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.”

ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Canada Daily Preview: Championship Sunday Features Halep/Haddad Maia and Hurkacz/Carreno Busta

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Hubi Hurkacz this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Sunday in Toronto, Simona Halep plays for her third title at this event.  She faces a surging 26-year-old in Beatriz Haddad Maia, who has already defeated four top 15 players this week, including world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

 

In Montreal, Hubi Hurkacz is vying for his second Masters 1000 title, after winning his first last year in Miami.  In Sunday’s championship match, he plays Pablo Carreno Busta, who at 31-years-old has reached his first Masters 1000 final in his 52nd appearance.


Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:30pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Haddad Maia is having.  She started the year ranked 83rd in the world, but with 43 match wins and three titles at all levels, she will debut inside the top 16 on Monday.  She is the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 singles final.  Beatriz credits her 2022 success to focusing on being more aggressive.  But Halep is a player who has achieved much success by absorbing her opponents’ power and using it against them.  And after a solid yet underwhelming season, Simona says her fire is back this week in Toronto.  This will be her fourth meeting with Haddad Maia, and her third this year.  She leads Beatriz 2-1, though they split their two 2022 encounters.  In a match of this magnitude, which is new territory for Haddad Maia, Halep’s experience and more consistent style make her the favorite to win her third title in Canada.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hubi’s path to this final has been a complicated one.  All four of his matches went the distance, and he even had to save a match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  Meanwhile, Pablo had advanced to his first Masters 1000 final rather decisively, only dropping one set to this stage.  Hurkacz and Carreno Busta are 1-1 at tour level, as each earned a hard court victory over the other last year.  Three of the four sets they contested were decided by tiebreaks, which is not surprising given their contrasting styles.  Hubi will look to dictate matters with his serve, while Pablo will look to extend points and force Hurkacz into long baseline rallies.   However, Hubi often doesn’t mind participating in long rallies.  As impressive as Carreno Busta’s level has been this week, Hurkacz has been the better player this season.  Hubi’s serve and powerful groundstrokes make him a slight favorite to win his second Masters 1000 crown.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez – Gauff and Pegula were finalists this year at Roland Garros.  If they win on Sunday, Gauff will become the new world No.1 in doubles, and be the youngest player to do so since Martina Hingis.  Melichar-Martinez and Perez have already defeated three seeded teams this week.

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (3) vs. Dan Evans and John Peers – Koolhof and Skupski lead the year-to-date doubles rankings, and are playing for their sixth title of the season.  This is only the second event in 2022 for Evans and Peers as a team.  Evans was also a semifinalist this week in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Canada Daily Preview: Semifinal Saturday Features Ruud/Hurkacz and Pegula/Halep

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Simona Halep on Friday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

The singles and doubles semifinals will be played on Saturday in Canada.  In Montreal, a new men’s singles champion will be crowned, and Hubi Hurkacz is the only semifinalist to have previously won a Masters 1000 event (Miami, 2021).  Hurkacz is also in the doubles semifinals, so it will be a busy day for Hubi.  In singles, he faces a finalist from this year in Miami, Casper Ruud.

 

In Toronto, Simona Halep is the only former champion remaining, and is two wins away from her third title at this event.  On Saturday, she plays Jessica Pegula, who is into the semifinals in Canada for the second straight year.  Like Hurkacz, Pegula is also in the doubles semifinals.  She’s teaming with Coco Gauff, who will become the new doubles No.1 if they win the title.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 12:00pm local time in Montreal and 1:00pm in Toronto.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hurkacz ended the winning streak of Nick Kyrgios on Friday, taking him out in three sets for the second time this season.  But Ruud was even more impressive on Friday, bouncing back from a marathon victory on Thursday over Roberto Bautista Agut to overwhelm Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, dropping only three games.  Predominantly known as a clay court player, Casper is also establishing himself as a considerable threat on hard courts.  That’s especially true in North America, where Ruud has claimed 16 of his last 19 matches.  But Hubi’s success on this surface remains superior, as does his serving prowess.  While Ruud prevailed in their only previous encounter, just a few months ago at Roland Garros, Hurkacz is the favorite on a hard court.


Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:00pm on Centre Court in Toronto

Halep has been dominant through four rounds this week, advancing without the loss of a set.  Simona has quietly put together a strong record of 36-10 this season, though she’s yet to achieve a big result, with only one title at the 250 level at the start of the year.  Pegula only dropped one set this week, to defending champion Camila Giorgi.  And similar to Halep, she’s accumulated a solid record this year (29-14) without winning a title.  This will be the first career meeting between these two players.  Considering Halep is now 25-6 lifetime at this event, and the way in which she has easily prevailed all week, her superior movement and defense should be enough to reach her fourth final in Canada.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Dan Evans – Carreno Busta has played superbly this week, eliminating the likes of Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini without losing a set to this stage.  Dan Evans has survived two grueling three-setters in as many days.  This is their first career meeting.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Karolina Pliskova (14) – Haddad Maia has earned three big wins across the last three days over Iga Swiatek, Belinda Bencic, and Leylah Fernandez.  Pliskova is looking to reach the Canada final for the second straight year.  They have split two previous encounters, both on hard courts.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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