Sara Errani beats Daria Gavrilova to reach her first semifinal since Charleston 2016 - UBITENNIS
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Sara Errani beats Daria Gavrilova to reach her first semifinal since Charleston 2016

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Sara Errani beat Number 3 seed Daria Gavrilova 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem to reach her first semifinal since Charleston 2016, when she was beaten by Elena Vesnina in three sets.

Errani dropped her serve seven times but broke eight times. She was broken twice when she was served for the first set and again when when she was serving for the match.

There were eight breaks and just four holds of serve in the first set. Errani broke serve in the third game. Gavrilova broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. There were six consecutive breaks of serve from the 7th to the 12th games. At 6-5 Errani was just two points away from holding her serve in a hard-fought game. Errani got three mini-breaks to seal a tight tie-break on her first set point after 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Both players traded breaks in the first two games of the second set. After holding her serve in the third game Errani broke serve to 30 to open up a 3-1 lead. Gavrilova broke back at deuce for 2-3 in the fifth game. Errani broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead as Gavrilova made a double fault. Gavrilova broke back in the ninth game as Errani was serving for the match. Errani broke again to love in the 10th game with a drop- volley to close out on her first match point after 44 minutes.

“I tried to do my best. It was not an easy match, there are no easy matches here. I am happy for my game. I don’t know when was my last semifinal, so it’s important for me to take confidence”, said Errani.

Errani will face Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova, who battled past Lauren Davis 6-4 3-6 6-3. Pavlyuchenkova broke three times to win the first set and built up an early lead in the second set. Davis fought back to win the second set. The US player got an ealy break to open up a 3-1 lead but Pavlyuchenkova came back by reeling off five consecutive games to take a hard-fought win. Pavlyuchenkova will be bidding to win her first title since Estoril 2013.

“I am happy I am getting some matches on play and playing quite well on clay. It’s different from hardcourts. It’s not easy to make this transition, but I am happy I am back in a semifinal in Rabat”, said Pavlyuchenkova.

The second Italian to qualify for the Rabat semifinal is Francesca Schiavone, who edged past German 29-year-old Tatjana Maria 6-1 4-6 6-3 in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Schiavone will face Varvara Lepchenko in the semifinal. Schiavone reeled off six consecutive games from 0-1 with three breaks in a row in the third, fifth and seventh games to win the first set 6-1. At 1-1 Schiavone rallied from 15-40 to break serve at deuce. At 2-1 she saved a break-back point.

Schiavone broke straight back in the second game of the second set. Maria broke to 30 in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. As Maria was serving for the set at 5-4, she saved four break points before closing out the set by 6-4, when Schiavone sent a passing shot into the net.

Schiavone broke twice in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead, but was broken back to love in the fifth game. In the next game Schiavone broke serve to love. As Schiavone serving for the match at 5-3, she saved a break point at 30-40 before closing out on her first match point with a forehand passing shot.

Schiavone’s next rival Varvara Lepchenko beat 18-year-old Cici Bellis 6-3 6-2 to reach her first WTA semifinal since Stanford in 2015. Bellis was too tired after taking a 7-5 win in the third set over Timea Bacsinszky.

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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