Belinda Bencic Claims Dubai Title With First Win Over Kvitova - UBITENNIS
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Belinda Bencic Claims Dubai Title With First Win Over Kvitova

Belinda Bencic beat Petra Kvitova for the first time to earn her second WTA Premier 5 title in Dubai.

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Belinda Bencic (@HopmanCup on Twitter)

Belinda Bencic won the second WTA Premier 5 title of her career by beating Petra Kvitova 6-3 1-6 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

 

The Swiss, 21, has performed brilliantly this week. She beat top ten players in four consecutive rounds: Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Kvitova.

And this win, her first over Kvitova, ends an unhappy sequence of three straight-sets losses against the Czech.

This week’s run has strong echoes of the last title Bencic won in 2015, when she beat Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Halep en route to glory in Toronto.

“It’s been an amazing tournament for me,” Bencic said in her on-court interview. “I tried to get as many balls back as possible to today to put pressure on Kvitova and I’m so happy that I continued (to do that).”

The Swiss player’s success in Dubai was particularly impressive from a physical point of view, as she won four consecutive three-set matches to earn the trophy.

“I feel great actually,” she said. “My head got me through. After this tournament, I will be very tired and I will take some rest. We worked a lot on my fitness so maybe that was the secret.”

Bencic also paid tribute to her father, Ivan, who is also her coach. “He gets more nervous than me,” she said. “He is amazing and he is always here for me. So is my mum, who is home watching.”

Strong start sets Bencic up for famous win

Petra Kvitova (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

Bencic made a fantastic start to the match. She broke Kvitova to love in the opening game and served well to open up a 3-1 lead.

She then earned another break by taking charge of the points on the Czech’s serve. However, she quickly surrendered it with a poor service game.

Ultimately that lapse did not matter for the Swiss, as she held to lead 5-3 and then broke Kvitova for a third time in the set to clinch it 6-3.

Somewhat surprisingly, Bencic’s level dropped massively in the second set, and Kvitova took full advantage to hit a succession of trademark winners from both sides.

The Czech broke the Swiss in the first and third games to race into a 4-0 lead, and then hit three consecutive winners to earn another break in game seven.

But to her immense credit, Bencic did not let that poor set bother her. She remained rock-solid on serve in the decider, and this enabled her to put pressure on Kvitova by getting back as many as balls as she could when the Czech was serving.

The plan worked superbly, as the tired-looking World No.4 made a string of errors to surrender her serve twice and allow the Swiss player to establish a commanding 5-2 lead.

Although Kvitova fought hard when Bencic was serving for the match, the 21-year-old once again demonstrated her composure as she saved two break points to restore the score to deuce.

The Swiss player then took her second match point when Kvitova hit a backhand long. She shook her fists excitedly and let out a roar of delight. Bencic is now well and truly back in the big time.

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Garbine Muguruza moves into the second round in Dubai

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Last year’s Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza beat Irina Camelia Begu 6-3 7-5 after 96 minutes to move into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

 

Muguruza hit 23 winners to just 10 for Begu. The Spaniard earned a break in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead, but Begu pulled back the break. Muguruza broke for the second time with a backhand winner down the line to open up a 5-3 lead and consolidated the break with a hold to close out the first set 6-3. 

Begu went up a break twice in the second set. She served for the set at 5-3, but Muguruza pulled back on serve with a forehand winner off the netcord on break point. Muguruza broke again to take a 6-5 lead and sealed the win with a forehand winner. 

Muguruza has improved her 2021 win-loss record to 13-4. 

“Begu and I have played before, we have also trained together, so we know each other’s games. I gave her a big battle and in important moments I tried to be focused and be smart and efficient”, said Muguruza. 

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion will face Amanda Anisimova, who eased past qualifier Ana Konjuh 6-2 6-2. 

Elise Mertens came back from one set down to beat lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova 4-6 6-2 6-4. Tomova was a last-minute replacement for last week’s Lyon semifinalist Fiona Ferro. Mertens converted eight of her nine break points. Tomova broke for the fourth time in the opening set after a six-deuce game to clinch the first set 6-4. Mertens never dropped her serve and broke serve with a backhand winner down the line to seal the second set 6-2. Mertens went up a break at 1-0 and 4-2 but Tomova pulled back both breaks. Mertens broke to love to take a 5-4 lead, but she had to save two break points, as she was serving for the match. The Belgian player broke serve in the 11th game to close out the match.

