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Venus Williams gets revenge on Konta

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Venus Williams avenged her 2017 semi-final loss to Johanna Konta by beating the Brit 5-7 6-1 6-2 in the fourth round of the 2018 Miami Open.

The American’s win earns her a 13th quarter-final appearance in Miami and means she has now beaten Konta three times in a row since her 6-4 7-5 defeat last year at Crandon Park.

Williams had to achieve victory from a set down – the first time either player has done so in this head-to-head – after the Brit won a tight opener courtesy of a decisive break in the 11th game.

The American, 37, raised her game superbly at the start of the second set and broke Konta immediately to lead 2-0. From that point on, she never looked back as she won 12 of the last 15 games in the match to claim the second and third sets with ease.

Defending champion Konta made the perfect start to the match as she broke Williams in the opening game. She almost earned a double break in game three but wasted four opportunities to clinch it.

Saving those break points enabled the American to find some much-needed rhythm and, shortly afterwards, she levelled the score at 3-3 by breaking back.

Williams even had a chance to take the opener when Konta was serving at 4-5. However, she failed to take advantage of her solitary set point and ended up losing the set 7-5.

After sealing the early break in set two with a thunderous forehand winner, the veteran American pressed on with a comfortable hold and then put pressure on the Brit’s serve by winning the first two points of the game.

However, Konta held firm and nearly broke Williams in game five. From 40-0 up, the American committed two unforced errors and a double fault to let the Brit back into the game.

Then, a couple of points later, Konta crunched a forehand winner to earn break point. Williams saved it with a big serve that was too hot for the Brit to handle and went on to hold for 4-1.

The rest of the set went by in a flash as two errors and a double fault from Konta handed the American another break and Williams held easily to clinch it 6-1.

Before the decider, Konta received treatment on her back. But it did not seem to help as she made a few errors and was broken in the opening game.

The Brit fought hard to try and get back into the match and, after Williams saved a break point in game two, Konta managed to level the score by breaking in game four.

However, that was the last game the Brit won as Williams immediately broke her again and raced through the remaining three games she needed to secure the win.

In her post-match, the American said she feels “very focused” this year in Miami. She also explained why it has not surprised her that she has had to win three tough matches to get to the last eight.

“Pretty much everyone I play plays me tough, so that’s the norm for me,” said Williams. “There are no easy matches.”

She continued, “(To win) you have to realize that the player across the net wants to win, too. So you have to fight for every point, and if you come up short, then you just start over again. Everyone is so good now that you can’t expect to have an easy match.”

Svitolina and Azarenka reach last eight

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Williams now has a great chance to go on and claim her first Miami title, but she will probably have to win some more difficult matches to do it due to the calibre of player remaining.

The American will be expected to win her next match against the winner of the match between Monica Puig and Danielle Collins.

However, if she makes it to the last four, she might face Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian kept alive her hopes of Miami glory by producing an inspired comeback to beat Ashleigh Barty 7-5 6-4.

Svitolina made a poor start to the match and found herself 5-2 down in the opening set. But, after a chat with her coach Andrew Bettles, she upped her intensity and won five games in a row to take the first set.

And the Ukrainian withstood everything Barty threw at her in the second set to win it 6-4 and book her place in the quarter-finals.

In the other half of the draw, Victoria Azarenka had a far easier time of things as she cruised past Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-2 to set up a fascinating quarter-final clash with Karolina Pliskova.

Despite her impressive win over World No.1 Simona Halep in the previous round, the Pole was unable to cope with Azarenka’s returning ability as the Belarussian broke her seven times in the match.

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The Slow And Successful Rise Of Veronika Kudermetova

Let us look at the long path to success at high levels of the current Russian number two, who just finished as the runner-up in Abu Dhabi.

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Veronika Kudermetova - Roland Garros 2019 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)
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While waiting for the end of the Australian quarantine, UbiTennis continues our analysis of the players involved in the first tournament of the year, the WTA 500 in Abu Dhabi.

After the article dedicated to Ekaterina Alexandrova, I shall continue with the Russian line by discussing Veronika Kudermetova. For her, the week in the Emirates was a very positive one, given that for the first time in her career she managed to reach the final of a WTA 500 event (the new denomination of the Premier tournaments, which assign 470 points to the winner). During the tournament, Kudermetova defeated Kontaveit, Turati, Badosa, Svitolina and Kostyuk, losing only to Aryna Sabalenka (who, between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, has an active winning streak of 15 matches). Veronika’s excellent moment is validated by the best ranking she achieved this week at N.36 – had she won the final, she would have become the Russian N.1, overtaking Alexandrova. 

 

It should be emphasized, however, that all the talk about the rankings is muddled by the rules introduced with the pandemic, rules that tend to maintain the status quo, and in fact disfavour up-and-coming players like Kudermetova. Had only the results obtained in 2020 been counted, Veronika would have ended the season ranked 29th instead of 46th. Then, by factoring in the final reached in the UAE last Wednesday, her spot in the Top 30 would have been cemented even further. It might seem senseless to keep referring to a virtual ranking based on past rules (which are slated to come back in March, though), but I think it helps to identify the players who are doing better, despite the many difficulties of the current period. In fact, we know that we are playing less than usual, and this makes it more difficult to build that momentum which, thanks to above average conditions of form and enthusiasm, translates into significant leaps in quality and standing.

