Rising Stars Not Ready To Dominate WTA Tour Yet, Says Donna Vekic - UBITENNIS
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Rising Stars Not Ready To Dominate WTA Tour Yet, Says Donna Vekic

The Croatian No.1 shared her views about the next generation of women’s tennis as she reviews her 2018 season.

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Donna Vekic is unsure that the rising stars of the women’s game are at a level of consistency to dominate the tour despite three players under the age of 21 finishing in the top 15.

 

22-year-old Vekic has hailed the achievements of her younger rivals before pointing out that they are yet to maintain their form. Citing Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko as an example. Ostapenko has only managed to win one title since her triumph at the 2017 French Open and only managed to reach one final on the tour this season.

“There are a lot [of 21-and-under players] in the top-20. There are a few of them winning, like Osaka and [Jelena] Ostapenko last year winning the Slams but you still don’t see it throughout the whole year,” Vekic told Sport 360.
“So for sure there are special moments like that, but can they have the consistency to be top-10, top-five the whole year? I’m not sure yet. But everyone can beat everyone at the moment and I think that’s what’s so good about women’s tennis right now, you don’t know who is going to win the tournament at the end whereas in men’s tennis it’s a little bit different.”

Naomi Osaka, Daria Kasatkina and Aryna Sabalenka are three players under the age of 21 who has ended the year in the world’s top 15. World No.4 Osaka has enjoyed the biggest success after winning the US Open in September. Since then, the Japanese player reached the final of the Japan Open and the semi-finals in Beijing. However, she lost all three of her round-robin matches at the WTA Finals. Kasatkina and Sabalanka have also won WTA titles in 2018.

Vekic’s comments are one that stems from experience. At the age of 17 she won her first tour trophy at the Malaysian Open, in what was the start of a roller coaster journey. She wouldn’t win her second title until three years later at the 2017 Nottingham Open. Meanwhile, she didn’t reach the fourth round of a major until this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Vekic made her grand slam debut at the 2013 Australian Open.

“There were lots of ups and downs. I was very good when I was very young and then I was struggling a little bit at 18, 19, but I feel like at 22 I’ve been through everything,” she reflected.
“I’ve been through the highs and through the lows and now I’ve matured a lot in the last couple of years and finally in the last two years I have some consistency throughout the year and this is really important to me because before when I used to play finals, I would lose first round the next couple of tournaments.”

The ability to find consistency in her game has elevated the Croat to a current ranking best of 34th in the world. Reaching the final of the Washington Open in July. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. Overall, Vekic has reached the quarter-finals or better at six out of 25 tournaments played this season.

Guiding Vekic on the tour is coach Torben Beltz. A German coach known best for guiding Angelique Kerber to her first two grand slam titles in 2016. The two have been working together for nearly 12 months.

“I really enjoy working with Torben. We’ve been working together since the off-season last year and we’ve been working really hard.” Said Vekic.
“He’s a really positive guy and he has a lot of experience and he’s definitely helped me a lot. Improved my game and gave me some insurance that if you do the right thing then the hard work will pay off and we’ve been working really hard and it’s definitely paying off and I’m really, really happy to be working with him.”

Vekic will kick-off her new season at the Brisbane International during the first week of January.

ATP

Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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ATP

ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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Jelena Ostapenko sets up a final against Clara Tauson in Luxembourg

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Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko remained unbeaten with a 6-1 7-6 (7-4) win over Liudmila Samsonova in the semifinals of the BLG BNL Paribas Luxembourg. 

 

Ostapenko cruised to a 6-1 5-1 lead, but she was unable to serve it out twice. Samsonova came back to fby winning six consecutive points from 1-4 down to win the tie-break 7-4. Ostapenko converted each of her four break points. 

Ostapenko has extended her winning streak at  Luxembourg to 9-0. The Latvian player won her third career title  at this tournament. She has reached her second final of the year after claiming the Eastbourne title last June. 

Ostapenko hit 25 winners to 14 unforced errors and won 62% of her first serve points. She saved three break points to hold serve in the third game and won nine consecutive points. Samsonova did not convert four break points in the first set.

“At some point I stopped playing my game. I missed so many balls and I started to rush, but the key was to fight to stay in the match. I played really well in the beginning but I could not close it. I had to fight and enjoy ir”, said Ostapenko. 

Ostapenko set up a final against Danish 18-year-old rising star Clara Tauson, who overcame this year’s Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the second semifinal. The Danish player, who was a former world junior number 1 player, won her first WTA singles title in Lyon this year. 

Tauson hit 41 winners to 20 unforced errors. She is the most recent player to beat US Open champion Emma Raducanu and pushed Ashleigh Barty in a two-set US Open defeat. 

Tauson earned an early break in the opening game to open up a 3-1 lead after a couple of double faults fom Vondrousova. The Czech player fended off four set points in the next game and drew level to 3-3. Tauson hit a forehand to earn another break in the seventh game for 4-3 and cruised through to a 6-4 win in the first set. ’21

Vondrousova earned a break to take a 2-0 lead at the start of the second set. The 2019 Roland Garros finalist broke Tauson for the second time to force the match to the third set.

Both players traded breaks in the first two games of the third set. They held their next games to draw level to 4-4. Tauson broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead before closing out the match. 

Greet Minnen and Alison Van Uytvanck claimed their second WTA doubles title, as they beat Kimberley Zimmermann and Erin Routliffe 6-3 6-3 in just 59 minutes. Minnen and Van Uytvanck faced a break point and converted their three of their six break points. 

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