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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EXCLUSIVE: Oliviero Palma: “We Have Shown That Professional Tennis Can Still Happen”

The director of the Palermo Ladies Open recaps the first tournament after the WTA Tour’s hiatus: “It’s been a great success, especially from a sanitary standpoint.”

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After speaking to UbiTennis last week via e-mail, this time Palermo director Oliviero Palma was able to chat in person with Ubaldo Scanagatta, our website’s CEO, and summarised the first week of tennis after the resuming of play with positive words.

 

“The protocols worked very well but there is still room for improvement. For instance, tests were supposed to be run through Sunday, but this might force a player to remain in town longer than necessary if the results aren’t ready straight away,” he says, referring to the Prague Open, whose qualifying matches started on Saturday – potentially, those who are entering the Czech draw this week could have been forced to overstay their welcome in Sicily, thus being prevented from playing.  “This is why we ran the last round of tests on Friday. It was vital for us, for the WTA, and for whoever will have to work in this frame in the future that the effectiveness of these guidelines be verified.” 

Another tweaked rule was the one barring the players from showering at the Country Time Club, forcing them to go back to the tournament’s hotel, the Astoria Palace, in a heavy sweat – the rule was overturned due to the extreme discomfort that the athletes were experiencing when leaving the courts in the insular summer heat.

 Some degree of flexibility is allowed by the advisory nature of the WTA guidelines, which still take the form of simple recommendations – local Covid-19 legislation is the actual and sole reference for tournaments. “The WTA can’t confine Donna Vekic to her hotel room, it all comes down to her sensibility. She definitely needs rebuking for posting pictures of her escapade on social media, sending the wrong message – however, she didn’t put anybody’s health in jeopardy. According to current regulations, the outdoor use of face masks is not mandatory, but we have been trying to make people wear them in order to send a positive message.”

Palma also defused the critiques of Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman had been very harsh with the tournament for not devising a bona fide bubble to protect the players, who had to stay in a hotel with regular tourists: “He’s a great player, but definitely not an infectious diseases specialist…”.

In addition, Mr. Palma made a passing comment about the absence of delegates from the Italian tennis federation (former player Tathiana Garbin was present, but only in a personal capacity), and once again lamented Simona Halep’s unfortunate withdrawal, especially in the wake of the presence of nine other Romanian players. “The event has been especially successful from a sanitary standpoint – to be honest, I haven’t followed match play very closely. In total, we ran about 500 tests.” However, he wants to wait for the Tuesday and Wednesday test returns before heaping definitive praise on his own tournament. If all the players who were in Sicily last week will test negative, the successful outcome of the Palermo Ladies Open will be undeniable, and the game will get some important reassurances after such a long hiatus. 

“We are proud: if we all do our due diligence, a tennis tournament can still happen. The players understood this, and they helped us to show to the 160 countries watching on TV how to do it by sticking to the rules. “

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Toni Nadal Hopeful Inactivity Won’t Hinder Rafael Nadal’s French Open Bid

In a column for Spanish newspaper El Pais, uncle Toni also speaks out about one rule at this year’s US Open that he is finding hard to get use to.

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The former coach of world No.2 Rafael Nadal has said there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to taking part in this year’s US Open following the high-profile withdrawal of the Spaniard.

 

Toni Nadal has jumped to the defence of his nephew and others who have pulled out of New York amid concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nadal is the only member of the top 10 on the ATP Tour set to miss the event due to these concerns. However, three top 10 players on the WTA Tour have already pulled out.

“The US Open dispute by Djokovic, Tsitsipas or Thiem seems to me as understandable as the resignation of Nadal, Federer or Wawrinka,” Toni wrote in his column for El Pais. “We must understand the apprehension about taking different flights and leaving home when things continue to be so uncertain.”

This year’s US Open is taking place under strict protocols with players being limited to where they can travel in the city and subjected to regular tests for COVID-19. Players have also been asked to sign a waiver which states that they cannot sue the US Open or related parties if they contract the virus whilst there. Even if there is a degree of negligence by the tournament. Those wishing to stay in private accommodation are also expected to pay for 24-hour security to monitor their movement and ensure they are sticking to tournament rules.

