Garbine Muguruza gets off to a winning start against Lucie Safarova in Singapore - UBITENNIS
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Garbine Muguruza gets off to a winning start against Lucie Safarova in Singapore

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Garbine Muguruza got off to a winning start to her first WTA Finals beating Lucie Safarova 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in the first match of the White Group. Muguruza clinched the first set with a break in the third game. safarova came back in the second set breaking serve in the first game but Muguruza reeled off three straight games from 1-3 down to take the lead with 4-3 before clinching the win with 7-4 at the tie-break.

 

Both players have achieved their best year so far. They reached their first Grand Slam finals (Safarova at the Roland Garros and Muguruza at Wimbledon), broke the top-10 for the first time in their careers and qualified for their first WTA Finals.

Safarova and Muguruza met only once in their careers last spring in the quarter finals at the French Open in Paris. The Czech player won that match in straight sets with 7-6 (7-3) 6-3. Safarova went to reach the final in the French capital.

Since then their season has gone very differently for the two players. Muguruza reached her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon before enjoying a great Asian Swing in which she reached the final in Wuhan before winning her biggest title so far in her career at the Premier Mandatory in Beijing. These results have made Muguruza one of the greatest favourites in Singapore. On the contrary Safarova was knocked out in the first round at the US Open before being hospitalized because of a bacterial infection. On her come back after one month she lost in the first round in Linz and Moscow.

Muguruza got to 30-30 in the opening game which went to deuce. The Spanish player did not earn any break points on Safarova’s service game. Safarova held her serve to win the first game at deuce.

At 1-1 0-30 Muguruza played brought up three break points but Safarova forced the game to deuce. Muguruza converted on her fourth break point to take a 2-1 lead. She held her serve in the next game to go up 3-1.

In another service game at deuce Safarova held her serve for 3-4, although she has to win a point on her second serve. After the first seven games Muguruza converted just one of her seven break points.

At 5-3 30-30 Muguruza hit her fourth ace and a service game to hold her serve. Safarova was unable to get a game to deuce in the first set.

In the first set Muguruza hit four aces and won 72 percent of her first service games and 88 percent of her second service games. Muguruza converted one of her break points.

At the start of the second set Safarova fought back from 15-40 to bring up her first break point of the match. Muguruza saved it with a big second serve but Safarova converted on her second break point chance to go up 1-0. Safarova held her service game to take a 2-0 lead. Muguruza held her serve in the third game for 1-2. After holding her serve in the fifth game for 2-3, Muguruza broke back to draw level to 3-3. Muguruza held her service game to win her third consecutive game to take the edge with 4-3.

Safarova fought back from 0-40 to save four break points for 4-4. Muguruza fended off two break points for 5-4 after fighting back from 15-40 down. In the tenth game Safarova held her service game to 30 to draw level to 5-5. Muguruza held her service game to 30 to go up 6-5. Safarova held her service game to draw level to 6-6 forcing the second set to the tie-break.

Muguruza hit a forehand winner to get an early mini-break for 2-0. She sent a dropshot into the net on the fourth point for 3-1. Safarova hit a forehand down the line for 2-4. The Czech player got the mini-break back with a forehand down the line. Muguruza got another mini-break to bring up two match points at 6-4. She converted her first match point when Safarova hit her forehand into the net.

“It was a very tough match. I was very nervous as it was my first time playing her in singles since the Roland Garros. In Paris she played an amaziing match I played a good match too. This time I just wanted to win so much. I was fighting and concentrating very much”, said Muguruza

After her impressive season marked by her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, her biggest title in Beijing and her first WTA Finals Muguruza has reached a new career-high on the WTA Ranking this week overtaking Maria Sharapova. Muguruza is the first player born after 1991 to break into the top 3

“It has been an incredible rise. I think you always have it in your mind that you can make good tournaments and achieve great things, otherwise it’s not going to happen”, said Muguruza.

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By The Numbers: 15 Things To Know About Maria Sharapova’s Career

Ubitennis looks at the figures behind one of the most well known tennis players in recent history.

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On Wednesday Maria Sharapova announced her immediate retirement from tennis at the age of 32. Her decision comes following recent struggles with injuries that has sidelined her from the tour for weeks. Pulling the curtain on a career that has lasted almost 18 years.

