Steffi Graf Hails Ash Barty’s Return To Tennis, Tips Williams To Break Grand Slam Record - UBITENNIS
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Steffi Graf Hails Ash Barty’s Return To Tennis, Tips Williams To Break Grand Slam Record

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Steffi Graf (zimbio.com)

As the season comes to a close, one player that has attracted the attention of former world No.1 Steffi Graf is Australia’s Ash Barty.

 

The 21-year-old is currently at a ranking high of 20 after experiencing a breakthrough season. A former world No.1 junior player, Barty took take away from tennis to play cricket before returning to the sport in February 2016. The decision has turned out to be a successful one after she reached three WTA Finals in 2017. In March she won her first tour title at the Malaysian Open. Since then she had also progressed to the finals of Premier tournaments in Birmingham and Wuhan.

“It’s been well documented why I needed to take a break, wanted to take a break,” Barty told reporters in Zhuhai on Saturday.
“But I said when I came back I was refreshed and ready to go and that hard work has paid off because I feel great. I feel like if I had to, we could play again next week.”

Barty’s surge hasn’t gone unnoticed by Graf, who was also in Zhuhai as the tournament ambassador. The 22-time grand slam champion has hailed the comeback of the Australian as an ‘incredible story.’ At the start of the year, Barty was ranked 271st in the world. Since then, she has scored wins over four top-10 players and reached the third round of two major tournaments.

“I did see her at the very beginning of her career. You know she came and, I think, surprised all the players with her style early on in her career. I don’t completely know exactly how she came back to playing cricket and then back to tennis, but it is a pretty incredible story.” Said Graf.
“Seeing her play so well, especially this year from where she’s started to where she’s ending, it’s a pretty incredible speed of how she’s finding herself back into the tennis tour. The Australians always have an interesting style of tennis and she’s one of them. She’s got great hands and a lot of potential and it’s great to see her back in the sport of tennis.”

Ending the season with a win-loss of 29-14, Barty was shortlisted for the WTA’s comeback player of the year award. She missed out on the accolade to US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Williams’ grand slam bid

During an extensive press conference, Graf also looked ahead to 2018 and the return of Serena Williams. The American hasn’t played since winning the Australian Open after giving birth to her first child in September. A baby girl called Alexis.

Should Williams win another major title, she would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 23 grand slam titles. Williams, Graf and Court are the only players in history to win 20 or more major titles in singles competition alone. Discussing the historic bid by Williams, Graf believes she has the ability to achieve it.

“It sounds from what I hear that she is looking to come back to tennis and, you know, everything that she has shown over her career just makes you believe that if she has that in her sights then she will go after it and achieve it,” Graf said.

There is yet to be a set plan regarding when Williams will return to the tour. The tournament director of the Brisbane Open, which takes place during the first week of January, said it is ‘highly unlikely’ that she will play in the tournament.

“The messaging through her agents was, ‘Thanks for reaching out’. But it is highly unlikely we will see Serena in Brisbane this time,’’ Geoff Quinlan told The Courier Mail.

Prior to her retirement from tennis in 1999, Graf played Williams twice during that year. Winning in Indian Wells, but losing in Brisbane.

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Anhelina Kalinina beats Daria Kasatkina at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow

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Anhelina Kalinina eased past Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-3 after 1 hour and 23 minutes at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. 

 

Kalinina, who reached the final in Budapest this year, hit 24  winners to 18 unforced errors. She scored her second top 30 win this year after beating Angelique Kerber in the first round at this year’s edition of the French Open. 

The match between Kalinina and Kasatkina featured 12 breaks of serve. Kalinina went up a 3-0 lead with a double break in the second set. Kasatkina pulled one break back in the fourth game and saved four break points to hold serve in the fifth game for 2-3 in the longest game of the match. 

Kalinina saved two match points in the sixth game before breaking serve in the seventh game to open up a 5-2 lead. She was not able to serve out the match after two double faults, but she sealed the second set with a drive volley. 

Anna Kalinskaya rallied from 3-5 down in the first set to beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 (7-5) 6-4. Yastremska started the tie-break with six consecutive unforced errors, but she saved five set points, but she sent a return outside the court. Kalinskaya set up a second round match against Maria Sakkari. 

