TENNIS – Flavia Pennetta clinched an impressive 7-6 6-3 win over this year’s Australian Open champion and Number 1 seed Li Na to qualify for the final at BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. For the Italian player, a former top-10, it’s the most important final of her career. Diego Sampaolo
Pennetta has completed her magic week by beating World Number 2 Li Na after knocking out her compatriot Camila Giorgi, Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens in the previous three rounds. The Italian survived an incredible quarter final marathon match against Sloane Stephens winning 6-4 5-7 6-4 after two hours and twenty-six minutes. During this match Pennetta went up a set and a break before Stephens clawed her way back in the second set. Pennetta served for the match at 6-4 5-4 but Stephens won the final three games of the second set to win 7-5 and went up 3-0 and got a point for 4-0 in the third set. However Pennetta clinched six of her next seven games to close out the third set on the fifth match point. This match was made very tough because of the very strong wind.
In the semifinal against Li Na Pennetta clinched a marathon 66-minute first set with 7-5 at the tie-break.
Pennetta broke serve four times in the first set but she never managed to consolidate them. She could not serve out the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5 but the first set came down to the tie-break. Pennetta took a 3-1 lead in the tie-break after Li Na made an unforced error. Li Na won two points in a row to draw level to 3-all. Pennetta recovered the mini-break at 6-4. Li Na fended off the first set point but she made her eighth double fault of the match on the second set point and Pennetta sealed the win in the first set.
The 32-year-old from Brindisi went down 0-2 in the second set but she fought back reeling off six of the next seven games. Pennetta got the decisive break in the eighth game for 5-3 before closing out the match with a backhand winner.
Pennetta hit 12 winners to 22 unforced errors. Li Na produced 29 winners but 52 unforced errors and faced many problems with her serve, as Pennetta broke her six times. .
Pennetta played one of the best matches in her career against Li Na who came to this match with a seasonal record of 17 wins in 18 matches.this season.
Pennetta scored her fourth win against a World Number 2 player after beating Jelena Jankovic in Zurich in 2008, Vera Zvonareva in Sydney in 2011 and Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing in 2011. During her career Pennetta won the Premier-level final in Los Angeles in 2009 and lost two finals in this tournament category in Los Angeles and Zurich in 2008. She is now back to the form of her 2009 magic season. This is the best result ever achieved by an Italian player in this Premier Mandatory Tournament. Thanks to this final reached in the Californian desert Pennetta will move up to World Number 14 in the WTA Ranking.
Pennetta has come back from a career-threatening wrist injury last year when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the semifinal at the US Open. This year she reached two quarter finals at the Australian Open where she lost to Li Na and in Dubai where she was defeated by Venus Williams
Pennetta took a re-match of the quarter final match at this year’s Australian Open won by Li Na with a double 6-2 but today it was a different story.
“In Australia I didn’t have any chance against her but tonight I played much better. I just fought and tried my best. At the beginning of the week if you told me: You are going to make the final here, I would have said: No, I don’t think so. I am really happy with my game. I want to thank the crowd. They are always very nice with me in the United States.”, said Pennetta.
About her final against Radwanska, Pennetta said: “I will have to be aggressive against Radwanska. I played well against her in Dubai and I hope to play in the same way.”
Li Na was the first to congratulate with Pennetta, saying: “Making the semifinals at Indian Wells it’s not too bad. It’s not like I lost to a bad player. She was playing really well”.
Pennetta set up a final against Agnieszka Radwanska who beat this year’s Doha champion Simona Halep. The Pole leads 5-2 in their head-to-head clashes against Pennetta but the Italian beat the Pole earlier this year in Dubai.
Radwanska beat Halep 6-3 6-4 in the first semifinal. The Polish player cruised to 4-0 in the first set and got a point for 5-0 but Halep managed to win the fifth game for 1-4. Halep clawed her way back but Radwanska closed out the first set with an ace for 6-3.
Halep, who won their last two head-to-head matches, fought back breaking serve to take a 3-1 lead in the second set but Radwanska won five of the next six games to close out the match with 6-3 6-4.
With the semifinal reached in Indian Wells Halep will move up to World Number 5 next week.
