Donna Vekic Hangs Tough To Beat Kanepi And Reach Last 16 - UBITENNIS
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Donna Vekic Hangs Tough To Beat Kanepi And Reach Last 16



Donna Vekic (@Australian Open on Twitter)

Donna Vekic held her nerve superbly to overcome Kaia Kanepi 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4 in an absorbing third-round encounter at the 2021 Australian Open.


The Croatian, 24, had only won three of her last 11 matches coming into the first Grand Slam of the year. But she has produced winning tennis when it matters most on one of the biggest stages in the sport.

“I’m relieved and happy,” Vekic said, her voice cracking with emotion. “It was a tough match, saving match points. She was playing unbelievable the whole match. I had to fight to the end and I’m just happy to be through.”

It was a very even first set. Both players dominated their service games and they matched each other in the power stakes with some strong hitting during 11 consecutive holds that made it 6-5 to the Estonian.

Unfortunately for Vekic, she saved her worst game for the end of the set and it cost her dearly. She made three unforced errors to hand the decisive break to Kanepi.

Vekic fights back superbly

Vekic fell behind early in the second set too. She made a couple of unforced errors to allow Kanepi into her first service game. Then the Estonian produced a superb forehand to earn a break point and hit a forehand winner to seize it and open up a 2-0 lead.

The Croatian knew she had to raise her game. She held to love to keep the deficit to two games. Then she unleashed two searing forehand winners on her way to earning the break back she needed. When Kanepi hit a forehand long on break point, Vekic clenched her fist and cried, “Idemo!”, which means “Come on!” in Croatian.

In the next game, the Estonian hit a massive forehand to make it 15-30. But the Croatian responded well to win the next three points and level the set at 3-3.

Kanepi halted Vekic’s momentum with a commanding love hold. Then the World No.33 replied with a comfortable hold of her own.

The ninth game of the set was a real dogfight. The Estonian gifted the Croatian two break points with unforced errors but saved them well. Then Vekic hit a series of excellent shots to earn two more. However, Kanepi saved both by narrow margins and eventually held.

It was the Croatian’s turn to face the pressure in game ten. She saved a match point by producing a series of superb shots to set up a forehand winner. Then she secured the hold with a similar strike moments later.

Both players held comfortably to take it to a tie-break. And three unforced errors and a double fault from Kanepi enabled Vekic to establish a 5-1 lead.

The Croatian took full advantage. She hit an ace and then forced another error from the Estonian to level the match.

Vekic raises her game to make it through

Donna Vekic (@Australian Open on Twitter)

After a sloppy opening game when she dropped her serve, Vekic raised her level. She hit two stunning winners as she broke back immediately. Then she applied constant pressure to Kanepi’s serve to outlast her in a long game and earn another break and a 3-1 lead.

The Estonian is a fighter though. She responded to the Croatian’s improvement by hitting three winners during yet another break of serve (the fourth in five games).

Order was restored when both players held serve twice to move the score along to 5-4. Then Vekic produced a series of excellent groundstrokes to earn her first match point.

Kanepi saved that one, but the Croatian earned another with a forehand winner and then seized victory with a powerful backhand.

Brady eases through to last 16

Jennifer Brady awaits Vekic in the fourth round. The American easily saw off qualifier Kaja Juvan 6-1 6-3.

The World No.24, who made a stunning career-best run to the US Open semi-final last year, has won all her matches in straight sets so far. However, she is yet to face a player ranked inside the top 80, so the World No.33 should provide her with a much sterner test.

Pegula continues her march by beating Mladenovic

Jessica Pegula continued her extraordinary run at the 2021 Australian Open with a dominant 6-2 6-1 victory over Kristina Mladenovic.

The American, 26, hit 21 winners during the clash and is in arguably the best form of her life. She will now take on fifth seed Elina Svitolina in her first-ever fourth-round match at a Grand Slam. And even if she loses, she will move up to a career-high ranking of 50 thanks to her wins so far.


Iga Swiatek Criticises WTA’s Reform Of 2024 Calendar



Iga Swiatek has hit out at the WTA by claiming that only a handful of players were made aware of changes being made to the Tour calendar before they came into effect.


In recent weeks there has been an increase in frustration among players on the women’s Tour with letters being sent to the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, about their concerns. Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body. According to The Athletic, some of the concerns that have been raised relates to higher pay on the Tour, adjustments to scheduling to help support players, expanded childcare and calls for a member of the PTPA to be present on the WTA Player’s Council.

The WTA has also been in the firing line concerning their management of the Tour finals which took place in Cancun last month and was won by Switek. Some of those who took part complained about the court conditions and lack of preparation they had. The stadium court wasn’t fully constructed until the same weekend the tournament began. 

Although, for the world No.1 her principle criticism concerns the 2024 calendar and the rules in place reagrding playing in mandatory events. Swiatek says some of the decisions have been made following discussions with ‘third parties’ and believes players are not being listened to. 

