Pennetta knocks out Li Na to reach her first Indian Wells final - UBITENNIS
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Pennetta knocks out Li Na to reach her first Indian Wells final

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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

 

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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