Sloane Stephens Stuns Venus Williams To Reach Her First Grand Slam Final At The US Open - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens Stuns Venus Williams To Reach Her First Grand Slam Final At The US Open

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11 months ago, Sloane Stephens’ foot was in a boot, and she could not hit a tennis ball. The unseeded American reached back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, and she denied, her compatriot Venus Williams the chance to reach her third Grand Slam final of the year by defeating the former world number one, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 in a two hour and six minute contest, where she will face 15th seed Madison Keys or 20th seed Coco Vandeweghe in an all-American final on Saturday.

 

Despite the semifinal being an All-American affair, the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd were desperately behind Williams, and both players got off to a good start by holding their service games with ease. However, it was the 24-year-old who struck first by breaking the two-time US Open champion’s serve to take a 3-1 lead in the first set.

Furthermore, Williams who played the match of the tournament against Petra Kvitova in the previous round, was sluggish in this first match as Stephens continued to crush the ball, producing forehand winners down the line, consolidating the break to lead 4-1.

Once again, the former world number one was struggling on her serve, and Stephens grabbed the double break by committing a double fault, stretching out to a comfortable 5-1 lead.

In a blink of an eye, the first set was in the pocket for the former world number 11 with a hold to love, sending a strong big serve down the middle, taking it 6-1 in just 24 minutes.

Williams storms back to take the second set

The seven-time Grand Slam champion was in serious trouble of falling away in this second set, like she did in the Wimbledon final against Garbine Muguruza, a couple of months ago. She faced three break points, and she saved them and held onto her serve, with a big roar from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

The pendulum swung in the ninth seed’s favor as her movement significantly improved in the second set as she produced back-to-back forehand and backhand winners down the line to have two break points. She failed to take the first one but Stephens committed a double fault to hand Williams a 2-0 lead.

Williams was struggling in the latter stages of the final set (Photo by Clive Brunskill / Getty)

There was no stopping the 37-year-old as she was in the groove, consolidating the break with a hold to love, and the second set was rapidly fading away from the world number 83 as the two-time US Open champion produced a crushing backhand down the line, and sealed the double break with a half volley winner in the corner, leading 4-0.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd were firmly behind Williams as she clinched the second set as Stephens netted a forehand into the net, which summed her state of mind in the second set, Williams clinched it 6-0 in just 30 minutes to force a decider with 54 minutes being played.

Stephens reaches her first Grand Slam final

Surprisingly, despite the momentum being with Williams, she was broken in the first game of the decisive set. Furthermore, the former top 15 player, saved two crucial break points at 15-40, showcasing brilliant defense, and forcing the ninth seed to commit more errors.

Stephens was hunting down the double break as she led 0-30 on Wiliams’ serve, and a crucial moment in this game to go 0-40 was that she was trying to place a sweet backhand down the line, which found the net instead. Williams managed to hang onto her serve, and her dream of winning an eighth Grand Slam singles title, remained alive as she broke back in the next game, on the fourth break point chance.

The final set was evenly poised at 2-2 as Williams saved another break point, and the turning point this final set was that Williams failed to break Stephens’ serve to take a 4-2 lead as the younger American produced a strong serve out wide, followed by a forehand winner placed sweetly down the line to save the first one. A poor drop volley from Williams at the net let Stephens off the hook, who leveled proceedings at 3-3.

Once again, Stephens who was competing in her second Grand Slam semifinal broke her compatriot’s serve again to lead in the final for the second time in a game that lasted seven and a half minutes. However, the former world number one did not give up as she broke back immediately with a crushing forehand down the line, returning the weak second serve, that got the treatment that it deserved.

At 4-4, a crucial challenge from Wiliams was good as she would have been a break down, and Stephens would have served for a place in the final. However, it was a poor call from the line judge, which let the elder American off the hook, and Williams took a crucial 5-4 lead.

The 24-year-old was two points away from defeat at 30-30 but she came out on top in a rally which was dominated by this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon finalist, she absorbed Williams’ slice using it to her advantage, producing a stunning backhand down the line on the stretch followed by a big celebration. She restored parity at 5-5 with a big serve down the middle.

A warm handshake at the net between the compatriots (Photo by Al Bello / Getty)

It was no fairytale in New York for Williams, who was looking to reach her first US Open final since 15 years as she was broken to love by Stephens. It was a nerveless game for the unseeded American, who stunned the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by ousting the two-time former champion, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 in a two hour and seven-minute war of attrition. Stephens will face Keys or Vandeweghe in her first Grand Slam final on Saturday.

