Madrid-Rome Double Tougher To Achieve Under New Format, Says Maria Sakkari - UBITENNIS
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Madrid-Rome Double Tougher To Achieve Under New Format, Says Maria Sakkari

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Maria Sakkari last week in Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Maria Sakkari has become the latest player to speak about the downfalls of having two WTA 1000 events extended to two weeks following her latest win at the Italian Open on Sunday. 

Sakkari, who is the fifth seed in Rome, booked her place in the fourth round with a 7-6(4), 6-0, win over Anhelina Kalinina. It is her 62nd Tour-level victory on a clay court which pushes her closer to breaking the Open Era record for a Greek player which is 66. That record is held by Sakkari’s mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou. 

The run comes during what has been an encouraging clay season so far for the world No.8 who reached the semi-finals in Charleston and the fourth round in Madrid. She is coached by David Witt who is the former mentor of Jessica Pegula. 

“Things changed for me in Indian Wells,” said Sakkari.
I just felt like, Okay, another final. Then went to Miami, (reached) another quarter. Charleston, semis.
I just felt like there was a consistency which I like because I feel like that’s what’s going to take me to my level where I’m going to hopefully win a big title. That’s what I’m looking for right now.
“I would say things are in a good way, and that’s what makes me very happy on the court.”

Rome is the second WTA 1000 event in a row and follows immediately after Madrid. Both of these events now take place over two weeks after organisers opted to extend the draw. Supporters of the move argue that players have more time off between matches.

However, Sakkari admits the format can be ‘tough’ on her, as well as other players, as they have less downtime outside of tournaments. She also believes it lessens the chance of a player winning both clay titles within the same season. Something Andrey Rublev and Iga Swiatek are aiming to do this year. 

“I think it’s tougher now that it’s two weeks. Maybe we (the players) do get more days off, but especially if you’re from overseas and you’re from Europe…“ she said.
“For example, I had a few days between Madrid and Rome. I had the chance to go home. Some people cannot do that. They just stay at the tournament. It’s just another hotel. You’re going to the site every day. It can get a little bit too much. I find it very tough, and I see a lot of retirements.”

Although during the third month of every season, Indian Wells and Miami take place over the same amount of days and are back-to-back. Very few players raise concerns about those events compared to the European swing. 

“I think no one complains about Indian Wells-Miami because it’s been like that at least since I started playing those tournaments,” Sakkari explains.
“I’m sure it can get tough. If you don’t have a base in the U.S. – I’m lucky that my boyfriend lives there – so I can visit him and it’s going to feel like home. At the same time, there are a lot of Europeans I know that would lose, fly back to Europe, and come back for Miami.
“It’s decisions that unfortunately we cannot make, we cannot change, and we have to I guess accept, even if we don’t like them.”

Sakkari is aiming to reach her fifth WTA 100 final in Rome and her first on clay. 

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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Image via https://x.com/WTAMeridaOpen/

A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

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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