2014/10/21

Serena Williams Pulls Out of China Open with Left Knee Injury, Puts Singapore Participation in Doubt

Serena Williams

(October 3, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA - Serena Williams has pulled out of her quarterfinal match against Sam Stosur at the China Open Friday, with a left knee injury.

 

Williams said she started to feel the pain in her knee this week and almost didn’t take the court Thursday, in her match against Lucie Safarova.  She had her left knee taped but eventually won in three sets, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.  “Well, it throbs just sitting, standing,” according to Williams.  “I felt it mostly serving because I’m landing on my left knee.  That was really killer for me.”  She feels she probably made it worse playing on but is still to have her knee checked.

 

Williams now plans to go to Europe to see her doctor and have all the tests done there.  Asked whether her participation at the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore is in doubt, Serena replied, “I can’t answer that.  If I feel this way for Singapore, I don’t think it’s smart for me to play.  Other than that, I’m just going to see how it goes.”

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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The Solidly Mercurial Halep

By Abigail Hinto

 

(October 2, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – For sports, where it’s about definitive results, where a win is a win, we do manage to talk a lot about beauty.  And tennis is no exception.  Simona Halep, with her fluid strokes plays a more aesthetically pleasing game compared to her opponent Thursday, Andrea Petkovic who has more mechanical looking strokes.  But was it Halep’s beautiful game that beat Petkovic?

 

Halep has steadily risen in the rankings since last year with consistent results week in week out, winning several tournaments along the way and getting deep into grand slams.  To reach the top of the rankings in tennis, where Halep is now as the No. 2 ranked player in the world, playing well consistently is the name of the game.

 

However, Halep’s match against Petkovic was the opposite of consistent.  One game Halep was playing flawlessly, dictating points and hitting winners all over the court, the next game, out of nowhere, she could no longer find the court with any of her strokes.  Flawless game to break, error-strewn game to get broken back.  Meanwhile, Petkovic with her mechanical, steady groundstrokes was the more consistent of the two throughout the match.  Unfortunately for Petkovic, it was in the two crucial tiebreaks where her game fell apart while Halep managed to steady herself to eventually win 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (1).

 

So how does one reconcile Halep’s erratic game with her consistent results?  The beauty of tennis is the presence of important points.  Those pressure situations where as is often the case, the best comes out on top.   And that’s what both Halep and Petkovic showed in this match.  The better player, the player who ended up winning, was the one who played the two tiebreakers solidly.  And in the end, the mercurial Halep managed to reign in her game in time, in those two pressure situations, to get the win.  Something she has been doing consistently for over a year now.

Unfortunately for both players, Halep has pulled out of the China Open with a hip injury.  Her next opponent, Ana Ivanovic moves on to the semifinals.

“It was a tough match against Andrea today, and I had to fight a lot,” Halep said in a statement. “I’m happy I was able to win and finish the match in the right way, but I have a hip injury and it would be risky for me to play again tomorrow.”

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Petra Kvitova win sets up Third Round Clash with Venus Williams in Beijing

 

By Abigail Hinto

(October 1, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – A confident and in-form Petra Kvitova raced to an easy 6-4, 6-2 victory on Wednesday at the China Open over China’s new No. 1 player Peng Shuai.

 

Following her title run in Wuhan the last week, the third seed Kvitova acknowledges she’s more confident now after suffering an early loss at the US Open.  Working hard following that US Open defeat and knowing she has to fight for her spot at the season-ending Singapore event Kvitova is back to playing the type of tennis that brought her a second Wimbledon title.  “I feel well on the court.  I know that I can play good tennis because of last week, [in] Wuhan.  I think my confidence is a little bit higher than after US Open,” acknowledged Kvitova.  And now that she has secured her spot, she’s feeling more relaxed on court.

 

And a relaxed and confident Kvitova is trouble for everyone.  How will Venus Williams, Kvitova’s next opponent, who has also been playing well this season, handle Kvitova this time around?  Admittedly one of the best matches of the year was their third round clash at Wimbledon where Kvitova was two points away from losing the match. She went on to win the match and her second Wimbledon title.

Will we see a repeat of that match in another third round meeting here at the China Open?  It’s always been a tight battle between these two players who seemingly match up well against each other.  “I’m looking forward to it,” says Kvitova.  “I think that she’s serving still very well.  She’s moving well, as well.  She’s playing fast.  We’ll see.”

