Maria Sharapova Overcomes Vekic To Earn Pliskova Clash - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Maria Sharapova Overcomes Vekic To Earn Pliskova Clash

Maria Sharapova edged past Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4 in a high-quality match and will now play Karolina Pliskova in round three.

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Credit: Roberto Dell’Olivo

Maria Sharapova beat Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4 to set up a mouth-watering third round encounter with Karolina Pliskova at the 2018 French Open.

The Russian, 31, is in superb form during the clay court swing after reaching the quarter-final in Madrid and the semi-final in Rome.

However, Vekic was also in form coming into the match, and she made life difficult for Sharapova – particularly in the first set.

At the beginning of the match, the players traded breaks as they searched for rhythm. Both the Russian and the Croatian are aggressive by nature and each was eager to punish the other’s weak serves.

They soon settled down though, and began to serve better as the score moved along to 3-3. Then Sharapova saved two break points in game seven which proved to be crucial.

Vekic was playing well and, if she had broken then, she would have been in the lead ahead of the most critical part of the set and could have gone on to win it.

Instead, the two-time French Open champion held serve and eventually broke the Croatian in the 12th game to take the first set 7-5.

Sharapova made to work hard

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Sharapova raced into a 4-2 lead in the second set and looked ready to run away with it. But Vekic was not done yet, and she broke in the ninth game to get proceedings back on serve.

The World No.50 achieved the break by producing her best tennis of the match. She hit two brilliant forehand winners to earn two break points, and took the second when the Russian skewed a forehand wide.

However, Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion for a reason, and she seemed determined to get the job done in game ten.

The Russian earned her first match point by hammering a forehand winner down the line, but she could not take advantage. And Vekic refused to make it easy for as she saved four more match points during an epic __-minute game.

In the end, Sharapova took her sixth match point with a powerful forehand winner, but the Croatian should be encouraged by this performance ahead of several weeks on arguably her strongest surface: grass.

For Sharapova, this was a considerable test and she played very well to win it. However, she may need to play even better to have a chance against Pliskova.

Sharapova under no illusions

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“I never use the words “under control,” I think, no matter how well or not well I have played,” Sharapova said in her press conference.

“You know, I don’t think there is ever a perfect way to go into a match. I think you always have to feel that you’re improving and there are things that you’re working on, because that will always make you better.”

“There are a lot of things I feel I could have done better in the last two matches and I hope I will have to. I will have to produce that type of level against someone like Pliskova.”

The Czech won a close match 3-6 6-4 6-1 against compatriot and former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova.

The World No.53 managed to break the World No.6 twice early on in the first set, but Pliskova dominated on serve thereafter and, although Safarova matched her younger opponent in most other areas, that proved to be the difference.

Vandeweghe shocked

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Elsewhere in the women’s draw, 15th seed Coco Vandeweghe suffered a surprise 6-3 4-6 0-6 loss to Lesia Tsurenko. The Ukrainian’s reward is a meeting with Magdalena Rybarikova in round three after the Slovakian beat Belinda Bencic 6-2 6-4.

Elise Mertens took out Heather Watson 6-3 6-4 and will now face Daria Gavrilova after the Australian fought back from a set down to beat Bernarda Pera 5-7 7-5 6-3.

It was also a good day for two of the oldest players in the draw: Sam Stosur and Andrea Petkovic.

The Australian, 34, beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 7-6(1) to earn a third-round clash with Garbine Muguruza, while the German, 31, must now face Simona Halep after overcoming Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-0 7-6(5).

[Also published on womenssporthub.com]

Grand Slam

French Open: WTA Made No Push To Schedule Women’s Matches In Prime Time Slot, Says Chief Mauresmo

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The fallout over the decision to schedule only men’s matches in the evening sessions at this year’s French Open has been defended by tournament director Amelie Mauresmo.

In a deal with Amazon Prime, the Grand Slam schedules one match to take place at 7pm on their premier Philippe Chatrier court every day until the quarter-finals. This year was the first time that no women’s matches were played in the slot since the deal was established in 2021. Overall, there have been 43 night sessions in the tournament’s history with 39 of them being awarded to the men’s draw.

Recently the WTA issued a statement to Reuters news agency calling for there to be more balance in the scheduling. A spokesperson said ‘fans want to see the excitement and thrill of women’s tennis on the biggest stages and in the premium time slots.’ However, it has now been claimed that the governing body was involved in the allocation of matches in the tournament. 

Mauresmo, who is a former world No.1 and previously coached Andy Murray, said there was never any ‘push’ for women’s matches to be held in this spot which some players don’t want due to its time. 

