Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejikova are the first players to qualify for the 2021 Finals - UBITENNIS
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Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejikova are the first players to qualify for the 2021 Finals

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Reigning champion Ashleigh Barty, WTA World number 2 Aryna Sabalenka and this year’s Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejicikova are the first three players to qualify for the 2021 WTA Finals, to be held in Guadalajara. 

 

Barty has won a tour-leading five titles across all three surfaces this season at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, in Miami, where she defended her title, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. The Australian player is at the top on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals and qualifies for the season-end finale as the defending champion. She claimed the WTA Finals Billie Jean King Trophy in 2019 in Shenzhen. 

Aryna Sabalenka will make her singles debut at the Billie Jean King Trophy WTA finals. She has become the first player from Belarus to qualify for the WTA Finals in singles since Victoria Azarenka, who reached the final in 2011 and qualified for the last time in 2013. Sabalenka has won two finals from three finals, including the season-opener in Abu Dhabi and at the Madrid Mutua Open, and reached the final in Stuttgart losing to Barty. She also reached her first two semifinals at Wimbledon and at the US Open. 

Barbora Krejicikova will be the first player to play both singles and doubles tournaments since Karolina Pliskova in 2016. The Czech player reached her first tour-level singles final since Nurnberg 2017 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. She clinched two titles on French soil in Strasbourg and at Roland Garros. She reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and won a title on home soil in Prague. She made her top 20 debut at number 15 and reached the world number 10 and reached two consecutive quarter finals at Cincinnati and at the US Open.

Krejcikova will team up with Katerina Siniakova in their consecutive WTA Finals in the doubles tournament. Krejicikova and Siniakova reached their best result when they finished runner-up in 2018. The Czech team also qualified for the first edition held in Shenzhen in 2019. They are bidding to become the first Czech team to clinch the WTA Finals Martina Navratilova Trophy. They have claimed three doubles titles at the Gippsland Open in Melbourne, Madrid Mutua Open and at Roland Garros (their third Grand Slam doubles title as a team after Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018. They reached the final at this year’s Australian Open and won the 2021 Olympic doubles medal in Tokyo 2021. 

Shuki Aoyama and Ena Shibahara have become the first Japanese doubles players to qualify for the WTA Finals in doubles since Ai Sugiyama in 2008, when she reached the semifinal with Katarina Srebotnik. 

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Simona Halep cruises through to the second round with a straight-set win over Anastasia Potapova in Moscow

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Simona Halep cruised through to the second round at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow with a 6-1 6-4 win over Anastasia Potapova after 90 minutes. 

 

Halep has extended her winning record against Potapova after beating her Russian rival in their only previous head-to-head match at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne last winter. The Romanian star is making her first appearance since she won the title in 2013.

Four of the first six six games went to deuce. Halep went up an early break to take a 2-0 lead. Potapova broke straight back, but Halep earned two breaks at deuce to take a 5-1 lead before serving out the set at love. 

Four of the first six games of the second set went against serve. Halep converted the first of her two break points to take a 5-4 lead. As Halep was serving for the match at 5-4, Potapova earned three break points.

Halep saved them, before converting her second match point to secure her spot in the second round, where she will face world number 32 Veronika Kudemertova. Halep beat Kudemertova 6-1 6-3 in the third round at this year’s Australian Open. Kudemertova came back from one set down to beat Oksana Selekmetheva 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 after 2 hous and 20 minutes. 

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Andy Murray battles past Frances Tiafoe in a marathon match in Antwerp

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Andy Murray battled past Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) in a marathon match after 3 hours and 45 minutes to advance to the second rund at the European Open in Antwerp. 

 

Murray came back from a set down in the first set before prevailing in the tie-break. 

Tiafoe opened up a 3-1 lead with an early break in the third game and a hold. Murray reduced the deficit to 2-3 before Tiafoe needed a medical time-out to treat a back problem. Murray broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Both players traded breaks in the next two games. Tiafoe wasted a set point. Murray closed out the tie-break with two mini-breaks followed by two consecutive aces.

