Angelique Kerber has won her first US Open title after outlasting tenth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in a titanic two-hour clash in New York.
Many expected a classic meeting between the two players, who have played each other in tournament finals in their three previous meetings since 2015. It was an expectation that both players triumphantly lived up to with just seven points separating the two throughout the entire match, which was played in the 23,700 capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Playing in her third major final of 2016, Kerber swiftly settled into the match against her more inexperienced opponent. During the first game, Pliskova’s nerves and misfortunes played into the hands of the second seed. A duo of double faults combined with a forehand into the net gifted Kerber her first break point of the match. She converted with ease after a stroke of bad luck hit her opponent with the stings of her racket breaking.
Pliskova’s nervy start failed to taint what was an outstanding opening set of tennis with both players wowing the audience. As Kerber valiantly battle to maintain the lead, fending off a trio of break points, her focus in the match failed to wobble unlike her straight sets loss to the Czech in their previous encounter. Running around the court and playing aggressively, the 28-year-old had an answer to every question that was asked of her.
“How good is that???” Kerber’s incredible reach wins point https://t.co/cwKiKK4UFY
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) 10 September 2016
The high intensity and tenacity that Kerber played with soon rewarded her after a Pliskova double fault handed her a set point. It was an unworthy way to get the opportunity considering her opponents sharp and spirited performance in the opening set. Nevertheless, Kerber seized her chance when another lengthy rally between the two concluded with her hitting a winning forehand down the line.
Edging herself on by shouting words of encouragement in German, Kerber maintained her brick wall defence beyond the first set. Facing the prospect of being broken at the start of the second, she rallied back by hitting shots deep and into the corner of the court. It was a pattern that continued over the next couple of games with Pliskova’s heavy hitting moving her into a seemingly dominant position before the new world No.1 hit back to restore control.
The breakthrough for the Czech finally occurred in the seventh game when a lob shot landed in, gifting Pliskova her first break of the match to lead 4-3. After trying for so long, the tenth seed finally dismantled Kerber’s serve as she moved to a game away from clinching the second set, thanks to some successful heavy hitting. The task of serving the set out proved no problem for the 24-year-old as an ace followed by a Kerber shot landing out took the match into a decider.
We’re going the distance! Pliskova takes the second set against Kerber https://t.co/C7wo39MUf2
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) 10 September 2016
As six games stood in the way of both players winning their maiden US Open title, it was a rejuvenated Pliskova that struck first. After coming from behind through the majority of the encounter, a deep return forced Kerber to hit the ball out to break for a 2-1 lead in the decider. The advantage was short lived after back-to-back unforced errors from the Czech resuscitated Kerber’s titles hopes as she broke back to level 3-3.
As the match approached the closing stages, there was still no reduction is the high standard of tennis set by both players. Holding to love, Kerber moved to a game away from victory to mount the pressure on Pliskova. It was a position that was too much for the Czech as a backhand into the net resulted in three championship points. The title was then secured after a forehand from her opponents was blasted outside of the court.
The enormity of the occasion drew Kerber to tears with the realisation of what she has achieved coming apparent. Not only is she the first German winner since Steffi Graf in 1996, she has also extended her lead at the top of the rankings.
“It’s just amazing, I’ve won my second grand slam within one year.” An emotional Kerber said during her trophy ceremony.
“This is the best year in my career. It is incredible because to play here (New York) is where everything started in 2011 and now I’m standing here five years later with the trophy. It means so much to me.”
Going a break down in the deciding set, Kerber said that her mentality helped her to claw her way back into the match.
“I was trying to stay in the moment, trying to play my game, be more aggressive. I was just trying to enjoy playing the final.” She said.
Kerber’s triumph still doesn’t take anything away from her final opponent, who produced 40 winners in her first grand slam final. Speaking after her defeat, Pliskova is looking on the positive side of her tournament performance.
“ I definitely found out that I can play my best tennis on the biggest stages against the top players.” Pliskova said.
“Even though I couldn’t get the win, I’m really proud of myself, I was really happy with the way I was playing the last two weeks and hopefully there will be many more finals to come.” She later added.
