This year’s grass swing of the tour will be crucial for many players, but even more so for British No.1 Johanna Konta.
The 27-year-old has experienced a roller coaster first half of the year. On the tour, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in four out of 11 tournaments played prior to this week. Her latest disappointment occurred at the French Open. A tournament that has brought nothing but misery for Konta over the years. In the first round she crashed out to Yulia Putintseva before hitting out at the British media over how they portray her.
Konta is aiming to turn her fortunes around on the grass. This week she is the fourth seed at the Nottingham International, which is a WTA International event. She kick-started her campaign on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-3, win over Japan’s Kurumi Nara. Scoring her 12th victory of the season (excluding the Fed Cup).
“I’m definitely really pleased that I won my first match on grass,” Konta said afterwards. “I really wanted to make sure that I competed during every single point, regardless of how I played level-wise. I wanted to make sure I was competitive from the first to the last ball, and I think that’s what I did.”
Regardless of the positive start, the former world No.4 is aware that her form is at a different stage compared to that of 12 months ago. Heading into the 2017 grass swing, Konta already had two titles under her belt. It was also during that year where she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. Becoming the first British woman to do so since Virginia Wade in 1978.
“I’m coming into this period with different challenges than I was last year. Last year coming into this period I had a lot of matches under my belt, a lot more matches than this year and a lot more wins than this year as well, so I think the challenges are slightly different,” Konta explained during an interview with Sky Sports.
The lacklustre season has had little impact on Konta’s goals for the ultimate grass court event – Wimbledon. This year is set to be her seventh consecutive appearance in the main draw.
“I want to be there for the full two weeks. I would absolutely really want to be there for the full two weeks.” She stated.
“Most importantly to keep working hard, keeping fighting. I’m enjoying that feeling of just going there and fighting my way through every round that I get a chance to play.”
Prior to the grand slam, Konta’s immediate focus remains on Nottingham. In the second round she will take on fellow Brit Heather Watson. A win would elevate her into only her second WTA quarter-final of the season and her first since January.
Belinda Bencic storms into last four in Luxembourg
Belinda Bencic continued her impressive return to form by reaching the semi-finals in Luxembourg with a straight-sets win over Vera Lapko.
Belinda Bencic reached the semi-final stage in Luxembourg in style with a comprehensive 6-4 6-1 victory over rising star Vera Lapko.
It has been an impressive return to form this week from the Swiss, who is now starting to climb back up the rankings (she will be back in the top 40 next week) after a series of injuries which have disrupted her last three years on the WTA tour.
Bencic came through three rounds of qualifying to earn her place in the main draw. She beat fellow qualifier Arantxa Rus in straight sets in the first round and then blew away ninth seed Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-3 to book her place in the quarter-finals.
Those results earned the Swiss a meeting with Lapko for the second tournament in a row. Last week in Linz, the Belarussian beat Bencic 1-6 6-1 6-0.
This time, it was a totally different story. The Swiss qualifier served superbly and dominated proceedings from the baseline to wrap up victory in 81 minutes.
Lapko pushed Bencic hard in the first set and, if she had taken either of the break points she created in the second game, the match may have gone differently.
However, the Swiss held serve, broke the Belarussian in game three and never looked back. The rest of the first set went with serve and Bencic then romped away with the second set.
Bencic to face Yastremska in semi-final clash
The World No.47 did not have to wait long after her match to discover her semi-final opponent. Dayana Yastremska swatted aside Margarita Gasparyan 6-1 6-4 in exactly an hour.
The Ukrainian, 18, who earned a headline-making win over Garbine Muguruza in the last 16, annihilated the Russian’s second serve to earn five breaks in the match.
It continues a run of eight consecutive wins for Yastremska, who won her first WTA title in Hong Kong last week.
The Ukrainian’s form makes her a very dangerous opponent for Bencic, but the Swiss looks confident too and it could be a thrilling semi-final.
Dayana Yastremska upsets Garbine Muguruza in Luxembourg to score her first win over a top 20 player
Last week’s Dayana Yastremska scored her first win against a top 20 player beating two-time Grand Slam champion and now world number 13 player Garbine Muguruza 6-2 6-3 after 1 hour and nine minutes in Luxembourg.
Ukraine’s 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska has claimed the best win of her career by ranking to reach the quarter final at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open.
Muguruza was pushed to deuce in her first two service games, but she managed to hold her serve both times. Yastremska broke twice to reel off the final four games to close out the first set 6-2.
Yastremska got an early break to open up a 2-0 lead, but Muguruza broke straight back. Both players drew level to 3-3 after four consecutive breaks. Yastremska built up a 5-3 lead after a break in the eighth game and served out for the match to secure her spot in the quarter finals.
