United Cup: Petra Kvitova Reaches Milestone But Team Loses, Sakkari Shines For Greece And Italy Win - UBITENNIS
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United Cup: Petra Kvitova Reaches Milestone But Team Loses, Sakkari Shines For Greece And Italy Win

It has been an action-packed day at the team competition which is being held across three cities. 

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Petra Kvitova of Team Czech Republic plays Jessica Pegula of Team USA on Ken Rosewall Arena during their Group D match on Day 2 of the 2023 United Cup in Sydney on Friday, December 30, 2022. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT Tennis Australia/ ATP, PETER STAPLES

Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova gave her team something to cheer about at the United Cup on Friday during what has been a tough opening tie for the Czech Republic. 

The former world No.2 battled on court for just over two hours before defeating Jessica Pegula 7-6(6), 6-4. A player who is currently ranked 13 places higher than her in the WTA rankings at third in the world. During what was a rollercoaster opening set, Kvitova dropped serve at 5-5 before fighting back immediately to force the clash into a tiebreaker which she trailed 3-6 before winning five points in a row. Then in the second set, she broke twice en route to victory. 

Kvitova’s latest win is the 30th time in her career she has beaten a player ranked in the world’s top five. The first time she did so was 13 years ago against Darina Safina at the 2009 US Open. She has also defeated more than 60 players ranked in the top 10. 

“We keep fighting,” Kvitova said. “I think USA is such a great team with great players in the team. We are not really favorites here, but we are fighting every match, every point. That’s our team spirit.”

Unfortunately for the Czech team, Kvitova was the only player to win a point for them in their tie against the USA which they lost 4-1. On Friday Frances Tiafoe made his debut in the tournament by winning his match in unfortunate circumstances. The US Open semi-finalist was leading Tomas Machac before the Czech was forced to retire after spraining his ankle. Then in the doubles, Pegula and Taylor Fritz edged out Marie Bouzkova and Jiri Lehecka 2-6, 6-3, 10-7.

“I feel like on our team there’s a lot of different options and different pairings and the mixed could be important down the line,” Fritz told reporters after his doubles match. “We want to figure out what will be our best team or at least get the rust off. The whole thing can be decided by the mixed doubles so we want to know who we want to go with in a big match.”

Both the USA and the Czech Republic will play Germany later in the tournament. Only the top team of each group will progress to the knockout stages. 

Sakkari does the double for Greece

Elsewhere, Maria Sakkari had two reasons to celebrate during her country’s 4-1 triumph over Grigor Dimitrov’s Bulgarian team. The world No.6 dropped only five games during her 6-3, 6-2, win over Viktoriya Tomova. The Greek impressively won 84% of her first service points and broke four times in the match. 

“I was a little nervous in the beginning,” said Sakkari. “Especially being 2-0 up in the tie, I knew my match was crucial to winning. She was very solid at first, but I found my game, found my serve and everything got better.
“[The United Cup format] is unusual but it’s very nice. We get to spend time together, watching each other, so we can learn a lot of things from each other. From the outside you see things differently.”

Sakkari returned to the court later in the day for mixed doubles duty alongside Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Dimitrov in three sets on the first day of the competition. The duo rallied to a 6-4, 6-4, win over Gergana Topalova and Adrian Andreev. 

Sakkari is hoping the United Cup will get her into top shape for the Australian Open where she is seeking her first major title at the age of 27. She reached the semi-finals of both the French Open and the US Open in 2021. 

“He (my trainer) pushed me really hard and it’s something I really like to do,” she said.
“Going to the gym is like my hobby.
“If I’m not fit on the court, I feel like I can’t play my best tennis.
“When I feel like I can move well and I can hit powerful shots, then I feel like I’m a very good and dangerous player.”

Bulgaria’s only win in the tie was from Dimitar Kuzmanov who defeated Michail Pervolarakis 6-1, 6-1. 

Berrettini makes a winning start

Finally, Italy also sealed victory on Friday with a 3-2 win over Brazil. The tie was split at 1-1 after the first day but on the second team Italy clinched an unassailable lead with the help of wins in both of the singles matches. Former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini fired 15 aces during his tricky 6-4, 7-6(7), win over Thiago Monteiro. 

“Pretty happy I have to say. It’s been a long time since I’ve played my last singles match, so I didn’t know what to expect. I think the level was pretty high,” Berrettini said afterwards. “I’m happy for my performance, but obviously when you play in these kind of competitions the most important thing is to get the win and bring a point for the team and that’s why I’m even happier.”

Following up on Berrettini’s win, Lucia Bronzetti crushed Laura Pigossi 6-0, 6-2, to seal the tie for her country. The only consultation for Brazil was their win in the mixed doubles match. 

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

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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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

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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