Maria Sharapova beats Karolina Pliskova to level the Fed Cup final at 1-1 - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova beats Karolina Pliskova to level the Fed Cup final at 1-1

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Maria Sharapova beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-4 in 89 minutes to level the Fed Cup tie at 1-1 after the first two matches at the O2 Arena in Prague.

Both players held serve in the first five games. At 3-2 Sharapova brought up a break point in the sixth game with a drop shot for 15-40. The Russian legend got the break to take a 4-2 lead after a double fault by Pliskova who won just 30 percent of her first serves. Pliskova broke straight back in the next game as Sharapova made three double faults.

Pliskova saved a break point with a forehand winner but Sharapova converted another break point to take a 5-3 lead. The Russian star closed out the first set 6-3 with a forehand winner.

Pliskova, who is playing her second Fed Cup tie and is making her first appearnce in this event on home soil, broke serve in the second game of the second set to take a 2-0 lead but Sharapova broke straight back before consolidating the break to draw level to 2-2.

Sharapova broke serve for the fourth time in the match in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Sharapova fought back from 0-40 with a lob and a forehand winner to hold her serve. At 3-5 Pliskova served to stay in the match. The young Czech star went down 15-40 on her serve but saved two match points to hold her serve for 4-5. Sharapova served out for the match to take the second set after 1 hour and 29 minutes

Sharapova fired 28 winners to 25 unforced errors and won eight points at the net.

“It’s an incredible atmosphere. You see a lot more Czech flags than Russians but in my mind I see red, white and blue and I turn it in my mind as the Russian flags”, said Sharapova.

Sharapova will take on Petra Kvitova in the first reverse singles rubber on Sunday. In the second Sunday match Pliskova will face Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova.

“I think it is very open. It’s a completely even tie. The Number 1 players from each team are favourites so we will have to see how they handle it”, said Czech captain Petr Pala

Before the match Czech captain Petr Pala received the Fed Cup Award of Excellence from ITF President David Haggerty and Hall of Famer Jane Brown Grimes. The ITF and the International Tennis Hall of Fame present the Fed Cup Award of Excellence to an individual who represents the ideals and the spirit of the Fed Cup competition.

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Ambitious Casper Ruud Targets More Consistency And Greater Success On The Clay

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Casper Ruud says he is ‘expecting more from himself’ during this year’s European clay swing compared to previous seasons. 

The world No.10 came into this week’s Monte Carlo Masters with a win-loss record of 20-6 so far in 2024. Seeded eighth in the draw, he has claimed two additional victories by beating Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo and recently crowned Estoril Open champion Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets. However, the Norwegian is hungry for more. 

“I’m looking for more steady results,” Ruud told reporters after beating Hurkacz. “I told myself that I would like to reach the quarterfinal or better every time I show up to a tournament on the clay – that’s kind of the main goal for the clay season. “If that’s, five, six quarterfinals in a row, I’ll take it but of course you want to go even deeper.”

The 25-year-old has already proven himself to be a formidable player on the clay. According to the ATP, Ruud has won 96 Tour-level matches on the surface since 2020 which is more than any other ATP player. Second place in Stefanos Tsitsipas who has recorded 71 victories during this period. He has reached the final of the French Open the past two years. 

Furthermore, nine out of Ruud’s 10 Tour titles have been won on the clay. However, he is yet to claim a trophy at an event above 250 level. This year he has been runner-up at hard court tournaments in Los Cabos and Acapulco. 

“I’ve kind of set that as a little minimum to try to come in with a different mentality this year and expect a little bit more for myself,” he said. “I’ve had a few good results in the past on clay, obviously Roland-Garros twice in a row with a really great result, that gives me confidence to say these things that I am going to try to do well in every clay tournament.
“Sometimes you have to say certain things, that you believe in yourself, and I have gained a lot of self-belief after a few results in my career already. I’m getting older and there are more young guys coming.”

In Monte Carlo, Ruud will play Ugo Humbert in the quarter-finals on Friday. He is currently 5-0 when it comes to playing quarter-final matches on the clay at Masters 1000 events. However, he has only beaten the Frenchman once out of their four previous meetings. 

Should Ruud prevail, he will rise to at least No.7 in the PIF ATP rankings on Monday. 

