October 5, 2015

2015 Connecticut Open Preview

petra kvitova CTOpen15 all access by Jack Cunniff

Petra Kvitova (Photo by J. Cunniff)

By Jack Cunniff

(August 23, 2015) NEW HAVEN, Connecticut – For the first time since 2006, the field at the 2015 Connecticut Open features five of the world’s top ten women’s players, and that depth should make for an unpredictable event. Here are some highlights of this year’s top entrants:


Simona Halep (No. 2) 2013 New Haven champion was the top seed, and she has played well this summer, coming off of back-to-back finals in Toronto and Cincinnati. She withdrew from the tournament on Sunday night.


Second seeded Petra Kvitova (No. 4), the defending champion, also receives an opening round bye. Kvitova has not won a match since Wimbledon, and she recently disclosed that she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, which helps to explain her recent listless form. The good news for Kvitova is that she thrives in the laid-back environment of New Haven, having reached three consecutive finals here, and is one of two players to have defeated top ranked Serena Williams in 2015.


Caroline Wozniacki (No. 5) is a four-time winner in New Haven, and seeded third at this year’s event. She was not initially planning to play the Connecticut Open, but early round losses in Stanford, Toronto, and Cincinnati have her looking for more match play before the U.S. Open, which begins August 31st. In pre-tournament interviews, Wozniacki has proclaimed herself fit and ready for action.


Lucie Safarova (No. 6) had the best result of her career in advancing to the 2015 French Open final, where she battled Serena Williams for three sets before losing. That result has catapulted her into the top ten for the first time in her career. Safarova has had mixed results since Paris, including a first round exit in Toronto to Daria Gavrilova, who she will face in a re-match in her opening round in New Haven.


A year ago, Karolina Pliskova (No. 7) was ranked 69th and won only two games in her first round qualifying match in New Haven. Much has changed in the last 12 months for the 23-year old Czech. She has reached eight WTA finals, winning three of those (Seoul, Linz, Prague). Success has evaded Pliskova in the Grand Slam events, but she has proven to be a consistent threat at the other tour stops.


Other players that could contend at the Connecticut open include: a pair of Wimbledon finalists, 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 15), and 2014 runner-up Genie Bouchard (No. 24); another major finalist in 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani (No. 16), former top ten player Flavia Pennetta (No. 26), rising young American Madison Keys (No. 19) who reached the 2015 Australian Open semifinals, the Swiss veteran Timea Bacsinszky (No. 14) who reached 2015 French Open semifinals, and Elina Svitolina (No. 20) a 20-year-old Ukranian who has risen quietly up the rankings in 2015.

Jack Cunniff is covering the Connecticut Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.



In Topsy-Turvy Match, Simona Halep Bounces Back to Reach Toronto Semis

221 Dubai Halep celebration3 -001

By Brodie Widdifield

(August 14, 2015) TORONTO, Canada – When trying to determine what we should expect from a match we often look to the players’ past matches against each other and how their styles of play compare and contrast. No one would have predicted the topsy-turvy, entertaining affair that took place Friday afternoon in Toronto at the Rogers Cup.


Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska played each other three times in 2014. All three were straight set matches on hard courts, with Halep taking two of three. With the Romanian battling through a grueling three set match with Angelique Kerber on Thursday, it looked like she may fail to even win a game.


“It was difficult, because I was a bit tired when I started the match, and I didn’t have time to warm up very well before because it was raining, and the schedule was a little bit complicated,” said Halep. The world No. 3 won just 13 of 40 points in the first set, and Radwanska rolled to a 6-0 lead.


Halep managed to finally get a service hold and slowly the match began to change. The Romanian took some pace off of her shots which slowed the rallies and allowed her to play with more angles and spin in the slow, grey conditions of Toronto. “After that set I said that I have to change something. I was hitting the balls very strong, and it was not a good idea playing against Radwanska because she knows how to make you run during the point. I just tried during the point to make her run, like with short cross. I think I did a good change, and that’s maybe why I won.”


