12 Americans, Donna Vekić get Indian Wells wildcards - UBITENNIS
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12 Americans, Donna Vekić get Indian Wells wildcards

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All but one of the Indian Wells main-draw wildcards have gone to American players. Here is an introduction to the fortunate 13.

 

ATP

Frances Tiafoe

Age: 19    Ranking: 89

Ever since 2013, when he became the youngest Orange Bowl boys’ singles champion, Frances Tiafoe has been widely viewed as American men’s tennis’s best hope for producing another superstar. In January, the teenager qualified for the Australian Open reached the second round of the main draw, losing in straight sets to Alexander Zverev. In Acapulco, he fell in a deciding-set tiebreak to his boyhood idol, Juan Martín del Potro.

Bjorn Fratangelo

Age: 23    Ranking: 109

Bjorn Fratangelo won the boy’s French Open in 2011, and he bested Sam Querrey in the 2016 men’s tournament. In the second round, he lost to Richard Gasquet in 1-6, 6-7, 3-6.

Stefan Kozlov

Age: 19    Ranking: 115

Although Stefan Kozlov has not yet won a tour-level, main-draw match in 2017, his modest success at the Tempe Challenger has brought him to a career-high ranking of 115. Having had a successful junior career that included two Grand Slam finals and an Orange Bowl title, Kozlov is another one of the many young Americans who grew up with the pressure of high expectations.

Taylor Fritz

Age: 19    Ranking: 136

At 19, Taylor Fritz seems like he’s almost ready to win on tour. In February, he lost close three-setters to Matthew Eden, Donald Young and Adrian Mannarino.

Reilly Opelka

Age: 19    Ranking: 173

At a glance, the two most noticeable things about Reilly Opelka are his height (6’11”) and his serve power (up to 233 km/h). But he has the results to backup that flashiness, too. In January, he defeated Casper Ruud in the final round of Australian Open qualifying. And in Memphis, Opelka got a breadstick and a straight-sets win over Jared Donaldson.

WTA

Jennifer Brady

Age: 21    Ranking: 80

Jennifer Brady was one of the big stories from the first week of Melbourne this year. After getting through three rounds of qualifying, the UCLA Bruin won three main-draw fixtures, including a two-hour, 43-minute marathon match against Heather Watson and a two-setter over Elena Vesnina. She lost in the round of of 16 to eventual semi-finalist Mirjana Lučić-Baroni.

Nicole Gibbs

Age: 24    Ranking: 84

So far, Nicole Gibbs’s 2017 has been full of ups and downs. She kicked off the year in Auckland with a first-round exit after losing 1-6, 0-6 to Caroline Wozniacki. Then after qualifying for Hobart, she got bageled in a first-round loss to Andrea Petkovic. But in the Australian Open, she made it to the third round, and she might have gotten further had she not had to play Serena Williams. Then in Taipei City and Acapulco, Gibbs lost each of her first-round matches in three sets.

Donna Vekić

Age: 20    Ranking: 90

The only non-American to receive a main-draw wildcard is Croatia’s Donna Vekić, who won Kuala Lumpur in 2014 by beating Dominika Cibulková 5–7, 7–5, 7–6.

Irina Falconi

Age: 26    Ranking: 97

With a 282-213 career record, Irina Falconi has been a consistent factor in women’s tennis.  She has one WTA title, Bogota in 2016.

Taylor Townsend

Age: 20    Ranking: 120

In Acapulco, her first main draw of 2017, Taylor Townsend recorded a 7-5, 7-6 victory over Jennifer Brady in the first round.  In the second, she lost 1-6, 6-7 to Christina McHale.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Age: 31    Ranking: 164

Known primarily as a doubles star (She has six Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold and a Hopman Cup.), Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been struggling in singles as of late. After failing to qualify for the Australian Open, she fell in the first round of Acapulco (after getting through two rounds of qualifying) 5 and 3 to Heather Watson.

Kayla Day

Age: 17    Ranking: 184

Kayla Day — winner of the 2016 girls’ U.S. Open — will play in her second big event of the year with this wildcard. After getting wildcarded into the Australian Open, the 17-year-old lost 3-6, 2-6 to Andrea Petkovic.

Danielle Collins

Age: 23    Ranking: 251

As a Virginia Cavalier, Danielle Collins won the NCAA Division I singles championship in 2014 and 2016.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins First Title Since Return From Surgery In Washington

The two-time grand slam champion has returned back to the winners circle following her six-month absence due to injury.

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Former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four match points to defeat Donna Vekic 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, in the final of the Citi Open in Washington.

 

Kuznetsova, 33, fought back against the aggressive play of her opponent. Saving seven out of the 10 break points she faced in the match. Eventually, it was the experience of the Russian that guided her to the finish line as she hit 34 winners to 36 unforced errors to win her first title on the tour since the 2016 Moscow Open.

“It was a difficult week,” Kuznetsova reflected afterwards. “Tennis is always mental, if you lose or if you win, you always gotta stay focused.”

