TENNIS WTA CINCINNATI – There was no doubt that this match was going to be a battle. However, no one expected a war for this win. Ivanovic took the early lead only to see Sharapova fight back hard to serve for the match in the third. However, Ivanovic would not be denied the victory as she finally seized the match 6-2 5-7 7-5. Cordell Hackshaw
Anytime Maria Sharapova (5) and Ana Ivanovic (9) play each other, the matchup always receive top billing as they are two of the tour’s top fan favourites. The rivalry has been somewhat one-sided with Sharapova leading 8-3 including a 7-match win streak. Their last two matches in recent months have been very competitive with Ivanovic finally snapping the Sharapova win streak to take the last match in straight sets. There was no doubt that this match was going to be a battle. However, no one expected a war for this win. Ivanovic raced out to an almost unsurmountable lead with a set and double breaks in hand, 6-2 4-0 in the second set, only to see Sharapova fight back hard to serve for the match in the third. However, Ivanovic would not be denied the victory as she finally seized the match 6-2 5-7 7-5 to face world’s number 1, Serena Williams in the final. “Just so, so thrilled and happy to stay composed and fight until the last moment,” Ivanovic said.
Ivanovic could not have asked for a better start to the match. She broke Sharapova for a 3-1 and consolidated to lead 4-1. She had another break point in the 6th game but Sharapova fought it off for 2-4. However, when Ivanovic got another break opportunity at 5-2, she converted to close out the set 6-2 in 40 minutes. “I was just trying to play my game. Trying to step up and be aggressive and don’t rush. Against Maria you really have to try and push her off the court. If you give her opportunity she’s going to dictate the points,” Ivanovic said after the match. Sharapova looked out of sorts but her fans were hardly concerned considering her track record. The Russian, particularly as of late, finds herself down a set and a break and then finds the will to win. These mighty comebacks were on full display at the recent French Open where she completed this feat three times in a row to get to the final where she won her 2nd French title. As a matter of fact, in her last match, she staged another comeback against Simona Halep (2) in a similar fashion.
True to form, in the 2nd set, Sharapova was soon down 0-2. Traditionally, it was at this point that Sharapova would make her charge to assert herself back into the match. However, she went down another break and saw Ivanovic serving for a 6-2 5-0 lead. Surely Sharapova could not pull off this Houdini-like escape. Sharapova would later explain her predicament, “I think it was a combination of flat, just not executing what I want to from the beginning of the match, making a few too many errors.” The chains were too tight as Ivanovic was in total control up to this point. The Serbian soon relinquished her strangle hold on the match when she got distracted by bad call from the umpire who allowed a 30-40 point to be replayed. Sharapova only needed that slight opening to break for 1-4. She held serve to lessen the lead to 2-4. Ivanovic was clearly rattled but she scraped through her next service game for a 5-2 lead. Sharapova held serve for 3-5 and forced Ivanovic to serve for the match. Ivanovic crumbled. She was now the erratic player on court as she could not put together several quality points in a row. Sharapova on the other hand was simply lethal off the ground. Her groundstrokes were firing on both wings and Ivanovic was left scrambling. That 5-2 lead quickly dissipated as Sharapova reeled off five consecutive games for the set 7-5.
Ivanovic had to regroup but history showed that Sharapova does not lose these types of matches. Once a player allows her back into the match, she quickly pounces and dismantles the opponent in the decisive set. The momentum was swinging all the Russian’s way. However, the momentum may have tempered as in the 3rd game of the set, a game apiece 15-15, Ivanovic inexplicably stopped play and laboured over to her chair in seemingly excruciating pain. It was later explained that her heart was beating at an alarming rate and she needed to a break. However, Ivanovic stated in the press conference that she was “nauseous.” The doctor was quickly ushered on court. Ivanovic took some medication and lied down on court for a bit. It all seemed bizarre but Sharapova was not bothered as she took an early break for 2-1. Ivanovic broke back for 2-2 but got broken again. Sharapova consolidated for 4-2. Ivanovic then came on strong aided by some untimely double faults from Sharapova to level the set again at 4-4. The Russian would not be denied as she broke to serve out the match at 5-4.
The momentum which had swung decisively in either player’s direction earlier in the match was now going back and forth between them at lightening pace. With the match squarely on her racquet, Sharapova buckled as she double faulted three times in the game giving Ivanovic the chance to break after saving two match points. It was now 5-5 in the set with Ivanovic serving just as she was in the 2nd set. Last time, Ivanovic was unable to hold her serve and nerves but this time around she withstood the Sharapova surge to gain the edge at 6-5. Now for the third time in the match, Sharapova was serving to stay alive. Ivanovic was not going to let a third chance for the match go by as she returned Sharapova’s serves with interest; deep and heavy to the baseline. Sharapova showed rare signs of nerves as she was unable to handle the pressure. Two match points were now against here. She saved one but on the other. Ivanovic unleashed a mighty backhand crosscourt that Sharapova could not get back into play. The 2 hours and 45 minutes battle was finally over with Ivanovic the winner 6-2 5-7 7-5.
