Maria Sakkari Knocks Out Top Seed Sabalenka At WTA Finals - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari Knocks Out Top Seed Sabalenka At WTA Finals

The Greek has vowed to ‘fight’ her way to the final after coming through a marathon match.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider/

Maria Sakkari has booked her place in the last four of the WTA Finals on her debut after outlasting top seed Aryna Sabalenka in a roller-coaster showdown.

 

Sakkari, who first broke into the world’s top 10 earlier this year, required almost three hours to defeat the Belarussian 7-6(1), 6-7(6), 6-3 in what was a marathon encounter. The match was full of twists and turns with there being 14 breaks of serve occurring with eight of those being a Sabalenka service game. After losing a closely contested second set tiebreaker, the Greek found herself down 1-3 in the decider before fighting back by winning five games in a row.

“I think it was a rollercoaster match from both of us,” Sakkari said. “I was up a break, then she was up a break. It was just a matter of who took the chances. I think at the end I just played with my heart and fought well, just turned things around.”

The world No.6 had lost her last four meetings against Sabalenka prior to their clash in Mexico. It is the first time she has beaten her since the 2019 Cincinnati Open which was their maiden Tour meeting. She is now 5-0 against top five opponents this season.

“Obviously last time we played was in Abu Dhabi this year,” Sakkari reflected. “I think my level is different today than back then. Obviously she has been having a very good season.
“I think I’m just closer to them now. My ranking shows that, my results shows that. It’s just that I’m really getting closer to them. I proved to myself and everyone that I can beat them like I did today.”

The 26-year-old heads into the semi-finals with two wins and a loss to her name from the group stages. She also defeated Iga Swiatek in straight sets before losing to Paula Badosa. Badosa is the other member of the Chichén Itzá group to have qualified for the knockout stages.

As for Sabalenka, she exits her final tournament of the year in frustration. In her latest match, she produced a costly 19 double faults and 56 unforced errors.

“I just couldn’t find my rhythm,” Sabalenka said. “The whole match I was really struggling with my serve. On some moments I found it, and on some moments I couldn’t do anything with my serve. It’s a tough match. Just crazy how bad I was serving in the last matches, especially this week. I guess a lot of work in the pre-season I will do.”

Sakkari will take on Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit for a place in the final on Tuesday. Kontaveit was the last player to secure a spot in the tournament after a surge in wins within recent weeks. The Estonian has won 12 out of her last 13 matches played and is bidding to win her third title in a row.

“I’m going to fight for it, do whatever I can to advance to the final. I just really want to enjoy tomorrow’s match because the atmosphere here is just unreal.” Sakkari stated.
“I’m not going to have so much time to rest. My fitness level is, I believe, one of the best on tour, without being arrogant, but I believe fitness is one of my strengths. I’ll do everything to recover. If Anett is better tomorrow, it’s too good. But I’ll try to recover and just take advantage of the good things I felt today on the court.”

Sakkari, who is seeded fourth in the draw, is the highest ranked player to progress to the knockout stages.

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Rafael Nadal To Skip ATP Cup Ahead Of Australian Open

Where will the former world No.1 play his first tournament of 2022?

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WASHINGTON, USA - August 4: Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Citi Open Tennis Tournament at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center on August 4, 2021 in Washington, USA (Photo by Peter Staples)

20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will not be starting his season at the ATP Cup in Australia, according to a leading sports newspaper.

 

Marca has reported that the former world No.1 has opted to not play in the team event which is set to get underway on January 1st. Nadal is currently on the comeback from a foot injury and hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since August. Next month he will return to action in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship which is an exhibition event.

“I am very happy to be back at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi,” Nadal said in a video released earlier this week. “I hope to see you soon there.”

It is understood that due to his off-season schedule Nadal has chosen to pass on the team event but it is unclear as to what or if he will play in any other events leading up to the Australian Open which will begin on January 17th. Besides the ATP Cup, four ATP 250 events will be staged in the lead up to the Grand Slam.

The 35-year-old isn’t the only top Spanish name set to miss the ATP Cup. It has also been reported that rising star Carlos Alcaraz and Marcel Granollerswill not be playing as they intend to arrive in Australia at a later date. Instead the team will be headed by Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta. Unlike the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup offers both ranking points and prize money to players.

Nadal has won 24 out of 29 matches played on the Tour this year before ending his season due to injury. He won the Italian Masters and Barcelona Open to increase his career ATP title tally to 88. In the majors he reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semi-finals of the French Open.

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Former Australian Davis Cup Players Slam Organisers Over Reported Move To Abu Dhabi

Todd Woodbridge and Sam Groth has hit out at the rumoured changes.

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TORINO, ITALY - NOVEMBER 29: Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2021 at Pala Alpitour on November 29, 2021 in Torino, Italy. (Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

The most successful Australian doubles player in Davis Cup history has said he doesn’t believe the historic team event will still be going in five years time.

 

Todd Woodbridge, who played in 32 Davis Cup ties during his career, has called for the tennis administrators who approved changes to be made to the event to resign from their positions. In 2018 at the International Tennis Federation’s ATM, officials voted in favour of transforming the event into a weeklong finals. The changes are being overseen by investment firm Kosmos who has pledged to invest $3bn over a 25-year period.

