2014/09/02

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic Move into Wimbledon Quarterfinals

 

 

(June 30, 2014) WIMBLEDON -Top seed Novak Djokovic and third seed Andy Murray are getting closer to a semifinal clash as both men reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals on Monday at the All England Club.

Defending champion Murray reached his seventh straight Wimbledon quarterfinal after beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) under a closed roof on Centre Court, after a rain delay in the second set forced the roof to be shut.

For the Scot Murray it’s his 17 straight match win at the All England club dating back to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Serb Djokovic beat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the 11th consecutive time with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win.

“I was just happy that I won the match,” Murray said.  “I was a bit disappointed with how I started under the roof.  The beginning, like I said, I was a little bit tentative.  Apart from that, that sort of three or four games when we came back out, I played well.

“I created many chances, gave him a few opportunities.  That’s what you need to do on grass court tennis.  You don’t always break.  But if you keep putting them under enough pressure, you’re going to get through in the end.”

“I knew I was going to get tested, you know, at some stage,” the Scot added.  “And, yeah, today I was pushed, especially in the middle part of that second set, then obviously later on in the third there were some tight moments.

“But I handled them fairly well.  It was a good match.”

“I think he was moving great,” Anderson said of Murray’s play.  “That’s a big part of his game.  I think especially on the grass I think that’s a big contributor to why he’s had so much success on this surface.”

Murray will face No. 11. Grigor Dimitrov in his quarterfinal. Dimitrov defeated Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

“It’s a step up because it’s one round further, and the guys that are in the quarterfinals are going to be playing top tennis,” Murray said about his encounter with the Bulgarian.  “He obviously won Queen’s a couple weeks ago.  He likes the grass courts.

“Yeah, it’s a big opportunity for him, as well, playing on the Centre Court, the courts at Wimbledon for the first time.

“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity for him.  Hopefully we can play a good match.”

 

“I’m happy that I’m in the quarterfinal match,” Dimitrov said.  “Just going to give credit to myself for that.  But my job isn’t over yet.

“So I’m excited to get on the court tomorrow.  Just go through my regular routines, through all the gears, you know, come on Wednesday.”

 

“I’m just going to play my game,” Dimitrov added.  “I’m not going to step back.  I just want to come out with my big game and play my aggressive tennis.”

 

“I was aware of his qualities, especially on this surface,” Djokvic said of his match with Tsonga.  “He looked, before the match, very determined to play his best and very focused.

“I think I did really well from the start to the end, especially in the third set where I thought he elevated his level of game and he started serving very high percentage first serve, very strong, all angles.

“It was difficult to get the return back in play, but managed to save a couple break points, crucial ones, get myself in the tiebreak and wait for the opportunity to be presented.

“We both served very well in the tiebreak, and the only opportunity I had was on second serve on 6-5, and I used it.  I went for the shot.

“Yeah, I’m just glad that I didn’t allow him to go into the fourth set, because he started to use obviously the crowd support.  And, you know, I knew that he’s going to do that because he’s the kind of player that feeds off the energy, so it was very important for me to get this done in straight sets.”

Djokovic will play Marin Cilic for a place in the semifinals.

“I will try to stick to the kind of a game plan that I had against Marin in the previous occasions,” Djokovic said.

“I am aware of the fact, as well, that since he started working with Goran Ivanesevic that he has improved, especially in his service department, where for his height I thought that he didn’t use his full potential up to now work with Goran, where it’s evident that it works well for him.

“Especially on the grass it serves as a great weapon.  He won here in straight sets against Chardy and Berdych and some very good players.

“So it says enough about his quality play in this tournament.”

Stan Wawrinka was finally able to complete his third round match on Monday. Rain on Saturday delayed his chance to play.

The No. 1 Swiss will face 19th seed Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round. Lopez dismissed the last American man in the singles draw, Ninth seed John Isner, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 7-5, despite the American hitting 52 aces.

“Tough match to play,” Lopez said.

“As I said before, I knew it’s going to be like this.  I knew we going to play a lot of tiebreaks, so this is the match I was excepting to play.

“Luckily I made it.  I’m very happy to went through.  It was a very difficult one for me today.”