Lesla Tsurenko beat 18-year-old Chinese player Zheng Qinwen 6-4 6-3. Bernarda Pera beat Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 (7-3) 6-3. Pera converted her sixth point to close out the first set.  Pera will face Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova. 

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Arthur Rinderknech beats Federico Delbonis to reach the second round in Antwerp

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Arthur Rinderknech won 85% of his first service points in his 6-4 6-4 win over Federico Delbonis after 1 hour and 31 minutes to reach the second round at the European Open in Antwerp. 

 

Rinderknech earned two breaks to open up a 4-1 lead. Delbonis pulled back one break in the sixth game, but Rinderknech held on his next service games to win the first set 6-4. 

The Frenchman went up an early break in the first game to take a 4-2 lead. Delbonis saved three break points to hold serve at deuce in the seventh game for 3-4. Rinderknech served out the win at deuce after saving a break point in the 10th game. 

Rinderknech has extended his winning record to 2-0 in his head-to-head matches against Delbonis.

“I am really pleased with the win. There were some crazy points here and there and sometimes they did not go my way. These kind of points can change the match but I tried to stay focused and I am pleased I was able to close out the match”, said Rinderknech. 

US Next Gen player Jenson Brooksby cruised past Norbert Gombos 6-4 6-2. Brooksby went up a 4-1 lead with a double break. Gombos pulled one break back for 2-4 in the sixth game. Brooksby held on his next service games to win the first set 6-4 and earned two breaks in the first and seventh games to seal the second set 6-4. 

Another US Next Gen rising star Brandon Nakashima beat Pierre Hugues Herbert 6-2 6-4. Nakashima broke serve in the fifth and seventh games and earned a break in the fifth game of the second set. 

Dusan Lajovic beat Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7-3) 6-1. Gasquet earned a break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Lajovic broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Lajovic saved two break points in the ninth and eleventh games. Lajovic earned three mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. The Serbian player broke three times to win the second set 6-1. 

Botic Van de Zandschulp beat Alexei Popyrin 6-4 3-6 6-0. Van de Zandschulp won the first set 6-4 with a break in the fifth game. 

Popyrin saved five break points in the first game before converting his third break point to take a 2-0 lead. Both players went on serve until the 10th game when Popyrin served out the set after saving two break points. 

Van de Zandschulp earned three breaks to win the third set 6-0. 

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Marin Cilic overcomes Damir Dzumhur at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow

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Marin Cilic edged past Damir Dzumhur 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-1 after 1 hour and 51 minutes to reach the second round at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Cilic won two consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015. 

 

Cilic came back from losing the tie-break of the first set by winning 12 of the last 13 games. He will face either Tommy Paul or Winston Salem finalist Mikael Ymer.

The opening set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Dzumhur earned three set points at 6-3 with two mini-breaks and converted his second chance to win the tie-break 7-4. Cilic broke three times to cruise through to a 6-1 win in the second set. The 2014 US Open champion saved a break point in the third game before breaking at deuce in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. Cilic closed out the third set with a double break at love in the sixth game. 

The Croatian player has extended his winning record to 2-0 in his head-to-head matches against Dzumhur. 

Cilic won his 19th career ATP title in Stuttgart against Felix Auger Aliassime and reached two semifinals in Singapore and Estoril.  

“It always feels great to be here. It is always a pleasure and it is great to see a nice crowd here. I know that Damir always enjoys these conditions where the court is a bit slower and the ball stays a bit slower, so I was having a little bit of difficulty on his serve in the first set”, said Cilic. 

John Millman also rallied from one set down to beat Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 after two hours and 35 minutes. Millman will play against either Alexander Bublik or Ukrainian qualifier Ilya Marchenko. 

Millman went up a 5-2 lead with a double break. Bonzi pulled both breaks back to draw level to draw level to 5-5. Bonzi earned two mini-breaks to take a 4-2 lead. Millman pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5, but Bonzi earned his third mini-break to win the tie-break 7-5.

Bonzi went up a set and a break to take a 4-3 lead, but Millman won the final three games with two breaks to claim the second set 6-4. Millman raced out to a 4-0 lead with two breaks. Bonzi got one break back in the fifth game for 1-4. Millman won his final service games to close out the third set 6-3. 

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