Kovinic, Kudermetova Both Aim For First WTA Tour Title In Chartleston - UBITENNIS
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Kovinic, Kudermetova Both Aim For First WTA Tour Title In Chartleston

Tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper James Beck reflects on the women’s semi-final matches.

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Veronika Kudermetova (image via https://twitter.com/VolvoCarOpen)

Who would have thought last weekend when the Volvo Car Open published its initial draw that two players with a combined world ranking of 129 would be playing for their first WTA Tour title in Sunday’s final of the WTA 500 event in Charleston, S.C.?

 

But that’s the case. Take your pick between 91st-ranked Danta Kovinic of Montenegro and 38th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Both played well in Saturday’s semifinals while facing players who also have never won a WTA Tour tournament title.

THE STARS LEFT EARLY

All of that is pretty surprising, especially when you consider that nine of the world’s top 20 players were scheduled to play in the tournament just a week ago. Four of those top 20 players had either withdrawn or retired before the quarter-finals, while three other top 20 players lost in the second round and the other two had fallen before the quarter-finals ended.

Is it possible that some of these stars didn’t bring their hearts to Charleston? Or is it that some of the upstarts might have had more incentive to fight to the end?

The likes of Kovinic and Kudermetova wore their hearts on their rackets in Saturday’s semifinals. Both demonstrated tremendous aggressiveness, the same type of fight that Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Spain’s Paula Badosa had demonstrated a day earlier in the quarter-finals when Jabeur upended young Cori Gauff and Badosa upset world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty.

JABEUR, BADOSA WEREN’T THE SAME

 Jabeur and Badosa appeared to lose their fire on Saturday. That made Kovinic and Kudermetova even more dangerous as they played with even more motivation.

Jabeur was missing drop shots and beaten by Kovinic’s eagerness to rush forward  on other drop shots. Jabeur was only a shadow of the player she had been a day earlier as she lacked her usual consistency with her serve and ground strokes. Kovinic, who in her only other meeting with Jabeur had won only three games in an ITF tournament, sailed past the 28th-ranked Jabeur, 6-3, 6-2, this time.

That left Jabeur as the only world’s top 30 player without a WTA Tour title.

KUDERMETOVA FULL OF FIGHT

Kudermetova was full of fight against 2015 Junior French Open champion Badosa, who suddenly couldn’t find the court. Kudermetova aced Badosa to end the 6-3, 6-3 victory as Kudermetova will go into Sunday’s final without having dropped a set in the tournament.

Like against Badosa, Kudermetova is confident in that she defeated Kovinic in a qualifying tournament four years ago.

Both of Kudermetova’s two trips to a WTA Tour final have occurred this year, and both included victories over Badosa.

It should be an exciting final with everything on the line for the finalists.

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. See his Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com and search for James Beck.

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Daniil Medvedev Searching For Confidence Boost Ahead Of Wimbledon

The two-time Grand Slam finalist says he is not the same player as he was two years ago when he last played Wimbledon.

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When it comes to playing on the grass this year Daniil Medvedev admits that the biggest issue for him might concern the mental side of the sport as opposed to the physical side.

 

The world No.2 kicked-off his grass swing last week in Halle where he was stunned in the first round by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the Tour in 2020, that was the first time the Russian had played a match on the surface in almost two years. Short on matches, Medvedev is back in action this week in Mallorca after taking a wildcard into the tournament.

“I like to play on grass, I just need to get some confidence in my game on the surface, because we didn’t play [on it] for two years. Two years ago, I was not the same player as I am right now,” Medvedev told atptour.com. “It is tough for me to say where I see myself, but I know I can play very good on this surface. I just need to find the right balance.”

Since he last played at Wimbledon, Medvedev surged on the ATP Tour by winning six titles with all of them being on a hardcourt. Furthermore, he also reached the final of the US Open in 2019 and the Australian Open this year. He is the first player outside of the Big Four to be ranked in the world’s top two since July 2005.

Despite his previous success on the grass, Medvedev admits he remains wary about playing on the surface and the conditions he may face.