With Isner beaten and Madison Keys withdrawing from the tournament with an injury, it’s the first time since 1911 that no Americans have reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Asked about this fact, Isner said, “Didn’t know that. Don’t really care either.”

Keys was forced to pull out of the tournament with a left adductor injury.

On the women’s side of the draw, the conqueror of Serena Williams has been knocked out of Wimbledon.

Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, the 13th seed defeated Alize Cornet 7-6 (5), 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.

“I think we played some good tennis today, “Bouchard said.  “You know, we had some tough points.  She has good wheels.  So I had to really try and finish off the point.

“You know, I think it made for some really tough, physical points.  So that’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played I think this tournament.

“But I’m proud that I really, really fought till the end.  She’s a good fighter, too.  We were really just battling.”

“This is what I’ve worked so hard for, to be in the quarters at Wimbledon,” Bouchard said. “But I want to go another step. I want to keep going.”

Bouchard will play the winner of the fourth round match between Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber.

Bouchard spoke briefly about playing both of these women:

“I think she’s a great player,” Bouchard said of Sharapova.  “She, you know, tries to be aggressive like I try to be aggressive as well.  So I think, you know, I’m going to go in and try to battle and go for my shots.  We had a tough match recently at the French Open.  But that’s the past.  So it’s a new match.  If I were to play her, I would just be very excited and really try to go for it.”

“Kerber I played at the French as well.  I played both opponents recently.  Of course with her she’s a lefty so you keep that in mind with tactics.  I played well last time against her because I was really trying to go for it.  Whenever I had an opening, I would really go for it.  I would keep my basic game against both players.”

Three players from the Cazech Republic are among the women’s quarterfinalists – 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Zahlavova Strycova, who beat No. 2 Li Na, defeated No. 16 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Back in April 2013, she completed serving a a six-month doping ban after testing positive for the stimulant sibutramine.

“I can’t believe it for right now,” Zahlavova Strycova sid about the win and reaching the quarterfinals.  “It’s great.  I mean, it was a tough match obviously, and I had to make a fifth match point.

“I’m really, really happy that I could win today.”

She spoke about the six month ban to press: “First of all, I didn’t wanted to play again because I felt like it’s a little bit unfair.  Everything was kind of against.

“So first two months I didn’t want to come back.  Then I missed it.  I missed the feeling of working out, the feeling of winning matches, and being on tour.

“It was tough, but on the other hand, it also brings me some positive things.  Like I say, I am seeing the sport a little bit different now.

“And here I am.”

Last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki ousted 11th seed Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the fourth round in a match carried over from Saturday.

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Serena Williams Upset by Alize Cornet at Wimbledon

 

(June 28, 2014) Serena Williams, the world No. 1 lost to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a third round match on Court No. 1 at Wimbledon. Through three majors in 2014, Williams has failed to reach the quarterfinals of any of them.

It;s the second straight defeat for Williams against Cornet, she also lost to her in the semifinals in Dubai earlier in the year.

This was Serena Williams’ earliest Wimbledon exit since 2005.

The match had been suspended due to rain at 1-1, deuce in the first set and resumed some 4 1/2 hours later.

“A few years ago I couldn’t even play on grass and now I’ve beaten Serena Williams. I cannot believe it, ” said the 25th seed Cornet  on court after the match.

Cornet hit 29 winners in the match and was 14 for 16 in net points won in the two-hour and four minute match.

“If I’m not playing a great, great match, these girls, when they play me, they play as if they’re on the ATP Tour, and then they play other girls completely different,” Williams said. “It’s never easy being in my shoes.”

“So I just have to always, every time I step on the court, be a hundred times better.  If I’m not, then I’m in trouble.”

“I’m just calming down now because I was very excited for an hour,” Cornet said as she came into do her news conference with the press.  “I couldn’t believe it.  I still cannot believe it, actually.

“If somebody would have told me a couple years ago that I would be in second week here in Wimbledon, beating Serena, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“It feels great.  It shows that really improved these last years.  Of course, what a victory.  It’s the best way to get the second week.”

“Even this morning I watched some images from this match in Dubai because this match was one of the best match of my season,” Cornet said.  “I was playing very, very good tactically and I really tried to take all these things out of this match to help me today.

