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Sasnovich stuns Raducanu in Indian Wells, Kvitova and Fernandez victorious – WTA Tennis

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INDIAN WELLS, California – World No.100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich ended Emma Raducanu’s 10-match winning streak on Friday night, defeating the reigning US Open champion 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. Sasnovich will face 2015 champion Simona Halep for a spot in the Round of 16 on Sunday.

Coming into the second-round duel, Raducanu was riding a 10 match winning streak from her historic title run at the US Open, where she reeled off 20 consecutive sets through qualifying and the main draw to become the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade in 1977. In contrast, Sasnovich, who reached a career-high No.30 in 2018, had just one Top 50 victory in a completed match this season.

Yet despite her sub-par 2021 season, the Belarusian has a proven track record of being a seed-slaying danger in the early rounds of big events. The 27-year-old had already notched 15 Top 20 wins in her career, including victories over Petra Kvitova at 2018 Wimbledon, Elina Svitolina at 2018 Brisbane, and Karolina Pliskova at 2016 Tokyo. 

“I saw a few matches of her when she played US Open and Wimbledon as well,” Sasnovich said. “She’s really a talented girl. She has a strong forehand, backhand. She tries to be always aggressive.”

“It was a really good match for me. I play really well. I know she just won US Open. I lost there in the first round. So a little bit different. But I tried to go on court, I tried to enjoy. I did everything right and I’m happy with the result, of course.”

Raducanu started the match right where she left off in New York, coolly reeling off the first six points with clean first-strike tennis. With both players looking to play offensive tennis, Sasnovich weathered the early surge and began to find consistent depth off the baseline. The Belarusian broke first to open up a 3-1 lead and broke the Raducanu serve again for a 5-2 lead, closing the opening set after 30 minutes. 

Both players tallied 8 winners apiece in the first set, but Sasnovich was far cleaner, hitting just 4 unforced errors compared to Raducanu’s 12. She was also the more opportunistic, converting both her break point chances while never giving the Brit a look to break her serve once.

Sasnovich broke after a prolonged opening game of the second set, breaking through on her fourth break point of the game to gain the immediate advantage. But Raducanu dug in and refused to let Sasnovich run away with the match. The Brit earned her first break point of the match in the very next game and broke immediately to level at 1-1.

Raducanu continued to pressure the Sasnovich serve from there. Sasnovich was able to save three break points to hold to 2-2, but Raducanu broke again, this time from 0-40, to lead 4-2. 

Turning Point: Raducanu’s lead would be short-lived. After battling back from a break down to lead 4-2 in the second set, Raducanu played a poor game to fall behind a quick 0-40. She did well to find two big first serves to close the gap to 30-40, but netted a regulation backhand to hand back her hard-earned break advantage. 

Sasnovich seized the moment and wrenched back the momentum from there, breaking Raducanu for a fifth time to 5-4 and then serving out the match for a straight-set win after 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Stat of the Match: Sasnovich kept the pressure on Raducanu’s serve all night by taking advantage of the Brit’s second serve. While the two were fairly comparable in their success rates against the first serve, Sasnovich won 76.2% of her second serve return points, while Raducanu won 57.1%. Her ability to pressure Raducanu’s serve earned 11 break points for the match, while Raducanu generated 5.  

Sasnovich finished the match as the cleaner player off the ground. She fired 17 winners to just 19 unforced errors, while Raducanu hit 15 winners to 31 unforced errors.

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

Petra Kvitova win sets up showdown with Victoria Azarenka

No.7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic moved into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open for the seventh time in her career with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

In the first meeting between the two veteran left-handers, Kvitova weathered a closely-contested patch in the early second set to earn a comprehensive victory in an hour and 16 minutes.

Kvitova swept to an initial 4-0 lead and claimed the first set in half an hour, but World No.68 Rus picked up her play as the second set started. The Dutchwoman forced Kvitova into a six-deuce game at 1-0, then saved four break points to hold for a 2-1 lead.

Kvitova, though, used her thunderous forehand return to obtain a critical break for 3-2, and the Czech charged to the win from there, picking off the last five games of the match.

Kvitova will next face No.27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, in an intriguing face-off between two-time Grand Slam champions. Kvitova leads the head-to-head 5-3.

Leylah Fernandez wins her Indian Wells debut

Making her main draw debut, US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez defeated Alizé Cornet 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the third round, where she will face No.9 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Seeded No.23, Fernandez played unrelenting tennis to reel off the first five games of the match before Cornet pulled back two games. Showing no signs of rust, Fernandez fired 24 winners to 16 unforced errors in her first match since New York. 

“It does give me a lot of confidence because Alizé, she’s a very tough opponent,” Fernandez said. “I’ve watched her play on tour. She fights for every point. I’ve practiced with her, too. We’ve had some tough practice matches. I knew that today was going to be hard.

“I’m just glad I was able to get the win. It gives me confidence moving forward.”

Jessica Pegula stops Sloane Stephens to keep WTA Finals bid going

No.19 seed Jessica Pegula came into Indian Wells at No.14 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals and if the American can duplicate her 2021 success at the WTA 1000 level over the fortnight, she could find herself in a qualifying position for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. Facing compatriot Sloane Stephens in her opener, Pegula dominated behind her serve to win 6-2, 6-3. 

Pegula won 88% of her first serves and 79% of her second serves to keep Stephens’ dangerous return game at bay. Pegula did not face a break point in the match. Afterward, Pegula was asked to describe her mindset as she enters the season homestretch. She joked that she’s barely holding it together.

“I’m currently, like, gluing my freaking nails on with super glue right now, that’s where I’m at honestly,” Pegula said. “I just spilled stuff on my shirt. This is where I’m at. Last tournament of the year, besides Billie Jean King Cup, I’m starting to lose it.

“No, I had a little kind of not break, but in between US Open and Chicago, I got to reset a little bit. Played a couple of good matches there. Lost to Ons, who has been playing really well. Lost to her in three sets. I came in here feeling pretty confident. I’m getting married on the 22nd. Honestly, I just want to compete really well and kind of go day by day. Really just not give in, just fight, really tough it out.”

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Hall of Famer Mike Bossy reveals lung cancer battle – Toronto Sun

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Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Bossy has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

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Bossy, 64, announced his illness on Tuesday in an open letter in French on TVA Sports’ website. He is stepping away from his analyst job at TVA Sports, with whom he has worked since 2015.

“Today it is with sadness that I must retire from your screens for a mandatory break,” Bossy wrote in French. “A necessary break during which I will have to receive treatment for lung cancer.

“I can tell you that I intend to fight with the determination and the enthusiasm that you have seen me display on the ice and in my game. That same determination that helped me achieve my dreams and my goals, the one that propelled me to the top of my sport, when I still put on my skates.”

The NHL acknowledged Bossy’s battle on its publc relations account on Twitter: “The @NHL family is with you, Mike Bossy.”

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A four-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders (1980-83), Bossy recorded 1,126 points (573 goals, 553 assists) in 752 career games. The eight-time All-Star spent his entire 10-season NHL career with the Islanders.

Bossy won the 1978 Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year, and the 1982 Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. He also was a three-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy recipient (1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86).

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A chronic back injury forced Bossy to retire following the 1986-87 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.

“The battle I am about to wage will not be easy,” Bossy wrote. “Know that I will give my 100 percent, nothing less, with the objective of meeting you again soon, after a very eventful hockey game. You will never be very far in my thoughts. On the contrary, you will occupy a privileged place and you will be one of my motivations to get better.”

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Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax – hoopsrumors.com

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After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).

Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
  • Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
  • Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.

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Raptors reveal starting lineup for season opener vs. Wizards – Yahoo Canada Sports

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After weeks of speculation, we finally know who Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse is using in his starting lineup — at least to start the season.

The Raptors announced Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa as their starting five for Wednesday’s season-opening game against the Washington Wizards at Scotiabank Arena. It’s not the most surprising lineup, with Dragic beating out Gary Trent Jr. and Achiuwa earning the nod over fellow big men Khem Birch and Chris Boucher.

Rookie Scottie Barnes (4) is starting the season in the Raptors' starting lineup. (Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)

Rookie Scottie Barnes (4) is starting the season in the Raptors’ starting lineup. (Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)

The frontcourt doesn’t possess much size, but Barnes, Anunoby and Achiuwa are all long players with plenty of athleticism to boot. That should make for a strong defensive unit, even without a traditional centre.

In VanVleet and Dragic, the Raptors feature a veteran backcourt that can facilitate for teammates and knock down the three-point shot with consistency.

Whether this five-man unit will be the norm going forward or if Toronto will adapt game-to-game based on matchups remains to be seen.

Nurse said he plans to use nine or 10 players in his rotation on opening night, meaning Birch, Trent, Boucher, and Svi Mykhailiuk should all see minutes off the bench.

Boucher was questionable after missing the entire preseason with a dislocated finger, but Nurse confirmed he was available against the Wizards.

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