Serena Williams overcame both rust and ankle soreness to defeat Maria Sakkari 7-6(3), 6-2, at the Hopman Cup.
The 23-time grand slam champion struggled to find her range during the opening set, but managed to fight back from a break down to force the proceedings into a tiebreaker. Where she broke Sakkari twice to clinch the 7-6 lead. Then in the second set, the American claimed four games in a row to win the match after 104 minutes of play. In total Williams hit 13 aces and 29 winners.
“It was my first match back.I was making a lot of errors,” Williams said. “It was great to be back out on match day.”
Following the conclusion of the first set, Williams had a medical time out to have the strapping on her ankle tightened. Despite the break, it seemed to have little impact on her movement on the court as she bids to win the Hopman Cup for the third time in her career. This year is her fifth appearance in the tournament overall.
“It’s great to be back out in match day, and it’s great to be back out here,” The 37-year-old said after the match.
“I love playing in Australia. Some of my best memories are here.
“It was my first match back (today), she played unbelievable. Maria is super young and such a good player.
“I was making a lot of errors. I was like, ‘It’s ok, it’s your first match and you’ll get better’. I just kept trying to think that.”
This week is the first time Williams has played in Australia since the birth of her child in September 2017. She is hoping for a strong run in Perth ahead of the Australian Open.
Greece comes out on top
Despite Williams’ win, it was not enough to seal victory for her country. Leaving the American team with it all to do in their upcoming clash with Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic on New Year’s Day.
In the men’s singles, Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame Frances Tiafoe in a hard fought 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3, victory. The world No.15 had a 6-3, 3-1 lead, but failed to maintain his stronghold. Allowing Tiafoe to bounce back during what was a humid day in Perth.
“He didn’t want to lose, he’s a big fighter and had some great results last year,” Tsitsipas said of Tiafoe.
“I had to fight even harder, one of us had to fight a bit more.
“At the end it paid off. Using the right tactics, using the right patterns on the court.
“I was a bit more patient, did things a bit better and in the end deserved victory.”
Speaking about the conditions, Tsitsipas said that he was able to deal with them better than he did in his first match. He lost to British world No.91 Cameron Norrie in straight sets over the weekend.
“I felt a bit uncomfortable in the first match I played. I couldn’t last long. I felt like I was out of breath,” he said.
“But today I felt really comfortable playing the rallies. My shots felt better. In general I felt much more confident, and more me.
“Frances told me he felt the exact same thing I felt in my first match. I told him it was probably because of jet lag and the heat combined.”
Greece later secured the 2-1 win in the mixed doubles. Winning their the match 4-1, 1-4, 4-2.
Controversial ITF Ranking System To Be Scrapped Following Player Backlash
The ITF’s new initiative that was launched in January is set to be axed after eight months.
After months of anger expressed by numerous players and tennis officials, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has agreed to scrap their controversial transition tour.
Implemented in January, the new format saw a two-ranking system be introduced into the sport for the first time. Lower ranked players had to earn ITF points whilst participating in the lower level tournaments and were therefore placed in a separate ranking. Then, once they won enough points, they could progress to either the ATP or WTA Tours. Furthermore, the qualifying draws for those tournaments were cut to only 24 players.
The revamp, which saw hundreds of players lose their rankings, drew outrage from many. Toni Nadal said only, ‘young rich people’ could play the sport under the new rules. Players had previously complained that they travelled to tournaments only to find out that they were unable to participate due to the reduced size of the draw. A change.org petition by Canada’s Maria Patrascu calling for changes to be made attracted more than 15,000 signatures.
After all of the turmoil, the ITF has finally backed down from their position. After discussions with both the ATP and WTA, it has been agreed that the two governing bodies will once again issue points to the $15,000 and $25,000 events. Meaning that players will only have one ranking system. Qualifying draws will also be increased to 48 players.
“The agreement includes the allocation of ATP and WTA ranking points at $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments, additional ranking points at men’s $25,000 tournaments, as well as increased playing opportunities with 48-player qualifying singles draws.” The ITF said in a statement.
“Players’ rankings will be updated with the new points allocations on 5 August 2019. These points will be applied retroactively to all tournaments played since August 2018.”
Trying to limit the bad publicity, the ITF opted to publish the new development shortly before the draws were made for the French Open, which starts on Sunday. In other developments, $15,000 tournaments will offer three places to top100 junior players. This rule doesn’t apply to any other level on the tour.
ITF president David Haggerty, who is up for re-election later this year, said he is committed to helping juniors progress onto the professional tour.
“Collaborating further with the ATP and WTA, our goal is to ensure the professional pathway from juniors to professional tennis is fit for purpose. It is vital that players have the opportunity to play and progress and nations can afford to host events in their countries at both professional and transitional levels.” Said Haggerty.
“These additional reforms to the pathway will further strengthen the new structure introduced in 2019, that in turn will create a true professional group of players, increase playing opportunities at all levels of the game, and help widen the number of nations hosting professional tournaments so that tennis can remain a truly global sport.”
