Naomi Osaka beats Sloane Stephens in her first match at the tournament since 2019.
Canada’s Leylah Fernandez won her opening doubles match at the BNP Paribas Open alongside France’s Alizé Cornet on Thursday in Indian Wells, Calif.
The duo upset No. 2 seeds Samantha Stosur of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China 1-6, 7-6 (7), 10-8. They will next face Germany’s Vera Zvonareva and Laura Siegemund on Sunday.
Fernandez is scheduled to play her first singles match of the tournament on Saturday against American Amanda Anisimova in the second round.
The 19-year-old from Laval, Que., is riding momentum after winning her second straight Monterrey Open title last Sunday with a victory over Colombia’s Camila Osorio.
Osaka makes victorious return
Earlier, Naomi Osaka of Japan made a winning return to Indian Wells by rallying to beat American 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 straight 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 hasn’t played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open. Only having played a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.
“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 said she has faced bouts of depression since winning the U.S. Open in 2018. The four-time major champion withdrew from the French Open last year to preserve her mental health.
Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open winner, lost for the first time in three career meetings with Osaka. Her 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 of Kazakhstan, Daria Saville and Tereza Martincova. Shelby Rogers, an Indian Wells quarter-finalist 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.
Maria Sharapova is impressed by her own popularity after viral tweet
Is it possible for superstars to be impressed by their own popularity despite having lived under the spotlight for a long time? Apparently, Maria Sharapova still hasn’t gotten used to her success. On April 3, the Russian shared her cell phone number with her Twitter followers and asked them to text her, explaining that a big part of her wish is due to the fact that “we’re all in this separation, this physical-distancing [thing] together”.
The response from the five-time Grand Slam champion’s fans was immediate and the video received over 60,000 views in barely two hours. But leave it to social media to exponentially increase statistics… Not even two days later, Sharapova posted a new message on her account in which she expressed her surprise at the traction generated by her video.
“2.2 million views in 40 hours,” she wrote. Before inserting a GIF of a woman frantically typing on her cell phone keyboard, she added, “My current phone status…”
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) April 5, 2020
Not only did I just get a 310 number( hello cool cats🌴)but I’m sharing it with you—Text me! 310-564-7981. For real. Tell me how you’re doing, ask me questions, or just say hello 👋🏼 Any great recipes welcome too 😉#community pic.twitter.com/JNCuGzJXRS
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) April 3, 2020
Many from all over the world have requested that she get WhatsApp or at least that she share a way in which they could reach her. Others, who have been lucky enough to be able to text her, are still waiting for an answer. Four days after being posted, the video had climbed up to over 3.7 million views.
John McEnroe has suggested that Rafael Nadal gets special treatment from umpires over his slow service routine
John McEnroe has suggested that tennis superstar Rafael Nadal gets special treatment from umpires.
The tennis legend made the claim while speaking to Insider last month about superstitions he had on the court during his playing career.
“I didn’t have any major superstitions,” said McEnroe. “Sometimes, I’d step on lines on odd games and not step on the same lines in deuce games, or I’d mismatch outfits on purpose because I was winning that way.
“It was those sort of things. I wasn’t nearly as bad as Rafa.”
The American went on to reference Nadal’s famous serving routine, in which before each serve, the Spaniard places his hair behind his ear, pulls his nose and adjusts his shorts while bouncing the ball numerous times.
“Rafa has got his ritual that takes 30 seconds every time he plays a point,” he said. “If you’re that great you can get away with it.
“That’s one of the incentives of being the best — you get away with more, as evidenced by what I did at times on the court and what he does, in a totally classier way, though. Obviously, he’s not out there screaming at people or anything.”
McEnroe isn’t the first person to suggest Nadal is given preferential treatment by umpires over his slow style of play.
At the Australian Open in January, Canadian player Denis Shapovalov said the 35-year-old “100%” gets special treatment, after losing to Nadal in the quarterfinals.
“I think it’s unfair how much Rafa is getting away with,” Shapovalov said after the defeat. He had twice complained to umpire Carlos Bernardes about how much time Nadal was taking between points during the match.
Players are allowed 25 seconds between points and two minutes between sets, all timed by a shot clock.
“Every other match that I have played, the pace has been so quick because the refs have been on the clock after every single point,” said Shapovalov.
“This one, after the first two sets, it was like an hour and a half just because he’s dragged out so much.”
He added: “I respect everything that Rafa has done, and I think he’s an unbelievable player. But there have got to be some boundaries, some rules set.
“It’s just so frustrating as a player. You feel like you’re not just playing against the player; you’re playing against the umpires, you’re playing against so much more.”
In reply to the Canadian’s claims, Nadal said: “I believe he is wrong in this case.”
A representative for Nadal, when presented with McEnroe’s comments, responded: “The time between points are timed by a clock that both players, umpire and public can see. If any player goes below the rules time allow they automatically get a warning. So I don’t really see anymore the discussion about this matter.”
Novak Djokovic reveals family inspiration as son fires tennis career off to winning start
NOVAK DJOKOVIC’s son won his first club tournament.
Novak Djokovic lifted his sixth Italian Open title on Sunday on what was a special day for his family, as his seven-year-old son was busy winning his own tournament at home in Serbia. The world No 1 revealed after his victory that his son Stefan was playing his first club tournament and has since confirmed that he was victorious, admitting that Stefan had even inspired his own tennis and reminded him of his childlike love for the sport.
Djokovic Feeling The Love At Roland Garros
Wherever Novak Djokovic goes, a crowd is sure to follow.
From standing-room only practises to throngs of fans asking for autographs as he makes his way through the grounds at Roland Garros, the defending champion has been a top draw in Paris for more than 15 years. But after COVID restrictions limited attendance to 1,000 spectators daily for the 2020 event and peaked at 8,500 for last year’s men’s singles final, packed crowds are a welcome sight for the top seed.
“It’s great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts. Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see,” said Djokovic. “It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis.
“I think the improvements and facilities in the last few years have been great… It’s great that the tournament is recognising the importance of investing back in the facilities and trying to improve the experience for everyone.”
Djokovic has always been energised by a vocal audience and that has reflected in his performances so far this fortnight. The Serbian is through to the third round without dropping a set, scoring a convincing 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over Alex Molcan to reach this juncture of the tournament for the 17th consecutive year.
“I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball,” said Djokovic. “I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well.”
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