WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title - UBITENNIS
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WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title

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Aryna Sabalenka has lots of reasons to smile as of late (twitter.com/WTA)

In a rare Wednesday final, she’ll face Veronika Kudermetova, who is playing in her first WTA championship singles match.

 

At the beginning of 2019, Aryna Sabalenka debuted inside the WTA top 10.  That was coming off a 2018 season where in which Aryna accumulated 47 match wins, two titles, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time.  From there, her progress stagnated a bit, as she spent the last two years ranked between No.9 and No.16.  But now she’s on a 14-match winning streak, having claimed back-to-back titles to end 2020.  With a win on Wednesday, she would reach a career-high ranking of No.7.

At the beginning of 2019, Veronika Kudermetova debuted inside the WTA top 100.  The Russian steadily climbed the rankings that year, reaching the top 40 at the end of the season.  Since the tour restart last August, the 23-year-old was a modest 7-6 before this event.  But she dropped only one set this week on her way to her first WTA final, which included impressive wins over Elina Svitolina and Anett Kontaveit.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Veronika Kudermetova

Their only previous meeting does not provide much guidance as to what will happen on Wednesday.  It took place six years ago at an ITF Challenger event in Antalya, which Sabalenka claimed in straight sets.  Kudermetova will surely be nervous, as this is the biggest match of her career to date.  And she’s facing an ultra-confident Sabalenka, who is on a 14-0 run.  Yesterday, Aryna easily dispatched of an in-form Maria Sakkari, requiring only 57 minutes in a match where she struck 22 winners and only eight unforced errors.  After yesterday’s win, Sabalenka told the press she’s focusing less on winning and more on the process of improving her game, and cited this as the reason for her current win streak.  When Aryna is at her best, she can outhit just about anyone on tour.  And we’ve seen before how difficult she is to defeat when she’s on a tear like this.  I’m not betting against this version of Sabalenka winning her third straight title.

Other action on Wednesday:

In the doubles championship match, it’s 2020 St. Petersburg champions Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani, recent champions in Lexington.  These two teams played in the third round of Roland Garros a few months ago, with the Japanese team prevailing in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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Ajla Tomljanovic reaches the Wimbledon quarter finals for the second consecutive year

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Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic reached the quarter final at Wimbledon for the second consecutive year after a 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over France’s Alizé Cornet after 2 hours and 34 minutes. 

 

Tomljanovic had already beaten Cornet in three sets in the second round in last year’s edition of Wimbledon. 

The Australian player converted eight of his fourteen break points. She has become the first Australian player to reach consecutive Wimbledon quarter finals since Jelena Dokic advanced to the quarter finals in 1999 and the semifinals in 2000. 

Cornet reached her first Grand Slam quarter final at the Australian Open last January and broke Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak in the third round at Wimbledon. 

Cornet earned a break to open up a 4-1 lead in the opening set.  Tomljanovic broke back in the seventh game for 3-4. Both players traded breaks in the eighth and ninth games. Cornet sealed the first set with a third break in the 10th game after 49 minutes. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks. Tomlanovic earned a break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Cornet broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Tomljanovic broke in the ninth game at deuce and served out the second set 6-4 at deuce. 

Tomljanovic earned a break for 2-1 in the third set after two consecutive double faults by Cornet. The Aussie player broke again in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead. Cornet pulled one of the two breaks back in the eighth game for 3-5, but Tomljanovic broke for the fourth game to seal the decider on her third match point setting up a quarter final against Elena Rybakina, who beat Petra Martic 7-5 6-3. 

Rybakina beat Tomljanovic 6-4 6-0 in the first round of the Madrid Mutua Open last year. 

“Today was crazy. Cornet’s level was really high from the get-go. I think the second point of the first game was so long that I thought to myself: ‘I don’t know if I am going to physically be able to keep up with her. It felt like a coin toss. She fights until the end. She wasn’t giving me much. That’s why in the end I was a little in disbelief that I actually came through”, said Tomljanovic. 

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WIMBLEDON: Simona Halep Impresses After Troublesome Physical, Mental Battle

2022 has been far from straightforward for the Romanian but she is seeing light at the end of the tunnel at The All England Club.

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image via twitter.com/wimbledon

For Simona Halep reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon is an achievement in itself after her recent misfortunes. 

 

It all began at the Italian Open last year where she sustained a calf injury that would force her to miss two major events, as well as the Tokyo Olympic Games. Recovering from the setback was far from simple for the former world No.1 who soon found herself struggling mentally to the extent that she considered walking away from the sport altogether.

