COMMENT: The French Open Women's Finalists Are Worth Watching - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Latest news

COMMENT: The French Open Women’s Finalists Are Worth Watching

Columnist James Beck reflects on what has been a very unpredictable women’s tournament at Roland Garros.

Avatar

Published

on

Barbora Krejcikova - Roland Garros 2021 (via Twitter, @rolandgarros)

This French Open hasn’t looked like a Grand Slam women’s championship since the first couple of rounds.

 

At first glance, the final four players looked more like a low-level WTA Tour tournament semifinal field with only one top 30 player still around. And now Saturday’s final features No. 32-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia against No. 33-ranked Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic.

They aren’t household names yet.

The setting is pretty gloomy on the surface for the same court that will play host to maybe the most important and most intriguing meeting of the Rafa Nadal-Novak Djokovic long-running rivalry.

FROM OBSCURITY TO GRAND SLAM SINGLES CHAMPION

But there’s more to this women’s final than you might expect, considering the participants and their obscurity until the last few weeks.

Especially in the case of Krejcikova.

This 25-year-old who had never been heard from in singles until she won the WTA tournament  in Strasbourg, France, the week before the French Open.  She is a former world’s No. 1 doubles player, but as neat to watch as doubles are, doubles rankings are rather insignificant to the average tennis fan.

Not everyone keeps up with the doubles rankings except the players at/or near the top of the list.

Just the same, Krejcikova and long-time doubles partner Katerina Siniakova are in the French Open doubles semifinals. The pair won French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles back-to-back in 2018. They also teamed up as juniors to win three of the four junior Grand Slams in doubles — French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Krejcikova also has been part of the last three title-winning Australian Open mixed doubles teams.

KREJCIKOVA MASTER OF BACKHAND DOWN THE LINE

But watching Krejcikova score victories over 17-year-old want-to-be superstar Cori Gauff in the quarterfinals and then 25-year-old Greek Maria Sakkari in the semifinals was spine-tingling, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Ranked at No. 18 currently, Sakkari was the only top 30 player still playing when the semifinals rolled around.

Krejcikova can turn the simplest-looking shot into a nightmare. She is totally unpredictable . . . until the match is on the line. Then she often becomes sheer perfection. Her backhand down the line is one of the best-kept secrets in women’s tennis.

She treats the lob as a weapon, playing moon-ball tennis at times to get her opponent out of sync. And the tactic worked numerous times down the stretch in her amazing 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 win over Sakkari on Thursday.

CZECH STANDOUT WINS MATCH TWICE

The 5-9 Czech player had to win the match twice in the last game. That was the result of the chair umpire ruling on match point No. 4 that Sakkari had hit a winner, over-ruling Hawkeye and then ordering the point to be played over. Sakkari then won that point and the next one in a show of aggressiveness to move within one point of evening the score at 8-8.

But Sakkari then committed a pair of errors to give Krejcikova a fifth match point. This time, the Czech turned a Sakkari drop shot into a Krejcikova winner, naturally a backhand down the line, to complete the match in 198 minutes.

Of course, Krejcikova had to fight off one match point herself in the 10th game of the final set before evening the set at 5-5 by winning a moon-ball battle with one of her backhand winners.

WOMEN’S DRAW FELL APART EARLY

Among current top 10 players, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek was the lone member left in the field before she lost to Sakkari in the quarterfinals. And Swiatek, Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin were the only top 10 players around for the round of 16.

With 1-2-3 Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka and Simon Halep falling to injuries or personal decisions in the case of Osaka, the women’s draw started to fall apart by the second round and never let up.

All of that opened the doors for Krejcikova and Pavlyuchenkova to compete for the prize of their lifetimes Saturday morning on the red clay of Roland Garros.

See James Beck’s Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier columns at postandcourier.com (search on James Beck column). James Beck can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Latest news

Venus Williams Explains Met Gala Photo With Maria Sharapova

The former world No.1 says she and her sister Serena have ‘respect and love’ for Sharapova.

Avatar

Published

on

Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams at the 20201 Met Gala (image via Instagram)

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says there are no hard feelings between her, her sister Serena and Maria Sharapova after the trio took a photo together at the Met Gala.

 

The former world No.1s was seen smiling and laughing together at the New York fundraising event with both of the Williams sisters uploading a photo of them all on their Instagram story. Prompting surprise from some fans considering the at times icy rivalry between Serena and Sharapova that dates back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Serena’s name more than 100 times. She says the American hated her for beating her at Wimbledon that year and that the two were ‘not friends.’

