The reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens has won the Miami Open by defeating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(5) 6-1 in 1 hour and 31 minutes.
The 25 year old American, ranked 12, was appearing in her first final since winning the US Open back in September last year, and she was mainly on the defensive from the baseline against the offensive play of her Latvian opponent from the start. There were no less than eight breaks of serve in the opening set as both women struggled to play consistently on serve due to the dominance of their respective return games.
The first four games went against serve, before Ostapenko, ranked 5, finally held for 3-2 with a ferocious forehand winner up the line. But Stephens responded by holding serve to love to bring the score to parity.
When Stephens broke and then held for 5-3, it looked as if she would go on to take the set. However, serving at 5-4, Stephens got tight and served a double fault to donate a break point, and then sent a wayward forehand six feet long to bring the score to 5-5.
The American broke again and served for the set a second time, but served a double fault on break point to the Latvian’s relief, and so the set would be determined by a tiebreak.
Ostapenko started off the breaker in impressive style, thumping a high forehand drive volley cross court from way inside the court for a clean winner. Stephens stayed composed from this point and cut down on her errors, counter punching and playing great defence side to side and the Latvian began to spray balls out when the quick winners failed to materialise. Stephens held 4 set points at 6-2, and eventually took the 57 minute set on her fourth set point when Ostapenko sent a routine high backhand into the net going cross court.
The second set saw Stephens move up a gear, and coming from a break down she won six games in a row as the flustered Latvian became more impatient from the baseline as her opponent’s defence and anticipation began to pay huge dividends. The American served out for the title to love as another Ostapenko forehand flew wide to roars of approval from the partisan crowd.
Stephens great defence and anticipation was the key to her success, but the American said that she didn’t really do anything differently to prepare for this coming into the match.
“I just knew that I would have to run a lot of balls down because of the way that she plays”, Stephens said. “She has a very aggressive style. Sometimes you can’t outhit her or outrun her, you just have to accept that she is going to hit some really great shots. That’s what I did well today when she was hitting great shots, I just said “too good”, and accepted that some great shots were going to be hit, and didn’t dwell on it too much.”
“My feet stopped moving and I stopped swinging my arms”, Stephens said regarding her slow start. “I just needed to win that first set and get over it, and then I was able to really start swinging and to play the game that I wanted to play.”
“This place is pretty special to me, I grew up playing tennis here, when the USTA was here, we played Orange Bowl and all sort of tournaments here, and so I am definitely happy that I am the last one to win the title here. I’ve had some amazing experiences here and I will definitely miss it.”
Stephens will move into the top 10 for the first time in her career on Monday and she was excited to have finally reached that milestone: “Yeah, I’m super excited”, she said. “It’s something that I’ve wanted for a really long time. It took a really long time to get there because I was at 11, and I was so tired of hearing career high ranking of 11, and so I’m super excited that on Monday I will be inside the top 10 and that’s something that I’m looking forward to, and obviously winning the tournament is just the cherry on the top.”
“I made sure after Australia I got myself in the best shape possible”, she continued. “I really just focused on myself and made sure that I was the best version of me, and no one can take that away from me. But now I’m here and I have this beautiful trophy, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me. So I’m just going to walk with my head high and, you know, embrace it.”
Ostapenko said that she had not seen Stephens moving this well during the tournament, and admitted that in the end her great defence won her the match.
“Sometimes I was too aggressive when I didn’t have to be”, Ostapenko admitted. “In the first set it was working pretty well. I stepped a little bit back, but then I moved forward to play some balls inside the court to take away time from her, which I didn’t, so probably that’s why I lost the match.”
Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins First Title Since Return From Surgery In Washington
The two-time grand slam champion has returned back to the winners circle following her six-month absence due to injury.
Former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four match points to defeat Donna Vekic 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, in the final of the Citi Open in Washington.
Kuznetsova, 33, fought back against the aggressive play of her opponent. Saving seven out of the 10 break points she faced in the match. Eventually, it was the experience of the Russian that guided her to the finish line as she hit 34 winners to 36 unforced errors to win her first title on the tour since the 2016 Moscow Open.
“It was a difficult week,” Kuznetsova reflected afterwards. “Tennis is always mental, if you lose or if you win, you always gotta stay focused.”
With both players contesting their first final of the season, it was Vekic who battled through what was a roller-coaster and tense opening set. At first, the seventh seed appeared on course to clinch the opener with ease after breaking Kuznetsova in the fourth game as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. Only to be pegged by the 2014 champion. Serving for the set at 5-3, a forehand error rewarded Kuznetsova the chance to break back. Prior to the following point, the Russian complained about the movement of the crowd just as Vekic was about to serve. Then the Croat hit a double fault with the two players exchanging words at the changeover.
