TENNIS ROLAND GARROS – Maria Sharapova took care of Garbine Muguruza 1-6 7-5 6-1 and Eugenie Bouchard dismissed Carla Suarez-Navarro 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5. This is the Russian’s fourth consecutive French Open semifinals and the Canadian’s second consecutive major semifinals. Cordell Hackshaw
With both the women’s top half quarterfinals matches being played simultaneously, there was a moment when both Maria Sharapova (7) and Eugenie Bouchard (18) looked as though they would be headed home from the tournament around the same time. Sharapova had dropped the opening set in spectacular fashion 1-6 to Garbine Muguruza and Bouchard saw Carla Suarez-Navarro (14) serving for first set at 5-2. The Spaniards and doubles partners Navarro and Muguruza had the matches within their grasp; their first semifinal in a major was so very close. However, both Sharapova and Bouchard felt they were not ready to go home and had yet to play their best tennis of the day. Battling back with the spirit of champions, they sent their opponents packing. Sharapova took care of Muguruza 1-6 7-5 6-1 and Bouchard dismissed Suarez-Navarro 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5. This is Sharapova’s fourth consecutive French Open semifinals and Bouchard’s second consecutive major semifinals. Now she and Sharapova will fight it out for a chance to be the 2014 French Open champion.
When the women’s draw came out, many thought that Serena Williams (1) would play Sharapova for the 18th time and get a 16th consecutive win. Muguruza blew that projection to pieces when she dismantled Williams in the 2nd round. Sharapova must have counted her lucky stars by this result. However, with the way Muguruza came out on court firing on all cylinders, it was as though Williams was still present at least in spirit. The Spaniard quickly had a double break in hand 4-0 before Sharapova was able to hold comfortably for a 1-4 scoreline. Muguruza was tapping into the “Serena playbook” of dealing with Sharapova; attacking the serves, going after the forehand and being aggressive on all points. Sharapova had no answers for this young charge and was soon broken for a third time to hand the set 1-6 to Muguruza in 27 minutes. Sharapova said after the match “[S]he was playing very aggressive and hitting shots very deep. I just didn’t have much to say to that in the first set.” The match was far from over as as Sharapova is one of the most competitive players on tour. Muguruza would soon find out that winning the first set against Sharapova is not nearly as hard as winning the second.
If Muguruza wanted to win this match she had to do so in straight sets and she could not let up in her aggression or falter during points. In the 2nd set, the Spaniard failed to both either. Sharapova spoke about her mindset after the disastrous 1st set, “[L]ittle by little I started playing a bit better, started getting in the court a little bit more, playing a little bit more aggressive, serving better than I did in the first set, returning as well, giving myself more looks at break points.” She turned things around by quickly breaking Muguruza in the 3rd game and held for a 3-1 lead. Muguruza would break back and force Sharapova to serve to stay in the match down 4-5 but Sharapova easily held to remain on serve at 5-5. After digging herself out of 0-30 holes in her two previous service games, Muguruza was up 30-0 to edge ahead again at 6-5. Sharapova seized upon this moment and reeled off four quick successive points to secure the crucial break as Muguruza was unable to defend the pace coming at her. “30-Love on serve when she’s serving quite well, I’m sure she feels like she has a good chance of getting that game in the bag, and all of a sudden I’m serving for the set.” Sharapova served for the 2nd set at 6-5 and though it would take her three set points to close it out, she took it 7-5.
Muguruza would say after the match that, “[D]uring the first set mentally I was so strong. I thought, I’m going to win. Then I was a bit nervous…And then, little by little, when you start losing, it’s a question of nerves. Then she started playing a lot better.” Play better she, Sharapova, did. In the 3rd set, Sharapova again broke early for a 3-1 lead. She then fought off several break points to remain ahead 4-1 and it was all over for Muguruza who became erratic. She would commit 26 errors in the 3rd set alone, which equalled her combined total in the two previous sets. Sharapova on the other hand had only 5 errors in the set. Being this sloppy against the likes of Sharapova, Muguruza had no chance of taking this match in the 3rd. Sharapova then broke Muguruza was a third time in the set to take the match 1-6 7-5 6-1.
