WTA Premier Madrid: Halep through to the Madrid final and to third place in the rankings - UBITENNIS
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WTA Premier Madrid: Halep through to the Madrid final and to third place in the rankings

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TENNIS – Simona Halep from Romania beat Petra Kvitova in the WTA Premier Madrid come back from a set behind 6-7, 6-3, 6-2. Halep is now just 21 points behind Azarenka in the WTA rankings and will become World Number 3 if she wins the tournament. Cordell Hackshaw

Interviews, results, order of play and draws of the Mutua Madrid Open

There should be no doubt about it; Simona Halep (4) of Romania is the real deal. She might not yet be contending for majors but she most certainly will be vying for a big title tomorrow as she placed herself in the Mutua Madrid final with a 6-7 6-3 6-2 victory over Petra Kvitova (5). The diminutive Romanian stood shoulder to shoulder with Kvitova, the 2011 Madrid champion on every point until the Czech succumbed to her superior movement and ball striking abilities. It was a great match overall filled with many great shots but in the end, Kvitova could not hold on to the lead of a set and early break in the 2nd set. “It was a very tough match today. I couldn’t believe that I can come back again. She played really well and she was fighting very well.” Halep stated after the match. “I’m really happy that I can play the final here in Madrid” Halep added.

In the 1st set, the level of tennis was high. Both women came out with their “A game”; hitting their first serves and going for their shots. Kvitova seemed the more aggressive of the two and was willing to take more risk. It was no wonder than she got 18 winners and 29 errors compared to Halep’s 6 winners and 13 errors for the set. The two saved early break points but Kvitova was able to break in the 6th game to go up 4-2. However, she was unable to consolidate and the set would ultimately be decided in a tiebreaker. It was at this point that Kvitova really showed her experience. She knew that it was important to take charge early and quickly raced to a 4-0 lead in the breaker. Halep could not find her range and it was only when Kvitova double faulted instead of going up 5-0, did she get on the board. In the end however, her efforts would be in vain and Kvitova took the set 7-6(4).

Halep was not pleased with herself after losing the set. A bathroom break did not help calm her nerves as she was broken in the first game of the 2nd set. Down 1-3, the Romanian decided to change her head gear from a visor to a simple hair band despite rising heat. This change of attire seemed to change the complexion of the match as Halep reeled off 5 straight games to take the 2nd set 6-3. This new found confidence saw her hitting 4 aces, winning 83% of her first serve points and committing only 6 errors compared to the 16 from Kvitova who was only winning 50% of the points on her first serve.

Halep’s sureness continued into the decisive set as she quickly broke Kvitova for a 2-0 lead. The Czech was looking out of sorts by now. She was fighting the conditions and looked a bit off-coloured. It was soon clear that Kvitova was not going to claw her way out of this hole. All Kvitova’s energies were spent on preventing another break of her serve. This in turn made it impossible for her to have any impact on the Halep serve. Kvitova saw no break point opportunities in the 3rd set despite Halep serving at 47%. However, the Romanian only dropped three points on serve for the set. Kvitova finally capitulated having committed 66 errors for the match as Halep got the double break in the 7th game and served out the match 6-7 6-3 6-2.

This is Halep’s first premier mandatory final and well deserved. After a magical 2013 where she won six titles, she quickly followed that up in 2014 with a quarterfinals appearance in Australia, getting to the semifinals in Indian Wells and winning the Qatar Open. Her current ranking of 5 in the world is the highest for a Romanian woman in the WTA history. Nonetheless, she would need all her experience and skill on maximum overdrive tomorrow in order to beat Maria Sharapova who made it to her second consecutive Madrid final. Halep has no illusion about the difficulty task ahead, Tomorrow I expect a very tough match…Maria is a champion and she knows how to manage the finals. I’m very excited that I can play my biggest finals tomorrow. I hope that my emotions will be down and I can play.”

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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