, 6-3 in Chicago on Aug. 23. She and partner Coco Gauff lost their doubles debut earlier this year at the French Open.

On the men’s side, Kyle Edmund beat qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6 (8) to win his first ATP Tour-level singles match since October 2020.

Edmund, who was once the top-ranked Brit and climbed as high as 14th in the world, was out while recovering from three knee surgeries.

During his rehab, Edmund pictured himself back on the court in moments like this.

“There was long periods where I was just out, couldn’t play, didn’t pick a racket up. … It just wasn’t fun at all,” he said. “These sort of matches or these events are something you imagine when you’re out.”

Countryman Andy Murray is set to play his first match of the tournament Monday afternoon versus Mikael Ymer of Sweden.

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Serena Williams loses first-round match at Wimbledon to Harmony Tan

Serena Williams, playing her first competitive singles match in 364 days, was handed another devastating early exit at Wimbledon with a 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) loss to Harmony Tan on Tuesday that took more than three hours and a 10-point third-set tiebreak to decide.

“Today I gave all I could do, you know, today,” a dejected Williams told a packed room of reporters after the match. “Maybe tomorrow I could have gave more. Maybe a week ago I could have gave more. But today was what I could do.

“At some point, you have to be able to be OK with that. And that’s all I can do. I can’t change time or anything, so, that’s all I could do on this particular day.”

Playing Tan — who is ranked No. 115 and was making her main draw debut at the tournament — in front of an adoring crowd on Centre Court, Williams simultaneously showed signs of rust alongside glimpses of her signature brilliance.

When it was over, both players were given a standing ovation from those in the stands. The 40-year-old Williams, the owner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, waved several times as she walked off the court and twirled before disappearing in the exit.

There has been much speculation as to Williams’ retirement, and she didn’t do much to dispel such speculation after Tuesday’s match, giving vague answers to multiple questions about her future.

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“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Williams said after the loss. “Like, I don’t know. I feel like, you know, I don’t know. Who knows? Who knows where I’ll pop up.”

Williams hadn’t played competitively at singles since being forced to retire from her first-round match at the All England Club in 2021 due to what she later revealed to be a torn hamstring. While she had initially hoped to return in time for the US Open last year, the recovery was far lengthier than she had anticipated, and she took a break to give herself time to heal.

But she couldn’t escape the lingering disappointment of her 2021 Wimbledon exit.

“It was a lot of motivation, to be honest,” Williams said before this tournament got underway. “It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind. So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.”

She decided in the spring to make a return to the All England Club, after a whirlwind year full of recovery and off-the-court interests and pursuits. She started her competitive comeback last week in doubles at Eastbourne, alongside Ons Jabeur, to great fanfare.

The two reached the semifinals before they were forced to withdraw due to a knee injury for Jabeur, but Williams still considered she had gotten some valuable match experience.

Still, Williams needed the first several games of Tuesday’s match versus Tan to rediscover her form, and her early play was riddled with errors.

“I had some chances to win that first set,” Williams said. “You know, [it] didn’t work out, so … yeah, it was just, yeah, different, totally different for me.”

But as she has done countless times throughout her career, Williams fought back with a dominant performance in the second set, including winning a marathon 30-point second game.

She looked to be in control in the third, holding a 3-1 lead, but Tan came back to win the next three games. From there, it was a battle in which the crowd seemed to live and breathe with every point, and both players reacted emphatically throughout.

It reached a fever pitch when Williams saved match point at 5-6 to ultimately force a deciding tiebreak.

In the first-to-10 tiebreak, Williams jumped out to a 4-0 lead. However, in the final moments, it slipped out of her control, and Tan dominated.

If this is the end for Williams, it will mark the conclusion of one of the greatest careers in the sport. With 23 major titles, including seven at the All England Club, Williams has the most ever by any player in the Open Era.

She has been seeking to tie Margaret Court’s long-standing record of 24, the most in history, since returning from childbirth in 2018. Since then, Williams has played in four finals in those 14 majors, including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019, but has fallen short each time.

Williams didn’t completely rule out an appearance at the US Open later this summer, however.

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23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams skips practice ahead of doubles match that will mark competitive return

Serena Williams skipped her arranged practice session at Eastbourne with late notice on Monday as the 23-time Grand Slam champion prepares to make her return to competition after a year away.

Williams trained at a nearby club over the weekend and was expected to have an on-site session at Devonshire Park ahead of playing doubles with Ons Jabeur. Their first match is set for Tuesday versus Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

Williams, 40, who hasn’t competed anywhere since she was injured in the first round of Wimbledon last year, was awarded a wild card for singles at the All England Club.

