Jelena Ostapenko and Karolina Pliskova reach the quarter finals at Eastbourne - UBITENNIS
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Jelena Ostapenko and Karolina Pliskova reach the quarter finals at Eastbourne

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Last year’s Roland Garros champion and number 5 seed Jelena Ostapenko cruised past Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1 6-2 to reach the quarter final at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne.

Buzarnescu, who reached the final in Birmingham last week and beat Jelena Ostapenko in Doha last week, received a medical time-out to treat a shoulder injury.

Ostapenko earned her first break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead at deuce. Buzarnescu broke straight back in the third game. Ostapenko went up a double break in the fourth and sixth games to close out the first set 6-1.

Ostapenko went up a double break to open up a 4-1 lead. Buzarnescu pulled one of the breaks back to claw her back to 2-4, but Ostapenko sealed the win with another break and a hold of serve at deuce in the final game to seal the second set 6-2.

Ostapenko hit 24 winners to 17 unforced errors and converted six of her nine break points to set up a quarter final against Agnieszka Radwanska, who received a walkover to advance to the quarter final after Petra Kvitova pulled out of the match due to a harmstring injury.

Ostapenko met Radwanska just once at the 2016 Connecticut Open, where the Pole prevailed in straight sets.

“It was another great match for me. I played well and served well. Some moments were tough because she can can be so solid and not miss anything, but I am very pleased with the game I played today. Buzarnescu has been playing well this season. I played against her in Doha and learned a lot from that match. I prepared well for this one, and tried to play aggressively today”, said Ostapenko.

Ostapenko, who won the Wimbledon Junior title in 2014, lost to five-time champion Venus Williams in two tough sets in the quarter finals at the All England Club.

“It’s my first event on grass this year. I enjoy my time on grass because it’s so nice. I am enjoying my week in Eastbourne and I am looking to my next week”, said Ostapenko.

Defending champion and former world number 1 Karolina Pliskova beat her compatriot Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-4 after surviving a two-set battle.

Pliskova led 3-1 in their previous four head-to-head matches, but Strycova beat her countrywoman at Eastbourne in 2016 and pushed her to three sets at last January’s Australian Open.

Pliskova and Strycova traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the first set, but Pliskova reeled off six consecutive games to build up a set and double break lead at 6-3 3-0. Strycova pulled one of the breaks back in the fourth game and earned three break point chances as she was trailing 3-4. Strykova saved two match points and managed to hold her serve at deuce, but Pliskova served out for the match with an ace. Pliskova will face Aryna Sabalenka, who clinched two consecutive upset wins against Julia Goerges and Elise Mertens.

“Even though it was 6-3 6-4, I don’t think it was easy, she played some tricky shots and slices, so it’s always tough on grass. I am glad I got through. I feel much better now tahn last week in Birmingham. I am happy it’s improving match by match. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better. I think I can serve better than I did today, but today was enough, so hopefully I can improve. I don’t feel any pressure here because I played a final one year, won the title the next. I feel good at this tournament. Every year I play good tennis. I love to play here and I enjoy the city. People always come to support me, which is amazing. Hopefully I can stay longer”, said Pliskova.

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing

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Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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