Welcome to The Top 10 Club! Belinda Bencic Reaches Last Act in St. Petersburg - UBITENNIS
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Welcome to The Top 10 Club! Belinda Bencic Reaches Last Act in St. Petersburg

Belinda Bencic beats Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-3 in the semifinals of St. Petersburg. Starting on next Monday she will feature in the top 10 of the WTA rankings for the first time in her career. The Swiss will face Roberta Vinci in the final tomorrow.

Ivan Pasquariello

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The future of tennis faced off in St. Petersburg in the semi-finals of the inaugural WTA Premier event held in the Russian city. Starting on Monday next week Belinda Bencic and Daria Kasatkina will be the only two teens ranked among the top 50 players on the WTA tour. For one of them, Bencic, next week’s rankings will be particularly special, as the Swiss will see her name ranked in the top 10 for the first time in her young career. The Swiss becomes the 116th player to enter in the top 10 of the WTA rankings, the 5th player from her nation to reach the feat.

 

Good friends off court, following an increasing trend in the w0men’s tour Belinda and Daria met for the first time in the pro tour, after having faced one another in their junior careers. Belinda won 6-4 6-3 in straight sets.

Belinda Bencic started off better, breaking in the second game and taking a 2-0 lead. Failing to keep up the momentum in her favour, the Swiss started to feel the pressure put on her shoulders by the Russian, who would hardly miss a ball, sending every attacking shot back on the other side of the court, deep and angled. Starting to get frustrated, Belinda shouted in displease after firing the umpteenth forehand wide. Kasatkina came back to 2-2, and pushing with her forehand cross court also managed to take the lead for the first time in the match up 3-2.

On her service games, Daria started to perform in complete control and focus, holding easily and continuing to keep the lead in the first set up 4-3. The same security and firmness wasn’t seen in Belinda’s service game, as the Swiss hit a double fault to go behind 0-30 in the 8th game. Pushing deep with her backhand, Bencic managed to get to 30-30, but then missed another backhand in the net. Belinda saved the first break point but gave her opponent another chance hitting yet another double fault. The Swiss had to save a 3rd break point in the game and then fired a stunning backhand down the line to see her first game point. Kasatkina then missed a forehand in the net, losing the game and setting the score at 4-4.

Kasatkina fails to stay aggressive in the rallies, allowing the Swiss to find he rhythm. In the 9th game Bencic fired another stunning backhand down the line. Aggressive with her two-handed shot, Belinda managed to put pressure on her opponent. Kasatkina missed a forehand recovery long, and Bencic broke to serve for the set up 5-4.

Serving for the set Belinda played a fantastic game, hitting one after the other a backhand winner, an ace and a forehand winner to close the set 6 games to 4 in 50 minutes.

Kasatkina missed a chance to break in the second game of the second set, with Bencic serving. The Russian had another chance on the Swiss’ serve in the fourth game, firing two forehand return winners to lead 0-30, but once again failed to build up on her chances.

On the other hand, as soon as she had an opportunity to break, Belinda seized it in the 5th game, breaking Kasatkina and taking a 3-2 lead. Right after losing the game, Daria called a medical timeout and seemed to suffer some pain in her back. The Russian was massaged by the trainer in the lower part of her back, while Belinda entertained the crowd showing her abilities at juggling.

https://twitter.com/WTA/status/698510135535104000

Belinda confirmed the break, Daria responded holding serve to love, as the score was set at 4-3 in favour of the Swiss. Swinging freely, the Russian saw yet another opportunity to break in the 8th game, up 30-40 on Bencic’s serve. Daria missed a backhand long, missing yet another chance. Up to that point in the match, the Russian had won 1 out of 10 break points, clearly not a great stat for Daria. Belinda won the 7th game out of the 7 that went to deuce, closing it with a backhand cross court winner.

Belinda started to play more aggressive, suffocating her opponent, controlling the rallies with her backhand. The Swiss soon got to match point and won the match with Kasatkina missing her last shot long after 1 hour and 33 minutes.

