Maria Sharapova Upset By Niculescu In Doha - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Upset By Niculescu In Doha

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

Maria Sharapova became the latest victim of Monica Niculescu and her box of tricks as she surprisingly lost 6-4 4-6 3-6 to the Romanian in the first round of the WTA Premier event in Doha.

 

The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, is not the force she once was but she would certainly have expected to beat Niculescu, particularly as she was ranked 50 places higher than the World No.92 before the match.

However, the Romanian upset the odds to make it through and will probably face Magdalena Rybarikova in round two. Provided the Slovakian successfully negotiates her encounter with Omani wild card Fatma Al-Nabhani (World No.521), the Doha crowds can look forward to an exhibition of clever slices, drop shots and deft volleys when she plays Niculescu.

“I love it how I play and I like to be unique, and I think my slice forehand is a weapon,” the Romanian said during her press conference. “And when I feel good on the court, then I play relaxed, I can be good and can be dangerous.”

Sharapova was always likely to find the ever-inventive Niculescu tough to put away unless she produced something approaching her best form and, for most of the first set, she managed to do exactly that. The Russian opened the match with a flawless return game to break the Romanian to love, and then responded to Niculescu levelling the match at 2-2 by breaking her twice more to race into a 5-2 lead.

But Sharapova faltered when she was serving for the set and Niculescu dragged the score back to 5-4. And, although the Russian held serve to clinch the first set, her level of performance steadily dropped off as her Romanian opponent battled, sliced and hustled her way to a 6-4 scoreline to take the contest into a third set.

Things got even worse for Sharapova in the decider as she failed to capitalise on an early break and then made a string of double faults and forehand unforced errors to lose three games in a row and gift Niculescu the set and the win.

In total, the Russian made 52 unforced errors and served 11 double faults in the match. Those are awful numbers, but she has coped with similar stats in the past by hitting just as many aces and winners. This time, however, she could only manage 31 winners and two aces, which was way short of what she needed.

“I did a good job of winning the longer rallies, even though that’s not really what I wanted to get myself into.” An upbeat Sharapova reflected about her performance.
“So, physically I felt good. I just got pretty passive in the end and starting making too many errors.”

Radwanska survives

Agnieszka Radwanska looked in danger of suffering a similar fate to Sharapova when she lost the opening set to Mona Barthel, who cracked 25 winners past the Pole to take it 6-3.

The 2012 Wimbledon finalist responded by stepping inside the court and being more aggressive in the second set in the hope of unsettling her opponent’s rhythm. It worked wonders, as Barthel suddenly found it much more difficult to time her shots. Before the German could fully adjust to the change, she was 4-0 down in the set and eventually lost it 6-3.

Radwanska initially kicked on in the decider and raced into a 5-2 lead. However, she wasted an incredible nine match points as she allowed Barthel to level the set at 5-5. Finally, the Pole took her tenth opportunity to close out the match and breathe a sigh of relief that she had not thrown it away. Sealing the marathon win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. She is likely to play Petra Kvitova in the next round.

In other matches, Dominika Cibulkova held her nerve to edge out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(8), 6-4. The Slovak, who has only won back-to-back matches in one tournament so far this season, will take on seventh seed Caroline Garcia next. American world No.48 Cici Bellis also progressed after her opponent, Daria Kasatkina, retired with a neck injury.

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Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina Announces Pregnancy

Tennis’ power couple are set to become parents later this year.

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Former world No.3 Elina Svitoliva has announced that she is expecting a baby girl in October on social media.

 

The 27-year-old made the announcement on Sunday morning with a picture of her and her husband, French tennis star Gael Monfils. Known by some as the sports ‘power couple,’ the two tied the knot last July in Geneva ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games after first going public about their relationship in 2019. They even have their own Instagram account called ‘g.e.m.s. life’ which has more than 139,000 followers.

“With a heart full of love and happiness, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a baby girl in October,” the couple wrote on Twitter.

Svitolina hadn’t played on the Tour since losing to Heather Watson at the Miami Open in March after deciding to take time away from the sport due to events happening in her home country. Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine earlier this year which has claimed thousands of lives. Svitolina is one of the sport’s most outspoken players regarding the conflict. She has previously spoken out against the decision to ban Russian and Belarussian athletes from Wimbledon by arguing that they should be allowed to participate if they condemn the actions of their home countries.

We don’t want them banned completely,” Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.
“If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.”

