2014/10/23

Williams and Halep victorious on Day 1 at the WTA Finals

wtafinals

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 20, 2014) SINGAPORE – With the top eight WTA players in the world taking center stage in Singapore at the WTA Finals, there’s no such thing as an easy match. But the tournament certainly started off with a bang as top seed and two-time defending champion Serena Williams took on Ana Ivanovic Monday night.

The debut match of the tournament was greeted by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd. Following an opening ceremony that featured WTA Finals ambassador Li Na serving the ceremonial first serve of the event (donning high heels no less), the crowd roared as Williams and Ivanovic took to the court.

The Serbian, back in the WTA Finals for the first time since 2008, dealt Williams her first grand-slam blow of 2014 at the Australian Open with a 4th round win. Since then, the two have played three more times, with the American coming out on top but two of the three battles went deep into third sets before Williams prevailed.

Ivanovic has had one of her best seasons on tour this year, and her return to the Top 10 was accompanied by four titles and 56 total wins, the best on tour.

Heading into the match, Williams boasted a 15-match winning streak at this event. With concerns about her left knee hanging overhead, the world No. 1 faced a pair of break points in her opening service game, but saved both with aces. After a tough hold to start, Williams settled in and quickly took a 4-1 lead as Ivanovic struggled with her serve.

But after holding for 2-4, Ivanovic broke Williams at love, and then leveled the match at 4-4. An energetic crowd watched as the Serbian had a break point that would give her a chance to serve for the first set, but Williams held on. Serving to stay in the set, Ivanovic threw in two double faults, including one down set point, and Williams broke for a 6-4 lead.

Ivanovic immediately broke the Williams serve in the second set, partially due to two double faults by Williams, but she was broken straight back. Each player then held serve until 5-4, when Ivanovic served to stay in the match. Just as in the first set, Ivanovic could not withstand the pressure and she was broken to give Williams the 6-4, 6-4 win and her 16th straight WTA Finals match victory.

Ivanovic was plagued by double faults all night, and she tossed in seven during the match and said later she felt she was rushing her serve. “She was putting a lot of pressure on my serve,” Ivanovic said. “She served really well today I thought and created more pressure on my service game. I didn’t feel my rhythm, so I was trying to make more first serves.”

Williams’ serve, on the flip side, was firing. She hit 12 aces overall, giving her 430 for the season, the most of any player on the WTA Tour. “I was pleased with my serve,” Williams said after the match. “Ana is a very aggressive returner, and I went really hard at my second serve.”

The world No. 1 played without her left knee strapped, and she said it felt much better. “Compared to what it was in Beijing, it feels so much better,” Williams said. “I’m getting better, which is great.”

The win helps Williams’ chance of wrapping up the WTA year-end No. 1 spot, and now Sharapova will need to reach the final with a 2-1 record or win the title to have a chance to take away the top spot.

In the second match, Simona Halep won the battle of the WTA Finals newcomers over Genie Bouchard, with a tidy 6-2, 6-3 win. Halep raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and even had a point for a 5-0, triple break lead before Bouchard held to get on the board at 1-4. After clinching the first set 6-2, Halep broke early in the second and held on to wrap up the 6-2, 6-3 victory. Bouchard hit 30 errors and 5 double faults in the match.

Tuesday’s schedule features Maria Sharapova versus Caroline Wozniacki, followed by Petra Kvitova against Agnieszka Radwanska.

ORDER OF PLAY – October 21, 2014

Singapore Indoor Stadium – Start 5:30 pm

Rising Stars Final

Rising Stars Final – Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) vs Zheng SaiSai (China)

Not before 7:30 pm

(2) Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs (8) Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

(3) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs (6) Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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Notes and Quotes: The WTA Top 8 Meet the Press in Singapore

Elite 8

Photo taken from the twitter feed of Maria Sharapova

 

(October 19, 2014) The elite 8 of women’s tennis met the media on Sunday in advance of the WTA Finals which begin on Monday in Singapore. Here are a few notable quotables.

 

Serena Williams responding to Shamil Tarpischev’s comments:

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments. I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying.

“I’ve done the best that I can do, and that’s all I can say. So I just wasn’t very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well.

“But the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that ‑‑ in this day of age, 2014 for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”

 

Maria Sharapova was also asked about Tarpishev’s comments.

“I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA. It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side.”

 

How important is the year‑end No. 1?

SERENA WILLIAMS: “I definitely would be here if I already had it locked up. It’s obviously super important for me. I love being No. 1; I love being the best.