Stephens admirably spoke about Williams, reaching her first Grand Slam final and American tennis in her interview.

“I have no words to describe, what I’m feeling, what it took to get here, just the journey I’ve been on, I mean I have no words.

“I have no idea, you;re guess is just as good as mine, when I started my comeback if someone told me that I’d make two semifinals and a Grand Slam final,I would have just passed out, because that’s what I’m ready to do now, it’s incredible, I don’t even know what to say, I don’t know how I got here, just hard work that’s it.

“It required a lot of fight, a lot of grit, I knew if I just played my game, and stayed with it and hung tough, and don’t get too hard on myself, I would have a few opportunities, that’s just what I did, hopefully we make Sports Center, I just worked my tail off and ran every ball down and tried to get a racquet on every ball, in the finals we are.

“Honestly, just honoured to play at the same time as her, one of the greatest to play our game, one of the most graceful, elegant, everything nice to say about Venus, she’s one of the greatest competitors, and I’m just honoured that I was able to share the court with her.

“For American question, there’s no question mark, proof is in the pudding and it’s all fact, see it how you want it, American tennis, here we are.”

 

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Ladies’ Semifinals

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Ons Jabeur during her quarterfinal victory on Tuesday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Thursday’s ladies’ singles semifinals are full of inspiring storylines, featuring the 2019 champion alongside three debutantes at this stage of a Major.  Simona Halep is on a 12-match win streak at The Championships, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina had previously only reached the quarterfinals at a Slam, and have made history by becoming the first players from their countries to reach a Slam semifinal.  And remarkably, 34-year-old mother-of-two Tatjana Maria had never been beyond the third round at a Major, and was on a nine-match losing streak at Slams prior to this fortnight. 

 

Also on Thursday, the gentlemen’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.


Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Tatjana Maria – 1:30pm on Centre Court

These are two good friends who describe each other as frequent barbecue buddies.  They also possess two of the sport’s most eclectic styles, with plenty of slices mixed with surges of power.  But in this matchup, Jabeur is clearly the favorite.  Ons has become the No.2 player in the world, with an outstanding record of 35-9 this season.  She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and is an undefeated 10-0 on grass in 2022, and 20-2 on this surface since last year.

Maria missed the first six months of the 2021 season due to giving birth to her second child.  She came into this year ranked 284th in the world, yet she’s accumulated 36 match wins at all levels.  As a qualifier, she won a WTA title on clay this past April in Bogota.  And despite her lack of results at Majors, with a career record of 12-34 in main draws, Tatjana has fought her way into her first Slam semifinal, with four three-set victories.  In three of those matches, she came back from a set down.  And she also won three of them by a third-set score of 7-5, even saving two match points against Jelena Ostapenko.

They’ve only played once at tour-level, with Maria prevailing in straight sets five years ago in Linz.  But in 2022, Jabeur is the far more accomplished player, especially at Majors.  And her all-court skills outmatch those of Tatjana.  As long as Ons does not succumb to the pressure of being a strong favorite in her first Slam semifinal, Jabeur should comfortably advance to Saturday’s championship match.


Simona Halep (16) vs. Elena Rybakina (17) – Second on Centre Court

Halep has been on a tear in her last few matches.  On Monday, she allowed fourth-seeded Paula Badosa only three games.  On Wednesday, Amanda Anisimova was only able to win six.  However, both of those opponents already had previous poor results against Simona, as their games do not match up well with that of the two-time Major champion.  The same cannot be said for Rybakina.

While Halep leads their head-to-head 2-1, their last two encounters have been extremely right.  Two years ago in Dubai, Simona required a third-set tiebreak to survive.  And at last year’s US Open, she prevailed 6-3 in the third.  The big difference between the set Rybakina won in New York, and the two sets she lost, was her winner-to-error ratio.  In the set she won, those numbers were equal.  In the sets she lost, she struck nearly twice as many unforced errors as winners.

While reducing her error count will be key for Rybakina, so will continuing to serve well.  In her last two rounds alone, Elena as struck 21 aces and only one double fault.  Rybakina leads the WTA ace count this season, though Halep remains of the sport’s best returners.  And Simona’s serve has improved significantly over the last few seasons.

Experience may be the key factor on Thursday, which is obviously a huge advantage for Halep.  This is her ninth Major semifinal, and her third at Wimbledon, while this Rybakina’s first at any Slam.  Also Centre Court itself will be new territory for Elena, who has never played on this court in her career.  And based on Halep’s current form, the 2019 champion should be favored to return to the final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk (2) vs. Matthew Ebden and Sam Stosur – Skupski and Krawczyk are the defending champions, while Ebden and Stosur were finalists at last year’s Australian Open.

