Maria Sharapova takes a hard-fought match over Petra Kvitova to give Russia a 2-1 lead - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova takes a hard-fought match over Petra Kvitova to give Russia a 2-1 lead

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Maria Sharapova fought back from a set down to defeat Petra Kvitova 3-6 6-4 6-2  to give Russia a 2-1 lead in the third singles rubber match at the Fed Cup Final at the O2 Arena in Prague. This win puts Russia one win away from their first Fed Cup win since 2008. Karolina Pliskova needs to win against Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to keep Czech hopes alive.

 

Kvitova and Sharapova clashed for the 11th time in their careers. Sharapova led 6-4 in their previous head-to-head matches but was 4-3 on hard-court, although Kvitova won their last two matches in straight sets in the last two editions of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Kvitova converted her third break point with her volley to go up 1-0 before consolidating the break in the second game. Sharapova saved a break point to get her first game on the scoreboard. From a break point down Sharapova held her serve with an ace and two unreturnable serves.

Kvitova led 4-2 with a comfortable hold of serve. The Czech player put pressure on Sharapova who had not earned a break point in the first six games. Sharapova held her serve in the seventh game to claw her way back to 3-4. Kvitova broke serve to love in the final game to seal the first set with 6-3 after 46 minutes as Sharapova hit a volley into the net.

Sharapova earned her first break points of the match in the first game of the second set but Kvitova saved them to hold her serve. Sharapova saved five break point chances in a very long second game winning the game point at deuce with a groundstroke onto the line. At 1-2 Sharapova had a cofortable hold in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sharapova got her first break of the match in the fifth game to take the 3-2 lead. Kvitova broke back to love to draw level to 3-3 after a double fault and two attempted drop-shots into the net by Sharapova.

In a 11-minute seventh game Kvitova saved break points before holding her serve with a forehand winner. In the 8th game Sharapova earned a game point with a slice before holding her serve to draw level to 4-4 with a serve and a winner. Kvitova made two double faults at 4-4 40-15. Sharapova took advantage to break serve at deuce for 5-4. Once again Sharapova proved to be one of the fiercest competitors when she served out in the most crucial moment of the match to love to force the match to the third set.

Both players held their serve in the first four games of the decider without any break points. sharapova rallied from 15-30 down to break serve in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead. Sharapova held serve to consolidate her break for 4-2. Sharapova got the double break to pull away to 5-2 as Kvitova made her 8th double fault of the match on break point. Sharapova closed out with a forehand winner to hold her serve to love for 6-2 after a hard-fought match.

Kvitova has lost for the third time in 26 Fed Cup match since 2011. Before today’s defeat the Czech player lost against Ana Ivanovic in the 2012 final in the O2 Arena in Prague and against Roberta Vinci in the semifinal of the 2013 Fed Cup Final in Palermo.

“It’s an incredible achievement for me because I have never been in a Fed Cup Final. Petra played an unbelievable first set. She was so aggressive, hitting really deep all the strokes. I didn’t have the momentum in tbe first set. I felt once I got the energy back”, said Sharapova

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It Isn’t Just Football Who Are Mourning The Loss Of Diego Maradona

The world of football has lost one of its icons and tennis has lost a loyal fan.

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Diego Maradona (image via Sky Sports Tennis Twitter)

It was during the 2013 Dubai Tennis Championships when Diego Armando Maradona stated that tennis was his second favourite sport after his beloved football.

 

The Argentinian sporting icon was a passionate and enthusiastic follower for more than 30 years until his death on Wednesday due to a heart attack. Regularly he would be seen watching matches in crowds at various tournaments. One of the earliest anecdotes took place in 1984 when he turned up to watch the French Open final and cheered on John McEnroe, who was taking on Ivan Lendl. Swiss journalist Rene Stauffer was sitting next to him and remembers the iconic figure ‘cheering like crazy.

Of course it was his fellow countrymen and women who Maradona was most interested in supporting. One in particular was Juan Martin del Potro who won the 2009 US Open. He once joked ‘Next week I’ll be the one training del Potro myself. I will ask Franco Davin to step aside and Diego will train del Potro.‘ He appeared to have a great amount of respect for the former world No.3 who is one of thousands mourning his death.

