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 Four of those top 20 players had either withdrawn or retired before the quarter-finals, while three other top 20 players lost in the second round and the other two had fallen before the quarter-finals ended.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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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

Tomas Martin Etchevery edged past 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-7 (0-7) 6-4  scoring the biggest win of his career. 

Arthur Rinderknech came back from one set down to beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Rinderknech set up a second round against third seed Diego Schwartzman. 

Emil Ruusuvuori broke serve five times in his 6-3 6-2 win over J.J Wolf. 

Sebastian Korda beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 6-4 6-4 setting up a second round match against Maxime Cressy. Novak Djokovic is the top seed of the Tel Aviv tournament, which returns for the first time since 2021.

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Holger Rune reaches the second round at the Sofia Open

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Danish Next Gen rising star Holger Rune edged past Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round at the Sofia Open in his first appearance at this tournament. 

 

Both players went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Rune earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks in the first two games. There was little to separate both players in the next games, which went on serve en route to the tie-break. Rune saved a set point at 5-6 in the tie-break of the second set and won the final three points to close out the second set 8-6. 

Rune won his first title in Munich and reached his maiden Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros. 

 “I did not want to go to three sets. I had the break and led 5-2 in the second set tie-break. If it had happened, I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I am very happy to win in two. I am really working hard every day and trying to improve any small things I can. I think today I stayed very focused all the time. I lost my focus one time on serve, when maybe I should not have been broken, but other than that I am very happy with my first match. The first match is always a  bit difficult”, said Rune. 

Australia’s Alexander Vukic beat Fabio Fognini 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 after 1 hour and 11 minutes. Vukic broke serve in the fifth game to take a 4-2 lead. Fognini converted his fourth break-back point to draw level to 4-4 before saving a break point at 5-5. Fognini went up a 6-3 lead, but he wasted six set points in the tie-break. Vukic closed out the tie-break 13-11 on his third set point. 

Fognini earned a break to take a 2-1 lead. Vukic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 in the fourth game. Fognini lost four consecutive points from 4-5 30-0. Vukic earned the decisive break on his first match point to seal the second set 7-5. 

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