 

The best way to look at Sharapova’s career is to look at the numbers behind it. Here are 15 things you need to know about the former world No.1 and her legacy in the sport.

1 – her sole WTA Finals title took place back in 2004. She qualified and played at the season-ending event eight times throughout her career and was also runner-up in 2007 and 2012.

3 – number of WTA doubles titles she won between 2003-2004. She claimed two trophies with Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn and one with Maria Kirilenko.

5 – number of grand slam titles won (Wimbledon 2004, US Open 2006, Australian Open 2008, French Open 2012 and 2014).

6 – Sharapova is one of six women in the Open Era to have won a career slam. Where a player wins ever major event at least once in their careers. The others are Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.

10 – the number of seasons where she finished the year inside the top 10 (2004-08 and 2011-15).

15 – Sharapova was banned from the sport for a total of 15 months due to a failed doping test after testing positive for Meldonium. She was originally issued with a 24-month penalty before an appeal reduced that sentence.

20 – the number of times she lost to Serena on the tour. Overall, they played each other 22 times and Sharapova did at one stage lead their head-to-head 2-1.

21 – weeks spent at world No.1. She has held the top position for a longer period than rivals such as Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Kim Clijsters and Jennifer Capriati.

36 – number of WTA titles won. Her first triumph was at the 2003 Japan Open and her last was at the 2017 Tianjin Open in China.

98 – number of wins over top 10 opposition. Out of that figure, she has defeated a world No.1 player seven times.

645 – number of singles matches won during her career on the WTA Tour.

2002 – the year she made her WTA debut at the age of 14 in Indian Wells. She defeated world No.302 Brie Rippner in her opening match before falling to Monica Seles.

2020 – At the 2020 Australian Open, Sharapova played her final competitive match after losing in the first round to Donna Vekic.

$38.8 million – Career prize money won. As of this week, only two players have earned more than the 32-year-old is the history of Women’s tennis. Venus Williams’ tally stands at $41.8M and sister Serena is way ahead on $92.7M.

$325 million – What Forbes Magazine estimated to be Sharapova’s total earnings throughout her career. The figure also includes sponsorships and appearance fees. On the WTA Tour only Serena has made more with her earnings believed to be in the region of $350M.

 

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Rafael Nadal Overcomes ‘Dangerous Player’ To Reach Mexico Quarters As Erratic Zverev Crashes Out

The world No.2 is just one out of four seeded players to make it to the last eight of the South American tournament.

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Rafael Nadal (image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES)

Rafael Nadal remains on course for his first title since the US Open after battling to a straight sets win over next gen star Miomir Kecmanović in the second round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Open.

 

The top seed faced some stern tests throughout his 6-2, 7-5, victory over the 20-year-old Serbian. Who has only ever defeated one top 10 player in his career so far, which was against Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati last year. Overall, Nadal hit 20 winners to 17 unforced errors and converted five out of his six break points.

“(It was a) Tough opponent, he’s a very dangerous player with a lot of power so I’m very pleased with my victory.” Nadal said afterwards.

A clinical start to the match saw Nadal win five consecutive games before Kecmanović managed to get on the scoreboard. The world No.50 did manage to retrieve one of the breaks, but the damage was already done as Nadal sealed the opener in just under 40 minutes. Then in the second the top seed was severely tested as he dropped serve whilst serving the match out at 5-3 due to some impressive play from across the court. However, he prevailed four games later to book a place in the quarter-finals.

“I think I played a great first set, which is positive news for me and gives me some confidence.” Nadal reflected.
“The second set was close. I lost my serve when serving for the match, but he played a great game. I was not serving first serves in that game and he was playing some good points.”

The 19-time grand slam champion now extends his win-loss record in Acapulco to 17-2. His only two losses were to Sam Querrey (2017) and Nick Kyrgios (2018). Both of those players went on to win the title that year.

Next up for Nadal will be a maiden meeting with South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, who is through to his fourth ATP quarter-final of the season. The world No.76 stunned eighth seed Dusan Lajovic 7-6(2), 6-2.

Mixed fortunes for the other seeds

Alexander Zverev (image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES)

The biggest casualty of the tournament so far is Zverev who suffered a straightforward loss to Tommy Paul. A player who is ranked almost 60 places lower than him in the ATP rankings. Struggling with his second serve, Zverev dropped serve once in each set to fall 6-3, 6-4.