I feel that you return to the place that belongs to you, HEAVEN. For me you will never die. Rest in peace,” Del Potro wrote on Twitter.

After retiring from professional football in 1997 Maradona encountered his own personal demons as he battled with health issues and drug addiction. Nevertheless, his passion for sport never suffered. Attending various Davis Cup ties, he was usually seen shouting and cheering for his countrymen. He even had his own VIP box sporting his country’s flag with the words ‘The Maradona family is here‘ during the 2017 final between Argentina and Croatia.

Despite his calibre, Maradona said that he was star struck to meet some of tennis’ top names. One of those was former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki who got talking to him during the Dubai Tennis Championships seven years ago. At the time Maradona was an ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council (DSC).

“I had the pleasure to meet Caroline Wozniacki. She is one of the top players and she is very beautiful and a very nice girl,” he said. “Despite her ranking and all her achievements, she came to say hello to me, although I’m the one who wanted to get up and go and greet her.”

As for the three giants of men’s tennis, Maradona cheered them on and spoke to them on numerous occasions. Wheather that was in person or via video message.

For Rafael Nadal this year marks the 10th anniversary of when the two spoke with each other at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. When the news broke of Maradona’s death he was one of the first to pay tribute.

“One of the greatest sportsmen in history, Diego Maradona, has left us. What he did in football will remain. My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family, the world of football, and to all of Argentina.” He wrote on social media.

It was in the same tournament as Nadal when Novak Djokovic once said ‘to have him as a supporter is an incredible honour and a pleasure.‘ A few months on from that, the two briefly spent time together in Abu Dubai as the Serbian conducted his off-season training.

One of Maradona’s final interactions with tennis before his death took place last year when Roger Federer played an exhibition match in Buenos Aires. In a video message broadcasted on the screens of the stadium he said to the Swiss ‘you were, you are and will be the greatest. There’s no other like you.‘ Words that brought tears to the eye of the 20-time Grand Slam champion. Originally the two had planned to meet in person but were unable to due to Maradona’s health.

It was just three weeks ago when world No.9 Diego Schwartzman spoke out about the influence the footballing great has had on his country. The two never met in person but like many others, he was an idol for the tennis star.

“He’s been a sports idol since I was a kid. I’ve seen it on YouTube, not only, I’ve seen it on TV too. I’ve never seen him for real. He’s one of my soccer idols and I love soccer.” Schwartzman said.
“Wherever we go, everyone knows Argentina thanks to Maradona! This is the reason why I have the first name, Diego.”

Argentina has declared three days of national mourning following Maradona’s death.

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Uncle Toni Hoping 2021 Will Be ‘Difficult But Exciting’ For Rafael Nadal

The 59-year-old gives his verdict on Nadal’s 2020 season.

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The man who introduced Rafael Nadal to tennis as a child believes this year has been largely positive for the Spaniard despite his ATP Finals defeat.

 

Toni Nadal, who is the uncle and former coach of the 20-time Grand Slam champion, has hailed Nadal’s performance in an article written for El Pais. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 34-year-old has won two titles and 27 matches on the ATP Tour this season. The standout achievement took place at his beloved French Open where he lifted the trophy for an historic 13th time. Nadal has earned $3,856,127 in prize money which is the third highest in men’s tennis after Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.

“When it comes to taking stock of this strange year, the assessment has to be clearly positive,” Toni said. “Raising the French Open for the 13th time amply justifies this appreciation. But, in addition, the game exhibited both at Roland Garros and in London makes me hope to see him face a difficult but exciting season in 2021, in which he will once again have exciting opportunities.”

There was also disappointment for Nadal towards the end of the season. At the Paris Masters he fell in the semi-finals to Alexander Zverev. A couple weeks later at the prestigious ATP Finals he crashed out in the semi-final stage once again but this time it was to Daniil Medvedev, who went on to win the title. Nadal is yet to win either of these two tournaments in his career.

Reflecting on Nadal’s latest loss to Medvedev, Toni described it as a ‘great opportunity that slipped away.’ The world No.2 led by a set and even had a chance to serve the match out before losing 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. Prior to the clash, Nadal had won 173 out of 175 matches after claiming the opener.

