'Proud' Sloane Stephens Fights Back To Reach Singapore Final - UBITENNIS
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‘Proud’ Sloane Stephens Fights Back To Reach Singapore Final

After a slow start that saw her lose eight consecutive games, Stephens battled back to reach the last stage of the WTA Finals on her debut.

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Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens withstood an early scare to defeat Karolina Pliskova 0-6, 6-4, 6-1, to reach the final of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

 

The clash at the Singapore Indoor stadium was a tale of two halves. At first Stephens looked to be on the verge of crashing out of the tournament in emphatic style as she required 51 minutes before winning a single game. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old gradually worked her way back into the match against a tiring Pliskova, who produced a total of 40 unforced errors. In total Stephens hit 18 winners to 31 unforced errors, but crucially broke Pliskova in seven out of her eight final service games.

“I came out here a little bit nervous and I wasn’t quite feeling the ball.” Stephens said during her on-court interview. “I knew playing Karolina was going to be a tough match and she was. I mean, when you say you’re going to give somebody a lesson, she was working me today.
“I just tried to stay in it and get as many balls back as I could. I’m really proud of my fight today.”

Stephens, who lost to Pliskova earlier this year in Madrid, looked on course to suffer a straight sets defeat. In under an hour, her Czech opponent raced to a 6-0, 2-0, lead. Becoming the third player in 2018 to have bageled Stephens on the tour.

Despite Pliskova’s electrifying start, she was unable to maintain her momentum as the match progressed. Through the second set, the usually reliable serve of the world No.8 started to become an hindrance. Reviving Stephens’ chances as the American No.1 broke three consecutive times on route to levelling the clash at a set apiece.

Unlike Pliskova, Stephens managed to capitalize on the momentum she generated heading into the decider. In what was a complete opposite performance compared to the start of the match, Stephens dictated the rallies and bullied her opponent around the court. Meanwhile, a tentative looking Pliskova started to produce more errors as her movement on the court declined. Enabling Stephens to break a further four consecutive times on route to the victory. Which was sealed with the help of a Pliskova forehand error on match point.

“I knew that I had to keep battling and battling. She was playing textbook tennis at the beginning and there was really nothing I could do about that, except fight back and that’s just what I did.” Stephens comments about Pliskova’s performance during an interview with BT Sport.

Becoming the first American other than the Williams sisters to reach the final of the tournament since 2001, Stephens will play Elina Svitolina for the title. Svitolina also experienced a tough battle in her semi-final match with a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4, win over Kiki Bertens.

“It’s been great (in Singapore), I’m just going to try and finish up strong. Obviously, she (Svitolina) is another great player.” Said Stephens.

Both players are yet to lose a match this week at the season-ending championships. In their head-to-head, Stephens leads Svitolina 2-1 and won their most recent meeting at this year’s Canadian Open.

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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