Tagged in: sloane stephens

Naomi Osaka rallies past Sloane Stephens in return at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, rallying to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a first-round meeting of former major champions.

Trailing 2-0 in the third set, Osaka fought off three break points to hold and begin a run of six consecutive games to close out the match in just under two hours. She broke Stephens three times in the set, including at love in the sixth game.

“That was a really good test for me,” Osaka said.

Cold winds blowing from 20 to 30 mph sent debris swirling around the court.

“I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was fighting against her, I was fighting against the wind. It was crazy,” Osaka said.

“I’m really proud with how I handled it.” Osaka, the 2018 winner at Indian Wells, is back in the desert for the first time since 2019. The Japanese star hadn’t played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open.

Having played only a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.

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“I keep taking these long breaks,” she said. “I do need to play a lot more matches and I do need to give myself the opportunity to get more into the swing of things.”

Osaka has stated she has faced bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018.

The four-time major champion withdrew from the French Open last year to preserve her mental health.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, lost for the first time in three career meetings with Osaka. The American’s ranking has dropped to 38th, although she was coming off a win in the tournament at Guadalajara, Mexico, last month.

Other first-round winners were Yulia Putintseva, Daria Saville and Tereza Martincova. Shelby Rogers, an Indian Wells quarterfinalist last year, needed nearly three hours to get by Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

In men’s first-round matches, Americans Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Jack Sock and J.J. Wolf all won.

Christopher Eubanks saved three match points in outlasting Maxime Cressy 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Nick Kyrgios, who received a wild card, beat Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-0.

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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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Sloane Stephens survives to oust Heather Watson in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens gained seven of 18 break points. She raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held, then served out the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens advanced to a second-round match versus fellow American Jessica Pegula. American Shelby Rogers, who upset top-ranked Ash Barty in the third round of the U.S. Open, was set to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a night match.

Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

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Men’s main draw play starts Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards into the event. U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are entered.

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport’s biggest names, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men’s side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka stated she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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