Aryna Sabalenka Blasts The WTA After Dominant Win At Tour Finals - UBITENNIS
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Aryna Sabalenka Blasts The WTA After Dominant Win At Tour Finals

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World No.1 Aryna Sabalenka has accused the WTA of ‘disrespecting’ their players at the season-ending championships after getting off to a clinical start. 

The reigning Australian Open champion dropped only one game during her 6-0, 6-1, win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari in what was the most one-sided match (in terms of games won) to take place at a WTA Finals tournament since 2011. She is also only the third player to win an opening set 6-0 at the event since 2003 when the round-robin format was re-introduced. Sabalenka hit a total of 17 winners and capitalized on 19 unforced errors produced by Sakkari. 

“The score looks really easy, but it wasn’t an easy match,” Sabalenka said. “I’m super happy to win this match, especially against Maria, someone who was such a big fighter and all these tough matches against her.”

Sabalenka now leads Sakkari 7-3 in their head-to-head and has won all three of their meetings that have taken place this season. The win has boosted her chances of ending 2023 at the top of the WTA rankings but she still faces a challenge from Iga Swiatek who will begin her campaign on Monday. 

Despite her one-sided victory, the Belarussian has vented her frustration with the governing body of women’s tennis over their management of the event so far. This year’s WTA Finals has been marred by controversy with organisers not announcing Cancun as the venue of the tournament until last month. Forcing some players to pull out of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals which is taking place in Spain next week. Furthermore, the stadium wasn’t fully ready until the weekend the tournament started which gave players little time to get used to it. 

 “I am very disappointed with the WTA and the experience so far at the WTA Finals. As a player, I feel disrespected by the WTA. I think most of us do,” Sabalenka wrote on Instagram.
“This is not the level of organisation we expect for the Finals. To be honest, I don’t feel safe moving on this court a lot of the time, the bounce is not consistent at all, and we weren’t able to practice on this court until yesterday for the first time. It’s just not acceptable to me with so much on the line and so much at stake.”

“I definitely want to show my appreciation for the local tournament organisers, everyone that built the court at the last minute, and everyone that’s working here at the event. I know it’s not their fault and I want them to know, as well as all the Mexican fans, that I love them and appreciate them. I’m very happy to be in Mexico, I’m just upset with the WTA and this situation.”

In a brief interview with The Athletic on Friday, WTA CEO Steve Simon said his organization only had four months to find a venue for the WTA Finals and didn’t want to rush into a long-term agreement. It is looking increasingly likely that from 2024, it will be held in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal. Ubitennis understands that a secret visit to the Middle Eastern country was made by an official from the WTA earlier this month. 

Sabalenka isn’t the only person to have publically criticized the WTA with some of her peers during so during media day on Saturday in Cancun. Meanwhile, Elena Rybakina says the last-minute preparations affected the quality of her match against Jessica Pegula which she lost 7-5, 6-2. In that match, both players committed a total of 51 unforced errors compared to just 24 winners. 

“It’s not easy here. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is trying to do their best,” Rybakina said afterward.  
“As I said, I’m not really happy with the conditions and the set up of the tournament.’
“About the court, I don’t really want to talk. But of course, it’s not good. For sure not for the final eight because everything was late and there was no time to fix anything. You can see by the rallies and the shanks we both hit. I think the quality of the match wasn’t the greatest. But as I said, I tried to do my best.”

The second day of the WTA Finals will feature Swiatek against Marketa Vondrousova followed by Coco Gauff taking on Ons Jabeur. 

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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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