Sharapova’s opponent in the semifinal, Bouchard, did not have such a straight forward comeback. Her good plays came in ebbs and flows. She started off poorly against Suarez-Navarro down 2-5 with the Spaniard serving for the match. However, Bouchard soon had break points on the Spaniard’s first attempt to take set and took one of them to be down 3-5. She held serve giving Suarez-Navarro a second chance to close out the set at 5-4 but the Spaniard could not get the job done again. Bouchard needed no encouragement to seize upon this wavering spirit of her opponent and took the lead 6-5. The Spaniard found her serve again and forced the matter to a tiebreaker but again became erratic at crucial stages. Bouchard took the breaker 7-6(4) and seemingly with it the match’s momentum.
Suarez-Navarro came back from an early break in the 2nd set to take 6 of the next 7 games. She took the set 6-2 and looked to be supreme control of the match. She was again broken early in the 3rd set but reeled of the next 4 games to be ahead 4-1. It seemed as though Bouchard’s best tennis came out when she was close to losing it for at this point, she fought her way back into the match. “At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I want to at least leave it all there and try and at least battle,” Bouchard explained. She fought her way into the match. Bouchard began again attacking the weak serves of Suarez-Navarro and controlling from the baseline. She went after the backhand of the Spaniard which is normally very solid but today was doing her very little favours. Soon it was 5-5 and Bouchard again broke Suarez-Navarro to serve for the match. By this time, there was not much fight left in the Spaniard and Bouchard mainly had to remain focus and patient to take the match. On Bouchard’s second match point, Suarez-Navarro’s backhand again let her down and the Canadian took the match 7-6(4) 2-6 7-5.
Suarez-Navarro spoke after the match, “Well, for me it was a very difficult match. I played good, but she’s a really good player. I was up in the first set; I lost. I was up in the final set; I lost. It is difficult to speak now. I’m not happy with the result. But she was fighting all the ball until the end. She deserve to win.” This will be the third meeting for Sharapova and Bouchard who has yet to win a set off the Russian. Bouchard had this to say about the match up, “[W]e’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle. That’s what it’s going to be. I will leave everything on court and just focus on myself and try my best to win.”
French Open Finalist Marketa Vondrousova Undergoes Surgery
It is a premature end to what has been a breakthrough season for the Czech.
Czech rising star Marketa Vondrousova will miss the rest of the season after undergoing an operation on her left wrist.
The 20-year-old made the announcement on her Instagram account where she uploaded a picture of herself after undergoing the procedure. Vondrousova hasn’t played a match on the tour since Wimbledon, where she first sustained the injury. According to Czech media, she received treatment at the same facility which Petra Kvitova attended following a knife attack that severely injured her playing hand.
“For two months I tried to treat my wrist conservatively and tried everything possible. Unfortunately, nothing led to a significant improvement. That is why I decided on this solution, which should relieve me of my pain for good,” Vondrousova said is a statement issued by her team.
“Unfortunately for me, 2019 ended earlier than I wanted. I can’t wait to play back on the courts without pain anymore,“ she added.
The premature end draws the curtain on what has been a breakthrough season for Vondrousova. At the French Open she defeated Petra Martic and Johanna Konta en route to the final. Becoming the youngest player to do so at the tournament since Ana Ivanovic back in 2007. She was denied the title by Ash Barty, who prevailed in straight sets.
Yet to win a title, Vondrousova has managed to remain consistent on the tour by reaching the quarter-finals or better at six consecutive tournaments between February and June. Including the final of the Budapest Open. During that time, she managed to score two wins over Simona Halep. The highest ranked player she has defeated so far in her career.
Vondrousova is currently ranked 22nd in the world. She ends the season with a win-loss record of 29-9.
‘Relaxed’ Su-Wei Hsieh Saves Match Point To Oust Muguruza In Osaka
Su-Wei Hsieh saved match point to eliminate Garbine Muguruza from the premier-level tournament in Osaka.
Su-Wei Hsieh was in a relaxed mood as she saved match point to edge out Garbine Muguruza 3-6 7-6(1) 6-1 in Osaka.
The Wimbledon doubles champion claimed her second straight win over the Spaniard having saved match point in the contest.
After winning a tight second set, Hsieh cruised through the deciding set to secure a spot in the second round against Elise Mertens.
