Singapore Day 1 Preview and Predictions: Simona Halep a Favorite. All Eyes on Maria Sharapova - UBITENNIS
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Singapore Day 1 Preview and Predictions: Simona Halep a Favorite. All Eyes on Maria Sharapova

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The WTA Finals are going to kick off Sunday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova are favored by the rankings, but face immediately tough competition. All eyes will be on the Russian to see how she can play after missing all summer hard court season. Here are our predictions for day one in Singapore.

 

(1) Simona Halep (ROU)  vs. (7) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 

Pennetta Leads 4-1

Simona Halep and Flavia Pennetta will find one another on each side of the net just a month and a half after fighting off in the US Open semi-finals. As we all know, Pennetta dominated that match winning in straight sets by 6-1 6-3. Despite Halep being overall a more complete player than the Italian, she always has suffered to beat Flavia on the tour. The first match was won by Pennetta in Marbella, in 2010. Then the Italian won on clay again, in three sets in Bastad, with Simona retiring down 2-0 in the third set. Those matches were played before Simona had he breakthrough summer season that same year, thus the one match that really we should consider is the one the two played at the US Open in 2013.

Pennetta was coming back from a wrist surgery, but as it happens since 2009, she once again managed to find her magic in New York playing her best tennis in Flushing Meadows. That match was won by Pennetta by 6-2 7-6, but Halep served for the second set, before rain started pouring in Queen’s. When the match resumed, Pennetta looked the freshest, as she broke the Romanian and then won the match in the tie-break.

This year the two met a first time in Miami. That was the first time Halep finally beat Pennetta, winning by 6-3 7-5, coming back from a break down in the second set. It was a very close match, well played by both players. Halep had just more fuel in the tank, and grabbed the win before the match could go to a third set.

Finally, the match played at the US Open this year was both the best performance of the Italian in the year and a non-exceptional showing from the Romanian. Simona was tired after fighting for three sets against Victoria Azarenka and was lacking the brilliancy that allowed her to climb so fast the rankings over the past 2 years.

Here are some highlights of that match:

The question is: can Pennetta repeat a performance like that? Considering how Halep hasn’t played a tournament since the beginning of the month, retiring in the only match she played in October against Arruabarrena at 5-4 in the first set, she will be the fresher player. Pennetta had to go to Tianjin, then Moscow, flying last minute to Singapore once she was sure she had qualified.

Simona last year played possibly her best tennis in Singapore, serving Serena Williams the worst defeat she faced in over a decade. That result and the run to the final means Halep likes the indoor conditions of Singapore and enjoys the big events more than anything else.

Halep is the top seed, considering how Serena Williams is out, but has already folded under pressure before and has learned the lesson. Pennetta has never qualified before for the finals, Halep is at her second consecutive appearance.

One thing Simona suffers in Pennetta’s game is the Italian’s ability to find her rhythm on Simona’s mid-height ball, which land perfectly on her mid-upper body to fire her best shot: the backhand down the line. Pennetta doesn’t love Halep’s game because it takes three shots to take a winner out of the Romanian.

Because of that, physical condition will be key. Halep has had a better preparation, is ready to go. Because of that, I take Halep in straight sets.

Final Prediction: Simona Halep Wins in straight sets

(3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. (5) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 

Sharapova leads 12-2

Maria Sharapova has only played one match and not a single full match since ending her Wimbledon run in the semi-finals losing to Serena Williams. Struggling with a leg injury, Maria didn’t play any tournament before the US Open, but then arrived in New York to complete the first day of interviews, to then decide it would be wiser retiring from the tournament. Back on court in Wuhan, the 5-time Grand Slam champion retired in the third set against Barbora Strycova when the score was 1-2 in the set.

