Madison Keys claimed the biggest title of her career by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 7-6(5) in the Western and Southern Open final in Cincinnati.
It was an amazing week for the American, particularly as she had only won one match in the last two months leading up the event.
The World No.18 referenced this lack of form when she thanked her team for their help and said to them, “If you told me a week ago this was where I would be, I would have laughed in your face.”
Conditions were slower for the final than they had been in previous rounds due to the high levels of humidity in the air, and Keys struggled to adjust initially. She dropped her serve in the opening game and fell 3-1 behind.
However, the American gradually began to adapt. She almost broke in game six, held off three break points in game seven and then eventually got the break she needed in game ten thanks to intelligent point construction and typically ferocious hitting.
With her confidence restored, Keys held easily to move 6-5 ahead. She then capitalised on some weak serving from Kuznetsova to break again and clinch the opening set.
Keys fights back again in the second set
To the Russian’s credit, she responded well to her disappointment. She manoeuvred the American around the court and drew several errors from her racket to open up a 3-1 lead once again.
Keys did not panic. She hit a series of trademark winners during three excellent service games that enabled her to stay in touch with Kuznetsova at 5-4.
Unfortunately for the Russian, she seemed just as nervous when she served for the second set as she had been in the first. She did not make many first serves or put the American under much pressure with her groundstrokes. This produced a predictable result: another break of serve for the World No.18.
Keys survived a break point on her serve to make it 6-5. Then Kuznetsova steadied herself to hold comfortably and avoid losing four games in a row as she did in the opener.
After five routine points in the tie-break, the American earned a mini-break to go 4-2 up. She hit a deep backhand and the Russian could do nothing more than hit it into the net.
Keys maintained her two-point advantage to set up two championship points at 6-4. On the second, she sealed glory with a powerful serve that Kuznetsova found too hot to handle.
Emma Raducanu Confident Fitness Is Improving After Maiden French Open Win
The world No.12 is playing in the main draw of a major for only the fourth time in her career.
British No.1 Emma Raducanu says she ‘felt really good’ during her roller-coaster win in the first round of the French Open.
The reigning US Open champion was forced to comeback from a set down to oust Czech qualifier Linda Noskova 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-1, after more than two-and-a-half hours of play. Noskova won the French Open girls title 12 months ago. Raducanu was on the verge of suffering a shock loss after going down a break twice during the second set before fighting her way back to force the match into a decider which she won with relative ease.
“It’s definitely a tough match to get through, and I’m really, really happy with the way that I regrouped after losing a set 7-6, which is always tough, having had some chances,” Raducanu said afterwards.
“To fight back, I was really pleased.”
This season is the first time Raducanu has played in the main draw of the French Open as a professional player. She had previously featured in the junior competition four years ago where she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson. She has now played at least one match in all four major events.
Comparing the tournaments, the Brit says the ‘vibes’ she feels are similar to that of what she experienced at the US Open where she made history by becoming the first qualifier to win the title. In New York she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set.
“I think that the French Open, I’d say it gives me similar vibes to the US Open just because of the crowd and just how involved they get. It’s a complete contrast to Wimbledon where it’s dead silent. You can actually hear a pin drop before you serve. It’s incredible,” she explains.
“It definitely took some getting used to, but when I went out there (on court), I was honestly just enjoying it, and I don’t take any of anything personally.
“You can actually say anything to me. So when I was on the court and you get people shouting things it didn’t really affect me at all.”
Noskova is the eighth player Raducanu has managed to defeat on the WTA Tour during what has been a mixed 2022 season so far. Heading into Paris, she has managed to win back-to-back matches in just two out of eight tournaments played. Part of the reason for the lopsided results has been physical issues with a back injury forcing her to retire from the Italian Open earlier this month.
However, the world No.12 is confident that her physical fitness is heading in the right direction. In recent months she has explored various training set ups and has gone through three different coaches. The latest being Torben Beltz who she ended her collaboration with after just five months together.
“I think that it is definitely improving,” she said of her physicality. “One thing that I have been doing in the lead-up for this week and the whole of last week, I was doing a lot in the gym, a lot before practice, after practice, just keeping all the muscles fired up. It’s something I probably haven’t really done before, train through tournaments.’
“I am pretty pleased with how I was out there physically, and I feel really good, to be honest.”
Raducanu, who is seeded 12th in the French Open draw, will take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round.
Sorana Cirstea Makes Winning Start To French Open After Seeking Help From Djokovic’s Coach
The Grand Slam winning mentor was seen in the crowd watching Cirstea play her first round match in Paris.
