Sara Errani breezes aside Barbora Strykova to clinch her ninth WTA title in Dubai - UBITENNIS
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Sara Errani breezes aside Barbora Strykova to clinch her ninth WTA title in Dubai

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Sara Errani breezed aside Barbora Strykova 6-0 6-2 after 66 minutes in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Tournament to clinch her ninth career title in 19 finals and the first at Premier level. The Italian played her second Dubai final three years after the defeat against Petra Kvitova.

 

Errani had a dream week in which she reached her fifth final at Premier level after beating Yaroslava Schvedova, Madison Brengle (after coming back from 1-4 in the third set) and Elina Svitolina in the semifinal. Strykova reached her first Premier-level final after beating Julia Georges, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia. Errani led 5-1 in her previous head-to-head matches against Strykova but they tied 1-1 in their hard-court matches (Strykova won in Stuttgart 2008 and Errani beat her Czech rival in Tokyo 2010).

Errani got off to a flying start in the first set, getting a break to love in the opening game. Errani got a double break in the third game to breeze to 4-0 in just 15 minutes. Both players exchanged a 26-shot rally (the longest rally of the match) featuring a slice backhand duel which ended with Strykova hitting a drop-shot into the net. Errani broke for the third straight time for 5-0 as Strykova hit a forehand into the net. Strykova saved three set points as Errani was serving for the first set. Errani converted her fourth set point to close out the first set in just 29 minutes. Errani dropped just five points on her first serve.

In the second set Errani got her fourth consecutive break in the first game as Strykova hit her first double fault. Strykova got her first game on the scoreboard for 1-2 in the third game, but Errani clinched her double break in the fifth game to love to pull away to 4-1.

Errani earned the first championship point at 5-1 but Strykova saved it with her backhand volley. Strykova saved four match points before Errani served out for the match on her fifth opportunity in the seventh game. Errani clinched the second WTA title of 2016 for Italian tennis, one week after Roberta Vinci’s win in St. Petersburg against Belinda Bencic.

The error-stricken Strykova produced 15 winners to 43 unforced errors compared to Errani’s eight and 11. The Italian star dropped just one set in five matches to become the first Italian winner win in the Dubai tournament.

Errani had played her previous final in Bucharest last year when she lost to Ana Karolina Schmiedlova. She has won her first final since February 2015 when she beat Schmiedlova. After today’s final the Italian player has a win-loss record of 9-10 in her 19 finals and will move up to world number 17 next week.

I am happy for me, my family and my team. I tried to be focused on every point. I tried not to think too much about what was happening. At the end I was very nervous. It’s really incredible to be here. I am sorry for Barbora. She is an amazing player. Maybe it was not her day.  It’s tough to win those last points. I had a match point at 5-1 and then I closed it on the fifth match point. There were a lot of nerves“. said Errani.

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Garbine Muguruza Routs Konta In Rome

Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

 

It was a surprisingly comfortable win for the Spaniard, 26, against an opponent she has found troublesome in the past. Muguruza and Konta have each won two of their previous matches, and all four of those encounters were lengthy three-set affairs.

During the first eight games of this match, it looked like it might go a similar way. The opening exchanges were closely-fought and both players produced high-quality tennis and served well for the most part.

On occasion, Muguruza and Konta got themselves into trouble by making errors and falling 0-30 or 0-40 behind on their own serves. However, they always responded well and executed high-quality points to turn those games around.

Eventually, the whole set came down to one game. When Muguruza led 5-4, Konta again slipped 0-40 behind on serve. The Brit managed to save one break point, but the Spaniard took control of the next point and forced an error to seize the first break of the match.

Muguruza storms to victory

After Muguruza confidently held at the start of the second set, Konta missed a tricky high volley that would have secured the second game. Then she gave away the break with a double fault and an unforced error.

The next game turned out to be the most important of the match. The Brit hassled and harried the Spaniard and earned three break points. But the two-time Grand Slam champion held firm. She delivered big first serves when she needed them most to save all three and go on to secure the hold.

After that, the match ended quite quickly. Konta held to reduce the deficit to 3-1. Then Muguruza served and rallied superbly to win three games in a row and clinch an impressively comprehensive victory.

The Spaniard will face Azarenka in the last 16. The Belarussian was locked in a fascinating battle with Daria Kasatkina when the Russian took a nasty fall in the first tie-break and was forced to retire due to an ankle injury. Touchingly, Azarenka helped Kasatkina to her chair and comforted her after the accident.

Halep sees off Yastremska

Simona Halep (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Simona Halep advanced to a fourth-round clash with Yulia Putintseva in Rome courtesy of a 7-5 6-4 win over Dayana Yastremska.

The Romanian, 28, looks to be such a calm figure on court these days. And she did not seem bothered at all when the Ukrainian went 3-0 up after a blistering start to the match.

Halep responded by working her way into the match and capitalising whenever Yastremska made errors. The Romanian hit a backhand winner to break back. Then she played a series of intelligent points to claim the crucial break in the eleventh game and secure the set.

The Ukrainian made the worst possible start to the second set. She made a series of errors and dropped serve twice in a row to give herself a mountain to climb. Yastremska managed to get one of the breaks back immediately after that but Halep gave nothing else away and eventually closed out the set.

The Romanian will play Putintseva in the last 16. The Kazakhstani overcame talented young compatriot Elena Rybakina 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2 in a pulsating first-ever meeting.