Since that match, Sharapova entered another hiatus and was not seen on a tennis court until arriving to Singapore. On the other end, Agnieszka Radwanska has started playing her very best tennis as the season grew closer to an end. After the defeat to Madison Keys in the third round at the US Open, Lady Aga won the title in Tokyo, reached the semis in Beijing and won another title, her 16th in the career, in Tianjin. The crying girl who entered the French Open press room after another early defeat has been gone since then, replaced by the brilliant, talented tennis player the Polish really is.

Sharapova has only lost to Radwanska 2 times in 14 matches, with the last victory for Agnieszka coming in 2012 in the final of Miami. Since then, the two faced-off 5 more times on a tennis court, with Sharapova winning all matches. In 2015 Radwanska and Sharapova have only played in Fed Cup, with the Russian winning easily by 6-1 7-5 in Krakow.

Here the match highlights:

For Sharapova to decide to play the tournament is a sign that the Russian thinks she can compete, but clearly there is no way Maria is going to play at her best. Considering that and the way Radwanska has played in the last part of the season, I hardly see the Russian grabbing the win.

Maria’s fighting spirit and Agnieszka’s nerves could be worth a set for Sharapova, but not more than that. The impression is that if Sharapova loses the first match easily, she could even consider leaving the tournament in advance.

Final prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska wins in 3 sets.

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Caroline Wozniacki Calls For More Help To Support Returning Mothers

Caroline Wozniacki has called on the WTA to support returning mothers.

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Caroline Wozniacki has called on the WTA to provide more support for returning mothers.

The Dane is one of a number of top stars that have returned to the tour since becoming a mother.

Recently the likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka have all returned to the tour since becoming a mother.

However Wozniacki believes the WTA could provide more support to mothers who plan on returning to the tour, “I think I’ve been treated very well, The tournaments have really embraced me coming back and with kids,” Wozniacki explained to the Press Association.

Where I do share my view, and where a lot of other women on tour share the view, is I think there should be more done for women coming back from maternity leave. It has been looked at because obviously there’s more players now that want to come back but, at the same time, it’s not the same as coming back from an injury.

“As someone who came back after almost four years, I think when you give birth and for the body to recover, you’ve grown a human inside you, there’s a lot of changes that are happening in the body after that. I think in general women deserve more time to feel, ‘OK, now I’m ready, I can really prepare and get ready for competing at the highest level’.

It’s an issue that has made progress but there is still work to do in order to encourage people that it’s possible to make a smooth transition from motherhood to the tennis court.

As for Wozniacki, the Dane recently lost in the first round of Birmingham to Elise Mertens and is now preparing for Wimbledon where she has received a main draw wildcard.

Wimbledon starts on the first of July.

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Could Dan Evans’ Latest Injury Halt Andy Murray’s Olympic Plans?

Andy Murray Olympics hopes could pin down to Dan Evans’ recovery from his latest injury.

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Andy Murray had said that he may not play the Olympic Games if he plays just the singles event.

This could be the last summer that Andy Murray plays competitive tennis as he gears up for a potential Wimbledon farewell.

However Wimbledon may not be the tournament that Murray announces his retirement with the Olympics coming up next month.

The Olympics will take place in Paris and the former gold medallist has been announced in GB’s team ahead of the games.

There is a plot twist to all of this and that plot twist is Murray’s recent comments about whether he would play the Olympic Games.

In a recent interview Murray admitted that he wouldn’t be keen on just playing singles in Paris given the fact that it’s being played on his least favourite surface clay, “There is more chance of me winning a medal in the doubles rather than the singles,” Murray told BBC Sport.

“I’m not 100% sure. It depends a little bit physically how I’m doing and a bit how the next few weeks ago as well. My plan just now is to play but it’s not straightforward.”

The only player that Murray could play doubles with at the Olympics is Dan Evans, which they will probably find out on the fourth of July if they will get into the event.

However there is now a spanner in the works which is Dan Evans’ recent injury with the Brit suffering a nasty fall against Brandon Nakashima at Queen’s Club.

