TENNIS WTA Premier Madrid – Maria Sharapova beat Li Na at the Mutua Madrid Open coming back from a set down 2-6 7-6(5) 6-3. Li had committed 43 errors to 13 winners as oppose to Sharapova who had a 39:21 errors to winners’ ratio. Sharapova will face Agnieszka Radwanska tomorrow for a place in the final. Cordell Hackshaw
Li Na (2), the 2011 French Open champion and Maria Sharapova (8), the 2012 French Open champion, found themselves on court far earlier than expected as the first quarterfinals between Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova never got underway as Williams retired from the match. Nonetheless, the quality of play, tension and excitement in this one matchup was equal to that of two combined. In the end, Sharapova, last year’s finalist, showed herself to be the clear favourite for the title at the Mutua Madrid Open with Williams’ withdrawal. As she did in the 2nd round here against American Christina McHale, the Russian was on the brink of defeat but as is the case so often in her career, only then she produced her best tennis; willing her opponents into submission. She wrested control of this match after being outplayed for over a set and a half by Li to take it 2-6 7-6(5) 6-3. Sharapova would later say “I think today I was down, I didn’t play a great first set, and I found a way to get myself in a position to be in the third. Then certainly something changed a little bit and did something different to get myself going and give myself a bit more energy than I had in the first set.”
Maria Sharapova Part 1 “Experience helps to come back and stay focused”
It was apparent in the beginning stages of the match that Sharapova was not taking this match lightly. She holds a 9-4 lifetime record against Li but she is aware that Li is capable of playing a high level of tennis. Sharapova held comfortably on her first two service games. Li on the other hand was spraying the balls and fighting to hold serve. However, at 2-2, Sharapova lost her resolve and was broken to go down 2-3. She earned herself a break point in Li’s next service game but again Li did well to consolidate the break and go up 4-2. At this point, the Russian began to leak errors and was broken at love to give Li the double break. The Chinese wasted no time to close out the set 6-2 after 33 minutes. The numbers were not pretty by any stretch of the imagination as both women were erratic; 21 errors between them and only 4 winners. Li had no winners recorded though she won more points off her first serve (88%) than Sharapova did (58%).
Li carried her winning momentum into the 2nd set as Sharapova appeared to be forcing the issue and committing the errors. Li was able to capitalize on another break point to go up 4-3. However, as she served to consolidate the break, Li appear to have lost the plot as she was soon down 0-40. Sharapova needed no other invitation for her first break of the match and things were even again. She held serve comfortably for 5-4 putting the pressure back onto Li to serve to stay in the set. Li found her A game again and not only held easily but earned two break points on Sharapova’s serve. This would have put Li in command to serve for the match at 6-5. Again, Li lost her way and squandered the break chances and Sharapova seized this golden opportunity to take control of the match. Li was able to force the tiebreaker but Sharapova took command early with a 4-0 lead. She got to 6-3 in breaker and despite Li’s late charge to disrupt this comeback, Sharapova was able to close out the set 7-6(5).
Errors continue to pour from Li’s racquet in the 3rd set and Sharapova applied the pressure to the reigning Australian Open champion. Sharapova broke in the opening game but Li broke back immediately. She was unable to hold serve again and the Russian converted another break point and held serve to lead 3-1 in the set. Sharapova quickly got through her next couple of service games and was able to break easily again the Li serve to close out the match 2-6 7-6 6-3. This is another instance of Li leading in the early parts of a big match and then faltering to lose; reminiscing of her loss at the 2014 Sony Ericsson Open final to Serena Williams.
Maria Sharapova Part 2 “I wouldn’t mind if it (on court coaching) didn’t exist”
In the press conference, Sharapova had this to say of the turnaround in the match, “I think it’s a combination of experience and kind of what you teach yourself and the motivation that you find inside of yourself to not letdown when you’re feeling things aren’t going the exact way that you wanted them to.” Sharapova added that focus is required to come back in a match as well as to stay ahead with a lead. Perhaps this is something Li should learn because this match should be cause for concern in her camp. It seems as though she is unable to finish matches against top players and her play becomes more erratic on big points. She only won a staggering 23% of her first serve points in the 3rd set compared to Sharapova who won 75%. Overall Li had committed 43 errors to 13 winners as oppose to Sharapova who had a 39:21 errors to winners’ ratio. Sharapova will face Agnieszka Radwanska tomorrow for a place in the final. The Polish number one player took out France’s Caroline Garcia 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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