The match statistics were not pretty. Sharapova served at 63% winning 60% of her 1st serve points and 37% behind her 2nd serve. She was broken eight times and had nine double faults with seven of them coming in the 3rd set alone. Sharapova had 29 winners to 45 errors. Ivanovic numbers were hardly any better. She got 61% of her 1st serves in to win 62% of those points and only 47% on her 2nd serve. She had six double faults. The Serbian had 28 winners to 51 errors. However, a match like this is cannot be summed up by the number but by the intangibles. Who held it together when it really counted? Sharapova later noted, “I created myself a good position after having a slow start. I was down and out in the match and I found a way to get myself in a winning position. Today it didn’t work out for me. That’s really the headline of the whole story.” Ivanovic herself noted that she thought that she was going to lose the match after the lead but then “try to think fresh and have positive affirmations.” Ivanovic will face Williams for their 8th meeting. Williams is 6-1 head-to-head. Neither player has won this title before so there will be a lot of build up for this match.
Ons Jabeur On Carrying The Expectations Of A Nation At Wimbledon
The world No.2 is yet to drop a set in the tournament as she eyes a major breakthrough this year at Wimbledon.
Ons Jabeur has got accustomed to knowing that how she performs in the sport will be closely monitored by her home country and its neighbors.
The 27-year-old is a trailblazer for Tunisian tennis after achieving a series of milestones. She is the first Arab woman to win a Tour title, crack the top 10 and reach the quarter-final of a major. Back home she is known by the nickname ‘Minister of Happiness’ which was created by her fellow Tunisians. There is plenty of love for Jabeur but there is also just as much expectation for her to do well.
“Everybody is following me, expecting me to do better and better. I hope I continue being that person that gives them what they’re expecting,” she said.
“I’m just trying my best to break records, to really open the path for the next generation.”
At a ranking high of No.2 in the world, Jabeur is trying to rewrite Wimbledon history for the second year in a row. In 2021 she became the first Arab woman to reach the last eight. This year she looks to be in solid form after playing three matches without dropping a set. Her latest win was on Friday when she disposed of Diane Parry 6-2, 6-3. She is yet to lose any more than eight games in a match so far.
“I love playing here (at Wimbledon). I want to keep it (matches) as short as I can. For now, I’m just enjoying really playing on grass,” she said.
“I want to play my best tennis. Obviously, if you’re too comfortable, it’s not that good as well. I’m trying to keep focused.”
Jabeur has already won 33 matches this year, which is the second-highest tally on the Tour after Iga Swiatek. She has featured in four finals, winning titles on the clay in Madrid and Grass in Berlin.
Although like every other tennis player it is a Grand Slam that she desires the most. This year’s Wimbledon is her 21st appearance in the main draw of a major.
“It would mean a lot for me, for my family and for my country,” she said of possibly winning Wimbledon. “I just want to keep proving that nothing is impossible and if you put something in your mind, you can achieve it.”
At SW19 Jabeur’s next test will be against Belgium’s Elise Mertens. A player who she lost to in straight sets at the US Open last September. Mertens defeated 15th seed and former champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5, in her third round match.
“I am playing the tennis that I love to see. Obviously, there are a few things to improve. I want to be challenged for the next round, for sure, and see how I handle that pressure.” Jabeur concluded.
12th time Lucky: 30-Year-Old Heather Watson Breaks New Ground At Wimbledon
The British veteran has brought delight to home fans at The All England Club.
Heather Watson says she has no words to explain her feelings after securing a place in the last 16 at Wimbledon for the first time in her career.
Reaching the third round was nothing new for the Brit after she had done so on three previous occasions at The All England Club. After winning just two games against Agnieszka Radwanska in 2012, she suffered narrow defeats to Serena Williams in 2015 and then Victoria Azarenka two years later. No matter what she tried, it appeared that reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon was too much for Watson.
However, this year was her golden opportunity with her section seeing seeds Belinda Bencic and Beatriz Haddad Maia losing in the first round. Watson’s third round opponent was Kaja Juvan. Coincidentally another player who hasn’t gone beyond the third round at Wimbledon in her career.