“In the second half of this first set, Rafael made the right decision to change strategy and stopped playing his usual game to cut mostly his backhand and play more in the centre of the court. The intention was, clearly, to neutralize the attack of his rival, who returned insufferable blows if the track was opened,” his former mentor reflected.
“This change took effect and my nephew managed to score the first set and advance to what seemed like a definite 5-4 with serve in the second.’
“But, obviously, the script was not fulfilled that way. After not being able to score that conclusive game, he lost the set in the tie break and then, judging by the impression he gave me, the fatigue he suffered somewhat he was no longer able to maintain the same intensity in the rest of the match.”

Besides Nadal, Toni also took note of those outside of the Big Three who are becoming to be more prominent on the Tour. Including Dominic Thiem who won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and was also runner-up at the Australian Open. Thiem could challenge Nadal for the number two spot next season.

“I am convinced that the step forward taken by Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev, not to mention someone else, is now definitive,” he said. “But I am also happy that, for yet another year, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will fight to the limit of their strength to continue climbing to the podiums of the Grand Slams and the most important tournaments.”

The year-end ATP top 10

  1. Novak Djokovic SRB 12,030 points
  2. Rafael Nadal ESP 9,850 points
  3. Dominic Thiem AUT 9,125 points
  4. Daniil Medvedev RUS 8,470 points
  5. Roger Federer SWI 6,630 points
  6. Stefanos Tsitsipas GRE 5,925 points
  7. Alexander Zverev GER 5,525 points
  8. Andrey Rublev RUS 4,119 points
  9. Diego Schwartzman ARG 3,455 points
  10. Mateo Berrettini ITA 3,075 points

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Andy Murray Backs Use Of COVID-19 Vaccine On Tour

The 33-year-old says he is ‘confident’ that players will support the implementation of a mandatory vaccine on the Tour.

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Former world No.1 Andy Murray has come out in support of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine being implemented in tennis and hopes that such an approach would be welcomed by his peers.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion believes players would be willing to do so ‘for the good of the sport’ following the impact of the pandemic in 2020. At one stage the ATP Tour was suspended for five months which left players unable to earn any money during that period. Various tournaments were either suspended and cancelled with the US Open held behind closed doors for the first time in history.

“I think that probably should be the case. I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport – providing everything has proved to be safe, clinical trials and everything have been done and there are not any significant side-effects,” said Murray.

In recent weeks significant progress has been made in the hunt for an effective vaccine. The three biggest breakthroughs have so far come from those currently being developed by Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Unlike Murray, some players have previously expressed caution over taking such a vaccine. Novak Djokovic said earlier this year that he was not in favour of being forced to have one if he didn’t want to because he is cautious over what enters his body. However, he has since clarified that he is not against the implementation of a vaccine.

“I guess it would be difficult. I also read a few weeks after he’d said he (Djokovic) wouldn’t be keen on doing that, if it was something that had to be done for him to play the sport, he would,” said Murray.
“So I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the ATP and the ITF (International Tennis Federation) decide their position is going to be on that. But I’m confident that players would be into it if it meant the tour going back to normality.”

The prospect of a vaccine being used on the Tour is a possibility but it is unlikely to happen for months. In many countries they are still being analysed and are yet to be given the green light for public use by the relevant bodies.

Murray has confirmed he intends to start next year in Australia amid uncertainty over the Tour schedule. Due to government policy, players are not allowed to enter the country until after January 1st and then they will have quarantine for 14 days. Making it likely that the Australian Open will start later than what was originally planned. Although there is yet to be an official announcement.

“It’s obviously tricky for the players. Originally, we planned to go on the 12th or the 13th of December to arrive around the 15th. Then that changed and the latest I’ve heard is that they’ve planned to push it back a couple of weeks,” Murray commented.
“I think that would be the best-case scenario now. That would allow the players to get over there at the beginning of January and prepare properly for the event. I’ll go as soon as I can.”

Murray has only managed to play in four tournaments this year due to both injury and the pandemic. Overall, he has won three out of seven matches played with his best run being at the Western and Southern Open where he defeated Alexander Zverev en route to the third round.

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