WTA Race to Shenzhen Update - UBITENNIS
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WTA Race to Shenzhen Update

Who has already qualified for the WTA Finals, and who is in position to claim the remaining spots?

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We’re just one month away from the debut of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, where a substantially increased purse of $14M US dollars will be at stake.  This week’s Premier Mandatory event in Beijing is one of the WTA’s most prestigious non-Majors of the year, and the last opportunity for players to accumulate considerable rankings points ahead of the WTA Finals.  The winner gets 1,000 points, with the runner-up receiving 650 points, and semifinalists getting 390 points. The only other remaining Premier-level event is the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, where the winner garners 470 points.

 

Here’s a look at the current year-to-date standings heading into the China Open, starting with the players that have already officially qualified for the WTA Finals, along with the points they’ve accumulated this season (their 2019 titles are in parenthesis).

1) Ash Barty, 5,836 points (Roland Garros, Miami, Birmingham)

2) Karolina Pliskova, 5,315 points (Rome, Brisbane, Eastbourne, Zhengzhou)

3) Simona Halep, 4,907 points (Wimbledon)

It’s worth noting Halep was forced to withdraw from the Wuhan Open this past week due to a back injury, putting her WTA Finals participation in question for the second straight year.

The following players have not officially qualified, but almost certainly will.

4) Bianca Andreescu, 4,737 points (US Open, Indian Wells, Toronto)

5) Naomi Osaka, 4,256 points (Australian Open, Osaka)

6) Petra Kvitova, 4,196 points (Sydney, Stuttgart)

At No.7 in the race rankings is Serena Williams, but it would be quite surprising if she ends up playing the WTA Finals.  She is the only top 10 player not entered into the China Open this week, and hasn’t played the WTA Finals since 2014.  Assuming she does not play, that will open up a spot for the player in ninth place.

Now here are the remaining players with a strong chance of claiming the last few qualifying spots, along with a look at their current form and their chances of qualifying.

8) Elina Svitolina, 3,790 points – Svitolina was the champion of the WTA Finals a year ago, but is in danger of not even qualifying this year.  Though she reached the quarter-finals or better at three of the four Majors in 2019, including her first two Slam semifinals, she’s won no titles this year.   Elina has played every week since the US Open, but has gone just 4-3 during that time, and retired from one of those matches due to right knee pain. In this week’s China Open, she has a tricky opening round against Anastasija Sevastova, and is in a tough eighth of the draw that includes recent Guangzhou champion Sofia Kenin and Osaka finalist Anastasia Pavlyuychenkova.

9) Belinda Bencic, 3,595 points (Dubai) – Bencic has returned to the top 10 for the first time in over three years with 42 match wins this season.  She’s coming off her first Major semifinal in New York, but lost her only match since the US Open to Veronika Kudermetova this past week in Wuhan.  Belinda is vying to make her WTA finals debut. In Beijing, she already defeated Su-Wei Hsieh in the opening round, but shares a section of the draw with Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams.

10) Kiki Bertens, 3,490 points (Madrid, St. Petersburg) – Bertens will need to gain some points over the next few weeks to return to the WTA Finals for the second straight year, unless multiple people ranked above her withdraw from the event.  But Kiki is not currently playing with a lot of confidence. After a strong first half of the season, she’s just 5-6 since August. In Beijing, she already outlasted Donna Vekic in a third set tiebreak, and will play either Caroline Garcia or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.  Neither of those players are normally easy outs, so Bertens will need to up her level to get herself into qualifying position this week.

Beyond these top 10 players in the race, it will take a huge late-season surge, or some unexpected withdrawals, for any other women to qualify for Shenzhen.  Johanna Konta is currently in the 11th position, but is more than 600 points behind Bertens.  And the British No.1 isn’t even playing this week in Beijing due to knee pain.  With no other players anywhere near 3,000 points, it will likely be eight of the current top 10 players in the race playing at the WTA Finals.

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Roger Federer Plays Down Air Quality Concerns Ahead Of Australian Open

Roger Federer has rejected concerns that air quality will affect the Australian Open ahead of his first round match on Monday.

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Roger Federer (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Roger Federer has rejected the idea that air quality concerns will be a factor at this year’s Australian Open. 

 

Recently air quality has been fairly unsafe as a recent result of the Australian bushfires that have impacted many parts of the country.

Melbourne has been one of the cities that has been impacted the most with many animals, firefighters and civilians suffering.

As the Australian Open approaches, it has also affected the first grand slam of the year with many players in qualifying suffering on Tuesday and Wednesday with conditions being deemed unsafe to compete in.

This has raised concerns about the tournament itself, which starts on Monday and one player that has been criticised in his lack of action is Roger Federer.

The 20 time grand slam champion is on the ATP Players Council and today he broke his silence, insisting that the air quality shouldn’t be a factor at this year’s Australian Open, “No, I don’t worry. From what we were told yesterday in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200,” Federer told the media on Saturday.

