Venus Williams Wins Opening Game at Zhuhai over Madison Keys - UBITENNIS
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Venus Williams Wins Opening Game at Zhuhai over Madison Keys

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Venus Williams won the first ever professional tennis game in Zhuhai defeating fellow American, Madison Keys in a hard-hitting three set encounter: 3-6, 7-6, 6-1.   The WTA Elite Trophy will be played in Zhuhai through 2019 and features twelve players ranked between 9 and 20. It replaces the smaller WTA Tournament of Champions, which was held in Bali from 2009-2011 and then in Sofia from 2012-2014. Williams is the top seed at this season ending event. The world number 11 won the Wuhan title last month and the Auckland crown Last January. Keys’, ranked 19, best results in 2015 were reaching the final in Charleston and the semifinals at the Australian Open.

Williams and Keys faced each other in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open earlier this year, with Keys winning in three tight sets. The two had also met at the 2013 Charleston quarterfinals, a close match which Williams won in straight sets. Today’s encounter was also tightly contested for the first two sets. The experience and mental strength of the seven-time Grand Slam champion helped Williams to take the deciding set easily.

The first set began with three consecutive breaks of serve followed by two hold at love, with the twenty-year old Keys up a break, 3-2. Williams was unable to convert two break point chances in the sixth game and was then broken at love giving Keys a 5-2 edge. The thirty-five year-old kept her hopes alive by breaking Keys’ serve in the eighth game only to lose her serve in the ninth game to give the set to Keys. There were six breaks of serve in the nine games of the first set. Williams did not win any of her seven second service points and only won only 47% of her first service points. In addition to William’s inability to hold serve, big groundstrokes by both players and return winners by Keys marked the set.

The second set highlighted high quality tennis with big serves, powerful groundstokes and beautiful passing shots. Williams got off to a good start in the second set taking the first two games. Keys got the break back in the sixth game landing some risky shots. In the seventh game, Williams took advantage of opportunities afforded her by a couple of loose balls by Keys and a forehand return winner to break again and take the lead 4-3. An easy hold for Williams confirmed the break with three backhand errors by Keys and ace for Williams. The young American then won the next three games with good aggressive tennis to go ahead 6-5, forcing Venus to serve to stay in the match. Williams was equal to the task and held under pressure to get to the tiebreak, which she won to force a decider.

After two tight games, both won by Williams, the match started to slip away from Keys and Venus jumped to a 5-0 lead. Errors crept into Keys’ game and she won only 42% of her service points. Williams improved her service point won to 64%. Keys held in the sixth game to avoid a bagel, but Venus closed out the match in the seventh game with three big serves.

Williams was all smiles in her post match interview. “What a competitive match today! This was a perfect match to start the tournament. Madison and I, we play so similar, it was a big match and I came so close to losing it. I’m so happy to be standing here as the winner, I feel really lucky… For sure the experience matters. I enjoy every win and I learn from every loss.”

 Next up in Group A for each player is Saisai Zheng of China who was in attendance at the match today.

 

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Alexander Zverev Secures Return To Top Four After Winning Italian Open

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Alexander Zverev has clinched his first Masters title since 2021 after downing Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at the Italian Open.

The world No.5 surged to a 6-4,7-5, victory at the Faro Italico to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win the Rome trophy on multiple occasions. He also won the tournament in 2017. Zverev’s latest win was aided by an impressive service display from the 27-year-old who also hit 15 winners against eight unforced errors. He is now 22-1 against players ranked outside the top five at the tournament with his only loss being to Matteo Berrettini five years ago.

“It means a lot. Winning my first (Masters) title and winning my first after my injury in Rome. Rome is a very special place for me,” the new champion said afterwards. 
“I said at the beginning of the week if Rome is the place of firsts for me I’m extremely happy about it. It’s a very special week.” 

Playing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2022, Zverev produced a serving masterclass throughout the opening set with the German winning 20 out of 21 points. In contrast, Jarry experienced more difficult but valiantly fought back with the Chilean saving two straight break points at 4-4. Eventually, the third seed sealed the opener two games later with the help of some costly shots coming from across the court. A deep shot towards the baseline was unsuccessfully returned by Jarry, handing Zverev a set point which he converted.

