Ashleigh Barty And Belinda Bencic Clinch Semi-Final Spots In Shenzhen - UBITENNIS
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Ashleigh Barty And Belinda Bencic Clinch Semi-Final Spots In Shenzhen

Barty advanced to the semi-finals of the WTA Finals with a straight-sets win over Kvitova, while Bencic progressed when Bertens retired.

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Ashleigh Barty (@thenewspick2 on Twitter)

Ashleigh Barty and Belinda Bencic progressed to the semi-finals at the WTA Finals in straightforward fashion on a day that could have been chaotic.

 

The Australian advanced first with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova. Then the Swiss won a tight first set 7-5 against Kiki Bertens before the Dutchwoman was forced to retire with a viral illness early in the second set.

It was a significant performance from Barty. The BT Sport commentators reported that she had seemed visibly unhappy during a practice session the day after her disappointing loss to Bertens, so she needed to bounce back in her final group match.

Pleasingly for the Australian and her team, that is exactly what she did. She executed her wide variety of skills to excellent effect and proved way too good for the obviously exhausted Kvitova on the day.

“(Because it was) my first time playing Petra indoors, I had to adjust and take some time to get used to her ball off the court and everything like that,” Barty said in her press conference.

“But I was particularly happy with the way I was able to return tonight. I think Petra changed her serving spots and I think she was trying to take a little bit more of a risk. That kind of worked in my favour a bit tonight, and I was really happy to nudge in front early in both sets and keep the foot down.”

Barty reflects on her brilliant 2o19

With the end of the season now just a few days away, the Australian reflected on her highly successful year.

“I think it’s incredible to have progressed from Zhuhai the last two years to be here playing singles in Shenzhen,” Barty said. “It’s very exciting. I’ve had a very consistent year across all surfaces, all throughout the year, which has been the most pleasing thing.”

She continued, “A goal of mine at the start of the year was to do well in the Grand Slams. I think I’ve done that much better this year. I made second week of every Grand Slam. That was a big bonus and a big push towards getting here in Shenzhen.”

WTA Finals appearance caps a superb year for Bencic

Belinda Bencic (@somostenisbr on Twitter)

Bencic has also enjoyed a fantastic year. She won Premier titles in Dubai and Moscow, reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open and has reached one other final, three semi-finals and a quarter-final.

When she qualified for Shenzhen, the Swiss was ecstatic. She said that she was already delighted with how her year had gone and the chance to go to Shenzhen made it even sweeter. Now that she is through to the semi-final stage, it must feel like one bonus after another for her at the moment.

“It feels pretty amazing,” Bencic said. “I mean, especially after I made it at the last minute, now semi-final, through the group after I lost the first match. It feels very nice, I have to say. I’m super proud of the work my team and I did all year. So thanks to them, as well.”

She continued, “It was very nice to finally get this match, Bencic-Bertens, after such a fight (for the last qualifying spot) at the end of the season. Maybe her gas just really ran out.”

“It was a bit unfortunate. Obviously not the way I wanted to win, but I’m super proud of how I fought in that set. I was thinking if she wins the first set, maybe different story.”

Bencic added, “After I lost the first match here, I just wanted to kind of keep fighting, and you never know. There are people that made it to the semi-final when they won just one match. I was always thinking of those positives.”

“You always have to fight till the end. I think everyone is, like, exhausted and injured, all of that. I think now it’s all about the mental strength to go through all of this.”

Bencic relaxed ahead of Svitolina clash

While Barty has to wait until tomorrow to find out who she will play in the last four, Bencic already knows she will face Elina Svitolina, who will finish top of the Purple Group after she won both of her matches so far in straight sets.

“She’s one of the players that this court suits a lot, more the defensive ones,” the Swiss said. “Also she can turn around the rally and turn it into offense. I’m aware of that.”

“I think I’ll focus on my game. I’ve reached semi-finals. I’m so relaxed already really. I will just play and fight like always.”

As Bencic is already so happy with what she has achieved in 2019, there is definitely a sense that the pressure is off. However, if there was pressure, she could probably handle it.

“I feel really confident under pressure now somehow,” the World No.7 said. “It makes me really proud. Obviously everyone misses their chances sometimes, loses tough battles. For now I’m really happy it works out for me. I’m trying to be fearless on the court, not being afraid to lose but playing for a victory.”