“There is room for improvement,” she said during an interview with newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“As players, we are dissatisfied with the calendar for next year and the increase in the number of mandatory tournaments and restrictions related to withdrawing from them.’
“We want to change this. We need more balance and time to get back home. Sometimes, however, we beat our heads against the wall. Some decisions seem to be the result of promises made to third parties, federations and tournament organizers.’
“We find out about them after the fact. This causes frustration. Only a handful of players were aware of the calendar reform and the WTA cannot lead to such a situation again, since it considers itself an organization created for tennis players.”

The 22-year-old argues that these changes would give players more time to rest and see their families. Although Swiatek admits that she is in a more fortunate situation than some of her peers from a financial perspective. This season the Pole has earned $9,857,686 in prize money this year which is more than any other female player. 

“I hope that we will be able to change something – for example in the rules regarding withdrawing from tournaments,” she continued.
“Fortunately, I am in a situation where I can afford for my family to go on a trip with me, but not everyone can afford it. Many players rather save all their money to pay their coaches.’
“However, there is a difference between taking your family with you and returning home, when you can wash your clothes and spend time in the place where you grew up. I often miss Warsaw.”

Swiatek has won 68 out of 79 matches played this season, claiming six titles on the Tour. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. She currently has a 245-point lead over second-place Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA standings. 

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‘A Long Way to Go’ – Iga Swiatek Must Improve A Key Element Of Her Game, Says Navratilova



Martina Navratilova has hailed Iga Swiatek’s winning end to her season but believes the Pole needs to continue working on a certain aspect of her game to become a better player. 


Swiatek reclaimed the world No.1 ranking during the WTA Finals where she clinched the year-end title in Mexico. She closes out the year on an 11-match winning streak after also winning the China Open before playing at the WTA Finals. Overall, she has reached the semi-finals or better at 12 out of 17 Tour events played and has won 68 out of 79 matches during 2023. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. 

Now sitting at the top of the WTA rankings with a 245-point lead over second place Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has begun her off-season which is the period that players normally use to work on their game. 

As to what she needs to work on, Navratilova believes a key issue for the four-time Grand Slam champion involves her volleying technique. Speaking to, Navratilova says there is ‘still a long way to go’ for the former world No.1 but adds that she will become a more formidable player on the Tour if she makes improvements. 

“The thing I’d target is getting to the net. I mean, she’s gotten better but there’s still a long way to go on the volley front, particularly that first volley — the transition volley, which is probably the most difficult shot in the game,” said Navratilova. 
“I think that’s where she can improve the most. Iga still has a tendency to run back to the baseline when she really should be going forward. And if she gets that going? Watch out. She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.”

Continuing her analysis, the 67-year-old believes Swiatek can also increase the speed of her serves even more. 

“She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.” She added. 

Navratilova has also highlighted areas that she believes other players need to work on. In her view, Sabalenka’s goal should be to work more on her movement during matches. Meanwhile, for US Open champion Coco Gauff, the development of her forehand will play an important part in her game. 

Swiatek ends the season with five WTA titles to her name. 

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Naomi Osaka Eager To Reclaim No.1 Spot, Says Coach




Naomi Osaka is targeting a return to the very top of the women’s game when she begins her comeback, according to a member of her team. 


Performance coach Florian Zitzelsberger has told that the four-time Grand Slam champion is ‘balanced and happy’ with herself after taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, a baby girl called Shai. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since the 2022 Pan Pacific Open and currently doesn’t have a ranking due to her inactivity. She has already confirmed her intention to resume her tennis career in 2024 but it is still unclear as to what her first tournament will be.

Providing a glimpse into Osaka’s current progress, Zitzelsberger says she is setting her sights on chasing after more Grand Slam titles. Zitzelsberger is the co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie and has worked with Osaka in the past. He has also collaborated with the likes of Kevin Anderson, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova. 

“Where she is today is what makes working with her so inspiring,” he said. “She wants to get back to world No. 1, she wants to win Grand Slams. She gives me the impression of someone who is totally balanced and happy with herself. She’s very much grounded, mature and embracing the beauty of motherhood.”

In recent months there has been a growing trend of players returning to the sport after giving birth. Notable examples include Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki.

Zitzelsberger says his recent work with Osaka has been getting her back into shape and then working on certain areas of her game. 

“To reach the highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby!” He explains. 
“Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”

Part of the training process has been trying to change what type of player Osaka is to adapt to the current level of the women’s Tour. After winning the 2021 Australian Open, she only reached one more Tour final which was the following year in Miami. During this period, she struggled with some injury issues and has been open about her experiences with mental health. 

“She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” Zitzelsberger commented.
We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot.”

Osaka has won seven WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $21M in prize money. 

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