Kiki Bertens Triumphs In Russia As Yastremska Topples Tomljanovic In Thailand - UBITENNIS
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Kiki Bertens Triumphs In Russia As Yastremska Topples Tomljanovic In Thailand

Both women overcame some stern resistance from their opponents to win their first title of 2019.

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Second seed Kiki Bertens has become the first Dutch player to win the St Petersburg Open after downing Donna Vekic 7-6(2), 6-4, in the final on Sunday.

 

Bertens, who won her first WTA title back in 2012, had never previously reached the final of a Russian event prior to this week. Her route to Sunday’s clash saw her dropped only one set in four matches played. Scoring back-to-back wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aryna Sabalenka. Meanwhile, Vekic’s route saw her stun Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals followed by a win over veteran player Vera Zvonareva.

Despite being ranked 22 places higher than her opponent, Bertens was under pressure early on in the match. A double break in Vekic’s advantage resulted in the Croat racing to a 5-2 lead. Despite the blip, Bertens clawed her way back to level 5-5, before taking the opening set into a tiebreaker. She then went on to race through the tiebreak, which she closed out with the help of a carefully placed serve down the middle of the court.

The roller-coaster battle continued in the second set with changes in momentum taking place. Bertens managed to open up a set and a 3-1 lead, before having her serve broken once again. The pivotal moment for the world No.8 occurred at 4-4. Nearing towards the finish line, she broke for a 5-4 advantage with the help of a costly double fault from across the court. Serving for the match, Bertens clinched victory with a backhand shot that clipped the top of the net before landing on Vekic’s side.

“I remember in my mind the last time I was playing Donna I had match-points, too, and then I lost the match. So I was really focused there and I am happy I managed to finish it in that game.” Bertens said afterwards.
“It is great to be here (in St Petersburg). It was a great week.”

Bertens fired eight aces past Vekic and converted four out of her five break point opportunities. Both women produced 33 unforced errors, but the second seed produced 27 winners compared to her opponents tally of 16. The result extends Vekic’s title drought, which dates back to June 2017.

“Congrats to Kiki and your team. You were too good for me today,” said Vekic. “I’m really looking forward to playing doubles with you in Indian Wells.
“Sorry, (coach) Torben (Beltz) we are going to have to wait a little bit longer for that first title, but at least the finals are getting bigger.”

Bertens now has 10 WTA titles to her name. St Petersburg is the first indoor tournament she has won on the tour at the age of 27.

Yastremska fights back from the brink

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At the Thailand Open in Hua Hin, 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska staged an emphatic final set comeback to win her second WTA trophy. Taking on Australia’s Anja Tomljanovic, Yastremska rallied back from 2-5 down in the decider to prevail 6–2, 2–6, 7–6(3).

After racing through the opening set in just 35 minutes, the Ukrainian started to fade as the match progressed. A game away from defeat, Yastremska took a medical time out in what proved to be a turning point. Upon the resumption of the match, the teenager was freely moving around the court as she claimed four consecutive games to revive her chances. Raising questions about if she deliberately used a tactical time out.

Weathering the storm, Yastremska went on to prevail in the tiebreaker. A Tomljanovic backhand into the net rewarded her with three championship points. She converted her first with the help of a blistering forehand cross-court winner.

“The match was really tough for me,” wtatennis.com quoted Yastremska as saying following the match. “The first set I played maximum, and the second set, I felt that I can’t play like that, like how I played the first set, and I didn’t know what’s going on. I tried my best, and I tried to do the same things I was doing in the first set, but it’s just feelings like you’re empty, completely empty. I don’t know how to describe that.”
“But in the third set, when I was losing 5-2, I remembered one thing, which happened before this tournament, and it really helped me to go through and take extra power, and finish with a win.”

Despite her young age, Yastremska has won two out of her past five tournaments on the tour. Her first triumph was at the Hong Kong Open where she didn’t drop a set on route to her maiden title.

When the WTA rankings are updated on Monday, Yastremska will rise to a ranking high of 34th.

ATP

Dominic Thiem Downplays US Open Chances

The world No.4 has given a frank assessment about his hopes at the New York major shortly after the draw was made on Thursday.

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Dominic Thiem may be a top four seed in next week’s US Open, but the Austrian has played down the prospect of him winning his first grand slam title at the event.

 

The 25-year-old has experienced a setback in his build up to the tournament. Since winning the Kitzbuhel Open on clay, Thiem has only managed to play three matches on a hard court. Reaching the quarter-finals of the Rogers Cup in what what was his best-ever run at the tournament. However, more recently Thiem has been sidelined from action due to a virus and pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters.

