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Johanna Konta earns rare win in Moscow

Johanna Konta produced one of her best performances of 2018 to beat Elise Mertens 6-3 7-5 and advance to the second round of the Kremlin Cup.

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Johanna Konta has had a difficult 2018. She has only reached one final all year and has not made it past the 2nd round of any of the Grand Slams.

 

The Brit, 27, has only won 29 matches this season (compared to 52, 46 and 40 in the last three years) and she has lost 22. It is her worst win-loss record since 2014 and it has caused her to slide down the rankings to World No.44.

Given these results, it came as no surprise to anyone when Konta split with Coach Michael Joyce last week. She is working with Stan Wawrinka’s former Coach Dmitri Zavialoff on a trial basis in Moscow.

The Brit began her new partnership in style in the first round of the Kremlin Cup as she beat 7th seed Elise Mertens 6-3 7-5.

Konta broke the Belgian in the third game of the match to assert her authority early on, and then broke again to seal the opener 6-3.

The second set was more difficult for the Brit, as Mertens managed to break her serve in the first game and move into a 2-0 lead.

But Konta was in the mood to fight, and she hit back in the eighth game before sealing victory with a love break when she was leading 6-5.

It was a typically aggressive display from the Brit as she hit 28 winners and took Mertens’ second serve apart. She also served very well and rarely faced a threat when she started the points.

In the second round, Konta will face either Daria Gavrilova or lucky loser Vitalia Diatchenko, and she will be hoping to continue from where she left off in round one as she seeks to end a tumultuous season on a high.

Mladenovic grabs easy win

Elsewhere in Moscow, Kristina Mladenovic booked her place in the second round for the fourth year in a row with an emphatic 6-1 6-3 victory over wild card Anna Kalinskaya.

The Frenchwoman, 25, dominated from start to finish and hit 24 winners as she wrapped up the match in just 70 minutes. She faces a tough test against 8th seed Anett Kontaveit in the last 16.

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova skips the US Open

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova has decided to skip the US Open. The Russian player wrote a post on her Instagram account.

 

“I have been thinking a lot and decided not to play at the US Open. It was not easy because I hadn’t missed any Grand Slam in my entire career. Tennis is everything for me. The main reason is insecurity. The US Open does not guarantee any guarantees. I don’t feel comfortable to travel to the USA in such circumstances. I thank the USTA and the WTA that give a chance to play. From this moment, every player is on his own. My team and I have decided it would be for the best not to participate”, said Pavlyuchenkova. 

Pavlyuchenkova has joined the list of players, who have decided to miss the US Open. The list includes Nick Kygios, Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty. More players are expected to make a final decision on travelling to the USA for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open in the coming weeks. 

Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the quarter finals at last January’s Australian Open and reached her career-high of world number 13 in the WTA singles ranking in July 2011. She is currently ranked world number 30 and claimed twelve singles and five doubles titles on the WTA Tour, including her biggest title at the Open GDF Suez and the Moscow Kremlin Cup in 2014. She got through to a Grand Slam quarter final six times and reached the top eight at least once in all four Grand Slam tournaments in singles and doubles. 

Last weekend Pavlyuchenkova won the Ultimate Tennis Showdown near Nice in the tournament organized by Patrick Mouratoglou. 

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Donna Vekic suffers shock loss to Italian wildcard

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Donna Vekic sensationally crashed out of the Palermo Ladies Open after slipping to a surprise 6-2 6-4 defeat to World No.156 Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

 

The Croatian, 24, was one of the favourites to win the tournament before it started. And her chances of glory looked even better after she produced an excellent display in the first round and three of the eight seeds were knocked out.

However, Vekic struggled from the outset against the 19-year-old Italian. She had to save three break points just to get to 2-2 in the opening set. Then she squandered a break point with a wild return in game five.

From that point on, the errors started piling up from the Croatian. She hit a forehand just wide on break point to enable Cocciaretto to go 4-2 up. Then she served poorly to allow the Italian to break her again and clinch the set 6-2.