It will be known in the next couple of days how bad Evans’ injury is but after his match in London, the Brit was worried about a potential MCL injury, “I’m worried, no doubt,” Evans told the press association.

“I mean, a good thing, I thought it was my groin. That settled down pretty much straight away. But I think it’s MCL, sort of a bit inside of the knee. There is an issue there, that’s for sure after the testing so far with the physios.

“So I’ve got to wait 48 hours, let it settle, and then get a scan. I’m worried, yeah. That’s the bottom line, of course. Yeah, I’m in limbo a bit. It’s frustrating. If I miss the Olympics or Wimbledon it would be a tough one to swallow, no doubt.

“I don’t know. I’m just, I’m heartbroken at the minute, to be honest. Yeah, it’s tough.”

If the injury to Evans, results in Murray’s Olympics withdrawal then it would be a sad way to end Murray’s Olympics career that has included two gold medals.

However the main importance is that Evans is able to compete in the near future as he aims to be fit in time for Wimbledon.

Wimbledon starts on the first of July with the Olympics taking place 26 days later.

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Former Champion Angelique Kerber And Naomi Osaka Headline Initial Wimbledon Wildcards

Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka headline the Wimbledon wildcards this year.

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Former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber has headlined the initial Wimbledon wildcards that have been announced this morning.

The German won the title in 2018 after defeating Serena Williams and is aiming to recreate some more magic at SW19 as she receives a wildcard into the main draw.

Although Kerber’s comeback hasn’t gone to plan, the German will hope grass is where she can find some confidence with the Olympic Games also in her plans there.

Another player who will be hoping for a change of fortunes at Wimbledon is former world number one Caroline Wozniacki who has also received a wildcard for the event.

Wozniacki was thrashed this week by Elise Mertens in Birmingham and will be hoping that she can improve her form over the next couple of weeks.

However a player that is in confident form right now is former US Open champion Naomi Osaka who has received a wildcard into Wimbledon.

The former world number one almost defeated Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros and is finding her feet on the grass after struggling in previous years.

On the men’s side Nottingham champion Jacob Fearnley has received a main draw wildcard as well as last year’s Juniors champion Henry Searle.

Here is the full list announced by the AELTC this morning with the final list set to be confirmed later this week or early next week.

Men’s Singles:

  1. Liam Broady
  2. Jan Choinski
  3. Jacob Fearnley
  4. Arthur Fery
  5. Billy Harris
  6. Paul Jubb
  7. Henry Searle
  8. TBA

Women’s Singles

  1. Francesca Jones
  2. Angelique Kerber
  3. Yuriko Lily Miyazaki
  4. Naomi Osaka
  5. Emma Raducanu
  6. Heather Watson
  7. Caroline Wozniacki
  8. TBA

Men’s Qualifying Singles

  1. Oliver Bonding
  2. Charles Broom
  3. Jay Clarke
  4. Felix Gill
  5. George Loffhagen
  6. Jack Pinnington Jones
  7. TBA
  8. Play-Off Place
  9. Play-Off Place

Women’s Qualifying Singles

  1. Emily Appleton
  2. Armani Banks
  3. Sonay Kartal
  4. Hannah Klugman
  5. Clervie Ngounoue
  6. Mika Stojsavljevic
  7. Mingge Xu
  8. Play-Off Place
  9. Play-Off Place

Men’s Doubles

  1. Liam Broady/Billy Harris
  2. Charles Broom/Arthur Fery
  3. Jay Clarke/Marcus Willis
  4. Dan Evans/Henry Searle
  5. Jacob Fearnley/Jack Pinnington Jones
  6. TBA
  7. TBA

Women’s Doubles

  1. Emily Appleton/Yuriko Lily Miyazaki
  2. Alicia Barnett/Freya Christie
  3. Harriet Dart/Maia Lumsden
  4. TBA
  5. TBA
  6. TBA
  7. TBA

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