Belinda Bencic Earns First Grand Slam Semi-Final With Win Over Vekic - UBITENNIS
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Belinda Bencic Earns First Grand Slam Semi-Final With Win Over Vekic

Belinda Bencic beat her good friend Donna Vekic in straight sets to advance to her first-ever Grand Slam semi-final at US Open 2019.

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Belinda Bencic (@WeAreTennis on Twitter)

Belinda Bencic advanced to her first Grand Slam semi-final thanks to a 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Donna Vekic at US Open 2019.

 

It is a huge moment in the career of the talented Swiss. She has won three Premier titles and boasts an impressive 22-19 win-loss record against top ten players, so this feels like the natural next step.

However, the job is not done for Bencic. She has a great chance to go even further at Flushing Meadows this year. She will play another talented young star in the last four, either Bianca Andreescu or Elise Mertens, and she will believe she can win. If she does, who knows what will happen in a Grand Slam final?

“I really like the challenge (of big matches),” Bencic said in her on-court interview. “I think some players are a bit afraid of the big courts, but it gives me more motivation. I dreamed of this when I was a little kid, and now that I’m here I’m really enjoying it – especially playing in a stadium like this in front of a crowd like this.”

The Swiss player thinks that her injury struggles have actually helped her. “The tough times helped me see tennis from a different perspective,” she said. “Sometimes you take it for granted when you are successful, and you have the pressure.”

“But when you can’t play, you miss it so much. My perspective changed, and I’m enjoying my tennis so much now.”

Bencic edges tight opening set

Donna Vekic (@standardsport on Twitter)

The first set against Vekic was a tense affair. Neither player produced their best tennis and neither managed to trouble cause their opponent many problems on serve in the first eight games.

Consequently, the score moved along to 4-4 at the stage with no clear indications about which way the match was going to go.

Then it sparked into life. From 40-15 up on her serve, Bencic missed an easy forehand and was forced into another error by an excellent return from the Croatian.

It got worse for the Swiss. She served a double fault and then hit a wayward backhand to gift Vekic the first break of the match.

Bencic was livid. She shouted and gestured to her father in the stands and it seemed like all the momentum was with the Croatian.

However, the Swiss did what all frustrated players need to do. She channelled her anger into her tennis. First, she hit a powerful cross-court forehand winner. Then she benefitted from a Vekic double fault that made it 15-30.

At 30-all, Bencic hit another forehand winner. Then she seized the break with a deep backhand return that tied the Croatian in knots.

After that disappointment, Vekic seemed a little flat for the rest of the set. She did well to save a set point on her serve in game twelve. But she handed the Swiss the initiative midway through the resulting tie-break with a sloppy backhand, and the World No.12 clinically closed out the set.

Bencic gets better as the match goes on

Belinda Bencic (@KRMGtulsa on Twitter)

In the second set, Bencic looked more assured. She got a couple of holds on the board at 2-2. Then she tarted to put pressure on the Croatian’s serve.

Vekic saved two break points in game five to stay in the contest. Then the Swiss player quickly knocked her out of it. She won 12 of the next 14 points to earn three consecutive games in a short space of time and move one game away from victory at 5-3.

When the Croatian served to try and keep the match alive, it was clear that she was now facing a player full of confidence, as Bencic came up with a series of classy groundstrokes to earn two chances to finish the match.

However, Vekic seemed determined to make her work for it. She hit three brilliant forehands to move from match points down to game point up. The Swiss responded by dragging her all around the court to bring it back to deuce, and then the Croatian made two errors to hand Bencic the last two points she needed to seal the win.

The World No.12 looked understandably delighted. She put her hands over her face and smiled in apparent disbelief, then she gathered herself and walked to the net to embrace her friend.

“After very tough times, we were both in the quarter-final of a Grand Slam,” Bencic said. “We were both very happy, and I think we are professional enough to be friends off the court and do our work on the court.”

It has been a great tournament for Vekic and she will rightly feel very proud of what she has achieved. However, it has been an even better fortnight so far for Bencic, and it could get even better from here.

