Maria Sharapova Admits Changes Are Needed After Madrid Defeat - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova Admits Changes Are Needed After Madrid Defeat

The former world No.1 is targeting improvements in her game ahead of the French Open

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Maria Sharapova (zimbio.com)

MADRID: Maria Sharapova’s encouraging return to the European clay has hit a snag after she crashed out of the Madrid Open to Kiki Bertens.

 

The former world No.1 faded away as the match progressed to go out 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, to the world No.20. Having 21 winners fired past her and getting broken seven times. Resulting in her opponent progressing to her first Premier Mandatory semi-final.

“I look at these types of matches, I see a lot of things I should be better at, I should improve on. I think it’s a combination of taking the positives, but also being a little tough on yourself and expecting a little bit more from yourself.” Sharapova said during her press conference. “That’s the only way to improve. You can’t keep giving yourself a pat on the back.”

There are positives for the Russian this week. Madrid is the first tournament where she has claimed three consecutive wins since Shenzhen at the start of the year. Earlier this week she has got the better of Mihaela Buzărnescu, Irina Camelia Begu and Kristina Mladenovic. A run that is set to elevate her back into the world’s top 40 for the first time since returning from her doping suspension.

Now back under the guidance of Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt once again, the five-time grand slam champion is eyeing further improvement heading into the French Open. Pointing out that she needs to make adjustments to her movement and speed in matches.

“I thought I just should have made those smaller adjustments with my feet, moving back.” Sharapova explained.
“I was just a little slow on that. Just a little hesitant. Some of those opportunities. Keep improving the return. A much better week on that for me this week. But I think there’s a lot more work I can do on that.”

As issues continue with her tennis, there is better news concerning her fitness. Earlier this year, Sharapova was blighted by a left forearm injury. On top of that, she was also advised by doctors to temporarily suspend flying in March after doctors discovered an ‘air pocket’ in her lung. For now, both of those issues are in the past.

“It’s so nice to play when you can hold the racquet in your left hand, when you’re not worried about other things, when you can just play tennis. It’s a really nice feeling. That doesn’t happen all the time. That’s just part of the sport, as well.”

Sharapova will play in Rome next week in what will be her final tournament before the French Open.

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Old Habits Die Hard For Some In Palermo

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic even a traditional post-match gesture is now not frown upon.

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As the players return to competitive tennis for the first time in five months this week some are still not used to the new post-match rules.

 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are a series of protocols in place at this tournament and ones that will follow on the WTA Tour. In Palermo specifically players are prohibited from showing on site, signing autographs and posing with fans. Something which would have been routine at the start of this year. However, old habits are hard to break for some.

Sara Errani celebrated her marathon first round win over Sorana Cirstea by throwing her wristbands to fans. Something which has always been traditionally done by the winner of matches. However, such a well-meaning gesture is prohibited at the event due to the potential transmission of illnesses. Although all players have been COVID-19 tested and cleared before playing.

Fortunately for Errani, she isn’t the only person to unintentionally go against protocol. Qualifier Kaja Juvan did the same on Tuesday following her shock 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, win over second seed Markéta Vondroušová. The win was Juvan’s first ever over a top 20 player.

Apart from a stern glare from the match umpires, neither Errani or Juvan will be penalised in any way for doing something that is a force of habit.

Tournament director Oliviero Palma has told AFP that he is ‘proud’ that Palermo is hosting the return of tennis and the protocols implemented at the event are ones that can be copied at other events. However, he admits that it could be more challenging in certain parts of the world. Most notably America, which will host the US Open whilst there is a rise in OVID-19 cases in some areas of the country.

“The protocol is good, it’s applicable everywhere, so far it’s safe, it works. But we’re in a quiet part of the world. I understand the difficulties that the US Open could have with many more people,” he said. “But New York’s budget is not Palermo’s budget.”

Heading into the second round of the tournament on Wednesday, five out of the eight seeded players remain in the draw. Besides Vondroušová, Maria Sakkari (3) and Elise Mertens (5) have been knocked out of the tournament.

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Petra Martic scores easy win in Palermo

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Petra Martic cruised to an emphatic 6-0 6-3 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round of the Palermo Ladies Open to get her return to competitive action off to an ideal start.