“From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know. That’s when maybe effects really become bad. No, I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke. Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times. 

I think communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players, because you do hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows. You have court calls, then you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good. I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.”

Conditions are expected to get safer in time for the first week of the grand slam as rain has hit the latter stages of the past week in Melbourne.

Although Federer has played down concerns of the air quality causing harm to the players, it is still is a cause for concern amongst tournament directors if the conditions played a part in the second week.

As for Federer, he starts his Australian Open campaign against Steve Johnson on Monday and is taking the tournament one match at a time, I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said.

“Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low. No, I’m excited to play Steve. He’s a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it’s going to be a nice match for me, as well.”

The Swiss will be looking for his 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne and his third in four years but will have to play Novak Djokovic before the final. The match with Johnson will be third on Rod Laver Arena on Monday after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams play their matches.

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Elena Rybakina reaches her second consecutive final in 2020

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Elena Rybakina beat British qualifier Heather Watson 6-3 4-6 6-4 after 2 hours and 16 minutes in the Hobart International semifinal setting up a final match against China’s Zhang Shuai.

 

Rybakina has become the first player to reach back-to-back finals in the first two weeks of the year since Agnieszka Radwanska in 2013. The Kazakh player finished runner-up to Ekaterina Alexandrova last week in Shenzhen.

Rybakina earned the first break in the first game, but Watson broke back with two forehand winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Rybakina broke for the second time with a crosscourt forehand in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and sealed the first set with another break on the first set point, as Watson hit her dropshot into the net.

Rybakina saved three break points with two aces and a service winner, but Watson converted her fourth chance with her forehand return winner.

Watson went up a double break with a forehand pass and held her serve to race out to a 5-1. Rybakina converted her second break point chance to claw her way back to 3-5.

Rybakina earned two break points in the 10th game, but Watson saved the first chance with a backhand winner before serving out the second set with consecutive service winners.

Watson saved a break point in the second game of the third set as Rybakina made a backhand error. Rybakina fended off a break point chance in the fifth game with a down-the-line backhand winner. Rybakina converted her second break point chance with a drop-shot winner on the match point.

“It was a really tough match. I was still missing all these balls in the second set. In the last few games I was playing really risky, and I am really happy that I won this match”, said Rybakina.

Rybakina set up a final against Zhang Shuai, who reached the third WTA final of her career after a 6-3 6-4 win over Veronika Kudemertova.

Zhang earned three break point chances at 2-1 with a backhand crosscourt winner and converted her first chance after Kudemertova sent her forehand wide. Kudemertova won two hard-fought service game at 4-2 and at 5-3. Zhang closed out the set on her second set point in the ninth game.

Both players held on their service games in the second set until 4-4. Zhang earned a break point in the ninth game, as Kudemertova made a forehand error. The Chinese player got the break, as Kudemertova made her forehand error. Kudemertova earned her first two break points of the match, as Zhang was serving for the match. Zhang held her serve at deuce, as Kudemertova missed returns on the next four points.

“The winter training went really good for me. Training with the national team, a lot of coaches helped me, so I was already ready before this tournament. I think all matches I played really well this week, and also a lot of the Chinese fans are coming to cheer for me, so I have had a lot of motivationto win”,said Zhang Shuai.

 

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Benoit Paire sets up all-French final against Ugo Humbert in Auckland

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Benoit Paire battled past Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 with six breaks of serve to his ninth career ATP Tour final at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

 

Paire went up a double break in the first and seventh games to build up a 5-2 lead. Hurkacz pulled a break back after two double faults after two double faults from Paire. The Frenchman served out at love in the 10th game.

Paire went up a break at 15 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Hurkacz broke back at love to draw level to 3-3. Both players held on their next service games setting up a tie-break. Hurkacz cruised through to winning the tie-break 7-1.

After a trade of breaks at the start of the third set Paire broke twice in the fourth and eighth games to seal the decider 6-2.

“It was not easy. Not everything was perfect, but it is never easy against Hubert. He is a very good player and a tough opponent. I hope tomorrow will be better and I hope to enjoy the final”,said Paire.

Paire sets up an all-French final against his compatriot Ugo Humbert, who edged past John Isner 7-6 (7-5) 6-4. Humbert has reached the maiden final of his career after losing in the semifinal in Marseille, Newport and Antwerp in 2019.

Humbert and Isner went on serve with no breaks to set up a tie-break. Isner saved two set points from 3-6 but Humbert won the tie-break 7-5. Humbert started the second set with an early break to take a 1-0 lead. Isner saved five break points and held his serve at deuce, but Humbert won his final two service games at love to clinch the second set 6-4.

“I am really happy about this win. It was a great match. I returned very well and I played good on the key points. I am really happy to reach my first final”,said Humbert.

 

 

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