August 28, 2016

Venus Williams Reaches Eighth Stanford Final

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

 

(July 23, 2016) After a dominating first set, top seed Venus Williams survived some serving problems near the end of the second set, including saving two set points, to beat U.S. countrywoman, No. 78 in the world, Alison Riske 6-1, 7-6(2) to reach the Stanford final on Saturday night.

 

For Venus Williams, who is playing the main draw of the Bank of the West Classic for the thirteenth time, this will be her eighth final. The world No. 7 last reached the Stanford final in 2009, falling to Marion Bartoli. Williams captured the title in 2000 and 2002.

 

Williams breezed through the first set, winning 76% of first serve points, winning 30 of 47 points in the set, going 2 for 2 on break points.

In the second set Williams and Riske exchanged breaks in the fifth and sixth games, with the seven-time major champion getting another break in the ninth game to try and serve out the match at 5-4 in the second. Williams’ serve vanished in the tenth game, when she hit three straight double faults to give Riske the break. Riske held for 6-5, but in the next game Williams was still having problems with her first serve. She fought off two set points against her to reach the second set tiebreak which she won easily 7-2.

1-Venus Williams bank of the West

The 36-year-old Williams will take on 25-year-old British No. 1 and world No. 18 Johanna Konta for the title. Williams and Konta are tied 1-1 in head-to-head play, with Konta upsetting Williams, the last time they faced off in the first round of the most recent Australian Open where Konta won in straight sets. Williams defeated Konta in three sets in final eight of Wuhan in 2015.

Williams will be attempting to win her 50th title in her 80th final on Sunday. She’s hoping to tie her sister Serena, who has three Bank of the West trophies.

“It would be nice to get three. Who doesn’t wanna be like Serena?”

Venus who has played of her matches this week at night, will be playing her first day match in Sunday’s final. She said near the end of her news conference that she was going to prep for the final by getting some rest.

“Right after this question I’m going to go to bed and get some rest,” she said.

Alison Riske

Alison Riske

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Johanna Konta Serves Her Way Into Her First WTA Final

Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta

By Curt Janka

(July 23, 2016) STANFORD, California – Johanna Konta lost just six points on her serve as she toppled Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-2 in the first semifinal of the Bank of the West Classic. The win earns Konta her first WTA final and it’s the first time a British player has played for the trophy here since Virginia Wade in 1981.

The third seed Konta served a total of nine games and held at love for six of them. Cibulkova, the second seed and 2013 champion, is arguably one of the better returners on tour, so what made Konta’s serve so tough today? “She was placing the serve so well and it was hard for me to do something with it,” the Slovak Cibulkova answered. “She was changing the directions of the serve, so that was the main thing. Today she was just serving too well.“

The 25-year-old British woman, currently ranked No. 18,  backed up her serve with solid ground strokes and returns, breaking her higher-seeded opponent three times. After the match, she was pleased with her performance. “I’m really happy to have come through that and to be into my first final,” Konta said. “I thought I served well and did a good job in the end of staying in the present. She [Cibulkova] is an incredible competitor, so I knew going into the match that I was going to have to be there for every single point. I achieved that, so I’m feeling very grateful and looking forward to my next match tomorrow.”

Konta was also playing in the doubles semifinal with her partner, Maria Sanchez, against Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova. Konta will play Venus Williams in the final. The two-time Stanford winner beat Alison Riske in the night session.

“I’m really happy to have come through that and to be into my first final,” Konta said after her win.

 

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Venus Williams Playing Like The Top Seed She Is At The Bank Of The West Classic

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

By Curt Janka

(July 22, 2016) STANFORD, California –  A relaxed Venus Williams played composed tennis as she breezed to a 6-4, 6-1 win over 17-year-old wildcard Catherine Bellis at the Bank of the West Classic on Friday night. While it may have taken three sets for Williams to get by her previous opponent, there was no sign of tension in her play on Friday night. Experience may have been the key against her younger opponent.

When asked why she looked so at ease on the court she said, “I just felt like I had a lot of experience and as a young person she has to go for a lot more than I ever have to go for because I understand the game more. So I felt just comfortable that I could control the match.”

“After Wimbledon I was really pumped,” the 36-year-old Williams said. “I was like, ‘I can’t wait to play.’ That felt good. It felt good to be eager.”

