Caroline Garcia Targets Fairytale Ending To Cincinnati Run - UBITENNIS
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Caroline Garcia Targets Fairytale Ending To Cincinnati Run

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A lot has changed for Caroline Garcia since she last played in the final of a WTA 1000 event at the 2017 China Open.

At the time she was one of the Tour’s top-ranked players who was once famously backed by Andy Murray to reach world No.1. Garcia was a regular top 20 player up until 2019 before experiencing a lull in her career. Between 2020-2021 she didn’t play in any finals and only reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam once in seven attempts. At the start of this season, she was ranked 74th in the world and was then sidelined from action during the spring due to a foot injury.

Things started to turn around for Garcia in her home country where she clinched the French Open doubles title with Kristina Mladenovic. After that victory, she said ‘In tennis you have to take everything you can, a title in WTA, it’s something very big. In Slams, it’s even bigger. You never know when you are going to come back, and you really have to enjoy it and take all the positive you can.’

Since Roland Garros, the 28-year-old has once again established herself as a force to be reckoned with. On the WTA Tour, she has won more matches than any other player since June with titles won in Bad Homburg and Warsaw where she defeated world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Now at this week’s Western and Southern Open, she is a win away from clinching her biggest singles title in almost five years.

Garcia, who is currently ranked 35th in the world, defeated Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in her semi-final match on Saturday. In doing so she has become the first qualifier to reach the title match of a WTA 1000 event.

“First, to be in the final of a 1000 event after so many years, and the scenario of today was just unbelievable,” Garcia said of her rain-interrupted match against Sabalenka. “We had to stop a few times. We never know when we will come back. It was a long wait, and in the wait you never know what you are supposed to do, so it was tough.
“I’m very happy with the last preparation for the comeback at 3-1. I was really ready for every point. It made the difference.”

Sabalenka is the third seeded player to fall to Garcia in Cincinnati. Earlier in the tournament, she also scored wins over Maria Sakkari and Jessica Pegula. The Frenchwoman is now on a seven-match winning streak.

“It’s a long way to come from quallies,” she said.
“It’s one match at a time. Try to take the best from every single match and really improve through the tournament. (It) feels like I have been here for a long time, I have to admit. I know the site pretty well now but I kind of enjoy it and it’s really nice to be in the final again.”

Awaiting Garcia in the final will be Petra Kvitova who herself knows what it is like to experience tough times during her career. The Czech missed a chunk of the Tour after an intruder broke into her apartment and ended up having her hand badly hurt by a knife whilst she was trying to defend herself. Kvitova underwent surgery soon after that incident which enabled her to return to tennis.

“It’s nothing comparable to what Petra has been through,” Garcia said of her battles. “She’s a champion on and off the court. She never complains about anything. She’s always very respectful to everyone, working for the tournament, on tour with other players.”

Kvitova secured her place in the final with a marathon 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3, win over Madison Keys. It is the 12th time in her career she has reached the final of a WTA 1000 tournament and she is projected to rise up the rankings to at least 20th on Monday.

“I know when she’s on fire she’s really on fire,” Kvitova said of playing Garcia.
“I think she is kind of an aggressive player like me or Madison (Keys). She is really serving well and going for every shot.’
“It will be mentally tough, as well. I will be focusing on the serve and just try to wait for some chance if that comes.”

Garcia trails Kvitova 3-5 in their head-to-head.

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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