Victoria Azarenka advances after Keys retires - UBITENNIS
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Victoria Azarenka advances after Keys retires

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Victoria Azarenka advanced to the third round of the Miami Open after Madison Keys retired with a thigh injury when the Belarussian was leading 7-6 2-0.

“You never wish an injury on anyone,” said Azarenka in her on-court interview. “I hope Madison recovers as quickly as possible. She’s a great player, a talented individual and a very nice person so I wish her well.”

It is a pity the match ended early as the first set was highly entertaining with both players hitting plenty of eye-catching winners and numerous entertaining rallies that could have gone either way.

Azarenka made the early running, breaking Keys in a closely-fought third game, and she held the advantage until Keys broke back by hitting three huge groundstrokes in game six.

The American hit a precise cross-court backhand winner, then a deep forehand which Azarenka could not return and finally a big forehand that the Belarussian could only volley wide of the court.

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Keys ran with that momentum and broke Azarenka again in game eight to lead 5-3, but she was unable to press home her advantage as the Belarussian made her play some extra shots and she obliged with unforced errors to surrender her serve.

The American had more chances to close out the set in the 12th game, but she was unable to take them and the two-time Grand Slam champion held on to force a tie-break.

Azarenka made the most of her reprieve as she stormed into a 5-0 lead in the tie-break thanks to her relentless ball-striking, and although Keys hit back with some superb groundstrokes of her own to make it 5-3, the Belarussian held her nerve to take it 7-5.

During the break between sets, Keys had her left thigh strapped by the physio and, when she returned to the court to play two more games, she was clearly hampered by her injury and lost them both before pulling out.

Tough day for the seeds

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Elsewhere on day four, seeds tumbled in Miami. 7th seed Caroline Garcia was thrashed 6-3 6-1 by Alison Riske, 17th seed Magdalena Rybarikova lost 6-3 6-3 to Monica Niculescu and 18th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was comfortably beaten 6-1 6-3 by Zarina Diyas.

German No.2 Julia Goerges, whose impressive form in recent months has propelled her to World No.13, suffered a surprise 7-6(2) 4-6 6-4 loss to ever-improving German No.3 Carina Witthoeft.

25th seed Barbora Strycova fell 6-1 6-4 to Christina McHale, 27th seed Carla Suarez-Navarro lost 7-5 6-3 to Yafan Wang and 32nd seed Sorana Cirstea was beaten 7-5 6-2 by Su-Wei Hsieh.

But it was not all bad news for the seeded players. Angelique Kerber easily beat Johanna Larsson 6-2 6-2, Sloane Stephens powered past Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1 6-3, Anastasija Sevastova overcame Alize Cornet 7-5 6-4 and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova edged out Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 3-6 6-2.

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World No.634 Laura Samson Reaches First WTA Quarter-Final At 16

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Laura Samon - image via itftennis.com/ photo credi: Manuel Queimadelos

Laura Samson has become the first player born in 2008 to reach the quarter-finals of a WTA event after producing a surprise win on Tuesday. 

The 16-year-old wildcard stunned second seed Katerina Siniakova 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the second round at the Prague Open. Her triumph occurred a day after she dropped just two games against Tara Wurth in her opening match. This week is Samson’s Tour debut after playing 10 events on the lower-level ITF circuit. 

“I’m extremely surprised,” she said during her on-court interview after beating Siniakova. “I didn’t go into it as favorite. I’m so proud of myself and I hope I will continue to play like this. As I was going into the second set I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose, I didn’t play good in the first set.’ I’m not really sure when [I thought I could win], I just believed myself in the third set.” 

Samson is the latest Czech player to break through following a sucessful junior career. Last year she won the Wimbledon girls’ doubles title and was runner-up in the French Open singles tournament in June. She is currently No.3 in the ITF junior rankings but has been ranked as high as No.1. 

Earlier this year, Samson decided to change her name on the Tour by dropping the last three letters (ova). The reason why she did so was to avoid getting confused with another player. 

“I first noticed it last year, there was a problem that I was getting strings (the) of Lyudmila Samsonova,” she told tenisovysvet.cz.

“I also talked about it with her and, for example, according to the schedule, she also sometimes thought she was playing, but it was me,” 

“I would have liked the ending -ová, but unfortunately it turned out like this.”

The teenager will next take on world No.248 Oksana Selekhmeteva with the winner of that match progressing to their first WTA semi-final.  21-year-old Selekhmeteva is a former top 10 junior player who came through two rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw. She is a two-time junior Grand Slam champion in doubles. 

There are five seeds remaining in the tournament, including top seed Linda Nosková who will play Germany’s Ella Seidel in her next match. 

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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