“You know, I just knew that I could do it because I did it once in Dubai, which is a big tournament in Dubai.  I thought, Okay, maybe it’s on grass, so it’s less easy.  Definitely it helped me today, especially when I had to serve at 5‑4 in the third, because I had to do it already in Dubai at 5‑4 in the second set.  I tried to stay calm as I did in Dubai and just to remain focused, focused on the simple things.

“Well, it’s amazing because beating Serena two times in a row, it doesn’t happen very often, so I’m glad.”

Cornet will play Eugenie Bouchard in the round of 16. Bouchard defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4.

 

 

 

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Alize Cornet Saves a Match Point to Win Katowice Open

Cornet yell and fistpump

(April 13, 2014) Alize Cornet survived a match point before rallying to beat Camila Giorgi 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-5 to win the Katowice Open. For the French women who won the match in three hours and 11 minutes, it was her fourth career WTA title.

The Italian Giorgi had a match point in the 10th game of the third set and could not close the match. Cornet became just the second player this year to overcome a match point en route to a WTA title after Li Na did it in the third round at the Australian Open.

“What a match,” Cornet said. “It was definitely a huge fight, which is what I expected, and I had to save a match point to win the title, so it feels very special. I gave everything I had. I’m so happy I could win here at this beautiful tournament in Katowice.”

 

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Venus Williams Wins Third Dubai Title

Venus with trophy

(February 22, 2014) DUBAI – No. 44 Venus Williams needed a wild card to get into Dubai Tennis Championships and made excellent use of it by winning the tournament defeating 26th ranked Alize Cornet in the final 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday. Cornet knocked off Venus Williams sister and No. 1 Serena Williams on Friday 6-4, 6-4 in her semifinal. It was Cornet’s first win over a No. 1 ranked player.

“I think Serena and I have so much respect for each other that when someone else beats one of us, we think, wow, what did they do?.” Venus said.

“So when I came on the court today, I thought, wow, because I didn’t see a lot of the match because I was kind of expecting Serena to win, so when I saw she was down, I was like, Wow.

“I was trying to get a feel for what exactly did she do to beat Serena?  Obviously I was able to see on the court today.  She’s just playing so consistently and hustling and making the plays.

“I think the difference between me and Serena today was just ‑‑ I think I put a few more balls in the court, and I think Serena set up her points to win them but couldn’t quite put the ball in.

“She hasn’t played since Australia, and I had the opportunity to play last week and play extra rounds, so that probably helped me.”

“6‑3, 6‑0 is a bit tough in an hour and 30, so I guess there was a battle on the court, but she was just better than me today,” Cornet said.  “That’s it.  Really there is nothing to say.

“She was playing more aggressive.  She was pushing me out of the court very far from the baseline, and I didn’t play as deep as yesterday, didn’t serve as well.

“I didn’t miss my final completely, but for sure I didn’t play my best tennis.  But Venus helped it a lot and she played good the whole week, so she deserve this title.”

The victory for Venus Williams marks her third title in Dubai in three appearances. She won in 2009 and 2010 and is now a perfect 15-0 at the event. “I need to play here every year,” she said on court after the match.

Williams is the first unseeded player and also the first wild card tot ake the title in the tournament’s 14-year history.

“Just to be able to be here and compete was, you know, the first thing that made me so happy, and then obviously to play well, win the title and, you know, have this wonderful streak here is, you know, definitely an accomplishment,” said the three-time Dubai winner.

“First of all, I think Alize is playing great,” said the champion.  “I think if she continues to play like that, she’s going to play deep in a lot of tournaments and improve.

“It’s great to see that, because she’s a great, I think, addition to the game.  She brings so much passion on the court, so it’s great to see her playing well.”

“It was a great week for me,” Cornet said.  “It’s always tough to finish like this, and I believed in my chances today.

“I would have loved to make like a better final, you know, with a little bit more of suspense.  And the score is really too hard to finish the week, such a good week, but I will have to take all the positive things out of this week.  I think there is a lot, so I’m still very motivated for the rest of the season.”

For 33-year-old veteran, it’s her 45th career title, her first since winning Luxembourg in 2012. It’s her first Premier title since winning Dubai in 2010. Most importantly it her biggest title since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2011.

“I have enjoyed being here with Serena, being able to be at the same tournament,” Venus said.  “We don’t always get to do that, and that was a lot of fun.”