Jabeur stated it was “unbelievable” to have been asked by Williams to be part of her journey back to competition at the Wimbledon warm-up. “I’m a good secret keeper — yes, I’ve known [since] before the French Open,” said the No. 3-ranked Jabeur, who arrived at Eastbourne after winning the title in Berlin on Sunday.

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“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.”

Jabeur said she is hoping to learn “even like 2% from it.”

“Now I’m joking with other doubles players,” she said. “I was like, ‘If you have minus 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you anymore.'”

Jabeur has pulled out of the singles at Eastbourne following her run to the title in Germany and will play only the doubles. Still, she’ll likely be kept busy this week given her partner.

“I cannot wait to see her; I haven’t seen her yet,” Jabeur said of Williams. “Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?”

Among those to advance in the singles Monday were three qualifiers — Donna Vekic, Kirsten Flipkens and Lesia Tsurenko — and a wild card in Britain’s Jodie Burrage. American player Alison Riske was beaten by Magda Linette of Poland 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

In the men’s event, sixth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia started his title defense by beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3. Two Americans — fifth-seeded Reilly Opelka and seventh-seeded Frances Tiafoe — lost in the first round on Monday.

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U.S. beats Spain to set up Billie Jean King Cup semifinal vs. Russia

The United States won both singles matches versus Spain to reach the semifinals of the Billie Jean King Cup on Wednesday.

The Americans faced a must-win situation after losing to Slovakia 2-1 in Group C on Tuesday, and Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins both earned straight-set victories to render the final doubles meaningless.

The U.S., the most successful team in the competition formerly known as the Fed Cup with 18 titles, will face Russia in the semis. The Russians eliminated defending champion France earlier in the day.

Stephens beat Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-4, 6-4, earning her seventh break of the match in the final game and converting her first match point with a backhand winner.

“I came out really confident, I knew that I’m ready,” said Stephens, the 2107 U.S. Open champion.

Collins secured the second point by easing past Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1, 6-0 in just under one hour to seal the victory and eliminate Spain. “I think in this format, every game, every set counts,” Collins said.

“For me, I was just on a roll. I think it’s quite hard putting to words when you have a performance like that.”

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After sweeping Canada 3-0 the previous day, Russia needed only one win from the best-of-three match versus France to advance from Group A.

It could rely on its top player, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, to deliver it.

The 12th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova rallied to beat Alize Cornet 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to earn Russia the semifinal spot.

“I’m so happy and so proud of myself,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “It was an incredible match. It was very good tennis but the more important was the amazing fighting spirit from both of us.”

After dropping the first set, the Russian broke Cornet in the opening games of the following two sets to improve her record against her 59th-ranked opponent to 7-1, hitting 34 winners on the way.

After the 2019 champion was upset by outsider Canada 2-1 in its opener on Monday, France needed to beat Russia 3-0 to advance.

Last year’s edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 12 teams in the finals are divided into four groups of three teams in a new format of the competition. Only the group winners advance to Friday’s semifinals.

Earlier, Clara Burel kept France alive, winning the opening singles.

The 77th-ranked Burel upset Ekaterina Alexandrova, ranked 32nd, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 for her first victory over a top-50 player in her singles debut in the competition.

The Russian hit 34 winners but also produced 44 unforced errors before double-faulting on Burel’s fourth match point.

“It’s very special. It was the first match for my country and I was very happy to be able to win today,” the 20-year old Burel said. The Russians also won the doubles for a 2-1 overall win.

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Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams entered in US Open singles field

Roger Federer, who withdrew from the Olympics because a knee injury, and Naomi Osaka, who skipped Wimbledon and withdrew from the French Open to address her mental health, are both in the singles fields for the US Open.

The USTA revealed the fields Wednesday for the tournament that runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 12 in New York.

Federer lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing after the first round in Paris. Also in the field at Flushing Meadows: six-time champion Serena Williams, who had to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon after she slipped on the Centre Court grass, injuring her right leg.

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The entry lists include players who make the field automatically. Players still can withdraw from the tournament.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, will be seeking to become the third man to collect all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1969 are the others.

Djokovic is also playing at the Tokyo Olympics and could become the first man to complete a “Golden Slam.” Steffi Graf did it in 1988.

Wimbledon champion and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty headlines the women’s field. Osaka, the defending US Open champion, is ranked second ahead of Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist, and Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion.

This week’s ATP and WTA rankings were used to determine the entry lists. Seedings will be revealed closer to the beginning of the tournament.

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