Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina Eye Grand Slam Breakthrough With New Teams - UBITENNIS
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Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina Eye Grand Slam Breakthrough With New Teams

Will a change to their coaching setup amount to major success for the two tennis stars?

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Karolina Pliskova - WTA Finals Shenzhen 2019 (foto via Twitter, @WTAFinals)

Two top players on the women’s tour believes the new year provides them with a golden opportunity to claim their first ever grand slam title.

 

World No.2 Karolina Pliskova, who reached the final of the 2016 US Open, is hoping that she can go one better with the help of her newly constructed team. The Czech has joined forces with renowned Venezuelan coach Daniel Vallverdu. Who is best known for working with men’s players such as Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov. Along with the 33-year-old, Pliskova has also enlisted the help of friend and former player Olga Savchuk.

Pliskova will be somewhat of a test for Vallverdu, who had never worked with a top player on the women’s tour before. However, she is confident that the two can make a winning combination in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s also new for him, new for me. But hopefully I think or I feel he can add some good things to my tennis,” she told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.
“We will see how everything goes in tournaments. I think it’s going to need some time for him, also for me to get used to it.
“But he’s a clever guy and it’s still tennis. It’s not a different sport. Of course, sometimes it looks like it, but it’s actually not. So I think he will adapt (to the women’s game).
“I think I’m quite easy, like, tough on one hand to work with, but on the other hand easy, so I think he’s not going to have problems with me,” she added.

The changing of coach caught some off guard. Pliskova had previously been working with former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez. Under the guidance of the Spaniard, she won four events last year. Including the Brisbane International where she will be defending her title next week.

“I didn’t want to stay where I was,” she explained.
“Of course, the year was great. I played some good tournaments, so many good matches, and I finished actually like so close to the top.
“But I felt that there’s no way she (Martinez) can maybe help me more, so that’s why I changed.”

Svitolina gaining in confidence

Another player hoping to claim major glory is Elina Svitoliva. Unlike Pliskova, she is yet to contest a grand slam final. Although in 2018 she reached back-to-back semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open for the first time in her career.

“Making semi-finals definitely brought me the belief that I could take one step further,” she said.
“I had the chance to play on the biggest stages and that gave me lots of confidence at that particular point.”

It has been almost 15 months since the Ukrainian last won a title of any sort. Doing so at the 2018 WTA Finals. In a bid to revive her chances, she recently added former player Marcos Baghdatis to her team. Baghdatis retired from professional tennis last July.

“As an ex-player he sees the game from his point and it’s something different that I was looking for to add into my game,” Svitoliva commented on the appointment.
“For sure we improved massively with Andy for the past years I’ve been working with him and he knows me very, very well.
“(But) for me it’s important to add the small things that can improve my game and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Both Pliskova and Svitolina will start their season in Brisbane ahead of the Australian Open. Pliskova, who has a first round bye, opens up against either Pricilla Hon or Ajla Tomljanovic. Meanwhile, Svitolina faces Danielle Collins in the first round.

The Australian Open will start on January 20th.

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova skips the US Open

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova has decided to skip the US Open. The Russian player wrote a post on her Instagram account.

 

“I have been thinking a lot and decided not to play at the US Open. It was not easy because I hadn’t missed any Grand Slam in my entire career. Tennis is everything for me. The main reason is insecurity. The US Open does not guarantee any guarantees. I don’t feel comfortable to travel to the USA in such circumstances. I thank the USTA and the WTA that give a chance to play. From this moment, every player is on his own. My team and I have decided it would be for the best not to participate”, said Pavlyuchenkova. 

Pavlyuchenkova has joined the list of players, who have decided to miss the US Open. The list includes Nick Kygios, Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty. More players are expected to make a final decision on travelling to the USA for the Western and Southern Open and the US Open in the coming weeks. 

Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the quarter finals at last January’s Australian Open and reached her career-high of world number 13 in the WTA singles ranking in July 2011. She is currently ranked world number 30 and claimed twelve singles and five doubles titles on the WTA Tour, including her biggest title at the Open GDF Suez and the Moscow Kremlin Cup in 2014. She got through to a Grand Slam quarter final six times and reached the top eight at least once in all four Grand Slam tournaments in singles and doubles. 

Last weekend Pavlyuchenkova won the Ultimate Tennis Showdown near Nice in the tournament organized by Patrick Mouratoglou. 

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Donna Vekic suffers shock loss to Italian wildcard

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Donna Vekic sensationally crashed out of the Palermo Ladies Open after slipping to a surprise 6-2 6-4 defeat to World No.156 Elisabetta Cocciaretto.

