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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Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka Victorious On Opening Day Of Elite Trophy

The higher ranked players have made a solid start at the penultimate tournament of the 2019 WTA season.

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Kiki Bertens (@MutuaMadridOpen on Twitter)

Top seed Kiki Bertens has kicked-off her campaign at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai with a roller coaster straight sets win over Donna Vekic.

 

Bertens, who hasn’t won a title on the tour since the Madrid Open in May, overcame some testing moments to see off her opponent 7-6(5), 6-2. Extending her head-to-head record against Vekic to 4-3. The Dutch No.1 dropped her serve once in each set on route to victory. Winning 74% of her first service points and converting four out of her seven break point opportunities.

“The first set was really close. We were both fighting for the first set. I think Donna was a little bit injured, but in the second set, I was just trying to get my best from every point and I did that really well.” Bertens said during her on-court interview.

The latest clash between the two was a tale of two halves. To begin, it was Vekic who got off to a better start as she broke right away before the world No.10 clawed her way back to draw level midway through the opener. With little to separate the two, Bertens seized her chance in the tiebreak. Tied at 5-5, she broke the Vekic serve with the help of a clean backhand passing shot for a chance to serve the set out. An opportunity she converted with the help of a forehand error from her opponent.

Clinching the lead, the proceedings were interrupted by a medical time out for Vekic. Who underwent some treatment on her lower back. Upon resumption it was a one-way show with Bertens racing to a set and 5-0 lead. Even a wobble at the very end, where she lost two games in a row, failed to deny the top seed victory.

“I think I went for her shots there and hit a few good returns. My concentration was maybe not there, but I am happy that I could close it (the match) out at 5-2.” Bertens commented about the end to the match.

It is the fourth time Bertens has played Vekic this season. She has won three of those encounters.

Earlier in the day Aryna Sabalenka was another player to make a winning start at the tournament. The fifth seed ousted Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-4. Sabalenka saved all five of the break points she faced throughout the 89-minute clash and dropped just four points behind her first serve (24/28).

Sabalenka is playing in the Rose Group of the round-robin tournament, which also features Elise Mertens. Meanwhile Bertens heads the Azalea Group with a clash against Dayana Yastremska lurking in the coming days.

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Kristina Mladenovic Dropped By Coach After Six Months

The 26-year-old reacts to the unexpected departure of her mentor.

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Former top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic has suffered an off-court blow following the departure of her coach Sascha Bajin.

 

The 26-year-old had been working with Bajin since April and has made steady progress on the tour by rising more than 20 places to back inside the world’s top 40. Last Month Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of the Zhengzhou Open, in what was one of her best runs on the WTA Tour this year. During 2019 she has also recorded four wins over top 10 players, including Naomi Osaka when she was No.1 in the world.

It is understood that the departure of Bajin was on his own terms and not of a mutual agreement. Bajin is the former hitting partner of Serena Williams (2008-2015) and help guide Osaka to her two grand slam titles prior to his departure in February. In 2018 he was awarded the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year Award.

“I’m very disappointed about Sasha’s decision not to continue our relationship next season, I enjoyed our work, we had some great wins and I truly felt my game was on the rise again.” Mladenovic wrote on Twitter.
“I think that there was a lot more to achieve together, but I can’t change his opinion and decision. On my side, I am proud of my year and progress and I will keep working hard and build strong to be even better in 2020.”

Last week at the Kremlin Cup Mladenovic reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. At the tournament she scored wins over seeded players Anastasija Sevastova and Kiki Bertens. Whilst her season has been mixed, the Frenchwoman believes she has the ability to beat the best players in the world.

“When I put together everything on court I can beat anyone.” She told reporters in Moscow.
“And no matter what the season, no matter what ranking, I always have some upsets here and there but now it is really about coming back in the rankings where I was at my highest. And already this year, I am still not satisfied with my ranking but I have a lot of wins against very good players.”

Mladenovic, who is also a top five doubles player that won the French Open title in June, is currently ranked 39th in the world. She is set set to end the season inside the top 50 for the fifth year in a row.

There has been no information released about who may potentially replace Bajin next year.

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Belinda Bencic ‘Happy’ After Qualifying For WTA Finals In Moscow

Belinda Bencic is delighted after not only reaching the Moscow Final and qualifying for the WTA Finals.

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Belinda Bencic (@usopen - Twitter)

Belinda Bencic expressed her happiness after qualifying for the WTA Finals after a 6-3 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic in Moscow. 

 

The world number 10 had to reach the final before this week started to secure her place in the season-ending finale and that’s what has happened after beating Mladenovic in straight sets.

Hitting 24 winners, Bencic powered past her French opponent to seal her spot at the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.

After the win Bencic is relieved to achieve a goal that she had set at the start of the year, “I’m so happy I reached the top eight,” the Swiss admitted to wtatennis.com.

“It was a huge goal for me this season and so last-minute. I was so nervous before the match, but also reaching the final here tomorrow is amazing. I’m so happy.

“It was such a good level from us. We know each other well so that’s why it was very tactical. I just tried to really focus on myself and keep my emotions under control.”

As a result of Bencic’s qualification, the field for the WTA Finals is set, which starts on the 28th of October:

  1. Ashleigh Barty
  2. Karolina Pliskova
  3. Naomi Osaka
  4. Elina Svitolina
  5. Bianca Andreescu
  6. Simona Halep
  7. Petra Kvitová
  8. Belinda Bencic

The first alternate for the season-ending finale will be Serena Williams, with Kiki Bertens being the second alternate in Shenzhen.

As for Bencic, her week in the Russian capital isn’t done yet as she is set to play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Karolina Muchova in tomorrow’s Kremlin Cup.

Should the 22 year-old win tomorrow she will win her second title of the season following on from her victory in Dubai in February.

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