Johanna Konta knocks Andrea Petkovic out of Wuhan - UBITENNIS
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Johanna Konta knocks Andrea Petkovic out of Wuhan

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Johanna Konta (image via BBC Sport)

British qualifier Johanna Konta has booked her placed into the second round of the Wuhan  Open following a 6-4, 7-5, win over German 13th seed Andrea Petkovic.

 

During the roller-coaster match, both women experienced difficulties with their serve with ten breaks of service (four for Konta and six for Petkovic). The world No.63 experienced a tough start to the match as she trailed 1-3 in the opening set before gradually clawing her way back to level the match at 4-4. Petkovic had two break point opportunities to break for a 5-3 lead but failed to take advantage of them. The failure was costly as the British No.2 pounced on Petkovic’s serve in the next game by surging to three break point chances, converting her second to lead 5-4. Nerves didn’t seem apparent for Konta as she served out the first set to love.

The second set shared similarities to the first with a series of early breaks of service. The set was going evenly until a long game at 5-5 which consisted of six deuces. Petkovic successfully fended off three break points, but succumbed in the fourth as Konta finally broke for a chance to serve for the match. Similar to serving for the first set she swiftly opened up a 40-0 lead, however this time the 13th seed responded by saving three match points to force the game to deuce. The hard work invested by Petkovic was short-lived as Konta got another match point and this time successfully served it out to take the match.

It is the second time that Konta has beaten Petkovic this month. Their first encounter was in the third round of the US Open where Konta won in straight sets. Following her win, Konta has won 19 out of her last 20 matches since Wimbledon.  Current British No.1 Heather Watson will need to win her first round match against Jelena Jankovic otherwise Konta will become the highest ranked British player for the first time in her career.

In the next round she will play Victoria Azarenka for the first time in her career.  The two-time Australian Open champion endured a tough second set on route to defeating American qualifier Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6 (4). Azarenka is currently ranked 23rd in the world and hasn’t won a title since 2013.

Elsewhere on the first day of competition, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova booked a second round showdown with top seed Simona Halep. The world No.33 crushed fellow countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-0,6-1, after 49 minutes. Pavlyuchenkova wasn’t the only player with a quick win. 33-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni defeated Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-1, in exactly one hour.

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Emma Raducanu Sheds Light On Work With ‘Infectious’ Coach Beltz

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Emma Raducanu reacts during a Women's Singles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

US Open champion Emma Raducanu has described her newly appointed coach as somebody who is constantly ‘lifting the mood’ in her team.

 

The 19-year-old has paired up with Germany’s Torben Beltz after deciding to split with Andrew Richardson who guided her to her first Grand Slam title in New York. Raducanu has previously stated that she wants to work with somebody who has a greater experience of life on the WTA Tour. Beltz ticks those boxes after spending multiple stints working with former world No.1 Angelique Kerber. He has also previously coached Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

Raducanu returned to the court on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall in London where she played an exhibition match against Elena-Gabriela Ruse who she beat 6-3, 7-6(3). Speaking to reporters after, the Brit praised the positivity of her new mentor. The two are set to travel to the Middle East together ahead of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships which takes place in Abu Dhabi.

“Torben is a super positive guy and he brings great energy,” said Raducanu.
“He’s someone whenever you’re around him you can’t help it because it’s just like infectious. It’s really cool to have that in my team so he’s constantly lifting the mood. I’m really excited to work with him and I’ll get a better chance to get to know him better this off-season and see where it goes.
“We’ve been in communication a lot. I’ve just been doing a lot of fitness, like four to five hours a day training and start my tennis next week, so he’s coming in and we’ll be working hard together during the off-season and into Australia.”

Elaborating further on her current training routine, Raducanu says she is encouraged by the work she is putting in. However, the world No.19 is keeping grounded by how much improvement she can make to her game during what is a relatively short off-season.

I start the day on a high and by the fourth hour I’m already feeling it. For me, I know that gives me confidence that I’m putting the work in. I take that as a mental strength and an advantage and although four weeks is a great time, the off-season is quite short,” she said.
“Realistically, I’m not sure how much I can improve in four weeks, but I feel like playing a full schedule next year I’ll improve. Just playing matches and getting match fitness – that’s the only real way it kind of happens.”

Raducanu made her WTA Tour debut at the Nottingham Open in June. Since then she has rocketed up the world rankings which was started by a surprise run to the fourth round of Wimbledon on what was her Grand Slam debut. She went on to reach the final of a WTA 125 tournament in Chicago prior to her major breakthrough at the US Open.

However, the rising star has had mixed results since New York by winning two out of five matches played across three tournaments.

“For me, I am just going about my business. I take the train sometimes. I am doing the same journeys I used to. I feel like I am the exact same person. I will go about everything I used to do,” Raducanu stated.
“I don’t see why I should change the things that got me that title. I am still enjoying it.”

At the Mubadala World Tennis Championships Raducanu is set to play Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on December 16th.

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New Covid-19 Variant, New Headache For Tennis Australia’s 2022 Masterplan

After months of planning, officials unveiled their calendar for the Australian summer of Tennis which concludes with their pinnacle Grand Slam event. However, a new development in the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to throw plans into chaos.

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The head of Tennis Australia says there remains ‘unanswered questions’ over the new Covid-19 variant amid concerns that it could derail plans recently set out for the start of the 2022 season.

