TENNIS – I am not sure if many who watched both the WTA (February 17-23) and ATP (February 24- March 1) Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships realized that the respective champions from both event, Venus Williams and Roger Federer are well over the age of 32. Cordell Hackshaw
I am not sure if many who watched both the WTA (February 17-23) and ATP (February 24- March 1) Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships realized that the respective champions from both event, Venus Williams and Roger Federer are well over the age of 32. Williams will be 34 years old in June and Federer 33 in August of this year. However, I am sure fans of both players were beside themselves when they saw their “player” hoisting the winner’s trophy as Federer and Williams showed signs of a resurgence of their dominant self from yesteryears.
Venus Williams’ battle with Sjögren Syndrome has been well documented but her unwillingness to let it kick her out of the sport might have gone unnoticed. Since being diagnosed in 2011, Williams maintained that she is not retiring even though at 31, she had earned the “right” to do so. Many of her contemporaries left the game before or around this age. It must be noted that amongst active players, Venus Williams alone occupies the 2nd slot on most major titles list with 7 behind her sister, Serena Williams who has 17. However, Venus has not won a major title since 2008 Wimbledon and last appeared in a major final in 2009 Wimbledon. The elder Williams will no doubt be elected into in Tennis Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, her many accomplishments makes no difference to the American as she made the decision to work her way back to the game which has brought her so much fame.
Williams’ last title was in Luxembourg 2012 and coming into this event, she had a good run in Brisbane earlier in the year where she made it to the final before losing in 3 sets to Ana Ivanovic. She seemed to be in excellent shape and had a fairly decent draw at the Australian Open but she lost in the opening round to Ekaterina Makarova. However, Dubai is a somewhat magical place for Williams. She has an unbeaten streak at the tournament having won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010. Despite her 3-year absence in subsequent years due to injury, Williams proved that she still has the magic in 2014. Given a wild card into the tournament and unseeded, Williams, currently ranked 31 in the world, played some of the best tennis seen from her racquet in a long time. With the exception of the quarterfinal where she dropped 8 games against Flavia Pennetta, Williams surrendered no more than 5 games per match during the entire tournament. Before, getting to the final, she took out Elena Vesnina who took her out in the 1st round of 2013 Wimbledon, Ivanovic, quite handily 6-2, 6-1 in the 2nd round (a bit of a revenge scoreline perhaps), then Pennetta and Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal. In the final, she had total control of her game with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Alizé Cornet who had taken out Serena Williams in straight sets in the previous round. Venus Williams stated “I have had a good week. Everything is falling together pretty much, is all I can say.”
What was most impressive about Williams’ game during the week was her resilience and stamina. She was not negative on the court but stayed focus and relied on her heavy groundstrokes and smart court coverage which allowed her to win the title without dropping a set. In the final, Cornet soon realized much to her dismay that Venus Williams was the tougher Williams sister that week as she was clearly frustrated by the American’s game as early as the 5th game of the match. The Frenchwoman was in tears during the changeover as she complained to her coach about her inability to make any inroads in the match. However, Williams continued her assault and picked up the bagel in the 2nd set to take her 45th career title. As always, Williams’ serve was problematic. In the finals, she had only 48% 1st serves in and was 55% for the entire tournament. Nonetheless, Williams was very quick to come forward to finish points at net at the slightest opportunity, which many believe is one of the American’s most “deadly weapons” on court.
What more can be said of Roger Federer at this point in his career to denote his impact on the sport. He remains an enigma; indescribable and ever the epitome of the game. That he is still playing at this age and at such a high quality is astounding to say the least. With such a distinguished career, one wonders when will enough be enough for the great Swiss maestro? Federer has suffered several setbacks over the past years and having not won a major title since Wimbledon 2012 and only winning one title in all of 2013, many asked whether he should consider hanging up the racquet to maintain his legacy. However, the word “retirement” is not a part of the Swiss’s vocabulary. He has put his plaguing back injury behind him and has a new pep in his step with a new coach in legendary Stefan Edberg and new baby on the way. Federer at 32 years old looks just as eager to be out on court today in 2014 as he did when he was 25 in 2006.
Federer is currently ranked 8th in the world and was seeded 4th at the Dubai Championships, an ATP 500 level tournament. However, this tournament is very popular on tour and has been known to attract many of the top ranked players each year. Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were all in attendance. Federer had a bit of a hiccup in the 2nd round against Radek Stepanek when he dropped the 2nd set in a tiebreaker but he quickly put the Czech to rest in the 3rd set. Nonetheless, it was in the latter stages of the tournament, the semifinal and the final, against world’s number 2 and number 6, Djokovic and Berdych respectively where Federer showed his true grit.
Federer dropped the opening sets against both players and for a while, it looked as though Federer was on his way out of the tournament in the 2nd set. Interestingly enough with these match ups, Federer had lost his last two previous encounters against both players. Last year, he squandered match points against Berdych in the semifinal. Djokovic and Berdych were exhibiting signs of their true tennis prowess on court as they blasted winners from all angles of the court. However, Federer dug deep into his reservoir of experience to come up with brilliant plays and level the match by taking the 2nd set. Djokovic and Berdych both blinked in the 3rd set, perhaps figuring that Federer could not maintain this level of play and soon found themselves facing match points with no real answers to save them. Federer thus collected his 6th Dubai trophy (2003-2005, 2007 and 2012) and 78th overall title to be 3rd on the All-time titles list.
After the final, Federer stated, “Things definitely went my way out here tonight, but I have had a lot tougher matches in the last one and a half years, so this is nice to get a lucky break again.”
