Kiki Bertens Relishing Time On Clay Ahead Of ‘Interesting’ French Open Campaign - UBITENNIS
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Kiki Bertens Relishing Time On Clay Ahead Of ‘Interesting’ French Open Campaign

The world No.7 evaluates her form and her chances of claiming a maiden grand slam title.

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Kiki Bertens (photo by Roberto Dell Olivo)

MADRID: It was 12 months ago at the Madrid Open where Kiki Bertens enjoyed one of the best runs of her entire career.

 

Unseeded in the draw, she toppled the likes of Maria Sharapova and Caroline Garcia to reach her first ever Premier final. The best-ever run achieved by a Dutch player – man or woman – in the history of the tournament. Since then Bertens has made a steady rise up the rankings to a best of sixth earlier this season. During that period she has also claimed a trio of WTA titles to bring her overall tally to eight.

Bertens illustrated that threat she poses on the tour against Petra Kvitova in their quarter-final meeting in Madrid on Thursday. In what was a repeat of the 2018 final. The powerful-hitting 27-year-old bossed her rival around the court with the help of some clever angle shots. Even when Kvitova threatened to stage a comeback in the second set, Bertens stuck to her game plan to prevail 6-2, 6-3.

“Right now I’m just enjoying my game.” She reflected following her latest win.
“I had some great battles, like last week when I lost to Petra (Kvitova) in the (Stuttgart) semis. Now I have won against her, so it feels like anything is possible when you play well. I take that into every match.”

This time of the year is one Bertens relishes. The clay has brought her numerous success in the past with her first seven WTA finals taking place on that surface. In 2016 she scored her maiden top 10 win over Roberta Vinci in Nuremberg. Shortly after that win, she achieved her best ever grand slam run at the French Open. Reaching the semi-finals as an unseeded player.

“On the clay, I like to get a little more behind the baseline and build it up from there. When I get the opportunity, I really like attacking the ball. I don’t find I have to rush too much on the clay.” She explained about her game on the dirt.
“I like to wait for the second, third, fourth or even the fifth ball in the rally to attack.”

Given her history on the surface, some would rate Bertens as a key contender for the French Open title this year. Especially given how the season has gone so far with no player dominating the proceedings. During the first five months of 2019, Kvitova is the only woman to win multiple titles in singles. Overall, there have been 21 winners on the WTA tour so far this year.

“I think everyone can win every week, so it’s going to be really interesting at the French Open.” The world No.7 previewed. “I feel good on the clay and I know I can beat a lot of girls. Right now, I feel confident. But it (the French Open) is still far away.”

Prior to Roland Garros, Bertens’ focus is on Madrid and her upcoming clash with Sloane Stephens. She is yet to defeat the American but has taken a set of her in their two previous meetings in Rome (2013) and Singapore (2018).

“It’s going to be a tough match against Sloane.” She admits. “We played in Singapore, which was a really tough match. She is a great player and a great athlete. I have to be ready, play aggressive and hit as many balls back as possible.”

Should Bertens win the Madrid title this week, she will break into the world’s top five for the first time in her career.

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

Tomas Martin Etchevery edged past 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-7 (0-7) 6-4  scoring the biggest win of his career. 

Arthur Rinderknech came back from one set down to beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Rinderknech set up a second round against third seed Diego Schwartzman. 

Emil Ruusuvuori broke serve five times in his 6-3 6-2 win over J.J Wolf. 

Sebastian Korda beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 6-4 6-4 setting up a second round match against Maxime Cressy. Novak Djokovic is the top seed of the Tel Aviv tournament, which returns for the first time since 2021.

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Holger Rune reaches the second round at the Sofia Open

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Danish Next Gen rising star Holger Rune edged past Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round at the Sofia Open in his first appearance at this tournament. 

 

Both players went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Rune earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks in the first two games. There was little to separate both players in the next games, which went on serve en route to the tie-break. Rune saved a set point at 5-6 in the tie-break of the second set and won the final three points to close out the second set 8-6. 

Rune won his first title in Munich and reached his maiden Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros. 

 “I did not want to go to three sets. I had the break and led 5-2 in the second set tie-break. If it had happened, I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I am very happy to win in two. I am really working hard every day and trying to improve any small things I can. I think today I stayed very focused all the time. I lost my focus one time on serve, when maybe I should not have been broken, but other than that I am very happy with my first match. The first match is always a  bit difficult”, said Rune. 

Australia’s Alexander Vukic beat Fabio Fognini 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 after 1 hour and 11 minutes. Vukic broke serve in the fifth game to take a 4-2 lead. Fognini converted his fourth break-back point to draw level to 4-4 before saving a break point at 5-5. Fognini went up a 6-3 lead, but he wasted six set points in the tie-break. Vukic closed out the tie-break 13-11 on his third set point. 

Fognini earned a break to take a 2-1 lead. Vukic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 in the fourth game. Fognini lost four consecutive points from 4-5 30-0. Vukic earned the decisive break on his first match point to seal the second set 7-5. 

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