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Daniil Medvedev High In Confidence For Clay Swing After 2023 Breakthrough

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Daniil Medvedev has spoken frankly about his rollercoaster relationship with the clay but now the Russian believes he is in a position to win any tournament on the surface. 

The former world No.1 has won the fewest matches (seven) at the French Open compared to any other Grand Slam. Only twice has he managed to register back-to-back wins which was in 2021 when he reached the quarter-finals and in 2022 when he reached the fourth round. Last year he was stunned in the first round by Thiago Seyboth Wild. 

However, Medvedev broke new territory last season in Rome where he won his first Masters 1000 title on the clay. That run to the title saw him beat Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune. 

“Last season mainly showed me that I can win any tournament on clay, because when you win Rome and you go to the quarters in the French, playing five sets, I believe I can win any tournament,” Reuters quoted the 28-year-old as telling reporters.
“There’s no difference between the French Open or Rome. The French Open is a Grand Slam, so it’s a bit different, but if you are able to do well in those tournaments, you are able to play any clay court tournament. It’s good for my confidence. 
“Clay is different from hard courts, because on hard courts I know I will, 90% of cases, will win… I don’t like clay as much as hard courts because of all that, but I’m in a moment when I accept this. 
“I try to find solutions, and I’m very happy in the zone I’m in right now.”

Medvedev is the fourth seed at this week’s Monte Carlo Masters. He kicked off his campaign with a 6-2, 6-4, win over Gael Monfils on Thursday and will next play compatriot Karen Khachanov who he has known since he was a young boy.

“When I was younger I didn’t like to play Karen. At one point he was really better than me, so I was going crazy. I was getting code violations and stuff because I was just not controlling myself well enough.” Medvedev recounts. 
“It’s a big match. On clay I feel like Karen can play very very well and can be very dangerous. If I want to go far in the biggest tournaments, I need to beat top guys.”

As he got older Medvedev found a way to solve the problems presented by Khachanov whom he currently leads 5-1 in their head-to-head on the ATP Tour. 

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Jannik Sinner Not The Favourite For French Open Glory, Says Ex-No.1 Roddick

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Jannik Sinner has been ‘the best player on earth‘ over the past six months but he could face more difficulty on the clay, according to Andy Roddick. 

The Italian world No.2 has only lost one match so far this season, which was against Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells. He claimed his maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open before going on to win further trophies in Rotterdam and Miami. Overall, he has won 23 out of 24 matches in 2024 heading into his third round clash against Jan-Lennard Struff at the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday. 

Given his surge in success in recent weeks, Sinner will be regarded as a key contender throughout the clay season. Only one out of his 13 ATP titles has been won on the surface but he has previously reached the quarter-finals of the French Open back in 2020.

Weighing up Sinner’s French Open title chances, former world No.1 Roddick believes the clay will present more challenges for the Italian compared to other surfaces. 

“Clay is going to be Sinner’s most challenging surface. What he does naturally well, bullying off the baseline, is thwarted by clay more than anything else, so he’s not going to be one of the top two favourites heading to Roland Garros and his rivals are probably welcoming the change.” Roddick wrote in his column for Betway. 

Continuing his assessment of title contenders at Roland Garros, Roddick also tipped reigning champion and 24-time major champion Novak Djokovic, as well as Alcaraz. Alcaraz withdrew from Monte Carlo this week due to an arm injury. 

“I still like Novak and I love what Carlos does on clay. I think he’s going to win a lot of French Open titles.” He continued.
“We’ll see if that starts this year or not, but I certainly like that transition for him. Alex Zverev is another who has always performed really well on clay and is underserved in that conversation that is largely dominated by four names.”

Earlier this week, Sinner responded to those questioning his clay court credentials by stating that he is a ‘good player’ on the surface and is eager to make up for last year. During the 2023 European clay swing, he reached the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and the Quarter-Finals in Barcelona before suffering a shock second round loss in Paris. 

Talking about last year, (it) was not my best season on clay. Hopefully, I can change it this year. But you know, I’m confident that I can be a good player also on clay. It takes time for sure.” He said.  
“I used to practice a lot on clay when I was 14 to 20. But then after most of the tournaments, they were hardcourt tournaments. So you play a little bit less but you know, I’m very excited to be here. I think if you make the clay with a good friendship, it can help.”

The French Open will get underway on May 20th. 

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