Four WTA Players Enjoy Breakthrough Weeks In Rome - UBITENNIS
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Four WTA Players Enjoy Breakthrough Weeks In Rome

Victoria Azarenka, Johanna Konta, Maria Sakkari and Kristina Mladenovic have made significant strides at the Italian Open.

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This week in Rome, four WTA players have made significant breakthroughs which could affect the rest of the year.

 

Two of them – Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta – have experienced life either near to or at the top of the rankings, while the other two – Maria Sakkari and Kristina Mladenovic – are less familiar with such lofty heights.

In the case of Azarenka, who is now 29, it had seemed possible that she would never again beat top players on a consistent basis.

However, the Belarussian’s performances at the Italian Open suggest that she can still beat the best. She got the better of World No.6 Elina Svitolina in an excellent three-set encounter. She was leading former World No.1 Garbine Muguruza 6-4 3-1 when the Spaniard was forced to retire with a thigh injury. And she provided a stern challenge for World No.7 Karolina Pliskova during a three-set defeat in the quarter-final.

“I feel like I keep improving from week to week,” Azarenka said in her press conference after beating Muguruza. “I’m able to check off some of those goals I set for myself.”

She continued, “Obviously, the match with Elina was very dramatic. It was really good quality. I’m really happy that I learned from last week in Madrid how to turn the things around and take more into my own hands.”

Konta rediscovers her best form

Johanna Konta (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Konta is a different conundrum because it is difficult to be certain what the limits of her ability are. Was her run to the Wimbledon semi-final in 2017 an over-achievement, or is it a feat she could repeat?

Whatever the answer is to that question, the Brit has been undoubtedly impressive in recent weeks. She made a great start to the clay swing by reaching her first clay-court semi-final at WTA level in Rabat.

Konta then thrashed Alison Riske 6-4 6-1 in Madrid and pushed Simona Halep hard in the first set of their second-round meeting.

In Rome, the Brit demolished Riske by the same score for the second time in nine days and beat Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams in the same day to advance to the last eight.

Konta then dealt superbly with the unique challenges posed by Marketa Vondrousova as she beat the Czech 6-3 3-6 6-1 to advance to her biggest semi-final since Wimbledon 2017.

Konta shows she can thrive on clay

However, while the Brit’s form on clay may seem unusual to many observers, it has not come as a surprise to the World No.42, who will move up at least 11 places when the rankings are updated.

“I’ve always trusted my ability on the clay,” Konta said in her press conference after her win over Venus. “I think my weaker results on it compared to the other surfaces over the last couple years was mainly only an issue in the press room.”

She continued, “When I was a junior, and even as a young professional on the tour, I won most of my titles on the clay. I’m just pleased that (this year) I’ve been able to adapt and adjust. I feel I can be a bit more efficient on the surface, which has helped against the quality of opponents I’m coming up against.”

Konta’s current form bodes well for her chances of a good showing at the French Open. And, if she can carry it over into the grass season, perhaps another deep run at Wimbledon will also be on the cards.

Sakkari hits new heights on the WTA tour

Maria Sakkari (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Maria Sakkari enjoyed an even better week than the Brit in Rabat. She beat Konta in the final to claim her first ever WTA title.

And the Greek, 23, has used that confidence to thrive in Rome. She came through two rounds of qualifying and then beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anett Kontaveit to set up a quarter-final against Petra Kvitova.

Most in the tennis world will have expected her run to end there. But Sakkari put the Czech under all sorts of pressure and she was leading 4-0 in the decider when Kvitova was forced to retire with a calf injury.

That win set up a quarter-final meeting with Kristina Mladenovic. She beat the Frenchwoman 5-7 6-3 6-0 to progress to only her second Premier 5 semi-final and move to a career-high ranking of 28.

Mladenovic returns to prominence

It has also been a big week for Mladenovic. She reached a career-high ranking of 10 in 2017 after the best six months of her career but has struggled ever since.

Now it looks like the Frenchwoman’s best tennis may be returning. Since she started working with Sascha Bajin, who is famous for his time with Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka, her results have improved considerably.

First, she made it through qualifying in Madrid and beat Barbora Strycova in the first round. Then she came to Rome, qualified again, and recorded brilliant wins over Caroline Garcia, Belinda Bencic and Ashleigh Barty.

“I’m definitely satisfied (with my form),” Mladenovic said in her press conference after her win over Barty. “Tennis is funny – it will forever be ups and downs. When I was losing matches, I wondered what was missing. I didn’t feel like I was playing so bad, but it just didn’t click.”

She continued, “If you work hard, eventually success comes. Clay helps me. I feel like I have more time to produce my game.”

The Frenchwoman also credited her new coach. She said, “I’m loving what I’m working on with Sascha. He helps me a lot because he likes to spend hours and hours on court with me. We have the same vision of my tennis and he has brought new exercises to (help me achieve) this same vision and goal. That’s helped with my consistency and I think it’s making the difference right now.”