The second set quickly started to look like Halep’s match against Kerber as the length of rallies increased, including some thrilling ones that ended at the net. A particularly crazy game at 3-3 proved to be the turning point, as after Halep won it, the match was essentially over. She won eight of the following nine games and rolled to a 0-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory to make her first semifinal in Canada.


“I think played my best tennis since Miami. I come from bad results in the French Open and Wimbledon, but players always have ups and downs and I just wanted to stay focused to still believe in myself that I can do some results this year.”


The Romanian continued to thank her wild Romanian fans both on the court and in press after the match. “Today when I was down 0-5, they were supporting me like I was up 5-0. It was amazing, and they gave me power just to stay there, still fighting for the victory.”


Halep will face Sara Errani in the semifinals, who defeated qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-4 later in the day. Halep will also attempt to become the second straight Romanian to make the final of the WTA version of the Toronto event after Sorana Cirstea made it all the way to Sunday in 2013. Halep leads the head to head, 2-1, and won their only meeting this year in Stuttgart, 6-4, 6-4.


Brodie Widdifield is the author of the tennis web site mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.


Kerber Edges Radwanska in Thriller at Bank of the West Classic


By Curt Janka

(August 7, 2015) STANFORD, California – All the cats. All the mice. Angelique Kerber needed every shot in her arsenal to overcome the craft and guile of Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Up an early break in the first set, Radwanska appeared to have all the answers. Frustration read across Kerber’s face, but she played each point more determined than the last. The result was a display of variety and quality shot making from both players.


Both players utilized drop shots, lobs, angles and deep groundstrokes to move each other around the court and beyond.


I think we covered every part of the court,” Radwanska said. “So much angles from both sides… I don’t remember when I was ever running that much.”


Overall, Radwanska seemed happy with her play but regretted not taking advantage of the chances she had. “I think it was a great match. I think what I didn’t do is just finish the games well. I was 30-Love up a few times. She was just better today.”


Early on, Kerber was not sure she was the better player. “There were so many points where she was hitting the ball unbelievably and made the shots. I don’t even know how she played the balls. I was just standing there like, ‘Okay, we’re done, Aga.’ I couldn’t do anything. And then I said to myself, ‘Just forget that ball, focus on the next one, stay in the moment and try to keep fighting.’ And I’m happy I won the match. At the end I think we should both win.”


The players were both rewarded with loud applause from the fans.


Kerber advances to the semifinals. She will play Elina Svitolina who has won their last two encounters. Kerber admitted it will be another tough match. “Tomorrow is a new day and a new opponent, so I have to be ready for her, too.”


Curt Janka is covering the Bank of the West Classic this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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Williams Beats Sharapova, Will Face Muguruza in Wimbledon Final


(July 9, 2015) Serena Williams continued her 11 year win-streak against Maria Sharapova on Thursday, beating the 2004 Wimbledon champion 6-2, 6-4 to reach her eighth Wimbledon final and 25th major final overall. It was the world No. 1’s 17th straight win over the Russian.

Williams is now just a victory away from winning a fourth straight major title, a “Serena Slam” as she dubbed it when she won four straight majors in 2002-03. Should she win on Saturday it would be her 21st major title and third leg of a calendar grand slam. The last woman to win a Grand Slam was Steffi Graff in 1988.

Williams overpowered the Russian with 29 winners and 13 aces.

“At least I made it to a final of four,” Williams said after the match. “That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.”

Williams is now on a 27-match win streak in majors.

“I think it definitely gets better,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the final here. I just feel really good just to be in another final, so it’s really cool.”

Williams last won Wimbledon in 2012, she has five titles at the All-England Club.

“I always expect her to play the best tennis against myself and a few other elite players,” Sharapova said. “She does always come up with great tennis. You have to be able not to just produce your best tennis, but more. Obviously it hasn’t happened for me.”

“I think she had better depth than I did on her shots.  That certainly makes a big difference.

“I think one of the things she does extremely well is to take her from a defense position into the offense again.  I was not able to do that.”

“Well, it’s never easy to beat such a great player who’s had such a wonderful career,” Williams said. “So, you know, I don’t know. “Whenever you play someone that you know, has beaten you before, you really get really focused, I think. That’s what I do.