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell (14) – Ram and Salisbury and two-time Major champions as a team.  Ebden and Purcell were finalists at this year’s Australian Open.  That’s the event where these teams last met, with the Australians prevailing in the semifinals.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (6) – Mektic and Pavic are the defending champions, while Cabal and Farah won this event in 2019.  Cabal Farah are 2-0 against Mektic and Pavic this season.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) The Wimbledon Clash Between Djokovic And Sinner Could Have Been Better

It was an epic five-set clash but imagine how better the match would have been if both were playing well at the same time…

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Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis’ Ubaldo Scanagatta analyse the dramatic events that unfolded on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

 

Top seed Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to oust Jannik Sinner in a match of two halves. Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie brought delight to the British fans.

On the other side of the draw, how will Rafael Nadal fair against the in-form Taylor Fritz? The Spaniard recently sidestepped a question about a potential new injury. 

As for the women’s draw, Ons Jabeur made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a major quarter-final. She will next play 34-year-old mum-of-two Tatjana Maria who had never been beyond the third round of a major until now. 

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The Wimbledon Naughty List: Which Players Have Been Fined And What For?

Ubitennis takes a look at who has been hit with a penalty and more importantly why.

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Nick Kyrgios might be the player everybody’s talking about due to his behavior but few realize that he is one of 19 to be hit with a financial penalty during the first week of Wimbledon.

In fact, more than $75,000 worth of fines has already been issued during the first week of the championships. According to official data, more than three times as many men have committed an offense than women. Although interestingly it is only two female players who have been punished for receiving coaching and nobody in the men’s draw.

Australia’s Kyrgios leads the leaderboard for the biggest fine after what has been a controversial past few days. In his first round match, he argued with the umpire and spat in front of some people in the crowd who he said were ‘disrespecting him.’ Resulting in him being hit with a $10,000 penalty. He later said during his press conference that he was tired of being verbally abused by some fans watching him play.

 

Then on Saturday in a dramatic clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas he argued once again with officials, got a warning for swearing and at one stage called for his opponent to be defaulted for hitting a ball into the stands. 

“Why would I need to apologize? I’m getting fined for it. Because I got — I always get fined. I’m very keen to see what he will get after today.” Kyrgios said following his third round win. 

Kyrgios has been fined another $4000 for his antics and Tsitsipas has to pay $10,000 for his behavior. The relationship between the two took another dramatic turn after the match when the Greek accused his peer of bullying during an explosive press conference

After Kyrgios, America’s Reilly Opelka was docked $5000 for swearing. The value of the fine is an interesting one when three other players have also been fined for the same offense but they only have to pay $3000. The difference could be due to repeated swearing during the match.

The majority of the men’s fInes are for either unsportsmanlike conduct or audible obscenities. The only exception is Benoit Paire who was fined $2500 for equipment abuse.

As for the ladies’ draw, Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko received the biggest fine ($4500) for coaching. Former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza was another player to be published for her actions.

Here is a breakdown of the fines issued between Day 1 and Day 6 of the championships. 

WOMEN

  • Daria Saville AUS (round one) $4000 – EQUIPMENT ABUSE
  • Lesia Tsurenko UKR (round two) $4500 – COACHING
  • Garbine Mugurza ESP (round 2) $3500 – COACHING
  • Harriet Dart GBR (round 2) $4000 – EQUIPMENT ABUSE

MEN

  • Fernando verdasco ESP (round one) $3000 – AUDIBLE OBSCENITY
  • Adrian Mannarino FRA (round one) $3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Stan Wawrinka SWI (round one) $3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Yoshihito Nishioka JPA (round one) $3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Nick Kyrgios AUS (round one) $10,000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Pedro Martinez ESP (round one) $3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Diego Schwartzman ARG (round one) $3000 – AUDIBLE OBSCENITY
  • Lukas Klein SVK (round one) $3000 –  UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Reilly Opelka USA (round two) $5000 – AUDIBLE OBSCENITY
  • Benoit Paire (round one) $2500 – EQUIPMENT ABUSE
  • Jiri Vesely CZE (round two) $3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina ESP (round two) $3000 – AUDIBLE OBSCENITY
  • Denis Shapovalov CAN (round 2) £3000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT
  • Nick Kyrgios (round 3) $4000 – AUDIBLE OBSCENITY
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (round 3) $10,000 – UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT

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