Premier Mandatory in Beijing: Sara Errani fought back from a set down to beat Andrea Petkovic - UBITENNIS
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Premier Mandatory in Beijing: Sara Errani fought back from a set down to beat Andrea Petkovic



World Number 20 Sara Errani rallied from a set down to overcome number 21 Andrea Petkovic with 3-6 6-3 6-2 after two hours and two minutes in a match marked by a lot of unforced errors and a lot of breaks of serve. With this win Errani has reached the third round of the China Open WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing after beating Petra Kvitova and Caroline Garcia in the previous two rounds.


Errani broke serve on Petkovic’s first service game before holding her serve in the second and the fourth games to take a 3-1 lead but the German reeled off five consecutive games to clinch the first set with 6-3.

Petkovic did not convert a break point in the first game of the second set with two unforced errors but she broke serve to love two games later for 2-1. Errani broke straight back as Petkovic sent her backhand into the net before taking the 3-2 as the German his her forehand wide. Errani got the break in the 8th game before holding her serve to love in the next game. Errani sealed the win in the second set with 6-3 as Petkovic hit her return into the net.

The third set started with three breaks of serve in the first three service games. Errani reeled off four consecutive games from 3-3 in the second set to build a 6-3 1-0 lead with a break of serve in the first game of the third set. Petkovic broke straight back but she dropped her serve again to trail 1-2 as she made two consecutive double faults and sent a forehand wide. Petkovic broke straight back for 2-2 but Errani broke again for 3-2 before holding her serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Errani pulled away to 5-2 with a new break and served for the match. In a very long final game Petkovic saved three match points at deuce before Errani sealed the third set with 6-2 after 49 minutes on her fourth match point. The Italian had already beaten the German in the third round of the 2015 Roland Garros with 6-3 6-3.

Errani, who is ranked 19th in the Road to Singapore, has still a small chance to qualify for the WTA Finals but she would need to win the Beijing tournament and defend her position in one of the tournaments after Beijing (Tjanjin, Hong Kong, Linz, Moscow and Luxemburg).

The 28-year-old Italian player will face the winner of the match between Timea Bacsinszky and Carla Suarez Navarro. For the first time in a Premier Mandatory Tournament three Italian players have reached the third round. Tomorrow US Open champion Flavia Pennetta will play against Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova, while Roberta Vinci will face Bethanie Mattek Sands

Number-5 seed Garbine Muguruza is one match away from qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore after cruising to 6-2 6-1 over US qualifier Irina Falconi in her opening match in the Chinese capital.

Muguruza, who finished runner-up to Venus Williams last week in Wuhan, built up a 6-2 4-0 lead by reeling off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set en route to closing out the match with 6-2 6-1. If Muguruza wins her next match, she will become the first Spanish player to qualify for the WTA FInals since Aranxta Sanchez Valero in 2001

Muguruza will face Mirjana Lucic Baroni. They are tied 1-1 in their previous two head-to-head matches. In their last match earlier this year Muguruza beat the Croatian player en route to reaching the Wimbledon final. Lucic Baroni beat Muguruza at last year’s US Open.

“I am happy. I tried to keep the level I had in Wuhan and Tokyo. It was hard because I didn’t play for two days and here the conditions are not the same, so I am happy. I didn’t know that I was one win away from Singapore. I knew obviously if I did a great tournament here, I would qualify for the WTA Finals but I didn’t know which round it was. That’s a very good motivation. I want to finish the year in a good year. I want to on holiday and say: “Look. I had a great year. I did everything I could to go off the court feeling that I gave it all my effort”, said Muguruza.

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Nothing Wrong With No Handshake Stance Of Ukrainian Players, Says Yastremska



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Dayana Yastremska says Russian or Belarussian players should be asked how they feel about playing against Ukrainian players on Tour following an incident involving one of her compatriots at the French Open. 


On the first day of the Grand Slam, Matra Kostyuk was booed off the court after refusing to shake hands with world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka following their match. The reception from the crowd came as a surprise to the Ukrainian and others considering his gesture was not new in the sport. Ever since Russia launched their ‘special military operation’ on its neighbour in February 2022, Kostyuk and others have refused to shake hands with those from countries backing the war. 

Yastremska, who secured a place in the French Open main draw by coming through qualifying, refused to weigh in on the argument following her 6-2, 7-5, loss to Donna Vekic. Like Kostyuk, she also doesn’t shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus following her matches. 

“Since the war started, everybody said that we (Ukrainians) are not going to shake hands with Russians and Belarusian players. There’s nothing surprising.” She said during her press conference. 
“ I didn’t expect this reaction (to Kostyuk). That wasn’t nice. I’m supporting this because I played against the Russians, and I also didn’t shake their hands. That’s our position, and everybody knows about this, so there is nothing wrong about it.”

