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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Roger Federer Pulls Out Of French Open Following Surgery

The unexpected announcement means the former world No.1 will be out of action for at least almost four months.

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20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will miss the entire clay-court season after confirming that he has undergone surgery on his right knee.

 

The world No.3 underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday in his native Switzerland following consultation with doctors. A minimally invasive procedure that involves the examination and treatment of the joint. Federer said his right knee was ‘bothering him for a little while’ and that doctors are ‘very confident of a full recovery.’ The 38-year-old also missed six months of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.

In a statement, Federer confirmed that he will not be playing another tournament until the grass season. Ruling him out of the upcoming North American hard-court swing, as well as the French Open. The only clay court tournament he was due to play in 2020.

“My right knee has been bothering me for a little while.” Federer said on social media.
“I hope it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday (Wednesday).”
“After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery.”
“As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogotá (exhibition), Miami and the French Open. I am grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t wait to be back playing again soon.”

Concerns about Federer’s current form started during his run at the Australian Open where he lost in the semi-finals to Novak Djokovic. In Melbourne, the Swiss player experienced issues with his right leg. He described played down the issue as ‘pain and problems’ following his quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren, which he took a medical time-out during.

“Of course, you want to be 100% to be able to train again, then get ready for hopefully Dubai. Right now it’s only guessing. I’m very happy that I don’t feel any worse than when I started (the match). That’s for me super encouraging.” He told reporters on January 30th,

Nevertheless, Federer has recently been in action. Almost two weeks ago, he took on Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa and won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.  The clash was in aid of the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa. An estimated $3.5 million was raised, according to the associated press.

Should everything goes to plan, Federer’s next tournament will now be the Halle Open, which he has a lifetime contract to play at unless injured or ill. The tournament starts on June 15th.

It is only the second time in his career, Federer has undergone the knife whilst playing on the tour. The first was back in 2016 when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

 

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Australian Open Stats: The Strength Of Djokovic In Deciders, The Diversity Of The Women’s Tournament

The Serbian is 31 out of 41 in 5th set situations, and 4 out of 5 in Slam finals. 28 players have reached the semis in a female Slam in the last 3 seasons, while Zverev was the only player under 25 to reach the quarter finals.

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1 – the man under 25 (Alexander Zverev) to have reached the final 8 in Melbourne, with 3 more (Raonic, Sandgren, Thiem) who are under 30. Therefore, the NextGen has failed once more in the first Slam, despite the status of contenders reached by several of its members in the past few months, and despite the presence of 8 players under 25 in the Top 20 – Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, Rublev, Shapovalov, Khachanov, Kyrgios. The failure becomes even more blatant if the sample is extended to the fourth round of the tournament, with just Kyrgios, Medvedev, and Rublev joining Sascha – the latter two are also the only ones who are still to turn 23. After all, the youngest Major winner is still Marin Cilic, born in 1988, and the world N.1 has constantly been a player over 30 since May 2017 – always members of the Fab Four, who have been holding on to the top spot since February of 2004. On the other hand, the women’s draw kept alive the opposite trend, with the oldest player reaching the quarter finals being Petra Kvitova, who turns 30 next month, a result that is in line with the rankings, in which Serena and Kerber are the only “mature” features, and more in general with the tendency of WTA tennis as a whole. As a matter of fact, since Serena’s last Slam triumph (3 years ago), all such tournaments have ended up in the grasp of players under 30 years of age (except for Wimbledon 2018, won by Kerber), and in some cases we’ve had teenagers (Osaka, Ostapenko, Andreescu) taking home the big prize.