 

“I think that every match what we played with Venus was really great fight until the end. I played her in Doha, 7‑6 in the third. Wimbledon 7‑5 in the third. It’s always great. I’m looking forward for it.”

 

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Li Na’s Retirement Ceremony in Around the Grounds Beijing Photo Gallery

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING – Photos by Natalie Ho from around the grounds to the main interview room on Tuesday of the China Open including Li Na’s retirement ceremony.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Final Push to London Starts in Asia

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

By Abigail Hinto

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – It’s a tight race to the season-ending World Tour Finals in London with 3 more slots remaining (Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic are almost guaranteed in as grand slam champions and are 4th and 5th in the race respectively) and 6 players with a little over 500 race points separating No. 6 Kei Nishikori to No. 11 Grigor Dimotrov.  This week, with Tokyo and Beijing offering 500 points to the winner, could boost a player’s chances of qualifying to the prestigious season-ending event.  And here at the China Open, three of those players are fighting for their spot.

 

Monday night, Dimitrov started his campaign to qualify for the first time to the World Tour Finals with a 3-set victory over Fernando Verdasco.  He faces Pablo Andujar next, a good draw for him in a very loaded field.

 

Tuesday afternoon, Tomas Berdych took his step to once again be part of the 8-player field in London with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez.  Berdych only needed to be solid and steady against a poorly playing Lopez.  Lopez especially had trouble with his serve throwing in double faults in all service games that he was broken.  Twice he double faulted in games when he was down break point.  Berdych has not been playing well in a while, so a solid win plus a win in doubles too, could help him recover his form from earlier in the season when he reached the semis of the Australian Open and won his ninth title in Rotterdam.

 

Another player finding his form is Andy Murray.  He started his Asian swing a week earlier than the other two winning the inaugural title at the Shenzhen Open, his first after his back surgery, where he managed to get through some tough matches.  Murray would like to continue his winning ways to qualify for the 7th straight year for the World Tour Finals held in his home country.  He eked out another tough match Tuesday night against Jerzy Janowicz winning in 3 sets 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-2 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.

 

So who out of these three will make it to London?

 

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who already has qualified for the year-end championship, demolished Guillermo García-López 6-2, 6-1 in his opening match.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

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Rafael Nadal Returns with a Win in Beijing

 

By Abigail Hinto

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING – What rust?  Rafael Nadal didn’t show any rust in his first singles match back to the competition after being sidelined with a right wrist injury for three months.  In a comfortable 6-4, 6-0 win over Richard Gasquet.

Nadal was playing aggressively off both his forehand and backhand, hitting winners all over the court.  Once Gasquet was pushed off the court with Nadal dictating play, and there was nothing more the Frenchman could do to get back in to the point.  His only other option was to be as aggressive as Nadal, which he managed to do well in the first set earning him a couple of break points but which unfortunately for him, he was unable to convert especially in the crucial tenth game as Nadal saved the break point with an ace while serving for the set.

 

The second set saw Gasquet’s frustration boil over as he started making more errors with overly aggressive play while Nadal was as steady as rock both offensively and defensively.

 

There were no signs of the wrist injury from Nadal, “the wrist is much, much better,” according to Nadal.  “Is almost recovered hundred percent.  I cannot say ‘hundred percent’ because when you have some feelings on it when you warm up at the beginning, it’s not hundred percent.  But let’s say 90 something percent.  The most important thing is the wrist is not limiting me to play my tennis, to hit the normal backhand.”

 

Overall, Rafael Nadal is happy to be back on court playing again.  “I have to be happy the way that I played, no?  Three months without a match, winning against a player who is a good player like Richard, is a very positive comeback for me.”

 

“More important than win, lose, is spend time on court.  And winning, I have another chance to play another match after tomorrow, no?”

 

“That’s the key for me today:  spend time on court, play matches.  At least I going to play two matches minimum here.  That’s a positive thing.  I’m going to try my best to play three.”

 

Next up for Nadal is Peter Gojowczyk who took him to three sets earlier this year in Doha in their only meeting so far.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Serena Williams Escapes A Bagel Set to Win Opening Round in Beijing

Serena Williams in press

(September 29, 2014) No. 1 Serena Williams escaped a bagel set against her by Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa when she trailed 0-5 in the first set but then reeled off 13 of the next 15 games to win her first round match at the China Open on Monday 7-5, 6-2.