During the early stage of the war, Yastremska and her 15-year-old sister sheltered for two nights in an underground car park in Odessa before fleeing to Lyon, France. Leaving her parents back home. Asked if she would have reconsidered her handshake boycott in Paris given what had happened, she refused. 

“What is the difference? If we play against Russian and Belarusian, it doesn’t matter which tournament, we’re not going to shake their hands.” She stated.
“We (tennis players from Ukraine) have already said our position. We don’t feel really good. How we can go on court and play against people from a terroristic country like Russia? It’s difficult Emotionally.’
“It’s better to ask them (Russian or Belarussian players) how they feel playing against us. Do they feel good or not? It would be better to ask them those questions.”

Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has previously spoken out against the war in a blog post in which she wrote that ‘political ambitions or political motivation cannot justify violence.’ Speaking to reporters following her win over Linda Fruhvirtova, she confirmed that this post had since been removed due to a ‘PR person who is helping her.’ As for the handshake debate, she was reluctant to get involved. 

“I don’t feel like commenting on all these things just because this has been too long now. I’m just here to play tennis, first of all,” she said. 
“I cannot control what players do on the court, like, if they shake or not. It’s their decision.”

According to the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), almost 9000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the conflict began. The tally doesn’t take into account those killed on the battlefield. 

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French Open: Sloane Stephens Hands Pliskova Her Earliest Grand Slam Exit Since 2016



Karolina Pliskova (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Former French Open semi-finalist Karolina Pliskova crashed out of the tournament on Monday after suffering a straight sets defeat to Sloane Stephens in the first round. 


The 16th seed was swept aside by her American rival who clinched the 6-0, 6-4, win in just 84 minutes. Stephens, whose biggest career achievement was winning the 2017 US Open, has now recorded 41 victories over a top 20 player on the WTA Tour. Against Pliskova, she fired 19 winners and benefitted heavily from the Czech’s unforced error count of 31. 

“This is my favourite court in the world so I am super happy. To start a slam on your favourite court and your favourite surface is always incredible,” Stephens said of her win on Court Philippe Chatrier. 

“I’m pleased to be back here and playing good tennis. I’m happy to get the win today.”

Despite being the higher-ranked player on the court, 31-year-old Pliskova struggled to find her range and looked extremely subdued early on. During the opening set, her only opportunity occurred in the first game where she worked her way to a break point opportunity but failed to convert. Paving the way for a dominant Stephens to hand the former world No.1 her first bagel on the tour since the Ostrava Open last October. 

It wasn’t until almost 70 minutes into the match that Pliskova managed to get a breakthrough after breaking the Stephens serve for a 4-3 lead in what was a significantly more competitive second set. However, her momentum gain was short-lived as she got broken immediately in the following game. Meanwhile, Stephens continued to ride the storm as she closed in on the win. The American worked her way to her first match points after a forehand shot from her opponent crashed into the net. She then sealed her place in the second round with the help of another error from across the court. 

“This court is a bit tricky. You have to play on it a lot to understand when the wind is blowing and where it is coming from,” the 30-year-old explained.

“It is a very complicated court but that what’s makes it so amazing.”

Stephens’ victory comes as no surprise considering her credentials. A French Open runner-up back in 2018, the world N.30 just missed out on being seeded in Paris this year. Earlier this month, she won a WTA 125 event in France before reaching the semi-finals of the Moroccan Open last week. 

“I needed to get a lot of matches under my belt. Last year my clay season wasn’t great but I played amazing at Roland Garros. This year I wanted to get matches and play a lot to see where it got me.” Said Stephens. 

As for Pliskova, it is the first time she has been beaten in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament since 2016. 

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Who can beat Carlos Alcaraz?



The No. 1 is about to step out on court in his new role as the favourite for the title. We take a look at some possible hurdles on his way


In the aftermath of Barcellona and Madrid, a 11 match winning streak on clay with 4 sets lost along his way, a halo of invincibility appeared to be floating around Carlos Alcaraz. He had just sailed back from his expedition across the Americas carrying a rich treasure on his galleon: two titles, Indian Wells and Buenos Aires, a final in Rio, lost to Norrie, but played in imperfect physical conditions, and a semifinal in Miami, where he lost to Sinner, the player who could really be his nemesis.

Even more impressive than the stats was the way he had soared through his matches with joyful exuberance, inebriating with a stinging variety of shots.  Delight for viewers, hell for his opponents.

