Karolina Pliskova Remains Undeterred As The Five-Way Race For No.1 Begins - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova Remains Undeterred As The Five-Way Race For No.1 Begins

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Karolina Pliskova (zimbio.com)

This week’s Western and Southern Open will be a stern test for top seed Karolina Pliskova with a total of five players in contention of the world No.1 ranking.

 

In the wake of Serena Williams’ absence, the WTA Tour has become an open field for many. 25-year-old Pliskova climbed to the top of the rankings last month, becoming the first Czech player to do so. Last week she began her US hard court season with a run to the quarter-finals in Toronto, losing in three sets to Caroline Wozniacki.

Now set to play in Cincinnati, the pressure is mounting on Pliskova. In a rare occurrence, four other players could end the week as world No.1. Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Wozniacki are all within contention.

“Nothing has changed. I have a big responsibility. I’ll do everything as I have before,” Pliskova said. “I do think it’s a huge thing but I don’t want to do anything just because of the rankings.
“I don’t try to behave differently. I try not to see the pressure.”

Should Halep win the title this week, she would reclaim the top spot. The Romanian has previously been on the verge of becoming No.1, but has never been able to get there. The Most notable was in the French Open final when she fell to Jelena Ostapenko. It is perhaps for this reason why she is playing down her chances.

“I hope to make that position one day, but I don’t want to think about that. If it happens, I’ll be the happiest person, but I still have to work harder.” Said Halep.

Halep’s preparation for Cincinnati has been far from ideal. Travelling from Canada, she opted to take a six-hour drive after experiencing a plane journey from hell.

“When I saw the plane the first time, I was scared,” Halep said. “It was too small. We had to stop in Buffalo for the (US) customs. I said that was enough.
“I was white. I felt I had no air. I said, ‘That’s enough for me.’ That plane was moving too much. I wanted to be safe on the ground.”

Svitolina’s rapid rise

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At the age of 22, Elina Svitolina has already done something that no other player on the WTA had done before. Her win at the Rogers Cup was Svitolina’s third Premier 5 title of the season, a record for the tour. Overall, she has won more singles titles than any other player this year with five so far.

“It’s been a long journey and I still long journey ahead of me. I try to look only forward. There going to be lots of tough matches, tough tournaments.” Svitolina explained following her triumph in Montreal.

The Ukrainian can only become No.1 this week depending on the results of others. Not only does she need to at least reach this final this week. She needs Pliskova to lose her first match, Halep to go out before the semifinals and for Wozniacki to not win the title.

The former number ones

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So far in 2017, Wozniacki has always been the bridesmaid, but never the bride on the tour. She has already contested in six finals, losing all of them in straight sets. It has been an agonising experience for Wozniacki and her fans, but the Dane is still a threat for her opponents to fear. Especially on the hard court’s, which is a surface she loves.

“I like that I can move well on it (a hard court). And usually it’s some somewhat fast, so I can use the speed of the court to my advantage as well.” Wozniacki explained.

Wozniacki has already spent a total of 67 weeks as the top player on the tour. A title in Cincinnati this week could add to that tally. Although, she would need Pliskova to lose her first match and for Halep to crash out prior to the semifinals.

“I was actually just really enjoying it.” She reflected about her time as world No.1. “It’s a dream come true. It’s something that I dreamed of since I was a little girl. And I was very lucky and fortunate and, obviously, worked hard to get there. I just enjoyed every moment.”

Angelique Kerber has an outside chance of rising to the top if a series of scenarios goes in her favour. The German is yet to defeat a top 10 player this year. To put this into perspective, she scored 12 wins in 2016.

“It’s completely different than it was last year,” Kerber told Cincinnati.com. “It’s all the first time for me, defending titles, being the No. 1 and also coming back to No. 1 and that was something I’ve learned (how to deal with) this year.”

To return back to the top, Kerber needs to win the title with Pliskova losing her first match, Halep crashing out before the semifinals and Svitolina failing to make the final. 

