Petra Kvitova wins the Mutua Madrid Open title for a third time - UBITENNIS
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Petra Kvitova wins the Mutua Madrid Open title for a third time

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Mutua Madrid Open - Day Eight

 

Petra Kvitova (zimbio.com)

Petra Kvitova is the Mutua Madrid Open champion for a record breaking third time after finally seeing off the spirited challenge of Kiki Bertens 7-6 (6) 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 52 minutes of mercurial tennis.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova (zimbio.com)

Having missed out on playing last year while recovering from surgery to her left hand following a stabbing incident by an intruder in her home at the end of 2016, Kvitova’s return as Madrid Open champion could hardly have been any sweeter.

It was not a match of the highest quality, maybe the cool and breezy conditions had something to do with it. Kvitova, seeded and ranked 10, made 58 unforced errors and 39 winners, while the unseeded Bertens was a little less erratic with 48 unforced errors and 32 winners. In the end, the better player won, but she made heavy weather of it.

The one and only time these two had faced off, Kvitova totally destroyed Bertens 6-1 6-0 on the lush grass courts of Wimbledon in 2015 in a mere 36 minutes. Today’s marathon encounter could hardly have been any more different.

Kvitova was all too often ending points with a winner or an unforced error, with Bertens playing the more consistent and balanced percentage tennis.

Both players had break point chances early on, but it was Bertens who broke first to move 4-2 ahead when an errant Kvitova forehand went wide. Kvitova broke straight back however, and with games going with serve thereafter, the set would be settled by a tiebreak.

Kvitova found herself two set points up after a couple of unforced errors from her opponent, and although she was unable to close it out as Bertens fought her way back to parity, the Czech left hander screamed in relief and elation when a Bertens backhand found the net on the third set point. The Dutch woman tossed her racket across the court in disgust at the loss of the 74 minute set which she could well have won.

At the changeover, Kvitova finally decided to put on a long sleeved sweater to counter the cold conditions, and she suddenly began to play more consistently off the ground and on serve. As the sliding roof closed overhead, Kvitova held serve in the fifth game saving two break points, but it seemed as if the warmer indoor conditions suited Bertens more as the Dutch woman began to play more purposefully. She broke the Kvitova serve in the seventh game as the Czech went long on her forehand. She held serve from there, closing out the set 6-4 with an ace.

As in the first set, both women had early break point chances in the opening games of the final set, but failed to capitalise. Kvitova broke for 4-2 when Bertens double faulted after the Czech had set up the break point with a forehand pass that clipped the sideline. Kvitova’s jubilation was short lived as she immediately dropped serve when she drove a backhand into the net to the Dutch woman’s delight, after Bertens had set up the break point with a perfectly executed backhand drop shot winner.

In the next game, Kvitova set up two break points with a humdinger of a forehand winner up the line, she failed to convert, but got a third chance which Bertens saved with an ace. She finally broke on a fourth opportunity and served for the match at 5-3. She wasted no time in closing out the match to love as Bertens mistimed backhand found the tramlines.

“It feels sweet and weird as well”, Kvitova said when asked by a reporter how it felt to return as a three – time champion after not being able to play last year. “I didn’t really expect that, even (after) the same time last year and even coming after winning Prague last week, I didn’t really think that I could be in the final and winning the trophy back to back. My body is very exhausted so I’m pretty surprised that my body could handle it somehow. Every title feels great, winning three times here in Madrid means something, it’s not really happening every day, so I’m very proud of myself.”

“It’s great to see her playing so well”, Kvitova said concerning Bertens. “She’s a great person and I really like her. It’s nice to see her playing like that. The last time we played on the grass it was a little bit different. She has improved a lot and she loves to play on clay. She just won Charleston and I remember when she is playing Roland Garros, she is always playing great. Obviously, she has a forehand with a lot of topspin which puts her opponent so far behind the baseline which makes it very difficult to put pressure on her and she can do whatever she wants with her forehand and she moves a player so well and she has great hands, so she can do a lot of slices and drops shots. She has a great body serve, and when she is at the net she has almost won the point and she hardly ever misses. So she is really difficult to play on the clay and now those matches on the clay are really  painful. She is finding her serve as well in the important moments and speed wise it’s a great serve and with the kick on the second serve. She is moving very well and she is sliding to the shots and putting the ball back like a metre from the baseline. It’s difficult to do anything from those balls.”

Kvitova announced that she would not play Rome.

“I’m pretty exhausted so I need to pull out from Rome”, she said. Like wonder given her heroics over the past two weeks, winning Prague and Madrid back to back on her least favourite surface. However, she still refuses to consider herself a title contender at Roland Garros. “I’ve been to the semi-final there one year and probably I can play well there, but I know how really tough it is. Winning Prague and here has made me very happy, but on the other hand it’s a Grand Slam and it’s a different story. Different atmosphere and different balls. I will try and play better than the last time, but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself anyway. I think there are maybe better players playing on the clay, so we’ll see what happens over there.

Bertens had come so close to winning the biggest title of her life, but she gave it everything she had and lost to the better player in the end.

