Simona Halep Rises To No.2 With Win In Doha, But Insists Focus Isn’t On The Rankings - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Rises To No.2 With Win In Doha, But Insists Focus Isn’t On The Rankings

Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber gain in momentum at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.

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Simona Halep (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Top seed Simona Halep had a duo of reasons to celebrate at the Qatar Open on Wednesday.

 

The reigning French Open champion kick-off her campaign in Doha with a 6-2, 6-3, win over Lesia Tsurenko to book a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament. Despite the straightforward score, Halep was forced to battle back in the second set. Recovering from a 1-3 deficit by winning five games in a row to claim the match. The win increased Halep’s winning head-to-head against the Ukrainian to 6-0.

“It’s always tough to play against her, because she doesn’t give pace. She has a strange game in the direction that she feels the ball really well,” wtatennis.com quoted Halep as saying.
“It’s not easy to hit the ball from her balls. It’s always tough, but I got the feeling against her, and maybe that’s why I can win every time I play against her.”

As a consequence of her latest win, the 27-year-old has ensured that she will rise back to world No.2 next week. Halep was in a three-way race to the spot with Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.  Stephens isn’t playing in Doha this week and Pliskova has withdrawn due to a viral illness. World No.1 Naomi Osaka will keep the top spot this week regardless of how well Halep performs.

“It doesn’t matter now the ranking,” Halep said during her on-court interview afterwards. “I just play to win every match I play. I step on the court I just want to see how good I can be. If I’m second now I will fight to be number one again. Now I just want to be back on court and enjoy tennis.”

Halep’s next challenge comes in the form of Germany’s Julia Goerges. A player Halep last faced at the 2016 Miami Open. Goerges outlasted Alison Riske 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4, in a marathon clash that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours. The German failed to convert six match points during the second set.

Kerber reaches new milestone

chryslène caillaud
Copyright : @Sport Vision

Elsewhere at the tournament, two-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber recorded her 600th win on the tour at the age of 31. The third seed won 65% of her service points and blasted 10 winners past Anett Kontaveit during her 6-1, 7-6(3), victory. Kerber, who broke her opponent five times during their clash, prevailed on her eighth match point.

“In the second set, she had nothing to lose at the end,” Kerber said of Kontaveit during her press conference. “She played better and better. And, yeah, I was always really close to win the match, but she was always fighting. At the end I was happy that I closed it out in two sets and played good in the tiebreak.”

This week Kerber is seeking her first title since winning Wimbledon back in July. She will next take on Barbora Strycova, who is currently ranked fifth in the doubles.  The Czech down Russian qualified Anna Blinkova 6-0, 3-6, 6-0.

“I know what to expect against her,” Kerber said. “I know that I have to play my tennis. Yeah, she played good here already. We practiced a few times together.
“You know, it will be tricky match, because you never know how the weather conditions are here as well tomorrow. But, yeah, I’m looking forward to playing another good match here.”

All four quarter-final matches will be played on Thursday at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.

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Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks

Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?

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Madison Keys (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

 

Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.

Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.

“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”

The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.

“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”

Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.

“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.

The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.

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Inspired By The Old Guys, Richard Gasquet Reaches Cincinnati Quarters

The former top 10 player gives an estimate on how much longer he will continue playing tennis for.

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Richard Gasquet, Rolex Paris Masters 2018, Simple Messieurs, 1er Tour, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

When Richard Gasquet made his debut at the Cincinnati Masters back in 2005, Diego Schwartzman had just turned 13. 14 years later, the Frenchman continues to prove that age is just a number.

 

Taking on Schwartzman in the third round of this year’s tournament, Gasquet ousted the Argentine 7-6(6), 6-3, in their clash on Thursday. The encounter was by no means a walk in the park for the world No.56, who was forced to save a duo of set points during the opening tiebreak. Nevertheless, he prevailed with the help of 11 aces as he won 75% of his first service points.

“Of course it was an important first set. He was leading 6-4 in the tiebreak. It was the key of the match to win this set, because it was a one-hour-long set, physically very difficult.” Gasquet said during his press conference.
“I felt more confident winning it and then I could break him start of the second set, winning 3-0. I started well. Of course the last game was tough for me. I felt a little pressure, but it was a good game for me.”