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Elina Svitolina reaches her first semifinal in six months in Strasbourg

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Number 2 seed and two-time Grand Slam champion Elina Svitolina secured her spot in her first semifinal in six months at the Internationaux in Strasbourg with a 6-4 6-3 win over two-time WTA title winner Jil Teichmann after 1 hour and 23 minutes. Svitolina came back from a break down in each set.

 

Teichmann earned an early break in the opening game of the match. The Swiss player was not able to convert tw points for 4-2 in the first set and dropped her serve. Teichmann did not convert two game points in the eighth game and Svitolina broke back to draw level to 3-3. Svitolina did not convert two break points in the eighth game, but she broke serve on her first set point. 

Svitolina won eight of the first 10 points of the second set to open up a 2-0 lead with an early break. Teichmann reeled off three consecutive games with two consecutive breaks to take a 3-2 lead. Teichmann did not convert another break point at 3-3 after three deuces. Svitolina converted her fourth break point in a four deuce game in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. 

“I was fighting to stay in and to get the win, and I think I got rewarded. That was really good today, because I don’t let the bad games change my mindset”, said Svitolina. 

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Casper Ruud cruises past Fabio Fognini to reach the quarter final in Hamburg

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Norway’s Casper Ruud beat Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-3 to reach the quarter final at the European Open in Hamburg. 

 

The first set went on serve until the eighth game, when Ruud got his first break at 30 to take a 5-3 lead, when Fognini made two consecutive forehand errors. 

Ruud won seven consecutive games from 3-3 in the opening set to build up a 6-3 4-0 lead in the second set with two consecutive breaks. 

Fognini pulled one break back on his third chance in the sixth game to claw his way back to 3-4. Ruud closed out the match 6-3 at deuce from 15-40 down in the ninth game, when Fognini hit his first double fault. 

Ruud reached his first Masters 1000 semifinal in Rome last week and improved his win-loss record this year to 19-8. The Norwegian rising star, who won the ATP 250 title in Buenos Aires, has reached his career-high of world number 30.  

Ruud set up a quarter final against this year’s Auckland winner and Delray Beach semifinalist Ugo Humbert, who beat Jiri Vesely 6-4 6-3. After a trade of breaks in the first two games, Humbert and Vesely held on their next service games until the 10th game, when Humbert converted his second break point at deuce to take a 6-4 lead after 50 minutes, when Vesely hit a backhand into the net. 

Humbert saved two break points in the first game of the second set and broke serve to open up a 2-0 lead with a crosscourt forehand winner. Humbert reeled off five games in a row  from 4-4 in the first set to build up a 6-4 3-0 lead. Vesely saved a break point in the sixth game before breaking back in the seventh game to claw his way back to 3-4. Humbert earned his third break to open up a 5-3 lead and served out the win at 15 to score his 15th win this year. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas battles past Pablo Cuevas to reach the quarter final in Hamburg

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Stefanos Tsitsipas battled past Pablo Cuevas 7-5 6-4 in 1 hour and 31 minutes to secure his spot to set up a quarter final against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. 

 

Tsitsipas fended off four break points at 4-4 and a break point at 5-5 before sealing a hard-fought first set in the 12th game after 53 minutes when Cuevas hit a double fault. 

Both players went on serve until the 10th game, when Tsitsipas earned the break at love to win the second set 6-4. 

“I have a lot of respect for him. He is a very difficult opponent to face, particularly on this surface. Cuevas is a good friend and one of my idols growing up. It was a great match and I enjoyed it. There was a certain point in the match when I forgot I needed to win, as I was enjoying the game, the atmosphere, the crowd, I was playing with positive vibes and energy”, said Tsitsipas. 

Tsitsipas will face last year’s Monte-Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic, who cruised past Karen Khachanov 6-1 6-2 in just 62 minutes. 

Lajovic earned the break in the fourth game of the opening set to take a 3-1 lead. The Serbian player broke for the second time in the sixth game to close out the first set, when Khachanov hit a forehand into the net. 

The second set started with five consecutive breaks. Lajovic earned his third break in the fifth game, as Khachanov hit a forehand wide on break point at 2-2. Lajovic sealed the second set with his fourth break to build up 5-2 with a crosscourt forehand winner and held serve at 15 with a forehand winner to seal his 13th win of the season. 

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