Below-Par Karolina Pliskova Survives Scare In French Open Marathon - UBITENNIS
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Below-Par Karolina Pliskova Survives Scare In French Open Marathon

The lackluster Czech overcame some patchy play to set up a showdown with a former French Open champion in the next round.

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Second seed Karolina Pliskova encountered a stern opening test at the French Open after outlasting Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in a two-hour roller-coaster.

 

The former world No.1 was forced to battle back from a set down to prevail 6-7(8), 6-2, 6-4, in what was an historic occasion for her rival. 24-year-old Sherif is the first female player from her country to ever contest a Grand Slam main draw match. During the marathon 135-minute encounter, Pliskova looked tentative at times as she produced 45 unforced errors alongside 46 winners. Furthermore she could only convert five out of 15 break point opportunities due to some fierce play from Sherif.

“It was super tough. Especially after losing the first set where I had a couple set points,” said Pliskova.
“I think I was not playing my game during the first set but my level got up a little bit higher in the next two.’
“She played a great game. Especially on this surface in these conditions. She is very tough.”

Pliskova entered the match as the undisputed favourite being ranked over 170 places higher than her opponent. However, the Czech struggled to find consistency in her shot-making early on. Eight times Pliskova had a set point opportunity at two different stages of the opener but she failed to concert all of them. At one stage the frustration got too much for her after she received a code violation for smashing her racket on the court. Meanwhile, underdog Sherif continued to weather the storm by playing inspired tennis as with a mixture of delicate drop shots and deep hitting. The determination of the Egyptian paid off after a tentative smash from Pliskova sailed long to award her the 7-6 lead.

The opener served as a wake up call for Pliskova who finally managed to regain rhythm in her game that paved the way for a rapid resurgence. During the second frame she dictated proceedings with the help of a four-game winning streak as she swiftly drew level in the match.

Besides Sherif, Pliskova also had to contend with the damp conditions and was seen at one stage rubbing her shoulder. This year’s tournament has also changed their ball brand with some players saying it is slower and heavier to hit than usual.

As the rain started to intensify both players continued battling on Court Philippe Chartier until the very end. Pliskova still looked to be below-par on the court and even lethargic after some points. Still, she wouldn’t be denied the victory. The pivotal break occurred during a marathon game at 3-3 that consisted of seven deuces. A backhand shot into the net from Sherif gifted the break as Pliskova neared towards the finish line. Serving for a place in round two, she sealed the win with the help of an ace down the centre of the court.

“The conditions are so different compared to Rome. It was 35 degrees and here (in Paris) it is close to 20,” said Pliskova. “ I’m just happy to be through because these matches can only move me forward and I can feel better after them. Hopefully I am going to have a little bit of a better feeling in the next one.”

In the next round Pliskova will play former champion Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian experienced little difficulty in her opening match as she swept aside Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-1.

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Is 19-year-old Iga Swiatek bound for greatness?

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper tennis columnist James Beck reflects on the potential significance of the French Open women’s final.

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Paris is always magical.

 

The City of Love must be.

Iga Swiatek is the French Open women’s singles champion.

Always talented, always athletic.

But until this fortnight the Polish 19-year-old had never demonstrated any true greatness in  women’s tennis. All of a sudden now, even the great John McEnroe is predicting greater greatness from the latest new star of women’s tennis.

A STRANGE YEAR FOR WOMEN’S TENNIS

What a strange year this is in women’s tennis. Sofia Kenin wins the Australian Open before the coronavirus took over the entire world. Kenin came out of nowhere to achieve this amazing feat.

So, just when it appeared Kenin was ready to keep her amazing success story afloat, another surprise arrived with the name Iga Swiatek. It wouldn’t be real surprising that when this coronavirus disappears, hopefully early in 2021, that Swiatek keeps winning Grand Slam titles. It also wouldn’t be surprising if she retires with just one major title.

Swiatek seems to be just that unpredictable.

DID SHADOWS PLAY A KEY ROLE IN THE WOMEN’S FINAL?

Perhaps this time, Swiatek’s glorious day was achieved due to the uncontrollable nature of nature itself. The sun and its shadows appeared to play a major role in how this Grand Slam final started.

Shadows dominated one end of the court at match time on Saturday in the newly covered Court Philippe Chatrier Stadium.

