Johanna Konta Reaches Biggest Semi-Final Since 2017 - UBITENNIS
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Johanna Konta Reaches Biggest Semi-Final Since 2017

Johanna Konta advanced to her first semi-final in Rome by beating Vondrousova in three sets, while Pliskova beat Azarenka.

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Johanna Konta (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Johanna Konta will contest the biggest match of her career since Wimbledon 2017 when she takes on Kiki Bertens in the semi-final of the Italian Open.

 

The Brit, who is celebrating her 28th birthday today, looked in excellent form during her 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory over rising star Marketa Vondrousova and she fully deserves her place in the last four.

Konta’s win seems even more impressive when you consider the two players the Czech, 19, beat to reach the quarter-final stage: Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina.

With those scalps under her belt, Vondrousova would surely have fancied her chances against the Brit. However, that confidence quickly eroded after the World No.42 controlled the opening set.

Konta made a great start. She hit a series of deep backhands which pushed the Czech back as she almost got an immediate break.

Although Vondrousova held on, the Brit then earned three more chances in game three. She took the second to move into a 2-1 lead.

Konta dominated her service games to maintain her advantage for the rest of the set, and then broke the Czech again in game nine to clinch it.

To Vondrousova’s credit, she fought back well in the second set and eventually won it 6-3. However, the Brit knew what to do in the decider. She stepped into the court and attacked anything short. This enabled her to win six games in a row and seal her spot in the semi-final.

Azarenka’s impressive run comes to an end

Karolina Pliskova (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

It has been a brilliant week in Rome for Victoria Azarenka, but her participation in the singles event is now over after a 6-7(5) 6-2 6-2 loss to Karolina Pliskova.

The Belarussian, 29, impressed during her three-set win over another top ten player – Elina Svitolina – in the second round, but she could not repeat the feat against the World No.7.

For Pliskova, the match against Azarenka represented a significant hurdle to negotiate. But she responded superbly to losing the first set by raising her game considerably to win the next two.

“Azarenka was playing good tennis today. She wasn’t missing much,” the Czech said in her press conference.

She continued, “It was a little bit windy, so I didn’t feel at my best in the first set. I don’t think my level was that bad, but I was too passive. To begin with, I wanted to kill myself after that set. Then I calmed down a bit and went for my shots a little bit more, which paid off.”

Pliskova’s reward will be a semi-final against either Maria Sakkari or Kristina Mladenovic. If it is the Greek, it will bring back memories of their encounter last year when the Czech famously lost her temper and damaged the umpire’s chair.

“I haven’t played Sakkari since Rome last year, so I think everybody is going to be waiting for this match – even me,” the World No.7 said. “The rematch has almost happened in a couple of tournaments recently, but she always lost before. I think she was scared to face me!”

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova is ready to play in November if the season is extended

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova said that she would be ready to play in November and December, if the season is extended once the WTA circuit resumes after the long suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The season may be extended to November to make up for the events, which were called off due to Covid-19.

Pavlyuchenkova opened her 2020 season with early defeats against Petra Kvitova in the first round in Brisbane and Ashleigh Barty in the second round in Adelaide. The Russian player produced a major upset when she beat Karolina Pliskova in the third round at the Australian Open, scoring her first win in seven head-to-head matches over the former world number 1 player. She came back from a set down to beat Angelique Kerber reaching the sixth Grand Slam quarter final of her career. In the quarter final Pavlyuchenkova lost to former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. She recently split with 53-year-old French coach Sam Sumyk.

Pavlyuchenkova is a former world number 1 player and won two junior Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and at the US Open in 2006. She lifted twelve singles titles and five doubles titles on the WTA Tour.

“If it is necessary to play in December, I will be ready. In any case it is necessary to change to change this calendar where we play without stopping from January to November. We have announced a resumption date but there is no agreement. Everything can change. It does not look like as an offseason at all as some say because the only thing that I can do is to motivate myself physically and hit the ball because I am lucky that I have a court not far from home. Some people can’t even do all that”, said Pavlyuchenkova to TennisActu Website.

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Tour Suspension A ‘Dire And Bleak’ Situation For Players, Warns Johanna Konta

The world No.14 also comments on the decision to move the French Open to September.

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British No.1 Johanna Konta admits that any system put into place to financially support players in the wake of the tour suspension will only have a ‘minimal’ effect.

 

Tennis is currently at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic with doubts cast over when play will resume again. As a consequence, many players are looking into alternative ways to generate an income. Unlike team sports where athletes have a contract, those in the world of tennis are essentially self-employed. Meaning they will only earn money in the sport if they play at tournaments. Although the top players have the luxury of endorsements to also support them.

Weighing in on the situation, Konta has described it as ‘fire and bleak.’ She is one out of 90 female players to have made more than $100,000 in prize money this year before the tour was suspended. Her current earnings for the season stands at $105,703.

