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Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka to Not Play WTA Events in February

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Naomi Osaka & Serena Williams

In the month of February, the WTA Tour will be hosting two International (Hua Hin and Acapulco), two Premier (St. Petersburg and Dubai) and one Premier 5 (Doha) tournaments. But, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams decide not to play WTA tennis during the month of February 2020.

Serena Williams’ schedule after the Australian summer

During the Australian summer, Serena snapped her title-less drought since January 2017, as she was victorious in Auckland. Later at the Aussie Open, she lost her three-set third-round match to China’s Wang Qiang. And now until the beginning of March, she has no WTA tournaments scheduled in her calendar.

However, she will be playing the Fed Cup tie in Washington DC, USA, from February 7 to 8 2020.

Serena Williams & daugther

Even in 2019, World Number nine Williams was training in Florida, USA during the month of February and hence she has no points to defend this year.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams is expected to be present during the American Double Sunshine in March. Last year she just won a match in Indian Wells and Miami. In 2020, a rejuvenated Serena is expected to make deep runs during Sunshine Double.

Naomi Osaka’s schedule after the Australian summer

Japanese World Number 10 Naomi Osaka began her season with a semifinal-run at Brisbane International. She had a match point against Karolina Pliskova in the last-four round match, but the Czech player turned around the battle. At Australian Open 2020, the defending champion Osaka was dethroned by the 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round.

Naomi Osaka

As of now, Naomi isn’t planning to step on the WTA courts in the month of February. In 2019, she came to Dubai as the World Number one tennis player. She played her first match as World Number one against the French player Kristina Mlandenovic and landed up losing in straight sets. Post her loss, Osaka didn’t play tournaments in the month of February.

Naomi Osaka will be next seen during the American Double Sunshine. Last season, after her loss in Dubai, she directly flew to Indian Wells for her title defense. In California, Osaka was dethroned by Belinda Bencic, and in Miami, she was defeated in the second round.

WTA top-ten players during February 2020
The other top-ten players, Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, Bianca Andreescu, and Sofia Kenin will play in Dubai and Qatar Open 2020.

Simona Halep

World Number four Elina Svitolina will be seen on the courts of Thailand Open 2020, Hua Hin and Qatar Open 2020, Doha. The Dutch World Number eight Kiki Bertens will play in St. Petersburg, Dubai and Doha.

Nino Severino: How Serena Williams can reclaim her place at the top of world tennis

Serena Willliams

In his latest column, Nino Severino looks at the struggles of tennis icon Serena Williams – and suggests how she can reclaim her place at the top of the sport.

Serena Williams

The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, is over.

It’s a tournament I know very well, making the trip every year with Elena to compete for Great Britain. It’s a surface Elena liked to play on, and achieved some great results, so I have some great memories of Melbourne.

As every year, the tournament in 2020 has delivered some incredible stories, and I have focused in on the age gap between the winner of the ladies’ final, Sofia Kenin, and arguably the best player that has ever graced the tennis court, Serena Williams.

Sofia, at the age of 21, has won her first Grand Slam, and is now America’s number one female tennis player, while Serena is 38-years-old and has an incredible 23 Grand Slam titles to her name. But Sofia comes away from Melbourne flying high, while Serena comes away having lost in the third round and in four major finals since giving birth to her daughter in September 2017.

Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou said: “We have to accept the fact that it is not working, maybe come back with a different angle, a different strategy and different goals so she can make it. She does feel positive, she feels negative too because it is a failure when she doesn’t win a Grand Slam.

“We have to face reality, but she is positive that she can make it, otherwise she probably wouldn’t be on a tennis court anymore. She believes she can make it and I believe it too. She’s not that far, but we have to change a few things.”

Mouratoglou is a seasoned coach, and known worldwide for his achievements, but personally I think he is being tough on himself and Serena. I watched Patrick over many years on the World Tour, he is one of the most experienced coaches, but sometimes, as a coach, you get so engrossed, so close to the athlete, that the truth can sometimes become a bit blurry, even distorted.

When you study this situation, it’s not just Serena who will be feeling the pressure – believe me, Patrick will also be feeling it as well.

He has been guiding and supporting Serena since 2012, she has won 10 of her 23 Grand Slam titles with him by her side, together they have experienced the best that sport can offer.

serena-williams-pregnant-today

When you’re used to being out in the sunshine of victory, the switch to being cold, confused, nervous and not knowing what the future has to offer can be a very uncomfortable place. Patrick has worked with the best female player in history, and now he must test his skills in a very different way.

Serena said after her loss in Melbourne: “I made far too many errors to be a professional athlete.” That’s true, but for me, it does not take away from the fact that she is the best player that history has to offer, and this level of quality simply does not vanish.

History tells us that there are many athletes who compete at the elite level well into their 40’s – Tiger Woods, George Foreman, Martina Navratilova, Randy Couture, Bernard Hopkins and Dara Torres all had success in their fifth decade.

And compared to these athletes, Serena is a mere baby! Patrick talks about coming back with a different angle but, for me, this is nothing to do with tennis specific skills – the limiting factor here is not Serena’s tennis ability. She is a prolific striker of the ball, has an incredible serve, and still boasts world class physicality.

I think Patrick will find the solution in the list of non-specific tennis limiting factors, I don’t think for one minute he is going to change her serve, try to teach her different patterns of play, or morph her game into the style of a player who slices, hits loopy balls and comes to the net.

Serena Williams celebrates after beating Sharapova in the 2015 Australian Open final

Patrick will be smart enough to know that “the different angle” – as he puts it – will be in the way Serena perceives her tennis world, what she is thinking, how she is feeling, and how she is reacting. For me, this is where the form lies.

There’s a scene in Rocky 3, when Apollo Creed, the former world champion, is coaching Rocky after he’s been defeated by Clubber Lang.

Creed takes Rocky to a gym where he trained as a youngster – a rough, tough neighbourhood, with young, hardened fighters. Apollo turns to Rocky and tells him “see that look in their eyes Rock?” He was trying to tell him, what drove him originally was not there anymore, and he said “you’ve got to get that look back Rock, eye of the tiger man, eye of the tiger”.

Serena, even at 38-years-old, still has the power that young players coming through can only dream of, she still strikes the ball with incredible pace, she just needs to re-connect with the mindset that told her she could beat anyone – once this happens, she will, in the words of Creed, once again have the ‘eye of the tiger.’

Patrick will help Serena to find this place, I have no doubt. And when that happens, the youngsters who are currently keeping her throne warm must be on their guard – because this lioness will be back on the hunt for that 24th Grand Slam title and her place at the very top of tennis!

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