“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”

Responding to the claims, Serena hit back at the book in 2018 by describing it as ‘hearsay’ and said she never had any ‘negative feelings’ towards Sharapova. The two clashed on the Tour no fewer than 22 times with Serena winning 20 of those meetings.

“So I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book,” Williams commented back in 2018. “So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.”

Three years later and it now seems that all parties have put their disagreements behind them. At the Met Gala they were seen getting on pretty well. Besides posing for a photo together, they were also seen together in the bathroom at the event. A photo taken by pop star Anitta and rapper Saweetie which showed them in the background.

Speaking about the event for the first time, 41-year-old Williams said she wishes Sharapova was still playing before adding that they still ‘respect and love’ each other.

“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained on Instagram.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria
.”

Williams, Serena and Sharapova have won a total of 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

Continue Reading

Latest news

Belinda Bencic cruises past Zarina Diyas to reach the quarter final in Luxemburg

Avatar

Published

on

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised past Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-3 to reach the quarter final at the WTA Tournament in Luxemburg 

 

Bencic broke three times and converted her second set point to win the first set 6-1. Diyas earned her first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Bencic broke broke straight back in the fourth game and sealed the second set 6-3 with another break in the sixth game. 

The Swiss player sealed the second set on her second match point. 

Bencic set up a match against Liudmila Samsonova, who beat the Swiss player in the Berlin final last June. Former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko beat Arianne Hartono 6-2 4-6 6-1. Hartono started the first set with a break in the opening game. Ostapenko broke straight back on the second game and earned two breaks in the sixth and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. Both Hartono and Ostapenko won a service game at love. Hartono broke serve at 2-2 and raced out to 4-2. The Dutch player hit some winners and broke Ostapenko at 4-3. Ostapenko broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to win the third set 6-1. 

Continue Reading

Latest news

Emma Raducanu Launches Own Weibo Account With Viral Video

In her first video, the teenage sensation promised to play in China next year.

Avatar

Published

on

Emma Raducanu reacts after winning a Women's Singles semifinal match at the 2021 US Open, Thursday, Sep. 9, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu is gaining a rapidly growing fan base in China with her first video on the social media account Weibo surpassing one million views in less than two days.

 

The 18-year-old has become one of the most talked about athletes in the world of tennis following her unprecedented run to the US Open title. At the Grand Slam she didn’t drop a single set in 10 matches played to become the first qualifier in history to ever win a major title. Even more remarkable was the fact Raducanu was playing in a Grand Slam main draw for only the second time in her career.

In her native UK bookmakers are already tipping the youngster as a strong contender to win this year’s prestigious BBC Sports personality of the Year award. Although it isn’t just Britain where she is proving to be a hit. Raducanu was actually born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother who both work in the finance section. The family moved to the UK when Raducanu was two-years-old.

“My mum comes from a Chinese background. They have very good self-belief. It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture,” she said.
“She’s always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me, so I think that having parents like I do, they always push me, they have high expectations so I’ve always tried to live up to that. And I just hope I did them proud this week and I’m going to keep trying to go, keep going.”

Shortly after her US Open win, the world No.23 delivered a message in mandarin which was posted on the tournament’s Weibo account. SportsPro Media reports that the video generated more than 11 million impressions.

Now Raducanu has launched her own Weibo account with a video message to her fans. Shine.cn, which is a website powered by Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily, said that the British player has promised to play in the country next year. This season’s Asian swing has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Shine also said she spoke with a slight ‘accent from northeast China’ where her mother is from.

According to the latest view count, the video has been watched more than 1.22 million times since it was published. The view count may look impressive but it is by no means a one off. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that two hashtags related to Raducanu on Weibo have been viewed at least 200M times each as a result of her US Open win. These hashtags were ‘18-year-old ethnic Chinese young player wins US open championship‘ and ‘Raducanu.’

Despite her relative inexperience on the Tour, many are tipping Raducanu to become one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Her ability to interact with the Chinese market will play a significant role in those considering the country has invested millions into the sport and hosts a series of prestigious women’s events. However, in the immediate future the teenager says her focus is on the tennis.

“I have a few days’ rest and recovery – I think needed after the last seven weeks,” she told CNBC’s Closing Bell earlier this week.
“But then I am straight back to training and hungry to get better and come back out and play some more tournaments.”

Besides Weibo, Raducanu also has over 583,000 followers on Twitter, 1.9M Instagram followers and 63,000 followers on her official Facebook page.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending