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




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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Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares to reach the quarter final in the Australian Open doubles tournament




This year’s Sydney Tennis Classic finalists Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini knocked out Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-3 6-7 (7-9) 6-3 to reach the quarter finals in the quarter finals at the Australian Open. 


The Italian doubles team, who won the Australian Open doubles title in 2015, wasted three break points in the 10-minute opening game. Murray and Soares earned two breaks in the second and sixth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Bolelli and Fognini saved three break points and pulled back one of the two breaks in the seventh game for 2-5, but Murray and Soares closed out the first set 6-3 on their sixth set point.   

Both players went on serve in the second set en route to the tie-break. Fognini and Bolelli saved a match point before closing out the tie-break on their second set point with a backhand winner. 

Bolelli and Fognini saved a break point in the second game of the third set before breaking twice in the seventh and ninth games to seal the win. The Italian team backed up their second-round win over second seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. 

The Italians set up a quarter final match against last year’s Australian Open finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. 

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis overcame Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar 6-4 4-6 6-4 in the third round. The Aussie team had beaten Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 on Kia Arena. 

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis earned their first break in the ninth game to take the first set 6-4. Behar and Escobar broke in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Kokkinaks and Kyrgios broke straight back in the seventh game before holding serve to draw level to 4-4. Behar and Escobar sealed the second set 6-4 with their second break in the 10th game.

The home team broke in the fifth game and sealed the third set on the first match point. 

“The way Kokkinakis is playing right now, he is obviously very confident after the last month, which is amazing to see. I feel like we are locked in, it’s probably the best doubles we have played together. Another win at the Australian Open, you are not going to take that for granted. I definitely think that we have got a good shot at winning this”, said Kyrgios. 

US Open semifinalists John Peers and Filip Polasek cruised past Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies 6-1 6-2. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos won 85% of their first serve points in their 7-5 7-5 win over Pablo Andujar and Pedro Martinez with a break in each set.

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Madison Keys reaches the quarter finals at the Australian Open for the third time




Madison Keys cruised into the third quarter final of her career at the Australian Open with a 6-3 6-1 win over last year’s Indian Wells champion Paula Badosa after 69 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. 


Keys advanced to her eighth career quarter final at Grand Slam level, the first at the Australian Open since 2018 and the first Grand Slam quarter final since the 2019 French Open. 

Keys, who had just recorded 3 of her 19 previous wins over top 10 players at Grand Slam level, dropped just five points on serve and hit 16 winners to 8 unforced errors in the opening set. 

Keys converted her second break point and held her service game to open up a 3-0 lead. Badosa fended off a total of five break points in the fourth and sixth games of the first set. Keys held her final three service games easily to close the first set 6-3. 

Both players traded breaks in two multi-deuce games before Keys won the next five games with three breaks of serve to close out the second set 6-1. 

Keys has extended her record this year to ten wins in her eleven matches played in 2022.  

“I am really happy with how I played today. I think I served a lot better than I did in the last match. I think I returned well. I had a lot of opportunities to try to move forward. I think just my mindset really let me play play that good tennis. That’s really what I have been trying to focus on, just giving myself the opportunity to allow myself to play tennis like I did today. I think it obviously gets harder just because you get tighter and it’s bigger moments. Even in the finals in Adelaide, I started incredibly nervous and I felt that. Just acknowledging it, accepting it, not trying to fight it and pretend that it’s not happening has been probably the best thing that I have done”, said Keys. 

Keys set up a quarter final against last year’s Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, who beat two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2 6-2. Keys praised Krejcikova during the post match interview. 

“I think Barbora is making tennis look easy. It seems like no matter what people are doing. She quickly figures it out and has another game plan to quickly implement. I think the other thing about her is that she is also an incredible doubles player. She moves forward so naturally that I feel like if you give her the opportunity, she is just on top of you all of a sudden, then she is at the net. Obviously, it’s not easy to pass her.  An incredibly difficult match-up”, said Keys. 

Keys said that she has changed her approach to tennis and this has helped her to come back this year. The US player won the Adelaide 2 title beating Alison Riske in the final.  

“My biggest mindset change is just trying to enjoy tennis, take some of that internal pressure that I was putting on myself. It was freezing me. I felt like I could not play at all. Just taking that away and putting tennis into perspective: that it’s a sport, something that when I was little, I enjoyed doing and loved doing it. I was letting it become this dark cloud over me. Just trying to push all of that away and leave that  behind last year and start fresh this year”.  

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Marin Cilic takes down Andrey Rublev to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open




Marin Cilic upset world number 6 Andrey Rublev 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 37 minutes to advance to the fourth round at the Australian Open in Melbourne. 


Cilic went into the match with just one win in his previous 15 matches against top 10 players and had lost his previous four head-to-head matches against Rublev. 

The Croatian player recorded just his second top 10 win since 2018. That year he reached his first final at the Australian Open finishing runner-up to Roger Federer. 

Cilic earned the first break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Rublev pulled back on serve in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4. Cilic earned his second break in the 12th game. 

The second set went on serve en route to the tie-break. Cilic got two mini-breaks to take a 5-2 lead. Rublev pulled one break back for 3-5, but Cilc fired down a powerful serve to earn a set point and sealed the tie-break 7-3. 

Rublev saved three break points to hold serve in the first game of the third set. Cilic broke serve in the third game and held serve to take a 3-1 lead. Rublev came back by winning five consecutive game with two breaks in the sixth and eighth games to take the third set 6-3. 

Cilic earned a break point in the fourth game of the fourth set, as Rublev hit a forehand into the net. The Croatian player converted it to open up a 3-1 lead and held serve with his 20th ace. 

Cilic brought up two match points in the ninth game with a slice and sealed the win with an ace down the middle. 

Cilic was strong on serve and fired 24 aces, as he won 85% of his first serve points. 

“It’s incredible. I enjoyed every single second of the match. Andrey is an incredible match. We have played several times in the past and it is always difficult. I had so much fun and I played great tennis. The conditions in the evening were a bit cooler and allowed me to go more for my shots and I was really lining up a lot of them, especially the returns, it was really going well for me today. I am feeling excited, I am playing amazing and I am just looking forward to the next match, which gets tougher and tougher with the opponents, but I will try to give it my best”, said Cilic.

Cilic has improved his head-to-head record to 2-4 against Rublev and will take on Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Daniel Evans 6-4 6-1 6-1.

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