Elina Svitolina produced an impressive all-round display to beat Cincinnati champion Madison Keys 7-5 6-4 and reach her first US Open quarter-final.
The Ukrainian, 24, lost to the American in New York at the same stage two years ago, but she has clearly figured out how to beat her since then.
Svitolina beat Keys in three sets at the Australian Open earlier this year, and she is understandably delighted to have beaten her even more convincingly this time around.
“It was really good serving from me tonight,” the Ukrainian said. “I was feeling really good with my footwork as well. I’m very pleased that I could play very consistently.”
Svitolina outplays Keys in the first set
Svitolina won the first set because she was smarter and steadier than Keys. She won 91% of points on her first serve and only made six unforced errors.
This reliability meant that she did not face a single break point and could apply pressure when the American served.
That pressure was on Keys right from the start, as the Ukrainian took her to deuce in the opening game of the match.
The World No.9 also had to work for her next hold, and in game seven Svitolina produced two excellent passing shots to give her even more to think about.
Despite the difficulty she faced on serve, the American stayed in touch with the Ukrainian to keep the score level at 4-4 after eight games.
Keys then played a great game. She hammered down a series of great serves and played very aggressively on another point that she finished at the net.
However, American faltered in game eleven. She served poorly, and the Ukrainian took advantage. She dragged the World No.9 into longer rallies, drew her into a succession of errors and got the first break of the match.
Svitolina then kept her focus when she was serving for the set. She played four good, solid points and that was all she needed to clinch it 7-5. She celebrated with a determined fist clench and a steely stare.
Svitolina maintains control
Unfortunately for Keys, the pattern of play did not change at the start of the second set. The World No.5 held comfortably and then made life as difficult as possible for the American in game three.
Svitolina used her defensive skills to great effect to lengthen several rallies and get the score to deuce. After earning and wasting one break point, she gained another chance with a superb cross-court backhand winner. She then secured the break when Keys made an error.
The World No.9 had a slight chance to break at 30-30 in game six. However, she failed to take advantage, and this allowed the Ukrainian to move 4-2 ahead.
To her credit, the American gathered herself and played two superb service games to force Svitolina to serve for the match at 5-4.
But Keys still did not manage to put any pressure on the Ukrainian’s serve in the final game. She made a couple more unforced errors to gift the World No.5 the final game and take her final tally to 39. Then she signed a few tennis balls as quickly as she could before rushing off court.
Svitolina prepares to face Konta next
For Svitolina, this feels like a big win. She has knocked out one of the pre-tournament favourites and must now be confident about her own chances of winning the US Open.
To do that, she will have to beat another player in top form: Johanna Konta. The Brit followed routs of Margarita Gasparyan and Zhang Shuai with only her second win in eight meetings against Karolina Pliskova to reach the last eight, and the Ukrainian is understandably wary of the threat she poses.
“It’s going to be another great battle. I’m looking forward to facing her. We’ve always had tough matches and for me it’s going to be another challenge and I will try to be out there with my best game.”
Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash
The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.
Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.
2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.
Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.
“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”
Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.
There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.
“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”
Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.
“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”
The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.
“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.
During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Simona Halep To Change Grand Slam Schedule Ahead of Olympics
The Romanian is set to play extra events in the majors in a bid to boost her chances of winning a medal in Tokyo.
Former world No.1 Simona Halep has her eyes set on winning more than one medal at the 2020 Olympic Games after confirming she will play extra matches during three grand slam tournaments next year.
The 28-year-old intends to participate in the mixed doubles along with a yet to be decided compatriot. It will be a rare appearance for Halep, who has only played in two mixed doubles tournaments throughout her professional career so far. Doing so at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open with Horia Tacu.
Despite her lack of experience in the discipline, the Romanian is hoping to build some momentum in the grand slams next year. A two-time grand slam champion, she has focused solely on singles competition at every major for over four years.
“I have only Melbourne, maybe French Open, and grass. Grass is a little bit dangerous because the surface is tough and you can get hurt a little bit with the men’s serve.” Halep told reporters in Beijing.