“Whenever I know I have to play Maria, I know I have to be focused because she wasn’t the best in the world for no reason.”

The 33-year-old Williams will face 21-year-old, the 20th seed Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. She’s the first woman from Spain to reach the Wimbledon final since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario did in 1996.

The Spaniard is 1-2 against Williams, with her lone win coming in the second round of last year’s French Open 6-2, 6-2, her worst loss in games in a major tournament.

“You work all your life to achieve Grand Slam final, to be in this situation,” said Muguruza.  “It’s like a dream, like a present after the hard work.”

“I think is the best final you can play,” the Spaniard added.  “You know, to have Serena in the Wimbledon final I think is the hardest match you can have.

“If you want to win a Grand Slam, when you dream, you say, I want Serena in the final.  She’s like one of the best players in all these years.  So it’s obviously I think the best challenge to have.”

“Because she has like so many good things.  She’s stronger, good mentality, good shots, power, confident.  You know, a lot of things that make her a great player.”

“It’s definitely not an easy matchup,” Williams said.  “She actually has a win against me.  We had a tough match the last time we played.  And she’s given me problems in the past.

“So this time I have to just, you know, go in it like have fun and do the best that I can, just try to stay positive and stay focused.”

“I lost to her last year, I believe.  It was an eye‑opening loss for me, “Williams noted.  “Some losses you’re angry about, and some losses you learn from.  That loss I think I learned the most from in a long time.

“I got so much better after that loss.  I was able to improve a lot.  I worked on things.

“I didn’t see the results straightaway.  But months later I started seeing the results more and more.  I learned so much from that.  You know, sometimes as much as you don’t want it or as bad timing as it could be, I don’t want to lose to anyone at a Grand Slam.  But unfortunately, I did.

“But it was really an experience that helped me say, Okay, Serena, you want to be the best, you’re going to have to do certain things and you’re going to have to improve certain things.”

“I’ve been in this stage,” Serena added.  “I’ve won so many Grand Slam titles.  And, you know, I’m at a position where I don’t need to win another Wimbledon. I could lose tomorrow.  Sure, I won’t be happy.  But I don’t need another Wimbledon title.  I don’t need another US Open.  I don’t need any titles to make it.

“Every time I step out on court, the practice court, the match court, I do look at it as a more fun time because it’s not as much stressful as it was. Like getting to 18 was super stressful for me.  It was fun, but I was so stressed out.

“After that, I’ve just been really enjoying myself.”

The Ladies’ final takes place on Saturday.


Serena Williams, Sharapova, Radwanska and Muguruza Reach Wimbledon Semis


(July 7, 2015) Serena Williams kept her hopes for a fourth straight major alive on Tuesday, rallying to defeat Victoria Azarenka, taking 10 out of the last 13 game to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and reach the Wimbledon semifinals. Williams blasted 17 aces and 46 winners en route to her 26th straight Grand Slam match win.

“It’s been up and down, up and down, but somehow I’m still alive. I don’t know how,” said Williams. “So we’ll see what happens, but I’m just happy to still be here.”

“I can’t lie and say I’m not disappointed, because that’s a normal reaction,” Azarenka said. “But it is what it is. It was a high quality match. I can’t say I went out there and didn’t play well – we just saw why Serena is No.1. I haven’t seen her play like this, honestly, even the last matches before that.”

“I feel like Victoria and I always have really wonderful matches. She’s always able to push it to three sets, we always have some great three set matches,” Williams said to media.

“Whenever I see her name I get excited, because I feel like there’s going to be an opportunity to see how well I’m doing. We play each other pretty much every tournament. I’m getting used to that.”

“I’ve been really proud of her and her comeback,” Williams said when asked about her post-match hug at the net. “I told her in Madrid, ‘Man, you’ve gone through a lot. I really support that. I really support you coming back.’ And we really get along off the court. She’s so sweet – we always text each other when we’re doing well.

“She’s a really nice girl. I really admire her because she’s so intense on the court, but the second she comes off the court, she’s just so different. It’s really interesting to see. It’s super respectful.”

