October 26, 2016

WTA Finals – Sharapova Rallies While Halep Dominates in Opening Wins

By Ros Satar

(October 25, 2015) SINGAPORE –

Simona Halep [1] d Flavia Pennetta [7]

Halep fist pump-001

Any doubts over Halep’s fitness was dispelled pretty much in an instant (well, at least in the first 25 minutes) as the Romanian scampered around as well as she has ever done, to wrap up the first set over the last Slam title winner of the year in just 25 minutes without dropping a game.


Halep, who has struggled in the past with the variety and finesse that an on-form Pennetta has to offer, could seemingly do nothing wrong in the first set, as Pennetta struggled to find any way into the match.


The second set saw a lot more attacking play from the Italian as Halep maybe faltered ever so slightly, not quite finding the lines but having no trouble with the wide open space behind them.


But Pennetta admitted that she just was not on point to take her chances today as Halep set down a marker that her run to the finals last year was no fluke.


She admitted: “The second set was much better. I was trying to find something more, to be more aggressive, and I was more close and I have my chance. I didn’t make it.”


Of course the beauty of the round robin format is you live to fight another day. While Pennetta has been to the season ending finals before, winning with doubles partner Gisela Dulko in 2010, this was her first (and of course last) shot at the singles.


“I think I have to recover a little bit, to have more energy, to be more aggressive, and that’s going to be my goal for the next match for sure.”


For the Romanian – if she can keep up that level of aggression, she will be targeting her first win over Maria Sharapova.


She said: “I was well‑prepared and I knew how to play against her. I was expecting that she’s going to play the same like in US Open, and I knew how to adapt the game. So I was solid. I was smart‑aggressive, I can say. I didn’t use overpower. I just opened the court and I tried to finish the point.”


Halep started quickly last year, stunning Serena Williams in the round-robin stages before succumbing in the final on her debut. She admitted that last year she was just happy to be there, but if she plays throughout the early stages like she did today, she has to be a favourite to win at the end of next Sunday.



Maria Sharapova [3] d Agnieszka Radwanska [5] 4-6 6-3 6-4

Sharapova gets ready to serve

If Halep was speedy, we knew we were in for the long haul as Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska embarked upon games that were almost half as long as the first set of Halep/Pennetta.


Sharapova looked to be a little rusty – something that she probably expected having not gotten through a full match since her semifinal defeat by Serena Williams this summer at Wimbledon. Fist-pumping battling, it was left to Radwanska to pull out the ninja tricks with some outstanding shot-making to keep herself in contention as they both had their chances to make a break, neither being able to convert.


After a quick start in the second set by Sharapova, they seemed to be back to their old dueling ways as Radwanska righted the ship to get back on the board at 1-3. But by now the bit was between the Russian’s teeth as she leveled the match to set up a decider, and more importantly to answer the question about how match-ready she was.


The first advantage in the decider went to Sharapova in a hold just shy of 14 minutes followed by a break to put Radwanska firmly on the back foot. By now looking spent, it was as much as she could do to stay in contention as Sharapova faltered once after breaking to serve out the match for the first time, before finally grinding out the win, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.


Radwanska had to admit this was the one that got away, after the match: “I think she is just kind of player that even that she didn’t play for couple months, she’s always ready to play matches and always in shape to play really good match.


“I think we always playing three hours match in Championships, so I’m not surprised.


“I think it was really good match. I didn’t really use my chances. Couple of off games that I just slip away a little bit.”


“Even when you lose you have chances to go for it. Of course no easy matches here, so I’ll be very happy to play the same tennis that I was playing today and we’ll see.”


For Sharapova, the relief of having completed her first match since July was palpable.


She explained: “I’ve had a lot of starts and stops, and I was just really thrilled that despite not playing these last few months and not playing my best tennis, I was facing an opponent that obviously deserved a spot in tournament and has had a really great last few months, and I just felt like I was able to take myself to another level physically, which I didn’t exactly expect that I would be able to.


“I know we have pretty long ones. I know a lot of you look forward to them. I do, too. I really do enjoy playing against her. I feel like those are some of the matches that I like to watch on TV, when different styles of games clash against each other. Becomes that bit of a cat and mouse game.”


Play will continue on Monday with both Garbiñe Muguruza taking on Lucie Safarova in the evening session, followed by Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber.


Ros Satar is covering this event for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


All Access at the WTA Finals

The 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global returns to Singapore for the second consecutive year with the top women competing for $7 million in prize money from October 23 to November 1. This year's singles field poses with the Billie Jean King Trophy in front of the National Gallery Singapore. Left to Right: Flavia Pennetta (Italy), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Simona Halep (Romania), Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic), Angelique Kerber (Germany) and Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic). Credit: Getty Images.

