Timea Babos Edges Kirsten Flipkens and Misaki Doi Dismisses Evgeniya Rodina at Taipei to Reach the Final
In their first WTA meeting, Timea Babos, the fourth seed, defeated fifth-seed Kirsten Flipkens in the first semifinal match at the WTA 125K tournament in Taipei: 6-3, 7-6. Babos, twenty-two years old, still has not dropped a set in the tournament. The Hungarian, is currently ranked 84; her highest ranking was 59 in August 2012. This is her second final this year; she also reached the final at Marrakesh in April. Flipkens, from Belgium, is ranked 92. The twenty-nine year old was ranked as high as 13 in August 2013 following a semifinal run at Wimbledon. In 2015, she was a semifinalist at Istanbul and Linz.
Although Babos’ first serve percentage was only 46 in the first set, she won all eleven of those points. She won 83% of her total service points and faced no breakpoints. Conversely, Flipkens won just 57% of her service points. Babos only needed one break of serve to take the set in 32 minutes.
In the second set, each player held serve coming up with big serves, beautiful passing shots, deep returns, and brilliant volleys when they needed them. They both faced their only breakpoints in the set in their final service games and they each came up with three big serves and a volley winner to hold, forcing a tiebreak. After a very close set, Babos dominated the tiebreak. It started badly for Flipkens as she followed in an excellent serve t
o set up an easy overhead that she hit into the net. After a volley winner by Babos, Flipkens had a chance to get the mini-break back but hit a lob just long. Babos then hit three winners to go up 6-0 and won the tiebreak 7-1 to take the match.
In the second semifinal, Misaki Doi of Japan, the number one seed, bested Evgeniya Rodina of Russia in straight sets: 7-6, 6-2. The tight first set was marked by strong service games and penetrating groundstrokes that allowed each player to construct points resulting in winners. The exception was the Russian’s second serve; she won only 33% of second service points compared to 64% for Doi. The number
one seed won 86% of her first serve (including six aces) and Rodina won 81% of hers. The left-handed Doi did not face a breakpoint in the set while Rodina was able to save the three she faced in the sixth game. Rodina
was up a mini-break twice early in the tiebreak. Up 3-2, three errors off her racket and two winners by Doi gave the set to Doi.
Doi kept her momentum going breaking Rodina’s serve to start the second set. The top seed went up 4-1 with a second break in the fifth game. Doi confirmed the break with three aces in the next game. Rodina then held serve to force Doi to serve for the match. Doi sealed the win with her twelfth ace on the final point. Rodina won only 48% of her first service points versus 86% again for Doi in the set. As in the first set, Doi did not face a breakpoint.
Doi was also the victor in straight sets in their only other WTA match, Tashkent in 2013. The twenty-four–old Doi has recently won the Luxembourg title and is at her highest career ranking of 60. Rodina, twenty-six, is currently ranked 87, her highest ranking was 74 in February 2011. Recently, she was a semifinalist at Tashkent in October.
Babos and Doi have not faced each other before at a WTA event. Both contestants are playing well to set up what should be an entertaining final.
Grand Slam Glory Is The Main Goal For America’s Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff has big aspirations and she isn’t afraid to speak openly about them.
Following her second round win over Julia Grabher at the French Open on Thursday, the 19-year-old played down the fixation on her current ranking which is No.6 in the world. Gauff admits that her position is something that doesn’t concern her in the sport unless she is sitting at the top of the world rankings.
“I’m not a ranking person at all. The goal is No.1, and I think that’s when I would care about the ranking,” she stated in her press conference.
“Anything in between two and 10, I mean, I’m going to be honest, it’s not that important to me.”
Gauff first broke into the world’s top 10 in September 2022 and has remained there ever since. At the time she was the youngest top 10 debutant on the WTA Tour since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006. She has been ranked as high as No.4 in the world.
“When I made the top 10, it was a cool accomplishment, but for me it was never about staying there. I only want to go upwards,” she said. “The biggest goal is to win Grand Slams, and I think the ranking will come with Grand Slams.”
It was 12 months ago at Roland Garros where Gauff achieved her best performance at a major by reaching the final before losing in straight sets to Iga Swiatek. The tournament is her best Grand Slam in terms of match wins (13) and is the only one where she has reached the quarter-finals or better on multiple occasions. Gauff also won the French Open girls’ title back in 2018 at the age of just 14.