The holder of 18 major titles lost her serve three times in the first 15 minutes of the match to trail 5-0.

“I just didn’t want to lose ‑‑ I didn’t want to lose 6‑Love,” Williams said. “I just started fighting. I was like, Just let me at least try to break here.”

The last player to dish out 6-0 set against the 33-year-old was another Spaniard, Anabel Medina Garrigues, in Madrid last year. Williams won that match 6-3, 0-6, 7-5.

Williams who was forced to retire last week in Wuhan against Alize Cornet due to dizziness, said that she’s better this week.

“I felt good today,” Williams said. “I definitely feel like I was over it.

“This week I’ve been okay. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not. You know, I just started hitting a couple days ago, taking it day by day. Finally I decided I’m here, I may as well see what happens. Here I am.”

 

CHINA OPEN 2014 – BEIJING
USD 5,427,105
27 SEP – 5 OCT 2014

RESULTS – SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Singles – First Round
[1] S Williams (USA) d [Q] S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 75 62
[9] A Ivanovic (SRB) d [Q] B Bencic (SUI) 62 61
A Cornet (FRA) d [10] J Jankovic (SRB) 75 36 64
[13] L Safarova (CZE) d C Giorgi (ITA) 76(3) 64
[14] F Pennetta (ITA) d C McHale (USA) 76(3) 64
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) d [WC] M Kirilenko (RUS) 64 61
[Q] M Barthel (GER) d [Q] B Mattek-Sands (USA) 46 61 64
L Davis (USA) d [Q] Y Xu (CHN) 63 63
S Peng (CHN) d [WC] K Zhang (CHN) 64 61
C Garcia (FRA) d S Zhang (CHN) 61 64

Doubles – Second Round
[2] C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND) d C Dellacqua (AUS) / L Raymond (USA) w/o (Dellacqua: lower leg injury)

Doubles – First Round
[7] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d C McHale (USA) / C Scheepers (RSA) 62 62
[Alt] M Barthel (GER) / M Minella (LUX) d [WC] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / S Zheng (CHN) 76(7) 63
[WC] S Halep (ROU) / I Olaru (ROU) d O Kalashnikova (GEO) / K Koukalova (CZE) 64 76(4)

ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
NATIONAL TENNIS STADIUM start 12:30 pm
WTA – E Svitolina (UKR) vs [4] M Sharapova (RUS)

Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP – [1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
ATP – R Gasquet (FRA) vs [2] R Nadal (ESP)

Not Before 7:45 pm
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA) vs [Q] T Pironkova (BUL)

Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – [7] E Gulbis (LAT) vs F Fognini (ITA)

LOTUS COURT start 12:30
ATP – [WC] F Lopez (ESP) vs [3] T Berdych (CZE)

Not Before 2:30 pm
WTA – [WC] L Zhu (CHN) vs [2] S Halep (ROU)
WTA – C Garcia (FRA) vs [16] V Williams (USA)

Not Before 6:30 pm
ATP – J Janowicz (POL) vs [6] [WC] A Murray (GBR)

MOON COURT start 12:30
WTA – R Vinci (ITA) vs [5] A Radwanska (POL)
WTA – C Chuang (TPE) / O Govortsova (BLR) vs [5] A Hlavackova (CZE) / S Peng (CHN)
WTA – [8] E Bouchard (CAN) vs S Lisicki (GER)
WTA – R Oprandi (SUI) vs [9] A Ivanovic (SRB)

BRAD DREWETT COURT start 2:00 pm
ATP – [8] J Isner (USA) vs S Giraldo (COL)
ATP – T Robredo (ESP) vs A Seppi (ITA)
ATP – [Q] M Klizan (SVK) vs L Mayer (ARG)

COURT 3 start 12:30
WTA – [15] A Petkovic (GER) vs M Keys (USA)
WTA – [7] A Kerber (GER) vs Z Diyas (KAZ)
WTA – [14] F Pennetta (ITA) vs C Suárez Navarro (ESP)
WTA – K Mladenovic (FRA) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs Y Xu (CHN) / J Zheng (CHN)

COURT 4 start 12:30
WTA – [3] K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs J Gajdosova (AUS) / A Tomljanovic (CRO)
WTA – S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs K Nara (JPN)
ATP-After suitable rest – F Lopez (ESP) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs L Kubot (POL) / R Lindstedt (SWE)
ATP – J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) vs [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