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Garbine Muguruza Edges Gauff In Exciting Rome Showdown

Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

 

The Spaniard, 26, rediscovered some of her best form to reach the Australian Open final in January. And she produced arguably her strongest performance since the restart to overcome the precocious 16-year-old.

There was very little to separate the two players in the opening set. Both Muguruza and Gauff were sporadically excellent. Each hit superb winners at times. But they balanced this out by making sloppy errors.

Consequently, neither player was able to break away. When the American broke in game four, the Spaniard responded immediately to rein her in.

Even though most of the games were closely-contested in the rest of the set, there were no breaks. Therefore, the only way to decide who would take the lead was a tie-break.

It was Muguruza who rose to the occasion. She produced one of the most impressive six-point sequences you are ever likely to see. First, the Spaniard hit a forehand winner that landed on the baseline. Then she hit a huge unreturnable serve followed by an ace. Next, she forced an error from Gauff with a deep backhand. And at 6-3 up, she clinched the set in style with another ace.

Gauff fights back

Gauff approached the second set with steely determination. She did not give anything away and gradually cranked up the pressure on Muguruza.

In game three, the American’s efforts were rewarded. She earned two break points and seized the second with a precise passing shot back behind the Spaniard.

Unlike in the first set, Gauff then held serve to move 3-1 ahead. And the pressure of being behind had an effect on Muguruza. She made a couple of errors to give the American three chances to gain a double break.

The Spaniard dug in and saved the first two. But she was unable to prevent Gauff from taking the third with a powerful backhand followed by a forehand winner.

Cori Gauff (@ChannelNewsAsia on Twitter)

Muguruza was in no mood to let the second set slip away. She hit a brilliant lob and a stunning forehand winner to earn two break points in game six.

Although the American saved them both, the Spaniard soon earned two more. And she eventually took her fourth break point of the game courtesy of a double fault from Gauff.

Muguruza held comfortably to reduce the deficit to 4-3. However, she did not manage to retrieve the second break, as the American held to move 5-3 ahead. Gauff then profited from a sloppy service game from the Spaniard to clinch the set.

Muguruza stays strong as errors cost Gauff dearly

When Gauff broke to establish a 2-0 lead at the start of the decider, it looked like she was on course for a famous win over the two-time Grand Slam champion.

However, the American wasted her opportunity. She made three consecutive double faults to gift Muguruza three break points. And the Spaniard took the third to break back immediately.

After a steady hold from Muguruza, Gauff made two more double faults in game six. Once again, the Spaniard capitalised. She then held again to open up a 4-2 lead.

The American found her range on serve to reduce the deficit. But the end came quickly for her. Muguruza withstood everything Gauff threw at her during a hold that put her 5-3 up.

The Spaniard then went on the attack. She drove the American back behind the baseline and then hit a forehand winner. Then she forced a couple of errors to make it 0-40. At that stage, Gauff was completely demoralised. She hit a forehand into the net to surrender the match to Muguruza.

In the next round, the World No.17 may get a chance to resume a fascinating rivalry. All four of her meetings with Johanna Konta have gone to three sets. So if the Brit can beat qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu, it could lead to another entertaining encounter.

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Victoria Azarenka Relishing Challenge Of Quick Turnaround In Rome

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Victoria Azarenka (image via https://twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Within four days Victoria Azarenka had gone from playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final since 2013 to hitting on the clay courts of the Italian Open in Rome.

 

The former world No.1 returned to competitive action on Wednesday fresh off her solid run in New York that has elevated her back up the rankings to inside the top 15 for the first time since 2017. Her latest challenger was veteran player Venus Williams who she disposed of 7-6(7), 6-2, to record her 12th win within the past month. Despite the straightforward score, Azarenka was tested throughout after being broken four times and had to fend off a set point during the opener.

“Obviously playing on a different surface was definitely challenging, but I feel like I have adapted pretty well,” said Azarenka.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew I wasn’t going to play a perfect game. But it was all about trying to find the right intentions to do today. I think it worked out okay. “

Azarenka is the only US Open semi-finalist to have made it to Italian capital this year with the others instead opting to skip ahead to the French Open. Which will begin a week on Monday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tennis schedule has been revised with tournaments bunched closer together than they normally would. Nevertheless Azarenka sees the positive side to the current situation.

“I think the best way to transition is to play matches. I know physically it’s quite challenging, on your body it is quite challenging but I wanted to do this. I knew I was going to come no matter what.” She stated.
“I’m very happy that I did. I think there is no better way to adapt than playing matches. You know, staying in the bubble is tough, but might as well commit to these few more weeks that we have left in the year and then go back home.”

The 31-year-old Belarusian hasn’t had much success on clay so far in her career. Only one out of her 21 WTA titles has been won on the surface back in 2011. Furthermore, she has won less main draw matches at the French Open (22) than any other Grand Slam.

For Azarenka she admits that playing on the clay requires her to adapt both mentally and physically in the coming days.

“On hard courts I’m pretty comfortable with staying and hugging the baseline and taking everything early. And I think you have to be a little bit more adaptive on clay where sometimes you need to move back and have that transition, a little bit longer rallies. The building of the point has to be a little bit more constructive,” she explains.
“Mentally, I believe there is also an adaptation where the rally may be longer. Some balls may not bounce as well as on hard courts.”

Azarenka will play Sofia Kenin in the third round in what will be a battle of the Australian Open champions.

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