Five years on from the junior triumph, she has become a regular fixture on the Tour. So much so, that there is already another generation of players on the rise. One of those includes Russia’s Mirra Andreeva who says her ultimate goal in tennis is to break Novak Djokovic’s all-time Grand Slam title record which currently stands at 22. Andreeva, who is only the seventh player under the age of 17 to reach the third round of Roland Garros since 1993, will be Gauff’s next opponent.
“I think she knows the game well, and she’s proved her position to be here and proved in her results in the past, so I don’t think the age thing matters,” Gauff commented on her next opponent.
“I’ve never thought about my age, to be honest. This will be my third time playing someone younger than me.
“Honestly, the first two times I didn’t even think about it because when you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”
Gauff will play Andreeva on Saturday.
Gael Monfils Withdraws From French Open Clash With Rune
After winning a marathon first round clash at the French Open on Tuesday, Gael Monfils has been forced to pull out of the tournament due to a left wrist injury.
The 36-year-old defeated Sebastian Baez in a five-set thriller in his opening match at his home Grand Slam which took place late at night on the Phillip Chatrier Court. Monfils’ win was the first he has recorded on the Tour since returning to action following a foot problem. He suffered a plantar fascia rupture in his right foot last year which sidelined him from competition for seven months.
Now Monfils’ latest injury setback concerns his wrist which he started to feel pain in whilst playing against Baez. He has subsequently been advised to not continue playing to avoid worsening the issue.
“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. I was quite happy this morning. I woke up quite good, but I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” Monfils said in a late-night press conference on Wednesday. “Felt it during the match, actually the whole match [yesterday]. And unfortunately even [though] we pushed it ’til tonight, just came back again for another exam, and yes, waited a little bit.
“The doctor said [it] was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely said I should stop.”
Monfils has been diagnosed with a Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) injury. He has undergone an Arthroscan (MRI) which will establish how long he may be sidelined from the sport. The Frenchman is set to find out the results later today.
“I think had it been totally broken it would have been more serious, but it’s partial,” Monfils said. “So I’ll know more about the length of time when I’m off the courts. But the doctor said he hopes I’ll be able to play on grass.”
Due to his withdrawal, Danish sixth seed Holger Rune will move into the third round where he will play either Genaro Alberto Olivieri or Andrea Vavassori who have both come through the qualifying rounds.
As for the schedule of play at Roland Garros, Monfils’ match was set to take place in the evening slot. It has been replaced by Alexander Zverev’s clash with Alex Molcan.
Dissatisfied Aryna Sabalenka Reaches French Open Third Round
Aryna Sabalenka has sealed her place in the last 32 of the French Open for the fourth consecutive year after overcoming a spirited performance from qualifier Iryna Shymanovich.
The world No.2 powered her way to a 7-5, 6-2, win over her compatriot in a match where she at times struggled to maintain consistency in her shot-making. Sabalenka’s powerful hitting produced some stunning shots but also resulted in some costly errors which proved pragmatic at times.
“I’m not really happy with my game today,” said Sabalenka, who hit 23 unforced errors compared to 21 winners. “I’m going to work a little bit tomorrow and make sure I’m ready for the next round a little bit better than I was today.”
The first set was a far-from-perfect performance from the reigning Australian Open champion who produced a total of 17 unforced errors. Sabalenka looked to be on a good footing early after breaking for a 4-2 lead but her inconsistency enabled Shymanovich to claw her way back to level. Nudging ahead to a 6-5 lead, the second seed snatched the opener after prevailing in a marathon seven-deuce service game. Two set points came and went before Sabalenka converted her third with the help of a drop shot from her opponent landing out.
Sabalenka, who is challenging Iga Swiatek for the No.1 spot in Paris, started the second set emphatically by breaking for a 2-0 lead. However, she failed to capitalize on the opportunity as once again Shymanovich broke back. Prompting her to look towards her entourage in the crowd in frustration.
Despite the blip, the 25-year-old bounced back to crush her opponent’s hope of a shock win. Surging to a 5-2 lead, Sabalenka worked her way to three match points with a powerful forehand strike that forced her rival to return the ball out. She prevailed on her second opportunity after a Shymanovich shot crashed into the net.
“It was a tough match,” Sabalenka reflected. “She played really great tennis and I’m happy that no matter what I was able to fight for every point. I’m happy to get this win.”
Sabalenka will next take on either Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova or Magdalena Frech. Should she win that match, she will achieve her best-ever run at the French Open. Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam where she is yet to reach the semi-final stage.
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