Venus Williams Shines at Zhuhai Final Defeating Karolina Pliskova - UBITENNIS
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Venus Williams Shines at Zhuhai Final Defeating Karolina Pliskova

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Venus Williams is the winner of the inaugural WTA Elite Trophy beating Karolina Pliskova in straight sets in a high quality and exciting final: 7-5, 7-6. With this victory, Williams moves up to 7 in the world rankings, her highest ranking since February 2011. In her pre-tournament press conference, Venus acknowledged, “One of the reasons that I’m here is so that way I can go to the Top 10 and have a great start for the next year.” This is her 48th title, second only to her sister Serena among WTA active players. The American has enjoyed her seven weeks in the Asia: in addition to this crown, she won the title in Wuhan and was a semifinalist in Hong Kong.

The rising star from the Czech Republic started the year ranked 24, moving steadily up with a title in Prague and reaching the finals in Stanford, Birmingham, Dubai, and Sydney. Pliskova, twenty-three years old, achieved her highest ranking of 7 in August 2015. Her ranking slipped to 13, as she did not defend her all her points from a successful fall of 2014. With the Zhuhai finalist points, the Czech moves up two places in the rankings to 11.

In their first ever meeting, Venus got off to a quick start, going up 4-1, taking balls early, dictating play and dominating the rallies. Pliskova was shaky on serve, but came back from 0-40 to hold in the second game helped by three Williams’ errors and an ace. She also fought back in the sixth game from 15-40 saving four breakpoints to get the score to 4-2. Pliskova, who led the tournament in aces and winners, then won the next two games to love, six errors by Williams and two winners for the Czech, leveling the match at 4-4. Each player held serve in the next two games from 15-30 down with big serves. The thirty-five year-old American saved a breakpoint in the next game and then broke at 15 aided by four Pliskova errors to take the set. Williams was the more aggressive player creating 10 breakpoint chances (but only took advantage of two) and came up with big serves when she needed them. Her first serve percentage was 71 compared to 58% for Karolina. This was low for the Czech as her serve is her major weapon.

Each player started the second set well. In their first two service games, Williams at love and Pliskova dropped only three points. The Czech broke Williams’ serve in the fifth game with two forehand winners and two errors by the American. Venus broke back in the eighth game and each player held serve in the next four games to force a tiebreak. The set featured tremendous shot making under pressure by each player. Williams closed out the championship winning a very tight tiebreak 7-6.

In the post match interview, Pliskova commented, “I think it was a great week even though I didn’t make it today. I really enjoyed the week and Venus played (an) unbelievable match today. I am proud of myself, how I played this week and hope to play more matches like this.”

 Williams, gracious and happy, said, “I am so excited to win the first trophy, and first congratulations to Karolina, who had no losses this week. I know it is disappointing because she played so well, she deserved to win as well and I was really lucky to win at the end there.”

The WTA Elite Trophy will be played in Zhuhai through 2019 and will again feature twelve players ranked between 9 and 19 and one wildcard. The tournament was a big success. All of the players praised the tournament and the event drew big crowds. Venus summed it up her on-court, post match interview,  “All the players were welcome here, and the enthusiasm here, and to see every seat filled for every match – that’s all the players want.”

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Roger Federer Says ‘Revolution’ Needed To Help Next Generation Of Tennis Players

The Swiss Maestro has called for more to be done to address the issue of social media abuse.

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Roger Federer (SUI) Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer believes there needs to be a rethink regarding how the rising stars of tennis are supported on the Tour.

 

The former world No.1 has called for what he describes as the ‘press situation’ to be reconsidered in the wake of some tennis players opening up about their mental health. Earlier this year at the French Open Naomi Osaka revealed that she has been suffering from depression and social anxiety. Osaka opted to skip press conferences during the French Open but it wasn’t until after the tournament she spoke about the reason why she did so. Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu’s run to the fourth round at Wimbledon ended up with her withdrawing from the Grand Slam due to ‘breathing difficulties’ which was partly due to the unfamiliar situation she was in.

