Pliskova And Konta Advance To Rome Final - UBITENNIS
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Pliskova And Konta Advance To Rome Final

Johanna Konta edged world n.4 Kiki Bertens while Karolina Pliskova scored a straight-set victory against Maria Sakkari

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Johanna Konta in Rome during the 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

After a washout on Wednesday and a double duty day on Thursday, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia were bracing for another wet afternoon on Saturday. Eventually, the very cold spell of Italian spring that has so far marred the 2019 Italian Open decided to spare the Foro Italico on the first day of the final weekend and allowed the two women’s singles semifinals to take place with only one very short interruption.

 

In the first match, 28-year-old Brit Johanna Konta came back from one set down and only two points away from defeat to overcome Mutua Madrid Open champion and world n.4 Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. The Dutch woman seemed to be in control of the match after she swooped the first set winning the last three games in a row (from 4-5 to 7-5) imposing her offensive and defensive game over a nervous and tentative Konta, who also failed to consolidate an initial break in the second set by losing her serve for the third time in a row. However, as the match progressed Konta started shaking off her initial jitters and held her subsequent service game with authority. At 4-5 30-30, a shanked smash pinched the line and the following forehand volley winner sealed the 5-5, signing a progressive decline in Berten’s sharpness and aggressiveness. “I think everything was hard today to ignore – said Bertens in the post-match press conference – the court was really slippery, so it’s tough to move on. Especially I like it when it’s not so slippery so I can move a little bit better. With the wind, it was really tough. She played really smart with the dropshots. She did a good job in there. I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But, yeah, it was not there”.

At her first final on clay and at her first final in a Premier Five/Premier Mandatory tournament after her triumph in Miami in 2017, Konta describer her effort on court as a “continuous adjustment, a continuous openness to figure it out within the match. I stayed very open in trying to find a solution in each point […] after I lost the first set, I didn’t do much wrong. It was a very good set of tennis. Equally the second set, as well. There wasn’t anybody putting a bad foot out of line. In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her. I think that gave me the upper hand in stringing some more points together”.

Konta will face in the final n.4 seed Karolina Pliskova, who during the late afternoon match defeated Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4. Sakkari started the match extremely well taking an early 4-2 lead, but could not continue to produce the same level of tennis in the second part of the set and was surpassed by her better ranked opponent. “Your intensity just dropped by one percent – said Sakkari’s coach Tom Hill during an on-court coaching session at the end of the first set – that’s the only difference between the first games and the last in this first set”.

During the second set, Pliskova was always ahead in the score, and despite she was the player more under pressure on her serve during the first half of the set, she eventually managed to break her opponent to love on 5-4 closing the match after one hour, 27 minutes. “I’m super happy for this result because I don’t feel I have been playing my best tennis – said Pliskova after the match – coming into this week I felt I would probably win one match, possibly two, I’m very confident for Paris now”.

The head-to-head between Pliskova and Konta see the Czech having won four of the previous five matches at WTA level, plus further two at ITF level. The only win for Konta came in Beijing in 2016, when the Brit reached her first Premier Mandatory final.

 

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Defending Champion Caroline Wozniacki Safely Negotiates Eastbourne Opener

Caroline Wozniacki started her bid for a third title in Eastbourne with a win, while Pliskova, Ostapenko and Vondrousova also secured victories.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki began the defence of her title in Eastbourne with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over Kirsten Flipkens at the Nature Valley International.

 

The Dane, 28, had not been on court for nearly a month and she has only played 18 matches so far this year due to illness and injury, but her lack of match practice did not seem to affect her too much.

Wozniacki took apart Flipkens’ serve in the opening set, breaking her three times. However, she was also broken twice – despite only facing three break points.

In the second set, the Belgian forced twice as many break points on the Dane’s serve. To Flipkens’ dismay, Wozniacki saved five of them. She also broke the World No.1 twice to take the set 6-4 and seal victory. The 11th seed will face Andrea Petkovic in round two.

Pliskova, Ostapenko and Vondrousova advance

After Karolina Pliskova suffered a surprise loss to sister Kristyna in Birmingham, she was keen to avoid a similar fate in Eastbourne.

It could have happened, too, as the Czech faced a tricky round two opponent in the shape of Margarita Gasparyan.

However, Pliskova ensured there would not be an upset this time. She dominated on serve in the opening set and broke the Russian in the second game to take it 6-3.

The Czech stormed into a 5-2 lead in the second set. Gasparyan staged a mini-fightback by earning her first break of the match. Pliskova then broke the Russian again to book her place in round three.

Jelena Ostapenko put her shock loss in Birmingham behind her with a 6-4 6-4 success over Mihaela Buzarnescu. The Latvian was broken early in both sets but she recovered well both times to earn a second-round clash with Sloane Stephens.

Marketa Vondrousova swept aside Zheng Saisai 6-2 6-3 in her first match since her remarkable run to the French Open final. The bout was interrupted by rain but the Czech, 19, kept her composure to earn a second-round meeting with Elise Mertens.

Svitolina faces fight to stay in the tournament

It was a frustrating day for the fans in Eastbourne as play was frequently delayed by rain. By contrast, several players are probably grateful that the weather intervened.

Chief among those is 5th seed Elina Svitolina, who was a set and a break down to Alize Cornet when the return of the rain forced the tournament referee to call a halt to the day’s play.

Zarina Diyas is in a similar situation. She trailed Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 3-0 when the rain came but she will get a chance to make a comeback tomorrow.