Both players fended off break points to stay on serve in the second set. Murray saved a set point to hold and forced the second set to to another tie-break. Murray hit a forehand down the centre of the court to open up a 3-1 lead. Tiafoe pulled back on serve after a return into the net from Murray. Tiafoe earned two mini-breaks to take a 4-3 lead. The US player hit a forehand down the line to earn a set point, but Murray saved it to draw level to 6-6. Tiafoe converted his sixth set point with a forehand half-volley to win the 81-minute second set forcing the match to the third set. 

Tiafoe earned a break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, but Murray broke straight back to draw level to 3-3. Murray saved two break points to hold for 4-3. Tiafoe held serve to draw level to 5-5 forcing the decider to a third tie-break. Both players earned two mini-breaks in the tie-break before Murray gained a two-point lead, but Tiafoe drew level to 5-5. Murray saved two match points before sealing the win with a backhand dropshot, which Tiafoe could return into the net. 

Murray avenged a defeat against Tiafoe, who beat the Scotsman in the second round at Winston Salem last August. 

Murray will face Diego Schwartzman on Thursday. 

“I think it’s the longest three-set match I have played by quite a distance. I am tired right now, obviously it was an unbelievable battle. Nowadays, obviously my body is old now. I have played a lot of matches on the Tour. I don’t mind playing long matches, but that was taking it to another level. Brilliant match. Amazing atmosphere. Thanks to everyone who came and supported. It’s just so nice. To be back and playing in front of crowd again”, said Murray.  

Murray and Tiafoe played the longest best-of-three set match of 2021, improving the previous record set by Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who played for 3 hours and 38 minutes in the Barcelona final. 

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Jenson Brooksby upsets Reilly Opelka to boost his chance to qualify for the Next Gen Finals in Milan

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US Next Gen rising star Jenson Brooksby continues his chase for a spot in the Next Gen Finals in Milan with a 6-4 6-4 win over Reilly Opelka after 1 hour and 12 minutes. 

 

Brooksby earned his first break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. Opelka saved two break points to hold serve at deuce, as he serving to stay in the first set. Brooksby served out the first set in the 10th game before breaking at love in the fourth game to seal the second set 6-4.

Brookby won a set against Novak Djokovic in the fourth round at the US Open and lost the semifinal against Jannik in Washington this year. 

“It’s been a great year. I am happy. I feel like I have been focused, playing well. I will hopefully finish this year strong. He has definitely got one of the best serves on Tour. I thought we had a good game plan. I have been hitting them well and executed pretty well here, so I am happy with that”, said Brooskby. 

Brooksby will face this year’s US Open quarter finalist Botic van de Zandschulp. 

Another US Next Gen player Brandon Nakashima cruised past Alex De Minaur 6-4 6-0. Nakashima converted five of his ten break points. 

De Minaur converted his second break point in the fifth game at deuce to take a 3-2 lead. Nakashima broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Nakashima broke serve on his third chance at deuce to close out the first set 6-4 and earned three more breaks to take a bagel win in the second set. 

Nakashima reached his first two ATP Tour finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta. 

Lorenzo Musetti beat Gianluca Mager 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-3) after 2 hours and 8 minutes in the all-Italian first round match. Musetti set up a Next Gen clash against his compatriot Jannik Sinner, who won their only previous clash 6-7 7-6 6-3 in the pre-qualifying round of the Rome Internazionali d’Italia. Mager earned the first break in the third game at deuce to take a 2-1 lead. Musetti pulled back on serve in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3, but he dropped his serve in the seventh game to trail 3-4. Musetti broke back in the 10th game to draw level to draw level to 5-5. Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Musetti earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

Musetti did not convert two break points in the first and third games of the second set. Mager earned a set point in the 10th game, but Musetti saved it to force the set to the tie-break. Musetti earned three match points at 6-3 with his fourth mini-break and converted his first chance with a spectacular serve and volley.  

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