Vekic wastes her chances

Elisabetta Cocciaretto (@LadiesOpenPA on Twitter)

Had she been playing well, Vekic would probably have established a 3-0 lead in the second set. She wasted a break point chance in the first game, meekly dropped her own serve in the second and then actually managed to break in the third game.

Somewhat surprisingly, the match then settled into a predictable rhythm as both players held serve comfortably during the next six games.

At 5-4 down, the Croatian faltered again. She hit an awful drop shot into the net to fall 15-30 behind. Then she hit a short serve and a short forehand and could only watch in horror as Cocciaretto crunched successive winners past her to seal victory.

“I’m really excited and really happy for the win and I want to thank all the fans,” the Italian said in her on-court interview. “I watched Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani playing here when I was six years old and I dreamed of following in their footsteps. It’s incredible to think that I’m doing it now.”

Cocciaretto played well throughout the match. She defended resolutely and picked the right times to attack. However, Vekic let her dictate points far too often, and she never did anything to tip the momentum back in her favour. This may be what disappoints her the most about her performance.

As for the Italian wildcard, she can bask in the glow of her first-ever win over a Top-30 player. On Friday, she will play in her first-ever WTA quarter-final. She will face either Annet Kontaveit or Laura Siegemund.

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Sara Errani reaches the quarter finals in Palermo for the eighth time

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Former Roland Garros champion Sara Errani came back from one set down to beat Krystina Pliskova 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a thrilling match at the Ladies Open in Palermo. Errani reaches the quarter finals for the eighth time in her career. 

 

Errani, who won two titles in Palermo in 2008 and 2012, has scored her tour-leading 180th career win on clay, more than any active player on tour. Pliskova went up a double break to take a 3-0 lead. Errani fended off five set points across three games and broke serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Pliskova sealed the opening set 6-3 with another break. 

Errani started the second set with an early break to take a 1-0 lead and did not face a break point to claim the second set 6-4. 

Both players traded breaks at the start of the third set. Errani got another break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and saved two break-back points to keep her lead.  

Errani will face French player Fiona Ferro, who upset number 8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5 6-2 in their first head-to-head match on Centre Court after 1 hour and 49 minutes to reach her second consecutive quarter final at the 31st edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo. Ferro scored her second win over a top 30 player. 

Ferro reached the second round at the Australian Open and lost to Elena Rybakina in the Round of 16 in St. Petersburg earlier this year. Alexandrova won her first WTA title in Shenzhen and advanced to the third round in Melbourne. 

Alexandrova got an early break to take a 2-0 lead in the opening set. Ferro broke straight back in the third game and held serve in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ferro won five consecutive games to build a 7-5 3-0 lead with three breaks in the 11th game of the first set and in the 1st and 3rd games of the second set. Alexandrova pulled one break back in the fourth game for 1-3, but Ferro broke for the third time to serve for the match at 5-2. 

Alexandrova earned two break points, but Ferro saved them. Alexandrova saved the first match point, but Ferro closed out the match, as her Russian rival made two forehand errors. 

Former world number 30 Aliaksandra Sasnovich cruised past Jasmine Paolini 6-0 6-2 to reach the quarter finals. Sasnovich last made the last eight a WTA Tour in January 2019 in Sydney, when she reached the semifinal as a qualifier. 

Paolini reached the top 100 for the first time last year and earned a career-high of world number 94 last March. 

Sasnovich fended off two break points and dropped just 14 points. She broke three times to score a 6-0 win in the opening set. Paolini won her first game, but Sasnovich got two breaks in the first and fifth games to open up a 4-1 lead. Paolini failed to convert six break points and Sasnovich won a very long service game with 10 deuces. The player from Belarus served out the second set 6-2 on her third match point with a drop-shot. 

Sasnovich set up a quarter final against either top seed Petra Martic or Liudmila Samsonova. 

“I played very well in the first set because I knew how to play against my opponent. I have seen a few matches of hers. She is a really great player. I think the Italian crowd really likes her, and I like her, because I like how she plays”, said Sasnovich. 

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