As for Kudermetova, there are at least two aspects of her career that, in my opinion, make her particularly interesting: the difficulties she faced to find financial support in her teenage years, and the comparison with her peers born in 1997, a special year for women’s tennis. In fact, Veronika was born in the same year as successful and precocious players such as Bencic, Ostapenko and Osaka, as well as Konjuh (unfortunately stopped by injuries) and Kasatkina, her Russian “twin” with whom she shared the years on the junior tour. Let’s start from those years.

On page 2, Kudermetova’s beginnings 

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Dayana Yastremska Out Of Australian Open After ITF Upholds Provisional Ban

The attempt by the 20-year-old to play in the first grand slam of 2021 has failed amid speculation of another appeal to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

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It’s official Dayana Yastremska will not be competing at the Australian Open this year after an appeal to a provisional doping ban was rejected.

The world No.29 has travelled to Melbourne hoping she would be able to play the first grand slam of the year but now is out of the tournament. She had earlier tested positive for a banned substance Metabolite Mesterlone but was given a chance to appeal a provisional suspension. Explaining why she was able to board a flight organised by Tennis Australia in spite of ITF rules. The rulebook states that players serving a provisional ban are not allowed to participate in activities organised by a tournament.

 

An application by Dayana Yastremska to lift the provisional suspension imposed on her on 7 January 2021 under Article 8.3.1(c) of the 2020 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has been denied by the Chair of the Independent Tribunal convened to hear her case,” the ITF said in a statement.
“This decision is subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Ms. Yastremska, WADA and the National Anti-Doping Center of Ukraine.”

Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is.

Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” she wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”

The 20-year-old is among 72 players who have been placed into strict isolation in Melbourne following a series of positive COVID-19 cases detected on flights en route to the country. She is not allowed to leave her room for 14 days and even then she will be prohibited from entering Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, following to the latest ruling.

The announcement is a major blow to the beginning of Yastremska’s season. She will have to wait to see what happens next and if she is able to make another appeal before the next event after the first grand slam of the year.

There have been no official statement from Yastremska or her team following the ITF’s decision.

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Ash Barty Draws Inspiration From Olympic Great In Return After 11-Month Break

After spending time away from the tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a determined Barty weighs up her chances at next month’s Australian Open.

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For Ash Barty her main focus is on ‘doing the right things’ instead of winning titles as she nears her return to professional tennis after almost a year on the sidelines.

 

Despite being the highest ranked player in women’s tennis, the 24-year-old hasn’t played a match on the Tour since her semi-final loss to Petra Kvitova at the Doha Open on February 28th 2020. Shortly after that match, the sport came to a halt for weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. Making the running of professional tournaments near impossible. Then when the sport resumed in the summer with a series of COVID-19 restrictions implemented, Barty was one of the few who decided to not travel internationally.

The inevitable question is how much will the break have an impact on the Australian and her game when she takes on the best in the world? The first public glimpse of Barty’s form will be displayed in less than a week’s time when she plays an exhibition event in Adelaide along with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. The top three ranked players of the Tour’s have been quarantined in Adelaide in part of a deal struck by Tennis Australia.

“I feel like I’ve done all the work,” Barty told ABC News on Saturday.
“I feel like we’ve ticked the boxes and I’m feeling like every single year we continue to develop my game and it’s better and better.
“Obviously I haven’t played competition tennis for a year now so it’s going to be a challenge but we also know that hopefully again it will be a long season and we don’t have to panic if we don’t get the perfect start.”

Whilst taking it all in her stride, Barty hasn’t got long to tune up her game before the Australian Open commences on February 8th. A later than usual start date due to the pandemic. A semi-finalist of the tournament 12 months ago, she is seeking to end her country’s drought of a home champion. The last to do so was Chris O’Neil in 1978.

Due to her ranking, Barty will be the top seed in Melbourne Park but she is refusing to get ahead of herself when it comes to her chances of Grand Slam glory. She has reached the fourth round or better at the last six majors she has played in.

“It’s about doing the right things right from the start, from the very first match, and whether I win the match or not, if I go through the right processes and do things the way we’ve always done it, I’ll sleep well at night regardless of the results,” Barty explains.
“That’s a really important part of our make-up with our whole team. Everyone plays a role and we try and do a job to the best of our ability on that given day.
“If it’s good enough, it is. And if it’s not, it’s not. But that’s okay.”

As to how she will handle the pressure in the coming weeks, the Grand Slam champion plans to follow the example set by compatriot Cathy Freeman. A former 400 meter runner who won a gold medal in front of her home crowd at the 2000 Olympic Games.

“I think her analogy, particularly through the Sydney Olympics, was one of the best I have ever heard,” she said.
“Her picturing herself as a young girl inside a house and seeing the storm outside, you can see it but you don’t hear it. That is really effective and incredible.
“For me it is about accepting that there is noise and extra attention and talk but ultimately that doesn’t change how I hit a tennis ball, that doesn’t change how I prepare.
“As long as I do all of my processes the right way and make decisions for the right reasons then regardless of whether it is a win or a loss, I sleep well at night knowing we have done everything possible to try and give ourselves the best chance.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Barty has returned to the sport following a lengthy break after taking a 18-month leave back in 2014 where she even briefly played another sport before returning. Barty played cricket in the Women’s Big Bash League. Since returning, she has won eight WTA titles, including the WTA Finals and French Open during 2019.

The one-day Adelaide exhibition, which is where Barty will kick-off her return, will take place on January 29.

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