Continuing to pile the pressure on in the second set, Zverev had a double chance to break for a 3-1 lead but failed to capitalise on that opportunity. The opportunities continued to come and go. Back-to-back double faults from Jarry at 4-5 handed Zverev two championship points but once again he failed to take advantage. Eventually, he sealed victory two games later with the help of a forehand shot that Jarry returned out. Prompting Zverev to raise his hands in delight before later paying tribute to his rival. 

“He’s playing huge. You can see that by the opponents he beat and how he beat them,” he said of Jarry. 
“I told him if he continues playing like that he is going to have many more chances. I’m happy to be the winner.”

As a result of his Rome triumph, Zverev has secured a top-four seeding for the French Open. On Monday he will rise in the PIF ATP rankings to No.4 which will be his highest position since August 2022. During that same year, he sustained a serious ankle injury which sidelined him for months. 

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure. but let me enjoy this one for a day or so and then I will have my full focus on Paris,” said Zverev.

Zverev has now won six Masters 1000 titles which places him in joint-ninth on the all-time list along with Daniil Medvedev. 

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In-Form Iga Swiatek Not Taking Anything For Granted Ahead of French Open Title Defence

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Iga Swiatek says she must remain ‘humble’ heading into the French Open despite being a strong favourite for the title.

The world No.1 is on a 12-match winning streak after claiming back-to-back WTA 1000 titles in Madrid and Rome. A milestone that has only previously been achieved by Dinara Safina and Serena Williams. In her latest match, she dropped five games against Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the Italian Open. She now leads the Belarusian world No.2 8-3 in their head-to-head.

“I’m maybe chilled out compared to Madrid after the final because that final was so surreal. It is a little bit different. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m really proud of myself and really happy.” Said Swiatek.
“I’m happy I was so focused and disciplined throughout the tournament. I feel like I’m in the right place.” 

The confidence is high for the Pole heading into Roland Garros which she will be aiming to win for a fourth time since 2020. In the Open Era, only three women have won the French Open four or more times – Justine Henin, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert.

However, Swiatek is not underestimating the work she will be required to put in to claim another major title. She failed to reach the quarter-final stage at her two most recent Grand Slam events, the US Open and French Open. 

“Obviously I am confident. I feel like I’m playing great tennis but that doesn’t change the fact that I just want to stay humble,” she said.
“Grand Slams are different. There’s a different pressure on the court and off the court. Of course I love to come to Paris and be there. It’s a great place for me to be and I really enjoy my time there.
“But these are hard seven matches that you need to win so I don’t take anything for granted.”

The Grand Slams are the holy grail when it comes to ranking points with the champions claiming 2000 points. In the past Swiatek has focused on her tally and ranking but this year she has a somewhat different perspective. 

“I’m less focused on rankings and points compared to last year. I felt like last year I needed to always to chase. Even though I was first, I felt like I had somebody behind my back.” Said Swiatek. 
“But this year, I just feel like I can focus on myself and not think about that because focusing on rankings is never helpful, I would say.
“There are plenty of things to focus on that we need to spend our energy for, that is just a waste of energy to focus on points and rankings.”

The French Open will get underway next Sunday. 

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Iga Swiatek Demolishes Aryna Sabalenka To Seal Third Rome Title

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title after a dominant victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

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Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title by dominating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-3 to send a big message of intent ahead of Roland Garros.

The world number one completed the Madrid and Rome double with a sensational performance.

Now Swiatek is the titleholder for the three biggest clay court titles as she will aim to defend her Roland Garros title.

The contest was a rematch from the Madrid final but this was far from the three hour contest that was produced in Spain.

Swiatek raised her level of play while Sabalenka committed way too many unforced errors throughout the contest.

The Pole broke on two occasions to wrap up a comfortable 37 minute set as her forehand was doing a lot of damage.

There was a comeback in the second set from the Australian Open champion as she produced effortless and consistent power, making the second set very competitive.

The world number one was forced to save break points as she just managed to be more stable on big moments.

A more controlled second set from Swiatek was rewarded towards the end of the set as once again Sabalenka crumbled under pressure when it mattered.

Two late breaks of serve completed the Swiatek surge as the Pole enters the second Grand Slam of the season in dominant form.

As for Sabalenka it’s a disappointing performance that she will look to put right at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros starts on the 26th of May where Swiatek is defending champion.

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