“It just didn’t work”, Zverev said during his press conference. “When I play like this, it is not hard to defeat me. It wasn’t going up to the to the net, it wasn’t my backhand, it was my serve… a shot that didn’t work.”

Qualifier Paul has claimed his first ever win over a top 10 player in his career. The 22-year-old is currently at a career ranking high of 66th in the world. Last month he reached the semifinals of the Adelaide International and the third round of the Australian Open.

”It meant a lot. I was really excited to get out there and play. He put me under pressure in the first game and then from there, I played well for the rest of the match,” Paul said.

The American will play compatriot John Isner next.

Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime, who was seeded fourth in the draw, is another top name to exit the tournament. The 19-year-old fell 6-4, 6-4, to the in-form Kyle Edmund. Former grand slam semi-finalist Edmund is on a winning streak after recently claiming the New York Open title.

“He’s (Auger-Aliassime) won a lot of matches and he’s seeing the ball big. Like him, I’m on a decent run as well,” Edmund said. “I liked how I created chances in both sets early. Overall, against a Top 20 player, it was a good result. I’m very pleased.”

There was better news for Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian endured a marathon encounter against Adrian Mannarino where he prevailed 6-7(8), 6-2, 7-6(2) after almost three hours of play. Dimitrov had a 4-1 lead in the final set before losing four games in a row. He then had to save two match points en route to winning.

”All I had to do was to stay in the match and fight. I don’t know why I have to make it so hard, but it what it is,” Dimitrov said. “The atmosphere here was electric once again. I’m just going to appreciate this moment.”

Dimitrov faces nemesis Stan Wawrinka next. Somebody he has lost to in their five previous meetings on the tour. The Swiss third seed eased to a 6-4, 6-4, win over Spain’s Pedro Martinez Portero in his second round match.

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A Doping Ban And Frosty Friendships Failed To Stop Maria Sharapova Becoming A Tennis Icon

The inspiring, complicated and controversial career of one of Russia’s most renowned players of all time.

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In an ideal world Maria Sharapova’s legacy will be her five grand slam titles or the fact she is the third youngest woman in history to win a Wimbledon title. However, it was never that simple for the former tennis superstar throughout her career.

 

On Wednesday the Russian announced her immediate retirement from tennis at the age of 32. She chose to make her announcement in a heartfelt article written for Vanity Fair. In it she elegantly wrote ‘tennis- I’m saying goodbye.’ The decision comes after months of injury setbacks, particularly concerning her shoulder, side-lining Sharapova from the tour. She hasn’t played since losing in the first round at the Australian Open to Donna Vekic, but few expected that to be the last match of her career.

“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine: waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court’s gate before I hit my first ball of the day. I’ll miss my team, my coaches. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes—win or lose—and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.” Sharapova wrote.
“Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain.”

Renowned for her fighting spirit displayed on the court, Sharapova achieved numerous milestones by the age of 18 that many others would dream of doing in their entire careers. Including winning the 2004 Wimbledon championships at the age of 17 before rising to world No.1 a year later. Despite her inexperience at the time, she managed to make herself a household name worldwide and laid the foundations to becoming one of the most prestigious female athletes in the world.

Over the coming years, she would record 98 victories over top 10 players, win 36 WTA titles (including five majors) and spend a total of 21 weeks as world No.1. Furthermore, she finished 13 seasons inside the world’s top 20 and is the third highest earning player in the history of the WTA Tour with $38.8 million in prize money earned.

It is hard to describe how extraordinary Sharapova’s career has been and to a degree subjective too. According to Forbes magazine her total career earnings are estimated to be in the region of $325 million. A figure includes her prize money, endorsements and appearances over the years. To put that into perspective, only Serena Williams has made more ($350 million). Williams is six years older than her.

“One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward. I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place. But there is no mastering tennis—you must simply keep heeding the demands of the court while trying to quiet those incessant thoughts in the back of your mind.”