“But the goal is to play all the time mixed doubles with my partner to get used to the game, to be able to achieve a good result at the Olympics.”
Halep made her Olympic debut back in 2012, but opted not to play in the 2016 edition. In London she lost in the first round of both the singles and women’s doubles competition. Halep is bidding to become only the third Romanian tennis player in history to win an Olympic medal. Following in the footsteps of Tecau and Florin Mergea, who won a silver medal together in Rio 2016.
“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis,” Halep said following her triumph at Wimbledon in July. “It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”
The world No.6 has also been confirmed as her country’s flag-bearer for the upcoming event in Tokyo.
Playing through the pain
Whilst her long-term goal has been set out, Halep’s focus for the immediate future is on this week’s China Open. She kicked-off her campaign on Sunday with a clinical 6-1, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Peterson was her first real test since withdrawing from Wuhan due to a back injury. Whilst the score looks positive, she is not getting too ahead of herself.
“I’m not 100 percent recovered, I still feel pain,” said the sixth seed.
“Always when you have an injury, it’s a little bit risky.
“But I accepted it, I took the risk.”
A former runner-up of the tournament, Halep is hopeful of having a strong run. Beijing is her first tournament since turning 28 on Friday. To mark the occasion, she celebrated the milestone at one of the world’s most prestigious landmarks.
“Every year it’s nice to come back here,” she said. “This tournament’s a big tournament and important for everybody, and the atmosphere is very nice. You can see everyone is focused on their job.
“This year I celebrated my birthday at the Great Wall. It was actually the first time I’ve visited the Great Wall after coming here many years in a row. I think it’s going to be a good week for me—even if I was a little bit injured last week, I feel good now. I’m feeling good to play and to win matches.”
Halep will play Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round on Monday.
Roger Federer Can Win Australian Open, Says Laver
The 81-year-old speaks out about the world No.3.
Tennis legend Rod Laver has back world No.3 Roger Federer to add to his record-breaking grand slam tally in the future.
The 38-year-old currently holds the record for most major singles won by a man at 20. However, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are closing in on that tally. Djokovic is currently on 16 and Nadal in one adrift on 19 following his latest triumph at the US Open. Meanwhile, Federer has only featured in the final in one out of the last six grand slam tournaments. Doing so at Wimbledon in July where he failed to convert two championship points against Djokovic. His last major title took place at the 2017 Australian Open.
Despite the recent lack of major silverware for the Swiss Maestro, Australian great Laver believes he can still challenge for the biggest titles in the sport. Saying that it is possible that Federer could continue playing until the age of 40.
“He seems to be fine and that’s what counts. If you love the game as much as you do, that’s fine.” He commented on Federer’s longevity in the sport.
“I also give Roger a very good chance of winning the Australian Open again in Melbourne in January.”
Laver admits that it is possible that the two other members of the Big Three could end their careers with more titles than Federer. Nadal is five years younger than him and Djokovic is six. However, he believes there is one thing that separates him from the others.
“Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all big champions. But Roger surpasses tennis, the world of sport, and sports in general in a way that no one in history has done before him. He is the most recognized athlete in the world and a figurehead for this great game.”
The first encounter between Laver and Federer took place 13 years ago in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Since then, the two have formed a bond with Laver saying they ‘clicked’ straight away.
The biggest example of the friendship between the two is perhaps best illustrated by the Laver Cup. An annual team tournament where Europe takes on the rest of the world. Similar to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Named in honour of the tennis great, Federer is one of the co-founders of the event. Which has since been granted a place within the ATP Calendar. Although no ranking points are on offer.
This year’s edition will be held in Switzerland for the first time. Critics have been quick to point out the disparity between the two teams. Europe consists of all players ranked inside the top 20 compared to one from the world team. However, Laver dismissed the significance.
“I do not think so. The team World has excelled in both Laver Cups in doubles and also celebrated one or two big victories in singles. I expect it to be exciting.” He said.
The three-day 2019 Laver Cup will get underway in Geneva on Friday.
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