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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World No.634 Laura Samson Reaches First WTA Quarter-Final At 16

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Laura Samon - image via itftennis.com/ photo credi: Manuel Queimadelos

Laura Samson has become the first player born in 2008 to reach the quarter-finals of a WTA event after producing a surprise win on Tuesday. 

The 16-year-old wildcard stunned second seed Katerina Siniakova 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the second round at the Prague Open. Her triumph occurred a day after she dropped just two games against Tara Wurth in her opening match. This week is Samson’s Tour debut after playing 10 events on the lower-level ITF circuit. 

“I’m extremely surprised,” she said during her on-court interview after beating Siniakova. “I didn’t go into it as favorite. I’m so proud of myself and I hope I will continue to play like this. As I was going into the second set I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose, I didn’t play good in the first set.’ I’m not really sure when [I thought I could win], I just believed myself in the third set.” 

Samson is the latest Czech player to break through following a sucessful junior career. Last year she won the Wimbledon girls’ doubles title and was runner-up in the French Open singles tournament in June. She is currently No.3 in the ITF junior rankings but has been ranked as high as No.1. 

Earlier this year, Samson decided to change her name on the Tour by dropping the last three letters (ova). The reason why she did so was to avoid getting confused with another player. 

“I first noticed it last year, there was a problem that I was getting strings (the) of Lyudmila Samsonova,” she told tenisovysvet.cz.

“I also talked about it with her and, for example, according to the schedule, she also sometimes thought she was playing, but it was me,” 

“I would have liked the ending -ová, but unfortunately it turned out like this.”

The teenager will next take on world No.248 Oksana Selekhmeteva with the winner of that match progressing to their first WTA semi-final.  21-year-old Selekhmeteva is a former top 10 junior player who came through two rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw. She is a two-time junior Grand Slam champion in doubles. 

There are five seeds remaining in the tournament, including top seed Linda Nosková who will play Germany’s Ella Seidel in her next match. 

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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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