“I tried my best,” said Cornet.  “Really I didn’t play that bad.  She was just ‑‑ she was playing faster.  She was playing deeper.  She was taking the ball earlier than me, and she was serving better.  So, I mean, then I don’t have a lot of chances.

“But this week was for sure a great week for me.  I beat the two top 10 players, two 20 players, and it didn’t happen forever.  For sure it’s amazing.”

By virtue of her week in Dubai, Venus will move up to No. 29 in the world.

More to follow….

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Serena Williams Upset in Dubai Semis by Alize Cornet

 

Serena in press 2

Serena Williams

(February 21, 2014) DUBAI – No. 26 in the world Alize Cornet prevented an all-Williams Dubai Tennis Championships final when she stunned the world’s top player Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals on Friday. Earlier in the day Venus Williams defeated stopped 8 seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2.

Serena Williams talked about the loss:

“I’m a wee bit embarrassed,” she said with laughter.

“She played really well.  I just, you know, I didn’t play today.  I tried, though.  I just kept hitting errors.  I don’t think I have made that many errors in a match in I think at least three years, maybe four years.”

“I have been playing really, really solid for a long time.  Today just wasn’t my day.

“You know, she played a solid match.  She knew someone was going to hit balls in the stands and just didn’t get the ball in play, kind of.  I think she did that really well.

“I think I just, out of a 10, I was at like a ‑283,” Serena said. “Wow.”

AlizeCornet

Alize Cornet

“I was so excited about this match coming up to tonight, and now that I beat Serena, it’s a dream comes true,” said a stunned yet happy Cornet.  “It’s definitely the biggest win of my career.

“I did it in such a good way, such a good match.  Very, very strong and smart till the end.

“I didn’t try to be more powerful than her, because, anyway, it’s impossible.  I just tried to play with my weapon.  Wow, 6‑4, 6‑4.  I didn’t expect that definitely, and I’m really, really happy and proud of myself.”

“I haven’t felt good this whole week, to be honest, just from my first match,” Williams said.  “I felt I played good yesterday.  I had to play well.  If I’d have played like that today, I probably would have been ‑‑ I don’t know if I would have won, because I think Alize, she played really well, but I definitely think the scoreline would have been a little better.

“I started out extremely slow.  I have been actually looking at a turtle every day.  I think it’s so cute.  Maybe I was too influenced about by it.  It’s a really cute turtle in the hotel.

“I need to be able to play better than that if I want to be playing on this tour, on the professional tour.  Maybe I can go to amateurs.”

“If you don’t pretend to be confident against Serena, she just works on you,” said Cornet.  “I mean, when I won the first set I was 2‑Love up in the second, and then I felt that she wanted to put more pressure on me, to impress myself a little bit, and she started to scream louder on the shots and to hit harder.

“And at one point I looked at my coach.  I was like, She want to impress me, but it’s got going to be like that.  I’m going to put some more myself, too.

“And that’s what I did.  I broke her after.  I just didn’t let myself, you know, beaten by Serena.  From the beginning, I just tried to follow the tactic I did with my coach before.  And like a robot, just following the tactic.  That’s it.  Don’t think about anything else.”

“Now that I beat Serena, it’s a dream comes true.  It’s definitely the biggest win of my career.” This was Cornet’s first win over a current No. 1 player.

Cornet will try to become only the eighth player to beat both Williams sisters in the same tournament when she plays Venus in Saturday’s final. Venus is looking to win her 45th WTA title while Cornet wants to win her fourth.

“Before this match, I was telling my coach that she impress me the whole week, Venus,” Cornet explained.  “She’s, wow, she’s back to her top level.

“I think she feels a little bit at home here in Dubai because she won twice, and I lost against her here in 2009, so it’s going to be the revenge, and, wow, I can’t wait for it.  I don’t know what time is the final tomorrow, but I can’t wait to be there and just try to win the title.”

“I mean, not a lot of French players won here.  I think Amélie (Mauresmo) won and that’s it.  I hope to be the next one.”

Venus Williams has won all three career matches against Cornet.

