MADRID: Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova overcame an erratic performance to see of Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, at the Madrid Open.
The 26-year-old displayed both the best and worst of her tennis skills in what was a match of two halves. Providing the former US Open finalist with plenty to think about. The roller coaster performance saw her hit 44 errors to 31 winners as she converted four out of her eight break point opportunities. Azarenka was also guilty of a high error count with 38 mistakes.
“I’m happy that I won because I think those matches sometimes you just got to get through.”Said Pliskova. “I haven’t felt that bad for a long time I have to say. And somehow that match was very strange because I started so well. I was feeling the ball, serving well. She was helping me to get the 6-2 lead. Then I lost my serve and everything went so quickly.”
Fresh off winning her biggest title yet on the clay at the Stuttgart Open, Pliskova went off guns blazing. Capitalizing on the high altitude in Madrid with a barrage of heavy-hitting shots. Her first breakthrough occurred immediately at the start when a Azarenka backhand drifted long to reward her a break. From then on the Czech sixth seed dominated the opening set. Azarenka tried to respond with shots reminiscent of the ones that brought her two Australian Open titles, but lacked consistency.
Azarenka’s mood worsened in the seventh game. A backhand mishit elevated her rival to a 5-2 lead. Prompting the frustrated Belarusian to swing her racket towards the ground out of anger. In contrast, a more composed Pliskova sealed the 6-2 lead with the help of a carefully placed serve down the net, which was returned out.
Pliskova’s emphatic start soon unravelled in dramatic fashion. Set No.2 saw the Czech struggle to generate any momentum as she produced a lackluster 21 unforced errors. Reviving the hopes of her animated rival, who continued to fight for the win going into the decider.
The last-night showdown at the Caja Magica wasn’t just a battle of the fittest, it was also who was the most strongest mentally. In the decider a break in Pliskova’s favor for 3-0 prompted a mini Azarenka outburst. Who wasn’t afraid to show her emotions. Nevertheless, closing the match out was far from straightforward for Pliskova as Azarenka battled back to level 3-3.
Eventually the Czech prevailed after over two hours of battling on the court. A tentative Azarenka serve was returned with interest to hand Pliskova a place in the last 16.
“All the games were pretty close. She served well at 3-1, but that game was very tough. It would have been so much different if I had a 4-0 lead. To play a bit more freely.” Pliskova reflected about how the match ended.
“I always had my chances. It’s not that she played unbelievable shots. It was more about me today because I think she gave me some mistakes that she maybe wouldn’t have (if we played) on a hard court.”
Despite booking a place in the third round of the Madrid Open for the first time in her career, it was a muted celebration by Pliskova. After the match the world No.6 admitted that playing late at night has been an issue for her.
“I’ve been struggling with the late night matches. I started well, so I don’t know what the problem was. Maybe something in my head.” She said.
Next up will be US Champion Sloane Stephens. The American strolled past Sam Stosur 6-1,6-3, in her third round match. Stephens is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a Premier event on the clay.
“I have to improve a lot because I think she she plays well in big tournaments. She has a good kick-serve, shots with a spin. So I think of clay she can play well here (in Madrid).” Pliskova said about her upcoming opponent
“I have to play much better than I was playing today. For sure she isn’t going to give me that many unforced errors as Vika today.”
Pliskova is now on a seven-match winning streak.
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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