Thiem’s first round opponent at the US Open will be Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano, who has suffered two consecutive first round losses on the tour. Fabbiano reached the third round in New York back in 2017, but has missed the two most recent editions.

“Without a doubt, there are much tougher rivals than Thomas Fabbiano in a first round, although I must say that, after overcoming this viral disease, I do not expect miracles.” Thiem told Sky Sport Austria on Thursday.

Heading into the event, Thiem has said he has set out no goal. He will be defending 360 ranking points after reaching the quarter-finals 12 months ago before losing in a five-set thriller to Rafael Nadal. Overall, Thiem’s win-loss at the US Open is 15-5 heading into this year.

“Right now I do not consider reaching a quarterfinals or a semifinal. I want to go round to round, looking beyond would be presumptuous.” He said.
“In the next few days I will keep my training to a minimum, the goal is to be in perfect shape on Monday.”

Despite his recent setbacks, 2019 has been a season of success for the world No.4. In March he won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. He would then go on to win trophies in Barcelona and Kitzhbuel. However, in the grand slams he has been less consistent. At the French Open Thiem reached the final, but has failed to win back-to-back matches at both the Australian Open (second round) and Wimbledon (first round). Although at the Australian Open he was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to illness.

The US Open will get underway on Monday.

Dominic Thiem at the US Open

2018
Round Rank Opponent W-L Score
Quarter-Finals 1
Rafael Nadal ESP
L 60 46 57 764 675
Round of 16 5
Kevin Anderson RSA
W 75 62 762
Round of 32 74
Taylor Fritz USA
W 36 63 765 64
Round of 64 31
Steve Johnson USA
W 675 63 57 64 61
Round of 128 81
Mirza Basic BIH
W 63 61 64
2017
Round Rank Opponent W-L Score
Round of 16 28
Juan Martin del Potro ARG
L 61 62 16 671 46
Round of 32 34
Adrian Mannarino FRA
W 75 63 64
Round of 64 108
Taylor Fritz USA
W 64 64 46 75
Round of 128 186
Alex de Minaur AUS
W 64 61 61
2016
Round Rank Opponent W-L Score
Round of 16 142
Juan Martin del Potro ARG
L 36 23 (RET)
Round of 32 39
Pablo Carreno Busta ESP
W 16 64 64 75
Round of 64 89
Ricardas Berankis LTU
W 64 63 62
Round of 128 66
John Millman AUS
W 63 26 57 64 63
2015
Round Rank Opponent W-L Score
Round of 32 14
Kevin Anderson RSA
L 36 673 673
Round of 64 70
Denis Istomin UZB
W 64 64 10 (RET)
Round of 128 76
Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP
W 75 63 75
2014
Round Rank Opponent W-L Score
Round of 16 7
Tomas Berdych CZE
L 16 26 46
Round of 32 21
Feliciano Lopez ESP
W 64 62 63
Round of 64 12
Ernests Gulbis LTA
W 46 36 64 63 63
Round of 128 84
Lukas Lacko SLO
W 63 63 62

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Chris Evert On Why Coco Gauff Winning The US Open May Not Be A Good Thing

The former world No.1 speaks out about the teenage tennis prodigy.

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Cori Gauff - Wimbledon 2019 (photo via Twitter, @Wimbledon)

At next week’s US Open, one of the talking points of the women’s draw will be rising star Coco Gauff who will be making her main draw debut at Flushing Meadows.

 

The 15-year-old tennis prodigy grabbed the attention of many during the Wimbledon Championships. It was at the event where she became the youngest player in the Open Era to successfully qualify. Then she stunned former world No.1 Venus Williams, Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog en route to the fourth round. Where she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.

Gauff’s rapid rise in the sport has caught the attention of both her rivals and sponsors. She already has deals with Barilla and New Balance. Amounting to an estimated $1 million, according to Forbes Magazine. Those brands will be hoping for the teenager to make another deep run at the final grand slam of the season. However, one former champion has warned against any potential success.

18-time grand slam champion Chris Evert is concerned that too much is happening to Gauff at a young age. Going as far as saying that success at the major event could be counterproductive. Gauff is currently ranked 141st in the world and is the youngest player in the top 500.

“I don’t know if it’d be necessarily great for her to win the Open.” Evert said during an interview with The New York Post.
“If she continues to play the way she is, have some big wins, still develop her game and be a normal 15-year-old with some semblance of privacy, then that’d be the most successful picture of her.’
“There’s no doubt there is Grand Slam potential in her, after watching her at Wimbledon. But I am very cautious because she is so young and so many things can happen between 15 and 20 (years old), mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Evert was 19 when she won her first major title at the 1974 French Open. In total she contested 34 grand slam finals over a 15-year period.