“When we do the scheduling, the WTA is in the room as well as the ATP, the Grand Slam supervisor, TV, we are all together,” Mauresmo said on Sunday.
“I did not see any push also to have the women’s match in the evening. I think it’s a very complicated decision. 
“It’s not easy having one match (at night) but again I never say it’s gonna be never (to having women’s matches).”

Elaborating further on the topic, Mauresmo argues that men’s matches usually last longer due to their best-of-five format. Making these more valuable for fans attending in terms of duration. The idea of playing two matches at night has been dismissed because it would ‘create other problems’ such as extremely late finishes. Novak Djokovic didn’t end his third round match until after 3am.

“It’s not a matter of how interesting the matches can be or could be. For us, it’s a matter of the length of the matches.”She said.
“In terms of the people that are coming to watch the match, the 15,000 people that are coming. It’s complicated for us to think that maybe it’s going to be very, very short. So we try our best, and it’s not easy.”

This year’s Olympic tennis tournament will be held at Roland Garros. That event will also have a night session but two matches will take place as they will all be best-of-three sets. 

More than 650,000 spectators came to the French Open over the past three weeks. A review of the event will start in a couple of weeks.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz Plays Sascha Zverev in the Men’s Final

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Carlos Alcaraz on Friday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The championship matches in men’s singles and women’s doubles will be played on Sunday.

19 years ago, a young Spaniard named Rafael Nadal started a legendary relationship with Roland Garros, winning his first of a record-breaking 14 titles at this event.  Now in the same year that Nadal seemingly bid farewell to the French Open, another young Spaniard looks to begin his own Parisian legacy.  On Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz plays for his third Major title, and his first on the surface he grew up on.

Four years ago, Sascha Zverev reached his only other Major final, in an empty stadium during the 2020 US Open.  Despite holding a two-set lead, Zverev lost that championship match to Dominic Thiem in a fifth-set tiebreak, after some extremely nervous play.  On Sunday, a confident and self-described more mature version of Sascha returns to the last round of a Major, this time in a sold out stadium, and looking for a different result.

Also on Day 15, in the women’s doubles championship match at 11:30am local time, it will be Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini (11) vs. Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova (5).  After losing the women’s singles final on Saturday, Paolini vies for Grand Slam glory alongside Errani, who is a five-time Major champion in women’s doubles.  Between singles and doubles, Gauff is 0-3 in Slam finals, which includes a runner-up appearance here two years ago in both disciplines.  Siniakova owns seven Major titles in women’s doubles, all of which came with Barbora Krejcikova.


Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz has only played 29 matches this year, with a record of 24-5, as he missed several big events due to a right arm injury.  That included absences at two of the ATP’s biggest European clay court events, Monte Carlo and Rome.  Yet despite the injury and lack of match play, Carlitos has advanced to his third Major final with the loss of just three sets, two of which came against Jannik Sinner in Friday’s semifinals. 

By contrast, Zverev has been the healthiest of the top seven ATP players during this clay court season.  He is 34-9 in 2024, and comes into this match on a 12-match winning streak, after taking the Masters 1000 title in Rome three weeks ago.  Sascha endured a complicated path to this championship match, which included a pair of five-setters.  And he surely values his bodily health after the awful ankle injury he suffered in the semifinals of this event two years ago.  He would love to continue creating more positive memories on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Zverev holds a narrow 5-4 edge in their head-to-head, though on clay, Alcaraz leads 2-1.  However, Sascha’s sole victory on clay came in their only previous meeting at this event, in the 2022 quarterfinals.  And the German is 2-1 against the Spaniard at Majors.

Alcaraz has a definitive edge in speed as well as on the forehand side, while Zverev will look to use his serve to dictate play, and possesses a more formidable backhand.  But the biggest difference between these two is how they play in big matches.  Carlitos is 7-1 in finals at Majors and Masters 1000 tournaments, with his only loss coming in an epic championship match last summer in Cincinnati against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is just 6-6 in finals at those same levels, and his record of 2-6 in Major semifinals speaks to how passively he often plays in big matches.

And if the match goes the distance, that is a distinct advantage for Alcaraz, who is 10-1 lifetime in five-setters.  While Zverev’s mark of 23-11 is actually pretty strong, many of those wins came against players ranked outside the top 100, and in matches where Sascha arguably should have won without going five.

Plus, trying to accomplish the sport’s biggest feat, winning a Major title, when you have not only never done so before, but actually choked when you were so close to doing so, is a lot to overcome.  While I don’t expect Zverev to play as nervously in his second Major final as his first, Alcaraz remains the freer swinger at crucial moments.  Carlitos should be favored to win his third Major title on Sunday in Paris.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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