Despite feeling hard done by, Vekic soon restored order in the match. As Kuznetsova served for a chance to level 5-5, she pounced one again as the former world No.2 faltered. Recovering from a 15-40 deficit to seal the opening set with the help of a Kuznetsova double fault on set point.
Vekic continued to fight with the help of her of some rapid shock-making. Fending off a break point to nudge ahead 4-3 in the second set. Although Kuznetsova refused to go away. Saving two match points, it was in the tiebreaker where the Russian managed to turn her fortunes around. Vekic missed out on another two chances to win the match, allowing Kuznetsova to nudge ahead 8-7. She was then able to force proceedings into a decider after a Vekic forehand slammed into the net.
Kuznetsova’s resilience eventually wore her opponent down, who was close to tears after the match. Vekic admitted afterwards that she was dealing with leg pain and took a medical time out just before the start of the final set.
A double break in Kuznetsova’s favor in the decider guided her to a 5-0 lead. Enough of a cushion to enable her to close out the match after two-and-a-half hours of play to win her second Washington title.
“I know I’ve been a little bit lucky today,” she said.
“There’s something going on with Washington. I never lose here. I played two times and I won both.”
The victory comes after what has been a testing first half of the year for Kuznetsova. Left wrist surgery forced her to miss six months of the tour. Meaning that she didn’t start the 2018 season until March. Prior to the Citi Open, she had only won four matches in 10 tournaments played. Making her latest triumph even more special.
“Those times I had after the surgery, I had difficulties everywhere — personal, working different things. I switched coaches. I had lots of issues,” Kuznetsova explained. “But still, I rise again, and it’s really good for me.”
As a result of her latest win, Kuznetsova has risen 41 places in 87th in the world. Meanwhile, Vekic has jumped seven places to 37th.
Davis Cup Reforms Face Late Opposition As Vote Looms
The proposed Davis Cup reforms have received strong criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe ahead of this month’s vote.
The upcoming Davis Cup reform vote has received some strong opposition and criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe.
The vote is set to take place on the 16th of August, where federations will vote to change the 118 year old format to a one week season finale at the end of the year. The proposed move by Kosmos, has received fierce criticism and will need a two-thirds majority in order for it to be approved.
However with the vote just two weeks away Tennis Australia has been among the federations to oppose these reforms and have pushed this even further as they have wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the idea. The letter has been signed by the likes of John Newcombe, current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
The letter raises the following concerns, “We have written and spoken to the ITF President for several months now requesting clarity on the proposal from Kosmos, but this has not been forthcoming,” explained the letter, which is even signed by former ITF president Brian Tobin.
“Very large numbers are being referenced, but there is not enough detail to give us confidence this proposal will genuinely deliver enough additional value to players and the nations to offset the loss of home and away camaraderie and all the local marketing, facility investment and player development benefit that comes with those ties. In the absence of such important information, we have no choice other than to vote against the proposed amendments.”
However Tennis Australia isn’t the only federation to be against this move as Tennis Europe, who represent more than 50 member nations have also expressed their concern at the idea, “I am particularly concerned that there is hardly any information received from the ITF regarding bank guarantees for the proposed US$120 million per year which would be the $3 billion deal over 25 years, according to the original proposal,” President Vladimir Dimitriev explained in a separate letter.
“I have not yet seen a final and feasible explanation on how the business model or the governance structure will be either.”
The ITF do have the backing of Germany and France ahead of the move though with the AGM meeting set to take place in Orlando, Florida between the 13th and 16th of August.
Serena Williams Withdraws From Montreal Due To Personal Reasons
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week due to personal reasons.
Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week as she deals with some personal issues.
The American suffered the worst defeat of her career last week when she lost 6-1 6-0 to Johanna Konta in San Jose. The 23 grand slam champion clearly wasn’t at her best and it now turns out that she had personal problems to deal with as this is the reason for her withdrawal in Montreal next week.
The recent Wimbledon finalist also felt that she could not play Montreal and Cincinnati in back to back weeks as she continues her comeback from pregnancy. The tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, admits that he is disappointed but still recognises the high quality field that is left, “Of course, we are disappointed that Serena will not be joining us, Fans were very much looking forward to seeing her in action,” explained Eugene.
“But beyond the disappointment, the tournament, as a whole, remains a high-level competition. The entire Top 10 is here, along with 22 of the Top 25. There are exciting matches in store from the outset.”
The American was set to play in Canada for the first time since 2015 before withdrawing today. The 23 time grand slam champion has played five events since returning from pregnancy and the results have been mixed as you can see below:
Indian Wells – Third Round
Miami – First Round
Roland Garros – Fourth Round
Wimbledon – Final
San Jose – First Round
Tatjana Maria will now replace Serena Williams in the main draw and the German faces Alize Cornet in the first round.
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