“I played her a couple of weeks ago and I knew how she is playing. She had really great results for the last couple of months She is a very solid player. What I was trying to do was to play aggressive from the beginning of the match and just try to go for my shots. I was lucky”, said Radwanska
In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title
Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.
Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012.
“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw.
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”
Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week.
“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.
There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open.
Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20.
Naomi Osaka Seeks Resurgence At Home Event After Rollercoaster Year
Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka admits that there have been more downs than ups for her this year but she is maintaining a positive outlook.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has played 22 matches so far this season with her win-loss record currently standing at 13-9. However, at her six most recent tournaments she has failed to win back-to-back matches and is currently on a four-match losing streak. Osaka also missed this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to an achilles injury.
Currently ranked 44th in the world, Osaka is hoping to break her slump at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open which will be held in Tokyo. It will be the first time she has played since losing to Danielle Collins in the first round of the US Open.
“I think, of course, the year has (not been) the best year for me,” Osaka said during her pre-tournament press conference. “But I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m just happy to be healthy. Because in Europe, I did injure myself, and that was like my first injury that took me that long to get healed.
“I think life is kind of ups and downs and this one was kind of more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”
Osaka is the defending champion in Tokyo, even though she won the tournament back in 2019. The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot has happened to the Japanese player since she won the title, both on and off the court. Osaka has spoken publicly about her mental health issues and took time away from the sport because of them.
“It feels really weird to hear that I’m the defending champion because it was the last time I played in 2019,” she said. “I would love to win it again, but I think just taking it one match at a time … and also just playing in front of a crowd in Tokyo again, because the Olympics was crowdless, so it will just be nice to see people.”
This year Osaka does not have a seeding in the Tokyo draw which is in stark contrast to three years ago when she was the highest-ranked player in the tournament. She will begin her campaign against Australia’s Daria Saville and could then face fifth seed, Beatriz Haddad Maia, in the last 16.
“I think every year for me since the first Slam, there’s been a lot of changes,” Osaka said. “But I think this year it has definitely been a real growing year for me. I think tennis-wise, I don’t really think I can go in a wrong direction. I feel like me as a player, my base is pretty solid. I can only really learn more about myself. I know that I am an aggressive player and I can only hope to keep doing that.”
Away from the Tour, the 24-year-old remains one of the highest-earning players in the sport. According to a report published by Forbes in August, she earned in the region of £56.2M over 12 months with $55M of that coming from off-court ventures. She has also set up her own sports agency with long-time agent Stuart Duguid, signing Nick Kyrgios as one of her clients.
“For everything off court, I think it’s really cool how tennis has let me get so many opportunities in things that I’m interested in, and it’s something I’m really happy and grateful for and I can only hope it keeps evolving.” She commented.
This week Osaka is seeking to win her first title of any sort since the 2021 Australian Open.
Simona Halep Ends 2022 Season With Nose Surgery And Mental Exhaustion
Simona Halep will return to the court in 2023.
Simona Halep has ended her season after having nose surgery and suffering from mental exhaustion in recent months.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a mixed season this year with the Romanian almost quitting the sport in February.
However the former world number one reunited with Patrick Mouratoglou and produced a world-class grass court season and US Hard court swing to get back into the world’s top ten.
Despite this, Halep has also had her troubles having had a panic attack at Roland Garros and struggled with anxiety.
This was all produced by the Romanian in her statement when she announced she would not play the rest of the season due to a nose surgery which has been linked to her breathing.
Now Halep will look to recover mentally and physically in time for January’s Australian Open as she will look to become a Grand Slam champion for the third time in her career.
Simona Halep’s 2022 Season:
Melbourne Summer Set 1: Champion
Australian Open: R4 l. Cornet
Dubai: Semi-Finals l. Ostapenko
Qatar: R1 l. Garcia
Indian Wells: Semi-Finals l. Swiatek
Madrid: Quarter-Finals l. Jabeur
Rome: R2 l. Collins
Roland Garros: R2 l. Q. Zheng
Birmingham: Semi-Finals l. Haddad Maia
Bad Homburg: Semi-Finals l. Andreescu
Wimbledon: Semi-Finals l. Rybakina
Washington: R2 l. Kalinskaya
Cincinnati: R2 – Withdrew
US Open: R1 l. Snigur
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