Heading into her 14th French Open main draw Sorona Cristea decided to take a shot and ask for advice from one former Grand Slam champion.
The 32-year-old Romanian has endured a mixed results on the clay this year with a run to the semifinals of the Istanbul Open followed by three straight first round losses on the Tour. It has been a frustrating past few weeks for the Tour veteran who is currently ranked 27th in the world. Just six spots below her career-high.
Seeking further guidance for her French Open bid, Cirstea approached Goran Ivanisevic for help. The former Wimbledon champion who now works as coach of the men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic. To her delight, he agreed to give her some pointers.
“He came to one of my practices two days ago. Basically, I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time,” Cirstea told reporters.
“I talked with him a little bit about what’s going through my head and just tennis. It was a very, very pleasant hour.”
Ivanisevic was seen courtside watching Cirstea play her first round match at Roland Garros on Sunday morning. The 26th seed defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-3, in just over an hour. Hitting a total of 34 winners against 26 unforced errors.
“I was very surprised to see him because I know he’s very busy with Novak,” she continued. “He was very, very kind to be there and I was happy to see him there.’
“He’s just been giving me a few tips and tricks from a Grand Slam champion, and as a coach of No. 1, and someone that has so much experience. I’m very grateful and very lucky to have the chance to spend that hour on court with him.”
This year’s French Open is the 53rd Grand Slam Cirstea has played in. She has reached six WTA finals, winning the 2008 Tashkent Open and 2021 Istanbul Open. Against top 10 players she has recorded a total of 16 wins to date.
Reflecting on her development as a player, the Romanian believes a change in perspective has enabled her to enjoy more success on the Tour in recent years. Cristea has been continuously ranked in the world’s top 100 since September 2019.
“When I was younger, I was taking the losses a bit much, they were hurting a bit too much, where now I am much more relaxed, much more at peace,” she explains.
“You cannot change what happened last week, so why bother? Try to learn and then just go forward with the positive mindset.”
Cirstea will play Sloane Stephens in the second round of Roland Garros. Stephens, who is unseeded in the draw, battled back from a set down to defeat Germany’s Jule Niemeier 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Ons Jabeur Suffers Shock Exit At Roland Garros To Magda Linette
Magda Linette handed out the first upset of Roland Garros by defeating Ons Jabeur.
Ons Jabeur has become the first major casualty of this year’s Roland Garros after a 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 defeat to Magda Linette in the opening round.
The Tunisian was one of the most in-form players of the clay court swing having won Madrid and made the final of Rome.
However Linette took the match to Jabeur and played some of the best tennis of her career to stun the sixth seed.
Linette will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart in the second round.
Jabeur made a great start to the match as she broke the Pole early for a 2-1 lead with a good mix of power and variety.
However Linette seemed confident in her tactics and shot-making as she broke straight back, seemingly deflecting everything the Tunisian had to offer.
Jabeur used her experience and great angles though as she improved her level as the set went on, breaking in the fifth and ninth games to claim the opening set.
The Pole went off court to have a medical time-out after the opening set after finding some pain in the upper leg.
Despite the break Jabeur continued to cause Linette troubles with the Pole having to dig deep and save a couple of break points with bold patterns of play.
In the eighth game Linette turned up the aggression and made Jabeur cover a lot of ground as the Tunisian was forced to save three break points in the eighth game.
Jabeur was becoming frustrated and a comfortable straight sets victory turned into a second set tiebreak with the Tunisian looking tighter than usual.
Linette capitalised on this and continued her confident ball-striking and decision making to take the tiebreak 7-4 and force a deciding set.
The Madrid champion lacked a clinical edge and with the rain falling in Paris, Jabeur couldn’t find a consistent answer to Linette’s power.
A break to the Pole saw the Tunisian contingent in Philippe-Chatrier stunned but like the champion she is Jabeur fought back with an immediate break back.
Some big serving in the eighth game fended off another wave of Linette aggression as Jabeur created a half-chance in the tenth game to seal a break to claim victory.
However Linette continued to be bold and was met with the ultimate reward as from 40-15 up, Jabeur missed a smash to give the Pole hope.
That was all the world number 56 needed as Linette converted her only match point with a forehand unforced error from Jabeur as the first shock of this year’s Roland Garros occurred.
A disappointing result for Jabeur given her clay court form and she would have felt she was the best placed to challenge Iga Swiatek for the title.
However Swiatek’s compatriot Linette played the match of her life to seal a place in the second round at Roland Garros where she will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart.
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