“I have a lot of respect for Serena,” said Azarenka.  “We have a great friendship off the court.  You know, once the match is over, we put it out a long time ago.  We’re going to put it out all on the court.  She played a great match and I respect that.”

Williams, who is now 37-1 on the year is looking to complete a second “Serena” Slam with a Wimbledon trophy, which would mean she would be holding the last four major trophies. She did this in 2002-03.

Winning Wimbledon would also give her the third leg of the calendar-year Grand Slam.

Next for the world No. 1 and 20-time major winner, will be the fourth seed Maria Sharapova who bested unseeded American youngster CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

“I’ve played five matches already, I’ve faced different challenges, matches, opponents, circumstances – the first four matches I was playing quite well and got the job done in two sets,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova led 6-3, 5-3 when Vandeweghe made a comeback.

“Today, serving for the second set, I could have made it easier,” Sharapova said. “It went to a third, but I still got the job done. I have to be pleased with that, that I’m in the semifinals again here after so many years.”

“I thought I relished it pretty well,” said the young American about her fortnight.  “I enjoyed my experience.  I enjoyed the crowd out there.

“I didn’t enjoy the result too much.  But I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be feeling even less happy about this, at least body‑wise.

“It’s been a long two weeks, playing singles and doubles here.  So I’m happy with my progress through the tournament, and I’m happy with the whole experience of it.”

Williams owns a 17-2 record against Sharapova, including a winning streak against her at 16 in a row.

“Definitely no secrets between each other’s games,” Sharapova said.

“But, I mean, look, I haven’t played Serena here in 11 years.  That would be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again.”

“I love playing Maria,” Williams said.  “I think she brings out the best in me.  I think I bring out the best in her.  I thought we had a wonderful final in Australia.  It was very entertaining.  She played really well.

“For me, I don’t feel like I have any pressure going into this match.  We both actually lost early last year.  We both are kind of enjoying this moment and one of us will be in the final.”

The other semifinal will pit No. 13 seed and 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska against No. 20 Garbine Muguruza.

Radwanska beat No. 21 Madison Keys 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3. Muguruza defeated No. 15 Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 to reach her first major semifinal.

“I couldn’t feel any better, I’m just so happy I managed to stay in that match. It was very tight and I just tried to play it point by point, game by game,” Radwanska said. “That’s how you have to play it and in the third set one break was the difference.”

“I’ve seen a few of her matches this tournament and she’s playing great tennis,” Radwanska said. “She’s actually playing very similar to Keys so I think it could be a similar match.

“It’s the semifinals so, of course, there’s nothing to lose. All the players are playing great tennis. I’m just going to fight for each point and try to play my best. One day’s rest and I’ll be ready to go.”

“It’s amazing, I’m so happy. It was a very tough match,” said Muguruza, the first Spaniard to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario in 1997. “The last game was a very intense one, so there was so much relief after that.”

“It’s very hard to achieve this, so I’m very proud and happy for Spain also! All this experience helps you a lot and makes you believe that you can do it. So I’m going to be confident and ready for the match.”

Novak Djokovic completed a five-set match held over from Monday, due to darkness with a win over to reach the Gentlemen’s quarterfinals 6-7(6), 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.

The world No. 1 will play Marin Cilic on Wednesday. The other men’s quarterfinal match-ups include: Roger Federer vs. Gilles Simon, Andy Murray vs. Vasek Pospisil, and Stan Wawrinka vs. Richard Gasquet.


Serena Williams Beats Sister Venus To Reach Wimbledon Quarters


(July 6, 2015)

On the second Monday of Wimbledon, it was “Sister Act” part 26 as No. 1 Serena Williams defeated her sister and the 16th seed Venus 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. It was the younger sister’s sixth victory of the last seven, raising her head-to-head record to 15-11.

“I just thought,`Wow, I’m 33, and she just turned 35. I don’t know how many more moments like this we’ll have.’ I plan on playing for years, but you never know if we’ll have the opportunity to face each other,” Serena said after walking off the court. “I just took the moment in, and I thought, `We’re at Wimbledon.’ I remember when I was 8 years old, we dreamed of this moment, and it was kind of surreal.”