A review is currently underway into a new developmental tournament for junior players to progress to the senior tour via the $15,000 events. These tournaments will offer ITF ranking points, but there are ongoing discussions with both national associations and relevant stakeholders of the ITF.
After 26 Years Of Heartbreak, Great Britain Finally Secures Fed Cup Promotion
After losing four play-off ties since 2011, the British team have finally scored the breakthrough they desired.
A duo of hard fought singles victories in London has made history for British Tennis after the Fed Cup team defeated Kazakhstan to reach the World Group stage for the first time since 1993.
Tied at 1-1 after the first day, Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter prevailed in both of their matches to hand Great Britain an overall 3-1 win over their opponents. The proceedings were opened up on Sunday by former top 10 player Konta. Taking on Yania Putintseva, Konta battled to an epic 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory. After dropping the opening set, she was then forced to recover from a 1-4 deficit in the decider to score the crucial victory. Putintseva, who was struggling physically during the match, is only the fourth top 50 player Konta has defeated so far in 2019.
“As a young girl, as an athlete wanting to make it to the top of my sport… you can only dream of this stuff.” She said during an interview with BT Sport. “Gosh that was one hell of a match wasn’t it?”
Following on from Konta’s heroics, it was Boulter’s chance to seal an unassailable lead for her country in the tie. Boulter wasn’t born until three years after her country was last in the World Group of the Fed Cup. The 22-year-old was out to seek redemption after squandering three match points on Saturday during her loss to Putintseva.
This time round Boulter didn’t crumble when under pressure. Like teammate Konta, she roared back from a set down to defeat Zarina Diyas 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1. Winning 67% of her first service points and breaking her opponent’s serve six times throughout the match.
“I was trying to get one win for the team, Johanna did a great job, I was just trying to make them proud today,” she told BT Sport.
“I showed yesterday how much it meant, I was so close but today I bounced back and got the win.
“We go again!!”
The triumph comes after what has been years of heartbreak for the British camp. Prior to 2019, they have been on the verge of reaching World Group II of the Fed Cup four times in seven years. Only to lose all of their play-off ties. Making their victory over Kazakhstan even more sweeter.
“Amazing. Just a heroic effort from the players this week, some fantastic tennis.” Team captain Anne Keothavong commented.
“Everyone here has been part of our journey and this has been an unforgettable weekend.
“Jo’s effort. coming back from behind, to Katie today. I think they have inspired a lot of people.”
Besides their new status, the contingent of player’s are hoping that their performances will help inspire the next generation. At present, there are five British players in the top 200 on the WTA Tour. Three of which are under the age of 22 (Boulter, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan).
“I hope that we have inspired a lot of kids here (in London) today to play tennis or do whatever they want to do.” Said team member Heather Watson.
It remains to be seen what is next for the Brits with the possibility of the Fed Cup changing its format. From next year there is a chance that the world group could be turned into a 12-team format. If this happened, Britain is likely to make that group thanks to their latest win.
Australia Down Belarus In Thriller To End 26-Year Wait For Fed Cup Final
It is joy for the Aussies and heartbreak for Belarus in Brisbane.
The Australian duo of Ashleigh Barty and Sam Stosur has guided their country into the final of the Fed Cup for the first time since 1993 after a dramatic final day of their clash with Belarus.
Australia, who last won the team competition back in 1974, was pushed to their limits at the Pat Rafter Arena with the final match of the tie deciding their fate. After day one, they were held at 1-1 by Belarus. A team compromising of two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka and world No.10 Aryna Sabalenka.
Barty gave the home favourites an initial 2-1 advantage after she disposed of Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2. A player who she lost to twice during the second half of the 2018 season. However, Azarenka revived Belarus’ chances immediately with an emphatic 6-1, 6-1, win over tour veteran Stosur. Making it her first victory in the competition since 2016.
With all to play for, it was the doubles match that separated the two. During a roller coaster encounter, Barty and Stosur prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, over their rivals. Breaking twice in the decider on route to securing the overall 3-2 victory.
“It’s just super-exciting now to be in the Fed Cup final,” Stosur told fedcup.com afterwards. “All the girls, we work so hard throughout the year, and we really stick together as a team, Fed Cup weeks or not Fed Cup weeks. We’ve always got each others back, so to be in the Fed Cup final not I think a great reward for both of us, and we’re going to give it our best shot here in November.”
Team captain Alicia Molik has hailed the performance of her team. This year was the first time Australia has contested a semi-final of the competition since 2014. The country ranks third on the all-time list for more trophies won, but have failed to gain success in recent decades.
“It was just an incredible weekend,” Australian captain Molik reflected.
“We hadn’t exactly planned for it to come to the doubles, yet we were prepared. We got to that position, and I was really pleased today with both the outputs of Ash – it was phenomenal tennis out there – and Sam gave it her best.
“You can just see the joy in our faces too – winning that doubles rubber, what it means. We’re now in the final. I’m just so proud.”
In November’s final Australia will play either France or Romania.
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