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Simona Halep rallies from one set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka in Dubai

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Simona Halep came back from one set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 6-2 6-2 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in one hour and 35 minutes to advance to the semifinals in Dubai one day after saving a match point against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

 

Halep earned her third win in four head-to-head matches against Sabalenka.

Halep broke in the second game of the second set to take a 2-0 lead, but Sabalenka broke straight back in the next game. Halep broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and never faced any break point in the next games.

Halep earned a break in the fourth game of the decider and backed it up to open up a 4-1 lead. The 2019 Wimbledon champion was taken to deuce once in her last eight service games of the match.

“I think I started to play a little bit stronger in the second set and find rhythm. It’s always tough to play against her because she is very strong and hits the ball really hard, so I had to play faster, be quicker on court and give everything I had to win”, said Halep.

Halep will face US qualifier Jennifer Brady, who clinched a win against a top 20 player for the third consecutive year by beating this year’s Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4. Brady has reached her third WTA semifinal and the first at Premier level.

Muguruza earned a break point with a forehand winner, as Brady was serving for the set. Brady was broken, when she hit two consecutive forehands into the net. Muguruza rallied from 1-3 to draw level to 5-5 and earned her first set point. The Spaniard sealed the tie-break, as Brady sent her backhand long.

Muguruza earned a break point in the sixth game with a backhand winner. Brady saved the break point with a forehand crosscourt winner and held serve with a backhand winner down the line. Brady broke serve to take a 4-3, as Muguruza made two forehand errors and hit two double faults. Muguruza dropped her serve again with another double fault.

Both players held serve in the first nine games of the third set. Muguruza held three break points in the third game, but Brady saved them with a backhand crosscourt winner. Brady sealed the win with a break on her second match point, as Muguruza sent a backhand long.

 

 

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Garbine Muguruza Battles Past Kudermetova In Dubai For 13th Win Of 2020

Garbine Muguruza battled past Veronika Kudermetova to continue her red-hot start to the 2020 season.

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Garbine Muguruza (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Garbine Muguruza battles past Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 4-6 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai. 

 

The Spaniard claimed her 13th victory of 2020 in a hard-fought match against Russian Veronika Kudermetova in 2 hours and 25 minutes.

There was little to separate the two players but the Australian Open finalist used her confidence and experience to edge into the last eight.

Five breaks of serve were enough for Muguruza as she continues to make a big statement under Conchita Martinez’s guidance.

After her win, Muguruza claimed more work needed to be done in order to win matches more convincingly, “There are a lot of things that I could have done better,” Muguruza told The National.

“But I’m excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarter-finals. I was just staying in the fight, not giving up until the last point, because she was playing great.”

After a couple of tough years on tour, the Spaniard seems to have found her best tennis when it matters as she aims for the top of tennis once again.

Next for the Spaniard is the in-form American Jennifer Brady, who managed to edge out Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-4 6-1.

Although Muguruza will be favourite to reach the semi-finals, the world number 16 knows the threat that awaits her tomorrow, “When you’re in the quarter-finals, you’re playing girls that are progressing through the tournament,” the 26 year old said.

“(Brady) is playing good and I’m excited to play her for the first time to get to know her tennis.”

There were also wins for Aryna Sabalenka, Petra Martic and Elena Rybakina on Wednesday in Dubai as the quarter-final line-up looks set to be a mixture of variety and power.

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New York Open Saturday Recap: Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi Advance to Sunday’s Final

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The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Home of the New York Open

The Brit and the Italian both comfortably prevailed in their semifinal matches, and will play for the championship Sunday afternoon inside Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.

 

Kyle Edmund never trailed in Saturday’s first semifinal against fellow seed and ATP Next Gen upstart Miomir Kecmanovic.  In the second game of the first set, Kecmanovic was serving at 40-0, but then lost the next five points to drop serve, which included two double faults. Miomir’s next service game at 0-3 went to deuce, when Edmund promptly crushed two forehand return winners to gain a double break. Edmund would take the first set 6-1.

Kyle’s forehand was on fire in this match, with his backhand showing some noticeable improvements as well.  However, as the second set progressed, Kecmanovic started ripping his own forehand and backhand with much more authority. But at 4-4, Miomir lost control of his groundstrokes, resulting in a break at love. Edmund would then hit multiple aces in the final game, closing out the match 6-1, 6-4. Kyle won an impressive 79% of first serve points in the match.

Regarding the tighter second set, Edmund stated, “You play top players in the world, you expect a fight back.”

“I had to weather that storm a bit, he was gaining more confidence,” Kyle said.

In the second semifinal, Andreas Seppi also allowed his opponent just five games, eliminating qualifier Jason Jung by a score of 6-3, 6-2. Just like the first semifinal, Seppi broke his opponent in his first service game, and never looked back. Jung understandably started off a bit tight in his first-ever ATP semifinal, and never settled into the match. Seppi will now vie for his first title since 2012.

The singles championship match will take place Sunday at 4:00pm local time. Edmund leads their head-to-head 4-1, with a 4-0 edge on hard courts. Their last meeting was just last month in Auckland, where Kyle won 6-3, 7-6(4).

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