She added, “I’m really proud already how I handled my nerves in Moscow because that was insane crazy. I was never so nervous in my life. Now, here, it just feels less. I feel like everything is going to feel less nerve-wrecking than Moscow.”

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‘My Body Is Not Use To Playing At 2am’ – Kristyna Pliskova Stuns Sakkari In Late-Night Palermo Duel

The Czech player has caused the biggest upset of the draw so far.

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Kristyna Pliskova has started her return to professional tennis following the five-month break by recording one of the biggest wins over her career at the Palermo Open.

 

The Czech tennis player held her nerve to knockout world No.20 and third seed Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4, in a late-night encounter. The first day of the WTA event saw a series of matches go the full distance, leading to Pliskova’s opening match taking place in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Despite the later than expected encounter, a sleepy Pliskova still managed to come out on top to record only her seventh win over a top 20 player and second this year. She also beat Aryna Sabalenka at the Shenzhen Open in January. During her latest match, the Czech stood firmly behind her serve as she won 80% of her first service points and saved all three break points she faced. Overall, she won 69 points in the match compared to Sakarri’s 60.

“The conditions were really tough,” wtatennis.com quoted Pliskova as saying. “Before the match, I was also sleeping a little bit! We stayed so late here, I think it’s tough for [Sakkari] as well.”
“The body is not used to playing at 2:00 a.m.,”
she added.

Pliskova broke Sakkari twice in the match by doing so at the start of each set. The triumph avenges her loss to the Greek in their previous meeting that took place at the 2017 Wimbledon championships. On that occasion Sakkari fought back from a set down to win.

Former Wimbledon girls champion Pliskova is seeking her first WTA title in almost four years this week in Palermo. Her next opponent will be Italian veteran Sara Errani, who required almost three hours to oust Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, in a roller-coaster encounter.

“[Errani is] at home here, so for sure the people will cheer for her,” Pliskova commented on her next test. “She had quite a tough match, I saw. It’s very different from today, but I will try to hold my serve and hopefully I will also break her!”

Pliskova is currently ranked 69th in the WTA rankings.

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Sara Errani makes successful return with a three-set win over Sorana Cristea in Palermo

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World number 167 and former Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani battled past Sorana Cristea 7-5 1-6 6-4 in a hard-fought match after 3 hours. 

 

The match started with three breaks in the first five games, as Errani took a 4-1 lead. Cristea broke back to draw level to 5-5. Errani earned two break points and broke serve to win the first set 7-5. 

Errani started the second set with an early break. Cristea fought back by winning six consecutive games with three breaks of serve. 

Cristea earned an early break at the start of the third set. Errani broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Errani got another break in the sixth game but Cristea broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. In the 10th game Errani came back from 0-40 down and sealed the win on her first match point setting up a second round match against either Maria Sakkari or Krystina Pliskova. 

Errani has won her first WTA match since Bogotà 2019. 

“I thank Palermo Tournament Director Oliviero Palma, who has always supported me. I am honoured that I received a wild-card. Palermo is my second home. I have often played very well here. I hope crowd will give me their support. My level is not the same as in the past years but I have the same enthusiasm. After a long break for many breaks it is not easy to return to my best level”, said Errani. 

Italy’s Jasmine Paolini came back from one set down to upset former top 10 player Daria Kasatkina 5-7 6-4 6-4 after 3 hours and 21 breaks of serve. Paolini had scored her only win over a top 20 player, when she beat Kasatkina in Prague in 2018, but the Russian player had won two of their their previous head-to-head matches. In their most recent clash Kasatkina beat Paolini in the first round at 2019 Roland Garros. 

Paolini converted 11 of her 16 break points, while Kasatkina earned 34 break points and got only ten of them. The young Italian player will face either Elise Mertens or a qualifier. 

Kasatkina earned an early break in the first game of the first set and held his serve to open up a 2-0 lead. Paolini saved four break points (two in the fifth game at 3-1 and two in the seventh game at 4-2). As Kasatkina was serving at 5-4, Paolini saved four set points. Paolini earned a break point, as Kasatkina made a double fault on the third deuce. Paolini converted the break point with an overhead winner to draw level to 5-5. Kasatkina earned another break in the 11th game after Paolini netted her forehand. The Russian player converted her fifth set point with a forehand. 

