Li and Pennetta win in the wind - UBITENNIS
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Li and Pennetta win in the wind

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Li Na escaped from a very tough match against Dominika Cibulkova to conquer her second Indian Wells semi-final.

 

The Chinese looked in full control in the first set in the rematch of the Australian Open final, but suddenly suffered Cibulkova’s comeback and had to fight from a break down in the third.

The first set started with a show of nerves from both sides of the net: the first three games were three breaks of serve. Li was the first to hold the serve and the advantage gained in the fourth game set the tone of the whole first set.

The Australian Open champion looked solid from the baseline and confident both on defence and offence, causing Cibulkova to miss many balls in the attempt to get her off balance.

With a heavy forehand winner Li closed the first set breaking Cibulkova’s serve once again and everything seemed ready for an easy second set for her.

The Slovak, who had never won against Li in five matches, started the second set with a different attitude and by hitting harder and taking the ball earlier, she started to move Li around and take control of the rallies.

Cibulkova failed to convert a break point in the first game and soon had to save one behind her own serve, but she did it with a stunning backhand down the line, which boosted her moral.

The finalist in Melbourne hold in that game and immediately broke the Chinese’s serve, flipping the momentum all to her side.

Too fast for Li to realise, Cibulkova was hitting winners left and right and went serving for the second set 5-2 up.

The Slovak let the nerves come back in the worst moment and immediately fell 0-40 down. She managed to save the first two break points, but Li broke back and went on easily holding.

At the second chance to close the set, Cibulkova hold with an impressive reaction after a bad challenge.

In the third set the Slovak tried to impose the same rhythm that gave her the lead in the second and it seemed to work at first and with the help of a double fault on the break point, she took the early break.

Cibulkova could not keep the momentum going though, and returned the favour by offering a break chance with a double fault. Li immediately took it to level the score and immediately held.

The fourth game has been the most spectacular of the match, Cibulkova started feeling the pressure and served a few double faults, but played out of her mind to save all the five break points she faced and finally held for two all.

In the seventh game, at three all, Li served two break points and handed Cibulkova two break chances, but immediately made up with two good serves and finally closed with an ace.

The missed chance clearly took his toll on the Slovak, who started to rush and suffered one another break, the decisive this time as Li went on closing easily for an important 6-3 4-6 6-3 win.

 

Her opponent in the semi-final will be Flavia Pennetta, who continues her impressive 2014 after she defeated Sloane Stephens and the win in a mental thriller lasted more than two hours and ended 6-4 5-7 6-4 for the Italian.

In a match rich of twists and sudden turns, Pennetta started very composedly and without shining too bright like she did against Camila Giorgi, still managed to keep Stephens under pressure and take comfortably the first set.

In the second, Stephens tried a reaction and thanks to a bad call, which the Italian did not challenge, captured an early break.

The Italian fought back and despite an erratic serve and a footwork far from the best days, she still obtained an important break and went up 5-4, serving for the match.

At 30-15 the Australian Open quarter-finalist let the tension get to her arm and consequently allowed the young American to break back.

Stephens could not ask for a better chance and exploited the momentum taking the next two games to equalise the set count.

All of a sudden a strong wind started to blow in the court and conditions, which were already difficult, became prohibitive.

Stephens kept the momentum alive and flew easily 3-0 up, but the experienced Italian was not ready to give up.

Pennetta battled against herself, her negative thoughts and a gusty wind to save a break point and then stop the series of games won by the American.

Quite as swiftly as the wind had come, Pennetta started to find more confidence in her shots and despite the wind was making it hardly possible to be aggressive, she started to move Stephens around.

The Italian then found herself a positive streak and tied the score at three all.

Both players managed to hold their serves, but it was clear that every ball could have changed the outcome of this battle.

More than once, Pennetta tried to be the aggressor, but the wind helped Stephens into the rallies, even though she hardly tried to produce any winner in the tempest.

Unexpectedly, the Italian managed to break the serve of Stephens in the ninth game and after the court chance tried to serve once again for the match.

With the help of a couple of lousy shots from the American, she found herself three match points up, but she simply could not close it.

After a fourth match point gone, one could sense the tension in the eyes of both players, but Pennetta suddenly found a terrific down the line backhand winner which set her to a fifth and eventually definitive match point.

When the wind blew the desperate drop-shot attempt of Stephens out wide, Pennetta finally could rise her arms to the sky and cheer for her second semi-final of the year, the first ever for an Italian in Indian Wells.

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win

The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.

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Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

 

” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.

The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.

Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.

After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.

At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.

At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.

At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.

” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.

Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.

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Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test

Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.

Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”

It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.

“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”

In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.

So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.

Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.

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