The 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global returns to Singapore for the second consecutive year with the top women competing for $7 million in prize money from October 23 to November 1. This year’s singles field poses with the Billie Jean King Trophy in front of the National Gallery Singapore. Left to Right: Flavia Pennetta (Italy), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Simona Halep (Romania), Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic), Angelique Kerber (Germany) and Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic). Credit: Getty Images.

By Ros Satar


(October 24, 2015) SINGAPORE – With the draw out of the way, it was time for the stars of this year’s WTA Finals to meet the press, after a week of frenzied calculations of who may or may not make the cut.


With World No. 1 Serena Williams’ absence, the field is possibly one of the most open in recent times, with an all-European cast, with three debutantes (Garbiñe Muguruza, Flavia Pennetta and Lucie Safarova), and a frenetic sprint to the finish for the last spots.

Kvitova bh-001

First up on the scene was Petra Kvitova, who clinched the title on her debut in 2011. It has been an up and down year for the Czech, who still has the Fed Cup final to go before she can call time on her season.


Kvitova took the brave move to take a couple of months off the spring hard-court swing, citing exhaustion and later it emerged she had been struggling with mononucleosis so to qualify for the WTA Finals was an achievement worth smiling about.


She said: “To qualify again after what was a tough year for me, I’m really satisfied that I made it again. In the beginning of the year if somebody told me that I’m going to qualify, I’m not really going to believe them. I hope that next year will be a bit boring.”


The fourth seed heads up a trio of lefties that have all wound up in the White Group, and felt that despite the lack of the World No. 1, the field was ready to put on a good show.


“I know that we are missing Serena. I think she needed the time off so it’s good for her. Of course she is a great champion and probably for many people she is one of the greatest player. So they are probably a little bit sad she isn’t here.


“But I think it’s still a great draw and a great two groups. I think you’re going to see great tennis from everyone here.”


Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Top seed Simona Halep is thankfully out of the leftie group, but has the challenge of Maria Sharapova in hers and feels ready to tackle the 2004 champion and get her first win over her.


Halep said: “I never beat her, but maybe I will have the chance here. I just want to play match by match, everyone is playing tough here. We are the best eight players in the world so every match is like a final. I have nothing to lose. I have no expectations.”


Halep stunned Williams last year in the Round Robin stages before meeting her again in the final, on her debut last year. With three players making their debut this year, she felt like the field could be wide open this year.


She continued: “A few players are coming very strong. Muguruza – she’s coming very strong. She’s strong, she’s a strong player. She can win many matches, many important tournaments, Radwanska, is coming back again. She’s playing well, Pennetta won US Open, for the first time.


“So of course she will give everything she has because she said she’s going to retire so she has nothing to lose anymore. It’s my second year playing the WTA Finals so I have nothing to lose too because last year I had great result. So I think everyone can win the title.”


Agniezska Radwanska

Fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska is another player who has had a tough year, but in a spurt towards the end of the year picked up pace to qualify fifth for the WTA Finals.


“Of course, beginning of the year was tough. To be honest, I didn’t really change much. I was practicing the same. It’s just during the matches, something didn’t work. I couldn’t really play my best game during the matches.


“[The] grass court season I think gave me much more confidence on court. That was kind of a click out there. I was playing much better, feeling much better on court than beginning of the year. It was still not too late to be here, to make much more points in the second part of the season.”



The wait was possibly more nail-biting for Angelique Kerber, who was relying on the results of others to make the cut.


“You know, of course it’s better if you have it in your hands. But at the end, I was waiting and watching a little bit on the live score how the other is playing.


“At the end I did everything I could this year to be here. Of course, I’m proud that I qualified at the end. It was I think the most toughest and closest to qualify at the end.”


For Muguruza – it is her singles debut, having made the doubles event here last year, and she will be contesting both this year. Since winning her highest profile tournament to date in Beijing, she has been in Singapore preparing for this tournament, and the challenges of playing both the singles and doubles.


“I think is very tough to play singles and doubles, especially when you are really in high rankings because every match you play, you really need to be 100%. Obviously playing singles and doubles makes you more tired. You have to spend more hours in the side practicing, talking and thinking. But I enjoy playing doubles with Carla (Suarez Navarro). We said two years ago, Carla, let’s play doubles and see what happens.


“We are playing Masters again, it’s amazing. I think it helps me a lot, doubles, as a better player, to learn things. So far I’m enjoying singles and doubles, but it’s hard, really hard.”


Flavia Pennetta

Flavia Pennetta

After Flavia Pennetta triumphed in New York, winning her maiden slam and then announcing this would be her last year in tennis, she acknowledged that once she had a chance to make the cut, she would fight for it.


