Aryna Sabalenka reaches the quarter finals in Beijing to keep her Singapore hopes alive - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka reaches the quarter finals in Beijing to keep her Singapore hopes alive

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Last week’s Wuhan champion Aryna Sabalenka reached the quarter finals at the China Open in Beijing after surviving a hard-fought battle against defending champion Caroline Garcia with a 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 win.

 

Sabalenka went up a break twice in the opening set at 1-0 and 2-1, but Garcia reeled off four consecutive games to open up a 5-2 lead earning her chance to serve for the first set. Sabalenka won three consecutive games with a break in the ninth game at deuce to draw level to 5-5. Garcia won the final two games with a break in the 12th game to take a 7-5 lead.

Garcia broke serve to open up a 2-0 lead at the start of the second set and built up a 5-2 lead earning a chance to serve for the match, but Sabalenka reeled off three consecutive games with a break in the ninth game to draw level to 5-5 and sent the second set to the tie-break. Garcia opened up a 2-0 lead in the tie-break, but Sabalenka fought back by winning six consecutive points to clinch the tie-break. Sabalenka broke three times to take a bagel win in the third set after 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Sabalenka needs to reach the semifinals to stay in contention for the WTA Finals in Sngapore.

Sabalenka will face China’s number 1 player Wang Qiang, who beat Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-4 in the third round of the China Open in Beijing to reach her first Premier Mandatory quarter final. Wang won the Guangzhou title and qualified for the semifinals in Hiroshima and Wuhan.

 

Wang got the first break in the third game after four deuces to take a 2-1 lead. The Chinese player faced a break point in the sixth game and never looked back to close out the first set 6-4. Pliskova broke serve in the second game at 30 to race out to a 4-1 lead in the second set.

 

Wang reeled off five consecutive games with two consecutive breaks in the seventh and ninth games to win the second set 6-4.

 

Pliskova earned the chance to take a 5-1 lead when she earned two break points, but Wang saved both chances. Pliskova double faulted on the break point in the seventh game to claw her way back to 3-4. Wang held her serve in a four-deuce eighth game before a second consecutive break at 15 and a hold of serve at 15 to close out the second set 6-4.

 

 

 

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Grand Slam Winner Francesca Schiavone Returns To Tennis As Coach For Top 25 Star

The former world No.4 is teaming up with a old rival of hers on the Tour.

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Francesca Schiavone will be returning to women’s tennis next week but as a coach for the 21st best player in the world, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

 

The 2014 French Open champion has agreed to start working with Croatia’s Petra Martic who she will be mentoring throughout the entire clay swing. It is understood that their first tournament together will be at the Istanbul Open which will start next Monday. Matic has been ranked as high as 14th in the world and reached the quarter-finals of the French Open back in 2019.

It is not the first time Schiavone has taken on a coaching role after previously collaborating with Caroline Wozniacki during 2019. That also occurred during the clay swing of the Tour. Since then the Italian has experienced her own personal battle after being diagnosed with cancer shortly after her stint with Wozniacki. She has since beaten the illness and even written a book detailing her memoirs.

“I was supposed to do something different, but then I got sick and that year (2019) was very difficult,” Schiavone told wtatennis.com last year. “In that moment, I had some projects I had to totally change. I couldn’t fly, go anywhere to see people. It changed everything. Once I started feeling better, COVID happened. Every project went in a different way.”

The 40-year-old has previously crossed paths with Martic on the Tour as a player. In 2016 she beat the Croat in the semi-finals of the Rio Open en route to the trophy. Rio was the second last title she ever won on the WTA Tour. They have also played against each other in doubles at the 2010 US Open and the 2012 Italian Open.

It is understood that Schiavone’s latest mission will also see her work with Martic in Madrid, Rome and the French Open. It is unclear as to if the partnership is just for the clay swing or a longer stint. Neither person is yet to publicly comment on their plans but they have been confirmed by multiple Italian media sources.

Schiavone has been ranked as high as 4th in the world. She has won eight WTA titles during her career and played in 70 Grand Slam main draws over a 18-year period.

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Victoria Azarenka Pulls Out Of Stuttgart

The world No.15 has decided to skip her next event but it is for a very good reason.