Related article:

Venus Williams over Wozniacki

Venus Williams Moves into Dubai Final

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Maria Sharapova Moves into Round of 16

Sharapova Aus Open twitter

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 18, 2014) MELBOURNE – Having successfully fended off an aggressive Alize Cornet on Saturday, the world No. 3 Maria Sharapova will move forward into the fourth round of the Australian Open 2014.

 

The Russian dominated rallies from the get-go to surge ahead to a comfortable 4-0 lead. It was not until the fifth game that her French opponent, Cornet, lifted her aggression levels during critical moments, at last securing a break to stamp the leaderboard for the first time that morning.

 

But that would be the only game the Frenchwoman would claim as her own in the opener as Sharapova closed out the first set in a fairly swift half hour.

 

Cornet returned to court fired up and as though with fresh purpose. She attacked Sharapova’s backhand and placed significantly more pressure on her serve. Finally finding her rhythm and confidence, Cornet ran her opponent along the baseline in an attempt to force the error.

 

These strategies served the No. 25 seed well throughout the set as the two women battled through long, demanding rallies which often featured stellar lobs and elegant drop shots.

 

Sharapova was, however, virtually unstoppable once she seized opportunities to move up to the net for the occasional deep, winner volley. Identifying the Frenchwoman’s overconfidence when up a break, she worked to turn the score around to claim match point at 5-3.

 

With two opportunities to serve out the match, an unrelenting Cornet protected the games on both occasions and the crowd erupting with immense cheers and applause as she challenged Sharapova to a suspenseful tie-break.

 

Determined not to enter a third set after the long, brutal three-setter she had experienced in 111 degree heat just two days prior, Sharapova seized a 4-2 lead. Cornet had a chance to snatch hold of the second set at 6-5 in the tie but two untimely mishits in the pressure of the moment enabled Sharapova to dictate points and take command of the match in straight sets – much to her relief.

 

​”It was quite tough in the end,” Sharapova admitted.

 

“She had a set point and she had a chance to level the match out which is something I probably wouldn’t want to do, to go into a third set. I was happy I was able to finish it in two.

 

​”I think I can take a few positives from this match. One being the fact that I was able to win it not playing my best tennis. There are definitely things I’m going to have to improve and do better moving forward because it is only is going to get tougher. But I am happy that I took my chances, you know, even though it was pretty close in that second set.”

 

Sharapova is expecting a difficult fourth round match against Slovakian Dominika Cibulková on Monday.

 

​​”She’s a great retriever of the ball. It’s going to be a very physical match. She likes to make it physical, that’s when she plays her best. But obviously, I don’t want to go there with her,” Sharapova smiled.

 

​”But, no, she’s a tough opponent. That’s for sure. She plays a lot of top players extremely well and tough, and has nothing to lose. So I’m expecting a tough one in the next round.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

 

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Stosur and Ivanovic Among Field for WTA Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria

(October 22, 2013) SOFIA, BULGARIA – Four of the world’s Top 20 ranked women, including former world No.1 and 2008 Roland Garros champion Ana Ivanovic and 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur will be among the eight-player field competing at the $750,000 Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions, to be staged in Bulgaria’s capital city from October 29–November 3, 2013. This marks the second year of three that Sofia will host the annual season-ending championships for the WTA’s International tournaments.

 

Serbian star Ivanovic, a two-time champion of the event when it was held in Bali, was awarded a wildcard into this year’s field. For her part Australian Stosur is among the six highest ranked winners of International Series tournament winners eligible to compete in Sofia, along with Simona Halep of Romania, Russians Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Alizé Cornet of France. Bulgaria’s own Tsvetana Pironkova has again received a wildcard to compete in front of her home fans, and will be looking to produce another strong showing following her semifinal run last year. Initially the players will be split into two groups of four for round robin competition, with each group’s top two players advancing to the semifinals.

 

“I would like to congratulate this wonderful group of players on their respective successes in 2013 as they eagerly await the start of the Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Between them they have won 13 WTA singles titles this year and tennis fans in Sofia are in for a week of incredible tennis as our very special 40 Love season draws to a close.”

 

This year’s ‘Road to Sofia’ comprised 30 WTA International events held on six continents. The 2012 WTA Tournament of Champions attracted more than 30,000 fans over six days of competition, with host broadcaster BNT reporting average daily viewership of nearly 2.8 million households in a country with a population of 7.4 million. Matches were broadcast to more than 25 countries and Russia’s Nadia Petrova was crowned champion, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Turkish construction company Garanti Koza was recently announced as the event’s new title sponsor.