Highly respected, but not loved by all

Maria Sharapova at the US Open 2018 (photo via Twitter @usopen)

Throughout her career, the Russian was very much focused on her tennis and not making friends on the tour. She once said ‘I’m not really friendly or close to many players. I have not a lot of friends away from the courts.’ One of her biggest critics on the tour was Dominika Cibulkova, who she played seven times on the tour between 2008-2018.

“She’s a totally unlikeable person,” Cibulkova once said of Sharapova. “Arrogant, conceited and cold. When I sit beside her in the locker room, she won’t even say hello.”

It is Sharapova’s rivalry and relationship with Williams which was the most publicised. Two years ago she released a memoir titled Unstoppable: My life so far that reportedly featured the name of her American nemesis an estimated 100 times. In one chapter she wrote ‘I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry.’ Sharapova later claimed that she heard Williams telling a friend that she ‘will never lose to that little b**** again.’

Inevitably Williams was questioned about the book during the 2018 French Open. Diplomatically she assured that she had no ‘negative feelings’ against Sharapova, but did question the accuracy of her account.

“I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her.” Williams said of Sharapova.
“And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest. I was,like ‘Oh, okay.’ I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn’t necessarily true.”

The introverted approach from the former world No.1, who has a active social life outside of the sport, was something she had from a young age. Legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri first got acquainted with her when she was nine at his academy.

“One her work is done, she’s gone,” he told The Independent in a previous interview.
“She doesn’t like to hang around. There’s no bullshitting afterwards with the other players. It’s all business.”

The ban that could have destroyed her

Little did she know that her popularity on the tour would decline further. In 2016 the sports world was stunned when Sharapova conducted a press conference as a venue that she famously described as having ‘an ugly carpet.’ Unfortunately that was the only humorous thing on that occasion. In a broadcast that was streamed live around the world, she confirmed she has failed a drugs test. The culprit was meldonium, which was added to the list of prohibited substances just months before. Naturally, she protested her innocence, but the suspicion remained.

Less than 12 months before her statement, she was one of the most, if not the most, sought after female athletes. In fact Forbes.com named her as the world’s most marketable female athlete of 2015.

“In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it.” She commented on her ban.

Initially slammed with a 24-month ban, it was reduced to 15 months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that she was not an ‘intentional doper.’ Not that their verdict reduced the critical comments. Usually when an athlete is sanctioned for doping, they suffer a freefall in endorsements. Yet, in Sharapova’s case many jumped to her defence. Nike, Porsche, Evian and Head all maintained their links. The only exception was Tag Heuer who decided not to renew a previous deal. Few athletes in the world have the ability to do that, but Sharapova somehow did.

“I don’t think there’s too many athletes that could have had those type of relationships with people, decision-makers that knew her really well and the character of her, and where willing to hang in there, to wait, instead of terminating, but suspending the contract. That was really the key. Everybody had termination clauses and they decided to suspend and wait,” agent Max Eisenbud once said in an interview with Forbes.

Fighting until she decided to stop

When she returned to the sport following the ban, Sharapova once again faced the hostility of her rivals. Top names such as Caroline Wozniacki and Andy Murray questioned the decision to award her wild cards following a drugs ban. Nevertheless, like throughout the majority of her career, she was defiant and undeterred by what others think .

“I don’t think it’s for them to really have an opinion because they don’t have the facts. Those are the types of words that make headlines and they will be used as headlines. But ultimately, this is my career and I faced it head on. I admitted my mistake and I went about it and I served my suspension and now I’m back.” She told BBC Sport in 2017.

Sharapova managed to build up her tennis career and returned as a familiar figure on the tour, but she was no longer the player she was earlier in her career. Winning the Tianjin Open almost three years ago would turn out to be her last taste of silverware in professional tennis. She would eventually end back in the world’s top 30 before injury would be the start of the end. Numerous shoulder problems sidelined her from actions for days, then weeks. After fighting for so long, she finally gave in after her experience during last year’s US Open.

“Shoulder injuries are nothing new for me — over time my tendons have frayed like a string. I’ve had multiple surgeries — once in 2008; another procedure last year — and spent countless months in physical therapy. Just stepping onto the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory. I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.”

Sharapova will not be remembered as the player everybody loved and sadly her doping ban taints her career. Yet she still managed to remain one of the sport’s most iconic and influential figures for more than a decade. Many people would have never been able to do this, but Sharapova was one in a million.

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