“When that moment is over, it will be over,” Venus said, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s not now.”

Tuesday’s win puts Serena closer to winning her 21st major title, fourth in a row, keeping hope alive the possibility of a Grand Slam should she win at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

“I no longer answer questions about Grand Slams,” Serena told media.

“It’s been six years since we played each other,” Serena said.  “I just really was enjoying the moment out there.  It was such a great vibe, such a great situation to be in, when we were both so young and dreaming of coming to Wimbledon.

“Not only did we fulfill our dreams, we both won it five times.  That’s pretty amazing.

“I just had an opportunity to reflect on that.”

Serena Williams will play Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday for a spot in the semis. Azarenka defeated Belinda Bencic 6-3. 6-2.

I’ve had a couple of tough matches with Victoria,” Serena said.  “It doesn’t matter who I play, I’m going to be ready.  I’m going to have to be ready.  She’s due to win big and to do really well.”

“I look forward to tomorrow.  I feel like my tournament has finally begun.  This is where I feel really comfortable in a Grand Slam.”

“Well, the key is for me, I still need to find it because I haven’t beat her in the Grand Slam,” said Azarenka.  “So for me, I still have to find that extra step to go a little bit further.

“But she’s a great player.  I mean, one of the greatest players of all time.

“I just try to really focus on what I have to do instead of thinking who is on the other side and try to execute my game.

“I think I have been playing pretty well, trying to climb and put my game together more and more.  So I’m just trying to focus on tomorrow, is another day, another match, and keep it simple.”

Two more Americans join Serena Williams in the quarterfinals – Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe. Keys beat qualifier Olga Govortsova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1while Vandeweghe beat French Open finalist and sixth seed Lucie Safarova 7-6(1), 7-6(4)

“I mean, every moment there is a breakthrough whether it’s in a WTA tournament or in a Grand Slam,” Vandeweghe said.  “Yes, this is the farthest I have ever gone in a Grand Slam and I’m playing really well at this time, but, you know, I’m not really considering it like, wow, a breakthrough.

I mean, I had set goals of what I wanted to do, and because I’m achieving it doesn’t mean it’s a breakthrough.  I think it’s stepping stones more than a breakthrough.  You know, I would more say it’s on the lines of it’s been a while coming because of what I felt that I have dedicated to my game of tennis.”

Vadeweghe will face Maria Sharapova next. The 2004 Wimbledon champion beat Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-4.


“I think there is still going to be the nerves,” Madison Keys said about reaching her second major quarterfinal.  “It’s second quarter and it’s against a different person.  But I think there is at least some, Okay, I have done it before, I have been through it, I know what to expect.

“No matter what, it will be fun and will be exciting, and I just have to go out and try to focus on the match.”

Garbine Muguruza had the upset of the day when she ousted fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4.

“I went very like focused and prepared because I knew that she was going to try to do a long and physical match against me,” the Spaniard said. “So I think I used my opportunities of the short balls, good shots, the serve.  I think I played really good.  This helps me a lot against these types of players.”

On the men’s side of the draw Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson will have to complete their match on Tuesday. Djokovic lost the first two sets in tiebreaks and won the next two. Play was halted on Court 1 due to darkness.

Marin Cilic awaits the winner in his quarterfinal.

Roger Federer and Andy Murray moved into Wimbledon’s “elite 8.” Second-seeded Federer won 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 over No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut. Murray bested Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4

The other men’s quarterfinal pairings are: Roger Federer vs. No. 12 Gilles Simon, Andy Murray vs. Vasek Pospisil, and Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 21 Richard Gasquet.


