WTA Round-Up: Kostyuk Dedicates Maiden Title To War Victims, Vekic Stuns Garcia In Mexico - UBITENNIS
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WTA Round-Up: Kostyuk Dedicates Maiden Title To War Victims, Vekic Stuns Garcia In Mexico

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Image via https://twitter.com/IMGTennis

Marta Kostyuk has dedicated her first WTA trophy to those who are ‘fighting and dying’ in her home country of Ukraine after winning the inaugural Austin Open. 

The 20-year-old battled her way to a 6-3, 7-5, win over Russia’s Varvara Gracheva who she did not shake hands with after their match. Kostyuk has previously stated that she will not shake hands with players from Russia due to the war in her country, as well as those from Belarus whose government are accused of supporting the conflict. Thousands of people have been killed in the Ukraine war which began on February 24th 2022. 

“Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say ‘Slava Ukraini (glory to Ukraine),’” Kostyuk said during the trophy ceremony. 
“Being in the position that I’m in right now it’s extremely special to win this title. I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and all of the people who are fighting and dying right now.”

Kostyuk’s victory over Gracheva was a tougher encounter than the scoreline suggested. Overall, there were 13 breaks of serve in the match with the Ukrainian winning eight of them. She won just 46% of her service points which was only slightly better than her opponent who won 44%. 

The triumph comes five years after Kostyuk achieved her first major breakthrough on the Tour by reaching the third round of the Australian Open at the age of 15. Since then, she has experienced a roller-coaster journey in the sport. Until her latest tournament, she was the highest-ranked WTA player yet to have featured in a Tour final. 

“Very surreal,” Kostyuk said of her win in Austin. “I was just playing match by match, and I think this is how you win tournaments, I guess! It’s not so easy to talk right now, but obviously I’m extremely happy.
“I’m just happy to be healthy and happy to play tennis and see the crowd enjoy my game.”

Kostyuk has risen up the rankings to a career-high of No.40 on Monday. She is one of four Ukrainian players currently ranked in the top 100. 

Vekic returns to winning ways  

In the Mexican city of Monterrey, Donna Vekic won her fourth WTA trophy by stunning world No.5 Caroline Garcia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, at the Abierto GNP Seguros Open. In a tightly contested encounter, Vekic won 74% of her first service points and blasted 13 aces past the Frenchwoman. In the decider, the Croatian fended off eight break points before breaking Garcia in the last game of the match to secure victory. 

“It was a crazy match until the end, [Garcia] was playing so well, playing so deep,” said Vekic.”I was trying to win as many points as I could. It was not easy, but I’m really happy to win.”

The 26-year-old has reached the quarter-final stage or better at every tournament she has played so far in 2023. Earlier this year, she reached the last eight of the Australian Open in what was her best performance at a Grand Slam since 2019. Then in Linz, she also reached the quarter-final stage before losing to Maria Sakkari.

“It’s been a great start of the year for me. If the title didn’t come now, I believe that it would have come soon. So I’ve been playing good tennis, and I just need to keep working hard and hopefully stay healthy, and I’m sure I will keep having good results.” She said. 

Veki, who is currently ranked 23rd in the world, has endured a turbulent time on the Tour. She considered quitting the sport due to doubts over her fitness after undergoing knee surgery two years ago. Those concerns are now behind her. 

Garcia is the first top-10 player Vekic has defeated this season. 

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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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Alex De Minaur Overcomes Injury To Fulfil Olympic Dream

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ASlex de Minaur - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Alex de Minaur says it is a ‘dream come true’ for him to represent Australia in the Olympic Games after missing the event three years ago.

The world No.6 had been in a race against time to be fit for the Olympic tennis event after suffering an agonising injury setback at Wimbledon earlier this month. At the All England Club de Minaur reached the quarter-final stage for the first time and was set to take on Novak Djokovic. However, he was forced to withdraw from the match after tearing the fibre cartilage in his hip region after suffering a ‘freak’ injury. At the time of the announcement, it was estimated that he would be sidelined from the Tour for three to six weeks. 

However, the 25-year-old appears to have recovered fairly quickly in time for Paris with the tennis tournament starting on Saturday. It will be de Minaur’s debut in the Olympics after he was forced to pull out of the Tokyo Games due to a positive COVID-19 test. 

“To finally be able to represent Australia in the Olympics is a dream come true,” he wrote on Instagram on Tuesday morning.

“I’m very passionate when I play for my country and wear the green and gold, so this is another one of those moments. 

“I’m extremely excited to lace up for Paris 2024.”

De Minaur is bidding to become the first male player from his country to win an Olympic medal in the singles event. He has already won two ATP titles this year in Alcapulco and s-Hertogenbosch. Since the start of January, he has won five out of 11 meetings against top 10 players. 

“It’s really great news – we’re actually expecting Alex to arrive in the village ahead of the official draw (on Thursday) and we know he’s been working with his rehab team quite extensively since the conclusion of Wimbledon,” Australian chef de mission Anna Meares told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“He’s hungry to be here, he wants to be a part of this team and we will offer as much support as we can in that process.

“He’s coming – we will wait to see that process. He still has time … injury can be a really stressful thing for an athlete and the more you rush it, the more problems you can potentially cause.

“We’re leaving it in the hands of Alex and his rehabilitation team … it will be a decision purely by them.” 

De Minaur is one of five Australian men playing in the Paris Olympics. The others are Alexei Popyrin, Matthew Ebden, John Peers and Rinky Hijikata. 

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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