Aryna Sabalenka Stuns No.1 Swiatek To Set Up A Clash With Garcia For WTA Finals Title - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Stuns No.1 Swiatek To Set Up A Clash With Garcia For WTA Finals Title

The Belarussian has defeated the world No.3, No.2 and No.1 en route to the title match at Fort Worth.

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Aryna Sabalenlka has ended Iga Swaitek’s run of 15 consecutive wins over top-10 players to book her place in the final of the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. 

 Sabalenka, who is currently ranked seventh in the world, hit 26 winners past the top seed during her 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, win. It is the first time this season she has defeated Swiatek after suffering four straight losses to the Pole, including in the semi-finals of the US Open. Coincidentally her only other previous win over the three-time Grand Slam champion was also at the WTA Finals when it was staged in Mexico 12 months ago. 

“It was a great match. She played unbelievable tennis and I played unbelievable tennis. I’m just super happy with this win.” Sabalenka said during her press conference. 
“I was really calm on the court. And the mindset was just I wanted to make her work for it. I didn’t want to give her another easy win like she got with her first three wins. That’s the mindset I had during this match.” She added. 

It is the first time in her career that Sabalenka has defeated all of the world’s top three players in the same tournament. Earlier in the week she also scored wins over No.3 Jessica Pegula and No.2 One Jabeur. Until this tournament, she had only defeated two top 10 players in 2022.

“I think I’m doing pretty well during this season, mentality. It’s been an unbelievable week for me. I have worked really hard during the season even when things weren’t working well for me,” said Sabalenka who has struggled with her serve throughout the season. 
“I worked a lot during this season and being in the final is a lot for me. I’m just super happy and I’ll stay free. It’s the last match of the season and I’m ready to give everything I have.”

Sabalenka is only the second player from Belarus to have ever reached the title match at the WTA Finals after Victoria Azarenka in 2011. 

As for Swiatek, her standout year has come to an end. Overall, she has won 67 matches on the Tour and claimed eight WTA titles, including two Grand Slams and four WTA 1000 events. Her year-end ranking points tally is the highest achieved in women’s tennis since Serena Williams back in 2013. 

“I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve been waiting for that moment because last week it was pretty hard to see the finish line but still be fully motivated and ready for every match,” said Swiatek. 
“On the one hand I’m sad that I lost, but on the other hand, I have one more day off. That’s something on the bright side. This season has been so intense and I’m so proud of myself that I could play so well till the end of it. I’m happy that it’s done.”

Garcia awaits

The title match will be contested between the two lowest-ranked players in the field. Standing in Sabalenka’s way of the title is Caroline Garcia who stormed to a 6-3, 6-2, win over Maria Sakkari in less than 80 minutes. The Frenchwoman hit a total of 21 winners against 17 unforced errors and dropped serve only once en route to the victory.

“Yesterday, I was a little bit tired — nothing unusual after such a big match,” Garcia said in her on-court interview. “This morning, obviously the legs were a bit heavy, but I was just so excited, the emotion and the win yesterday to be playing a semifinal today of the WTA Finals.
“I was feeling very pumped. This morning I talked to my physio [Laura Legoupil] and I said, `I hope it’s going to last long enough to go to the match.’”

Defeating Sakkari could be a good omen for Garcia who also beat the Greek en route to titles at the 2017 Wuhan Open and 2022 Western and Southern Open. She is the oldest player to qualify for the season-ending event since Venus Williams in 2017 and is only the third player from her country to reach the final. 

Garcia’s head-to-head record against Sabalenka is currently tied at 2-2 but three out of their four meetings occurred back in 2018. Their most recent clash was earlier this year in Cincinnati where Garcia prevailed in three sets. 

“Aryna is a very powerful player. Huge serve, huge forehand and she look like she’s playing some great tennis here so far,” Garcia previewed of the final. 
“We know that she’s always showing a lot of emotion on the court, going for her shots. I played her a couple of months ago in Cincinnati. I would like to put pressure on her obviously and to be able to use their ball as well. But I will try to play my game.”

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

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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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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