I think it was a great final”, Bertens said. “I think in the beginning we were both a little bit nervous and trying to find our games. I think it was really a good fight back from me in the second set and I played really well. Then I had some chances at the beginning of the third set but I didn’t take it. But Petra was playing some unbelievable shots there, so credit to her today.”

I think I can be really proud of myself and seeing where I am coming from. Just playing at the level that I played today was quite OK for such a big final, I think I made pretty big steps in that. Of course it really hurts right now, I think you can see that, but maybe tomorrow or nest week, or in a few weeks I can really look back on a great week and know I’m on the right way.”

 

 

 

 

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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Four-Time Grand Slam Winner Naomi Osaka Named In FTX Lawsuit 

The former world No.1 took an equity stake in the failed business earlier this year. 

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NAOMI OSAKA OF JAPAN - PHOTO: ALVARO DIAZ / MMO

Naomi Osaka is among a series of high-profile individuals who have been accused of using their celebrity status to promote FTX’s failed business model in a lawsuit filed against the cryptocurrency exchange. 

 

The BBC has reported that over one million people and businesses could be owed money following the collapse of FTX, according to bankruptcy filings. A week ago FTX collapsed into bankruptcy with its former boss Sam Bankman-Fried stepping down as CEO. A massive development in the financial for what was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world that had the naming rights to a Formula One racing team as well as a sports arena in Miami.

According to the Associated Press, the company is being investigated by state and federal prosecutors over allegations it ‘invested depositors’ funds in ventures without their approval.’ In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, it argues that celebrity backers of FTX such as Osaka should be held just as accountable as Bankman-Fried as they brought ‘instant credibility’ to the company. 

“Part of the scheme employed by the FTX Entities involved utilizing some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment — like these Defendants — to raise funds and drive American consumers to invest … pouring billions of dollars into the deceptive FTX platform to keep the whole scheme afloat,” the lawsuit said.

Osaka took an equity stake in FTX in March where she would be receiving compensation in Crypto. Signing what was described as a ‘long-term partnership’ to become a global ambassador, the tennis star aimed to draw attention to women joining the platform and she played a role in directing its content.

“We have seen the statistics about how few women are part of crypto by comparison, which kind of mirrors the inequality we see in other financial markets,” Osaka said earlier this year.

Osaka, who has won 14 out of 23 matches played this season, has not made any public statement regarding the lawsuit. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, comedian Larry David and basketball team the Golden State Warriors are also defendants in the lawsuit.

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WTA Targets New Multi-Year Deal For Its Premier Event If Agreement With China Fails

Will the WTA Finals return to Shenzhen in 2023?

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WTA CEO Steve Simon

The WTA say they are not willing to compromise their principles concerning the possibility of hosting tournaments in China next year amid uncertainty over the future of their season-ending event. 

 

Steve Simon, who is the CEO of the women’s Tour, says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found with the country but has vowed now to back down on its stance. Last year the WTA suspended tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of former player Peng Shuai who accused a former government official of sexually assaulting her. 

Shuai disappeared shortly after posting her statement on social media before returning a few weeks later with photos and videos of her being posted online by journalists linked to the government-controlled media. There are concerns that the former doubles Grand Slam champion, who has not left her country since making those allegations, is being censored by the government. The WTA wants an investigation to be conducted into the matter. 

“We’ve made a strong stand, and we stand behind that stance, and we’re not going to compromise our principles,” Simon said during an interview with The New York Times. “Clearly when we did it, we understood eyes wide open what it could mean.”
“We’re still in the same place. If they come forward with something else we should look at, of course we are open to it. But we haven’t seen it so far. I’m hopeful we do find a resolution. That’s the goal, to find the right resolution. What’s the truth? Then we can move forward.” He added. 

Simon said he is confident that Shuai is safe in Beijing but he has not been able to make any direct contact with her, despite trying to on multiple occasions. A letter reportedly written by Shuai to the WTA was posted online in 2021 saying that she wishes to be left alone. However, many have doubted the authenticity of that letter with some fearing that she wrote it under duress. 

One of the biggest impacts of the fallout has involved the prestigious WTA Finals, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the eight best-performing players over the past 12 months. In 2018 a lucrative deal was agreed that paved the way for the event to be held in Shenzhen for 10 years. However, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the next two additions were moved elsewhere.

Whilst the WTA is optimistic about a return to Shenzhen in 2023, there are also backup plans in the works. Simon confirmed that it is no longer feasible for the WTA Finals to be held in a location for just one year. So it is likely that the tournament would be held in a city for two or more years in a row if it doesn’t return to China next season. 

“We’re not going to continue to do these one-year decisions,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”

The case involving Shuai isn’t the only barrier for the WTA. China’s zero-covid policy has made hosting international events in the region unfeasible and the ATP cancelled all of their events in the tournament this year due to the situation. 

This year’s WTA Finals has a prize money offering of $5M which is more than half of what was on offer at the 2019 tournament in Shenzhen ($14M). 

Simon didn’t provide any deadline for when an agreement must be reached with China must be reached before the WTA considers moving their event elsewhere once again. 

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