AP Photo

Andreescu retires from fourth-round match at Miami Open

Leave a comment

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu retired from her fourth-round match at the Miami Open while trailing Anett Kontaveit 6-1, 2-0 Monday.

Andreescu called a medical timeout after the first set to receive treatment on her right shoulder. She received similar treatment during her third-round victory over Angelique Kerber, who afterward told Andreescu she was the “biggest drama queen ever.”

Andreescu, an 18-year-old Canadian, defeated Kerber in the Indian Wells final on March 17 for her first career title.

The No. 21-seeded Kontaveit was joined in the Miami quarterfinals by Petra Kvitova, who faced only one break point and beat Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3.

Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, is ranked a career-high No. 2 and will rise to No. 1 if she wins the title. No. 1 Naomi Osaka lost in the third round.

Kvitova’s match was halted because of rain for nearly two hours, and she took advantage.

“I had a quick nap, which was really helpful,” she said.

No. 12-seeded Ashleigh Barty also advanced by beating No. 7 Kiki Bertens 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In men’s play, No. 6 Kevin Anderson hit 13 aces and advanced to the fourth round by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 7-6 (6).

Naomi Osaka wins Australian Open for 2nd major, top ranking

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia — So close to victory, Naomi Osaka suddenly was letting the Australian Open final slip away. Three championship points? Gone. A sizable lead? Soon all gone, too.

She was playing poorly. She yelled at herself. Slammed a ball. Tugged at her visor’s pink brim. Trudged to the locker room between sets with a towel draped over her head.

And then, after returning to the court, Osaka turned it all around just as quickly as she had dropped 23 of 27 points. Refocusing and reasserting herself, Osaka edged Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday night to win the Australian Open for a second consecutive Grand Slam title.

“I felt like I didn’t want to have any regrets,” Osaka said. “I think if I didn’t regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried or something.”

On top of that, Osaka will rise to No. 1 in the rankings.

“Amazing achievement,” two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova said. “Definitely she is a great one. We’ll see what the future will bring.”

Osaka added the Australian Open trophy to the one she collected in a U.S. Open final last September that forever will be remembered for the way runner-up Serena Williams was docked a game after arguing with the chair umpire.

Unlike that day, there was no jeering from the confused crowd. No controversy. No chaos. No sharing the spotlight.

Clearly marking herself as tennis’ bright new star, Osaka is the first woman to win two major championships in a row since Williams picked up four straight in 2014-15.

Almost didn’t happen.

Osaka held three match points in the second set at 5-3, love-40 as Kvitova served. But Osaka couldn’t close it out. Instead, she completely lost her way.

That allowed Kvitova to come back and make a match of it, reeling off five games in a row to take the second set and go up 1-0 in the third.

At that point, Kvitova would say later, she figured it was going to keep going her way.

“In the end,” she said, “it wasn’t.”

After Kvitova double-faulted to offer up a break point at 1-all, Osaka converted it with a cross-court backhand winner. There was still more work to be done, of course, and some additional drama when it began raining at the changeover right before Osaka tried to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third set.

This time, Osaka would not falter. She would not let this lead disappear.

“I knew that Petra couldn’t keep it up for that long if Naomi could just manage those emotions,” said Osaka’s coach, Sascha Bajin, “and she did that beautifully.”

Osaka was born in Japan — her mother is Japanese, her father is Haitian — and she moved to New York at age 3. Now she’s based in Florida and has dual citizenship. Osaka already was the first player representing Japan — female or male — to win a Grand Slam singles title. Now she also is the first to top the WTA or ATP rankings.

At 21, Osaka is the youngest No. 1 in nearly a decade; Caroline Wozniacki was 20 when she first ascended to that spot in 2010.

And to think, a year ago, Osaka was ranked 72nd.

What a climb. What a quick climb.

Kvitova was playing in her first Grand Slam final since winning Wimbledon in 2014 — and the first since she was stabbed in the hand by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic a little more than two years ago.

Kvitova needed surgery, missed the first 4½ months of the 2017 season, including the Australian Open, and couldn’t be sure she’d ever get back to the top of tennis.