COURT 7 start 12:30
WTA – [12] E Makarova (RUS) vs [Q] P Hercog (SLO)
ATP – [Q] J Brunstrom (SWE) / N Monroe (USA) vs M Cilic (CRO) / S Gonzalez (MEX)
ATP – J Benneteau (FRA) vs P Andujar (ESP)
ATP – [Q] M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs P Cuevas (URU)

COURT 8 start 12:30
ATP – I Karlovic (CRO) vs [Q] P Gojowczyk (GER)

Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [3] D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU)
WTA – [Q] M Barthel (GER) vs [13] L Safarova (CZE)

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Doubles for Singles, Nadal Returns to the Court After Wrist Injury

By Abigail Hinto

(September 29, 2014) BEIJING – Rafael Nadal was back on the court on Monday for the first time since injuring his right wrist in July to play a doubles match at the China Open. He partnered with Spanish compatriot Pablo Andujar in his return.

 

The ever enthusiastic crowd of Chinese fans greeted all four singles players, Rafael Nadal and Pablo Andujar versus Tomas Berdych and John Isner, playing their first matches here at the China Open as doubles players with their usual zeal and passion.  Along with the return of Rafael Nadal to competition after being out for 3 months with a wrist injury, a first round doubles match brought out a full and noisy crowd to the Moon Court of the Beijing National Tennis Center with numerous Spanish flags swaying with the cool breeze under a hot sun.

 

Meanwhile, who cares for a team uniform for these singles players when no one bothered to coordinate with their teammates. Andujar, Berdych and Isner were all in white shirts with varying designs with Berdych sporting printed grey and orange shorts.  Nadal, on the other hand was the standout in an aquamarine/teal shirt with orange highlights and grey shorts.

 

As for the match, both the first and second sets were close with only one break each deciding the winner of the sets.  Andujar was broken in the first set serving 5-6 down, deuce, when Nadal, eager to win the point for his team crossed for a volley, cut it too close and netted the ball.  The second set break came on against Isner’s serve thanks to Andujar’s returning.  No wonder Andujar was chosen by the team to receive Isner’s serve when the first game reached the deciding point. Another good return from Andujar and the break was the Spaniards’.  Nadal then served out the set for 6-4 but not before facing 2 break back points.  A poor return by Berdych off a second serve from Nadal, then another error netting a volley while approaching the net, saw Nadal hold to take the second set.

 

The match was then decided in a match tiebreak which Berdych and Isner ran away with after being down 1-3 with great plays from both players winning 8 consecutive points until eventually winning the match tiebreak 10-4. Final score: 7-5, 4-6, 10-4.

 

A fun, competitive atmosphere for these single players who probably played doubles for match practice but definitely went out there to win.

Nadal begins his quest for the singles title Tuesday, when he faces Richard Gasquet in the opening round.

 

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Photos by Natalie Ho.

 

 

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Final Thoughts on the China Open

 

By Abigail Hinto

(October 6, 2013) BEIJING –

1.  Should the China Open ATP event switch status with Shanghai?  As it stands now, Beijing is the only WTA Premier Mandatory tournament that isn’t combined with the same-level ATP Masters 1000.   The women are supposed to be the bigger draw here in Beijing, but the tournament often manage to get a big men’s field as an ATP 500, so on the ground, the feeling is that it’s a similar level event.  This year alone, it boasted 6 of the top 10 ATP players.  The venue is China’s National Tennis Center where its center court seats 15,000 spectators, already fit for a Masters 1000.  The event draws a big crowd not only because it’s a combined event, but also because of its position in the calendar where it often falls during a week-long holiday in China.  Therefore the Shanghai tournament the following week suffers in attendance.  No way would people go on leave from work following a week of holiday.  So optics wise, Beijing wins over Shanghai.

 

I also feel the venue for the tournament in Beijing is more accessible to the public than the one in Shanghai.  Shanghai lacks access to public transport while Beijing has a metro stop right in front of the tennis center.

 

However, if the two China tournaments do switch status then the ATP would have a calendar where the bigger 1000 Masters event will come before the smaller ATP 500.  But when has the ATP calendar ever made perfect sense?

