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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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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