Whilst supporting Nadal’s decision not to play the event, uncle Toni has expressed concern that a lack of match play could have a negative effect on his French Open campaign. Nadal last played a tournament back in February at the Acapulco Open in Mexico, which he won. The only top clay-court event set to take place in the build up to Roland Garros will be in Italy after the Madrid Open got cancelled.

I just hope that, in Rafa’s case, his results at Roland Garros are not compromised by an inactivity of so many months,” Toni commented.

This year, Nadal could achieve a duo of milestones should he win once again in Paris. Victory would place him on level ground with Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam titles ever won by a male player. He would also become the first player, male or female, to have won the same Grand Slam for a 13th time.

Besides his nephew, uncle Toni admits there is one thing he can’t get used to at this year’s US Open which is the loss of a crowd. A decision that was taken due to the risk posed by the pandemic.

“I find it difficult to accept and imagine the presence of the public in the stands. There are many occasions in which I have heard my nephew, like other tennis players, personally address the spectators to thank their support and the important role they have played,” he said.
“In order to lift a trophy. I can assure you that these are not empty words or set phrases. The shouts of the public after a great exchange, the emotion they show in the face of a victory and the disappointment in a defeat: that, to a large extent, it is what gives meaning to this sport and feeds the adrenaline of the tennis player.”

The US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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Pain-Free Petra Kvitova Ready For US Open Challenge

After having doubts over travelling, the former world No.1 provides a fitness update as she looks ahead to the resumption of her season.

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Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says she is unfazed by the new set of protocols that will be introduced at the US Open as she commits to playing in the event.

 

The world No.12 has lent her full backing behind the New York major amid a series of high-profile withdrawals in recent days due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three top 10 players on the women’s Tour have pulled out (Ask Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitoliva), as well as reigning men’s champion Rafael Nadal. The US Open is set to take place behind closed doors for the first time in history will players being essentially kept in what is being described as a ‘bubble.’ They will be restricted as to where they will be able to go in the city and subjected to regular testing.

Nevertheless, Kvitova still intends to depart for America next Wednesday. She is also set to play in the Western and Southern Open which has been relocated from Cincinnati to New York due to the pandemic. The Western and Southern Open will be her first WTA event since winning the Qatar Open on March 1st.

They’ve allowed us a two-member escort, so we’ll fly in three with a coach and a physiotherapist,” Kvitova told reporters on Monday about travelling to New York.
“I’m not the type of player who needs a lot of people around me. It’s enough for me, it will probably be worse for men,”
she added.

The 30-year-old admits that she did contemplate not attending the Grand Slam before later having a change in heart. Deciding that she didn’t want to have any regrets later on in her career.

“I’ll try my best and have a clear conscience, let it turn out as it turns out. I’m really looking forward to the matches, adrenaline and everything around. It’s a long time and tennis after all. I miss it. It will be nice,” she stated.

During the Tour break Kvitova has managed to maintain her competitive thirst by participating in a series of exhibition events. In her home country, she won a hardcourt event in Prague before losing her opening match at the clay equivalent a week later. More recently, she took part in the Bett1 Aces events in Berlin where she recorded three wins and two losses. Scoring two victories over Andre Petkovic, as well as Bertens.

Besides the occasional niggle that is associated with a professional tennis player, Kvitova says she is fully fit at present with no pain in her left hand. Which was badly injured during a run in she had with an intruder in her apartment back in 2016 that subsequently required surgery.

“Everything is fine, fortunately the hand is painless. It is taken care of so that it lasts. I played one match on clay, then it hurt. Since then, I’ve been playing more on hard surfaces. It’s better,” she said.

The absence of a crowd at upcoming tennis events have led to some wondering how it would affect players. Serena Williams told reporters on Sunday that she is unsure what impact it will have on her. As for Kvitova, she described her experience of playing exhibitions in silence as ‘strange.’

“It was very strange. We played beautiful exchanges and no one applauded us. This is the time, but it is harder to deal with it on the court,” she recalled.
“We have reports that they will put virtual fans there (at the US Open), so hopefully it will be a little more enjoyable.”

Kvitova started the year by winning 12 out of 15 matches played before the sport was halted for five months due to COVID-19.

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