When asked what else she is looking forward to this summer, the two-time Stanford winner replied, “There’s so much to look forward to! The semifinals tomorrow is like my main focus. The Olympics I’ve been waiting for four years. As soon as the last one was over I was ready to go again. It’s getting closer and it feels surreal but when I get there it’s gonna be real. And after that you just turn right back around and play the Open.”

CiCi Bellis

CiCi Bellis

Despite a quick second set, Bellis did make the first set very competitive. “I learned a lot,” she said. “I think mainly I just have to focus on the key points. There are a couple points in the first set that I think if I played a little bit more aggressive I could have won them. But, you know, she’s obviously the number one seed here, so it’s unbelievable to be on the court with someone like her.“

Asked about her short-term goals, Bellis smiled and said, “Yesterday, actually, I committed to Stanford. I’m just going to see how the next year goes in my pro career.” She explained that after another year on tour, she would start her college career at Stanford.

Top seed Williams will face Alison Riske in the semifinals on Saturday. Riske advanced when her quarterfinal opponent fourth seed Coco Vandeweghe suffered an ankle injury and had to retire.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Dominika Cibulkova came back from two early breaks to win 7-5, 6-0 over Misaki Doi. Cibulkova will next face third seed Johanna Konta, who beat her quarterfinal opponent, Zheng Saiai 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

 

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Svitolina Rallies to Beat Riske at Bank of the West Classic

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By Curt Janka

(August 7, 2015) STANFORD, CaliforniaElina Svitolina waited until late in the second set to elevate her play to defeat Alison Riske 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. There were many breaks of serve and the two were quite even up until Riske was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set. That’s when Svitolina seemed to find a new gear and went on to win 9 of the final 10 games.

 

“I was trying to push myself to stick to the baseline,” Svitolina explained. “It didn’t work against her so for me it was important to try to react fast and try to open the angles. Just pushing the ball you can’t win at this level. That’s why when I was 4-5 down, I said to myself ‘Come on and just hit the ball, wait for your chance and open the court.’ And that’s what brought me success today.”

 

The top players won’t often let an opponent back in a match like she experienced today. So what can she work on to get better? Svitolina offered, “I need to practice more on my serve. I need to find the confidence. Sometimes it can be really good and dangerous for my opponent. I need to work more on my serve to have it for every match, not just a few games.”

With the win, Svitolina advances to the semifinals of The Bank of the West Classic. She awaits the winner of the quarterfinal between Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska. Svitolina said she will watch some of the encounter. “I’m sure it will be a good match because they are both trying very hard for each ball. They are really tough opponents and I think it will be a really interesting match.”

 

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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US Falls to Italy in Fed Cup World Group Play-off

Flavia Pennetta

Flavia Pennetta

(April 19, 2015) Italy has now won five straight Fed cup ties against the United States with their 3-2 win on Sunday in the World Group playoff in Brindisi, Italy.

No. 1 Serena Williams had to fight her way back against Sara Errani to take the first match of the day 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead over Italy.

“Today has been a big eye opener,” Williams said. “I need to go home and train.  I am totally not ready for clay court season as I thought I was.  This was a great match for me, even if I had lost, I think it would have been a wonderful match.  That is one good thing about playing Fed Cup and things like this it gives you the practice that you normally would not get.”

 

In the second match, hometown girl Flavia Pennetta demolished Christina McHale 6-1, 6-1 to even up the tie at 2-2.

The final rubber of the tie which was the doubles, saw Williams lost her first match of her Fed Cup career when she paired with Alison Riske and fell to Pennetta and Errani 6-0, 6-3 which sealed the tie for Italy.

Williams is now 13-0 in Singles and 3-1 in doubles in Fed Cup competition.

On playing against Pennetta and Errani in doubles, Williams said: “They are a very solid team and obviously, they have both been No. 1 in doubles.  I have been No. 1, so I felt like I had the opportunity to take some chances and do the best I can.  They were the better team today and ultimately, they got the win, which they deserved since they played better.”

Italy will return to the World Group and can compete for the Fed Cup trophy in 2016 while the U.S. will fall to World Group II.

