Serena and Maria move one step closer to a semis clash - UBITENNIS
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Serena and Maria move one step closer to a semis clash

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TENNIS – The 2013 Miami finalists, Serena Williams (1) and Maria Sharapova (4) are both on the same side of draw this year and if the seeds hold true to form, they are expected to meet in the semifinals. However, coming into their 4th round match ups, neither player has showed anything that might indicate that they may even get to the semifinal. Cordell Hackshaw

The 2013 Sony Ericsson Open women’s finalists, Serena Williams (1) and Maria Sharapova (4) are both on the same side of draw this year and if the seeds hold true to form, they are expected to play each other in the semifinals. They are the biggest names in all of women’s tennis today. They have a much touted rivalry which in fact is no rivalry as Williams dominates the head to head at a staggering 15-2 with those two losses coming far back in 2004. Nonetheless, their meeting in a match is always a hot ticket for fans. However, coming into their 4th round match ups, neither player has showed anything that might indicate that they may even get to the semifinal much more win the title.

 

Sharapova was up first against Kristin Flipkens (19) of Belgium. Sharapova did not have much to fear from this matchup as she has a 4-0 lifetime record over Flipkens having never dropped a set in any of the encounters. However, with the Russian looking vulnerable so far this tournament and having failed in spectacular fashion to defend her Indian Wells title last week, conditions seemed ripe for an upset. Flipkens, it seemed also sensed this moment. She jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the 1st set. Sharapova was unable to get any rhythm from her opponent as Flipkens threw “junk” her way; off speed shots, high loopy forehands as well as her infamous slice backhand. This forced the Russian to generate her own pace, which ultimately made her very erratic. Sharapova got one of the breaks back but could not mount a comeback as errors continued to pour off her racquet. Flipkens took the set 6-3.

 

However, this is Maria Sharapova and her competitiveness is far more renowned than her game at times. She put the fact that she only had one winner and five double faults in the 1st set behind her and raced out to a 4-0 lead in the 2nd set. Flipkens was unable to call upon the game plan she had successfully employed earlier in the match but yet the determination to get this first win over Sharapova remained. She called recently retired ATP tour player, Xavier Malisse who was now her coach on court. Malisse’s advice seemed to have done the trick as Flipkens broke and was had break point and a 2nd serve to play with to get back on serve 4-4. However, the tennis gods, if they do indeed exist, were not on her side. The chair umpire’s microphone system chose that precise moment to go on the fritz. This gave Sharapova a much needed reprieve and another 1st serve because of the unintended delay between serves. Sharapova did not waste this gift and edged ahead 5-2. Flipkens broke Sharapova as she served for the set 5-3 and was serving to even the set at 5-5. Yet again, the Belgian’s A game deserted her giving Sharapova 3 set points. The Russian only needed one; 6-4 Sharapova.

 

In the 3rd set, Sharapova finally found her range and greatly cleaned up her game. She got an early break and was up 3-0. The serve was in full effect winning 78% of her first serve and 60% of her 2nd serve. Flipkens had four break points at 1-3 to get back on serve but Sharapova was determined to not relinquish another of her service game. She held serve, broke Flipkens again and served it out 6-1. Sharapova 3-6 6-4 6-1.

 

This was far from Sharapova’s best and if she wishes to win this title for the 1st time after 5 previous failures in the finals, this level of play will not change her luck. She herself noted, “I wasn’t doing too much from my end and made a lot of mistakes from the first ball, which gives your opponent that confidence and the time they need to do whatever they want.” Sharapova’s next opponent in the quarters will be Petra Kvitova (8), 2011 Wimbledon Champion who won that title over Sharapova. Kvitova is looking to be in fine form as she completely dismantled her 4th round opponent here Ana Ivanovic (12) 3-6 6-0 6-0.

 

Williams took the court after the Sharapova’s victory against fellow American Coco Vandeweghe. This was their third meeting, first since the summer of 2012. One needs not speak of Williams’ many accomplishments from that point onward but Vandeweghe has been lost in the depths of tour since then. Ranked outside the top 100, Vandeweghe was given a wild card last week at Indian Wells. She lost in the 1st round but came through the qualification rounds in Miami and took out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (21) and Sam Stosur (16) along the way to set up this 4th round meeting with Williams. However, this was not the same Coco Vandeweghe from 2012. She now possessed a massive serve capable of popping it up to the 120mph range and a deadly backhand particularly the one down the line.

 

In the early parts of the match, Vandeweghe was hanging tough with the top ranked Williams. She was keeping her honest and not letting Williams get any early advantage in the match. However, this match was vital to Williams to send a message that she was indeed here to retain her title. Williams broke to go up 4-2 but soon faced break point to get back on serve. No sooner had she saved it to get back to deuce than the infamous Florida rain came to disrupt play.

 

When play resumed just over an hour later, it appeared as though the rain had washed away any impediments to Williams’ game. She served out the game and lead 5-2. Vandeweghe was able to make the scoreline in the 1st set respectable by forcing Williams to serve it out 6-3. However, in the 2nd set, it was all Williams. She was ready for the Vandeweghe first serve and the younger American was only able to win 46% of her 1st serve in the set compared to 77% in the 1st set. Williams on the other hand only dropped one point on serve for the entire 2nd set and thus took the set 6-1. Williams 6-3 6-1.

 

Williams was very complimentary of her compatriot in her on court interview, commending her serve and even noting that “It was a much tougher match than the scoreline showed.” Vandeweghe should not be disheartened by this loss. With her performance here this week, she is back in the top 100 and giving her automatic main draw entry into both the French Open and Wimbledon draws. Hopefully, this level of play continues and improves throughout the year. She also has the added bonus of Williams’s open invitation to play doubles together; providing of course big sis’ Venus Williams is not around and she has the time, Williams added. Vandeweghe is very stoked by the idea and ready whenever Williams is ready.

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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