As a result of her run to the title, Kerber exits the event with a prize money fund of $3,50,000.
Andre Agassi’s Failed Doping Tests Covered Up By ATP, Claims Former Rival
A former world No.1 has made a bold claim about the American tennis legend.
Marcelo Rios has launched an attack on the ATP during an interview with Chilean publication La Tercera when talking about anti-doping measures in the sport.
Rios, who reached a ranking high of No.1 back in 1998, has claimed that he was only tested three times by anti-doping officials throughout his entire career. However, he states that he never consumed any banned substances. He said measures during his playing days were poor and difficult for many players to understand. Rios won 18 ATP titles between 1995-2001 and reached the final of the 1998 Australian Open.
“They give you a sheet that I didn’t understand anything it said. The ATP does it wrong in that area. They give you a list where there are millions of things you never saw in your life. They got too drastic. One thing is personal life and another thing is to dope to take advantage.” He said.
“I never doped in my tennis time. I drank alcohol, yes, but weed or another strong drug no, because of doping and because I was not interested in getting into things like that. I had three anti-doping tests done throughout my career.”
During the 1990s and early 2000s Andre Agassi was one of the stars of the men’s tour. He was the fifth man in history to complete a career grand slam and spent a total of 101 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings. In his autobiography he admitted to taking crystal meth back in 1997 and failing a drugs test which he escaped punishment for after saying he inadvertently consumed the illegal substance. The revelation prompted numerous condemnation on the tour and placed the ATP under scrutiny by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Agassi received no punishment following his admission.
However, a blunt speaking Rios has alleged that the governing body of men’s tennis was deliberately involved in hiding Agassi’s failed drugs test. Doping controls are managed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), but in the past it was the responsibility of each tour, the ATP and WTA.
“They caught him four times and the ATP covered him because he was Agassi and the tennis was going to shit. I found the biggest shit that exists at the ATP.“ Rios said.
During their careers, Rios played his American rival three times on the tour. He defeated Agassi in the finals of the Grand Slam Cup and Miami Masters during 1998.
The 44-year-old has also spoken out about the provisional suspension of one of his compatriots, Nicolas Jarry. Jarry tested positive for ligandrol and stanozolol during the Davis Cup Finals last November, but insists that he has never intentionally took any illegal drugs.
“When I competed, they analysed only urine samples. Now it’s also with blood samples, so trying to hide something is very difficult and nowadays you get caught whatever you want to do.” Rios commented on the matter.
“Nico was very fed up and I told him: “You will continue to be Nico Jarry if you are suspended for four years or whatever. I love you as a friend, I love you as a player and if I never play again, you will continue to be my friend.’”
Rios is set to play an exhibition match with former player Alex Corretja at the Gran Arena Monticello in Santiago on June 26th.
16-Year-Old Tennis Prodigy Who Compares His Tennis To Federer Shines At Rio Open
Becoming the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP Match, Carlos Alcaraz is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal.
The opening day of the Rio Open in Brazil was dominated by a marathon night-time classic involving the youngest player currently ranked inside the top 500 on the ATP Tour.
Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz made his ATP main draw debut in the Brazilian capital on Monday at the age of 16. Taking on veteran player and seventh seed Albert Ramos Viñolas, who is 15 years older than him, the teenager battled to an epic 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(2) victory. The roller coaster match lasted more than three-and-a-half hours and didn’t finish until 3am. The showdown was a stern test of Alcaraz’s mentality as he trailed 0-3 in the decider and then failed to convert two match points when leading 5-3 before prevailing in the tiebreaker.
“I will remember Rio forever,” atptour.com quoted Alcaraz as saying. “I am very happy to win my first ATP Tour match. This has been the longest and most intense match I’ve played so far. There were quite difficult conditions, but if you have the right attitude, the conditions don’t matter. You can achieve anything.”
Coached on the tour by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz started to turn heads on the tour last year. At the Murcia Challenger, which was only his fourth senior tournament, he scored a win over the then ranked No.140 Pedro Martínez. Becoming the first Spanish male player to defeat a top 200 player since Rafael Nadal back in 2002.
