Defending Champion Elise Mertens Battles Through As Seeds Fall In Hobart - UBITENNIS
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Defending Champion Elise Mertens Battles Through As Seeds Fall In Hobart

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Elise Mertens (zimbio.com)

Belgian second seed Elise Mertens held her nerve to edge out Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of the Hobart International.

 

Mertens, who hasn’t won a WTA title since her triumph in the event 12 months ago, won 77% of her first service points and converted four out of her nine break point chances. During the opening set it was a sole break that separated the two players, but the second was more tightly contested. Twice Mertens broke to close in on the win, before Haddad Maia clawed her way back to level. Leading the match at 6-4, 4-4, the Belgian finally secured her breakthrough. A forehand error from the Brazilian player secured another break in Mertens favour and a chance to serve out the match. Which she successfully took advantage of with the help of a love service game.

“She’s a tough player with good strokes, especially on the forehand she likes to dictate, so I tried to play my game and make her make some mistakes,” Mertens told hobartinternational.com.au.
“I’m pretty pleased with my game.”

This week Mertens is bidding to create history at the WTA International event. If she defends her title, the Belgian will become the first player in history to win the Hobart tournament twice.

“Maybe there is some pressure being seeded and defending the title, but for now I’m just feeling free,” she said. “I know can play a good level. I feel confident here.”

Seeds tumble

Mertens is now on course for a potential clash with Monica Niculescu in what would be a repeat of last year’s final. Niculescu, who was playing her first round match on Tuesday, knocked out sixth seed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-2. The Romanian will next take on Varvara Lepchenko for the chance of a showdown with Mertens.

Alison Riske stunned eighth seed Katerina Siniakova 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, during a two-and-a-half hour battle. The American was trailing 2-4 in the final set, before fighting her way back to defeat the Czech for the first time on her third attempt. During the roller coaster encounter, Riske saved 11 out of the 16 break points she faced and converted six of her own.

“I knew going into it it was going to be a battle. Obviously she had an awesome week last week and she’s an awesome player,” Riske said.
“I fought a lot of nerves and a lot of different things in that match, but I did come out on top so it was definitely a relief.”

Riske will take on Kirsten Flipkens in the second round.

Elsewhere at the tournament, Donna Vekic and Mihaela Buzarnescu secured their places in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Vekic defeated two-time grand slam girls doubles champion Markéta Vondroušová 6-4, 6-4. Meanwhile, Buzarnescu overcame Anna-Lena Friedsam 7-5, 6-4.

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Anett Kontaveit Set To Battle For WTA Finals Spot After Lifting Moscow Crown

It is the third time Kontaveit has won a tournament within the past six months but will she be able to qualify for the season-ending championships?

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Anett Kontaveit (image via https://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit has continued her recent surge in form on the Tour by fighting back from a set down to win her fourth career title at the Kremlin Cup on Sunday.

 

The world No.20 was on the verge of losing to home favourite Ekaterina Alexandrova before battling to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory. At one stage in the match Kontaveit was trailing by a set and 0-4. Then in the decider she was broken at 4-4 before going on to win three games in a row to clinch the title. Overall, she won 69% of her first service points and broke her opponent five times.

“Of course, I am very happy, the match was extremely difficult, I feel relief and joy,” she said afterwards. “I got lucky at match-point, but during the match there were moments when she (Alexandrova) got lucky too. It always takes a little luck to win. She took the lead, controlled the match, it was very difficult for me, I tried to fight for all the points and this helped me to win.”

Kontaveit, who defeated former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza and Markéta Vondroušová earlier in the tournament, has now won 14 out of the last 15 matches she has played on the Tour. Her only loss was to Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells. She has played in five finals this year which is the second-highest on the WTA Tour after world No.1 Ash Barty who has played in six.

The 25-year-old is now on the verge of qualifying for the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. However, the prospect of her playing in the season-ending event depends on the results of next week’s tournaments. Kontaveit is playing in Romania and she needs to win the tournament and for rival Jabeur to lose before the semi-finals to qualify.

