Johanna Konta Pays Tribute To 'Incredible Ball-Striker’ Clijsters Following Monterrey Clash - UBITENNIS
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Johanna Konta Pays Tribute To ‘Incredible Ball-Striker’ Clijsters Following Monterrey Clash

The former Wimbledon semi-finalist gives her assessment of the level Clijsters is currently playing at following their meeting in Mexico.

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Johanna Konta (image via https://twitter.com/WTA)

Second seed Johanna Konta has said it was a ‘privilege’ to play Kim Clijsters after seeing off her Belgian rival in straight sets at the Monterey Open on Tuesday.

 

The world No.16 rallied to a 6-3, 7-5, win over the 36-year-old. Earning her first tour victory this year after losing in the first round of three consecutive tournaments. Konta has been troubled by a knee problem in recent months and cut short her 2019 season due to the injury.

In her latest clash, the Brit was impressive behind her serve against the four-time grand slam champion. In total she won 80% of her first service points and didn’t face a single break point throughout the 86-minute clash. Konta broke Clijsters twice in the first set and once in the second.

“As a young player, I never thought I’d get to play Kim Clijsters in my career,” the 28-year-old said during her on-court interview. “I feel truly privileged and honoured to share the court with such a champion. It’s nice to have her back.”

Konta said she was impressed by the level of play her opponent is still able to produce on the court. A similar compliment to that of Garbine Muguruza, who also recently played Clijsters in Dubai. Clijsters was playing in only her second tournament since the 2012 US Open, which is coincidentally the same grand slam where Konta won her first main draw match.

“It was very tough. She’s an incredible ball-striker. Her ability to do things with the ball is what made her a multiple Grand Slam champion. It’s why she was able to come back and play, in her second match back after seven years, at a level like this. That’s not exactly an every day thing, that’s for sure. I feel so honoured to have played her, and really happy with my performance.” Konta said in tribute.

Clijsters, who is currently unraked on the tour, said there are still things she would like to improve further. Against Konta she won 68% of her first service points, but only 42% of her second. She is coached on the tour by Fred Hemmes Jr. A former top 200 player himself who has also previously worked with Ruben Bemelmans and the Belgian Tennis Federation.

“I felt some things were better,” Clijsters reflected during her press conference. “Some things still need a lot of improvement. That’s why it’s good to play matches.
“I’ve been through different generations and played many players throughout my whole career. I’m still at a stage where I want to focus on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling, and also start reading my opponents.
“It’s a process that I have to trust and keep working hard to improve in every match I play. I’d like to take big steps but I have to focus on small steps and improving day by day.”

Konta will next take on Germany’s Tatjana Maria. Maria knocked out last week’s Acapulco Open champion Heather Watson in three closely contested sets. As for Clijsters, her focus has now switched to Indian Wells where she has been awarded a wild card to play in the main draw.

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Karolina Pliskova hires Sascha Bajin as new coach

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Former world number 1 player Karolina Pliskova has hired German coach Sasha Bajin for the upcoming 2021 season. The Czech player has split up with Daniel Vallverdu. 

 

Under the guidance of Vallverdu Pliskova has not won a single title in 2020 but she reached her second final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, the tournament she won in 2019 beating Johanna Konta. This year she was forced to withdraw from the Rome final against Simona Halep due to an injury problem. 

Pliskova successfully defended her 2019 title in Brisbane and lost to Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the third round of the Australian Open and was defeated by Elena Rybakina in the quarter finals in Dubai. She lost to Ons Jabeur in Doha. In her first tournament after the suspension due to the pandemic Pliskova was beaten by Veronika Kudemertova in the second round at the Western and Southern Open in New York. At the US Open Karolina was knocked out by Caroline Garcia in the second round. 

The Czech star lost in the first round in Ostrava after winning the first set. 

Bajin parted his ways with Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska in 2020. The Ukrainian player was not happy after Bajin praised Naomi Osaka, who beat Yastremska at the US Open. 

Pliskova introduced her new coaching team to her fans on Twitter. 

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WTA will change the names of tournament categories

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The WTA will change the names of its tournament categories to be in line with ATP, according to Spanish sports newspaper Marca. 

 

The Premier Mandatory tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing) and Premier 5 tournaments (Doha, Rome, Rogers Cup in Canada, Cincinnati and Wuhan) will shift to 1000s. Premier tournaments will be renamed 500 tournaments under the new system. International events will change to 250 events. $125Ks will be renamed as 125-events. 

Points given to the winners might not be the same as the event level unlike the ATP tournaments. The WTA currently awards 1000 points, 900 points and 470 points.The WTA tournament in Madrid will extend by three days. It will be a 11-day event. 

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Elise Mertens sets up Linz final against her doubles partner Aryna Sabalenka

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Number 2 seed and two-time US Open quarter finalist Elise Mertens came back from one set down in her 2-6 6-1 7-5 win over number 4 Ekaterina Aleksandrova 2-6 6-1 7-5 after 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach the final at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz. Mertens will face Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Barbora Krejikova 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the second semifinal.

 

Mertens reached the Prague Open final, the Western and Southern Open semifinals and the US Open in a successful post-covid season. Aleksandrova beat 2020 Roland Garros Nadia Podorska 6-2 6-1 in the quarter finals. 

The Russian player won the Shenzhen Open and reached the St. Petersburg semifinal. She did not drop a set en route to the semifinals. 

The Belgian player was beaten by Aleksandrova 6-4 6-2 in their only previous clash on grass at the s’Hertogenbosch Open. 

Aleksandrova earned two breaks and served out the first set 6-2 on her first chance. Mertens went up a 4-0 lead with a double break and sealed the second set, when Aleksandrova made a backhand error. Mertens converted her fourth break point in the eighth game to seal the third set, when Aleksandrova made a backhand error. 

Mertens set up a final clash against her doubles partner Aryna Sabalenka, who battled past former Doubles world number 1 Barbora Krejikova 7-5 4-6 6-3. Sabalenka ended the year in the top 10 for the first time in her career. With a win in the final against Mertens Sabalenka would tie Simona Halep for most titles won this year. Sabalenka clinched two WTA titles earlier this season in Doha and Ostrava. The Belarusian player has not dropped a set in her three mathces this week against Jasmine Paolini, Stefanie Voegele and Oceane Dodin. 

Sabalenka and Krejikova traded breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the opening set. Sabalenka sealed the first set 7-5. Sabalenka earned an early break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Kreijikova broke back in the third game. The Czech player sealed the second set with a break at love in the ninth game to win the second set 6-4 forcing the match to the third set. Both players saved a break point in the first seven games. Krejikova came back from 0-40 down in the eighth game but Sabalenka converted her fourth break point at deuce to win the third set 6-3 on her first match point. 

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