Maybe one can say it was all luck for both Williams and Federer in winning titles at this stage of their careers. However, looking at their matches and the continued effort to still be on tour amongst the game’s elite, the “lucky charms” defense becomes soggy. This is determination and persistence paying off. In one of her post-match interviews, Williams spoke of the fact that winning majors as she did in the past required “a lot of nerves and mental prowess.” She added, “I’m not looking to do anything I did in the past, because I already did that. I’m looking to improve and be a better, smarter Venus.” Federer and Williams are striving for this level of improvement it seems and are sticking to the plan despite the odds being against you. Who knows what their success rate would be and how long their bodies can withstand the rigors of the tour. It might be that “success” does not necessarily come in the form of winning more major titles and recapturing the glory days for either player. One thing is certain though; retirement is clearly not an option. Both Williams and Federer have made it clear that Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 is in their sights. They will be 36 and 35 years old respectively during the Games.
Anett Kontaveit beats Petra Martic to reach the final in Palermo
World number 22 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia upset number 1 seed Petra Martic 6-2 6-4 to reach the final at the Ladies Open in Palermo.
Martic has scored her third win in her seven matches against top 20 players after beating Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina.
Kontaveit avenged her defeat against Martic in their only previous match played in Dubai last February before the lockdown.
Kontaveit had to fight to hold her serve in the first game of the opening set at deuce and took control of the match by breaking in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead.
Martic won only 56% on her first serve in the opening set. Kontaveit came back from 0-30 down to hold serve in the seventh game before breaking for the second time in the eighth game to win the first set 6-2.
Martic earned an early break in the first game of the second set at deuce, but Kontaveit broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. The Estonian player saved a break point before holding serve to take a 2-1 lead. Kontaveit saved five of the six break points she faced. Kontaveit broke for the second time in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Martic held serve at 2-5 down before breaking serve at 15 in the ninth game to claw her way back to 4-5. The Croatian player received a medical time-out before Kontaveit for the third time in the tenth game at love to close out the second set 6-4.
Kontaveit will chase her second title in tomorrow’s final three years after winning in S’Hertogenbosch in 2017.
“I felt like I played a very good match today. I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I am happy to be in the final”, said Kontaveit.
Petra Martic comes back from one set down to beat Ludmila Samsonova in Palermo
Top seed Petra Martic from Croatia came back from one set down to beat qualifier and world number 117 Ludmila Samsonova 5-7 6-4 6-2.
Martic saved six break points in the 10th game of the opening set, but Samsonova converted her third break point in the 12th game to win the first set 7-5.
Martic earned an early break in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead. Samsonova broke back at love in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Martic broke for the second time in the ninth game to win the second set 6-4. The Croatian player broke twice in the third and seventh games to close out the third set 6-2.
Martic will face world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus in the quarter finals. Sasnovich came through the qualifying round before beating Jasmine Paolini in straight sets.
Former top 30 Camila Giorgi rallied from losing the first set to beat Slovenian teenager Kaja Juvan 3-6 6-2 6-4 after 2 hours reaching her second WTA quarter final of the season. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 outbreak Giorgi reached the top 8 in Lyon. Juvan qualified for the Main Draw at the Australian Open and beat five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in three sets at the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco.
Giorgi started with an early break at deuce at the start of the first set and opened a 2-0 lead. Juvan broke twice to take a 4-3 lead. Giorgi dropped serve for the third time after a double fault on the set point.
Giorgi came back from 1-2 down by winning five consecutive games with two consecutive breaks in the fifth and seventh games.
Giorgi broke twice to race out to a 3-0 lead at the start of the third set. Juvan pulled one break back at love in the fourth game but Giorgi got another break to race out to a 5-1 lead. Juvan broke at 30, when Giorgi was serving for the match at 5-2. The Italian player earned two match points and sealed the win on her second chance.
“I think I was more solid in playing my game. I was moving more forward, so it was much for me. At the start of the match, I was making too many tactical mistakes because I was trying to finish points for no reason. I started to adopt better tactics in the second set and that’s when things started working for me”, said Giorgi.
Number 4 seed Anett Kontaveit from Estonia came back from one set down to beat Laura Siegemund 3-6 6-2 6-2 after 2 hours and 20 minutes booking her spot in the quarter finals at the Palermo Ladies Open.
The Estonian player has reached her third quarter final this year after the Australian Open and Dubai.
Kontaveit set up a quarter final against Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who became the youngest Italian player to reach the quarter final of a tournament since Sara Errani in 2006.
“I am quite happy about the way I was handling close situations, playing the close games and turning the close games around. I thought I actually handled that sort of pressure, that I didn’t think I would be used to, quite well”, said Kontaveit.
Andrea Gaudenzi recognizes the contribution of the Italian Tennis Federation in staging the Internazionali d’Italia
ATP President and former Italian tennis player Andrea Gaudenzi spoke in an interview to Italian TV channel Supertennis about staging the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome before the French Open and recognised the contribution of the Italian tennis Federation (FIT) in staging the tournament in the Italian capital.
The Rome ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 tournaments will be held from 20th to 27th September one week before the French Open (27th September to 11th October).
“We are grateful to everyone, holding an event this year is difficult from an organizational and financial point of view. We thank the Italian Federation and those who organize the Challengers. Italy is making a great contribution. I think the players are waiting for the BNL Internazionali d’Italia. The Foro Italico is among the most beautiful venues in the world. Rome is splendid in September”, said Gaudenzi.
During his tennis career Gaudenzi scored wins over Roger Federer in Rome 2002, Pete Sampras in the first round of the 2002 French Open, Jim Courier in the 1994 US Open, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Muster, Michael Stich and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Gaudenzi claimed three ATP titles in Casablanca in 1998, St. Poelten and Bastad in 2002. He graduated in law at the Bologna University and obtained a MBA with Honours at IUM.
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