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

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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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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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