 

Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions – Sofia 2013 Participants:

 

Simona Halep, Romania, No.14 

Halep is one of the WTA’s 2013 breakthrough stars, winning five titles from all five finals played, having previously been a runner-up on three occasions. Only Serena Williams has won more singles titles this year (10) and Halep holds the distinction of being the only player to win events on all three major playing surfaces (hard, clay, grass). Her debut win came at the International-level Nürnberger Versicherungscup in Germany and this was followed by victories at the Topshelf Open (‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands) the following week and the Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest). She then captured her first Premier-level title at the New Haven Open at Yale (d. Kvitova in final) and arrives in Sofia having won her second event at that level, last week’s Kremlin Cup (d. Stosur in final). Her win in Moscow saw the 22-year-old rise to a new career-high ranking of No.14, up from No.47 at the start of the season. She is making her Tournament of Champions debut.

Ana Ivanovic, Serbia, No.16

Ivanovic is making her third WTA Tournament of Champions appearance, having won the event in back-to-back years when it was held in Bali (2010-11). The winner of 11 singles titles to date, she has reached three Grand Slam finals so far in her career, famously winning 2008 Roland Garros and rising to No.1 in the world rankings. More recently the 25-year-old Serb was runner-up to Angelique Kerber at the Generali Ladies Linz, while other 2013 season highlights have included semifinal showings at the Mutua Madrid Open and the Southern California Open (Carlsbad); she also posted strong runs to the round of 16 at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open.

Maria Kirilenko, Russia, No.18

After a memorable 2012 that saw her collect the doubles bronze medal at the London Olympics as well as win the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships (both with fellow Russian Petrova), Kirilenko will remember 2013 as the year she made her singles Top 10 debut following a run to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. A wildcard at Sofia last year, the 26-year-old booked her return visit with an early-season title – the sixth of her career, and first in five years – at the PTT Pattaya Open in Thailand, where she defeated Sabine Lisicki in a hard-fought final. Her other notable results this year have included semifinal finishes at the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) and the Monterrey Open and a run to the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

Samantha Stosur, Australia, No.19

Stosur qualified for Sofia by winning the HP Open in Osaka, Japan, her second title of the season after victory at the Southern California Open (Carlsbad) where she overcame Victoria Azarenka in the final.  Indeed, this year marks the first time in her career the 28-year-old Australian has won two singles titles in a season and she went close to capturing a third just last week at the Kremlin Cup, where Halep ended her nine-match winning streak in the final. Stosur’s biggest title to date is of course the 2011 US Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the final to become the first Australian woman to win a major since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980. In addition to her singles successes Stosur is also a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, winning her 24th career title last week in Moscow with Svetlana Kuznetsova. She competed at the inaugural staging of the Tournament of Champions in Bali in 2009, going 1-1 in round robin play.

Elena Vesnina, Russia, No.25

Vesnina has enjoyed a career season in 2013, achieving a string of breakthroughs at the age of 27.  After finishing runner-up in six WTA finals she finally won her first title at January’s Moorilla Hobart International, which made her an early contender on the Road to Sofia. More success was to come when she won her first Premier-level title at the Aegon International (Eastbourne) where she defeated the likes of Ivanovic and Li Na en route. Now 2-6 in singles finals, Vesnina has continued to enjoy success in doubles, capturing her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros with Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian duo was also victorious at Indian Wells and qualified for the four-team TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, where Vesnina will compete before arriving in Sofia.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, No.26

Pavlyuchenkova is making her second appearance at the Tournament of Champions, having competed in Bali in 2010. Still just 22, the former top-ranked junior reached four singles finals in 2013, winning her fourth career title at the Monterrey Open (an event she has now won in three of the past four years) and fifth at the Portugal Open in Oeiras. At January’s Brisbane International it took Serena Williams to stop Pavlyuchenkova in the final and last month at the KDB Korea Open in Seoul she was edged for the winner’s trophy by Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets. She arrives in Sofia in good indoor form having reached the semifinals at her home event, the Kremlin Cup.