 

2.  I keep mentioning this because it cannot be escaped.  I’m talking about Beijing’s unhealthy air quality situation.  Personally, already coming from a very polluted city, Beijing’s haze is something I’ve never seen before.  It’s right there in front of you, you can see it, feel it, smell it too.  The air quality index have shown numbers labeled as “Unhealthy” “Very Unhealthy”, “Hazardous”  I don’t know how players manage to play in this condition, but when asked, they’re very blase about it.

 

Rafael Nadal: “Yesterday and especially today again the pollution is here, so that makes the feeling, you know, not beautiful.  But if you talk about if I feel when I am breathing, no, I don’t feel.”

 

Tomas Berdych: “I think it’s quite used to here.  Probably we not going to get anything more than that.  But that’s how it is.  We are here in Beijing.”

 

Serena Williams: “Well, I’m a California girl, so I can’t help you there.”  And again: “I don’t know why, but I felt nothing.”

 

Novak Djokovic:  “It is what it is.  It’s something that has been the same for last few years that I been coming back here.  The people who are in organization of the tournament, they are trying make us feel at home and do everything possible in order to get a good tournament.  Sometimes you cannot effect the weather.  It’s nature and he’s a higher force.”

 

I guess, you also can’t ask the players to bad-mouth the tournament that’s hosting them.

 

3.  Every time the two tours land in China, comments about the Chinese fans inevitably come up.  Timid Asians?  That’s a falsehood when it comes to Chinese fandom.  They’re as enthusiastic, creative, resourceful as you’ll ever see.  From Djokovic fans, to Nadal fans, to Kvitova fans and Serena fans, they go all out in showing their support for their favorite players.  Banners, face paints, t-shirts, pins, gifts, coordinated cheering they’ve got everything here.  And it brings a lively atmosphere to so many of the matches all around the venue.  But there’s also a downside to it, as when a fan breached security, jumped over a fence and got close to Nadal during one of his practice sessions.

 

The views expressed here are those of the author.  Abigail Hinto was covering the Beijing Open for Tennis Panorama News.

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Novak Djokovic Tops Rafael Nadal for China Open Title

Novak Djokovic

By Abigail Hinto

(October 6, 2013) Out to prove something after losing the No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal as of Monday, Novak Djokovic came out firing on all cylinders, hitting winners in all corners, defending from everywhere and serving effectively well in his 6-3, 6-4 win to claim the China Open.  But what sealed the win was Djokovic’s ability to sustain the high level of tennis and focused determination he started with until the end of the match.  As Djokovic said, what what was the difference between his last two matches against Nadal and this one was “probably my serve, but also kind of emotional stability in the crucial moments I managed to stay tough and not drop in the concentration, which I think I did in both Montréal and US Open in the important moments.  You know, I learned my lesson.  It was few very tough and close matches that I lost against Rafa in hard courts, especially the last one in US Open final.”

 

For Rafael Nadal, the opposite happened.  Unable to execute his shots, the few opportunities he had controlling the points, he ended up missing on his final shot.  “I didn’t see the way to stop him this afternoon.  This afternoon he was too strong for me.  I didn’t play my best match this afternoon, but he played at a very high level with his serve,” said Nadal. Nadal added, “(Djokovic) was able to hit all the balls where he wants to hit.  When that’s happening against a player like Novak, you are dead.  You don’t  have not one chance.   So that’s what happened.  I played against a great player, one of the best players that I ever seen playing very well.  Was not the day to beat him.”  Nadal failed to make any inroads, not able to create any break points in Djokovic’s service games, and he was broken early in both sets.  Nadal ended the match with more unforced errors and less winners than Djokovic, a surefire recipe to a loss.

 

Novak Djokovic wins the China Open for the fourth time with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win, remaining undefeated in all the 4 years he’s played in Beijing.

A tournament always just has one winner.  But this time, the two top players in the world will leave Beijing with great feelings about their week.  While Rafael Nadal recaptures No. 1 from Novak Djokovic, Djokovic has finally managed to defeat Rafael Nadal again after losing to him the last three times to retain his trophy.

 

For Rafael Nadal, getting back to No. 1 “is something special for me.  I’m enjoying the situation that I’m playing one of the best seasons of my career and probably one of the more emotional years, if not the most.”

 

For Novak Djokovic, he said he “needed this win today.  I really wanted to get my hands on the trophy and win against Nadal, who has been the best player so far in 2013.”

 

So the most prolific rivalry in men’s tennis closes another chapter to their story.  But the story is far from over.  In fact next week, a new chapter begins in Shanghai.

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