 

10 – the months in which Dominic Thiem’s career has turned around. The Austrian had already reached the 4th spot in the rankings, in November of 2017, yet exclusively due to his clay-court prowess. At the end of 2018, Thiem had a meager 53% win rate on matches played on surfaces that weren’t his beloved, red realm: before his win in Saint Petersburg in the autumn of that year, he had played in 34 tournaments on fast courts without reaching a final, since the one he lost in Metz in 2016. The same dynamic occurred in his match-ups with other Top-10 studs: up to that point, he was 4-18 in matches played on hard or grass. The beginning of 2019 was very much the same, with an early retirement at the Australian Open, but then the collaboration with Nicolas Massù started, and with that some immediate relief happened, with his first Master 1000 win in Indian Wells, beating an experienced player like Gilles Simon and two members of the Top 20, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer. And while some people thought this would be a solitary spring flower, Thiem dispelled all doubts with an outstanding coda to the season, winning in Beijing and Vienna and reaching the semis in Shanghai and losing by inches at the ATP Finals in London against Tsitsipas. A further token of his exceptional play is the quality of the opponents he’s toppled in this stretch: among the current Top 8, he’s beaten everyone but Medvedev (although with Tsitsipas, Berrettini, and Djokovic he’s also lost), and he’s 12-6 against Top 10 opponents since 2019 Indian Wells. 3 Slam finals lost, plus the ATP Finals defeat, could lead to believe that Thiem isn’t a natural winner (especially when considering how close the last 2 nail-biter defeats were), but they’re more likely a testament to his improvements and to the close distance between him and a Slam win.

28 – the amount of players who have reached the semis in a women’s Major since Serena’s last win. After her 23rd trophy was lifted at the 2017 Australian Open, a kind of anarchy has taken over the WTA circuit. It’s incredibly hard to establish who the best athlete has been in this time-span, let alone for the fact that 7 different players have topped the rankings (Kerber, Pliskova, Muguruza, Halep, Wozniacki, Osaka, Barty), and for the fact that Williams herself has played 4 more finals and returned to the Top 10 despite playing a limited amount of tournaments. Had she won in Melbourne, the mercurial Muguruza might have well claimed the mantle of the most successful (she won at Wimbledon in 2017, reached the semis in Paris in 2018, and indeed reached the final in Melbourne last week), but that wasn’t to be. To draw a comparison, only Halep and Williams have reached more Slam semifinals, and Madison Keys is the only player who, aside from the Spaniard, has reached 3 (final at Flushing Meadows in 2017, semis in Paris and New York again in 2018). Since the spring of 2017, there’s only a pair who’s won multiple Slams: Simona Halep, who’s the most constant with 2 wins (Paris 2018 and Wimbledon 2019) and 2 finals (Paris 2017 and Melbourne 2018) and Naomi Osaka, who won twice in a row (the only woman to achieve that, at the 2018 US and the 2019 Australian Open) but has since lost her mojo, and is very close to falling outside the Top 10. The fact that the Rumanian seems to be the only regular performer in the last few years is confirmed by the 64 weeks she’s spent as the WTA N.1, almost thrice as much as the 25 weeks of Osaka and the 22 (and counting) of Barty.

35 – the number of weeks as world N.1 that separate Novak Djokovic from Federer’s record tally of 310. Currently on a 16-wins streak (he’s 22-2 in his last 24 encounters as well), he’s won his eighth Australian Open crown at the end of an edge-of-the-seat final against Dominic Thiem in which he’s adfirmed once again his status as an incredible deciding set performer – he’s 31-10 in 5-setters – and specifically in bouts with history at stake, sitting at 4-1 in Slam finals that go the distance. The Serbian now leads the Big Trophies race against his ever-present rivals, having won 56 between Slams, ATP Finals, and Master 1000 titles (Federer and Nadal have 54 each, 55 for Rafa when including the 2008 Olympic gold medal).  Above all, he’s now closer on the Slam tally, having won his 17th trophy, right behind Nadal’s 19 and Federer’s 20. In terms of weeks as the number one, Djokovic is now 10 weeks away from Pete Sampras, a gap he should fill quite easily before setting his eyes on Federer. In order to overtake the Swiss, Djokovic needs to keep the throne until October: till then, Djokovic has to retain a considerable amount of points (2000 at Wimbledon, 1000 in Madrid, 720 in Paris, 600 in Rome, 500 in Tokyo), but, given his current form, that doesn’t look like an impossible feat for him, especially with basically a full season’s schedule to be played still, and, given his continuity since 2008 (bar the first half of 2018), odds are that he’ll be able to reach this lofty milestone.