Asked about the future of the U. S. Fed Cup team, Captain Mary Joe Fernandez said: “I think it is a big challenge.  We have to work harder.  We came close today and just keep plugging away.  The good news is that we have a lot of players in the Top 100 and hopefully, we can get two wins next year and get back into the World Group.”

 

The 2016 Fed Cup draw will be made in June.

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Riske Wins Tianjin for First WTA Title

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

(October 12, 2014) Sixth seeded Alison Riske defeated third seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday for her first WTA Tour title.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me to win my first WTA title, and I was here by myself, which made it even more special, just to know that I was able to do it by myself,” said the American Riske. “I hope I can keep up the momentum and try to compete every week as best as I can. Obviously there was a little momentum change in the second set. But that was because Belinda upped her level at that point. She’s been playing so well this year and has a really bright future ahead of her. I knew coming into the match that it would be a battle and it really was.”
Benic, the 17-year-old Swiss, playing in her first final, was trying to become the youngest woman to win a tournament since 15-year-old Tamira Paszek won the Portoroz title in 2006.

 

Riske is now the fifth American to win a WTA title in 2014, joining  Serena Williams  Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

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“My Rhythm Was Really Off,” Ivanovic Upset at US Open

Ana Ivanovic with media 08092012

(August 28, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – Former No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic lost control of her serve and her groundstrokes to suffer a second round defeat at the US Open on Thursday to No. 42 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

The Serbian hit seven double-faults along with 29 unforced errors in the 7-5, 6-4 loss.

“I had great leadups to every Grand Slam,” said Ivanovic. “I played a lot of matches and won lot of matches. And big matches, as well. At the Grand Slams I just haven’t performed that well. It’s something that I’m definitely going to work on and see where I can improve, because that’s definitely, you know, big aim for me for next season.”

“It was very tough out there for me today,” she said of the loss. “I really struggled to find my rhythm and made way too many unforced errors. Yeah, it was just really bad day. She served well, and she played good at important points, but I think I just did not play as well as I did.”

Ivanovic gave credit to her opponent: “She served very well. I also thought she actually moved quite well considering her height. She had a good reach. She does hit the ball quite flat. You know, she played well in important points and made some good shots.”

“My rhythm was really off,” said the 8th seed.. And, yeah, my forehand wasn’t working at all. I made quite a lot of unforced errors from that side and I couldn’t rely on it. I felt like I was not pushing her out wide enough and I was not opening the court, because I wasn’t confident enough. It was a little bit gusty out there. But like I said, I really feel like I was not pushing her enough.”

Pliskova moves into the third round and will face 29th seed Casey Dellacqua.

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A Confident Ivanovic Rolls Past Riske in First Round of US Open

AnaIvanovicBNPPOParty

(August 26, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – No. 8 seed Ana Ivanovic made quick work of American Alison Riske on Tuesday in her opening match at the US Open with a 6-3, 6-0 win.

For the Serbian, it’s her 48th win this year, most on the WTA tour.

“It was very tough first-round match,” Ivanovic said. “We had a tough one in Auckland. I knew that coming into today’s match. She had a good run last week, so I really tried to start sharp and tried to play my game to put pressure on her. It took a little bit to adjust. The game was very heavy conditions out there today. I was very pleased, especially the way I finished the second set.”

After reaching No. 1 in 2008, the 26-year-old’s level fell off over the next few years. She’s returned to the top 10 for the first time in five years.

“The confidence is on a high level,” said Ivanovic. “I had a great season behind me. Still I work hard for each match, and I do that because I love it. It’s the same. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I really enjoy being here. You know, like in Paris, as well I had a great leadup and quite a disappointing loss. But, you know, it’s a new tournament, new situation. I really want to enjoy each match.”

The 24-year-old Riske made a splash at last year’s US. Open, making the fourth round after shocking Petra Kvitova.

Ivanovic reflected on what she would do if she reached the heights of No. 1 again: “if that happens, I think for sure I’ll handle it differently. I have more experience myself. I have also good people around me. I was lucky. I have always had very positive people and greet support from my family. That’s something I still have. At the end of the day that’s what matters the most. You know, you have people to go back to.”

