Withdrawal Of Petra Kvitova Leaves Birmingham Draw Wide Open - UBITENNIS
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Withdrawal Of Petra Kvitova Leaves Birmingham Draw Wide Open

French Open champion Ashleigh Barty and World No.3 Karolina Pliskova are the favourites for the title after Kvitova was forced to withdraw.

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Petra Kvitova (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

Petra Kvitova dominated proceedings at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham in 2017 and 2018. She won the title both years and only lost one set on each occasion.

 

Some of the Czech’s tennis was breathtaking to watch. Those who saw it understood exactly why she is a two-time Wimbledon champion.

Unfortunately for Kvitova, she will not get the chance to win the event for a third consecutive year. She has been forced to pull out due to the left forearm injury she suffered while training for the French Open.

The World’s Best go to Birmingham

Karolina Pliskova (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

The absence of Kvitova provides a fantastic opportunity for one of the three highest-ranked players in the world, Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova, to win in Birmingham for the first time.

Based on recent form, 2017 finalist Pliskova and 2015 finalist Barty are the favourites for the title.

The Australian played the best tennis of her life so far to claim her first Grand Slam crown at the French Open, so she will be feeling on top of the world when she takes to the court in Birmingham.

However, Barty has a very tricky first round match to contend with. She faces Donna Vekic, the ever-improving Croatian who will play in the Nottingham final tomorrow.

It promises to be a fascinating encounter. Both players love grass and have games that are well-suited to the surface and both are enjoying excellent years.

The danger for the newly-installed World No.2 is that she is yet to play on grass, while Vekic has played a one-and-a-half during a rain-ravaged week at the Nature Valley Open.

Pliskova has a much easier task. She will take on Mihaela Buzarnescu, whose form in 2019 has been terrible. The Romanian has won just eight matches and lost 19.

While Osaka is also a possible winner, she has endured a patchy spell of results since her Australian Open triumph. She recently admitted that she is feeling the pressure as she tries to hold onto her No.1 ranking.

To make matters worse for the Japanese player, she has a challenging first round opponent in the shape of Maria Sakkari, so she will need to perform well from the start. If she gets past the Greek, her next major hurdle is likely to be 8th seed Julia Goerges in the quarter-final.

Konta leads the way among other contenders

Johanna Konta (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

There are also several other players who have a good chance of taking home the trophy. Johanna Konta is superb on grass and high on confidence after her brilliant clay swing. Elina Svitolina is the World No.7 and can never be discounted – despite her poor record on grass. Aryna Sabalenka got to the Eastbourne final last year and can trouble almost anyone if she plays well. And Vekic will be a major threat if she knocks out Barty.

Keys and Muguruza miss out due to injury

Unfortunately for the tournament, Kvitova is not the only Birmingham regular who has withdrawn. 2016 champion Madison Keys is struggling with an injury and has chosen not to travel, while 2017 semi-finalist Garbine Muguruza has also pulled out due to a leg injury.

Despite these setbacks, it is a very strong field at the Nature Valley Classic, and it has been supplemented by Venus Williams’ decision to take part for the first time.

[Also published on womenssporthub.com]

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Simona Halep ‘Happy To Be Back’ Amid Uncertainty Over US Open Plans

The Romanian still has reservations about her future plans after taking her first international flight in five months.

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World No.2 Simona Halep admits the prospect of travelling from Europe to America will be ‘mentally tough’ as she ponders whether or not to play at the US Open.

 

The reigning Wimbledon champion is set to return to competitive tennis in the Czech Republic where she will play her first tournament in five months at the Prague Open. Halep was originally due to make her return in Palermo but withdrew from the event due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured she wouldn’t have to go through quarantine. Speculation has mounted in recent weeks about if the Romanian would travel to the US Open later this year with the 28-year-old confirming she will make her final decision after Prague.

“I haven’t made the final decision yet,” AFP quoted Halep as telling reporters during a virtual press conference on Sunday.
“The travelling from Europe is a little bit tough with changing flights — we don’t have straight flights — so it’s going to be tough for me personally, mentally,” she told a video conference.
“I don’t want to put myself into that stress. As I said I haven’t decided yet, but the conditions are tough for me at this moment.”

Three members of the top 10 on the women’s Tour have already pulled out of the New York major, which will be played behind closed doors for the first time in history. Ash Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina have all withdrawn from the major due to concerns. In comparison, only one member of the top 10 on the men’s Tour, Rafael Nadal, has withdrawn specifically related to COVID-19 concerns.

Prague is Halep’s first international trip after being in lockdown in Romania since February. A country which reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases and 50 new related deaths on Friday in what was their highest 24-hour figure since the pandemic began.