Visibility was dreadful on the TV screen, and it must have been much the same way in Kenin’s eyes when she played the second and third games of the match on the “shadow end” of the court. The 21-year-old American looked out of sorts as if she was playing in darkness and she couldn’t find the ball while falling behind, 3-0.

SHADOWS BRING BACK MEMORIES OF NADAL-SODERLING

The scene brought back memories of Rafa Nadal’s fourth-round match against Robin Soderling in 2009 at Roland Garros. Going into the 2020 final on Sunday against Novak Djokovic, Nadal has suffered only two losses in 88 matches on the red clay of Roland Garros.

Of course, Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals at the French Open wasn’t a show stopper, especially when you consider that Djokovic is now slipping up on Nadal’s 19 Grand Slam titles and Roger Federer’s 20 in the all-time major title race.

But for Rafa to lose to the big-hitting Soderling was shocking at the time. Rafa also looked like he was playing in darkness that summer day in 2009. He couldn’t find the ball, either.

KENIN WASN’T NORMAL SELF

Seeing what happened on Saturday in the shadows at Roland Garros, it’s now easier to understand what happened to Nadal that day against Soderling.

Kenin had a miserable day on Saturday. She wasn’t herself, maybe due to the shadows or maybe to her heavily bandaged left thigh. Kenin is a better player than the one audiences around the world saw in her 6-4, 6-1 loss to Swiatek.

FANS FORTUNATE TO CATCH THEM BEFORE THEY BECAME STARS

Watching this French Open women’s final made me acknowledge once again how great it is to reside in a great tennis town that brings the ITF world-wide circuit to your city. It happens all over the world, to large cities and small cities.

Of course, Charleston also has the WTA Tour’s Volvo Car Open where the world’s best current players perform for large crowds of paying viewers.

The ITF Circuit is different.

Swiatek, Kenin and Cori Gauff all played in the $100K ITF tournament at LTP Tennis in Charleston during 2018 or 2019. All free of charge for everyone to view in person or even to enter  the current boundaries of social distancing. Autographs, yes. But autograph seekers were rare for these three young stars even that recently.

James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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Underdog Iga Swiatek Clinches Historic French Open Title

The 19-year-old tennis sensation will break into the world’s top 20 for the first time in her career.

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Iga Swiatek (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

Iga Swiatek has become the first Polish player in history to win a Grand Slam title after defeating Sofia Kenin in a roller-coaster match at the French Open.

 

The rising star, who had never won a WTA title of any kind until now, saw off Kenin 6-4, 6-1, in a showdown that saw her rival struggle with injury during the closing stages. Swiatek’s 84-minute triumph saw her hit more than two times as many winners than Kenin (25-10) as she broke her six times in total. She has become the first female player to win the tournament without dropping a set throughout since Justine Henin in 2007.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” a stunned Swiatek commented on her Grand Slam triumph.
“I am so happy and so glad that my family was here to watch me play.
“It’s crazy. Two years ago I won a junior Grand Slam (at Wimbledon) and right now I’m here. It feels like such a short time and I am just so overwhelmed.”

In what was a rematch of their clash in the junior competition of the tournament four years ago, 19-year-old Swiatek battled through a nerve-stricken opening set which had various twists and turns resembling San Francisco’s infamous Lombard street. Prior to Paris her only experience of a tournament final on the WTA Tour was at a International event in Lugano, Switzerland. A stark contrast to reigning Australian Open champion Kenin who was playing in her seventh.

The underdog started the match guns blazing with a three-game winning streak that saw her open up an early lead. However, Swiatek’s stronghold didn’t last for long with Kenin hitting back with revenge as she took advantage of a tentative service game by her opponent to claw back and level. The cat and mouse chase continued with the world No.53 withstanding some powerful hitting from across the court as she produced a series of impressive drop shots. Swiatek had a chance to close the set out whilst leading 5-3 but failed to convert. Enabling Kenin to break back once again with the help of a winning return. Despite the blip, she prevailed in the following game after a backhand from the frustrated American sailed wide.

Four games away from the biggest title of her career, Swiatek’s momentum in the match came to a halt after Kenin walked off the court for a medical timeout three games into the second set. The issue was related to her upper left leg which she has had some taping on. Kenin returned to the court with extra taping around her entire thigh.