 

Craig Tiley has spoken to government officials about the Omicron variant which has recently been classed by the World Health Organisation as ‘a variant of concern.’ The global body warned on Monday there is a ‘high risk’ of it spreading globally. However, research is still ongoing and one of those who discovered Omicron in South Africa says it is not clear if it causes a more severe disease. Angelique Coetzee, who is the chair of the South African Medical Association, told AFP that dozens of her patients suspected of having the new variant only experienced mild symptoms and recovered fully without hospitalization.

However, it is the uncertainty which is posing a threat to Tennis Australia and their plans to stage a total of 17 tournaments during January across various states. On Monday the country paused the next phrase of their border reopening which was set to take place on December 1st. However, they are not closing their borders completely which is what Japan and Israel have done.

“We knew that when we announced the event there would be some more challenges just because of the nature of the world we have been living in for the last two years,“ Tiley told The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. “But we are still waiting. I have been talking with the government over night (Saturday) and this morning. There are a lot of unanswered questions around this and I think in the next 14 days we will get some more clarity. But at this point the plans are going ahead as they are.”

As it currently stands the first charter flight of players is set to arrive in Australia between December 27-28. There will be a total of 20 charter flights operating. All players are required to take a PCR test before departing and then another test upon arrival in the country.

Victoria, which is the state where the Australian Open is held in, has updated their COVID-19 policy. According to The Age newspaper, anybody who tests positive for the Omicron variant or has been in close contact with somebody who has will be required to enter a 14-day quarantine regardless of their vaccination status. Although these rules may change nearer to the Grand Slam starting depending on research into the strain.

We will continue to take sensible and responsive evidence based action, led by medical experts. This will ensure we can open safely, and stay safely open as we learn to live with the virus.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

Besides the national government, Tennis Australia is also faced with the tough task of monitoring state rules which differ around the country whilst operating their tournaments. For example the Australian Open stance on vaccination is due to a health mandate which has been enforced by the Victorian Premier. If the tournament took place in another region, the rules might have differed.

As of November 29th Australia has recorded five cases of the Omicron variant.

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Great Britain Bounce Back To Reach Last Eight At Davis Cup Finals

A potential clash with Novak Djokovic’s Serbia awaits the British camp after they topped their group.

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INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 28: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 at OlimpiaWorld on November 28, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

Great Britain has continued their unbeaten run at the Davis Cup Finals with a roller-coaster 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

 

Britain, who last won the title in 2015, was given a stern test against an upcoming Czech team whose two singles players in tie were aged under 21. The showdown was a crucial encounter for the Brits who also defeated France 24 hours earlier. Their latest win cements their place at the top of Group C and guarantees them automatic qualification for the quarter-finals of the tournament later this week.

“It’s great. Today was tough, I said that yesterday. You look at the rankings and a lot of people think it is going to be straightforward after you beat a French team but it is never like that. We’ve seen it time and time again in the Davis Cup,” Captain Leon Smith commented.
“The Czech team played really well today. Really good young team.“ He added.

The tie began with a shock triumph for the underdogs as Dan Evans fell 6-2, 7-5, to world No.143 Tomas Machac. A 21-year-old who has only played in a Grand Slam main draw twice in his career and has only ever recorded one win. However, the Czech produced an emphatic display of tennis which was at a substantially higher level than his current ranking suggests he is playing at. During one stage of the match, Evans’ frustration got the better of him as he smashed his racket on the ground out of anger. His mood deteriorated further in the second set when he lost four games in a row whilst boasting a 5-3 lead.

“It was a difficult match. He played well. I didn’t play so well,” said Evans.
I got myself in a winning position in the second set and didn’t take it. (I was) A bit indecisive really.’
“But the Czech Republic is always very tough in the Davis Cup. They’ve always got a lot of passion, always play well. I knew they were going to be good. I think they had a good win the other day.’
“Machac has been playing some good tennis. He outplayed me in the first set. Second set, I can’t say I should get through it, but I had my chances.”

Tasked with reviving his country’s winning hopes, British No.1 Cameron Norrie was also tested but managed to prevail 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, over Jiri Lehecka to level the tie. Norrie, who won his maiden Masters title and cracked the world’s top 20 for the first time this year, recovered from a lacklustre second set where he produced 14 out of his 20 unforced errors in the match.

“I was feeling good this morning and came out firing, and had a clean first set,” the world No.12 commented during his on-court interview.
“At the start of the second set, he (Lehecka) was playing more aggressive, I went down a break and was a little down on myself but the gang were incredible and got me back up.’
“I played a similar level in the third set again but it’s never easy being favourite and never easy in this situation but I really enjoyed the match and was aggressive with my forehand throughout.
“All credit to him but I managed to come back for a must-win match.”

With a place in the last eight at stake, Britain managed to pull away from their rivals thanks to a dominant victory in the doubles. The experienced duo of Joe Salisbury and Neild Skupski eased their ways to a 6-4, 6-2, win over Machac and Jiri Vesely. A somewhat expected outcome with the British pair currently ranked in the world’s top 20 for doubles.

“Playing for your country, being here (in Austria) and getting the win with Neil is really special. I’m really happy,” said Skupski.
“We just wanted to start very early in the match today. A lot of energy, a lot of positivity. Just tried to play freely and it definitely worked in the end. We had a great end to the first set and the second was very good.” Salisbury later added.

It is the sixth time Britain has reached the quarter-finals of the competition under the reign of Smith. They will next play the winners of Group C which will be either Serbia or Germany. Germany will top their group if they beat Austria on Sunday evening but if they lose Serbia will be at the top.

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