Simona Halep wins a gruelling match against Maria Sharapova to set up re-match against Elina Svitolina in Rome - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep wins a gruelling match against Maria Sharapova to set up re-match against Elina Svitolina in Rome

Simona Halep battled past Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in two hours and 23 minutes in a hard-fought semifinal at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Setting up a re-match of last year’s final against Elina Svitolina.

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World Number 1 Simona Halep has scored her second consecutive win over three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova in their ninth head-to-head match to reach her 30th career final.

Halep will be looking to win the 17th title of her career and the second of the year after Shenzhen.

Halep and Sharapova played a hard-fought match with 19 breaks of serve. Halep won 63 % of her return points and converted 11 of her 19 break point chances. Sharapova got eight breaks.

Halep came back from one set down to secure her spot in her second consecutive final in Rome. She will face Elina Svitolina, who triumphed in the Eternal city last year.

The first set started with six straight breaks of serve. Halep got an immediate break in the first game of the opening set, but Sharapova earned a break point that Halep saved with a good first serve. The Russian star converted her second break point, when Halep made a double fault at deuce. Halep got another break to take a 2-1 lead, when Sharapova made two consecutive double faults and misfired twice. Sharapova hit a dropshot winner on break point to break back at 30. Halep got the fifth consecutive break, when Sharapova double faulted. Halep went up 40-15 in the sixth game, but Sharapova got it back to deuce. The three-time Rome champion hit her third drop-shot winner of the match to earn a break point and converted it, when Halep hit a ball long.

Sharapova was the first to hold serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and this proved to be crucial. The Russian player brought up two break points in the eighth game. She converted it with a crosscourt winner. In the ninth game Halep earned three break points. Sharapova saved the first break point with a backhand into the corner, but Halep converted her second break-back chance to trail 4-5. Sharapova broke Halep for the fifth time in the first set at 15 to seal the opening set.

Halep saved both break points she faced and broke serve three times to win the second set 6-1.

Both players traded breaks in six of the first seven games. Sharapova held serve to draw level to 4-4. Halep held serve at 15 in the ninth game and got the decisive break in the 10th game to close out a grueling match, when Sharapova served to draw level to 5-5.

Halep had already secured the world number 1 spot after her win in the semifinal and the defeat of Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter final.

“It was a very tough match. I had to play aggressive against Sharapova. It’s always a pleasure to come back here in Rome. I will have to play a great match against Elina Svitolina tomorrow. She is a tough opponent. I invite all my Romanaian fans to come here to support me”, said Simona Halep.

Sharapova was tired after the long marathon battle against Jelena Ostapenko in yesterday’s quarter final.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball well in the first set, but I didn’t serve well throughout the match. I just didn’t have enough velocity and pace on that shot, and I lost the accuracy on the return in the last few sets. It’s obvious that the amount of hours that we played before the match is quite different, but when we go on court, that does not really matter. That’s all thrown away, and you still have to play the match. I think I battled well. It’s always going to be a physical battle against Simona, but despite everything I was there physically. There is a lot of good things I can take away from a week like this”, said Sharapova.

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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Image via https://x.com/WTAMeridaOpen/

A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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