“I’m a bit nervous but things are very controlled here and very safe so I feel safe,” she said upon arrival in the Czech capital.
“I’m happy to be back, I’m happy to be healthy.”

It will be double duty for Halep in Prague. Besides being the top seed in the singles draw, she will also be playing the doubles alongside local favourite Barbora Strycova. Who reached the semi-final of Wimbledon last year before losing to Serena Williams. It is the first time ever the two are playing alongside each other on the Tour.

“I’m sure we will have fun. I’m sure that she will understand if I miss easy balls at the net, and I hope we’ll enjoy it.” Halep commented on their collaboration.

Halep will start her singles campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

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Simona Halep to face Polona Hercog in the first round in Prague

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Simona Halep will make her come-back to the court next week at the Prague Open. The Prague Open will feature six top 30 players. 

 

Halep will play her first match in six months. It will be her first appearance at the International-level tournament. The 2019 Wimbledon champion claimed her 20th career title in Dubai last February. The Romanian player saved a match point against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the second round and came back from a set down in her win over Elena Rybakina in the final. 

The Main Draw of the Prague Open was released on Saturday. Halep will start her Prague campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog. In the second round the winner of the match between Halep and Hercog will meet either Patricia Maria Tig or Barbora Krejicikova. The other top seeds are Petra Martic, Elise Mertens, Dayana Yastremska and Ekaterina Alexandrova. 

Halep has announced that she will not travel to New York for the US Open. 

“I don’t know yeti f I will go to America. In the current situation, I will not go there !. Health is the most important and no one can judge anybody when they make a personal decision. I wished a lot for the tournaments to start. I am a little stressed out, but I think it will be fine. I took the test and got the negative result yesterday. A Case can appear from anywhere, but I don’t want to think negatively. I want to see the good side and the fact that we can play tournaments. Maybe I wasn’t prepared mentally. Now I am feeling better, so I am 100% convinced that I can play. I am happy to be in Prague and let’s enjoy it”, said Halep. 

In the bottom half of the draw number 2 seed and world number 15 Petra Martic from Croatia will play against Russia’s Varvara Gracheva. Martic lost to Anett Kontaveit in the semifinal in Palermo this week. The winner of the match between Martic and Gracheva will face either Krystina Pliskova or 15-year-old Linda Fruvirtova. 

Number 3 seed Elise Mertens will take on Italy’s Jasmine Paolini. The winner of this match will face either this week’s Palermo semifinalist Camila Giorgi or a qualifier. 

Number 4 seed Dayana Yastremska, who reached the quarter final in Palermo, will meet Romania’s Irina Camelia Begu. The top 30 entries is rounded out by Ekaterina Alexandrova and Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova. 

Barbora Strycova will take on Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round. 

The other top Czech players in the field are Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. 

Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard from Canada will face Veronika Kudemertova from Russia. 

The Prague Open will be held behind closed doors. 

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Fiona Ferro beats Camila Giorgi to set up final against Anett Kontaveit

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France’s Fiona Ferro came back from one set down to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 2-6 6-2 7-5 reaching her first final of the season at the Ladies Open in Palermo. Ferro sets up a final against Anett Kontaveit, who beat top seed Petra Martic 6-2 6-4. 

 

Giorgi broke twice in a row to open up a 4-0 lead and saved three break points before holding serve for 5-0. Ferro pulled one break back, when Giorgi was serving for the first set. Giorgi sealed the opening set 6-2 with her third break in the eighth game. 

Ferro earned an early break in the first game of the second set and held her serve after saving two break points to open up a 2-0 lead. Ferro went up a double break in the fifth game to race out to a 4-1 lead, but Giorgi got one break back for 2-4. Ferro broke again in the seventh game and served out the second set 6-2. 

Giorgi dropped her serve in the third game of the second set and saved a break point in the fifth game. Giorgi broke back in the 10th game, as Ferro was serving for the match at 5-4. Ferro broke serve in the 11th game and served out the win on her second match point. 

Giorgi was aiming to become the first Italian player to reach the final in Palermo since Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci battled for the title in 2013. Ferro is unbeaten in all her four post-lockdown matches on the WTA Tour.

Ferro beat an Italian opponent for the second evening in a row one day after her win over Sara Errani. 

“I would have never won those matches two years ago. I used to focus on my opponent when she was playing aggressive, and I did not find solutions. Today I am very happy to be through because I managed to focus more on my game and not on my emotions”, said Ferro.

“I have no regrets. I felt in good shape and I tried to play my own game. The break in the third set made the difference”, said Giorgi.

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