Seventh time lucky for Caroline Wozniacki as she claims first title of 2017 in Tokyo - UBITENNIS
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Seventh time lucky for Caroline Wozniacki as she claims first title of 2017 in Tokyo

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In her seventh final of 2017, former world number one and third seed Caroline Wozniacki finally claimed her first title of the season with a brilliant 6-0, 7-5 display against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for her third Toray Pan Pacific Open title.

It was seventh time lucky for defending champion and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, snapping her 0-6 record in finals in 2017 with her first title of the year at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The Danish third seed defended her Tokyo title with a brilliant performance against unseeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, claiming her third title in the Japanese capital 6-0, 7-5 in just an hour and 15 minutes to extend her record to an incredible ten straight years with at least one title.

“It feels great. It was really important for me to get there and just stay focused and aggressive and positive. I think I managed to do that, and it feels great to have won the title,” said Wozniacki on her first title in seven finals in 2017.

“I really enjoy playing here in Tokyo. The court suits my game well and I feel good having won the title this year again,” commented the now three-time Toray Pan Pacific Open champion.

In the opening set it was pure domination from Wozniacki, who extended the nine-game winning streak from her 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of world number one Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals into her final today. The defending champion raced out to an early lead, having no problems on serve and breaking an erratic Pavlyuchenkova to go up 3-0 in just six minutes.

The Danish domination continued, taking only 15 minutes to secure a double break and a big 5-0 lead in the first set. Wozniacki wrapped up the opening set in just 20 minutes, breaking her Russian opponent for a third time to secure the bagel set 6-0, her first set in 13 from seven finals this season.

Caroline Wozniacki hits a forehand at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo/Zimbio/Matt Roberts

The world number six secured the opening game of the second set, making it seven straight games in this final and 16 consecutive games from leading 3-2 in the first set of her semifinal with top seed Muguruza. Pavlyuchenkova began to get her footing in the match, holding for the first time and snapping Wozniacki’s run of games to level at 1-all. Two straight holds from each brought the set to 3-all, with the Russian’s confidence far higher than it was 20 minutes ago.

Wozniacki and Pavlyuchenkova continued their strong serving in the second set, with the third seed holding to go up 5-4 and force the unseeded Russian to serve to stay in the match. Some confident, big-hitting from Pavlyuchenkova got her out of trouble, saving a match point and eventually holding for 5-all in a far more competitive second set.

Despite missing out on her first match point, the third-seeded Dane handled the pressure, holding to go back up 6-5 and put the pressure back on her Russian opponent to serve to stay in the match. This time around Wozniacki was not to be denied, breaking Pavlyuchenkova on her third match point to secure a successful Tokyo title defense and first title of 2017 6-0, 7-5.

Despite the second set surge from Pavlyuchenkova, Wozniacki was confident and happy with her brilliant performances of the last two days. Describing the match, the Dane said, “Obviously, she’s a very strong player. She plays very powerfully, takes the ball early, so it was really important for me to make her move, and serve well especially. In the first set, everything was going my way and was going really well.”

“In the second set, she managed to serve a little bit better, so it was tricky for me to break her serve. But I think it was a good match for both,” concluded the third seed.

Caroline Wozniacki hits a backhand at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo/Zimbio/Matt Roberts

By defending her title here in Tokyo, Wozniacki stays at number six in the world and moves into five in the Porsche Race to Singapore, making her very likely to qualify for the year-ending WTA Finals in Singapore. Asked about that accomplishment, the former world number one said, “I’m just happy that it’s been a great year and hopefully I can finish it off strong with the last few events.”

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Emma Navarro Keeps Winning; Taylor Townsend Pulling Surprises In Charleston

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

Emma Navarro played her usual highly concentrated, spectacular game to advance to the round of 16 of the Charleston Open, and Shelby Rogers played her heart out only to lose.

But what about Taylor Townsend! Townsend upended former Grand Slam champion Sofia Kenin in the first round, then on Wednesday night she upset 15th-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova, 7-5, 6-2, to earn a berth in the round of 16.

VETERAN TOWNSEND HAS AZARENKA NEXT

Although now just 27 years old, Townsend has been around for a while, even making the round of 16 of the 2019 U.S. Open and round of 32 of the 2014 French Open.

And she’s had her share of success in the ITF tournaments held over the years at LTP Tennis in Mount Pleasant.

She has used her powerful left-handed strokes well enough to spend much of her time ranked in the top 100 over the last decade.

But Townsend could run into serious opposition against two-time former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka. The 34-year-old Azarenka is talented enough to maybe even win this Credit One Charleston Open.

NAVARRO WINS ON HOME COURT

Navarro, currently ranked 20th in the world and seeded 10th, was near-perfect in a 6-1, 6-1 victory over qualifier Katie Volynets on Wednesday. 

Volynets must have been quite surprised by the dominance of Navarro all over the court and in almost every situation in the match. Back in the final of the 2019 Billie Jean King girls 18 national championships at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, Navarro was no match for the then 17-year-old Volynets. Navarro spent most of that match trying to chase down Volynets’ shots to the corners.

A COOL WIN OVER OLD RIVAL

How things have changed in the last five years for these two players. Volynets is now ranked 110th in the world, while Navarro looks like the new star of the WTA Tour. She certainly had that look in Wednesday night’s green-clay bout at the Charleston Open.

It was a knockout from the start for the 22-year-old Navarro, a former NCAA national collegiate champion and the daughter of Credit One Charleston Open owner Ben Navarro.

“I thought I had played her twice, but apparently I was 0 and 3 against her. So definitely (it was) good to get the win tonight,” Navarro said.
“It was cool to be able to get the win on that (stadium) court, my first win on center court here at Credit One.”

KUDERMETOVA ELIMINATES ROGERS

Rogers, Charleston’s other WTA Tour standout, wasn’t so fortunate against 19th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, the 2021 winner of this event.

Kudermetova used a big serve and solid ground strokes to stay ahead of Rogers for most of the match. Rogers rallied to force a first-set tiebreaker and also rallied late in the second set to keep pressure on Kudermetova, but couldn’t overtake her in a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win by Kudermetova.

“I had a lot of chances tonight . . . very untimely double fault is frustrating,” Rogers said.
“I thought I did some good stuff out there. It’s just you gotta win the right points at the right time, I guess.”

RAINY DAY CREATES TOUGH SCHEDULE

Having to play her first two matches at night probably didn’t help Rogers’ cause, especially after having to wait around all day Wednesday for an all-day rain to pass.

“Today was a long day, for sure, but everybody is dealing with it. We’re used to adapting to different things every week,” Rogers said.
“Tennis is hard. The scheduling is hard. It’s hard to prepare and know when to eat, you know, all those little things. When you’re away from the game, you gotta like figure out how to do all that again. And it can be tricky.”

Prior to her 6-1, 6-1 win over Claire Liu on Monday night, the 31-year-old Rogers had scored only one other victory since undergoing a second knee surgery last July.

“The knee, you know, there’s still good days, bad days,”  Rogers said. “I gotta do a little work there still. But overall it’s all right.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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