Aryna Sabalenka claims her maiden WTA title in New Haven - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka claims her maiden WTA title in New Haven

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Twenty-year-old Aryna Sabalenka beat former world number 6 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-4 in a match between two unseeded players to claim her maiden WTA title at the Connecticut Cup in New Haven.

 

Sabalenka has become the youngest player to win in the Premier-level tournament in New Haven since Caroline Wozniacki clinched this title in 2010 when she was 20 years old. Thanks to this title the player from Belarus, who is currently ranked world number 25, will break in the top 20 ranking for the first time in her career. Earlier this week Sabalenka beat Samantha Stosur, Daria Gavrilova, Belinda Bencic and Julia Goerges.

Sabalenka came into the tournament after claiming impressive wins over Caroline Wozniacki in Montreal, Johanna Konta, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys in Cincinnati and Julia Goerges in New Haven during the North American hard-court season. She reached the semifinal in Cincinnati before losing to world number 1 Simona Halep. This year she qualified for three finals on three different surfaces (Lugano on clay, Eastbourne on grass and New Haven on hard court) and beat five top 10 players.

Sabalenka hit 29 winners to 17 unforced errors and won 60 % of Suarez Navarro’s second service points.

Sabalenka got two breaks to cruise through to a 4-0 lead in her third WTA-level final. Suarez Navarro, who was playing her first final since she claimed her second career title in Doha 2016, struggled to find her ryththm. Sabalenka saved a break point to hold her service game for 5-0. Suarez Navarro got her first game on the scoreboard, but Sabalenka came back from 0-30 to close out the first set with a forehand winner.

Sabalenka saved a break point with a backhand winner in the second game to draw level to 1-1. Suarez Navarro fended off a break point to take a 2-1 lead. The Spaniard held at love with a crosscourt forehand winner to take a 3-2 lead. Sabalenka rallied from 15-40 down to draw level to 3-3. Suarez Navarro broke back when Sabalenka made a double fault on the break point. Sabalenka rallied from 15-40 before breaking serve on her third opportunity for 5-4.

Sabalenka earned two match points in the next game but Suarez Navarro created a break point for 5-5. Sabalenka won the final three points to close it out on her third match point.

“This is a great feeling. I have to work more because the next year I have to do it again. I was thinking about it. I would like to put my name there on the right. It’s always nice to see your name, like a winner”, said a very delighted Sabalenka in the post-match interview.

Sabalenka lost her three previous WTA finals in Tianjin to Maria Sharapova in 2017, to Elise Mertens in Lugano and in Eastbourne to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018. She is caoched by Dmitry Tursunov.

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ATP

Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Plays Coco Gauff in a Rematch of Last Year’s Final

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A look at last year’s trophy ceremony after the women’s championship match (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The quarterfinals conclude on Wednesday in Paris.

 

A year ago in the women’s singles championship match, Iga Swiatek defeated Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 to win her second Roland Garros title.  Swiatek leads their head-to-head 6-0, having claimed all 12 sets they’ve contested.  Can Coco provide any real resistance on Wednesday?

In the other WTA quarterfinal, Ons Jabeur and Beatriz Haddad Maia vie to reach their first French Open semifinal.

On the men’s side, we have another prominent rematch from last year’s tournament.  A year ago in this same round, Casper Ruud eliminated Holger Rune in a contentious Scandinavian battle.  Yet in 2023, Rune has been the better player.  Who will prevail this time around?

And one year after the serious ankle injury Sascha Zverev suffered in the semifinals of this event, he looks to return to that round, and faces a surprising quarterfinalist in Tomas Martin Etcheverry.


Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) vs. Ons Jabeur (7) – 11:00am on Court Philippe Chatrier

Jabeur is only 15-6 on the year, after missing time this season due to multiple leg injuries.  But she has rounded into strong form at a good time, dropping only one set to this stage.  This is the farthest Ons has ever advanced in Paris, as she plays for her third Major semifinal, all within the past year.

Haddad Maia had never previously advanced beyond the second round of a Slam, with an 0-7 record in that round.  Yet here she is in her first Major quarterfinal, on the surface where the least amount of previous success had come.  Beatriz has survived three consecutive three-setters, including an over three-and-half-hour one in the last round against Sara Sorribes Tormo.

These players met just two months ago in the same round on the same surface, with Jabeur easily prevailing 6-3, 6-0 in Stuttgart.  Ons will surely be the fresher player, and has an obviously huge edge in experience.  I like Jabeur’s chances of achieving her first Roland Garros semifinal.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Not Before 12:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

In their 12 aforementioned previous sets, most have not even been close.  Only one, their very first, has gone to a tiebreak, and Gauff has averaged just 2.4 games per set. 