It is only the second time Gasquet has managed to reach the last eight of the tournament and the first since 2016. An impressive outcome for a player who missed the first five months of 2019 due to a groin operation.

At the age of 33, Gasquet is approaching the final stages of his career. Which currently features 15 ATP titles and a ranking best of seventh in the world. However, the Frenchman is only the 15th oldest player currently in the top 100 on the ATP Tour thanks to a growing trend of players playing later in their careers. Something which inspires him.

“I don’t know how long I will play. Maybe two, three years.” He estimates. “It’s tough to say. I still like it (tennis). And of course, it’s a big longevity for me, but you see a lot of players who are playing late now, so it helps for me to play more and more.”

Whilst maintaining an optimistic outlook about his future, Gasquet knows better than anybody the demands the sport has on a person’s body. He also missed a chunk of the 2017 season due to his health and injury.

“When I was 20 years old, I didn’t see physio so much. But now, at 33, I need to see the physio every day.” Said Gasquet.
“That’s the difference, the big difference. As a teenager, when you’re young, of course, it’s easier to recover faster. Now at 33, you have to be very careful.”

Gasquet will play Dominic Thiem next, who is almost eight years younger than him. Should he win, he would reach the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time since the 2013 Miami Open.

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Maria Sharapova Unsure Over Future Coaching Setup

The Russian provides some insight into her current team as she looks for a new mentor.

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Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova knows who she will be working alongside during the US Open, but beyond that remains up in the air.

 

The five-time grand slam champion is currently in the midst of making changes to her team following the rumoured departure of Thomas Högstedt. Something Sharapova is yet to comment on. In a recent article published by Swedish tennis academy Good To Great, Högstedt has been engaged in negotiations to work with Rebecca Peterson on a permanent basis.

At the New York major Sharapova has enlisted the help of Riccardo Piatti, who she spent time with in his academy in Elba earlier in the year. Italian-based Piatti has worked with a wealth of top tennis players throughout his career. Including Milos Raonic, Richard Gasquet, Ivan Ljubicic and Novak Djokovic.

“I’m not sure. It’s still a work in progress. But Riccardo will be with me in New York.” Sharapova commented about her coaching situation during the Western and Southern Open.
“I just crashed his summer camp in Elba. I didn’t know Elba existed until I knew he was there.’
“I still have to continue to look to play a few more practice matches. I feel there is a lot of things I want to improve. Yeah, it’s endless.”

It remains to be seen who the 32-year-old may partner with in the future. Since starting her comeback from a doping ban in March 2017, she has worked with two different coaches. In March 2018 she stopped working with Sven Groeneveld after almost four years. Then it was another stint with Högstedt, who she has previously worked with. So what is Sharapova looking for now?

“I came off of Wimbledon just wanting to simplify things, and I think that’s what I really liked and the approach that Riccardo had, as well, in the couple of weeks I spent with him. Just wasn’t anything like I have never heard before or something completely new.” Sharapova said about her time with Piatti.
“I think all of us who have played tennis for many years, and as a coach you have seen a lot of things, maybe someone can tell you the same thing, but in the way they say it maybe with their knowledge and how wise they are and through their experience just gets to you a little bit differently.”

Sharapova is currently in the middle of a comeback to the tour from injury. This week was only the fifth tournament the Russian has played in since the Australian Open in January. She was sidelined from action for just over four months due to a shoulder injury. Then at Wimbledon she retired in her first round match due to a forearm issue.

The latest defeat Sharapova suffered was to Ash Barty in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Falling 6-4, 6-1, to the Australian, who lost her world No.1 position to Naomi Osaka last week. Despite the loss, Sharapova exits the tournament with her head held high. Prior to playing Barty, she knocked out Wimbledon quarter-finalist Alison Riske. Scoring only her second victory over a top 40 player this season.

“Just coming off of them, feeling quite good body-wise. I think it’s really easy to take that for granted because it’s a sport, so result-oriented.” Sharapova explained.
“I have sat in this chair a few times where I haven’t finished the match or I feel like I have a long road ahead of me in terms of recovery with the body, so, yeah, that’s a positive.”

Sharapova’s next tournament will be the US Open.

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