 

The Croatian, 29, is the top seed at the event and, in her pre-tournament interview, she seemed to relish the opportunity to return to the tennis court.

“It’s been so long without tennis, without competition, without the adrenaline that we all kind of love,” Martic said. “So I’m just going to try to enjoy myself. To be back on the court right now is really just a privilege without thinking about any results or any goals or focused on numbers or anything else.”

The Croatian may not be thinking about numbers, but hers were impressive today. She won 71% of all points behind her serve and 49% when returning serve. Furthermore, she broke Van Uytvanck four times and looked in complete control throughout the match, which lasted just 67 minutes.

“I’m really happy with today’s performance,” Martic said in her on-court interview. “I played better than expected. I tried to go out with no expectations because nobody played for five months.”

The Croatian was also asked whether she thinks surprising results are more likely considering everyone is short on match practice. She replied, “I don’t think that’s something new. It’s been like that for a long time in women’s tennis. Anyone can win on a given day.”

Having beaten the World No.57, Martic will now face the World No.119: Liudmila Samsonova. The young Russian came through qualifying and then stunned veteran Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

Kontaveit progresses to Last 16

Anett Kontaveit (@PorscheTennis on Twitter)

In the last match of the day, fourth seed Annet Kontaveit booked her place in the second round with a 6-3 6-3 win over Patricia Maria Tig.

While the score line may look comfortable, the Estonian had to work hard to overcome a determined display from the Romanian. In the end, victory took 106 minutes to complete.

“It was really exciting to play my first match,” Kontaveit said in her on-court interview. “It was great to step back on court and play a WTA tournament.”

She continued, “It was very competitive. I think I played important points quite well. There are things I could have done better but I’m pretty happy.”

The Estonian’s reward is a last-16 clash with Laura Siegemund. The German, ranked 63, is often a tricky opponent, and Kontaveit should be particularly wary of her capabilities on clay as it is her favourite surface.

Five seeded players are safely through to the second round at the Palermo Ladies Open. But the fifth seed Elise Mertens is not one of them. She suffered a disappointing 6-4 6-1 loss to World No.110 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

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Camila Giorgi starts her Palermo campaign with a straight-set win over Rebecca Peterson

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Italian star Camila Giorgi recovered from a slow start to edge Rebecca Peterson 7-5 6-4 reaching the second round at the 31st edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo.  

 

Peterson held serve at love and converted the first break point of the match to open up a 3-1 lead. Giorgi broke back to draw level to 3-3 and saved two break points in the eighth game. Giorgi broke serve in the 11th game and held serve to claim the first set with a forehand winner. 

Giorgi broke twice in the first and third games to open up a 4-0 lead before Peterson won three consecutive games. The Swedish player pulled one break back in the eighth game to claw her way back to 3-5. Giorgi earned a match point with a service winner and closed out the match as Peterson hit a forehand past the baseline. 

“At the start of the match, I was a little slow in the legs a bit. I played my game more in the second set, playing faster, so I took advantage in the second set. There were not too many options to practice, but I worked with a physicla trainer. It was only in the past few weeks that I got to start practicing again. For the most part, I spent time with my family. We have spent so much time travelling over the years. It was nice just to be at home. Italian players are doing at this tournament. Here in Palermo it would be nice to have an all-Italian final”,  said Giorgi. 

Giorgi will face 19-year-old Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, who came back from a set and 4-5 down to beat last year’s Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 1-6 7-5 6-4. Juvan, who came through the qualifying round, scored the biggest win of her career. Vondrousova made a major breakthrough last year when she reached the Roland Garros final, but her progress was hampered by a serious injury. After Wimbledon she underwent surgery. 

Juvan broke twice to take a 4-0 lead in the second set, but Vondrousova reeled off five consecutive games to take a 5-4 lead. Juvan, who upset Venus Williams in Acapulco earlier this year, won the final three games to win the second set 7-5. 

Juvan broke two breaks to open up a 4-0 lead with two breaks. Vondrousova got one break back to claw her way back to 2-4, but Juvan earned her third break in the seventh game. Vondrousova recovered another break in the eighth game, but Juvan saved three break points to hold her serve in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4. 

“Obviously this top 20 win is motivation to keep playing. I try not to think about the rankings too much. I just want to play as many matches as I can right now”, said Juvan. 

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