Cheered on by the Court One crowd, Watson prevailed 7-6(6), 6-2, after coming through some tricky moments. She was a break down in the first set and then in the second she stormed to a 5-0 lead before nerves started to play havoc. After dropping two games in a row, Watson battled through a 10-minute service game before prevailing on her first match point with a winning volley at the net.
“It wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a bit of drama at the end. Wow! What an atmosphere,” said Watson.
“There is nowhere I would rather play. You lot (the crowd) got me over the line. I thought she was playing her best tennis at the end.’
“I know I am not speechless as I am blabbing on but I don’t know what to say.”
This year’s Wimbledon is Watson’s 43rd Grand Slam appearance. Heading into the event she has had far from ideal preparation after stuffing an injury scare with her hamstring. Whilst some might have written off her chances of producing a deep run, she never gave up her own belief.
“I wouldn’t still be playing if I thought that ship had sailed,” she stated in her press conference.
“I’ve been in the third round quite a few times here at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. I was just sort of waiting for it to happen. I waited long enough,’
“I’m really happy to be into the second week of a Grand Slam for singles finally.”
To get to this position, it has been a bumpy ride for Watson this week with her earlier matches in the tournament being hampered by rain delays and night-time suspensions due to poor visibility.
“This is the first time I get to enjoy this win because in my first two matches I was just constantly in focus mode,” she reflected.
“I feel like this win’s very different to the others, not just because I’ve reached one of my goals but because I have a bit of time for it to sink in.”
Awaiting Watson in the last 16 will be Germany’s Jule Niemeier who recorded her first win over a top 10 player earlier in the tournament by defeating Anett Kontaveit. Should she win she will follow in the footsteps of Johanna Konta who is the last British woman to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final back in 2019.
“She’s a really good player, a great talent. When I played her (in Monterrey) she was outside the top hundred. I remember saying to my team, `This girl will be top hundred in no time,” Watson said of her next opponent.
“It will be a tough match. She’s one for the future. I’m going to go home and do my homework.”
Erratic Iga Swiatek Struggles Past Lucky Loser To Reach Wimbledon Third Round
In what was a roller-coaster encounter, the top seed was far from her best but still managed to maintain her unbeaten streak.
World No.1 Iga Swiatek heads into the last 32 at Wimbledon with plenty to think about producing a mixed performance during her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win over Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.
The reigning French Open champion endured patchy periods of play throughout her latest match at The All England Club. Prompting her to shake her head and make occasional glares towards her teams in the stands. Her winner count of 31 was almost canceled out by 30 unforced errors as she broke four times in the match.
“I think she used all the advantages that she could. I feel that she was using the wind better than me,” said Swiatek. “She played a really great match.’
“I’m pretty happy that I could fight back and have another chance to play here (at Wimbledon).”
Seeking her 37th win in a row, Swiatek found it tough going ealy on against Kerkhove. A Dutch world No.138 who only managed to enter the main draw with the help of a lucky loser position and was yet to play a top 10 player in his career. The Pole struggled to find her footing on the surface as she leaked a series of costly unforced errors. That resulted in her getting broken twice in a row and falling behind 2-4.
Visibly rattled on the court, Swiatek’s consistency level was far from that which has taken her to winning six consecutive titles within the past four months. Part of that explanation is the fact that she had only ever played nine Tour-level grass-court matches in her career heading into the second round at SW19.
Fortunately for the world No.1 she was let back into the set at the expense of a lackluster service game from her rival which featured two doubles faults. A four-game winning streak saw her turn the match round. On her first set point she prevailed after a Kerkhove backhand crashed into the net.
Swiatek continued to have difficulty pulling away from her rival in the second frame. Kerkhove has only managed to win two Tour-level matches this year with one of those being in the first round of Wimbledon. The underdog continued to exceed expectations by breaking midway through to nudge ahead 4-3. Doing so with a return that brushed the top of the net before landing on the other side. That was enough for Kerkhove to unexpectedly take the match into a decider.
Facing the prospect of losing to a player outside the top 100 for the first time since April 2021, Switek regained some much needed momentum with a clean forehand winner down the line which enabled her to break for a 3-1 lead. Battling her way towards the finish line she sealed victory with a the help of a forehand error from Kerkhove.
“It’s really special to me but what I’m out there I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to play my best tennis possible on the grass.,” she said of her winning streak.
“I’m happy it’s 37 and I’m going to do my best to get even more.“
The next test for Swiatek will be a clash with France’s Alize cornet who beat Claire Lu 6-3, 6-3. It is only the second time she has made the last 32 in 12 appearances at the Grand Slam.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be really exciting,” Swiatek commented. “The third round, the people who are there deserved to be there. I hope it is going to be a really good fight.”
Swiatek is only the second woman to win 37 matches in a row since 1990 after Martina Hingis.
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