 

The Croatian, 24, was one of the favourites to win the tournament before it started. And her chances of glory looked even better after she produced an excellent display in the first round and three of the eight seeds were knocked out.

However, Vekic struggled from the outset against the 19-year-old Italian. She had to save three break points just to get to 2-2 in the opening set. Then she squandered a break point with a wild return in game five.

From that point on, the errors started piling up from the Croatian. She hit a forehand just wide on break point to enable Cocciaretto to go 4-2 up. Then she served poorly to allow the Italian to break her again and clinch the set 6-2.

Vekic wastes her chances

Elisabetta Cocciaretto (@LadiesOpenPA on Twitter)

Had she been playing well, Vekic would probably have established a 3-0 lead in the second set. She wasted a break point chance in the first game, meekly dropped her own serve in the second and then actually managed to break in the third game.

Somewhat surprisingly, the match then settled into a predictable rhythm as both players held serve comfortably during the next six games.

At 5-4 down, the Croatian faltered again. She hit an awful drop shot into the net to fall 15-30 behind. Then she hit a short serve and a short forehand and could only watch in horror as Cocciaretto crunched successive winners past her to seal victory.

“I’m really excited and really happy for the win and I want to thank all the fans,” the Italian said in her on-court interview. “I watched Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani playing here when I was six years old and I dreamed of following in their footsteps. It’s incredible to think that I’m doing it now.”

Cocciaretto played well throughout the match. She defended resolutely and picked the right times to attack. However, Vekic let her dictate points far too often, and she never did anything to tip the momentum back in her favour. This may be what disappoints her the most about her performance.

As for the Italian wildcard, she can bask in the glow of her first-ever win over a Top-30 player. On Friday, she will play in her first-ever WTA quarter-final. She will face either Annet Kontaveit or Laura Siegemund.

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Sara Errani reaches the quarter finals in Palermo for the eighth time

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Former Roland Garros champion Sara Errani came back from one set down to beat Krystina Pliskova 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a thrilling match at the Ladies Open in Palermo. Errani reaches the quarter finals for the eighth time in her career. 

 

Errani, who won two titles in Palermo in 2008 and 2012, has scored her tour-leading 180th career win on clay, more than any active player on tour. Pliskova went up a double break to take a 3-0 lead. Errani fended off five set points across three games and broke serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Pliskova sealed the opening set 6-3 with another break. 

Errani started the second set with an early break to take a 1-0 lead and did not face a break point to claim the second set 6-4. 

Both players traded breaks at the start of the third set. Errani got another break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and saved two break-back points to keep her lead.  

Errani will face French player Fiona Ferro, who upset number 8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5 6-2 in their first head-to-head match on Centre Court after 1 hour and 49 minutes to reach her second consecutive quarter final at the 31st edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo. Ferro scored her second win over a top 30 player. 

Ferro reached the second round at the Australian Open and lost to Elena Rybakina in the Round of 16 in St. Petersburg earlier this year. Alexandrova won her first WTA title in Shenzhen and advanced to the third round in Melbourne. 

Alexandrova got an early break to take a 2-0 lead in the opening set. Ferro broke straight back in the third game and held serve in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ferro won five consecutive games to build a 7-5 3-0 lead with three breaks in the 11th game of the first set and in the 1st and 3rd games of the second set. Alexandrova pulled one break back in the fourth game for 1-3, but Ferro broke for the third time to serve for the match at 5-2. 

Alexandrova earned two break points, but Ferro saved them. Alexandrova saved the first match point, but Ferro closed out the match, as her Russian rival made two forehand errors. 

Former world number 30 Aliaksandra Sasnovich cruised past Jasmine Paolini 6-0 6-2 to reach the quarter finals. Sasnovich last made the last eight a WTA Tour in January 2019 in Sydney, when she reached the semifinal as a qualifier. 

Paolini reached the top 100 for the first time last year and earned a career-high of world number 94 last March. 

Sasnovich fended off two break points and dropped just 14 points. She broke three times to score a 6-0 win in the opening set. Paolini won her first game, but Sasnovich got two breaks in the first and fifth games to open up a 4-1 lead. Paolini failed to convert six break points and Sasnovich won a very long service game with 10 deuces. The player from Belarus served out the second set 6-2 on her third match point with a drop-shot. 

Sasnovich set up a quarter final against either top seed Petra Martic or Liudmila Samsonova. 

“I played very well in the first set because I knew how to play against my opponent. I have seen a few matches of hers. She is a really great player. I think the Italian crowd really likes her, and I like her, because I like how she plays”, said Sasnovich. 

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