Ladies’ Singles – Fourth Round

(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. (16) Venus Williams (USA) 64 63
(4) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 64 64
(20) Garbine Muguruza (ESP) d. (5) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 64 64
CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) d. (6) Lucie Safarova (CZE) 76(1) 76(4)
(13) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. (28) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 75 64
(15) Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) d. Monica Niculescu (ROU) 16 75 62
(21) Madison Keys (USA) d. (Q) Olga Govortsova (BLR) 36 64 61
(23) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (30) Belinda Bencic (SUI) 63 62

Gentlemen’s Singles – Fourth Round

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) d. [20] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 62 62 63
[3] Andy Murray (GBR) d. [23] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 76(7) 64 57 64
[4] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d. [16] David Goffin (BEL) 76(3) 76(7) 64
[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) d. [6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) 63 63 62
[9] Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Denis Kudla (USA) 64 46 63 75
[21] Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. [26] Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 75 61 67(7) 76(6)
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) d. [22] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 46 67(4) 64 63 63


Belinda Bencic Wins Eastbourne for First WTA Title

Belinda Bencic photo courtesy of the LTA by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA

By Ros Satar

(June 27, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – On a bright and breezy day, it seemed fitting the moment could go to one of the WTA Rising Stars, as Belinda Bencic rode the winds of Eastbourne to claim her first WTA Singles title.


At first glance it looked as through former champion Agnieszka Radwanska would have all the momentum on her side. She was rounding out nicely to form, save for a worrying fade away in the Nottingham semi-final a couple of weeks ago, and she had pretty much coasted through the draw until the semi-final where she had to fight against a determined Sloane Stephens and dropped her first set of the tournament.


By contrast, even though players never like to admit they even cast an eye over the draw, Bencic had no idea she would be contesting the final when she first looked her draw.


She said, after advancing to the final after Caroline Wozniacki’s withdrawal: “I actually saw the draw and I saw like Barthel first round, which is not easy. Then Madison Keys second round. I was like, okay.”


The final was a nervy affair for the first two sets, with three exchanged breaks of serve towards the end of the first, Bencic having the advantage to edge the Pole for a one set lead.


Radwanska had spent a lot of the latter part of the first set exasperated that things were not going her way, and where she needed to be fare more inventive, she was so, stepping up the aggression for an early break. Even when a sloppy game allowed the Swiss teen back, Radwanska looked to be just slightly sharper, going for her shots more and breaking with conviction to level the match.


But grass is nothing if not terribly unforgiving, and Bencic did not panic, breaking the Pole twice before the first change of ends, as well as holding on to her serves with confidence that belies her young years.


We wondered what nerves might prevail as she stepped up to serve out for her first title. None, as it happened – serving it out to love, and more than making up for the straight sets loss to Camila Giorgi just a couple of weeks ago at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.


Not only that but this makes her a pretty useful prospect on grass, much like a couple of other famous Swiss players we could think of.


It was an emotional Radwanska who carried out her on-court interview after the 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 loss. In a somewhat turbulent year, Radwanska has suffered the embarrassment of her appointment of Martina Navratilova as a coach folding after barely a few months. The results have been average and Radwanska found herself slipping out of the Top 10 as the general hubbub around the latest crop of WTA Rising Stars has encroached on the old guard’s limelight.


She said: “I think I had a lot of good matches, Nottingham and here. I think that’s the main thing. I think I did the best preparation before Wimbledon, and I really played good tennis.”


With Radwanska in Petra Kvitova’s section of the door she can expect a Tuesday start.


Meanwhile there was just pure unadulterated joy in Bencic as she followed in Madison Keys’ footsteps last year and lifted her maiden tour title.


She described those final moments with a maturity that marks her out as one to watch at SW 19, saying: “I was very focused and really I played very free. Of course I was disappointed I didn’t close out the second set. I was also starting to get tired. It was a lot of running and, yeah, long rallies. But then I started very focused. I did the 3‑0, so after that I relaxed a little bit and could close it out very good. I think I will just realise maybe when going to bed or maybe tomorrow.”


She will start against Tsvetana Pironkova when Wimbledon begins on Monday 29 June.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Eastbourne Finals set

Aga Radwanska slides to a ball

By Ros Satar

(June 26, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – On the day when the Wimbledon draws came out, there was still the small matter of the Eastbourne finals to be set, with some great grass court action on the menu.


First up was Agnieszka Radwanska, who lifted the trophy in 2008 in a pretty tough final against Nadia Petrova including a mammoth tiebreak for a 6-4 6-7(11) 6-4 win.