Even though this final part of the season can prove quite tiring, Hsieh is approaching in a more relaxed manner, “I know that anything can happen because this is almost the end of the year,” Hsieh said to the press after the win.
“I just want to be more relaxed, going more to my game. Sometimes I lose a little bit of rhythm at the beginning, so I just need to play more games to get the rhythm.
“In the second set, I felt a little bit more rhythm, and more stable myself, my personal style. It helped me a lot to get into the match and to get more game.”
As for Muguruza, this loss would have hurt her confidence a lot having not won a WTA match since June and her ranking slowly falling by the week.
Next for Hsieh will be US Open doubles champion Elise Mertens, where they have split their opening two meetings which came last season.
In other results today there were comfortable wins for Madison Keys and US Open quarter-finalist Donna Vekic over Daria Kasatkina and Caroline Garcia respectively.
Here is the second round line-up, which matches will be played across Wednesday and Thursday:
Naomi Osaka (1) v Viktoriya Tomova – Wednesday
Varvara Flink v Yulia Putintseva – Thursday
Sloane Stephens (3) v Camila Giorgi – Thursday
Su-Wei Hsieh v Elise Mertens (9) – Wednesday
Madison Keys (5) v Zarina Diyas – Wednesday
Nicole Gibbs v Angelique Kerber (4) – Wednesday
Donna Vekic (7) v Misaki Doi – Thursday
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2) – Thursday
Despite New WTA Guidelines, Could Kim Clijsters’ Return Be Marred By Aberration?
Kim Clijsters will not have any restriction in the number of wildcards she receives. But she also deserves more in her upcoming third stint on the Tour
By the time, Kim Clijsters makes her return to professional tennis in 2020, around eight years will have passed since her second retirement from the WTA Tour. In this near-about octet of years, there have been several changes on the Tour, especially for those women attempting a return post maternity. But where does the 36-year-old stand amid these alterations?
The Belgian was one of the earlier trendsetters – of this decade – to resume her professional activity after becoming a mother for the first time. In 2009, when she returned during the American hard-court summer, the subject never gained as much traction as it did when Williams returned to the game, in 2018 after her pregnancy hiatus in 2017.
Clijsters’ win at the US Open that year – the first for an unseeded player – stifled the mushrooming of any possible avenues of such ranking tweaks back then. Over the next couple of years, as Clijsters ascended in the rankings boosted by her performances, including re-attaining her career-high of no. 1, the topic became moot.
Now, after all these years, in spite of the WTA bringing in modifications to its rules – by way of provision of special ranking to women re-joining the Tour after motherhood, among other factors – Clijsters’ continues to remain an outlying scenario. The obvious reason for this is the lapsing of time of the four-time Major champion’s returning to pro tennis. According to the new rules, a player who is out of the Tour on account of pregnancy must make a comeback within three years after her child’s birth, at most.
Her previous successes and titles ensure Clijsters will never lack for wildcards from tournaments, as per the WTA regulations. However, the question stemming here is should an exception be made for the former world no. 1 vis-à-vis the special ranking while overlooking the passing of years?
When announcing her imminent return to the Pro Tour on the WTA Insider podcast, Clijsters mentioned about challenging herself. “I don’t feel like I want to prove something. I think for me it’s the challenge…,” she said.
“The love for the sport is obviously still there. But the question still is, am I capable of bringing it to a level where I would like it to be at and where I want it to be at before I want to play at a high level of one of the best women’s sports in the world. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything, but I want to challenge myself and I want to be strong again. This is my marathon. This is where I’m saying, ‘OK, let’s try this’.”
Clijsters’ path to trying this while taking it on as a challenge need not come at a cost of her being immediately pushed off the deep end in terms of encountering a higher-seeded opponent. The present state of the WTA would make it for an interesting match-up – whenever it happens – but it would also be akin to defeating the purpose underlining her return, regardless of how confident the 2011 Australian Open champion is with her timing.
The norms, too, could be nudged into further relooking easing them towards a player’s preference in ascertaining her post-childbirth return instead of clubbing them, at large. After all, as significant as Williams’ laurels were to usher in changes, Clijsters’ stunner yet again proves the variety that exists in women’s decision-making.
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