WTA Hits Back At Criticism Over Treatment Of Ukrainian Players - UBITENNIS
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WTA Hits Back At Criticism Over Treatment Of Ukrainian Players

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The head of the WTA has insisted that his organization will continue to support Ukraine players as much as possible after coming under criticism over the past week. 

Steve Simon has said the WTA‘s position regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine is not weakening and has rejected suggestions that their support towards those affected by the conflict could be improved. Earlier this week world No.99 Leisa Tsurenko withdrew from her match against Aryna Sabalenka at Indian Wells after suffering a panic attack which she linked to a meeting with Simon. 

Tsurenko said she was told by the official that she shouldn’t get upset if Russian players support their country’s war against Ukraine as it is only their opinion. He also allegedly said that it is likely that Russia will be allowed to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games and the support provided to Ukrainian players on Tour is ‘being monitored.’

“A few days ago I had a conversation with our WTA CEO Steve Simon and I was absolutely shocked by what I heard,” Tsurenko told BTU“He told me that he himself does not support the war, but if the players from Russia and Belarus support it, then this is only their own opinion, and the opinion of other people should not upset me. At the same time, he noted that if this happened to him and he was in my place, he would feel terrible.”

Meanwhile, world No.1 Iga Swiatek said more support should be provided to players from Ukraine who are unable to return home due to the war. She also criticized fellow player Anastasia Potapova for wearing a Spartak Moscow football shirt whilst walking onto the court in Indian Wells to play against Jessica Pegula. Potapova has since been ‘spoken to’ by the WTA but it is unclear if the governing body ever had any policy or advice in place which stated that the Russian player couldn’t do what she did. Prompting Swiatek to add that there should have been better measures in place to address such a situation occurring. 

Responding to the criticism during an interview with BBC Sport, WTA CEO Simon has defended his management of the situation but concedes that there is a ‘variety of opinions’ on the matter. 

“We continue to do as much as we have the ability to do,” Simon told the BBC.
“We have done a lot for our athletes, I know there’s a variety of opinions on that out there.
“What’s going on in Ukraine is reprehensible. You can’t support it any way – nor what the Russian government is doing.
“We spoke with Anastasia directly and also have given her a warning so she knows that this was not appropriate and I don’t think we will see any further instances of this going forward.”

It is impossible to say how many soldiers have died in the year-long war as the accounts of both Ukraine and Russia have not been independently verified. However, the United Nations has confirmed that there have been at least 21,965 civilian casualties in the country as of March 13th, 2023. This includes the deaths of 8,231 people. 

“Our sympathies are at the highest level with everybody in Ukraine and I don’t think any of us can properly understand what they are going through,” Simon continued. 
“I don’t think that any of this is lessening what’s going on over there.
“We continue to speak with [Russian and Belarusian players] and make sure they understand about the sensitivities here and that they are competing as neutral athletes. I think there is a strong understanding on that.”

Russian and Belarussian players are allowed to compete on the Tour but as neutral athletes. A decision the WTA described as a ‘fundamental position’ of theirs amid calls from some for a ban to be implemented. 

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World No.634 Laura Samson Reaches First WTA Quarter-Final At 16

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Laura Samon - image via itftennis.com/ photo credi: Manuel Queimadelos

Laura Samson has become the first player born in 2008 to reach the quarter-finals of a WTA event after producing a surprise win on Tuesday. 

The 16-year-old wildcard stunned second seed Katerina Siniakova 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the second round at the Prague Open. Her triumph occurred a day after she dropped just two games against Tara Wurth in her opening match. This week is Samson’s Tour debut after playing 10 events on the lower-level ITF circuit. 

“I’m extremely surprised,” she said during her on-court interview after beating Siniakova. “I didn’t go into it as favorite. I’m so proud of myself and I hope I will continue to play like this. As I was going into the second set I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose, I didn’t play good in the first set.’ I’m not really sure when [I thought I could win], I just believed myself in the third set.” 

Samson is the latest Czech player to break through following a sucessful junior career. Last year she won the Wimbledon girls’ doubles title and was runner-up in the French Open singles tournament in June. She is currently No.3 in the ITF junior rankings but has been ranked as high as No.1. 

Earlier this year, Samson decided to change her name on the Tour by dropping the last three letters (ova). The reason why she did so was to avoid getting confused with another player. 

“I first noticed it last year, there was a problem that I was getting strings (the) of Lyudmila Samsonova,” she told tenisovysvet.cz.

“I also talked about it with her and, for example, according to the schedule, she also sometimes thought she was playing, but it was me,” 

“I would have liked the ending -ová, but unfortunately it turned out like this.”

The teenager will next take on world No.248 Oksana Selekhmeteva with the winner of that match progressing to their first WTA semi-final.  21-year-old Selekhmeteva is a former top 10 junior player who came through two rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw. She is a two-time junior Grand Slam champion in doubles. 

There are five seeds remaining in the tournament, including top seed Linda Nosková who will play Germany’s Ella Seidel in her next match. 

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

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image via x.com/wimbledon

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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