Karolina Pliskova Conquers Kerber To Claim Second Eastbourne Title - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova Conquers Kerber To Claim Second Eastbourne Title

Karolina Pliskova maintained her superb form with a comfortable straight sets victory over Kerber in the Nature Valley International final.

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Karolina Pliskova (@the_LTA on Twitter)

Karolina Pliskova produced a sparkling performance to beat Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-4 and win the Nature Valley International for the second time in three years.

The Czech, who did not drop a set all week, beat Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the final in 2017 and she is delighted to have repeated that feat against the German this year.

“I think this week was perfect,” Pliskova said. “I really enjoyed every day here and every day was kind of similar, because I was just rolling through and playing well every day.”

“Sometimes at a tournament you have a day where you just cannot put anything in and everything is against you. But somehow this week it didn’t come, which is a positive. Maybe the nerves are saved for Wimbledon, because there (matches) can be long.”

Pliskova improves her grass court game

While the facts are meaningful for World No.3 (this is her third title of 2019, her third title on grass and her 14th WTA title overall), her performances are potentially even more significant.

The Czech, 27, has played brilliant grass-court tennis this week. She has served superbly, she has consistently hit her trademark groundstrokes hard and deep and she has finished off points clinically at the net. Perhaps most tellingly of all, Pliskova has also made good use of the slice.

“I think I served well and cleverly used the slice wide which worked,” the Czech said. “Normally you’re never going hit 20 aces against Angie, but you just need to step after the serve and be aggressive. That’s what I did. That’s why I think I was holding my serve quite easily.”

She continued, “Obviously (my coach Conchita Martinez) played a lot of slices in her life. We practiced the slice a little bit more before grass because it can be quite effective, especially to change the rhythm.”

An improved slice could help Pliskova enormously at Wimbledon. She is in the opposite half of the draw to the nightmare quarter that features Kerber, Ashleigh Barty, Serena Williams, so she has a great chance to go for the title.

“I will take the positives (into Wimbledon) but I won’t be thinking that everything is going to be as easy as this week, because I’ve never had a week like this before,” the Czech said. “I didn’t lose that many games and I felt like everything went quite smoothly.”

Pliskova dominates from start to finish

Karolina Pliskova (@BBCTennis on Twitter)

Pliskova started the Eastbourne final very confidently. She unleashed a series of devastating groundstrokes that left Kerber floundering behind the baseline and soon established a 4-0 lead.

The German rallied to earn a break back and avoid total embarrassment in the opening set. However, the Czech restored her two-break advantage with two huge forehands and a well-judged slice and then held to clinch the set 6-1.

At the beginning of the second set, Kerber made a couple of costly errors to go a break down immediately. Pliskova then produced an exhibition of exemplary serving to rack up three easy holds and move 4-2 ahead.

The match almost ended rapidly after that, as the Czech had three chances to break in game seven. Kerber saved the first with a forehand winner and the second by forcing an error from the World No.3.

It looked like she might have lost it on the third break point. However, Hawkeye revealed that the German’s forehand winner had clipped the back of the line. She seemed buoyed by this reprieve and she played two excellent points to secure the hold.

In the next game, Pliskova responded to going 15-30 behind by hitting a backhand winner that landed on the sideline. She then beat Kerber in a battle of groundstrokes that only just cleared the net, before sealing the hold with an unreturnable serve. When she won the last point, the Czech let out a roar of delight. She clearly wanted to avoid a third set.

After Kerber held in game nine, Pliskova hit three big serves and a forehand winner to earn two match points. The German saved one with a forehand winner, but the Czech seized the second with a classy cross-court backhand.

Kerber reflects on Eastbourne and looks ahead to Wimbledon

“I think she played a perfect match,” Kerber said. “She played really well the whole week. I was trying to find my game, but she served well and she didn’t give me the chance to find my rhythm.”

“But I will try to take the positive things from the last two weeks before going to Wimbledon now.”

She continued, “It is always a challenge to play against Pliskova. Of course, there are a few things that I can change, that I can do better the next time. So, if I have the chance to play against her on grass again, I will try to be ready.”

Kerber also talked about what it would be like walking into Wimbledon as the defending champion. “I’m really looking forward to doing this,” she said. “Maybe I will take a picture of my name on the wall.”

“It is a special tournament, especially for me, and it’s a traditional tournament. So it will be nice to be back.”

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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Image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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