She might not have had quite the same battle to book her place in the final this time, as she faced Sloane Stephens in the semi-final and countering the American’s attacking play, as she was put under almost immediate pressure from the first game, saving four break-points there and six in her next game before even the first sit-down.


That did not stop her from making the first strike against Stephens, as she broke the American twice to wrap up the first set.


Stephens picked up the pace though, as the pair settled in to some perhaps tricky conditions. Despite the sun shining down on Eastbourne, there was a stiff breeze in the air. A competitive second set was forced to a tie-break, and Stephens ripped some impressive winners past Radwanska to level the match.


Radwanska started off the brighter in the decider, breaking Stephens, despite having to deal with a dive-bombing seagull, and took more risks in the swirling wind with an array of drop-shots and crafted returns, driving out a 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2 win.


She said: “I think the wind was changing, as well. Sometimes I was changing sides and I was against the wind, and I was going to the other side and still I was against the wind! That was weird. And of course there was another wind from the side, as well.


“So it was really tricky. You just had to know that the wind is going from each side and just to hit the ball strong, because otherwise it’s gonna fly wherever it will fly.”


But while the scene was set for a great match up between Swiss teen Belinda Bencic and Caroline Wozniacki, another former champion at the event. But from the start, Wozniacki looked ill at ease striking wild, missing volleys and after surrendering two breaks of serve before the first changeover, the doctor was called. As the conversation drew on and still no sign of a physical assessment, it was clear we were heading for a second withdrawal of the day. Earlier, Ekaterina Makarova withdrew from the second doubles semi-final with an Achilles injury.


Bencic said: “Definitely it’s not the way I wanted to win, of course. I’m also a little bit disappointed we couldn’t play a proper final because of course all the people and everyone.


“I didn’t know anything [about Wozniacki] before the match. Of course I also fell down a little bit yesterday, so I was more thinking of myself in that moment, so I didn’t notice anything what she had.”


Wozniacki confirmed that she had withdrawn with a back injury that had been troubling her for a few days, but had stiffened up considerably ahead of her match.


“I have had a slight back problem the whole week, basically. Today it stiffened up more, and I felt like I couldn’t move the way I wanted to and felt pain. I felt really bad for the crowd and everyone who had come out, but there’s nothing really I could do about it. It’s all about for me now just to look ahead for Wimbledon that’s starting in a few days. You know, just get as much treatment as possible and be ready for my first round there.”


Radwanska will face Bencic for the first time on Saturday. She surmised: “It’s always very interesting to play someone for the first time, especially not really happen very often. It’s gonna be interesting match, for sure. She had a really good season this year. Upcoming player on tour. So I’m really looking forward. Of course I think more pressure is on my side, but this is the final so we both want to win.”


Radwanska and Bencic will play the final on Saturday.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Serena Williams’ return to Indian Wells praised by peers



(March 11, 2015) INDIAN WELLS – It is a measure of respect that the top players have for Serena Williams that they were happy to talk about her impending return to Indian Wells, as well as their own chances at the tournament – well at least for all but one of them.


As some of the best players in the WTA met members of the press ahead of starting their own campaigns at the BNP Paribas Open, the big news was and of course still is Williams.


For 14 years, Indian Wells has been without either of the sisters who have made such a huge impact on the sport. Even after battling with potentially career threatening injuries and illnesses both Venus and Serena are still very much at the top of their games, especially when you take into account Venus’ recent resurgence.


As Serena racked up her 19th Grand Slam, the time was right (ironically in a piece written for Time magazine) for Serena to at least forgive and move on. Accepting a wildcard, she would return to the Premier mandatory event for the first time since her win, marred by controversy in 2001.


Speaking to one of the players that knows her best, we were given a brief insight into how precious enduing friendships are in the sport. Caroline Wozniacki explained how Williams had stepped in to help her over the very public break-up of her impending nuptials to Irish golfer Rory McIlroy. She described how the World No. 1 had been almost like a “big sister” to her as the pair hit the beach in the summer ahead of some of Wozniacki’s best tennis in her career.


It was Williams that was waiting at the New York finish line as Wozniacki completed her first marathon, with the tennis season still in full swing.