Article originally published on ubitennis.com and translated by Tommaso Villa

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Tennis Great Margaret Court Claims Unfair Treatment At Australian Open

The 24-time grand slam winner has responded to a high-profile protest against her in Melbourne by two former players for the first time.

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Controversial tennis figure Margaret Court has come out fighting following her appearance at the Australian Open by accusing the organisers of unfairly treating her.

 

The 77-year-old was invited to the tournament to mark the 50th anniversary of her career grand slam. When she won all four major titles during 1970. However, the appearance was one that caused controversy. The Australian, who is now a Christian pastor, has been criticised over the years for her controversial views and statements. She said earlier this year that LGBT teaching in schools is ‘controlled by the devil.’ In other incidents she has said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘, once described rival Martina Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality, boycotted Qantas airlines due to their support of marriage equality and publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner.

Nevertheless, Tennis Australia proceeded to mark Court’s anniversary. However, they released a statement saying that their decision was to mark her achievements and not her as a person. During an on-court presentation, the 24-time grand slam champion wasn’t given a microphone to speak to the crowd. Something she has since blasted.

“They think because I’m a preacher I’m going to preach the gospel,” Court told Court’s Channel 9 News. “There is a time to speak and a time to not.
“I think they (Tennis Australia) said they were going to honour me but not celebrate me because of my stance and my views on gay marriage and all those areas, which I’ve got nothing against people who are gay.
“From the tennis side of it, where they pointed the finger at me and tried to discriminate against everything that I’ve done.”

Tennis Australia (TA) has since played down Court’s cries of discrimination. In a statement they confirmed that the tennis legend were flown into Melbourne from Perth with 20 family members and were issued with 100 tickets for the tournament. She also had a launch in her honour. The organisation has called out the former player for not expressing her displeasure until now.

“TA covered the cost of flights, accommodation, breakfasts and executive club access, for the family, along with hospitality at the event, which included more than 100 tickets over the two weeks,” the statement said.
“Margaret agreed to all these arrangements … prior to her arrival in Melbourne. We are very disappointed to hear now of her complaints, none of which were expressed to us during her time at the Australian Open.”

‘I feel sorry for him’

Ongoing calls to remove Court’s name from one of the premier facilities at the Australian Open were highlighted by two other former tennis greats. John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova held a banner which publicly called for the name of the arena to be changed to four-time champion Evonne Goolagong. Navratilova took to the microphone to speak with the crowd after playing her legends match, but was cut off.

Court has claimed she tried to have a ‘one-to-one’ talk with Navratilova, but was unable to. She has also partly expressed remorse for once sayingMartina is a great player, but I would like someone at the top who the younger players can look up to. It is very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.’ Navratilova won 59 major titles during her career with 18 of those occurring in singles.

“That’s going back 30 years or more. I apologised to her if it hurt her.” She replied when challenged.
“Just the two of us on our own, I would have like to speak with her and that didn’t happen.”

Even more vocal in their opposition to Court was McEnroe, who described her as ‘offensive and homophobic’ during a three-minute monologue broadcasted on Eurosport. Not that deters her in any way.

“I always thought I got on quite well with John McEnroe and I’ve always respected him. I feel sorry for him that he speaks like that and that he can’t separate one part of life to another,” she said.

As to the protest by Navratilova and McEnroe, the Australian has slammed it as ‘very wrong.’ Arguing that it was inappropriate for such actions to occur. Although they both insists that they have no regrets despite breaking protocol at the tournament.

“I’d never go to another nation, whatever I thought of the person, I would never say, ‘Hey, you should take their name off a building.’ And I think that was very, very wrong.” She states.
“You know, there are a lot of those people who do agree with me.
“I walked around and people touched me on the shoulder and said, ‘Thank you for being my voice.’ I’ve never had one person come and say: ‘I hate you’.”

Court remains the most decorated singles player in grand slam history with 24 titles.

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