Karolina Pliskova Downs A Lacklustre Williams In Singapore - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova Downs A Lacklustre Williams In Singapore

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Former US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has kicked-off her campaign at the WTA Finals in Singapore with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2, win over Venus Williams.

 

Playing in the year-end competition for the second consecutive year, Pliskova was set to face some stern resistance. Williams, who last played in the competition back in 2009, has reached two grand slam finals this season and had a head-to-head record against Pliskova of 1-1. In contrary to the statistics, the match was a one-sided encounter for the 25-year-old.

From the onset it was third seed Pliskova that dominated proceedings. Her game plan of returning Williams’ serves as soon as possible to apply the pressure rewarded her. In contrast, 37-year-old Williams struggled with her consistency on the court and appeared to bothered by her right hip after reaching to return a ball in the first game of the match.

“I think I was playing very solid, serving very well today. That was the main key of the game, so I was able to hold my service games, which is always good.” Pliskova told BT Sport.

Eleven minutes into the match, the Czech strolled to a 3-0 lead. In Williams’ opening service game she had a 40-15 lead, but failed to close it out. Eventually the American managed to work herself into the match with the help of some costly errors from her opponent. A double fault on break point reduced Pliskova’s lead to 3-2.

Despite the blip, the world No.3 soon regained control as Williams struggled to find her rhythm, hitting three double faults and nine unforced errors in the opening set. The erratic play enabled Pliskova to stroll to the 6-2 lead, converting her first set point after a Williams shot landed beyond the baseline.

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An almost identical scenario occurred in the following set. Pliskova continued to be the aggressor and forced Williams into uncomfortable scenarios. After saving a duo of break points she faced, Pliskova eased to a set and 4-1 lead. Admirably Williams kept fighting, but it was too little too late. During the final game of the match, Pliskova raced to a 40-0 lead before Williams drew level with glimmers of her true ability. It was on the fourth match point when Pliskova triumphed after a Williams backhand went out.

“I was feeling much better than I was last year.” The world No.3 said about how she currently feels compared to 12 months ago. “I was enjoying myself on the court, which is important for me and I played good tennis.”

The surge in positivity is partly to do with a new collaboration with Australia’s Rennae Stubbs, who will guide her in Singapore. 46-year-old Stubbs is a former world No.1 doubles player.

“I was feeling amazing in my practice week here. We have had some fun on the court and off the court. I feel relaxed and I feel like I am enjoying myself. She made me do that, which is why I am playing so well.”

As she relishes in her win, questions are mounting over Williams’ current fitness. At the third oldest player in history to participate in the WTA Finals, the 37-year-old has only played one tournament since the US Open. Overall, she has played the fewest matches this season than any other player in Singapore and is the only one to not win a title.

“I mean that it is amazing that she is still playing at such a high level. I think she can play better in her next match.” Pliskova said about the seven-time grand slam champion.

 

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Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title

Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.

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Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.

 

The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.

With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.

It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”

The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.

There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.

“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”

Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”

Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.

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WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title

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Aryna Sabalenka has lots of reasons to smile as of late (twitter.com/WTA)

In a rare Wednesday final, she’ll face Veronika Kudermetova, who is playing in her first WTA championship singles match.

 

At the beginning of 2019, Aryna Sabalenka debuted inside the WTA top 10.  That was coming off a 2018 season where in which Aryna accumulated 47 match wins, two titles, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time.  From there, her progress stagnated a bit, as she spent the last two years ranked between No.9 and No.16.  But now she’s on a 14-match winning streak, having claimed back-to-back titles to end 2020.  With a win on Wednesday, she would reach a career-high ranking of No.7.

At the beginning of 2019, Veronika Kudermetova debuted inside the WTA top 100.  The Russian steadily climbed the rankings that year, reaching the top 40 at the end of the season.  Since the tour restart last August, the 23-year-old was a modest 7-6 before this event.  But she dropped only one set this week on her way to her first WTA final, which included impressive wins over Elina Svitolina and Anett Kontaveit.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Veronika Kudermetova

Their only previous meeting does not provide much guidance as to what will happen on Wednesday.  It took place six years ago at an ITF Challenger event in Antalya, which Sabalenka claimed in straight sets.  Kudermetova will surely be nervous, as this is the biggest match of her career to date.  And she’s facing an ultra-confident Sabalenka, who is on a 14-0 run.  Yesterday, Aryna easily dispatched of an in-form Maria Sakkari, requiring only 57 minutes in a match where she struck 22 winners and only eight unforced errors.  After yesterday’s win, Sabalenka told the press she’s focusing less on winning and more on the process of improving her game, and cited this as the reason for her current win streak.  When Aryna is at her best, she can outhit just about anyone on tour.  And we’ve seen before how difficult she is to defeat when she’s on a tear like this.  I’m not betting against this version of Sabalenka winning her third straight title.

Other action on Wednesday:

In the doubles championship match, it’s 2020 St. Petersburg champions Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani, recent champions in Lexington.  These two teams played in the third round of Roland Garros a few months ago, with the Japanese team prevailing in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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Aryna Sabalenka Storms Into Abu Dhabi Final

The world No.10 has now won 14 matches in a row.

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Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka produced a dominant performance as she brushed aside Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2, to reach the final of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Open.

 

Sabalenka, who is bidding to win her third WTA title in a row, took control of the semi-final encounter during the early stages with the help of her powerful shot-making. Best illustrated by her 22 winners compared to just eight unforced errors. A stark contrast to Sakkari’s tally of 12 and 21. Sabalenka was also supreme behind her first serve where she won 83% of the points.

I like to play against her,” Sabalenka said of Sakkari. “I think I’m just putting pressure on her every match we’re playing, and it’s helped me win all those matches.”

A clinical start to the match saw the Belarusian race to a 5-1 lead before Sakkari managed to gain any momentum herself. The Greek retrieved one of the breaks to close the gap to 5-3 but it was too little too late as Sabalenka served the set out with relative ease.

The second frame promised to be more of a close encounter early on with Sakkari producing the tennis which shows why she is ranked just outside of the world’s top 20. However, the problem for her was that she struggled to find a way to cope with Sabalenka’s sheer power. Level at 2-2, the world No.10 broke once again as Sakkari let out a burst of frustration. From then on it was a foregone conclusion as Sabalenka won four games in a row to seal victory in just under an hour.

Since her loss at the French Open, the 22-year-old has won 14 matches in a row. At the end of 2020 she claimed titles in Ostrava and Linz. Meanwhile, this week Sabalenka has also previously beaten Polona Hercog, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina.

“I think I’ve put my focus in the right space,” she said. “I’m focusing on the right things, which helps me not think about all of these wins, and so it helps me to keep winning. I need to keep concentrating on my game and my movement on the court, and trying to do everything I can in the moment.

Should Sabalenka go on to win the Abu Dhabi title she will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world. Awaiting her in the final will be either Veronika Kudermetova or Marta Kostyuka.

“I’m really looking forward to this final,” Sabalenka said.
“I’m just focusing on the right things. This helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins, and secondly, to keep winning.”

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