“I was very tired after Hong Kong. I have pain everywhere. Yesterday during the match I felt very dizzy because I played very late. I just found some way to get over it and kept fighting. Today I prepared myself to win, but somewhere deep that I would not be able to show my best game, but somehow I just played”, said Yastremska.
Yastremska came to the fore in 2016, when she reached the doubles Girls final at the Australian Open and the Wimbledon Singles Junior final. She won her first ITF tournament in Brazil and made her WTA debut at the Istanbul Cup, where she lost in the first round to Nao Hibino. In 2017 the Ukrainian teenager won in the first round of the same Istanbul tournament beating Andrea Petkovic. She won her maiden WTA title in Hong Kong without dropping a set last week beating China’s Wang Qiang in the final. She rose 36 ranking places to reach her career high of world number 66.
The teenager beat Zheng Saisai, Belinda Bencic and Magda Linette at the Connecticut Cup in the qualifying round at the Connecticut Cup in New Haven.
In 2018 Yastremska made her Grand Slam debut in the qualifying round at the Australian Open, where she beat Misaki Doi, but she was beaten in the second round by Alexandra Dulgheru. After a strong summer Yastremska became the first player born in the 2000s to break into the top 100 in the WTA Ranking in July 2018.
Vera Zvonareva sweeps aside Karolina Pliskova in Moscow to take her first top 10 win in seven years
Russian qualifier and former world number 2 Vera Zvonareva swept aside this year’s Stuttgart and Tokyo champion Karolina Pliskova 6-1 6-2 in just 73 minutes at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow to clinch her first top 10 win in seven years.
Former Wimbledon and US Open finalist and 2008 Kremiin Cup finalist Zvonareva got her first top 10 win since she beat former world number 1 player at the 2011 WTA Finals.
Zvonareva, who has returned from her maternity leave, broke five times and hit 24 winners. Pliskova hit 15 winners to 26 unforced errors.
Zvonareva broke twice in the first set to race out to a 4-0 lead. The Russian player held a point for 5-0 before dropping her serve in the fifth game. She got another break for 5-1 after rallying from 0-40 down. Zvonareva held her serve at love to close out the opening set 6-1.
In the second set Zvonareva got an early break to take a 2-1 lead and saved a break point with her big serve to hold her serve for 3-1. In the sixth game Zvonareva went up a double break at 4-2 with a forehand down the line on the break point. She wrapped up the match on her fourth match point, as she was serving at 5-2.
Zvonareva has reached her first Premier-level quarter final since Charleston 2012.
“I really started to play much better than in my previous matches. I had a very difficult start. The first two matches were so tough. I didn’t show my best tennis, but I tried to fight, so I found the options to play my game. Today I managed to reach a high level and it finally happened”, said Zvonareva.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich edged past Kiki Bertens 6-3 4-6 6-3. Bertens needed to reach the semfinal to stay in contention for a qualifying spot for the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Sasnovich and Bertens went to deuce in the first two games of the opening set. Bertens earned three of the four break points in two consecutive games at 2-2 and 2-3, but Sasnovich saved them to held on her serve. Bertens saved another break point in the fifth game. Sasnovich earned the first break in the seventh game of the first set to take a 4-3 lead after a series of unforced errors from Bertens and won the final three games to close out the first set 6-3.
Bertens bounced back by breaking serve in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. The Dutch player led 3-2 after a series of three consecutive breaks. Sasnovich broke back at deuce in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4, but Bertens got another break in the ninth game and served out the second set at 15 to send the match to the third set.
Sasnovich broke serve in the second game of the decider to build up a 3-0 lead, but Bertens reeled off three consecutive games with a break in the fifth game to draw level to 3-3. Sasnovich broke serve at 15 in the eighth game to earn her chance to serve for the match. The Belarusian player had to save a break point before serving out the match at the fourth deuce. Sasnovich clinched the second top 10 win of the year and the third of her career.
After Bertens’ defeat in Moscow, Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have secured the final two spots for the WTA Finals in Singapore. They have joined the eight-women field alongside Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens. Bertens will be the first alternate.
Pliskova has secured her spot for Singapore after winning two titles in Stuttgart and Tokyo. She also reached the final in Tianjin and the semifinals in Brisbane and Madrid.
Ons Jabeur beat Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-2 to score the biggest win of her career. Stephens was defeated by a player ranked outside the top 100. Jabeur beat a top 10 player for the third time in her career after her wins over Dominika Cibulkova at 2017 Roland Garros and Simona Halep via retirement in Beijing in 2018.
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