“I always have positive thoughts. I always think I can win, no matter who the opponent is,” he said. “If you don’t think you can win, you shouldn’t go on the court.”
The belief that he has what it takes to one day rise to the top of the sport is there for the Spaniard. In an interview with Trans World Sport earlier this year (see video below), he said his goal was ‘to become world No.1 and win as many grand slams as possible.’
Hailing from the same homeland as tennis legend Rafael Nadal, the teenager is obviously inspired by him. However, Alcaraz believes his tennis is more similar to that of another member of the Big Three – Roger Federer.
”I like to play very aggressively, with a lot of winners. My style is more or less like Roger Federer’s, aggressively coming to the net and playing a lot of drop shots,” the Spaniard explained.
”When I spend time with tennis greats like Rafa or Ferrero or any other player, I don’t say anything. I listen to everything they say because it is very valuable to me,” he later added.
“In each tournament I go to, I try to do my best. If that happens, then I will gradually go up.”
Prior to Rio, the rising star has already enjoyed success on the ITF tour this year. In Manacor he won back-to-back $15,000 tournaments last month by dropping only two sets in total. Following that, he was also runner-up at another $15,000 event in Turkey to Zsombor Piros. Piros is currently the only player to defeat him in 2020.
Alcaraz is the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP Tour match. He will play Argentine qualifier Federico Coria in the second round.
Kim Clijsters Exits Dubai With Confidence Boost And Extra Motivation
The multiple grand slam winner speaks out about her comeback match and the support she has received from her family.
Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters has said she needs to remain patient with her tennis after losing in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday.
The four-time grand slam champion was in impressive form on the court despite falling in straight sets to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.Who reached the final of the Australian Open last month. The encounter was Clijsters’ first competitive match on the tour since the 2012 US Open, where Muguruza coincidentally made her grand slam debut.
Whilst it wasn’t a fairy-tale return to the tour for the 36-year-old, she insisted that she had a ‘good feeling’ whilst playing on the court. Hitting 15 winners to 23 unforced errors and winning a total of 67 points against Muguruza.
“I had a good feeling out there, I felt a pace I can handle. I felt like I was able to go toe-to-toe with her from the baseline,” Clijsters told reporters.
“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have that belief somehow. It might take 10 matches to get the way I played in the second set, might take me 10 matches to get that from start to finish.
“I have patience. I’m going to work my way into it and fight. We’ll see what happens.”
The return of the 36-year-old has earned her praise from many stars of the sport on social media. Serena Williams, who has played her on the tour nine times in the past, said she was ‘inspired’ by her rival. Meanwhile Conchita Martinez, who is the coach of Muguruza, said Clijsters were already playing at an ‘amazing level.’
Seriously so so so proud of Kim Clijsters. You inspire me. Wow. Just wow congrats you did amazing.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) February 18, 2020
It was the support of her family that aided Clijsters’ decision to return to the tour after almost eight years away. She is married to Brian Lynch, who himself is a former professional basketball player and coach. Together they have three children called Jada, Jack and Blake.
“Jada is like, mum, do it. If you feel like doing it, just do it.” She commented on her family’s support.
“Jack, our middle child, he was like, mum, I hope you lose your first match, then you can come home quicker.’
“It’s just different feelings. My youngest is really too young to understand, but the support is there. They see me practice and they play some tennis at the academy as well.”
For the foreseeable future, the Belgian doesn’t have any goals when it comes to results in tournaments or trying to win a title yet. However, that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t set a high standard for herself to follow. Following their match, Muguruza was asked about Clijsters’ level. The Spaniard replied ‘a player who has played incredible can play incredible again.’
“I have expectations. They’re not result related or ranking related. They’re more individually for myself.” Clijsters recently stated.
“It’s getting a feeling of how I want to play out there. That’s the expectation or the goal I’m trying to get to.”
The next tournament for Clijsters will be the Monterrey Open in Mexico, which will get underway on March 2nd.
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