The first six games of the second set went against serve. Paolini saved two break points and ended the streak of service breaks with a decisive hold for 4-3. Paolini got another break for 5-3 earning a chance to serve out the set. Kasatkina converted her third break point with a return winner to break back at 5-4. 

The third set followed the same pattern. Both players traded breaks four times in the first eight games en route to 4-4. Paolini held her serve in the ninth game for 5-4 before earning a match point with a backhand winner down the line. 

Paolini broke in the 10th game after a forehand error from Kasatkina to seal the third set 6-4. The Italian player is one match away from matching her quarter final in the 2019 edition. 

Donna Vekic cruised past Aranxta Rus 6-1 6-2 in the opening match of the Palermo Ladies Open. Vekic did not dropped her serve and closed out the match in 1 hour and 15 minutes without dropping her serve. 

Rus fended off seven break points. Vekic broke serve six times and won eight consecutive games to build up a 6-1 2-0 lead. 

Rus found her rhythm and broke back to draw level to 2-2. Vekic won 77% of her first serve points and broke twice in a row to win the second set 6-2. 

The Croatian player sets up a second round match against former Australian Open Junior semifinalist Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who beat Polona Hercog 7-6 (7-1) 6-3. 

“I am definitely a little bit surprised at the score. The conditions were very tricky and very windy, so the ball was a little bit all over the court. I am just definitely happy that I did not forget how to play tennis, how to play matches, how to win. It’s a huge relief”, said Vekic. 

Ekaterina Alexandrova came back from one set down to beat Kristina Mladenovic 5-7 6-0 6-1 after 2 hours and 12 minutes. The 59-minute first set was marked by nine breaks. Alexandrova came back in the second and third sets, dropping just one game. 

The match started with six consecutive breaks. Alexandrova got the early lead, but Mladenovic broke back each time to draw level to 3-3. Mladenovic got the first service hold and saved a set point on Alexandrova’s serve at 5-4. Mladenovic earned another break to seal the first set 7-5. 

Alexandrova broke three times to win the second set 6-0. Mladenovic won the first game of the third set, but Alexandrova won six consecutive games to win the third set 6-1 after 2 hours and 12 minutes. 

“It feels great being back on court because it was such a long wait, and it felt really special. It was quite tough because I was so nervous and my serve in the first set was just awful. Thankfully in the second and third set it was much better”, said Alexandrova. 

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Maria Sakkari Pondered Temporary Sport Switch During Tour Suspension

This summer could have looked very different for the world No.20.

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Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari could have been preparing to take part in a completely different sport this week if it wasn’t for the Palermo Open taking place.

 

The world No.20 considered switching her tennis shoes for running ones amid the uncertainty surrounding when the sport would start again. All professional tennis tournaments have been cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the WTA Tour is restarting this week in Italy.

Although if it wasn’t for Palermo staging the eagerly awaited return of tennis, Sakkari reveals that she might have instead switched her focus to athletics in order to maintain her competitive thirst. Taking part in the Greek athletics championships. Her discipline of choice would have been the 100 meters which her fitness trainer believes she would have made the final in.

“If the Tour was cancelled I was going to compete in the 100m track and field event at the National Championships,” Sakkari told reporters on Sunday.
“Greece National Championships starts on Aug. 8. We were kind of joking with my fitness coach, but inside of me I really needed competition.
“There were rumours going around that the Tour would get cancelled so I thought if the Tour gets cancelled I need to find something. I’m fast, I knew I was not going to win it for sure because I’m not a professional. But yeah, I was thinking of doing that.”

Sakkari can run 100M in a time of 12.7 seconds but that is without both running spikes and starting blocks. Her idea stemmed from the type of training she was doing back in Athens during the tour shutdown. Although tennis remains her first priority.

“I started playing tennis on May 4th, but before that, I was working with my fitness coach at outdoor areas where we were allowed to work out,” she said. “I was running a lot. I think I was running more than I ever did.”

In Palermo Sakkari will be the third seed in the draw and faces Czech Republic’s Kristýna Plíšková in the first round on Monday. The world No.20 started 2020 by winning nine out of 15 matches played on the Tour with her best runs being to the fourth round of the Australian Open and semi-finals of the St Petersburg Open.

We’re back in competition so I’m blessed,” Sakkari said. “Blessed to be back.”

Sakkari is bidding to win the second WTA trophy of her career this week after triumphing last year at the Morocco Open.

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