Karolina Pliskova battles past Kristina Mladenovic after the longest third set in Fed Cup history - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova battles past Kristina Mladenovic after the longest third set in Fed Cup history

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Karolina Pliskova battled past her friend Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 4-6 16-14 after a dramatic three-hour and 48.minute match in front of more than 6000 enthusiastic spectators in the Rhenus Arena in Strasbourg to give Czech Republic a 1-0 lead over France in the first match of the Fed Cup final. The two-hour and 24-minute third set was the longest in Fed Cup history.

 

Pliskova and Mladenovic met twice in their careers in Moscow in 2014 and Birmingham in 2015 and were tied 1-1 in their previous head-to-head matches.

Pliskova broke serve in the opening game of the match. Both players traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games before Pliskova clinched the first set with another break as Mladenovic made a double fault.

Pliskova hit an ace to hold her serve at love for a 3-2 lead. The Czech player faced two break points in the seventh game of the second set as she made four double faults but managed to save them. Mladenovic earned a third break point with a forehand return and converted it to take a 4-3 lead as Pliskova made a fourth double fault.

Mladenovic saved break points in the following game with a drop-shot and her serve but made her sixth double fault. Pliskova broke back, when Mladenovic hit her backhand down the line wide.

Mladenovic hit an inside-out forehand winner to earn a break point and broke serve, as Pliskova made an error. The home player earned a set point with a smash and clinched the 45-minute second set with a forehand winner down the line.

Mladenovic faced three break points after her seventh double fault followed by a return winner from Pliskova.

Pliskova converted her third break point in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead, as Mladenovic hit a forehand drop-shot into the net. The Czech player backed up the break at 30 to build up a 5-2 lead. As Pliskova was serving for the match at 5-3 and was just two points away from winning the match, Mladenovic got a break in the ninth game at 15 with a forehand winner to claw her way back to 4-5. Pliskova held her serve to love to stop a streak of three consecutive losing games.

Mladenovic earned a game point with a slice second serve before holding serve to draw level to 6-6 with an ace down the middle. With no tie-breaks both players went on serve in the next games.

Mladenovic saved two match points as she was serving at 8-9 to draw level to 9-9 before taking a medical time-out to have her left leg taped.

Mladenovic earned a break point at 10-10 but Pliskova saved it at deuce. In the 23rd game Pliskova hit a swing forehand volley into the net to go down 0-30. Mladenovic earned a double break point with a forehand return winner down the line before breaking at 15 on a Pliskova forehand error to take a 12-11 lead.

Pliskova broke straight back in the 24th game for 12-12 as Mladenovic made four unforced errors. Pliskova fended off two break points with her eighth ace for 13-12.

Mladenovic hit a backhand into the net to face three match points after 3 hours and 47 minutes. Pliskova got the decisive break at love on her first match point for 16-14, as Mladenovic sailed a forehand.

Thirty games was not a record, as Nathalie Tauiat beat Naoko Sawamatsu 17-15 after 32 games in a first round Fed Cup match in 1997.

“I feel fresh actually. It’s the longest match I played ever. I am really happy with the way I played. I didn’t have many chances in the final set. She was serving well. I was just looking at the score and still counting the games we were still continuing. It was an unbelievable match for both of us”, said Pliskova.

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Billie Jean King Praises Grand Slam Semi-Finalist Nadia Podoroska For Coming Out

The Argentine recently marked her girlfriend’s birthday with an Instagram post which was also the first time she went public about her personal life.

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King has congratulated Nadia Podoroska on being her authentic self after the tennis star recently confirmed she is in a same-sex relationship with another player. 

 

Podoroska, who shot to the limelight at the 2021 French Open by reaching the semi-finals before being hampered by injury, made a low key coming out on social media. In an Instagram post, the tennis star uploaded a series of photos of her with her girlfriend along with the caption “Today I celebrate you from afar, but I feel you by my side every day of my life.’ The post was done to mark her birthday. 

Fellow player Guillermina Naya is Podoroska’s partner and the two have been in a relationship for some time, according to Women’s Tennis Blog. Naya, who is also from Argentina, is currently ranked 814th in the world but has been as high as 533rd. Although she has not played on the Tour this year. 

Due to injury problems, Podoroska was unable to start her 2022 season until July on the lower-level ITF Tour. Since then she has made steady progress by reaching the final of an ITF W60 event in Gran Canaria and more recently reaching the semi-finals of the Chennai Open in India. 

“I had been suffering from physical discomfort in one leg. I decided to stop in order to recover. Then I had a bone oedema, I couldn’t walk, and I had to wear a boot. Then I got a knee injury in the other leg,” she said of her injury woes during an interview with Clay Tennis.

The 25-year-old credits her girlfriend Naya for the support she received during her 10-month absence from the sport. She is the latest player on the WTA Tour to open up about their sexuality, joining the likes of Daria Kasatkina, Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen.

“Congratulations to WTA player ⁦⁦Nadia Podoroska ⁩ on her announcement. Living authentically takes such courage, but it is always worth it,” multiple Grand Slam champion King wrote on Twitter. 

In response to the post, the tennis star also paid tribute to King for the impact she has had on the sport. King helped form the WTA Tour and was a key figure in the fight to equal prize money during the early part of the Open Era. She was also one of the first world-class athletes to publicly come out as gay back in 1981. 

Whilst there are various female LGBT players in tennis, there are still no openly gay players on the men’s Tour. 

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ITF Chief Addresses Iga Swiatek’s Concerns Over Unsafe Scheduling

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The head of the International Tennis Federation is ‘sorry’ that Iga Swiatek will not be participating in the Billie Jean Cup and has vowed to work on making improvements to the 2023 schedule. 

 

The women’s world No.1 issued a statement on Monday confirming her withdrawal from the team event after taking a swipe at both the ITF and WTA over their scheduling. Swiatek said she had hoped to represent Poland in the Billie Jean Cup but its proximity to the WTA Tour Finals is problematic. The end-of-season WTA event takes place in Texas and ends a day before the start of the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. 

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone,” Swiatek said in a statement published on her Instagram account.
“The situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.
“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our sport.”

ITF chief executive David Haggerty has insisted that his organization has been working with the WTA but they were unable to find a more suitable date as the venue for the Tour Finals wasn’t confirmed until late in the season. The event is likely to return to China next year. The women’s tennis body has suspended its events in the country amid concerns over the safety of player Peng Shuai who previously accused a senior government official of sexual assault.

“The ITF is sorry that Iga Swiatek is unable to take part… and recognises that the schedule for the two major year-end events presents a challenge for players competing in both events,” Haggerty told the Reuters news agency.
“We have been working with the WTA to try to coordinate suitable dates.
“While we were able to confirm the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow back in June, the WTA Finals venue in Fort Worth, Texas was confirmed during the U.S. Open and restricted in terms of available dates.”

The tennis official adds that negotiations are ongoing to find a more suitable schedule for 2023 for players to play both events if they wish to do so. 

We are committed to working with the WTA on the 2023 schedule so that we have a better transition between the two competitions,” he said. 

Haggerty states that provisions would have been made for Poland to play their opening match in the 12-team competition as late as possible to accommodate Swiatek’s travel from America if she had wished to play this year. 

The WTA Finals will be held between 31 October – 7 November and the Billie Jean King Cup will take place from 8 November – 13 November. 

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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