Alizé Cornet, France, No.27

Having made the trip to Sofia in 2012 as second alternate – she did not get to play a match – Cornet put herself in the running again this year by winning on home soil at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in May. All three of the 23-year-old Frenchwoman’s WTA singles titles have now been won on red clay, but it is consistent results on all surfaces this year, including two semifinals, two quarterfinals and solid third round runs at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open (where she pushed Azarenka to three sets) that have seen the former world No.11 firmly re-establish herself in the Top 30.

Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, No.118

Pironkova, the first Bulgarian to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon (2010) and also a quarterfinalist at the All England Club in 2011, will be bidding for her first WTA title in Sofia. In 2013 the 26-year-old was again at her best on Wimbledon’s lawns, where she reached the fourth round before falling to Radwanska in three sets. Other season highlights for the native of Plovdiv, Bulgaria have included quarterfinal efforts at the Moorilla Hobart International and the Topshelf Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Last year she advanced to the semis in Sofia before falling to Wozniacki.

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Victoria Azarenka Gets Scare From Alize Cornet

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(August 31, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –Victoria Azarenka of Belarus struggled to get past Frenchwoman No. 26 Alize Cornet 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 40 minutes on Saturday at the US Open.

“I’m glad that I could turn things around in the second and third set,” said the world No. 2.  “There was more me playing, more finding the rhythm.  I felt much better in the third set than in the first set, which is, you know, going, you know, past the two‑hour mark.  It’s pretty good, so I’m happy with that.”

“I don’t think I played my best tennis today for sure,” said Azarenka, “but I have to give her credit.  She played really well.  You know, the dynamic of the match was a little bit weird for me.

“I felt like I didn’t take my opportunities in the first set, which was kind of a waste and it gave her, I think, a lot of confidence and she really came up with the great shots when she needed with the big serves.

“I actually never seen her serve like that before, so that’s definitely a big improvement from her side.”

Azarenka will face Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16.

“Ana is a great player,” Azarenka said.  “She really improved.  I think especially this year she’s been showing some consistent results.  We had a great match in Carlsbad.  It was my first tournament after coming back.

“She’s definitely in great form, and I’m sure she’s motivated and pumped up.  It’s going to be a good match.  She’s a great champion, as well.  I’m looking forward to that.”

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Cornet Conquers Strasbourg

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(May 25, 2013) No. 3 seed Alize Cornet of France beat Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4), 6-0 on Saturday to win the Strasbourg International final. Cornet was a losing finalist at last year’s event.

Cornet is just the second French player in the tournament’s 27-year history to win the title, the other was Aravane Rezai in 2009.

“It was a very tight first set – we were both serving very well and we didn’t break each other much,“ Cornet said. “In the tie-break it came down to just one or two points, and then in the second set it went way faster because everything she had been putting on the lines in the beginning started to go out. I feel great right now, winning this title at home. It’s the accomplishment of a lot of work.”

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Venus Williams through to face Sharapova in Australian Open Third Round

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By Jaclyn Stacey

 

(January 16, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia - Venus Williams comfortably defeated France’s Alize Cornet in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 to advance to a third round meeting with Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open third round on Friday.

 

The young Frenchwoman broke Williams at the beginning of the match to lead 2-0 but she could not match the power and experience of her veteran opponent and was immediately broken back in her next service game. Williams broke again to claim the set 6-3 when Cornet double faulted while serving down 3-5.

 

Cornet claimed another short lived break in the fifth game of the second set before Williams won the next four games and the match 6-3 6-3.

 

It was by no means a flawless performance from Williams who made 26 unforced errors and only 16 winners in the one hour and 17 minute encounter.

 

“Yeah, today I don’t think I was hitting as many winners as the first round. But at the end I always felt like I was in control, so that’s always a good feeling.”

 

Her third round opponent will be Sharapova who has not yet dropped a game in the Open this year, and Williams says this should not play a factor in their match.

 

“I don’t think about things that way. I play the ball. There’s going to be days when you play great and win, and there’s going to be days when you play not as great and you win. Whatever day that is, you have to win. It’s not about for me I have to play perfect every match. I don’t have that mentality.”

 

“I don’t think I’m really going into it with a different mentality except really focusing on what I’m doing with the ball. That’s pretty much it.”

 

Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.

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