“The reality is that there is no tennis player earning any money right now; all the tennis players have taken a 100 per cent salary cut,” Konta told The Evening Standard.
“Everyone is trying to find the best way possible to stand by a team and support the people you work with and feel close to while not bankrupting yourself.
“[A support system] is being worked on right now, but the reality is that even if it is possible – and let’s hope it is – it’s going to be very minimal.
“It’s a very bleak and dire situation especially for the lower ranked players.”

In light of the financial concerns, world No.371 Sofia Shapatava recently set up an online petition on change.org calling for support from the ITF, WTA and ATP. More than 1300 people have signed the petition.

“I started the petition to help tennis players to be heard by ITF, after I talked to many of the people I know and about their plans for the next three months, I realised that some people won’t even be able to have food,” Shapatava told the AFP News Agency.
“My problem is that my sport will die as it is, it will die, because players who are ranked lower then 150th in the world will not be able to play.”

In comparison to Konta, Georgian player Shapatava has made $2,896 so far this season. That works out as 0.09% of what prize money leader Sofia Kenin has made ($3,012,043). Kenin is one of four players to earn more than a million in 2020 on the women’s tour. The other are Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Ash Barty.

The WTA have said they are looking into the possibility of extending this year’s calendar is order to provide players with more earning opportunities when the sport resumes.

French open approach disappointing

Konta has also criticised the French Tennis Federation (FFT) over their management of the French Open. Officials at the FFT recently announced that the major would be delayed until September due to the Covid-19 outbreak. A move that caught many off guard, including some governing bodies. Konta reached the semi-finals of the French Open last year after previously losing in the first round four times in a row.

“It’s a really sad situation and it’s very disappointing for them to release their decision in the way that they did,” she said.
“It’s not the act itself, but the manner which was disappointing to everybody in the tennis community. It’s left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”

Lionel Maltés is the economic director of the FFT. He has defended their approach to the situation by saying the organisation had no choice but to act. Arguing that their (the FFT) first priority is French tennis. The controversy surrounding the date change is that it will take place a week after the US Open ends. Leaving players with little chance to prepare for the switch of surfaces.

“The decision was not made overnight, it was far from an outburst. We had been clear for some time that it was going to be impossible to play the tournament on the established dates and we knew we had to do something.” Maltés recently told French newspaper L’Equipe.
“There was no hint of conversation collective with the other Grand Slams so we did the only thing we had to do for French tennis. Don’t doubt that Wimbledon and US Open would have made the same decision if they could. In fact, other tournaments have backed us up by saying they understood us and that if they had been in our position, they would have done the same.
“We were aware that we would be highly criticized for this, but the safeguard of French tennis is above all,” he added.

The French Open was scheduled to run from 24 May to 7 June. Officials are now hoping that the tournament will start on September 20th.

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Naomi Osaka Vows To Be ‘Stronger Than Ever’ In 2021 Following Suspension Of The Olympics

The former world No.1 has given her reaction to decision to delay the four-year sporting event due to the covid-19 pandemic.

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Two-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka has said she is ‘disappointed’ but supports the decision to delay this year’s Summer Olympic Games.

 

Earlier in the week it was confirmed that the Tokyo games will now take place during the next year with a date to be confirmed. Making it the first time the Olympics have been suspended until the following year in its 124-year history. Although the games have been cancelled three times before during the first and second world wars.

Osaka had been one of the athletes authorities have used to promote the event. Featuring in a promotional campaign that also included a video. The 22-year-old is the first Asian player in history to become world No.1 in tennis. Despite the delay, she has committed to playing in the event next year.

“Everyone knows how much the Olympics means to me and how proud I will be to participate in my home country,” Osaka wrote on Twitter.
“Of course, I am disappointed that it won’t happen this year but we’ll all be ready to stronger ever in 2021! I support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s brave decision and the IOC 100%. Sport will eventually unite us again and be there for us always, but that time not now,” she added.

The world No.10 has called for the world to unite in the fight against the coronavirus. There have been more than 660,000 cases of the virus worldwide, according to John Hopkins University. The disease is particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

“This is the time for people from all countries, backgrounds and races to rally together to save as many lives as we can. To me, that is the Olympic spirit. To the people of Japan: stay strong, hang in there, and let’s the show the world our beautiful country when time is right in 2021,” said Osaka.

Osaka pledged full allegiance to Japan in 2019 after having dual citizenship in according to a national law. She was born and is currently based in America, but has a Japanese mother and Haitian father.

Prior to the suspension of the WTA Tour, Osaka has started her 2020 with a win-loss record of 5-3 (including Fed Cup). She reached the semifinals of the Brisbane International before losing to Karolina Pliskova. Then at the Australian Open, she was knocked out in the third round by Coco Gauff.

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