Wimbledon: Alizé Cornet again stuns Serena Williams - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon: Alizé Cornet again stuns Serena Williams

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TENNIS WIMBLEDON 2014 – On a rainy Saturday, Serena Williams was washed out by Alizé Cornet in three sets 6-1 3-6 4-6. Thus making it the second major in a row where both the number one and number two seeds have been dismissed before the end of the first week. Cordell Hackshaw

 

Results, Order of Play, Draws and Interviews from The Championships

Serena Williams (1) made another grand exit from her third consecutive major in the early round. She has yet to get past the 4th round of a major all year. This time around at Wimbledon where she was heavily favoured to win the title, she lost to Alize Cornet (25) of France who beat her for a second time in a row. There was much speculation of there being a possible upset in this 3rd round encounter but no one rightly believed that Williams, a five-time singles and doubles champion as well as two-time Olympic champion here at Wimbledon would lose this match. Nonetheless, she did and even more so, it was Cornet who looked to be the most comfortable on the grass court as she defeated Williams in emphatic style 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the nearly two-hour affair. “I couldn’t believe it. I still cannot believe it, actually. If somebody would have told me a couple years ago that I would be in second week here in Wimbledon, beating Serena, I wouldn’t have believed it. It feels great,” said Cornet after the match.

From the start of the match, it was clear that Cornet believed that she could score a second consecutive win off Williams who was looking quite superior in her first two matches. “I just knew that I could do it because I did it once in Dubai,” Cornet later stated. Williams on the other hand, looked very shaky as Cornet earned herself two break points in the very first Williams service game. She converted on the second one but Williams broke back to even it at 1-1. It was 1-1 deuce when play was interrupted for several hours by heavy rainfall. However, upon resumption of play, Williams went on a tear. She closed out that 3rd game with her trademark big serves and then simply shut out Cornet for the rest of the set. Williams targeted the forehand of Cornet and was able to take charge of the rallies. The American hit an amazing crosscourt forehand return winner to break Cornet for the third time in the set and take it 6-1. It was clear that this might be a one-sided affair and Williams was going to move through to the 2nd week of Wimbledon; something she has failed to do only twice in the 14 Wimbledons she has played.

In the 2nd set, something inexplicable happened to Williams because it was a completely different match. Even Williams was at a lost to describe what exactly went wrong, “I don’t know. I tried and it just didn’t work out.” Cornet took over the match and she never for a moment relinquished control. She started off by holding serve for the first time in the match, punctuating this small victory with an ace. “I think she lost a little bit her concentration in the beginning of the second set and I used it to come back in the match, and finally I played way better from the beginning of the second set. I think then the battle was on … I was trying to play just point after point, trying to fight as usual and play simple.” If this were indeed a “battle” as Cornet described it, she simply out-gunned Williams. Cornet broke Williams twice to be up 5-0 in the 2nd set.

Williams could not get any traction on her infamous serve, her ground strokes were misfiring and missing the target. She seemed to have regained some momentum when she won three games in a row; breaking Cornet once and holding serve twice for 3-5. Cornet would end this possible shift in fortunes by taking the set 6-3 ending it by winning another net point. Asked to describe how she was able to take control of the match, Cornet said, “Actually being myself. Just being creative on the court, doing some dropshots, doing some variation with my topspin forehand. Trying to stay focused on the way I was moving on the court, I think it’s very important against Serena … because otherwise Serena, she wouldn’t lose a single chance to make you feel that she is the boss on the court.” In the 3rd set, again it was all Cornet. Williams would have to save four break points in order to hold serve in the opening game. This set the tone for all of Williams’ service game in the set as Cornet had chances to break in nearly all of them; 9 in total for the set. Williams constantly had to fight off break points but eventually Cornet converted in the 5th and 7th games to go up 5-2.

Williams early tactic of targeting the forehand was no longer working and Cornet was simply brilliant up at net winning 14/16 points there. Williams remained aggressive as she too came to net often but it was almost like touching a live wire for the American as she was getting shocked by Cornet. Williams only won 19/32 points in the match either because she failed to make an easy volley or because Cornet was simply able to pick her off and take the point. Cornet served for the match up 5-2 but Williams broke her and then went on to hold serve for 4-5. Cornet was under pressure to close out this match against one of the sport’s greatest champions. Cornet came up with the goods as she held at love. Williams for her part, failed yet again to make easy volleys up at net. Cornet moved through to the 4th round with a 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory. This is only the second time that Cornet has made it to the second week of a major in her 34 appearances at this level.

After the match, Williams stated “Yeah, I thought I was playing pretty well. I worked really hard coming into this event. It’s okay, though. Sometimes it happens. You know, you work hard, maybe it’s not for today, maybe it’s for tomorrow …[S]o I just got to keep going.” She dismissed any notion that this losing streak at majors this year was symptomatic of a larger issue but noted that yet again her serve failed to come to her aid; “I thought my first two matches I served well … I worked really hard on my serve, so I don’t know why it didn’t happen today.” Williams had 3 aces, 7 double faults, got only 66% of her first serves in, won 68% of those points and 30% on her second serves. Cornet for her part had 3 aces, 5 double faults, made 60% of her first serves and won 73% of those points and 30% on second serve. She was able to break Williams 5 times having earned herself 15 break point chances; 11 of those coming in the last two sets. Williams on the other hand would only see three chances to break in the 2nd and 3rd sets after that 1st set when she broke Cornet each time she served. Interestingly enough, they both won 90 points total in the match. However, Williams made 29 winners to 29 errors and Cornet had a ratio of 28 to 18. Cornet will play Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard (13) in the Round of 16 on Monday. Cornet did not want to elaborate on the upcoming match up, “I will think about it tomorrow, think maybe about a different tactic to have against her. But right now I really want to enjoy my win.”