Resuming play, the dynamic of the final had changed. Kenin was still fighting hard but it was visible that she was struggling with her movement on the court and close to tears. Meanwhile, Swiatek stuck to her game plan as she continued to show impressive mental resistance on the court. Something she attributes to her time spent with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz.

Surging towards the French Open crown Swiatek showed little signs of nerves as she raced to a set and 5-1 lead. Serving for the title, a serve down the centre of the court was returned out by Kenin to hand the Pole her first championship point. Victory was then sealed with the help of a forehand winner aimed at the corner of the court.

“I think I was mentally consistent and I just wanted to play aggressive as I have done in previous rounds,” said the newly crowned champion.
“I felt like today was really stressful for me. It was kinda hard but I don’t actually know what made the difference (between her and Kenin). I won the match point and that made the difference.”

Swiatek is the seventh unseeded woman to contest the final of a major tournament since 2010 and the third to win. Following in the footsteps of Jelena Ostapenko at the 2017 French Open and Sloane Stephens at 2017 US Open. Furthermore, she is the second-lowest ranked player to contest a French Open final since the WTA ranking system was created in 1975.

“For another underdog to win a Grand Slam in women’s tennis, it’s crazy,” she commented.

Besides the victory, the Pole also paid tribute to her father. Tomasz Swiatek is a former professional rower who represented his country at the 1988 Summer Olympics.

“He taught me how to be a professional (athlete). It’s hard to describe but he raised me in this way that I feel pretty confident on the court. He gave us everything,” she said in tribute.

Swiatek will rise to 17th in the world rankings on Monday. She exits Roland Garros with $1,900,000 in prize money which is more than what she had earned in her entire career prior to the tournament.

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Sofia Kenin Edges Out Kvitova To Reach French Open Final

Sofia Kenin produced an impressive performance to beat Petra Kvitova 6-4 7-5 and advance to her second Grand Slam final at the 2020 French Open.

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Sofia Kenin (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

Sofia Kenin produced an impressive performance to beat Petra Kvitova 6-4 7-5 and advance to her second Grand Slam final at the 2020 French Open.

 

The American, 21, beat Ashleigh Barty and Garbine Muguruza in successive rounds to claim the Australian Open in January. But she has had to work hard to reach the same stage at Roland Garros. She has needed three sets to defeat four of her six opponents so far.

“Kvitova’s such a tough player,” Kenin said in her on-court interview. “She’s got a great aggressive game and a huge serve. So I knew I needed my bring my A game to win and I’m super-proud of myself (that I did that).”

Kenin made a very strong start to the match. She played high-class tennis to establish a 4-1 lead after just 12 minutes.

However, Kvitova dialled up the aggression and hit a couple of winners to get one of the breaks back. She then battled hard in the next two games. Unfortunately for the Czech, she did not manage to break again and the American stayed ahead at 5-3.

Although Kvitova then held to love to apply pressure, Kenin held her nerve to get through a tough service game and clinch the first set.

Kvitova pays for missed chances

Petra Kvitova (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

The second set mostly hinged on three crucial games which could have gone either way. In the first, Kenin saved a break point to make it 2-2.

In the second, the American dragged Kvitova around the court cleverly to take the game to deuce. Then she hit a winner on break point to seize the advantage.

In third critical game, the Czech really should have broken. She had three chances to do it but she failed to put enough pressure on Kenin’s serve and the World No.6 eventually held to move 4-2 ahead.

The American suffered a brief lapse in game ten when she made three unforced errors to hand the Czech a break. However, Kvitova wasted her lifeline. She missed far too many first serves in the next game and Kenin punished her by breaking again to move to within one game of victory.

The final game summed up a frustrating afternoon for the World No.11. She earned her 12th break point of the match with a scintillating forehand winner. Then she wasted it by making three consecutive unforced errors which handed the American the win.

Kenin must deal with Swiatek’s excellent return game in the final

Break points are always vital in any tennis match. But they could be particularly important when Kenin takes on Iga Swiatek in the 2020 French Open final.

The Pole has returned brilliantly throughout the tournament, so if she earns and takes enough break points against the American, she has a great chance of victory.

On the other hand, if Kenin can restrict the number of opportunities Swiatek has on her serve, and save most of the break points she faces, then her chances of winning will increase dramatically.

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