WTA Finals 2019 Day 1 Preview - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals 2019 Day 1 Preview

The top eight women in the world are all present for this event’s debut in Shenzhen, with significantly increased prize money.

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In the round robin portion of the tournament, the red group will start play today, with the purple group taking the court tomorrow.  The red group includes four players whose 2019 highlights all took place in the first half of the year: French Open champion Ash Barty, Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova, and Dubai champion Belinda Bencic.  Barty is a heavy favorite to end the year as the world No.1, as she leads No.2 Karolina Pliskova by over 1,000 points. With over $14M US dollars on the line over the next eight days, who will win the final WTA event of 2019?

 

Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Petra Kvitova (6)

The tournament begins with a rematch of the 2019 Australian Open final.  All the way back in January, Osaka claimed her second consecutive Major by overcoming Kvitova in a stellar match.  That important contest is their only previous meeting. Naomi is certainly the player who arrives in Shenzhen with more confidence.  She’s on a 10-match win streak in Asia, with titles in both Osaka and Beijing last month. In Beijing, she became the first player in over six months to defeat Bianca Andreescu in a completed match.  She also went on to take out Ash Barty in the final. While Kvitova was the champion of this event eight years ago, she hasn’t won a title or even reached a final of any tournament since April. It’s the second season in a row where she peaked early in the year, and struggled in the second half.  Based on current form, as well as their history, Osaka is the favorite to start this event with a win.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Belinda Bencic (7)

This is the WTA Finals debut for both of these competitors.  What a year it’s been for the Australian, with 52 match wins to date and three titles, including her first Major singles title.  She’s consistently performed well throughout the year, and on all surfaces. As mentioned before, she was a finalist last month in Beijing, her last tournament prior to this event.  Bencic meanwhile moved into qualifying position for this event just a week ago, thanks to her title run in Moscow. This will be their first career meeting, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering how much time these two young stars have spent off the tennis court in recent years.  Barty of course left the tennis world and played cricket back in Australia, while Bencic’s career was sidelined by injuries after her breakthrough several years ago. With no history between these two, and this being their first WTA Finals, it’s hard to forecast the outcome. Both arrive with plenty of momentum, but I’ll give the slight edge to the world No.1.  Her all-court game may prove challenging for Bencic, who is often in less control of her emotions than the steady Barty.

ORDER OF PLAY 

Not before 4:30 p.m local time

[3] Naomi OSAKA (JPN) vs. [6] Petra KVITOVA (CZE)

[1] Ashleigh BARTY (AUS) vs. [7] Belinda BENCIC (SUI)

[2] HSIEH Su-Wei (TPE) / Barbora STRYCOVA (CZE) vs. [7] Samantha STOSUR (AUS) / ZHANG Shuai (CHN)

[4] Gabriela DABROWSKI (CAN) / XU Yifan (CHN) vs. [6] Barbora KREJCIKOVA (CZE) / Katerina SINIAKOVA (CZE)

 

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Anett Kontaveit Set To Battle For WTA Finals Spot After Lifting Moscow Crown

It is the third time Kontaveit has won a tournament within the past six months but will she be able to qualify for the season-ending championships?

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Anett Kontaveit (image via https://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit has continued her recent surge in form on the Tour by fighting back from a set down to win her fourth career title at the Kremlin Cup on Sunday.

 

The world No.20 was on the verge of losing to home favourite Ekaterina Alexandrova before battling to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory. At one stage in the match Kontaveit was trailing by a set and 0-4. Then in the decider she was broken at 4-4 before going on to win three games in a row to clinch the title. Overall, she won 69% of her first service points and broke her opponent five times.

“Of course, I am very happy, the match was extremely difficult, I feel relief and joy,” she said afterwards. “I got lucky at match-point, but during the match there were moments when she (Alexandrova) got lucky too. It always takes a little luck to win. She took the lead, controlled the match, it was very difficult for me, I tried to fight for all the points and this helped me to win.”

Kontaveit, who defeated former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza and Markéta Vondroušová earlier in the tournament, has now won 14 out of the last 15 matches she has played on the Tour. Her only loss was to Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells. She has played in five finals this year which is the second-highest on the WTA Tour after world No.1 Ash Barty who has played in six.