But she was very clear – this is her final tournament as a player, and while she emphatically shut down the thought of becoming a coach to at least a senior player, the thought of perhaps shaping how stars of the future are made appealed.


She said: “That thing is going to be something that I like to do, more to just explain them how it is the life. I mean, now I feel there is a lot of pressure [on] the young children to become champions. I think there is a right time for everything.


“They need to be a child. They need to have fun. They don’t have to be professional at 10 years old. I mean, they have so much time in the life. Why to rush too much? Now I think they are really push from the sponsor, from the family, from everyone. Before was more relaxing everything. Now they want it too much, so early.”


Lucie Safarova

Lucie Safarova

In fact Pennetta is not the only player who has found success a little later in her career, with Lucie Safarova joining the cast of players this year, following her run to the final of the French Open.


“I’ve been improving through last couple years already. I’ve been climbing the rankings. It hasn’t been as fast as some other players jump there. But the more I really enjoy it, I’m thankful for it.”


She will be partnering Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles.


Pride of place in terms of the day’s procession of players was 2004 champion Maria Sharapova. One of only two players here who won on their debut, it has been an up and down year for the Russian, who battled with injury throughout the US hard court season and only took to the court after Wimbledon for the first time in Wuhan, where she had to retire in her opening match.


Sharapova might avoid the ‘group of lefties’ but with little match play and even with no nemesis Williams in the mix, and the prospect of the Fed Cup final ahead, there are plenty of challenges enough this week in Singapore.


She said: “Considering I haven’t played much, it doesn’t change much for me. I think, as I said before, it’s not so much who I’m playing against or what my record is than it is about me being out there and staying healthy and working my way through the matches.


“I feel there’s definitely been a big mix of a few players that have done extremely well at certain times of the year and not so in other parts of the year. Besides Serena, the consistency has been lacking, that’s for sure.


“Of course, there are definitely names that have been around, a younger generation that we always believed would come through, is proving to show that. There are also players that have had great potential around my age that have come through and done extremely well, and even older. There’s been a mix of everything this year.”


Sharapova will be part of the opening day’s line-up, playing on the opening night against Radwanska. Earlier in the day the WTA Rising Stars final will take place, and will be followed by Halep v Pennetta.


Monday’s schedule will see Muguruza kick off the White Group matches against Safarova while Kvitova and Kerber take the night match honours.


Play on Sunday begins at 11am with Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Safarova v Muguruza/Suárez Navarro.


Ros Satar is covering the WTA finals for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Djokovic Wins Third Shanghai Crown; Jankovic, Radwanska and Pavlyuchenkova Claim WTA Titles


(October 18, 2015) Novak Djokovic won his third Shanghai title on Sunday besting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final 6-2, 6-4. The victory, which gave him his 25 ATP Masters Series title and 57th career tournament win extended his current winning streak to 17 straight matches.

“Today the key was to get as many serves back into play to Jo because he has one of the biggest serves in the game,: said the world No. 1. “He has shown that in the second set, with some break points early in the set. He came up with some aces, some big serves.

“Generally I always felt in control of the match. I felt like I’ve done everything right. I’ve won many of my service games very comfortably. I didn’t allow him to get into the rhythm, get into the match. Today’s match, and overall the tournament, it’s gone incredibly well for me.”

“The first set went quick,” Tsonga said. “It’s not easy to stop him. He is really consistent on his return. Today I didn’t serve well enough, especially in the first set. After that, in the second, I served a little bit better, and it gave me the opportunity to have a chance on his serve. But finally I was not able to do it, and he broke me at 4-all.

“I’m very satisfied. To come back at your best level, it’s always a long process. I’m happy today to be back really close to the Top 10. Like I said just before, it gave me energy to continue to work hard and try to achieve other good things.”

With his performance this week, the Frenchman in now No. 9 in the Race to London for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals.Just two spots remain in the eight-man field as Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych secured their places this week. They will join Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka who have already qualified.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Twenty-ninth ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won her first title of the year and eighth WTA title overall defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 6-4, 6-3 for the Linz title Generali Ladies.


Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

Veteran Jelena Jankovic rallied from a set and 6-5 down to beat second seed Angelique Kerber in the Hong Kong Open final 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1

For the former No. 1 WTA player coming into the event as a Wild Card, Jankovic this was her 15th career crown. Jankovic said that this win will improve her confidence, especially beating Kerber and Venus Williams. She said it proves that she can still play at the top level and said that if she works hard, maybe she can win a major next year.

Aga Radwanska Party with the pros

Agnieszka Radwanska easily defeated Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-2 win the Tianjin Open title and claim a place in the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Radwanska, who won her 16th WTA title of her career, became the fifth player to qualify for the year-end championships. She will be joining Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza in Singapore. No. 1 Serena Williams withdrew from the event to rest and recover.



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.