“It was greatest moment of my life achieving that, especially I was only 20 at the time. In a way I maybe took it a little bit for granted, because I was always improving, I was always having better and better results. That was kind of natural progression. And once I achieved that, it was very hard to handle all the attention because I was very shy at the time. Like I was speaking before, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, you know. I was very introverted. I like to spend my time with the books. That’s who I was. All of a sudden, there was so many requests and so many other things that came with it. No one prepared me for that. Obviously it took me some time to get used to that and to actually embrace it and enjoy it. That’s why only since few years I started loving New York, because that’s about that. It’s about emotions, crowds, and embracing that moment.”

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Maria Sharapova Dominates in Third Round Victory

 

(June 28, 2014) WIMBLEDON – The second match under the comforts of the roof of Centre Court at Wimbledon on Saturday featured No. 5 Maria Sharapova against American Alison Riske as rain continued to fall keeping the outer courts inactive.

The feisty Riske jumped off to a 2-0 lead, breaking her Russian opponent in the second game. Serving at 3-2, Riske could not close on game point chance and she double-faulted on break point give the break back to Sharapova.

“On grass things happen much quicker than maybe on other surfaces, Sharapova said.  “You find yourself down a break.  She served extremely well in the beginning.  Didn’t read her serve.

“As I started getting more balls back, getting myself back in position, I felt like she had to go for a little bit more on her first serve and had a little more pressure, whereas in the beginning of the set she got a lot of free points.  That automatically gives her a lot of confidence when she steps on the line.

“Those are the types of things you try to impose on your opponent if you’re not feeling that energy, or maybe a step too slow to the ball.  It’s a few little things that make the big difference in the end.”

From that point onward it was all Sharapova, who won the last 11 straight games to complete the win in 69 minutes 6-3, 6-0.

She’ll face Angelique Kerber in the round of 16.

 

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Victoria Duval Joins Pack of Young U.S. Women into Second Round of Wimbledon

Victoria Duval photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Victoria Duval photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

(June 24, 2014) WIMBLEDON – No. 114 Victoria Duval came through Wimbledon qualifying with a back injury last week. This week she’s taken out 29th seed Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round of Wimbledon. Born in Miami, the 18-year-old of Haitian heritage, playing Wimbledon for the first time, joined a group of young American women making their All England Club debut including Madison Keys and Alison Riske advancing to second round.

Duval had reached the the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Juniors back in 2011.

She announced herself last year when she took out 2011 U.S. Open Champion Sam Stosur in the first round of the U.S. Open. ” That was one of my best playing days that I can remember,” said Duval.

“I have my expectations of myself,” Duval said. “I’m not thinking about following up a win. I’m just thinking about winning all the time.”

She said it was “pretty crazy” to think she was actually playing at Wimbledon and that it did not sink in until during the third set.

Duval had reached the the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Juniors back in 2011.

Madison Keys, 19, who won her first WTA title three days ago in Eastbourne, finally got in the win column against Monica Puig, defeating the woman from Puerto Rico 6-3, 6-3.

“She’s a great player and we’ve played a couple of times,” Keys said.  “She’s beaten me a couple of times.

“But I was really just trying to go in and just stick to my game plan, not really worry about who is on the other side of the net.”

Alison Riske joined the USA party by upsetting 26th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

Missing out on the winning experience was wild card Taylor Townsend who fell to 31st seed Klara Koukalova 7-5, 6-2

“Definitely it was a great experience,” Townsend said despite the loss.  “I’m really glad that I was able to get the wildcard and be here, first and foremost.

“I definitely am not pleased about my match, but it’s just a learning experience really.  I’m just going to take what I’ve learned over the past two slams.  I’m going to go back home.  I’m going to work extremely hard and get ready for the US Open Series.

“I have tons of tournaments to look forward to and a lot of great things are ahead, but it’s time to just put my head down and work again.”

“There are a lot of things I still need to work on in my game,” said Duval. Improving mentally, physically and getting stronger.”

Duval will face an opponent younger than herself in Belinda Bencic.

“I’m looking forward to it, it should be very exciting,” said an enthusiastic Duval.

“My goal is to win a couple of more rounds,” she said. “You come into a tournament hoping to win it.”

“My goal was top 100,” which she has reached by virtue of her win on Tuesday. “Keep improving keep winning.”

 

 

Karen Pestaina at Wimbledon

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Clock Strikes Midnight for Cinderella Victoria Duval

 

 

 

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