Earlier this week Gauff made an appearance at the Winston-Salem Open. A men’s tournament that is categorised as an ATP 250 event. She took to the court to play an exhibition match against world No.2 Ash Barty. Gauff edged out the reigning French Open champion 6-4, 2-6, [10-8].

“It was super fun. It’s different to kinda play in an atmosphere like that and not be in a tournament. It was cool to play with Ash and hopefully we can do it again sometime,” Gauff told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m kind of sad to leave [Winston-Salem] because New York is busy but it was good to get the calm before the storm.”

Gauff will take on Russian world No.76 Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the US Open. There is a chance that she could play defending champion Naomi Osaka in the tournament if they both reach the third round.

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Editorial

A new documentary, and the rekindling of Serena Williams’ tryst with 2018 US Open destiny

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Serena Williams, 2019 US Open, Patrick Mouratoglou
Photo Credit: US Open/USTA

It’s almost a year since Serena Williams got embroiled in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the 2018 US Open final. The subject is yet to ebb entirely from memory though. The first episode of ESPN’s new documentary series Backstory – featured on the incident involving the 23-time Grand Slam champion – does its bit to ensure that on the eve of the 2019 US Open, attention is centred on what occurred a year ago.

 

Titled Serena vs the Umpire, the episode is an extrapolation of the match’s progression and what transpired within it. It presents facts through the pros and cons of Williams and Ramos’, and also of Patrick Mouratoglou’s actions that charted the match. Yet, in spite of this, the program makes Williams out as the wronged one.

First, by her coach, Mouratoglou, who displayed his commitment as a mentor by using hand signals to try and guide her. Then, by Ramos who penalised her for the Frenchman’s infraction. Without heeding her vehemence that she was not a party to her coach’s decision-making. The narrative of the program puts it out that regardless of Williams’ behaviour that saw her scream and rant at the umpire and call him a liar and thief, she did not deserve to be termed as the pariah of the match.

The program’s one-sided leaning does not change the problematic aspects of Williams’ and Mouratoglou’s behaviours. Williams, in protesting her innocence about receiving (and accepting) coaching, did cross the line with her aggressiveness. There was – and is – no denying her disrespect towards the authority on the chair officiating the match. And, rationales like the momentousness of the occasion getting to her do not justify her stance at all. Rather, they hinted at her being ill-equipped to handle the scenario in what turned out be the proverbial repeating of history, at the same tournament.

Mouratoglou’s near-immediate (after the end of the match) admission that he tried to help her – and his maintaining to do so, even now – also debilitates Williams’ position. The 49-year-old’s statements about what he thought was Ramos’ inability in letting the match spiral out of bands, is a bemusing segue as well.

“Ramos’ job is also to keep the match under control. He totally lost control of the match, completely, because he reacted with emotions. And he’s not supposed to — he’s a chair umpire, he’s not a player,” Mouratoglou said. Ironically, had Ramos lashed out emotionally instead of abiding the rules, the repercussions would have been far serious for Williams for name-calling him and for continuously challenging his authority.

Mouratoglou’s comments are revealing of how the program does not consider the ramifications of that fracas for Ramos.

Since the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) rules do not permit Ramos from speaking to the media – including to ESPN for this program – the 48-year-old has been short-changed as he cannot present his point-of-view countering the acclaimed coach. Also, in the year that has almost gone by, the veteran official’s on-court calls have been scrutinised and compared with his umpiring of that match. Moreover, Ramos will not be umpiring any of Williams’ matches at Flushing Meadows in 2019. All of these are indicative of how Ramos’ professionalism has been denigrated.

Players have the right to request to not have certain umpires officiate their matches and many have done so for reasons of their own. The avoidance of the tension between such a player and umpire is undeniably a positive to come out of the move. Yet, what does it leave the umpire with, since, irrespective of how a player behaves with the official, the latter does not have the same means to put forth his officiating preference.

Speaking of preferences, proffering his concluding thoughts on the match, Mouratoglou opined, “It was horrible for us. It was horrible for Serena. It’s fantastic for tennis. It was unbelievable, that was the best moment in tennis of the past 10 years. Tennis was everywhere. You don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all the other sports, but not tennis. People should be allowed to be herself and show emotion. You want passion, that’s why people watch sport. They want things to happen. They want to feel emotion, they want to root for someone, they want to be shocked, they want to be happy, they want to be sad. That’s what they want and everybody felt something that day.”

Indeed, the match prompted reactions from everybody who watched it. Nonetheless, its proceedings overshadowed the game of tennis so much so that the bigger picture was not that of the sport but that of egoism.

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