“You’ve been through so much,” Osaka told Kvitova during the trophy ceremony. “I’m really honored to have played you in the final of a Grand Slam.”

On a somewhat cloudy, rather comfortable evening, with only a slight breeze and the temperature around 75 degrees (25 Celsius), both women hit the ball as hard as can be. Exchanges were mostly at the baseline and filled with flat, powerful groundstrokes that barely cleared the net and made retrieving and replying as much about reflexes as anything.

Here’s one measure of how even it was: Each finished with 33 winners.

Points were swift and blunt; of 86 in the first set, only four lasted nine strokes or more. There was plenty of strong serving, clean hitting and good movement.

It was Osaka who was the first to get ahead, tearing through the tiebreaker by grabbing five points in a row — four via winners — to go up 5-1. When Kvitova sailed a backhand wide moments later, ceding a set for the first time all tournament, Osaka pumped her fist and screamed, “Come on!”

How pivotal was that moment? Kvitova had won her last 22 Grand Slam matches after winning the first set. Osaka, meanwhile, entered the day having won 59 matches anywhere after going up by a set.

When Osaka broke to lead 3-2 in the second set, and then got to 5-3, the outcome seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Turned out, that wasn’t the case. Not at all.

All that really matters, of course, is that Osaka righted herself in time to win.

“It didn’t really take that long,” she said. “I didn’t have a choice.”

Wimbledon: Federer, Kvitova highlight odds for tournament

Leave a comment

It’s as much about the draw as the player in a Grand Slam tournament, and Roger Federer seems to have a favorable path through the draw at Wimbledon. The Swiss great is listed as the +200 favorite on the 2017 Wimbledon men’s champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Federer has been enjoying a renaissance this season, with an Australian Open title and a win in a Wimbledon warm-up grass-court event in Halle, Germany. Top-seeded Andy Murray (+350) will be the second favorite on the ATP tennis odds at the All England Club, while fellow high seeds Rafael Nadal (+400) and Novak Djokovic (+600) round out  the top of the board.

If Federer goes down, it might not comes at the hands of one of his Big Four counterparts – each of whom is a problematic play, by the way. Federer’s biggest threat in his quadrant of the draw is probably big-hitting 20-year-old Alexander Zverev (+2000), who’s going to win a Grand Slam title one of these days. Milos Raonic (+1400) is also there but his form and fitness have been off of late.

Murray has been contending with a hip injury and has a familiar nemesis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (+6600), in his quarter of the draw.

Nadal, infamously, has his greatest difficulties on grass, where he’s won only 10 times since 2012. That’s why he’s the fourth seed. Hulking Marin Cilic (+1600) is the smart high-payoff pick within that quarter of the draw. He’s 1-4 lifetime against Federer (whom he could only meet in the final), but anyone who’s beaten a No. 1 player once knows it can happen again.

Djokovic has had a drop-off in his game and was blown away in the French Open quarter-finals, but he tends to come back strongly at Wimbledon when he doesn’t fare well at Roland Garros. However, he faces a potential third-round match against pesky Juan Martin del Potro (+2800). Feliciano Lopez (+10000), who won the Queen’s tune-up tournament, is also lurking.

One should keep in mind that if Federer winning seems like an inevitability, betting on semifinalists is an alternative but the prices will be shorter.

On the women’s side, Czech countrywomen Petra Kvitova (+500) and Karolina Pliskova (+550) are very close at the top of the board. Kvitova’s price is too short, especially since she is just back from recovering from a knife attack and was limited by an abdominal injury – a symptom of not being in peak condition, perhaps – at the Eastboune warm-up tournament. Pliskova, with her powerful serve, might be a better play.

Garbine Muguruza (+900) has been struggling with her confidence and Angelique Kerber (+1400) also has a mental game that’s in a shambles, while No. 2 seed Simona Halep (+2000) struggles on grass. The value plays on the WTA tennis odds are likely French Open runner-up Jelena Ostapenko (+1400) and Caroline Garcia (+6600). Garcia is in the same quadrant of the draw as Kvitova and has beaten her twice in a row.