40-year-old Federer, who has been one of the biggest names in the sport for well over a decade, says the stress his younger peers experience on the Tour is partly due to social media. Something he said wasn’t as prevalent when he was younger.

It hurts when you see what happens and when they don’t feel well. The stress is so great. And I think a lot has to be down to social media: the first ten years of my life there was no social media, maybe I had just a website, then the next ten years social media was everywhere,” Federer told GQ magazine.

As for how players are treated by the media, the Swiss Maestro has called for a revamp of the protocols with all parties sitting together for discussions. Although he didn’t outline what changes he would make. In Grand Slams players are usually required to conduct press conferences following their matches and could be fined for not doing so.

“In regards to this (social media), the press situation does need to be reconsidered. I think I’m one of the athletes who’s done the most press – ever! And I agree that it’s always the same,” he said.
“I think players, the tournaments, journalists, we need to sit down together in a room and go, “OK, what would work for you and what works for us… We need a revolution. Or at least an evolution of where we are today.’
“I think we do need to help, coach and mentor the younger generation more. I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media; I have no clue how I would have handled it.”

In recent years one common problem faced by players is a rise in social media abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Raducanu and Sloane Stephens has been targeted by racist abuse. Meanwhile, during his country’s Davis Cup tie against Belarus Diego Schwartzman was targeted by trolls following a shock loss.

“For every ten nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on,” Federer commented. “It’s a horrible situation. Even when I am feeling down I know I need to act a certain way in front of the world’s press. We need to remember that tennis players are athletes and professionals, but we are also human too.”

Federer is currently sidelined from the Tour due to a right knee injury which also troubled him throughout 2020. So far in his career he has won 103 ATP titles, spent 310 weeks as world No.1 and has earned more than $130M in prize money. According to Forbes Magazine, he was the seventh highest paid athlete in the world between May 2020 and May 2021.

Despite the numerous records he has broken and reaching the milestone age of 40, there are still no signs that Federer has any plans to retire from the sport in the near future.

“When, like any athlete, you will just know when the time is right. I am not going to be the one that’s just going to stick around because I want to stick around. You know, I still want to play exhibitions down the road and have fun and go to markets in places I’ve never been before. The fans mean a lot to me, but I do not want to abuse my body. I still want to run around with my kids and ski… So I think you just know,” he concluded.

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Anett Kontaveit Lifts Ostrava Title After Rediscovering Passion For Playing

The 25-year-old is closing in on a place in the world’s top 20 for the first time in more than two years.

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image via https://twitter.com/JTBankaOpen

The recent resurgence of Anett Kontaveit shows no signs of slowing down after she cruised to the Ostrava Open title on Sunday without dropping a set in the entire tournament.

 

Kontaveit, who is currently ranked 30th in the world, battled her way to a 6-2, 7-5, win over Greek fourth seed Maria Sakkari. Throughout the clash the Estonian didn’t drop her serve as she fired a total of 26 winners past her opponent who is the third consecutive top 20 player she has defeated on the Tour. Earlier in the tournament she also dismissed Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and home favourite Petra Kvitova.

Impressively Kontaveit has won 12 out of her past 13 matches played with her only loss being to Iga Switek at the US Open. Her rise started in August at the Cleveland Championships where she lifted only the second WTA title of her entire career. Prior to the tournament, she was on a four-match losing streak.

“I think I really started enjoying playing again, and I think that’s been the main key,” the 25-year-old commented on her recent results on the Tour. “I’m having a really good time on court and I’m having fun through the battles and the tough matches as well. I sort of started finding my way in Cleveland.”

Helping her find footing once again is Dmitry Tursunov, who previously worked with Aryna Sabalenka. The two started collaboration on a trial basis during the summer. Tursunov reached a high of No.20 on the men’s Tour during his professional career and won seven ATP 250 titles.

“My new coach also has given me some new energy and new perspectives as well. I’m just feeling a little more comfortable and enjoying myself more.” She said.

