Last year’s WTA Finals champion and world number 11 Dominika Cibulkova came back from one set down to battle past Ana Konjuh 5-7 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes in the first round at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Cibulkova reached the Round of 16 for the first time in Cincinnati last year. Cibulkova will face either Alizé Cornet or Cici Bellis.
Konjuh has played a consistent season this year breaking into the top-20 and beat Cibulkova at Wimbledon this year.
The match was marked by 12 breaks of serve. Konjuh took the edge after five breaks of serve. Konjuh broke twice in the sixth and ninth games but Cibulkova broke straight back both times. The Slovak broke Konjuh in the 10th game, as the Croatian player served for the set. Konjuh converted her second break point in the 11th game to clinch the opening set.
The start of the second set was marked by four consecutive breaks in the first five games before Komjuh finally held serve to draw level to 3-3. After trading breaks twice, both players held their serve in the next six games. Cibulkova got the decisive break on her first opportunity in the 12th game.
In the third set Cibulkova broke serve at deuce after recovering from 30-40 dwon in the fourth game and held her service game to open up a 4-1 lead. Cibulkova converted her third break opportunity at deuce in the final game to win the decider 6-2.
Konjuh hit 41 winners to 71 unforced errors, while Cibulkova produced 21 winners and 37 unforced errors.
“I was so focused on the game and I knew I was sweating like crazy but I didn’t realize it was so hot. I was kiust focused on every single ball because she could break at any second. I had to really dig deep because she was hitting really hard balls today and she wasn’t hesitating for a second. It was not easy for me to play. I didn’t get my rhythm, but I battled through it, and I am happy to be in the second round”, said Cibulkova.
Number 9 seed and this year’s Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams cruised through to a 6-2 6-0 win over Alison Riske to improve her winning record in their head-to-head matches to 3-0 without dropping a single set.
Williams got an early break at the start of the first set to open up a 2-0 lead. Riske broke straight back after a hard-fought third game and held her service game to draw level to 2-2. Williams reeled off four consecutive games to wrap up the first set.
Venus broke three times to cruise to a bagel win in the second set after producing 27 winners to 16 unforced errors.
Williams will face Ashleigh Barty, who beat Varvara Lepchenko earlier today.
Why Peng Shuai’s Video Call With The IOC Has Failed To Ease The Concerns Of The WTA
The WTA said the video hasn’t changed their stance on the matter.
The governing body of women’s tennis says they still have concerns about the welfare of former world No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai despite her appearing in a video call with the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.
Shuai attended a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach in what was her first public interaction with an international official since making allegations of sexual assault against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. On November 2nd Shuai published a post on her Weibo account detailing the alleged assault and revealed she had an on-and-off affair with the former influential political figure for a decade. The post was removed less than an hour after it went live and her Weibo account is still restricted.
In a statement issued by the IOC, Shuai was quoted as saying that she is ‘safe and well’ and would like some privacy. It is understood that the video call lasted roughly 30 minutes, which also included IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei. However, in the statement there was no mention of the sexual assault allegations which was made by Shuai.
“This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.” The WTA told Reuters in response to the video.
There are fears by the WTA that Shuai is under the control of the state and is restricted as to what she can and can’t say. Lingwei, who participated in the video call, is a former athlete who has since worked with the Chinese government and is a member of the people’s congress.
Recently China’s media, which is controlled by the Communist party, has posted a series of photos and videos of Shuai. However, the WTA confirmed at the weekend they will have been prevented from getting in contact with her despite making numerous efforts.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said.
China’s Global Television network, which is owned by state media, hasn’t posted a single article about Shuai in recent weeks following her allegations. However, for the first time on Monday they published a story about her meeting with the IOC but made no mention of the allegations.
Hu Xijin is the editor of the Global Times newspaper. He claims that the world wouldn’t believe what Shuai is saying unless they are in line with the Western media who he accuses of trying to damage the reputation of his country. Hu is an influential political figure in his country, whose publications have been used to send messages to the outside world. He has also been accused by some of being a political propagandist for the community party.
“As long as what Peng Shuai said doesn’t accord with the expectation of the Western media, they won’t believe it. They only believe the story about China that they imagine. I’m surprised that they didn’t say the lady who showed up these two days is a fake Peng Shuai, a double,” Hu wrote on Twitter.
“For those who truly care about the safety of Peng Shuai, her appearances of these days are enough to relieve them or eliminate most of their worries. But for those aiming to attack China’s system and boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, facts, no matter how many, don’t work for them.” He later added.