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Naomi Osaka Brands Appointment Of Female Olympic Chief As Inspiration For The World

The world No.2 sees the development as one that let young girls know ‘anything is possible.’

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Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has hailed the recent appointment of a woman to oversee this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

 

Seiko Hashimoto was named as the head of the Tokyo Olympic Committee last month following the resignation of Yoshiro Mori. Mori was accused of being sexist after saying women should be limited to how much they speak during meetings because they talk too much. He said that if more female members were appointed to the board they will have to ‘make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying.’

Controversy aside, Osaka believes Hashimoto’s appointment could have a significant impact on gender equality. A former professional speed skater and cyclist, Hashimoto have participated in seven Olympic Games which is more than any other Japanese athlete in history.

This is such an important moment for Japanese women, and women around the world; and I hope it’s an inspiration to a young girl with big dreams to know that anything is possible,” the world No.2 told the International Olympic Committee.

Osaka’s comments coincide with International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Tennis is considered as one of the top sports in the world when it comes to gender equality with equal prize money being awarded at every Grand Slam since the 2007 Wimbledon Championships. Last year Forbes magazine concluded that nine out of the 10 highest paid female athletes in the world are tennis players.

“I love seeing women in leadership roles like Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama,” Osaka commented. “In sport I’ve seen progress too, with women involved in various positions even in men’s sport, like Kim Ng, who is now the General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Then you have myself and Serena [Williams] as owners of NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League] teams – so I hope these kinds of leadership positions inspire the next generation of women and reflect some level of progress and change.”

The 23-year-old is a part-owner of North American women’s football team North Carolina Courage. Whilst her direct involvement in the club will not be substantial she will be acting as a ‘strategic advisor.’

Osaka is currently on a 21-match winning streak on the WTA Tour. Last month she defeated Jennifer Brady to win the Australian Open for the second time in her career.

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Elina Svitolina Admits Cut In Prize money Due To COVID-19 Affecting Motivation

The 26-year-old says it is not easy adjusting to the changes after being ‘spoiled’ by the WTA.

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Elina Svitolina says that a decline in financial incentives at tournaments could alter her schedule over the coming weeks.

 

The world No.5 says less money available at smaller events compared to previous years are having an influence on her decision to play them. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic tournaments across the world have been forced to slash or adjust their prize money pool’s. For example at this year’s Miami Open the singles winner will take home $300,110 which is a massive 80% reduction on what was awarded in 2019 ($1.354 million).

Svitolina will be the top seed in the upcoming Dubai Tennis Championships, which has also been forced to cut their payouts. This year’s winner will walk away with 68% less than what the previous champion won ($221,500 compared to $696,860).

“I had to adjust, like for example with my team, with my daily life,” AFP news quoted Svitolina as saying during her Dubai press conference on Sunday. “Maybe be a little bit smarter and I think for everyone it’s important to readjust because right now there is definitely a significant change in the prize money,”
“I think it’s really not easy for some players to adjust and for me, personally, it’s maybe also a little bit [tough] right now, because we’re a bit spoiled from the years that the prize money was really high.”

As of the week commencing March 1st, 2020, 26-year-old Svitolina is the 18th highest earning WTA player of all time in terms of prize money won. Her earnings currently stand at $20,112,704. This is more than what Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Li Na and Jelena Jankovic won during their entire careers. So far the Ukrainian has won 15 titles but is yet to reach the final of a Grand Slam.

Speaking about the current situation on the Tour, Svitolina admits she now feels more inclined chose to skip lower level events.

“Now for sure it gets into your head that you know you have less motivation at some tournaments to play because the prize money is much lower and you’re playing for example a smaller tournament and you’re tired afterwards to play a big one, so you would skip it,” she explained.
“So that, for sure, plays a little role in the motivation, in my opinion. Hopefully we can step by step improve and get back to where we were before.”

Recently the ATP confirmed revealed a series of new initiatives to support players during the pandemic including the use of a ‘covid-19 protected ranking.’ Although the women’s Tour hasn’t revelled any similar measures yet and it is unclear as to if they will. The WTA has already adjusted their ranking calculations.

Svitolina will start her campaign in Dubai against Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova who she leads 4-1 in their head-to-head. It will be the fifth tournament of her 2021 season but she is yet to progress beyond the quarter-final stage.

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