Prior to announcing her pregnancy, Svitolina has achieved a win-loss record of 5-8 on the Tour this season with her best runs being to the third round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of a WTA event in Monterrey.

During her career, the Ukrainian has won 16 WTA titles and reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams during 2019.

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Bianca Andreescu reaches Rome quarterfinals after beating Petra Martic

The Canadian was able to get by her Croatian opponent in straight sets on Thursday afternoon in the Italian capital.

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Photo by Roberto Dell’Olivo

Bianca Andreescu is through to the quaterfinals of the Italian Open being played at the Foro Italico in Rome after beating Petra Martic in 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes.

 

The Toronto native served four aces and won 76% of her first serve points in a match that was pretty straight forward for the world number 90 who makes her first quaterfinal this season.

During the first set both players did a good job holding serve and it was pretty tight until 4-4 when the Canadian was able to convert and served out the first set to take a 1-0 lead.

Andreescu was hungry for the early break in the second set and she got it but the Croat broke right back the following game to level the set at 2-2. She was then put on the defensive as the world number 47 started putting pressure on the Canadian but Andreescu was able to save two breakpoints before being able to hold serve to make it 3-3.

The next game Martic produced a poor service game and the 2019 US Open champ took full advantage, getting the break and that one break was enough for her to serve out the match.

Her reward for reaching the quarterfinals a date with the world number one Iga Swiatek who had no issues beating the Minsk native Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1.

This will be their first ever meeting on the WTA Tour.

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‘She Doesn’t Really Have A Weakness’ – Karolina Pliskova Unsurprised By Swiatek’s Dominance

The Czech also opens up about her difficult start to the year where she has won just two matches.

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) in the fourth round of the Ladies' Singles on Court 12 at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 7 Monday 05/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Iga Swiatek’s current streak of 24 match wins might have caught some by surprise by not Karolina Pliskova.

 

The world No.1 is the first player this season to have won four WTA events and is the third youngest to have won 20 or more matches in a row on the Tour since 2000 after both of the Williams sisters. Against seeded players this year, she has a win-loss record of 14-2. The recent dominance by the Pole solidifies her position as the highest ranked player in the world. A position she obtained following the decision by Ash Barty to retire from tennis just weeks after winning the Australian Open.

Pliskova knows all too well what it is like to play Swiatek after she was thrashed by the 20-year-old in Rome last year. The Czech lost 6-0, 6-0, to her younger rival in the final. That was the only time in her career she has played a WTA match without winning a single game.

I’m not surprised at all. She has that kind of game. I think she beats so many players super easy because she doesn’t really give one ball no matter what the score is,” Pliskova said of Swiatek during an interview with Eurosport.
“You can have players, like for example Madison Keys, she can play amazing but then she’s always going to have that one game where she gives you a couple of mistakes. But I think Iga just doesn’t have those games.”

Swiatek is unsurprisingly one of the favourites to clinch the French Open title, which will get underway later this month. She won the Grand Slam back in 2020 but hasn’t reached another major final since then. During the off-season she made a change to her coaching team by pairing up with Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his work with Agnieszka Radwanska.

“Of course, she can still play better and worse, but still she doesn’t give any free mistakes. So that’s why it’s super difficult to stay close, and of course, if you feel bad then you’re just going to lose a lot,” Pliskova continued.
“Because especially on clay, I think she moves very well, she doesn’t really have a weakness. And of course now, the confidence, I suppose it cannot be much higher. So that’s I think a big part of the success.”

As Swiatek surges in the sport, Pliskova is hoping to gain some momentum in the near future. After missing the start of the year due to a hand injury, she returned to action in Indian Wells but has enjoyed limited success. Failing to win back-to-back matches in six straight tournaments. Her latest loss was in the second round of the Italian Open to Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann.

The 30-year-old has a wealth of points to defend during the second half of 2022. Last year she reached the final of both Wimbledon and the Canadian Open, as well as a run to the quarter-finals of the US Open.

I think I’m old enough to not always [live] by the results or have the moods, I think I can just separate these things now,” she said.
“I’m doing my best so everything is not just about results and about tennis. I feel happy, I feel okay, and mainly my wrist is fine so I’m feeling fine. I think if I can hold this kind of like, it’s not like I will be super positive, but this kind of mood, it can help me in the second half of the year.”

Pliskova is currently ranked sixth in the world.

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