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Coach Of Elena Rybakina Dismisses Allegations Of Poor Behavior At Australian Open

Stefano Vukov explains why he believes his actions were appropriate during Rybakina’s semi-final win over Aryna Sabalenka.

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Image via AUS Open twitter

The coach of Elena Rybakina has denied accusations that he was berating his player during her clash with Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open by saying he was just doing his job. 

 

Stefano Vukov was seen multiple times during Rybakina’s semi-final match being highly animated and making a series of critical gestures towards his player when she produced mistakes. The display prompted criticism on social media with former player Laura Robson saying on Eurosport ‘I don’t know how she (Rybakina) copes. He seems to be so negative on the side.”

Croatian-born Vukov has been working with the reigning Wimbledon champion since 2019 and previously coached Anhelina Kalinina. He was briefly a player on the Futures and Challenger Tour before going to America to study. Growing up his family left Croatia when he was a child due to the war and he spent roughly 15 years living in Italy.

“It’s easy to just take clips and then make something controversial. This is part of our sport, it’s normal,” Vukov told Fox Sports Australia when quizzed about his behaviour. 
“There’s 10,000 people out there, to get the attention of the player is definitely not easy and people don’t understand that. I have to scream out something if she’s off track.
“People can interpret that how they want but at the end of the day we’re just doing our job. Coaching is now allowed and she’s using it in the best possible way.”

This year is the first time that coaching is allowed during matches at the Australian Open but it is only allowed if players and coaches are on the same side of the court and there is no hindrance towards their opponent.  

Continuing to hit back at the criticism, Rybakina’s mentor says during the match there are key moments where he needs to remind her of certain tactics. Dismissing suggestions from some that his approach is heavy-handed in any way. 

“I think with all the emotions, sometimes the player doesn’t understand which situation of the match they are, which is absolutely normal,” he said. 
“You know, you’re flowing, you’re into a rhythm, which has happened also yesterday, for example, against Azarenka. A set, 3-1 up, two breakpoints. She stopped playing, Elena, for a couple of games, for example, instead of going for the point a little bit more.
“There are moments we try to remind her, Hey, this is the moment to push. This is the moment to defend.
“It’s normal. There are moments of the match the player doesn’t remember, for example, or in a pressure point, which side to defend more, where to serve more.
“We are there to remind them. So obviously I think that coaching is very important. I think that the player, if the player wants to listen, obviously, they should use it as much as possible, because there is some matches that a few points make the difference. Look at the beginning of yesterday. 3-2 down, two bad choices. That’s it. That’s it. She could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up.
“I don’t know, something like this. Not to be negative, but it’s just our job, right? That’s what we are there for.”

In a previous interview with Tennis Majors last year, Vukov said he and Rybakina clicked together due to ‘his energy against her calmness.’ He also described the world No.25 as  ‘a hardworking perfectionist, which sometimes works against her because sometimes she gets frustrated when things are not perfect.’

Rybakina will play Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final on Saturday. As a result of her run in Melbourne, she will crack the top 10 next week for the first time regardless of how she performs in the final. 

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Aryna Sabalenka Outlasts Linette To Reach Maiden Grand Slam Singles Final

Aryna Sabalenka is into her first Grand Slam singles final where Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina awaits.

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Aryna Sabalenka (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Aryna Sabalenka overcame a tricky opening set to defeat Magda Linette 7-6(1) 6-2 to reach her first Grand Slam singles final.

 

Sabalenka committed a handful of errors in the opening set but was more consistent in the second set.

Linette has a lot to be proud of having reached her first Grand Slam semi-final but couldn’t match Sabalenka’s power throughout the match.

The fifth seed will compete for her first Grand Slam singles title against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina on Saturday.

It was Linette who made the fast start as she waited for the errors from the erratic Belarusian.

After conceding an early 2-0 deficit, Sabalenka found her range and came roaring back with some great angles to move the pole off the court as she levelled the opening set at 2-2.

However the Pole continued to be aggressive and take the match to Sabalenka, playing a perfect counter-attacking match with some incredible backhand down-the-line winners.

Sabalenka continued to serve well but when it came to the pressure points on return, handed points to Linette with some clumsy unforced errors.

In total there were 15 unforced errors as Linette secured a late service hold to force an opening set tiebreak.

Sabalenka recomposed herself as she played a stunning tiebreak with her backhand doing most of the damage.

The Belarusian sealed the tiebreak 7-1 to take the opening set with the second set seeing her go from strength to strength.

Sabalenka continued her sustained pressure in the second set as she broke twice for a 4-1 lead.

There was a resilient fightback from Linette as she created three break points in the next game and after failing to break, saved three match points to force Sabalenka to close out the match.

However Sabalenka obliged with sealing the win and reaching her first Grand Slam singles final.

After the match Sabalenka admitted she played great tennis once she found her rhythm, “I’m super happy that I was able to get this win, she’s an unbelievable player, she played really great tennis,” Sabalenka was quoted by the BBC as saying in her on-court interview.

“I didn’t start really well and then in the tie-break I found my rhythm, started trusting myself, starting going for the shots. It was great tennis from me on the tie-break.

“I actually felt like I hit really slow balls today but I’ve got good genetics I guess.”

Sabalenka will now play Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s showdown with the Belarusian leading the current head-to-head 3-0.

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