Carlos appeared poised for a season like Roger Federer in 2004. The Swiss great, one year after securing his first Major at Wimbledon, had one of best seasons: a win loss record of 74-6, 3 majors and 3 Masters 1000. No loss to top 10 players.

Then came the Alcaraz’s defeat to Fabian Marozsan, ranked No.135, in the second round in Rome. A mediatic earthquake, one of the greatest upsets in recent years. But has Carlos really returned to human dimension, which notoriously wavers between wins and losses?

Of course not. He is still the player who in 2023 has won most matches on clay: 20. Above all his win-loss percentage is staggering: 90.91%. He’s followed by Medvedev (83.3%) Rune (81.3) and Rublev (80%).

Therefore the loss to Marozsan must simply be framed within an overall analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s rare stumbles.     

Most players, however domineering, have had an Achilles heel, which they have mitigated throughout their career. Federer’s topspin backhand, Djokovic’s serve for instance were not initially as effective as they were to become.

Even the pickiest critics will find it hard to detect a flaw in Alcaraz’s technical endowment. And against a player who can execute any shot, from any inch of the court, who can alternate power and finesse, hammer and caress from the baseline with unaltered gesture, who can serve cannonballs and kicks, who can serve and volley and even serve and dropshot, who can retrieve the unretrievable, not only will any gameplan get unsettled, and sooner or later fall apart, but planning a strategy for the match can seem a pointless task. Shrewd planning envisages a plan B, should A not work. But against Alcaraz further spelling may be required: plan A, plan B, then a plan C, still a D, and on and on, striving to find an escapeway from defeat.

Who are the players who can seriously pose a threat? Which is the gameplay Alcaraz has shown to suffer so far, in his young career?

His nemesis is Sinner so far. After losing to the red-haired Italian in Umag, 31 July 2022 Alcaraz said: “Jannik, second time you beat me this year, I’m going to figure out how to beat you this year”. Which he did, in the epic  5 hour five setter in the US Open quarter final where he was just one point away from yet another defeat.

This year they are 1-1. Whereas most players are annihilated by the power and angles Alcaraz is able to generate, Sinner remains unfazed, and while hitting and counter hitting from the baseline, he succeeds in stretching the Spaniard to the end of the tether, on all surfaces.

As did Djokovic, in their only encounter, the famous and enthralling semifinal in Madrid last year. Alcaraz was at his top whereas Djokovic was nearing his best form. The score, 6-7 7-5 7-6, eloquently tells the story. Novak not only can erect an impenetrable wall, as Sinner, but can draw from an endless stock of tactical resources. He has also deftly employed dropshots in his past Roland Garros campaigns and can challenge Alcaraz in one of his favourite domains.

Zverev stunned Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last year by dominating him long through the match.  He constructed his victory with a high percentage of first serves, 73%, which allowed him to snatch control of the rallies. He was able to restrain unforced errors and land hefty, spinning and deep groundstrokes off both sides which forced Alcaraz to back away and muffled his penetration.

This year Zverev is still seeking such to recover such heights, but his achievement can be taken by others as a model to imitate.

The battle Jan Lennard Struff put up in the Madrid final a few weeks ago shows that players who are able to serve proficiently and return aggressively, finishing off rallies in few strokes, not letting Alcaraz make a first move, stand their chance.

That’s how Fabian Maroszan rose to fame. Alcaraz may have been in energy saving mode that day, but the Hungarian earned his glory by constantly aiming to dictate, scything forehands while standing right on the baseline and landing dropshots, giving Carlos a taste of his own medicine.    

It is also interesting to recall how Emil Ruusuvuori won the first set against Alcaraz in the round of 32 in Madrid by hitting through returns with crisp anticipation, landing them on the baseline and continuously catching Alcaraz off guard. Another tactic to be taken into account.

A fascinating coincidence is that Alcaraz’s side of the draw is crammed with players who have inflicted defeat on him in the past. In order of potential clashes he could face in the third round Lorenzo Musetti, who beat him in the 2022 Hamburg final playing with an intensity he has not so often been able to maintain over a whole match.  The quarter final could present him with Felix Auger-Aliassime or Sebastien Korda. The American surprisingly beat him at his debut on clay in Montecarlo last year, but Alcaraz shortly took revenge, brushing him aside in Paris at the third round.

Aliassime beat Alcaraz on two occasions in the 2022 fall season. First in the Davis Cup group phase in Valencia, one week after the Spaniard’s triumph at the US Open, then at the Swiss Indoor in Basel.

In his press conference on Sunday, Juan Carlos Ferrero said that Alcaraz is a better player this year, perhaps hinting that his protegee is not likely to incur such setbacks anymore.

And indeed history does not generally bother the young, it’s them, who are making it.

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