Lucie Safarova beats Angelique Kerber to send Petra Kvitova into the semifinal - UBITENNIS
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Lucie Safarova beats Angelique Kerber to send Petra Kvitova into the semifinal

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Lucie Safarova beat Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-3 to send her compatriot and Fed Cup teammate Petra Kvitova into the semifinal of the WTA Finals.

 

After the win by Garbine Muguruza over Kvitova in three sets in the first Friday match, Kerber just needed to win against Safarova to advance to the semifinals. Despite the defeat against Muguruza,  Kvitova still had a chance to qualify for the last four if Safarova defeated  Kerber in straight sets.

Kerber and Safarova were tied 1-1 in their head-to-head matches. Kerber beat Safarova 6-2 7-6 at Paris Indoors in 2012. The Czech player prevailed over her German rival 6-4 6-4 in the Fed Cup last year.

This week Kerber won her first round-robin match over Petra Kvitova with 6-2 7-6 but was beaten by Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4 in her second match.

Safarova, who reached the Roland Garros final this year, lost her first two matches in straight sets against Garbine Muguruza (3-6 6-7) and Petra Kvitova (5-7 5-7) and no longer had a chance to qualify for the semifinal.

The match between Kerber and Safarova started with three breaks of serve in the first three games with Safarova leading 2-1. Safarova held serve for the first time in the match to go up 3-1. Kerber earned a break-back point at 2-3 40-30 but Safarova saved it holding her serve to go up 4-2.

Safarova held her serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. Safarova earned two break points at 15-40 but Kerber fended off two set points by winning four points to hold her serve for 4-5.

Safarova won the 10th game to clinch her first set in this tournament – 6-4.

Throughout the first set Safarova hit 18 winners to 16 unforced errors and won 79 percent of her first serve points. She converted two of her seven break point chances. In contrast Kerber hit 11 winners to 9 unforced errors and won 61 percent of her first serve points. The German converted one of her two break points.

Kerber held her first service game before wasting a break point in the second game. Safarova went up a set and a break on her second break point chance for 2-1 in the third game of the second set. The Czech player backed up the break lead to go up 3-1. Safarova held her next service game after getting the early break to take a 4-2 lead but wasted a point at 4-2 30-30 which would have allowed her to earn a break point

Kerber served to stay in the match. The German went down 0-40 but clawed her way back. Safarova held her serve for 6-3 to take her first win since reaching the final in New Haven where she lost to Petra Kvitova.

Safarova’s win has sent her close friend Petra Kvitova into the semifinals.

Garbine Muguruza won the White Group ahead of Petra Kvitova. Tomorrow will feature two exciting semifinals: Sharapova vs Kvitova and Muguruza vs Radwanska.

Kvitova, WTA Finals champion in 2011, will play in the semifinals of this event for the third time in her career.

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Alexander Zverev Fights Back In Thriller To Win Madrid Open

The German battled valiantly to record his third consecutive win over a top 10 player in Madrid and clinch the title for the second time in his career.

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Fifth seed Alexander Zverev battled back from two games away from defeat to oust Matteo Berrettini in a marathon clash to win the Madrid Open.

 

The US Open finalist was pushed to his limits both mentally and physically en route to a 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3, win over the world No.10 after more than two-and-a-half hours of play. Making it the first time in his career he has won a title on the ATP Tour after dropping the opening set. He now leads Berrettini 3-1 in their head-to-head. In their latest encounter the German hit five aces and 16 winners en route to his 15th ATP trophy and fourth in a Masters event.

It (feels) great, especially after losing in the final of the last three Masters events (I played). This is definitely special and I just want to enjoy this one,” Zverev said during his on-court interview.
“I think his (Berrettini’s) game style showed it all. I hadn’t played anybody this week who can serve 235(KM/H) kick-serve on the clay. It definitely was a different match. I am extremely happy right now.” He added.

The opening set was a roller-coaster 70-minute tussle between the two players with constant changes of momentum occurring throughout. Berrettini, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 final at the age of 25, withstood a 10-minute opening serving game before going on to draw first blood. Tied at 3-3, the Italian capitalised on some lacklustre hitting from Zverev to break for a 4-3 lead. However, his advantage was short lived with the world No.6 breaking back immediately in the following game. The lack of disparity between the two resulted in an opening tiebreak which was just as dramatic.

Berrettini’s plan of using his heavy slice to draw errors from Zverev did wonders for him early on in the tiebreaker as he unexpectedly raced to a 5-0 lead. However, there would be another twist to the match. Some costly mistakes brought his opponent back into contention as his lead rapidly disappeared. Two set points came and went as a result of Berrettini’s unforced errors which was partly triggered by Zverev’s fierce defensive play. The 2018 Madrid champion then had a set point of his own at 8-7 but failed to capitalise. Eventually, it would be a Zverev double fault at 8-8 that proved decisive. Enabling Berrettini to seal the 7-6 lead on the following point with the help of a serve out wide.

Historically winning the opener has proven critical to the outcome of a match in the final of a Masters 1000 tournament on the clay. In fact, the past 17 Masters finals on the surface have gone the way of the player who clinched the first set.

However, Zverev continued his perseverance and pounced at the best possible time during the second frame. As Berrettini nudged to two games from victory, he fell victim to his own nerves. At 4-4 a series of loose shots guided Zverev to break for a chance to serve out the set and forced proceedings into a decider. A task he passed with flying colours with the help of a nifty pick-up near the net which forced an error from across the court on set point.