In the final on Sunday Belinda will face another player who has been chasing a place in the top 10 – starting long before the Swiss appeared on the tour – Roberta Vinci, who beat Ana Ivanovic in straight sets. The two have never met before on the tour.

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IOC Plays Down Reported Use Of Translator During Video Call With Peng Shuai

Dick Pound has hit back at what he describes as ‘silly’ accusations made against the IOC.

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A longtime member of the International Olympic Committee has insisted there was nothing ‘sinister’ about the alleged use of a translator during a recent video with tennis player Peng Shuai.

 

The IOC is the only international body who has been able to speak with the tennis player since she accused a former government official of sexual assault in a Weibo post published on November 2nd. The post was removed within an hour of publication and restrictions are currently in place on Shuai’s account. The WTA has voiced concerns that Shuai is currently being censored by the authorities and has threatened to stop doing business with China should they not guarantee her safety.

In a recent 30-minute video call with IOC president Thomas Bach and two other officials, the governing body said they were satisfied that the two-time Grand Slam champion is safe. Although they didn’t post any clips of their video or mention the allegations in their press release. Prompting allegations from some that they are reluctant to intervene in the matter with China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Some questions have also been raised over the reported use of a translator during the IOC’s video with Shuai even though she has conducted numerous press conferences in English. Dick Pound, who is a member of the IOC, said he believes there is nothing suspicious about the use of a translator for anyone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. Although the Canadian hasn’t seen the video himself.

“IOC members have not heard the programme (of the video call). I think in anything that could be potentially as serious as sexual harassment claim. Anybody who is not speaking in their first language would probably want to have somebody there who can help in the event that their personal vocabulary was not up to the complexity of the subject. I don’t see anything sinister about that,” Pound told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

Pound is a member-at-large on the Olympic Committee and does not sit on their executive board. He says that his organisation is ‘satisfied’ about Peng’s safety as he brushed aside concerns raised by the WTA. The governing body of women’s tennis has tried to contact their player on numerous occasions. The WTA confirmed they have received two purported emails from Shuai but suspect they were written under the influence of others.

“They were all satisfied with the content, the atmosphere and all of that about the conversation. So I would prefer to rely on the people who had the actual contact and not those who tried to contact her.” Pound commented.

As for the allegations that the IOC is backing the claims made by China about Shuai’s safety in order to avoid confrontation, the official branded those remarks as ‘silly.’ Although the organisation has previously been reluctant to interfere in the affairs of another country if the matter isn’t related to the Olympics. In October IOC Vice President John Coates told reporters that challenging China over their human rights record is not within their remit.

Frankly, I think that’s a little silly and it’s not supported by the evidence,” Pound said in response to those allegations.
“All kinds of people were trying to get in touch with her to make sure that she was alive and healthy and not in captivity,” he added. “The only organization in the world that’s been able to establish that is the IOC. I thought it was a very good start and everyone should be reassured she’s fine.”

Shuai hasn’t spoken in public since making her allegations.

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Emma Raducanu Sheds Light On Work With ‘Infectious’ Coach Beltz

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Emma Raducanu reacts during a Women's Singles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

US Open champion Emma Raducanu has described her newly appointed coach as somebody who is constantly ‘lifting the mood’ in her team.

 

The 19-year-old has paired up with Germany’s Torben Beltz after deciding to split with Andrew Richardson who guided her to her first Grand Slam title in New York. Raducanu has previously stated that she wants to work with somebody who has a greater experience of life on the WTA Tour. Beltz ticks those boxes after spending multiple stints working with former world No.1 Angelique Kerber. He has also previously coached Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

Raducanu returned to the court on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall in London where she played an exhibition match against Elena-Gabriela Ruse who she beat 6-3, 7-6(3). Speaking to reporters after, the Brit praised the positivity of her new mentor. The two are set to travel to the Middle East together ahead of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships which takes place in Abu Dhabi.