After her success in the Czerch Republic, Kontaveit will climb up the rankings on Monday as she nears an entry back into the world’s top 20 for the first time since September 2019. She is projected to rise to 23rd spot.

“When you are winning matches it definitely gives you confidence,” she explains. “I feel like I am definitely playing better than I was in the middle of the season and I think good things can come of it. I don’t want to put any pressure on myself, I’ve really had a good time on court, and I’ve enjoyed it. That’s the thing I’m really most happy about.’
“One of my friends, who is here this week in Ostrava, she played doubles, she told me ‘While we’re here we might as well enjoy it’ – that really sort of stuck with me this week.”

Kontaveit has won 31 matches so far this season.

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Hubert Hurkacz Reigns Supreme In Metz, Kwon Breaks New Ground In Nur-Sultan

The two players achieved personal career milestones on the ATP Tour but for different reasons.

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Top seed Hubert Hurkacz has ended his title drought on European soil after defeating Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets to win the Moselle Open in France.

 

The world No.13, who claimed his first Masters title in Miami earlier this year, rallied his way to a 7-6(2), 6-3, win over Carreno Busta in less than 90 minutes. Throughout the tournament Hurkacz didn’t drop a set against players such as former world No.1 Andy Murray and Lucas Pouille. In the final, the Pole broke Carreno Busta four times and won 73% of his service points to seal the victory.

“Pablo is an amazing player, so playing against him in the final here is something special,” Hurkacz said in his on-court interview. “I needed to raise my level to play my best to be able to compete with him and today I came out on top and I am super, super happy about this.”

Metz was the first Tour-level event that Hurkacz has played as the top seed. His latest triumph continues what has been a successful season for the 24-year-old who also won the Delray Beach Open earlier this year, as well as Miami. He is the fifth player this year to have won a third title on the ATP Tour after Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev who have all won four trophies.

Speaking during the trophy presentation, Hurkacz paid tribute to the support he has received during the tournament and the atmosphere he has been playing in. Giving a special mention to the band who was playing in the arena.

“The atmosphere here is very special here with all of you guys,” he added. “You guys [the band] make it an amazing atmosphere, so that is so nice that you guys are here.”

Hurkacz’s win-loss for the season has now been improved to 29-16. Besides his successes on the Tour in recent months, he has also experienced disappointment. At one stage of the year he was on a six-match losing streak before reaching the semi-finals of the Wimbledon in what was his best-ever performance at a Grand Slam tournament.

As a result of his win in Metz, Hurkacz will climb one spot in the ATP rankings to 12th on Monday. He is yet to break into the world’s top 10.

Kwon ends South Korea’s 18-year wait

Elsewhere on the ATP Tour, Soon-woo Kwon has become only the second man from his country to ever win a title and the first since 2003. The 23-year-old underdog defeated James Duckworth 7-6(6), 6-3, to complete what has been a memorable performance at the Astana Open. Earlier in the week he knocked out second seed Alexander Bublik and third seed Dusan Lajovic.

“I was thinking before the match this could be my last chance to win an ATP trophy, you never know what is going to happen,” The KTF Press-Service quoted Kwon as saying.
“I did what I can. Thanks to this tournament, I now have a lot of confidence and hopefully I can lift more trophies in the future.’
“After today, I can reach for something like the Top 20, after this week I have more belief that I can do this.”

One of the most impressive aspects of Kwon’s milestone win is the tight turnaround he has made in recent days. Last weekend he was playing a Davis Cup tie on the Grass in America where he scored two crucial wins for his country in their tie against New Zealand.

“Last week I played Davis Cup in Newport. I flew all the way from there to here. it’s a 10-hour difference,” he said.
“I just came with an open mind, an open heart. I knew it would take time to adjust to the courts, so I wasn’t tight. From the first round I was relaxed and hit the ground running. Each match I was getting better and better, I stayed calm and played freely.”

Kwon, who reached the third round of the French Open earlier this year, is now set to break into the world’s top 60 for the first time in his career.

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