With a Masters title at stake, Zverev continued his comeback with the help of some more fierce defensive play. Locked at 2-2 in the decider, two more costly Berrettini unforced errors enabled him to break and lead the match once again. Prompting an almighty roar from Zverev. In pole position he rallied towards the finish line against his rapidly tiring opponent. On his second match point Zverev prevailed after a Berrettini backhand drifted wide.

“I want to congratulate Matteo on an amazing week. I think you deserve this title just as much as I did,” the new champion said to his rival.
“I know this moment is not the greatest. I’ve been there. Trust me, I felt one hundred times worse after the US Open final.’
“When you win a title like this it will feel even better and special. I’m sure you will. Next week is Rome and if you’re playing like you’re playing here (in Madrid), I’ll be cheering for you as well.”

It is only the second time in his career that the 24-year-old has managed to defeat three top 10 players within a tournament. He also beat Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem earlier in the week.

There will be little time for celebration with the main draw of the Italian Open already underway. Zverev has a bye in the first round.

“It is difficult but Rome is also an event which I like and enjoy. I hope I can perform the same way as I did here (in Madrid). We will see how it goes,” he concluded.

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Matteo Berrettini Says Words From Federer’s Coach Ljubicic Aided Belief In His Game

The Italian is currently on an eight-match winning streak after what has been a bumpy start to the year.

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Matteo Berrettini at the 20201 Madrid Open (image via Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Matteo Berrettini is a win away from his maiden Masters 1000 title at the Madrid Open during what has been a roller-coaster journey on the Tour this season.

 

The world No.10 started 2020 in good form with high-profile wins over Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut at the ATP Cup. Then at the Australian Open he reached the fourth round for the first time in his career before disaster struck. An abdominal injury forced him to pull out of the Grand Slam and would eventually result in Berrettini being sidelined from the Tour for almost two months.

However, since returning to competitive tennis last month the 25-year-old has managed to win eight out of nine matches played on the clay prior to the title match in Madrid. His only loss was in Monte Carlo to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“I worked really hard in my pre-season, but I wasn’t feeling like really, really good on the court. But I knew that the work that I’ve done eventually would have paid off somehow,” Berrettini told reporters on Saturday.
“I have to say that since I went to Australia and I started quarantine, the practice and stuff, with my coach we said, ‘Okay, I’m playing good, I’m good.’
“Sometimes it is a matter of mental performance or just that your confidence is building up.”

Berrettini, who reached the semi-finals of the 2019 US Open, credits his team for aiding a growth in his confidence. One particular member he has high praise for is his manager Ivan Ljubicic. A former world No.3 player from Croatia who is a coach for Roger Federer. The Croat has his own management, sponsorship and consulting agency called LJ Sports Group which Berrettini is a member of.

“My manager, Ivan Ljubicic. He helped me in a way. He just told me he really believes in me. That kind of stuff helps, especially because it’s coming from someone who had an unbelievable career. It really helped me in that way,” he said.

Standing in Berrettini’s way of his first Masters 1000 title is former champion Alexander Zverev who is yet to drop a set in the tournament. He is 7-9 against top 10 opposition so far in his career and his first win over a top-10 opponent was Zverev on the clay back in 2019 (in Rome). However, he has lost his two other meetings against the German.

“It’s going to be a challenging match, but I’m in the finals. I guess the best two guys are going to play each other,” he concluded.

Berrettini is only the third Italian man to reach a Masters final since the series was created after Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner.

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Madrid Open Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Matteo Berrettini for the Men’s Championship

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Italian No.1 Matteo Berrettini, on Saturday in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

Three years ago in Madrid, Sascha Zverev won this event, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final.  That was Zverev’s third Masters 1000 title, all earned within one year.  Sascha’s results at Majors have progressed since that time, though Sascha is yet to achieve his fourth Masters title, despite reaching three further finals.  The 24-year-old German has not dropped a set this week, which includes noteworthy back-to-back victories over the two best clay court players of the last five years: Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

 

Three years ago in Gstaad, Matteo Berrettini won his first ATP title, and his first of three on clay.  The 25-year-old Italian has claimed a total of four 250-level titles, including one just two weeks ago in Belgrade.  But this marks Berrettini’s first time advancing to the final of an event outside the 250 Series, though he notably reached the semifinals of the 2019 US Open.  Matteo has taken eight of nine sets played this week, and came back from a set and a break down in the quarterfinals against Cristian Garin, winning the last 11 games of that match.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (8) – Not Before 6:30pm

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, though they’ve split their two clay court encounters.  At the 2018 Rome Masters, Zverev prevailed.  A year later at the same event, Berrettini prevailed.  Their only other meeting took place at the 2019 Shanghai Masters, which went to Sascha.  All three of their matches have been decided in straight sets.

Including his victories this week over Nadal and Thiem, Zverev is now on a three-match winning streak against top 10 opposition, ending a streak of five consecutive losses against the top 10.  Berrettini has only played two matches against the top 10 since the 2019 ATP Finals, as injuries have forced him to miss significant time from the tour.  Despite that, he’s now 16-3 this season, and currently on an eight-match win streak.

Zverev certainly has the experience edge in matches of this caliber, and has a bit more variety in his ground game, specifically his backhand.  Berrettini will look to dictate play with his powerful forehand.  Both players are capable of racking up a high ace tally, though Sascha’s second serve can be a recurring weakness.  While we’ve had two consecutive Masters events with first-time 1000-level champions crowned, Zverev should be favored to win his fourth Masters title, and his second in Madrid.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (3) – 3:30pm

The men’s doubles championship will also be decided on Sunday.  Mektic and Pavic are 32-3 in 2021, and looking to win their sixth title of the season.  A few weeks ago in the Monte-Carlo semifinals, they defeated Granollers and Zeballos in a deciding set tiebreak.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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