WTA Singapore: Draw set, Halep to face Sharapova in Group Play, Muguruza with Kvitova for company - UBITENNIS
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WTA Singapore: Draw set, Halep to face Sharapova in Group Play, Muguruza with Kvitova for company

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Simona Halep

Simona Halep is the highest ranked player after Serena Williams withdrawal

The two groups for the WTA season finale at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore has been released, and some intriguing encounters already stand out. In the Red Group, Simona Halep will face Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta. The White Group sees Garbine Muguruza take on Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, and Lucie Safarova. Seven players will be looking to win this event for the first time.

It will be the first meeting of the year for Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, who last met in 2014. Sharapova leads the head-to-head by a commanding five-love record. But Halep has enjoyed a remarkable 2015, finishing second only to Serena Williams in the year rankings. Singapore will also mark the final tournament of the career of Flavia Pennetta,who won the US Open this year. Her head-to-head record with the other member of the Red Group Agnieszka Radwanka, is three-five, with Radwanska winning their lone meeting in 2015 in Doha. Sharapova dominates the head to head with Radwanska, winning twelve of their fourteen meetings, including their lone meeting this year, and their meeting in this event last year. Pennetta has won three of her five meetings with Sharapova. Sharapova though comes into the event with very poor form, having played little tennis since her withdrawal from the US Open with a right leg injury.

Garbine Muguruza had enjoyed a stunning year, highlighted by a runner-up finish at Wimbledon. She will face former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. It will be an intriguing first meeting between the two. Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova make up the remaining competitors, with Safarova the latest to qualify last week. These two have split their two previous meetings, with Safarova winning the most recent in 2014. Muguruza and Kerber are also tied in their head-to-head at three apiece.

The draw means that Garbine Muguruza cannot face Maria Sharapova or Simona Halep until the knock-out stages. However, it could mean that she has to defeat one or both of them if she is to win the title on her tournament debut.  She comes in though as perhaps the form player, with a runner-up and title finish in Wuhan and Beijing in recent tournaments.

The players enjoyed a tour of Singapore, and undertook some promotional responsibilities before the draw.

Last year’s winner Serena Williams is absent, with the only previous champion in the field Petra Kvitova, from 2011. Maria Sharapova is twice a runner-up. She will look to take advantage of the absence of her nemesis Williams to win the title for the first time. This year marks the first since 2011 that there is no Williams sister in attendance.

 

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis/

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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Andy Murray ‘Convinced’ He Can Play Better After Marathon Clash With Wawrinka In Cincinnati

The 35-year-old has given an honest assessment of where he believe his level of tennis currently is.

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ANDY MURRAY OF GREAT BRITAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray believes there is room for improvement in his game after securing a place in the second round of the Western and Southern Open on Monday.

 

The former world No.1 ousted Stan Wawrinka 7-6(3), 5-7, 7-5, in an epic encounter that lasted almost three hours. Making it one of the longest best-of-three matches Murray has played in recent time. The encounter was a stern physical test for the Brit who struggled with cramping during the later stages. Overall he hit a total of 38 winners against 27 unforced errors.

“I’ve struggled a little bit physically since Wimbledon. It’s something I need to work out with my team in the next couple of weeks,” said Murray.
“I was struggling with towards the end of the second set. Psychologically there is a feeling like you’re close to the end of the match potentially in the second set. So maybe you are going to try and sometimes play a little bit more conservatively because when I was getting into the return games or making balls on the return games, Stan was making a few errors.’
“But then obviously when I lost that set and then was struggling with the cramping, I had no option and nothing to lose really. So I started trying to be a little bit more offensive and finish the points quicker, and actually started to feel all right towards the end of the match.”

Murray is currently ranked 47th in the world and is closing in on breaking back into the top 40 for the first time since 2018. In recent years his campaign on the Tour has been hampered by various injury setbacks with the most serious being his hip which required two surgical procedures. At this year’s Stuttgart Open he reached the final but sustained an ab injury during his match against Matteo Berrettini.

Now hoping his injury misfortunes are behind him, the 35-year-old says physically he is feeling his best in a long time. Although he eyes further improvement in his tennis in the coming weeks. So far this season he has recorded 20 wins against 13 losses and has reached the final of two ATP Tour events. However, he has failed to win back-to-back matches in three out of his last four tournaments played prior to Cincinnati.

“In terms of how I pulled up after matches and stuff, this has been the best I have felt in a really long time. So that’s good,” Murray reflected. “I would like my tennis to be better at times because I’m still convinced that it can be better than where it is right now.’
“There have been some good moments this year but it’s not been easy these last few years to stay fit and healthy. Play enough tennis to get matches to learn from and to build confidence and to get my body sort of physically like robust enough to compete week in, week out.”

Continuing to analyze his performances on the Tour this year, he believes some of his early tournament losses have been due to the fact he has been unable to elevate his game. He has played five top 10 players so far in 2022 but his only win was over Stefanos Tsitsipas in Stuttgart.

“The reason why I felt like I haven’t won as many of those matches as I would have liked this year is because I haven’t been playing well enough. Even in some of the first-round matches that I have got through, I haven’t necessarily played amazing tennis and then haven’t stepped it up the next match when I have been playing against better opposition,” he said.

Murray will play compatriot and Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie in the second round at Cincinnati. Should he win it will be only his third victory over a current top 20 player this year.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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