This year’s ATP Finals is taking place across three cities in Europe with the final being held in Madrid for the second time in a row. However, it is understood that Kosmos will reveal their plans to the ITF this week to move the event to Abu Dhabi. According to The Telegraph, Kosmos are set to purpose the group stages to be held in Europe with the eight qualified teams then having to travel to Abu Dhabi. It is reported that the deal to move the event to the Middle East, which Kosmos founder Gerald Pique reportedly struck himself, is the only ‘viable option’ being presented. Although there are concerns from some.

Reacting to the development, Woodbridge has blasted the move during an interview with Wide World of Sports. The former world No.1 doubles player has accused Kosmos of destroying the competition and not paying any consideration to its history.

There is an announcement coming in the next few days that it (the Davis Cup Finals) will be moved to Abu Dhabi. It will be a 14 day event finishing in mid December. What player in their right mind is going to go to Abu Dhabi and give themselves two weeks off before starting the new season?” Woodbridge commented.
“The people who are making these decisions really need to look at themselves because this event I don’t think will be with us in five year times.”

Joining Woodbridge in his opposition is former world No.53 Sam Groth who claims that players are being attracted to play the event due to ‘payment on the backside.’ He has also accused world No.1 Novak Djokovic of double standards.

I can tell you the sort of players who are going to show up to a 14-day event in Abu Dhabi and it is the ones that are currently defending the event that I’m sure are having some payment on the backside to support what is now called the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals,” said Groth.
“This is not the Davis Cup but the players who are going to turn up are exactly like Novak Djokovic up who has refuted Lleyton’s comments about the tournament needing a change, it needs to be adjusted and needs to be played in different cities. I don’t have facts on this but I believe there is something going on with this group (Kosmos) is spending a lot of money and they have big financial backers in Abu Dhabi. Also for a guy who wants a shorter season and to support something that goes into mid December it is very contradictory.”

The International Tennis Federation will formally announce the new location of the Davis Cup Finals on Sunday in what will be a joint media presentation with Kosmos.

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Croatia beats Italy to book semifinal spot in the Davis Cup

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Croatia upset Italy 2-1 in the quarter finals of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals at the Pala Alpitour in Turin to reach the semifinal, as Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic beat Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-4 in the decisive double match. 

 

Borna Gojo gave Croatia an early 1-0 lead over Italy in the quarter finals of the Davis Cup quarter finals at the Pala Alpitour in Turin after his 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-2 win against Lorenzo Sonego after 2 hours and 19 minutes. 

Sonego went up a 4-1 lead with a break in the fourth game, but he did not convert a double break point in the sixth game. Gojo broke back at 30 in the seventh game. The Croatian player won five consecutive points from 2-2 to win the tie-break 7-2. 

Sonego went up a 4-0 lead with a double break in the second set. The world number 27 player saved three break-back points. He held serve in the seventh game with two aces to seal the set 6-2. 

Gojo earned a break in the fourth game of the third set to take a 3-1 lead and held serve for 4-1. Sonego earned two break-back points in the seventh game, but Gojo saved them with a backhand volley and a first serve. The world number 279 held serve with an ace to open up a 5-2 lead and sealed the decisive set 6-2 with his second break.

“It feels amazing. We knew we had to get one point from the two singles.The support was unbelievable. They are so loud. Some of my best friends and family are here and I want to thank them with all my heart for comng”, said Gojo. 

Jannik Sinner came back from one set down to edge Marin Cilic 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 drawing level the tie to 1-1. 

Cilic rallied from 15-40 down to break serve on his second opportunity in the fourth game of the opening set. Both players held their next service games. Cilic served out the first set 6-3 in the ninth game after recovering from 0-30 down.

Sinner battled back from a set and a break down. Cilic served for the match when he was leading 5-4 in the second set. Sinner fought back from the brink, breaking to love before winning the tie-break 7-4. 

Sinner broke serve to love at the start of the third set. Cilic converted his third break-back point in the second game to draw level to 1-1. Both players went on serve until the seventh game, when Sinner earned his second break to take a 4-3 lead. The Italian star held his serve before earning two match points at 5-3. Cilic saved the first chance with a forehand inside-out. Sinner broke serve on his second match point.  

“The most important thing is that we are are still here. It is the most important amazing feeling. We will try to do the best in the doubles. I just tried to stay there. It was not easy trying to break him for the match, but I just tried my best”, said Sinner. 

Olympic champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic beat Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-4 after 1 hour and 20 minutes to secure Croatia a spot in the semifinals. 

The Croatian team earned the first break in the fourth game at deuce to take a 3-1 lead. Sinner and Fognini saved five set points to hold serve at deuce in the eighth game. Mektic and Pavic did not face any break points to close out the first set 6-3 after 38 minutes. 

The Italian team saved a break point in the third game of the second set. Croatia earned the break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 after Fognini made a double fault and did not face a break point in their next service games to win the 42-minute second set 6-4 on their first match point, as Pavic fired an ace.  

Italy did not earn any break points, while Croatia converted two of their eight chances.

Croatia will face either Serbia or Kazakhstan in the semifinal in Madrid. 

“Honestly, it feels incredible. I don’s think anyone expected us to get this far and it feels amazing to be going in Madrid”, said Mektic. 

Croatia is bidding for a third Davis Cup title and the second in three editions after claiming this tournament in 2018. 

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