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Two-time Australian open champion Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn from next week’s Porsche Open in Germany to get a COVID-19 vaccination. 

 

The former world No.1 issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that she will not be playing in the tournament as it collides with when she is set to receive her first dose. In recent weeks there has been a debate among players about whether they should have the vaccination given the nature of travelling they do. Both the ATP and WTA have issued statements urging players to do so when they get the opportunity.

“I will unfortunately not be able to compete in Stuttgart at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix next week as I will be receiving my first dosis (sic) of the vaccine at the same time. I wish the tournament all the best, and I do hope to be able to compete again in Stuttgart next year,” Azarenka wrote on Twitter.

Recently the Volvo Open in Charleston, which is a WTA event, became the first on the Tour to offer vaccines to all players participating. It is understood that the tournament and Plantation Pharmacy, a local drugstore, formed an agreement. All players were contacted by email and offered a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccination. It is unclear as to if any other tournaments will do similar initiatives in the future.

Azarenka has played in four tournaments so far this season and won five out of nine matches played on the Tour. Her best run was at the Doha Open where she reached the semi-finals before being forced to pull out due to a back injury. 

Despite the absence of the world No.15, Stuttgart is set to have a world-class field with seven top 10 players participating in the draw. Held at the Porsche-Arena and held on indoor clay, the event has been held in the city since 2006. This year’s edition will be headlined by world No.1 Ash Barty who has already won two titles this season. Simona Halep, Sofia Kenin and defending champion Petra Kvitova are also participating. 

The main draw will get underway on Monday.

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Veronika Kudermetova Finally Has Her Own Trophy

The Russian repeatedly went for winners and had all the answers in the clutch moments of the Charleston final.

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Veronika Kudermetova finally has her name on a WTA Tour 500 tournament championship trophy after winning the Volvo Car Open singles title on Sunday in Charleston, S.C.

 

The slender Russian with a “fighter” mentality is listed right there with the likes of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Steffi Graf, Justine Henin,  Martina Hingis, Gabriela Sabatini and many other former greats of the women’s game who have won the long-running tournament that once was named the Family Circle Cup.

No wonder Kudermetova was so happy. In addition to winning her first WTA Tour title, she earned a check worth $68,570 and a sparkling white new Volvo car to use for one year.

NEW VOLVO HITS THE SPOT

“I am most proud I continue to play my game,” the 23-year-old  told the Tennis Channel. “I work every day to be able to put my name on a trophy. I hope I can continue to play like this and win more trophies.”

And maybe more new cars?

“Maybe I give it (the Volvo) to my parents. I think they deserve this car, because they help me a lot, and I think this is for my family.”

RUSSIAN TOO GOOD FOR KOVINIC

The hard-hitting and aggressive Kudermetova was too good for 91st-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. Despite falling behind in each set, Kudermetova won four of the last five games of the first set and the final five games of a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Kovinic. It took only 96 minutes for the 38th-ranked Kudermetova to reserve her place among the top 30 (at No. 29) in the new  WTA rankings.

In becoming the first VCO champion to not drop a set since Serena Williams in 2012, Kudermetova didn’t just attack the 26-year-old Kovinic’s game, she attacked the clay court.

KUDERMETOVA SERVED WITH A PURPOSE

Kudermetova repeatedly went for winners, and she missed more than her share of shots, but in clutch situations she usually had the answer.

One of the answers was a serve that produced six aces, a little above her average in her first five victories in which she drilled 25 total aces.

That serve also put only 49.2 percent of her first serves into play. Yet, she was broken only once (the fourth game of the match) and faced a total of only two break points in the match.

Kudermetova often got out of trouble by dealing up unreturnable second serves. Kovinic simply couldn’t get a handle on hardly any serve that Kudermetova put into play (she double-faulted only twice).

NEW WTA TOUR 250 EVENT STARTS

After the win, Kudermetova got a quick hug from her coach, Sergey Demekhine. After all, Demekhine is her husband of four years.

Many of the players in the VCO will stick around Charleston to begin play in a WTA Tour 250  tournament that starts on Monday. Tunisa’s Ons Jabeur, who was eliminated by Kovinic in the VCO semifinals, has climbed to 27th in the world and is the top seed in the new tournament.

See James Beck’s Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com (search on James Beck column). James Beck can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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