“When I started playing on grass, I played in Challengers and even in [ATP] Tour tournaments on the outside courts, not on the central courts, and I can tell that the central courts are quite slow,” he said. “Especially the match I played with Gilles Simon at Queen’s [Club], we had rallies of 40 shots every second point. That is what makes it a little bit tougher.
“When I practise on practice courts, I feel like I am playing so good as the ball is so fast. Then I come onto the centre court to play the match, and the ball just stops after the bounce, and you have to adapt your game, so it can be tough. But I know I can play really well on grass.”

In Mallorca Medvedev has a bye in the first round. His opening match will be against either South Africa’s Lloyd Harris or France’s Corentin Moutet.

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Samsonova Battles Past Bencic To Win Maiden Title In Berlin, Gets Wimbledon Wild Card

The Russian qualifier has stunned the tournament with a run that also seen her defeat Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

Liudmila Samsonova is the 2021 Bett1 Open champion after pulling off another upset by beating number five seed Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a capacity crowd on Steffi Graff Stadion under hot and humid conditions.

 

The 22-year-old underdog caps off what has been a fairytale run in Germany for the qualifier. Prior to the tournament Samsonova had never beaten a top 20 player in her career or reached a Tour final. Against Bencic she hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors and won 66% of her service points.

” I was so nervous today even before the match and during the first set so after the first set I took a toilet break and told myself to play a more aggressive game and it worked,” Samsonova said following her triumph.

It was world No.12 Bencic who got off to a fast start by holding serve comfortably and than the following game setting up the first break chance with a return forehand winner before the Russian would double fault twice in a row to give the early break. At 3-0 the Swiss found herself again at double breakpoint and managed to seal the it en route to taking the first set in just 28 minutes.

However, the second set was the total opposite with underdog Samsonova holding serve and breaking the very next game with a powerful forehand winner. Like Bencic in the first set, she turned her lead into a double break and served out the second set.

The Russian carried the momentum into the third and deciding set earning a chance to break in the first game and the world No.12 would double fault to give the break. At 4-2 the world No.106 had a chance to go up a double break but Bencic managed to save it and hold serve before going on the offensive. The Swiss had two chances of her own to go back on serve but the Russian saved all three breakpoints she faced.

At 5-3 the Samsonova had two chances to seal the match and the title on her opponents serve. Bencic saved the first one but the world number 106 would seal the win on the second.

In her post match press conference Samsonova explained how once she levelled the match was able to close it out.

” I was trying to keep my game going and try to be aggressive on my first shot and my serve and on the return and that is what I was focusing on”.

The young Russian now has her sights sets on Wimbledon as she awarded a main draw wild card after the match.

“They just told me that I’m going to have the wildcard for the main draw, so I’m so happy,” she said.

Samsonova is the 10th first-time WTA champion this season.

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Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka To Team Up For Olympic Bid

The two players say their main focus is on playing singles but a ‘great opportunity’ has presented itself.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

The two highest ranked WTA players from Belarus are being considered as strong contenders to win an Olympic medal later this year after they recently confirmed plans to join forces.

 

Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are set to play in the women’s doubles tournament despite only playing together five times before on the WTA Tour. The duo has illustrated their potential at the Bett1 Open in Berlin, where they clinched the title on Sunday. In the final the pair upset top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, to claim their first ever trophy together.

We both brought a different level, mindset than a few years ago. It was important to play together to feel each other’s game, see what we can try, apply what works, what we can work on. Our priority is singles but it’s a great opportunity at the Olympics to team up,” WTA Insider quoted Azarenka as saying following the final on Sunday.

Whilst they are both best known for their singles game, they have also had previous success in the doubles. Sabalenka won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open alongside Elise Mertens, as well as three Premier titles.

“We’ll play at the Olympics. To win a title, it gives us a lot of confidence and we feel each other better and players will know that we are playing good with each other and it’s more confidence for us and more pressure for other players,” the world No.4 commented.

Azarenka has already enjoyed success at the Olympics in her career. In 2012 she defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in straight sets to win a bronze medal. During the same year she won gold in the mixed doubles alongside Max Mirnyi. Making her the only Belarusian tennis player in history to have won multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park and will get underway on July 24th.

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