With both players contesting their first final of the season, it was Vekic who battled through what was a roller-coaster and tense opening set. At first, the seventh seed appeared on course to clinch the opener with ease after breaking Kuznetsova in the fourth game as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. Only to be pegged by the 2014 champion. Serving for the set at 5-3, a forehand error rewarded Kuznetsova the chance to break back. Prior to the following point, the Russian complained about the movement of the crowd just as Vekic was about to serve. Then the Croat hit a double fault with the two players exchanging words at the changeover.

Despite feeling hard done by, Vekic soon restored order in the match. As Kuznetsova served for a chance to level 5-5, she pounced one again as the former world No.2 faltered. Recovering from a 15-40 deficit to seal the opening set with the help of a Kuznetsova double fault on set point.

Vekic continued to fight with the help of her of some rapid shock-making. Fending off a break point to nudge ahead 4-3 in the second set. Although Kuznetsova refused to go away. Saving two match points, it was in the tiebreaker where the Russian managed to turn her fortunes around. Vekic missed out on another two chances to win the match, allowing Kuznetsova to nudge ahead 8-7. She was then able to force proceedings into a decider after a Vekic forehand slammed into the net.

Kuznetsova’s resilience eventually wore her opponent down, who was close to tears after the match. Vekic admitted afterwards that she was dealing with leg pain and took a medical time out just before the start of the final set.

A double break in Kuznetsova’s favor in the decider guided her to a 5-0 lead. Enough of a cushion to enable her to close out the match after two-and-a-half hours of play to win her second Washington title.

“I know I’ve been a little bit lucky today,” she said.
“There’s something going on with Washington. I never lose here. I played two times and I won both.”

The victory comes after what has been a testing first half of the year for Kuznetsova. Left wrist surgery forced her to miss six months of the tour. Meaning that she didn’t start the 2018 season until March. Prior to the Citi Open, she had only won four matches in 10 tournaments played. Making her latest triumph even more special.

“Those times I had after the surgery, I had difficulties everywhere — personal, working different things. I switched coaches. I had lots of issues,” Kuznetsova explained. “But still, I rise again, and it’s really good for me.”

As a result of her latest win, Kuznetsova has risen 41 places in 87th in the world. Meanwhile, Vekic has jumped seven places to 37th.

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Davis Cup

Davis Cup Reforms Face Late Opposition As Vote Looms

The proposed Davis Cup reforms have received strong criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe ahead of this month’s vote.

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David Haggerty (zimbio.com)

The upcoming Davis Cup reform vote has received some strong opposition and criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe. 

 

The vote is set to take place on the 16th of August, where federations will vote to change the 118 year old format to a one week season finale at the end of the year. The proposed move by Kosmos, has received fierce criticism and will need a two-thirds majority in order for it to be approved.

However with the vote just two weeks away Tennis Australia has been among the federations to oppose these reforms and have pushed this even further as they have wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the idea. The letter has been signed by the likes of John Newcombe, current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.

The letter raises the following concerns, “We have written and spoken to the ITF President for several months now requesting clarity on the proposal from Kosmos, but this has not been forthcoming,” explained the letter, which is even signed by former ITF president Brian Tobin.

“Very large numbers are being referenced, but there is not enough detail to give us confidence this proposal will genuinely deliver enough additional value to players and the nations to offset the loss of home and away camaraderie and all the local marketing, facility investment and player development benefit that comes with those ties. In the absence of such important information, we have no choice other than to vote against the proposed amendments.”

However Tennis Australia isn’t the only federation to be against this move as Tennis Europe, who represent more than 50 member nations have also expressed their concern at the idea, “I am particularly concerned that there is hardly any information received from the ITF regarding bank guarantees for the proposed US$120 million per year which would be the $3 billion deal over 25 years, according to the original proposal,” President Vladimir Dimitriev explained in a separate letter.

“I have not yet seen a final and feasible explanation on how the business model or the governance structure will be either.”

The ITF do have the backing of Germany and France ahead of the move though with the AGM meeting set to take place in Orlando, Florida between the 13th and 16th of August.

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Serena Williams Withdraws From Montreal Due To Personal Reasons

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week due to personal reasons.

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Serena Williams (zimbio.com)

Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week as she deals with some personal issues. 

 

The American suffered the worst defeat of her career last week when she lost 6-1 6-0 to Johanna Konta in San Jose. The 23 grand slam champion clearly wasn’t at her best and it now turns out that she had personal problems to deal with as this is the reason for her withdrawal in Montreal next week.

The recent Wimbledon finalist also felt that she could not play Montreal and Cincinnati in back to back weeks as she continues her comeback from pregnancy. The tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, admits that he is disappointed but still recognises the high quality field that is left, “Of course, we are disappointed that Serena will not be joining us, Fans were very much looking forward to seeing her in action,” explained Eugene.

“But beyond the disappointment, the tournament, as a whole, remains a high-level competition. The entire Top 10 is here, along with 22 of the Top 25. There are exciting matches in store from the outset.”

The American was set to play in Canada for the first time since 2015 before withdrawing today. The 23 time grand slam champion has played five events since returning from pregnancy and the results have been mixed as you can see below:

Indian Wells – Third Round

Miami – First Round

Roland Garros – Fourth Round

Wimbledon – Final

San Jose – First Round

Tatjana Maria will now replace Serena Williams in the main draw and the German faces Alize Cornet in the first round.

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