Bianca Andreescu Continues Dream Run By Edging Out Svitolina - UBITENNIS
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Bianca Andreescu Continues Dream Run By Edging Out Svitolina

Teenager Bianca Andreescu beat Elina Svitolina in a three-set thriller to book her place in the final of Indian Wells.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Bianca Andreescu continued her fairytale run in Indian Wells with a remarkable 6-3 2-6 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina in a thrilling semi-final.

The Canadian, 18, beat Dominika Cibulkova, Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza on her way to the semi-final, and she never looked daunted by the challenge of facing the Ukrainian.

“This is so incredible,” Andreescu said in her on-court interview. “This past week has been a dream come true. (I have loved) playing in front of amazing crowds like you guys.”

She continued, “Today I just believed in myself. I’ve watched these top players so many times on TV so it’s really incredible to play against them – and win!”

In the first three games of the match, Andreescu simply hit the ball as hard as she could and Svitolina absorbed the power and re-directed the ball sensibly.

This led to numerous errors from the Canadian and enabled the Ukrainian to move into a 3-0 lead.

However, Andreescu gathered herself at the changeover and came out with a different plan. She continued to hit the ball powerfully but the direction of her shots was far more intelligent.

The teenager also mixed things up. She sliced the ball at times, hit cross-court when she had previously gone down the line and came into the net occasionally.

She also dictated the play, and Svitolina simply could not handle her dramatic improvement. Consequently, Andreescu reeled off seven consecutive games to take the first set 6-3 and go 1-0 up in the second set.

Svitolina takes her chances to hit back

Bianca Andreescu (@BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Perhaps inevitably, the Canadian could not sustain the same level forever. She made a string of errors to drop her serve to love and enable the Ukrainian to gain a foothold in the match.

Svitolina took advantage of this lull from Andreescu with a steady hold to move 2-1 ahead. That scoreline gave the World No.6 a platform to attack the Canadian in game four, and she did this to good effect to earn two break points.

Andreescu saved one and Svitolina wasted the other, but the game was not over yet. The Ukrainian got the better of a pulsating rally to earn another break point, and the Canadian netted a backhand to surrender her serve.

Svitolina made a couple of sloppy errors in the next game to gift Andreescu two break points. However, she re-focused, saved them both and went on to hold serve for a 4-1 lead.

Both players faced a few difficulties in their next service games, but both safely negotiated them to move the score on to 5-2 in the Ukrainian’s favour.

By this stage, it seemed like Svitolina knew how to deal with the type of shots Andreescu likes to play. She repeatedly read the Canadian’s intentions in game eight, and this enabled her to hit winners on the big points and break the teenager to clinch the set.

Andreescu starts the decider impressively but Svitolina fights back

Svitolina made a few poor decisions in the opening game of the decider. Andreescu pounced on these. She stepped inside the court and hit winners to break the Ukrainian. The Canadian then consolidated her advantage with a comfortable hold.

However, the World No.6 has experienced most situations in her eight years on the senior tour, and she did not panic. She played a series of smart points to hold serve, and then put pressure on the teenager by forcing a break point.

Andreescu saved it in trademark aggressive style. She then unleashed a string of big groundstrokes to secure an important hold and stay two games ahead at 3-1.

Svitolina responded superbly again. She played four commanding points to hold serve to love. She then put massive pressure on the Canadian’s serve by getting everything back and was rewarded with three break points.

The Ukrainian narrowly missed with a backhand down the line on the first. She then netted a backhand return on the second. But she took the third by drawing another error from Andreescu’s racket to level the score.

Andreescu pounces when Svitolina falters

Bianca Andreescu (@BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

At 30-30 in game seven, Svitolina made an unforced error. It cost her dearly, as the Canadian crunched a forehand winner to seize her second break of the set.

The World No.6 earned three break-back points by targeting Andreescu’s weaker forehand side. However, she missed a volley on the first one and the teenager saved the next two emphatically. She then won the next two points to move within one game of another big win in her young career.

In game nine, Svitolina eased to a 40-15 lead. However, the Ukrainian made two consecutive unforced errors to give the teenager a chance of a break.

Andreescu hit a powerful winner to earn match point, but just missed with another attempted put-away that would have ended proceedings. She kept going for her shots during the rest of the game, but Svitolina eventually held.

The Canadian made a couple of sloppy errors to fall 15-30 behind on her serve. She then advanced to the net on the next point and could only watch as the Ukrainian guided the ball past her.

Andreescu dug deep to save both break points. She then earned two more match points, which Svitolina saved with gutsy winners. However, the Ukrainian could not keep up these heroics, and on the Canadian’s fourth match point, the World No.6 netted a backhand. What a win for the teenager.

[Also published on womenssporthub.com]

 

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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