Donna Vekic Defeats Lucie Safarova In Marathon Match To Reach Aegon Open Final - UBITENNIS
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Donna Vekic Defeats Lucie Safarova In Marathon Match To Reach Aegon Open Final

Joshua Coase

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Donna Vekic

Donna Vekic reached her first WTA final of the season and her second on grass in her career after she came through a long match against fifth seed Lucie Safarova 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(4) in two hours and 48 minutes at the Aegon Open in Nottingham.

 

The 20-year-old recovered from a break down in the first set and prevented her opponent from serving it out to pinch it on a tiebreak before the Czech responded to force a deciding set. Both players had their chances to break, particularly Vekic, but the Croat had to wait until the nail biting final set tiebreak to secure victory in her toughest match of the season so far.

This was the players first meeting and both had gone through differing routes to reach this stage. Fifth seed Safarova had to come through three matches which went the distance, first over Grace Min, then she saved two match points to defeat Hsieh Su-Wei in a final set tiebreak before seeing off Tsvetana Pironkova in a terrific quarterfinal 6-3, 0-6, 6-4. Vekic cruised through to her first WTA Tour semifinal of the year without dropping a set, defeating sixth seed Shelby Rogers in the first round before comfortably dismissing Julia Boserup and Maria Sakkari.

20-year-old Vekic had the first break point opportunities with three chances, but the Czech, who had dealt with a lot of adversity in matches so far this week, stayed tough and held to stay with her opponent. Safarova only needed the one chance to take advantage after a double fault in the seventh game from Vekic left her break point down. A fiercely struck return of serve from the fifth seed was enough to move ahead in the set.

A double fault threatened to stop Safarova’s momentum as she fell break point down, but an ace down the tee snuffed out the chance, much to Vekic’s frustration. When serving for the set a double fault from Safarova left her facing two break points and despite saving the first the Croat was not to be denied at the second time of asking as she levelled at five games all.

Vekic had a set point in the twelfth game but went long with her return of serve before the fifth seed forced a tiebreak. Safarova gained an immediate mini break but the Croat won both of the next two points against the serve before firing down two aces to take a commanding 4-1 lead. The Czech hit back to level the score only for the 20-year-old to break away once more, finishing with an unreturned serve on her second set point to seal the breaker by seven points to five.

Safarova has been used to going to three sets in Nottingham this week and would have to do the same again if she wanted to make the final. She began her journey back into the match by breaking Vekic in the fourth game, closing with a forehand cross court winner before holding to love to swiftly establish a 4-1 lead.

The following game saw Vekic recover from 0-40 down to hold to keep her second set hopes alive but the Czech made sure the match went the distance with a comfortable hold to love at 5-3 with an ace to finish to seal the set.

In the deciding set the 20-year-old faced further pressure but managed to halt her opponent’s momentum by saving a break point. It was then Safarova’s turn to face a break point in the fourth game but she was also up to the task, firing down a big serve which went unreturned.

The pressure on serve continued for the Czech in her next service game where she had to face yet more break points. The fifth seed saved the first with backhand winner but was rather fortunate to save the second after her ball, which appeared to go long was originally called out, but then corrected by the umpire. Vekic was distraught with the decision but with no hawk-eye there was nothing that she could do as Safarova held to level at three games all.

Both players continued to play a high standard of tennis in very warm conditions at the Nottingham Tennis Centre and with nothing to separate them they found themselves in a final set tiebreak. Vekic secured the early mini break at 2-1 but squandered it immediately. At 4-4 the 20-year-old stepped up her game and raised her level to breakaway after a backhand went wide from Safarova to give her opponent two match points. Vekic only needed the one chance and sealed the best win of her season to set up a clash with Britain’s Johanna Konta in Sunday’s final.

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Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname

The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.

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Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.

“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”

Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.

I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”

Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.

Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz becomes the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since Kei Nishikori in 2008

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Carlos Alcaraz beat Richard Gasquet 6-2 6-2 in the final of the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag becoming the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach in 2008 and the youngest Spanish ATP Tour champion since RafaelNadal in Sopot 2004. 

 

Alcaraz earned his first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead with an inside-in forehand winner and he never looked back by holding his next service games. The Spanish teenager broke serve in the third game as Gasquet made a double fault. Alcaraz converted his third break point in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Gasquet earned three break points but he was not able to convert them. 

“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players. I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and  I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future”, said Alcaraz. 

Gasquet was aiming to win his first ATP Tour title since s’Hertogenbosch in 2018. 

“It was tough for me to play with his full intensity. I had a tough match yesterday. It was tough, and especially with a guy like Carlos, who is playing really fast with a lot of energy and spin. He is playing unbeievable. He is only 18 and of course he had a great future and Ijust could not play at his level and his intensity”, said Gasquet. 

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