Like all of the Chinese state-run media and their journalists, Hu has made no mention of the allegations concerning Mr Gaoli.
The WTA have said they are willing to withdraw tournaments from China if their concerns of Shuai’s welfare are not properly addressed.
REPORT: China Censors Naomi Osaka’s Weibo Account Over Peng Shuai Support
It has emerged that followers are being prevented from commenting on her posts as the WTA warns China they are prepared to stop doing business with them if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.
Restrictions have been placed on the official Weibo account of former world No.1 Naomi Osaka after she posted a statement expressing concern about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, according to a leading financial newspaper.
Nikkei Asia confirmed on Thursday that they have found ‘censoring activity’ on Osaka’s account less than 24 hours after she spoke out about her fellow tennis player. It is understood that comments have been disabled on her latest post even though it is unrelated to Shuai. Weibo is the main social media service in China which is used by millions every day but it is regulated by the country’s strict laws. Other sites such as Twitter is officially banned in the country.
In her post, Osaka wrote on Twitter that ‘censorship is never OK at any cost’ and that she hopes Shuai is safe. It has since been retweeted more than 19,000 times.
On November 2nd a post was uploaded on Shuai’s Weibo account in which she said she was pressured into sex by the former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and she had an on-and-off affair with him over a intermittent period of 10 years. The post was removed less than an hour after it was uploaded but observers took screenshots of it which was then reposted online. Since then, Shuai hasn’t been heard of or seen in public.
There are now mounting concerns over Shuai’s current whereabouts after the international branch China’s state-broadcaster published a letter which they claimed the tennis star wrote to the WTA. The letter says that the tennis star denies making the accusations and she is not missing. However, Steve Simon, who is the head of the WTA, has expressed serious concerns about the authenticity of the letter.
“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her.”
In recent years China has been a crucial location for the WTA Tour and has generated millions in revenue for the sport. No tournaments have taken place in the country this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but 10 are expected to resume next year, including the prestigious WTA Finals. Nevertheless, the WTA has stated that they are prepared to cut ties with China if they can’t guarantee Shuai’s safety.
“If at the end of the day we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that’s what it came to,” Simon told The New York Times.
In 2014 Shuai became the first Chinese player in history to top the world rankings in doubles. During her career, she has won two major titles with Hsieh Su-wei and has been ranked as high as 14th in singles.
Garbine Muguruza Beats Kontaveit To Win Season-Ending WTA Finals
Muguruza caps off what she describes as her ‘best year’ on the Tour by becoming the first Spanish woman to win the season-ending title.
Garbine Muguruza is the 2021 WTA Finals champion after beating the world’s number eight Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 38 minutes in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Spaniard hit 16 winners while the Estonian hit 38 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth during both sets before the Caracas native was able to secure the win.
” I want to congratulate Anett (Kontaveit) on her amazing year and managing to qualify for the finals in the last event of the year,” Muguruza said during the trophy ceremony. ”I want to thank everyone who made this possible to play in Latin America and it was a dream come true to play”.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza got off to an aggressive start by looking for the early break in the first game of the match but the world number eight held her ground and managed to hold serve.
At 1-1, the Spaniard had three more chances to take the lead and she was able to break serve at the third time of asking but failed to consolidate it as Kontaveit broke right back the following game.
Once again at 3-3, it was the world number five who got another break and this was able to hold serve the following game. She then broke serve for a second time to take the first set.
The 28-year-old was put under pressure early in the second set and faced two early breakpoints at 1-1 but dug deep and saved both. At 3-3, it was Kontaveit’s turn to apply pressure, and this time she was able to get the break. The 25-year-old had a chance to serve out the second and force a deciding third set but cracked under the pressure as Muguruza broke right back to even the set at 5-5.
At 6-5, Muguruza found herself with three match points on her opponent’s serve and broke one last time to seal the victory and the title.
“I’m just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the ‘maestra,’ like how we say in Spanish,” Muguruza said in press. “That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking.”
Muguruza ends her season with three WTA titles to her name after triumphing in Dubai and Chicago earlier this year. Making it the first time in her career she has won a trio of WTA events within the same year. Overall, she has won 42 out of 69 matches played during 2021.
“Overall I think it’s the best year for me. I might not have won a Grand Slam, but I deeply feel like I’ve been happier and more stable, less dramatic, and in general very happy about it.” She concludes.
The former world No.1 takes home a whopping 1.6 million dollars for winning the tournament and her ranking will go up to number three when the new world rankings come out on Monday.
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