Grand Slam

Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Ladies’ Semifinals

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Ons Jabeur during her quarterfinal victory on Tuesday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Thursday’s ladies’ singles semifinals are full of inspiring storylines, featuring the 2019 champion alongside three debutantes at this stage of a Major.  Simona Halep is on a 12-match win streak at The Championships, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina had previously only reached the quarterfinals at a Slam, and have made history by becoming the first players from their countries to reach a Slam semifinal.  And remarkably, 34-year-old mother-of-two Tatjana Maria had never been beyond the third round at a Major, and was on a nine-match losing streak at Slams prior to this fortnight. 

 

Also on Thursday, the gentlemen’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.


Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Tatjana Maria – 1:30pm on Centre Court

These are two good friends who describe each other as frequent barbecue buddies.  They also possess two of the sport’s most eclectic styles, with plenty of slices mixed with surges of power.  But in this matchup, Jabeur is clearly the favorite.  Ons has become the No.2 player in the world, with an outstanding record of 35-9 this season.  She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and is an undefeated 10-0 on grass in 2022, and 20-2 on this surface since last year.

Maria missed the first six months of the 2021 season due to giving birth to her second child.  She came into this year ranked 284th in the world, yet she’s accumulated 36 match wins at all levels.  As a qualifier, she won a WTA title on clay this past April in Bogota.  And despite her lack of results at Majors, with a career record of 12-34 in main draws, Tatjana has fought her way into her first Slam semifinal, with four three-set victories.  In three of those matches, she came back from a set down.  And she also won three of them by a third-set score of 7-5, even saving two match points against Jelena Ostapenko.

They’ve only played once at tour-level, with Maria prevailing in straight sets five years ago in Linz.  But in 2022, Jabeur is the far more accomplished player, especially at Majors.  And her all-court skills outmatch those of Tatjana.  As long as Ons does not succumb to the pressure of being a strong favorite in her first Slam semifinal, Jabeur should comfortably advance to Saturday’s championship match.


Simona Halep (16) vs. Elena Rybakina (17) – Second on Centre Court

Halep has been on a tear in her last few matches.  On Monday, she allowed fourth-seeded Paula Badosa only three games.  On Wednesday, Amanda Anisimova was only able to win six.  However, both of those opponents already had previous poor results against Simona, as their games do not match up well with that of the two-time Major champion.  The same cannot be said for Rybakina.

While Halep leads their head-to-head 2-1, their last two encounters have been extremely right.  Two years ago in Dubai, Simona required a third-set tiebreak to survive.  And at last year’s US Open, she prevailed 6-3 in the third.  The big difference between the set Rybakina won in New York, and the two sets she lost, was her winner-to-error ratio.  In the set she won, those numbers were equal.  In the sets she lost, she struck nearly twice as many unforced errors as winners.

While reducing her error count will be key for Rybakina, so will continuing to serve well.  In her last two rounds alone, Elena as struck 21 aces and only one double fault.  Rybakina leads the WTA ace count this season, though Halep remains of the sport’s best returners.  And Simona’s serve has improved significantly over the last few seasons.

Experience may be the key factor on Thursday, which is obviously a huge advantage for Halep.  This is her ninth Major semifinal, and her third at Wimbledon, while this Rybakina’s first at any Slam.  Also Centre Court itself will be new territory for Elena, who has never played on this court in her career.  And based on Halep’s current form, the 2019 champion should be favored to return to the final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk (2) vs. Matthew Ebden and Sam Stosur – Skupski and Krawczyk are the defending champions, while Ebden and Stosur were finalists at last year’s Australian Open.

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell (14) – Ram and Salisbury and two-time Major champions as a team.  Ebden and Purcell were finalists at this year’s Australian Open.  That’s the event where these teams last met, with the Australians prevailing in the semifinals.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (6) – Mektic and Pavic are the defending champions, while Cabal and Farah won this event in 2019.  Cabal Farah are 2-0 against Mektic and Pavic this season.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Grand Slam

(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) The Wimbledon Clash Between Djokovic And Sinner Could Have Been Better

It was an epic five-set clash but imagine how better the match would have been if both were playing well at the same time…

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Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis’ Ubaldo Scanagatta analyse the dramatic events that unfolded on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

 

Top seed Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to oust Jannik Sinner in a match of two halves. Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie brought delight to the British fans.

On the other side of the draw, how will Rafael Nadal fair against the in-form Taylor Fritz? The Spaniard recently sidestepped a question about a potential new injury. 

