Karolina Pliskova Stunned By Sakkari - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova Stunned By Sakkari

Karolina Pliskova loses 3-6 6-3 7-5 to Maria Sakkari in a huge upset in the second round of the Italian Open, while Halep thrashes Osaka.

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Karolina Pliskova suffered a shock loss in the second round of the Italian Open as she was beaten 3-6 6-3 7-5 by World No.42 Maria Sakkari.

 

The World No.5 was in excellent form coming into the match. She won the Stuttgart title and reached the semi-final in Madrid. She also made it to the semi-final in Brisbane and four other quarter-finals earlier in the year.

However, the Czech failed to live up to her billing in Rome. She took the opening set 6-3 but struggled to impose her game on Sakkari in the rest of the match.

The Greek, 22, fought back and took the match all the way to 5-all and deuce in the decider. At that point, Pliskova put away a smash which clearly hit the line.

Unfortunately for the Czech, the line judge called it out and the umpire refused to overrule the call. Pliskova argued, became understandably distracted and eventually lost her serve to fall 6-5 behind.

After Sakkari held serve comfortably to clinch the biggest win of her career, Pliskova’s rage boiled over. She shook hands with her blameless opponent and then hacked a chunk out of the umpire’s chair with her racket after refusing to shake her hand.

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It was a sad end to an enthralling encounter, and the World No.5 will almost certainly face some kind of disciplinary action for the incident. However, it would never have happened if the court had hawk-eye.

Despite the disappointing finale, Sakkari will be delighted with her first-ever win over a player in the world’s top five.

The Greek had looked in danger of being blown away when she went 5-1 down in the opener. But she rallied to get one break back before the set was over and then used that momentum to turn the match around.

During her comeback, Sakkari broke Pliskova five times, which is an impressive feat considering the Czech is one of the best servers on the WTA tour.

The World No.42 can now look forward to a last-16 clash with either Angelique Kerber or Irina-Camelia Begu.

Halep teaches Osaka a clay-court lesson

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While Pliskova had a horrible time, Simona Halep’s match could hardly have gone any better. She saved four break points in her opening service game and then stepped up to produce a near-perfect clay-court performance against Naomi Osaka.

The World No.1 was thrashed 6-3 6-0 by the Japanese at the semi-final stage in Indian Wells, but this time it was her turn to dish out the punishment.

The Romanian showed exactly why she is the best WTA performer on clay with a breathtaking display of footwork and shot-making as she hammered Osaka 6-1 6-0.

“In Melbourne I played against (Osaka), and it was also a very good match for me,” said Halep in her press conference.

“Then in Indian Wells, I don’t know what happened in that match. I couldn’t play my best tennis, and she played with confidence there.”

“I was just motivated (today), remembering that match. And I was focused that I have to play as I planned before. And it was a good tactic.”

Halep’s next challenge could be an intriguing one against Madison Keys after the American came through a tight encounter with in-form Donna Vekic 7-6(4) 7-6(0).

The World No.14 reached the Rome final in 2016 and has the power to hit through the Romanian, but she will need to be at her very best to stand a chance if Halep plays like she did against Osaka.

Garcia, Kasatkina and Konta progress

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Elsewhere at the Foro Italico, Caroline Garcia continued her impressive form with a routine 6-3 6-4 win over Timea Babos, while the equally on-song Daria Kasatkina dispatched Danielle Collins 6-2 6-3.

Garcia will now face Sloane Stephens after the American battled to a 6-0 5-7 6-4 win over Kaia Kanepi, while Kasatkina will take on Elina Svitolina.

In the second quarter of the draw, Johanna Konta reached the last-16 of the Italian Open for the third year in succession with 6-0 6-4 victory over Hsieh Su-Wei.

The Briton lost to the World No.49 from Taipei in the first round of the French Open last year, but she found her a much easier opponent this time around.

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Kristina Mladenovic Dropped By Coach After Six Months

The 26-year-old reacts to the unexpected departure of her mentor.

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Former top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic has suffered an off-court blow following the departure of her coach Sascha Bajin.

 

The 26-year-old had been working with Bajin since April and has made steady progress on the tour by rising more than 20 places to back inside the world’s top 40. Last Month Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of the Zhengzhou Open, in what was one of her best runs on the WTA Tour this year. During 2019 she has also recorded four wins over top 10 players, including Naomi Osaka when she was No.1 in the world.

It is understood that the departure of Bajin was on his own terms and not of a mutual agreement. Bajin is the former hitting partner of Serena Williams (2008-2015) and help guide Osaka to her two grand slam titles prior to his departure in February. In 2018 he was awarded the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year Award.

“I’m very disappointed about Sasha’s decision not to continue our relationship next season, I enjoyed our work, we had some great wins and I truly felt my game was on the rise again.” Mladenovic wrote on Twitter.
“I think that there was a lot more to achieve together, but I can’t change his opinion and decision. On my side, I am proud of my year and progress and I will keep working hard and build strong to be even better in 2020.”