The 25-year-old is now on the verge of qualifying for the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. However, the prospect of her playing in the season-ending event depends on the results of next week’s tournaments. Kontaveit is playing in Romania and she needs to win the tournament and for rival Jabeur to lose before the semi-finals to qualify.

Meanwhile, runner-up Alexandrova exits Moscow frustrated with her missed opportunities in the match. It was the first time she has played in a final this season and only the third time in her career. Prior to Kontaveit, she scored back-to-back wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to win, I’m very sorry. But I will work on it and I hope next time I will be able to get a better result,” Alexandrova said during the trophy ceremony.
“I want to congratulate Anett, she played great, it was hard for me to do something.” She added.

Kontaveit, who has won three WTA titles since August, is the first Estonian player to win the Moscow trophy. Compatriot Kaia Kanepi reached the final of the tournament back in 2011.

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Bad news for the Transylvania Open as no fans are allowed

There will be no fans for next week’s event that includes Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu.

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(@TransylvaniaOpn - Twitter)

Mere days before the event was going to start the government announced a new measure that won’t allow for spectators.

 

The Transylvania Open a brand new WTA 250 event being held at the BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca got some bad news when the government announced due to a spike in covid cases the event will be held without fans.

The tournament was able to get some big names for its tournament with the likes of Simona Halep, Paula Badosa, and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu who were hoping to feed off the crowd energy.

Now they will have to play in an empty stadium which is something that happened a lot last year and another hurdle the players will have to go through, it’s disappointing because things were getting better but the fourth wave of Coronavirus keeps ravaging the world.

This will be the first tournament back for Raducanu after being upset in Indian Wells and was supposed to be a homecoming since she is of Romanian descent.

The tournament went on Twitter to announce the news that they will be hosting the event behind closed doors.

Halep was hoping to be able to also play in front of her home fans but will now look to win another title in her native country without any spectators or fan support.

As mentioned in the tweet the effect won’t happen till Monday so the fans will still be able to attend the qualifying matches that will happen on Saturday and Sunday.

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‘I Know How To Get There’ – Karen Khachanov Targets Return To Top 10

The world No.31 has showed signs of his talent this season with a run to the Olympic final but a lack of consistency and changes to the ATP ranking system has hindered him too.

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Karen Khachanov - Credit: AELTC/Ian Walton

It wasn’t that long ago when Karen Khachanov was the highest-ranked Russian man on the ATP Tour and billed as the next big thing from his country.

 

A breakout 2018 season saw Khachanov claim three Tour titles with the biggest of those being at the Paris Masters which remains his most prestigious trophy to date. He also reached his first major quarter-final at the French Open during the same season and scored five wins over top 10 players. Those triumphs helped elevate him in the ranking to a high of eight.

However, since that breakthrough Khachanov has found himself on a a rollercoaster journey. He is yet to win another title since Paris but came agonisingly close at the Tokyo Olympic Games where he finished runner-up to Alexander Zverev. In his nine previous Grand Slam tournaments his best run was at Wimbledon this season where he reached the last eight before losing to Denis Shapovalov.

Now ranked 31st in the world, the 25-year-old is aiming to claim back up the ladder after the ATP changed their ranking logic to the method used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rankings turned out to be a big pun, it was frozen for a year and a half, only now normal counting has begun. I am not fixated on this,” Khachanov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. “My main goal is to get back to the Top10. I know how to get there. And the intermediate goals are to be healthy and motivated.”

Khachanov has been ranked outside the world’s top 20 since February and hasn’t been in the top 10 since October 2019. He is currently coached on the Tour by Jose Clavet who has previously worked with a series of top Spanish players such as Feliciano Lopez, Alex Corretja, Tommy Robredo and Carlos Moya.

“He travels with me everywhere, for which I am grateful to him. I trust him as a specialist, as a coach and as a friend,” Khachanov said of Clavet.

Khachanov has returned to his home country this week where he is playing in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup. A tournament he won three years ago by defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final. Seeded third in the draw this time round, he began his campaign on Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, win over James Duckworth. In the next round, he faces another Australian in the shape of John Millman which he believes will be a far from easy task.

He is a fighter, a complete player, he does everything well, forehand and backhand with good intensity. He does everything at a good level, but the main quality is that he fights till the end, so it will be hard for me,” he said of his next opponent.

Moscow is the seventh tournament this year where Khachanov has reached the quarter-final stage.

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