As for the women’s draw, Ons Jabeur made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a major quarter-final. She will next play 34-year-old mum-of-two Tatjana Maria who had never been beyond the third round of a major until now. 

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Grand Slam

(EXCLUSIVE) Former Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli On Why Tennis Needs Nick Kyrgios

The former world No.7 spoke to Ubitennis about the Australian star who has sensationally been charged with assault.

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Marion Bartoli (left) pictured at the 2022 Wimbledon Centre Court 100 year celebration - image https://twitter.com/bartoli_marion

Marion Bartoli believes tennis needs a ‘disruptor’ like Nick Kyrgios in order to break the trend of similar personalities on the Tour.

Bartoli, who won the 2013 Wimbledon title, spoke to Ubitennis during an hour-long media session that took place at The All England Club on Tuesday morning. A large talking point of the tournament so far has been the roller-coaster behavior of Kyrgios during two of his matches. In the first round, he was issued with a fine for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing with officials and spitting in front of some members of the crowd who were ‘disrespecting him.’ Then during a dramatic third round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, he once again argued with officials and even questioned why his opponent wasn’t defaulted from their match after hitting the ball into the stands.

The Australian is undoubtedly a divisive character. However, Bartoli believes that is exactly what tennis needs. 

 

“You either like him or you don’t. He will not make you feel middle ranged about him,” Bartoli tells Ubitennis.
“We need people like this in tennis. Some sort of disruptor with a different character. I don’t think it is good to have everyone acting the same way.’

“The limit is when you start to go against the umpire but he brings something new and different which is exciting for the game.”

Although not everybody has the same viewpoint. During his press conference on Saturday night, Tsitsipas stunned reporters when he branded his peer a bully due to his antics. Something Kyrgios denies. The Greek has also said he supports some sort of intervention to address the behavior of the world No.40 if such an opportunity occurs. 

“He said what he felt on the court and that’s fair. You just have to respect that,” Bartoli comments on Tsitsipas.
“At the end of the day we know what Nick is bringing to the court and it is not really surprising. It was almost as if Stefanos looked surprised by that which for me is something I wouldn’t have expected from him.”

Controversy aside, Kyrgios is looking to be a major danger in the tournament as long as his shoulder holds up. It is the first time he has reached the last eight of the tournament since 2014 after beating Brandon Nakashima in five sets on Monday. In his section of the draw, he faces unseeded Cristian Garin next, followed by a potential clash with Rafael Nadal. 

It was Kyrgios’ latest performance which has drawn praise from Bartoli.

“I think he has been doing extremely well this year, tennis-wise. He got a lot of confidence playing well on the grass before Wimbledon and he just loves the show,” she said.
“He loves the center stage and the way he played (against Nakashima) was brilliant. He didn’t go out way too much into his extreme where he would talk out loud all the time. It was just about his tennis. He’s always so exciting and he’s a great addition to the championships.“

As our discussion about the tennis star took place, sensational news broke that Kyrgios has been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The Canberra Times has reported that the assault took place last year and he is set to go to court next month. If he is found guilty, he could go to prison. 

Pick for the women’s final

As for the women’s draw, Bartoli has her money on two particular individuals. Although it is Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who she is tipping to win the title. The second seed is yet to contest a Grand Slam final in her career. 

Meanwhile, 2019 champion Simona Halep is gaining momentum in the tournament. After struggling with injury and confidence issues in recent months, the Romanian is yet to drop a set in four matches played. 

“Ons Jabeur is playing great tennis. She was my pick to win the Wimbledon title. I think Simona Halep has been extremely impressive, the way she won against Badosa was really quite something. Those two should be the ones going through to the final but in this year’s championship there have been so many upsets you never know.” Bartoli commented.

Bartoli is playing in the mixed-doubles legends draw at Wimbledon alongside Nenad Zimonjic. On Sunday she was one of many former champions to take part in a special ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Center Court. 

“It feels amazing. I get to be back on center court with my fellow other champions. That was definitely the highlight of my championships so far,” she said.
”To see roger, Rafa, Novak, etc, all the lineup of incredible champions, for me to be part of that group picture was something I would never forget.“
“Wimbledon is by far my favorite place in the world. For me, every year to wear my purple badge and walk through those gates is absolutely amazing.”

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