Sloane Stephens and Elena Vesnina To Face-Off In The Charleston Final - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens and Elena Vesnina To Face-Off In The Charleston Final

The final of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, South Carolina will be played by the 7th seeded American, Sloane Stephens, and the Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina.

Jakub Bobro

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Sloane Stephens advanced to the final by retirement. The much anticipated match between Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens was decimated by Kerber’s viral illness, which caused her not to play her best tennis, and eventually to retire from the match at 6-1 3-0 ret.

 

“I just thought I’m going out to play a match,” Stephens said. “I just thought it was going to be a battle. And unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well. But I mean it’s understandable, it happens. I wish her well. I hope she gets better soon because I know they have Fed Cup coming up next week. That’s all you can really do in that sort of situation.”

Kerber seemed to be in a really good form, winning her last two matches 6-2 6-3 against first Kucova, and then Begu. Things got really unlucky for Kerber, the viral illness taking her out of Charleston will cause her drop to No. 3 in the rankings, and putting her Fed Cup appearance in jeopardy.

“When I was warming up this morning, I felt a little bit like something is wrong,” she said. “But I was thinking that when I’m going on court, the energy will come back and I will feeling okay. And it starts in the first few games in the first set that I was feeling that, yeah, something is not good.”

Stephens’ opponent will be the World No. 85, Elena Vesnina. The Russian is having a dream run in Charleston as a qualifier, gunning for her 3rd WTA Singles title. The live rankings monitor Vesnina as No. 51 right now, meaning that she will raise by 34 places in the rankings. If Vesnina manages to win the tournament, Vesnina will be at No. 39. In the semifinals, she pulled off the upset over the 5th seed Sara Errani 6-4 4-6 6-2 in 2 hours and 21 minutes. Vesnina won 8 out of 11 close games, which was definitely a factor in defeating Errani. Vesnina’s highest ranking is No. 21, but the shoulder injury which she suffered at the 2014 US Open was a major setback to her career, but now she seems to be getting back to her past heights.

“It took a while for me to recover after that,” said Vesnina, who is from Russia. “I was struggling with confidence, I was losing some points, I was dropping in the ranking, I was not winning matches. And it was really difficult to come up. I’m really happy that I actually doing well now, and I’m not actually looking at my ranking that much. I’m just looking at my game. That’s, I think, the most important thing.”

The head-to-head is in favor of the lower-ranked Russian, winning the only meeting so far between them in Hobart 2013. Vesnina seems to be in incredible form, losing only 1 set in her 7 matches here. All that said, Stephens is still the odds-on favorite, and will be less fatigued than Vesnina, having to play only 10 games, compared to a three set drama.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Another Stellar Order of Play on Thursday

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Thankfully, these seats will not be so empty come Thursday (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

All round of 16 matches will be played on Thursday, with 47 Major singles titles represented.  There is some rain forecast early in the day, but skies should clear by mid-afternoon, allowing all action to be completed.  And with fans on the grounds for the first time this week, there will be a whole different energy at Foro Italico.

 

Men’s round of 16 action features two matchups where top 10 seeds collide.  Overall, seven of the top 10 men in the world are still alive in this draw.  That includes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have combined to win this event 14 out of the last 16 years.

On the women’s side, four French Open champions remain.  One of them is Garbine Muguruza, who will take on two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina.  The other three (Ash Barty, Iga Swiatek, and Jelena Ostapenko) all face unseeded yet challenging competition on Thursday.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (9) – Not Before 12:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

This matchup was scheduled to take place in February at the Australian Open, but Berrettini was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an abdominal injury.  The 25-year-old Italian would miss nearly two months of action, though he’s now 10-2 since returning.  Matteo was the champion in Belgrade and the runner-up in Madrid, so he’s played a lot of tennis over the last few weeks.

Tsitsipas has been busy as well, with an 11-2 record during the European clay swing.  Like Matteo, he earned one title and reached the final of another event (Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, respectively).  They did play at the Australian Open two years ago, when Stefanos claimed a tight four-setter.  They also met in qualifying for the 2017 US Open, with Tsitsipas winning in a third-set tiebreak.  Stefanos’ form this past month on clay has been stellar.  And between this week and the last, he’s played significantly less tennis than Matteo.  Despite Berrettini’s hometown crowd rooting him on, Tsitsipas should advance.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Garbine Mugruza (12) – Not Before 6:00pm on Center Court

Svitolina won back-to-back titles here in 2017 and 2018.  Yet outside of those runs, she’s just 4-5 lifetime in Rome.  On Wednesday, Elina recovered from a tough opening set to defeat Amanda Anisimova in three.  Muguruza has reached three semifinals in Rome, though is yet to advance farther.  She too was forced to come from behind on Wednesday.  Garbine was down two breaks in the third set, when American Bernarda Pera tightened up, allowing Muguruza to take that set 7-5.

This will be the tenth meeting in their rivalry, which Svitolina leads 6-3 at tour level.  However, they’ve split their two clay court matches.  In 2021, Muguruza has been the better player.  She has accumulated a 23-6 record, with one title and two runner-up trophies.  Svitolina is 18-8 on the season, though she’s yet to reach a final.  And against the top 20, she’s just 2-4, with her only two wins coming against Petra Kvitova.  Muguruza did have to withdraw from Madrid last week due to a thigh injury.  But if she’s feeling close to 100%, Garbine is the favorite based on her recent form.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Q) – Djokovic has never lost before the quarterfinals in Rome, but could be challenged by the 21-year-old Spaniard, who is 10-5 on clay this season.  This is their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Barty advanced comfortably on Wednesday despite some strapping on her leg.  24-year-old Kudermetova is an impressive 24-10 in 2021, and was a champion last month on the green clay of Charleston.  This is also their first meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Denis Shapovalov (13) – Denis’ exciting win over Rafa at 2017’s Rogers Cup was his breakout moment, but he’s 0-2 against Nadal since that time.  Shapovalov was a semifinalist in Rome last September, while Nadal has failed to reach the quarterfinals here only once in 16 appearances.

Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Their only head-to-head matchup was a significant one.  In the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals, Kerber prevailed 6-3, 6-3 on her way to the title.  Neither player has won three consecutive matches this year, a feat one of them will achieve on Thursday.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (10) – They have split six previous encounters, though Rublev has claimed both their matches on clay, including last month in Monte-Carlo.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Coco Gauff – Sabalena is on a seven-match win streak, and is 11-1 on clay this season.  Gauff has already survived two three-setters this week.  They met twice last year, with each claiming one victory, and each match going the distance. 

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Kei Nishikori – Sascha and Kei just played last week in Madrid, with Zverev winning 6-3, 6-2.  That victory started Zverev’s current six-match win streak.  Like fellow Madrid champion Sabalenka, he’s only dropped one set during that time.

Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Barbora Krejcikova – The reigning French Open champ has won 11 of her last 12 matches on clay.  Swiatek defeated Krejickova in straight sets earlier this year in Miami.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Thiem came back from a set down on Wednesday against Marton Fucsovics, while Sonego took out Gael Monfils in the last round.  When they met on clay in 2019, Thiem prevailed in straights.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Vera Zvonareva (Q) – On Wednesday, Zvonareva upset another big-hitting Czech, Petra Kvitova.  Pliskova was the champion here two years ago, and the runner-up last season.  Three years ago in Moscow, Zvonareva dominated Pliskova, allowing her only three games.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Simona Halep Suffers Injury Blow Ahead Of French Open

The Romanian faces a race against time to be fit for the next Grand Slam after a freak injury.

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World No.3 Simona Halep says she is unsure how long she will be away from the Tour after suffering an injury midway through her match at the Italian Open on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion was leading Angelique Kerber 6-1, 3-3, in Rome before she was forced to stop due to pain in her left leg. Halep looked to be in discomfort during a couple points before bringing the match to a stop. Unable to move, an on-court trainer had to help her back to her seat where she received ice treatment on the back of her leg before retiring.

Following the retirement, Halep has confirmed she has suffered a tear in her left calf. The Romanian said it is unclear as to how severe the tear is or how long she will be absent from the Tour. The setback occurs less than three weeks before the start of the French Open. Halep’s most successful major in terms of match victories which she won back in 2018.

“Unfortunately an ultrasound has revealed that I have a tear in my left calf,” Halep said in a statement posted on social media.
“I will get an MRI tomorrow to understand the injury in more detail, but at the moment we are unsure of recovery time.’
“I’m so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this but I will do everything I can to take care of the injury and be back as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your support and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.”

The 29-year-old is yet to win a title this season and has enjoyed moderate success on the clay in recent weeks. In Stuttgart she reached the semi-finals before losing to Aryna Sabalenka. Then in Madrid she was ousted in three sets by Elise Mertens in the third Round.

Halep had been regarded as one of the title contenders for the French Open title given her success on the surface in her career. She now faces a race against time to be fit for the tournament which she has played at every single year since 2010.

As for Kerber, she will take on Jelena Ostapenko in the third round in Rome. A win would move her into the last eight of a WTA event for only the second time this year.

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Serena Williams’ 1000th Match Ends In Defeat To Podoroska

Serena Williams was defeated in Rome as she reaches a landmark milestone of 1000 WTA matches.

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Serena Williams (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ 1000th WTA tour match has ended in a 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat to Nadia Podoroska in Rome.

 

The American made her return to tour for the first time in 84 days as she looked to build momentum heading into Roland Garros.

If the first few games were to set the tempo of the match then it would prove to be a long contest with Serena struggling to get any free points on her serve.

It was the Argentinian who got the first break of the match in the third game as she tested Serena’s stamina early on in the contest.

In typical Serena fashion, the 23-time grand slam champion produced some stunning ground-strokes especially from central positions to break to love straight away.

On serve, Serena looked fairly comfortable as she ended the match with eight aces although she only made a first serve percentage of 48%.

That was her key downfall as it was Podoroska who looked the more comfortable on return as she used some devastating angles to force unforced errors from the Serena racket.

A break for a 5-4 lead ensured that the last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist would serve for the opening set.

However Serena used her power and good point construction to once again break back which was met with a roar from the world number eight.

Eventually the first set would head towards a tiebreaker with Podoroska dominating the majority of it.

She had three set points which came and went as Serena used her fighting qualities to roar back into the match.

But once again some unforced errors would cost the four-time champion as Podoroska took the next two point to claim the opening set in 66 minutes.

In the second set, Serena was the early aggressor as she dictated points better setting the pace of the match.

Again though Podoroska extended the rallies and made the American move all round the court exposing as much space as possible.

The Argentinian was rewarded for her court coverage when she broke in the sixth game as Serena began to tire.

As in the first set, Podoroska couldn’t serve out the second set as her cautious play lead to Serena levelling it up at 5-5.

However Serena’s serve was just not working when she needed it too and Podoroska secured the final blow to seal a fantastic victory for her.

For Serena its onto Roland Garros as she will look to improve her fitness in the next couple of weeks.

As for Podoroska she will play Petra Martic after the Croatian beat Kristina Mladenovic today 7-5 6-3.

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