Angelique Kerber Clinches The US Open Title In New York Classic - UBITENNIS
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Angelique Kerber Clinches The US Open Title In New York Classic

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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.

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.

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.

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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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