Meanwhile, runner-up Alexandrova exits Moscow frustrated with her missed opportunities in the match. It was the first time she has played in a final this season and only the third time in her career. Prior to Kontaveit, she scored back-to-back wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to win, I’m very sorry. But I will work on it and I hope next time I will be able to get a better result,” Alexandrova said during the trophy ceremony.
“I want to congratulate Anett, she played great, it was hard for me to do something.” She added.

Kontaveit, who has won three WTA titles since August, is the first Estonian player to win the Moscow trophy. Compatriot Kaia Kanepi reached the final of the tournament back in 2011.

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Simona Halep, Emma Raducanu Heads The Field in Cluj Napoca

On Saturday the draw was revealed for the 32 players playing in Cluj this week at the Transylvania Open.

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Simona Halep (image via https://twitter.com/Simona_Halep)

Despite the fact seven main draw players have pulled out, including Garbine Muguruza and Paula Badosa, the field is pretty deep with a lot of interesting matchups featuring no fewer than six Romanians. 

 

Let’s start at the top with the number one seed Simona Halep who will play her first match against the up-and-coming fellow Romanian Gabriela Elena Ruse. Halep and Ruse most recently teamed up in doubles and made it to the final in Indian Wells.

The number two seed is the Estonian Anett Kontaveit who will play for a title on Sunday in Moscow. She has drawn a qualifier in the first round. Emma Raducanu, the number three seed, will start her tournament against Polona Hercog.

The fourth seed is the Swiss Jil Teichmann who will also face a qualifier in her first-round match. Meanwhile Australia’s Alja Tomljanovic will face Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan who comes in as a late replacement for Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine is the number six seed and she will face the American Bernarda Pera. It will be the third meeting between the two players with the Ukrainian winning both of their previous matches.

Irina Camelia Begu from Romania and she will face another Romanian in Maria Irina Bara while the number eight seed is Anhelina Kalinna who faces a qualifier in the first round.

If the seeds hold up the tournament could potentially see quarterfinal matches featuring Halep vs Tomljanovic, Raducanu vs Kostyuk, Begu vs Teichmann and Kalinna vs Konteveitt.

There are indeed some dark horses in the draw that could cause some upsets. Look out for Maria Camelia Osorio who has been playing some amazing tennis this year and it seems to be her breakout year.

Andrea Petkovic is always a dangerous opponent and she actually won the first event in Romania, the Winners Open, back in the first week of August. Anastasia Potapova from Russia is no easy task, and many expect a good week from her.

Main draw action begins on Monday with what is expected to be a great week in Cluj-Napoca.

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Transylvania Open Suffers Major Blow As Seven Players Pull Out

A two-time Grand Slam Winner and the Reigning Indian Wells Champion are among those to withdraw from the tournament at the last minute.

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image via https://twitter.com/TransylvaniaOpn

The inaugural Transylvania Open will feature just one top 20 player in the draw after two pulled out of the competition on Saturday.

 

The Spanish duo of Garbine Muguruza and Paula Badosa were set to headline the new WTA 250 event in Cluj Napoca. Tournament organisers confirmed their withdrawal along with that of Ekaterina Alexandrova, Viktoria Golubic, Veronika Kudermetova, Kaia Kanepi, and Mayar Sherif. Furthermore, Mihaela Buzarnescu was also scheduled to play in the qualifying draw but pulled out.

Andreea Prisacariu and Anna-Lena Freidsam will take spots that were attributed to Muguruza and Badosa. The others will be replaced with Ana Bogdan, Alison Van Uytvanck, Ivana Jorovic, and Kaja Juvan.

Muguruza most recently played yesterday in VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow, reaching the quarterfinals where she was thoroughly beaten by the Estonian Anett Kontaveitt 6-1, 6-1.

Badosa is fresh off winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California while Alexandrova has officially reached the final in Moscow after Sakkari was forced to retire 4-1.

Kontaveit, who is scheduled to play this week in Romania, will face Alexandrova in that final on Sunday after beating the Czech Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

Simona Halep is set to be the highest ranked player in the tournament. US Open champion Emma Raducanu is also participation in what will be only her second event since winning her maiden major title at the age of 18.

The main draw action begins on Monday.

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