The Dane said: “She’s special. She’s a great person. She’s there when you need her. We just click.”


She continued: “It’s great for her, it’s great for the tournament and it’s great for tennis. It’s a big step for her and I’m sure she will handle it great.”

Last year’s finalist Agnieszka Radwanska said: “There’s so many other top players, but of course she is in the draw as well so it’s going to be even more tough. It’s good that she’s back here, always another challenge for us playing her here.”


The players facing Serena would barely have even started their careers when she lifted her second Indian Wells trophy, but no-one has missed the controversy, but it is time to move on.


Canada’s Genie Bouchard said: “The past is the past. The players are excited she’s here. She’s the best player in the world, and this is a major tournament. She should be here.”


Even Roger Federer, who is still chasing his 18th Grand Slam title believed that Friday’s come-back match was going to be something special at the Tennis Gardens.


“It’s wonderful for American fans who have attended this event for so many years and haven’t seen her play here, so I think it’s great for them. I think it’s great for women’s tennis and I think it’s nice that we get to see her here again.”


And here she will be, although without her long-term hitting partner Sascha Bajin who has been at her side for the last eight years, but joins Victoria Azarenka’s new coaching set up.


Having struggled with a virus at the start of the year, that limited her Fed Cup duty following her sixth Australian Open win and a 19th Grand Slam, Williams will talk to the press on Thursday ahead of starting her campaign against Monica Niculescu in Friday’s night match.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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Serena and Venus Williams Reach Australian Open Third Round

(January 21, 2015) The Williams sisters have reached the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday. No. 1 ranked Serena rallied from set points down in the first set and won 10 straight games to beat Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-0. Venus defeated American countrywoman Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-3.

Five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams said that her opponent started out aggressive and that she was too passive.

After have set points against Serena in the first set, Zvonareva could only win a total of eight points in the second set.

“Yeah, things really clicked,” Serena said. “I had no other option but for things to click. Yeah, I just had to start playing better.”

Venus Williams is happy to be in the third round.

“Always good to advance,” said the 7-time major winner. “That’s pretty much the goal when you step on the courts, it’s like, Come on. Let’s get to the next round. Met the goal today.”

“I’m hitting the ball a lot like how I want to. Yeah, some points you play well and some not as well. I’m just continually trying to be as consistent as I can on the court and still play consistent while taking risk as well. Find that balance.”

When Venus was asked about why she and her sister Serena withdrew from the doubles on Wednesday, she said: “According to the rules you don’t have to give a reason. I think we’ll stick with that.”

When further pressed by a reporter, Venus ended the line of questioning by politely saying: “No further questions on that. I object. Sustained. Thank you.”

Venuswill play Italy’s Camila Giorgi in the third round.

“Not sure if I played her before,” the 34-year-old 18th seed noted, “but she definitely raises her game depending on the caliber player that she plays. I think it’s just important to remain consistent and aggressive, just as I’ve been this whole year. That’s my goal.”

With her new coach Martina Navratilova in attendance, No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska began the day on Rod Laver Arena with an easy 44-minute, 6-0, 6-1 win over Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.

“I think it was great match. I really start well. I play aggressive from the beginning to the end. And well, short, good match. So, you know, it’s better, especially that it’s really hot today. Be fresh for the next one.”

Also advancing were No. 4 Petra Kvitova, No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova the 2014 finalist, No. 19 Alize Cornet and No. 24 Garbine Muguruza and No. 30 Varvara Lepchenko. Seeds falling on Thursday included 8the seed Caroline Wozniacki who lost to two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, No. 20 Sam Stosur lost to young American Coco Vandeweghe.


On the men’s side top seed Novak Djokovic had an easy win to reach the third round 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 over No. 88 Andrey Kuznetsov. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka also advanced with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over Romanian qualifier Marius Copil.

No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori needed four sets to stop Ivan Dodig. No. 12 Feliciano Lopez was trailing 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 4-0 when Adrian Mannarino retired from the match and No. 19 John Isner beat Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4.

Steve Johnson upset No. 30 Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.