Last week at the Kremlin Cup Mladenovic reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. At the tournament she scored wins over seeded players Anastasija Sevastova and Kiki Bertens. Whilst her season has been mixed, the Frenchwoman believes she has the ability to beat the best players in the world.

“When I put together everything on court I can beat anyone.” She told reporters in Moscow.
“And no matter what the season, no matter what ranking, I always have some upsets here and there but now it is really about coming back in the rankings where I was at my highest. And already this year, I am still not satisfied with my ranking but I have a lot of wins against very good players.”

Mladenovic, who is also a top five doubles player that won the French Open title in June, is currently ranked 39th in the world. She is set set to end the season inside the top 50 for the fifth year in a row.

There has been no information released about who may potentially replace Bajin next year.

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Kristina Mladenovic reaches her second semifinal of the year in Moscow

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Kristina Mladenovic reached her second semifinal this year at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow with a 6-4 2-6 6-1 win over this year’s St. Petersburg and Madrid Kiki Bertens after 2 hours and 7 minutes.

 

Mladenovic scored her fourth top 10 win after beating Naomi Osaka in Dubai, Ashleigh Barty in Rome and Elina Svitolina in Zhengzhou.

Mladenovic has always played very well on Russian soil winning the only title in her career in St. Petersburg in 2017 and finishing runner-up in the same tournament last year.

In the first set Mladenovic fended off a break point in the fourth game with a serve and volley before holding serve with a backhand volley. The French player broke serve with a forehand down the line in the fifth game.

Mladenovic saved three break points, as she attempted to serve the set out. The French player sealed the first set on her second set point after Bertens missed two passing shots and made her 17th unforced error.

Bertens broke twice to build up a 4-0 lead in the second set. Mladenovic pulled one of the two breaks back with a lob in the fifth game, but Bertens won eight of the next nine points to win the second set 6-2 forcing the match the third set.

Mladenovic earned a break point in a long third game in the decisive set and converted it with a winner. The Frenchwoman earned her triple break with consecutive backhand passes to race out to a 5-0 lead. Mladenovic was not able to serve out the match in the sixth game, but she broke again in the seventh game to seal the third set 6-1.

Mladenovic set up a semifinal against Belinda Bencic, who came back from one set down and saved two set points in the first set to beat Belgian qualifier and world number 120 Kirsten Flipkens 7-6 (10-8) 6-1 after 1 hour and 34 minutes.

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Top Seed Elina Svitolina Ousted On Mixed Day For Top Names In Moscow

The world No.4 has suffered a blow heading into the prestigious WTA Finals later this month.

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Elina Svitolina (@usopen on Twitter)

Elina Svitolina’s hopes of claiming her first title of 2019 this week has come to an abrupt end after she crashed out in the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Thursday.

 

The world No.4, who had a bye in the first round, failed to capitalize on some crucial chances  during her 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, loss to Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova. Who was playing a top five opponent for the first time in her career. In the decider, Svitolina twice broke for an opportunity to close out the match. However, her opponent refused to buckle as she clawed her way back to level 4-4 before going on to break Svitolina as she was serving to stay in the match.

“I think it was a really tough match. We were playing well in the third set, it was very tight. Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way,” Said Svitolina.

Thursday’s loss continues the title drought for the 25-year-old, who is yet to win a trophy this season. Svitolina has won at least one WTA title each year since 2014. If she wants to continue that trend, she will need to win the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen. A tournament where her last triumph occurred.

“I will try to recover and be ready for Shenzhen, the last tournament.” She said. “Definitely, I am very positive about going to defend my title. I am looking forward to it. Hopefully I can be ready and try to give everything I got.”

It is the first time Svitolina has lost her opening match in a tournament since Eastbourne back in July.

Meanwhile, Kudermetova is relishing in another milestone during what is a strong end to her 2019 season. Since the US Open, she has reached the semi-finals in both Hiroshima and Tianjin. In Wuhan she also claimed her first ever Premier title in doubles alongside Duan Yingying.

“My tactical plan was to put pressure, to come to the net, because during the rallies from the baseline I had fewer chances.” Kudermetova commented about her latest win.

There was better news for second seed Kiki Bertens. The Dutch player recovered from a set and a break down to see off Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, after more than two hours of play. Saving eight out of the 13 break points she faced during the process.

“It is important for my body to feel well. In the next match I will try to play as aggressive as today and keep fighting for every ball.” Bertens commented during her on-court interview.

The win boosts Bertens’ hopes of qualifying for Shenzhen, which will get underway later this month.  She can secure her place this week in Moscow if she reaches the final. Bertens’ last WTA final appearance was almost three months ago in Palermo, Italy.

Next for Bertens will be Kristina Mladenovic, who knocked out seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. It is only the second time this season Mladenovic has managed to reach back-to-back quarter-finals on the tour. Last week in Linz she lost in the last eight to Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Five out of the eight seeded players have already crashed out of Moscow. Bertens, Alexandrova and Belinda Bencic are the only seeds that remains.

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