The early finish to the day will also give Belinda Bencic some much-needed extra rest. She was due to play qualifier Veronika Kudermetova in the last match on Court One about 25 hours after she narrowly lost the Mallorca final to Sofia Kenin, but their clash must now take place tomorrow instead.

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Sofia Kenin saves three match points to claim Mallorca title

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US 20-year-old Sofia Kenin fought back from one set down to beat Belinda Bencic 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 after two hours and 42 minutes at the Mallorca Open on grass. Kenin saved three match points in the 10th game of the second set.

 

The first set was marked by 12 break points. Bencic went up an early break to take a 3-0 lead, but Kenin reeled off four consecutive games to take a 4-3 lead. Bencic got the break back to draw level to 4-4. The young Swiss player went up a 3-0 lead, but Kenin got the mini-break back for 2-3 after a forehand winner. Bencic earned four set points at 6-2 and converted her first chance.

The second set went on serve in the first eight games without a break point before Bencic got the break in the ninth game. She earned three championship points, as she was serving for the title in the 10th game.

Kenin fended them and fired a forehand passing winner to earn a break point.

Kenin broke back with a backhand winner. In the tie-break Kenin fired a backhand down the line winner to open up a 5-2 lead.

The US player earned four set points at 6-2. Bencic saved the first three chances, but Kenin converted her fourth opportunity to take the tie-break 7-5, when Bencic hit a return long.

Both players held serve in the first eight games of the third set before Kenin earned the decisive break in the ninth game with a backhand winner crosscourt on her second break point chance. The US player served out the match with a hold in the 10th game on the first championship point as Bencic hit a return into the net.

Kenin will travel to Eastbourne, where she will face Samantha Stosur in the opening round.

“Hard work is paying off. I am playing really well, fighting for every point, and taking as much advantage as I can. This is really great, and I am just so happy with how I am playing”,said Kenin.

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Ashleigh Barty Becomes World No.1 With Glory In Birmingham

Ashleigh Barty won the Nature Valley Classic and went to World No.1 by beating Julia Goerges in a high-quality final.

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Ashleigh Barty (@the_LTA on Twitter)

Ashleigh Barty is the new World No.1 and the 2019 Nature Valley Classic champion after she defeated Julia Goerges 6-3 7-5 in the final in Birmingham.

 

The Australian’s victory is an ideal way to follow up her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. It also extends her current win streak to 12 matches and reflects her newly-acquired status of hardest player to beat on the WTA tour.

“(Going to No.1) was a very different feeling to winning the French Open,” Barty said. “The French in particular felt like a whirlwind and it’s just hard to put into words what we have been able to achieve over the last few years. To be where we are now is just incredible.”

Barty’s success has seen her follow in the footsteps of legendary Australian tennis player Evonne Goolagong. “I think I’m nowhere near her status,” the young Australian said. “To be mentioned in the same sentence is incredible.”

She continued, “Evonne is an amazing human being and has set the tone for so many Australians and so many indigenous Australians around our country and around the world. What she did in her career was incredible and what she continues to do off the court for us as a sport is amazing. To have her as a friend is amazing too and I’m sure I will be able to chat to her in the next few days.”

Goerges starts well but makes costly errors

Goerges made the stronger start to the match. She hit three amazing forehands in Barty’s opening service game and a total of six winners in the first four games. She also hit four aces.

However, the Australian stayed with her, and her steadiness paid dividends in game six as the German made six unforced errors during a sloppy service game to hand Barty a crucial break.

For the rest of the set, Goerges cut a frustrated figure and she made five more unforced errors to make it easy for the Australian to close it out 6-3.

Barty edges high-quality second set

Ashleigh Barty (@the_LTA on Twitter)

The standard in the second set was superb. Goerges produced a series of lethal forehands to break in game two and then hit three aces in the next game to open up a 3-0 lead.

However, the German then made four consecutive unforced errors to surrender her serve in game five and suddenly the set was back in the balance.

The next four games were sprinkled with moments of brilliance. Barty hit a great passing shot and Goerges finished off an excellent point with a fantastic drop shot volley. The Australian also produced an improbably precise backhand winner, while the German unleashed her best backhand of the match to save a break point in game nine.

The end result of those games was a 5-4 scoreline in Goerges’ favour. This allowed the German to hit freely against Barty’s serve and she played some delightful shots to earn a set point.

Then the Australian demonstrated her ability to deliver under intense pressure. She hit an ace to save it and shortly afterwards produced another ace and an unreturnable serve to level the score at 5-5.

Goerges did not cope well with having that opportunity snatched away from her. She made a double fault and unforced error to give Barty a chance to break, and the Australian took it by forcing another error from the German.

Barty made serving for the championship look easy. She sent down an ace that landed on the service line and hit a classy forehand winner to claim two of the points, while Goerges made two unforced errors to hand her the other two.

When Goerges met Barty

After the match, it was obvious how happy the German was about her friend’s success. “Ash and I have a long story,” Goerges said. “When she was 15 years old and she got a wild card for the French Open, I was always talking to her, we had a lot of fun moments and then she retired.”

She continued, “I always thought she will come back one day because she loves the sport so much, but she just had enough at that time. We stayed in contact while she was playing cricket and to be able to share this moment with her was something special. If I had to choose to lose someone to today to become the No. 1, I would definitely pick her. That’s why it was very emotional for me.”

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