“Torben is a super positive guy and he brings great energy,” said Raducanu.
“He’s someone whenever you’re around him you can’t help it because it’s just like infectious. It’s really cool to have that in my team so he’s constantly lifting the mood. I’m really excited to work with him and I’ll get a better chance to get to know him better this off-season and see where it goes.
“We’ve been in communication a lot. I’ve just been doing a lot of fitness, like four to five hours a day training and start my tennis next week, so he’s coming in and we’ll be working hard together during the off-season and into Australia.”

Elaborating further on her current training routine, Raducanu says she is encouraged by the work she is putting in. However, the world No.19 is keeping grounded by how much improvement she can make to her game during what is a relatively short off-season.

I start the day on a high and by the fourth hour I’m already feeling it. For me, I know that gives me confidence that I’m putting the work in. I take that as a mental strength and an advantage and although four weeks is a great time, the off-season is quite short,” she said.
“Realistically, I’m not sure how much I can improve in four weeks, but I feel like playing a full schedule next year I’ll improve. Just playing matches and getting match fitness – that’s the only real way it kind of happens.”

Raducanu made her WTA Tour debut at the Nottingham Open in June. Since then she has rocketed up the world rankings which was started by a surprise run to the fourth round of Wimbledon on what was her Grand Slam debut. She went on to reach the final of a WTA 125 tournament in Chicago prior to her major breakthrough at the US Open.

However, the rising star has had mixed results since New York by winning two out of five matches played across three tournaments.

“For me, I am just going about my business. I take the train sometimes. I am doing the same journeys I used to. I feel like I am the exact same person. I will go about everything I used to do,” Raducanu stated.
“I don’t see why I should change the things that got me that title. I am still enjoying it.”

At the Mubadala World Tennis Championships Raducanu is set to play Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on December 16th.

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New Covid-19 Variant, New Headache For Tennis Australia’s 2022 Masterplan

After months of planning, officials unveiled their calendar for the Australian summer of Tennis which concludes with their pinnacle Grand Slam event. However, a new development in the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to throw plans into chaos.

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The head of Tennis Australia says there remains ‘unanswered questions’ over the new Covid-19 variant amid concerns that it could derail plans recently set out for the start of the 2022 season.

 

Craig Tiley has spoken to government officials about the Omicron variant which has recently been classed by the World Health Organisation as ‘a variant of concern.’ The global body warned on Monday there is a ‘high risk’ of it spreading globally. However, research is still ongoing and one of those who discovered Omicron in South Africa says it is not clear if it causes a more severe disease. Angelique Coetzee, who is the chair of the South African Medical Association, told AFP that dozens of her patients suspected of having the new variant only experienced mild symptoms and recovered fully without hospitalization.

However, it is the uncertainty which is posing a threat to Tennis Australia and their plans to stage a total of 17 tournaments during January across various states. On Monday the country paused the next phrase of their border reopening which was set to take place on December 1st. However, they are not closing their borders completely which is what Japan and Israel have done.

“We knew that when we announced the event there would be some more challenges just because of the nature of the world we have been living in for the last two years,“ Tiley told The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. “But we are still waiting. I have been talking with the government over night (Saturday) and this morning. There are a lot of unanswered questions around this and I think in the next 14 days we will get some more clarity. But at this point the plans are going ahead as they are.”

As it currently stands the first charter flight of players is set to arrive in Australia between December 27-28. There will be a total of 20 charter flights operating. All players are required to take a PCR test before departing and then another test upon arrival in the country.

Victoria, which is the state where the Australian Open is held in, has updated their COVID-19 policy. According to The Age newspaper, anybody who tests positive for the Omicron variant or has been in close contact with somebody who has will be required to enter a 14-day quarantine regardless of their vaccination status. Although these rules may change nearer to the Grand Slam starting depending on research into the strain.

We will continue to take sensible and responsive evidence based action, led by medical experts. This will ensure we can open safely, and stay safely open as we learn to live with the virus.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

Besides the national government, Tennis Australia is also faced with the tough task of monitoring state rules which differ around the country whilst operating their tournaments. For example the Australian Open stance on vaccination is due to a health mandate which has been enforced by the Victorian Premier. If the tournament took place in another region, the rules might have differed.

As of November 29th Australia has recorded five cases of the Omicron variant.

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