WTA Birmingham: Garbine Muguruza Headlines Strong Draw - UBITENNIS
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WTA Birmingham: Garbine Muguruza Headlines Strong Draw

A strong draw at WTA Birmingham features four of the top ten: Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova.

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The draw for the WTA event in Birmingham seems to get stronger every year, and this time it features four of the world’s top ten: Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova.

 

Muguruza gets favourable draw

Muguruza’s draw is relatively kind and she should reach the semi-final stage at least. She faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in round one, followed by either Barbora Strycova or a qualifier in round two. Then Daria Kasatkina, who is yet to prosper on grass, is the Spaniard’s expected quarter-final opponent.

However, the 2017 Wimbledon champion will almost certainly have a difficult last-four match, as Pliskova, Magdalena Rybarikova and Naomi Osaka are all possible opponents.

Kvitova faces Konta in first round

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Kvitova is the defending champion after she beat Ashleigh Barty 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the 2017 final, while Muguruza reached the semi-final last year. Pliskova reached the final in 2015, when she lost a very tight three-set match to Angelique Kerber. However, Svitolina is yet to taste success in Birmingham, as she went out to Camila Giorgi in the last 16 in 2017.

The defending champion will contest the stand-out first round match when she takes on Johanna Konta. If she gets through, her second round could also be tricky as it will be against either Dominika Cibulkova or Daria Gavrilova.

After that, a rematch with Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-final seems likely, and that could be followed by a last-four clash against either Elina Svitolina or 2016 semi-finalist Coco Vandeweghe. If Kvitova gets to the final again, she could play either Muguruza or Pliskova.

Tough tasks ahead for Pliskova

Pliskova is in a very tricky quarter of the draw. In round one, she takes on the woman who beat her at Wimbledon last year: Rybarikova. In round two, it will be Kristina Mladenovic or Katerina Siniakova. And then in the last eight, she is likely to face either Naomi Osaka or Elise Mertens, before a possible semi-final with Muguruza.

Svitolina seeks to master grass

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Svitolina has found grass tough to master, and she only won four matches on the surface in her first four years on the WTA tour. However, she doubled that tally last year by winning a match in Birmingham and reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon.

But the Ukrainian may find it difficult to add to her collection of wins at Birmingham. In the first round, she will face a grass court specialist: 2017 Nottingham champion Donna Vekic. If Svitoliva survives the Croatian, she will take on either Alize Cornet (who famously beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon 2014) or Ekaterina Makarova.

Then the World No.4’s quarter-final could be her toughest task of all as it is likely to be against Vandeweghe. The American is very comfortable on grass and should be considered the favourite if she comes up against Svitolina.

British interest

There is also plenty of home interest at the Nature Valley Classic. Konta has a great chance of making it deep into the tournament if she can get past Kvitova. Heather Watson could benefit from a very favourable draw against Lesia Tsurenko followed by a second round against Kasatkina. And Katie Boulter, fresh from runs to the quarter-finals at Surbiton and Nottingham, will take on Naomi Osaka in a fascinating first round match.

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National Bank Open Suffers Tripple Blow As Top 10 Stars Pull Out

Canada’s most prestigious tennis event will be missing some top names in the women’s draw but organisers remain confident the tournament will still be a hit.

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The tournament director of the National Bank Open says he is ‘still counting on exceptional players’ after a series of high-profile names pulled out of the women’s draw in Montreal.

 

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek have pulled out of the event after competing in the Olympic Games. Osaka, who lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony, lost to Marketa Vonmdrousova in the third round. Meanwhile, Swiatek fell in the second round to Spain’s Paula Badosa.

“I am sorry to be missing out on Montréal this year,” said Osaka who reached the quarter-finals in 2019. “Sending my best to all the fans there, the tournament and the staff. I hope to see you all in Canada next year.”

Former French Open champion Swiatek said her decision to not play in Canada is because she wants to have a break after an ‘intense’ first half of the season. So far this year the world No.8 has won 28 out of 35 matches played, winning two titles in Rome and Adelaide. She has played at the Canadian event only once in her career which was two years ago when she reached the third round as a qualifier before losing to Osaka.

“I am very sorry but this year I will not be able to play in Montréal,” said Swiatek. “The first part of the season was so intense that I need a couple of days off to rest and prepare for the next few months. I’m looking forward to playing in Canada in 2022.”

Sofia Kenin completes the trio of withdrawals from the WTA 1000 event. The American is still recovering from a foot injury that has sidelined her from the Tour since Wimbledon.

“I’m really disappointed to withdraw from the event in Montréal next week,” said Kenin. “While I’m making progress, my foot injury is not where I need it to be to play at the highest level. I feel another week of recovery and rehab is necessary. I want to thank Tennis Canada for all its efforts in holding the event during such challenging times. Best of luck to all the players.”

Commonly known as the Canadian Open, both a men’s and women’s event are held during the same week but in different locations. This year the women will be playing in Montreal and men in Toronto. Each year they alternate between the two cities. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tournament director Eugène Lapierre is confident this year’s women’s draw will still live up to expectations despite the absence of some top names.

“We are still counting on exceptional players in the draw, including the 2019 champion, our very own Bianca Andreescu, as well as World No.3 Aryna Sabalenka and two-time National Bank Open champion Simona Halep. Fans should expect a few surprises because the draw has so much depth. Anything is possible, and that means some exciting tennis is in store!” He said.

Sabalenka will be the top seed in the women’s draw. The main draw will start on Monday.

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Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname

The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.

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Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.

“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”

Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.

I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”

Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.

Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.

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Why Ash Barty Isn’t Staying At The Olympic Village In Tokyo

The two-time Grand Slam champion has opted to stay at an alternate venue heading into the Games.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) playing against Angelique Kerber (GER) 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/Jed Leicester

Ash Barty will prepare for her debut at the Olympic Games by staying at a base located outside of the athletes village as part of her ‘performance plan.’

 

The world No.1 heads into Tokyo as one of the favourites for gold following her triumph at Wimbledon where she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the final. She is one of six top 10 players set to play in the women’s singles tournament which will start on Saturday.

Leading up to the Games, the head of the Australian Olympic delegation has told reporters that Barty’s decision not to stay in the village will enhance her gold medal chances. In previous Games athletes have stayed outside of the villages but this year it is more challenging to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency and fans are banned from attending the event amid fears of the virus spreading if they do so.

“Ash is staying elsewhere,” chef de mission Ian Chesterman told the Australian Associated Press.
“We have a number of athletes staying outside the village. We allow that, it’s just what works best for them.
“Something I’ve always been very big on is driving performance takes a whole lot of flexible decisions, flexible options.
“In terms of her performance plan, it’s best served by her being able to control her environment and we respect that.”

The exact location of Barty’s base has not been disclosed but it is near to the village where she was said to have visited and had a cup of coffee on Tuesday morning.

She is staying in an Australian environment where she can still easily access the village,” Chesterman stated.

The 25-year-old is bidding to become only the second Australian in history to win a medal in the women’s singles at the Olympics. The first was Alicia Molik who claimed a bronze medal back in 2004.

During a recent interview with The ITF, Barty said playing at the event is a dream come true for her as she describes representing her country as the ‘highest honour.’

“Being an Olympian has always been a dream of mine as a kid, I think representing your country is the highest honour,” Barty told the ITF.
“For an Aussie it’s the best thing you can do and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to wear the green and gold.
“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing to represent your nation. You’re playing to make people proud and that’s not just with results it’s with your attitude.”

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