Coco is also yet to play her best this year.  While her record of 23-8 is far from embarrassing, she had not reached a quarterfinal in three months before this fortnight.  She continues to tinker with her forehand and serve, and has made recent changes to her coaching team.

Swiatek is 32-6 this season, and has lost only nine games through four rounds, though she did receive an unfortunate retirement in the last round from an ill Lesia Tsurenko.  So while Gauff always remains a threat, a Coco upset on Wednesday would be a bit of a shock.


Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Zverev arrived in Paris with little form, and even admitted to feeling emotional returning to the scene where such a devastating injury happened a year ago.  But he has played excellently through four rounds, dropping just one set against his only opponent seeded higher than him (Tiafoe).  Sascha is playing for his third straight semifinal in Paris.

Before this year, Etcheverry had never won a match at a Major, and only owned four career victories at ATP level.  But the 23-year-old has won 19 tour-level matches this season, and reached two clay court finals (Santiago, Houston).  Tomas Martin is yet to drop a set this tournament, defeating three seeded players (de Minaur, Coric, Nishioka).

But in their first career meeting, Zverev is a huge favorite.  His power and experience should allow him to comfortably dictate matters on Wednesday.


Holger Rune (6) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Ruud got off to a modest start in 2023 after achieving his first two Major finals in 2022, and accumulating 51 match wins.  But he’s now 15-5 on clay this season, and took three tight sets from Nicolas Jarry in a straight-set fourth round match that lasted nearly four hours.  Casper is 2-0 in his previous Slam quarterfinals.

Rune has been on a tear since last fall, reaching seven ATP finals, and winning three of them.  That includes three clay finals within the last two months (Monte Carlo, Munich, Rome).  He survived a grueling round of 16 contest against Francisco Cerundolo, decided by a fifth-set tiebreak.  This is Holger’s second Slam quarterfinal, after losing in four sets here a year ago to this same opponent. 

These two men exchanged words both at the net and in the locker room after that quarterfinal.  Casper, like many players, has voiced how immature he finds Holger’s on-court behavior to be.  Ruud won their first four meetings, but just two weeks ago in the semifinals of Rome, Rune came from behind to win in three.  All five of those matches took place on clay.

Holger appeared physically fatigued during much of his match on Monday against Cerundolo.  The outcome on Wednesday may heavily depend on his physical condition.  But if he’s feeling close to 100%, I give Rune the slight edge to achieve his first Major semifinal.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Tuesday Provides Some Blockbuster Quarterfinals

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Karen Khachanov last week in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The quarterfinals begin on Tuesday in Paris.

 

The ATP singles quarterfinals on Tuesday are quite scintillating.  2022 US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz faces two-time Major runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, and 22-time Slam champ Novak Djokovic plays Karen Khachanov, who is vying for his third consecutive Major semifinal.

And the WTA quarterfinals are far from shabby.  2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova takes on 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Karolina Muchova.  And this year’s Aussie Open champ Aryna Sabalenka squares off against new mom Elina Svitolina, who is trying to overcome a painful past in French Open quarterfinals.


Karolina Muchova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  – 11:00am on Court Philippe Chatrier

After injuries interrupted the last two years of her career, Muchova is now a strong 21-7 this season.  This is her fourth Major quarterfinal within the last four years, and her first in Paris.  Karolina has dropped one set to this stage, and upset eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari in the first round.

A knee injury caused Pavlyuchenkova to miss most of 2022, and she had a losing record in 2023 prior to this fortnight.  Before to her run to the final here two years ago, she was 0-6 in Slam quarterfinals.  Anastasia has won three consecutive three-setters over seeded players.

They’ve met three times on three different surfaces within the past four years.  Pavlyuchenkova won on hard court and clay, while Muchova won on grass.  But based on recent form, I favor Karolina to even their head-to-head and achieve her second Major semifinal.


Elina Svitolina vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 12:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

This will unfortunately be another matchup between Svitolina and a Russian or Belarussian player, where no handshake is expected after the match.  Hopefully the French crowd will refrain from booing that on Tuesday, as they have after Svitolina defeated Russia’s Anna Blinkova and Daria Kasatkina.

Outside of that, Svitolina’s run at this event has been inspiring.  Having become a mother less than eight months ago, and in just her fifth tour-level tournament since her return, she’s now on an eight-match win streak, after winning a title immediately prior to this event in Strasbourg.  But Elina is 0-3 in Roland Garros quarterfinals, having lost an especially heartbreaking one in 2017 to Simona Halep after being up a set and two breaks, and even holding a match point in the second set tiebreak.

Sabalenka continues to dominate this season.  She’s now 33-5, and 11-0 at Majors.  Aryna has not dropped a set through four rounds in Paris.  This is her best French Open performance to date, and Aryna is looking to achieve her fifth Major semifinal out of her last seven appearances.

They have split two previous encounters, both of which went to a third set.  However, their clay court matchup three years ago went to Svitolina.  Yet Sabalenka remains a considerable favorite to prevail on Tuesday.


Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Karen Khachanov (11) – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier

This is a 55th career Major quarterfinal for Djokovic, and he’s won 13 of his last 14, dating back five years.  The only loss during that span came here a year ago, when he was defeated by Rafael Nadal in four sets.  Novak is now 24-4 this year, and has won all 12 sets he’s played thus far in Paris.  He is looking for his 90th career win at Roland Garros.

This is a fifth career Major quarterfinal for Khachanov, but his third in a row after advancing to the semifinals in both New York and Melbourne.  He is 21-6 lifetime at the French Open, and 23-10 in 2023.  Karen played four more sets to reach this quarterfinal than Novak.

Their history has been quite one-sided, with Novak leading 8-1 overall, and 2-0 on clay.  Karen’s only victory came five years ago in this same city, though it was in the final of the hard court Paris Indoors, Khachanov’s biggest career title to date.  While Khachanov’s powerful groundstrokes could enable him to threaten Djokovic on Tuesday, and I’m not convinced Novak is 100% healthy or confident after struggling this clay court season, the 22-time Major champ remains a favorite to advance to his 12th semifinal at Roland Garros.


Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 34-3 on the year, and easily dispatched of another one-handed backhand, Lorenzo Musetti, on Sunday.  He’s dropped one set in this tournament, during his second round contest with Taro Daniel.  Carlitos is vying for his second Slam semifinal, after winning the last Slam he played.

Tsitsipas is 29-8 this season, and also lost one set thus far.  And notably, the Greek is 6-0 in Major quarterfinals, having taken his last 12 sets he’s played.  Most impressively, that includes a two-sets-to-love comeback victory over Rafael Nadal, two years ago at the Australian Open.

However, Tsitsipas is 0-4 against Alcaraz, and 0-2 on clay.  When they met this past April in the final of Barcelona, Carlitos won in straight sets.  And while I expect Stefanos to make this an extremely tight contest, the World No.1 is still the favorite.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Sara Sorribes Tormo Responds To Allegations Of Poor Sportsmanship At French Open

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Image via https://twitter.com/WilsonTenisEsp/

Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo believes she and her doubles partner did nothing wrong when suggesting their opponent should be disqualified from a match at the French Open. 

 

The world No.132 was playing in the third round of the women’s doubles tournament alongside Marie Bouzková. Taking on Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi, the Spanish-Czech duo took the opening set before falling behind 1-3 in the second. Then at the end of that game, Kato hit a ball to the other end of the court which accidentally struck a ball girl in the head.

Initially, Kato was issued with a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct before both Tormo and Muchova were heard on the microphone saying that she should be defaulted, according to the rulebook. Subsequently, the tournament supervisor was called to court and following a discussion Kato ended up being disqualified from the match. 

Following the incident, Tormo and Bouzkova were accused of deliberately trying to get their opponent disqualified. An allegation that Tormo denied following her marathon fourth round loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia which lasted three hours and 51 minutes. In French Open history, only two other women’s singles matches have lasted longer. 

“It’s a very bad situation that happened yesterday,” she said. “For Marie and me it’s tough to have all these kinds of things that people are saying. It’s not easy because the only thing we’ve done yesterday was go to the referee and explain to him what happened.”
“We were saying that the ball kid was crying because we were scared. Then we were saying that the ball was direct because he didn’t see the ball.”

Continuing to protest her innocence, Tormo added there was no wrongdoing on her part. 

“All the rest of the decision was taken by the supervisor. I think it’s not our thing or we haven’t done anything bad. That’s the only thing I’m going to say about this,” she added. 

Due to being defaulted, Kato lost all of her ranking points and prize money earned at the tournament. She has since issued an apology on social media about what she describes as an ‘unfortunate mishap’ before adding that her shot ‘was completely unintentional.’

Tormo and Bouzkova will next play sixth seeds Ellen Perez and Nicole Melichar-Martinez. 

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