However, she managed to regain her desire and passion for tennis with the help of Patrick Mouratoglou who has officially been her coach since April. Halep continues to work her way back to top shape and her form at Wimbledon proves perseverance pays off. 

Playing her fourth round match against fourth seed Paula Badosa, Halep stormed to an emphatic 6-1, 6-2, win in just over an hour. She dropped only two points behind her first serve and hit 17 winners against just nine unforced errors. It is the third time this year she has beaten a top 10 player after previously beating Badosa on another occasion, as well as Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

“It means a lot that I’m back in the quarterfinals after I struggled so much with injuries and self-confidence,” said Halep.
“I’m working hard every day. I feel like if I do that, I will get better. I’m really happy with the way I’m playing. I’m really confident. It’s a pleasure to be on the court.”
“I think this helps me a lot to be able to do my best tennis. And everything comes together. I feel strong physically. I feel very good mentally.”

Speaking openly about her previous struggles, injury and confidence are two very different issues to deal with. But which one of those was the most difficult?

“It started with the injury, so I was not able to play for three, four months. Then I also lost the confidence, the belief that I can be good again, at the top. And I struggled for a long period,” she continued.
“But now it’s past. I’m here. I’m playing well. I’m feeling good on the court. So this is the most important thing, and I just want to focus on that.”

It is by no means a coincidence that Halep is thriving at Wimbledon considering her previous record. It was in 2019 when she produced a stunning display against Serena Williams to capture the title. Becoming the first and only player from her country to claim the women’s singles title. She has also reached the quarter-finals on three other occasions prior to this year.

“Grass is not an easy surface and you have to really connect with it. You have to get used to it.” Said Halep.
“I like it because it’s fast. I feel it. I feel stable on my feet. My legs are pretty strong for this surface. I feel my game fits it.”

As the only former Grand Slam champion left in the draw, Halep’s next test will be against Amanda Anisimova who defeated Harmony Tan 6-2, 6-3, in her fourth round match.

“I’m here to play as I did today, to focus on myself,” she states.
“I’m sure that I can play good tennis again. But it’s going to be a big challenge. It’s the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. I’m ready for it and I’m looking forward to it.”


Halep recently crushed Anisimova 6-2, 6-1, at the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. 

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Wimbledon: Quarter-Finalist Cristian Garin loves The Event But Not So much The Surface

The South American reacts to reaching his first major quarter-final.

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Cristian Garin (CHI) - Credit: AELTC/Ben Solomon

Just over a week ago, Cristian Gain admitted that he was ‘upset’ when he saw his draw for Wimbledon this year. 

 

The world No.43 was set to take on the formidable Matteo Berrettini in the first round who has won two grass-court titles in a row in recent weeks. However, the Italian was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. Instead, his opponent was the much lower-ranked Elias Ymer from Sweden who he defeated in straight sets. Since then, Garin hasn’t looked back.

On Monday at The All England Club, he staged an audacious comeback to defeat Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(10-6). Not only did Garin bounce back from two sets down, he also saved two match points in the process. Becoming the first player from his country to reach the last eight of the tournament since Fernando Gonzalez in 2005 and only the fourth in history to do so. 

“It is something very special for me. Wimbledon is my favorite tournament. Every time that I play this tournament is something special I feel,” said Garin.
“To be in the quarterfinals is a dream. I will try to enjoy it. I will try to give my best in the next round.”

Ironically Garin comes from a country where there are no grass courts. This year is his fifth appearance at Wimbledon and it was at the event where he made his Grand Slam debut back in 2017. However, like many other South Americans, clay is still his preferred surface.

“I said Wimbledon is my favorite tournament, not my favorite surface,” he jokes. 
“I think the grass is very fun for me. I have to change a little bit the way that I play. I think here on this surface you have to be aggressive.

Garin is one of only five ATP players from Chile currently ranked in the world’s top 500. Since April he has been coached by Pepe Vendrell who previously worked as a mentor to Roberto Bautista Agut and served as Spain’s captain in the ATP Cup. 

The next test for Garin will be a showdown against the formidable Nick Kyrgios who defeated Brandon Nakashima in his fourth round match.

“He is for me one of the guys that I like to watch. He’s very good for tennis,” he said of Kyrgios.
“In these rounds, you play the best. For me, Nick is obviously one of the best on grass.”

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