“But at this at the same time, I’m really glad that I was able to get a slam this year, which was really annoying for me that I wasn’t able to capture one.

That was something that was super, super, super important, especially for the goals that I was trying to reach.”

 

 

MARIA SHARAPOVA: “Yeah, my opinion about the No. 1 hasn’t changed very much. I always feel that ranking is also not just based on your results but based on other people’s results and accomplishments.

“That’s why I’ve always experienced the joy of Grand Slam wins so much more, because the spur of the moment. There is actually a point that you have to win in order to get it; whereas the rankings will depend on other people’s performances during the year, at certain tournaments.

“Is it an incredible accomplishment? Absolutely. It would be amazing to achieve that. I haven’t done that in my career, finishing year‑end No. 1, but I have been in that spot before and been No. 2 before and gotten to No. 1.

If I do perform well, then my chances are better than if I don’t perform well.

And the pic of the night…:) pic.twitter.com/x9t3ajMTb1

— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) October 18, 2014

 

 

A picture is worth a thousand words. Maria Sharapova was asked about why she tweeted the behind the scenes photo from the draw ceremony.

“Just because it’s like a thousand words in one picture. It’s incredible. Can’t wait to write a book. (Laughter.) Those are the moments where I’m like, Oh, my goodness. I just wrote a whole chapter in one evening.

“Yeah, looked like a lot of fun, huh? Love those things.”

 

Petra Kvitova was asked about if it feels different to be a Wimbledon winner the second time around.

“It is different. I think that you can’t really know what to expect from that. Just the time show you what you have to do and change in your life probably.

“I mean, I didn’t want to change myself, but of course the things around me was different, so I need to handle it and try to do best what I can.

“The pressure was there of course on the court, off the court as well. I thought that probably I need to win every match and every tournament I’m playing after that, so it’s not really possible.

“Yeah, this time it’s much more easier for me, if I can say that. I know what I can expect and I know a little bit how to deal with that. It’s not really like the first time, so…

“I’m more relaxed and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Agnieszka Radwanska – Queen of the “Hot Shot.” The World No. was asked about her favorite shot that she hit.

“Well, of course it wasn’t that tricky as last year. Well, I have still few matches, so maybe I will do it here.

“I think I really liked that shot from Montreal from the semifinal. The overhead backhand. Maybe someone remember that.

“I think that was my favorite one, especially because it was a really big moment.

 

Ana Ivanovic- embracing Twitter and Istagram. The 2008 French Open winner and former world No. 1 was asked if she has embraced stardom and if it was due to social media and if it has impacted her on court.

That’s why I started Twitter and Instagram actually. Because I ‑‑ like I spoke just now, before I really felt like I changed also in this sense because I started to feel more comfortable with myself. I matured. It helped me to be okay with myself and who I am as a person and to embrace everything that comes with the job that I do.

“For me, I really struggled to be in the spotlight. It was really strange when I won French Open, when I was No. 1 in the world. It took me some time to accept this and to be okay.

“Now I actually enjoy it. That’s why I think it shows on and off the court I’m much more relaxed because I’m much more content with myself.”

 

What Serena has taught Eugenie Bouchard?

“I’ve learned many things. I think one thing that sticks out is that when it’s not going well, you can seeing her really try to calm herself down. She does her little hand thing, and that really symbolizes in my head she’s really trying to stay calm.

“Even someone as good as her has tough moments, and you can see her struggle with emotions a bit on the court. But she can always kind of collect herself and put it in the past and move forward.

“So I always imagine that, and I’m like, You know what? Serena can stay calm, I can stay calm.

 

Caroline Wozniacki – Not looking at the rankings. In a topsy turvy last couple of years for the two-time year-end No. 1, the Dane talks about the rankings.

“I never really looked at the rankings, but I definitely totally stopped when I went down to 18. I’m like, This is depressing. I don’t want to be down here.

“At the end of day, I just told myself, Doesn’t matter if you’re No. 1 or No. 18. At the end of the day, you have to compete with the same players. A lot of girls play so well now so it’s never easy. I just thought if I play well, the ranking will come back up soon.

“I started playing well, I started finding my form, and then the ranking just came up really quickly.”

 

The recently retired Li Na was asked about having second thoughts about calling it quits:

“Of course I’m not going to come back to tennis. I’m already 32; beginning of the year I already 33. I think I have to take care of my family right now, because last 32 years I was try hard as I can on tennis court.

“Now, you know, tennis is part of the life, so now I have to take care my family.”

Tennis Panorama News is in Singapore this week covering the WTA Finals. Follow on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Djokovic Reaches 5th Beijing Final After 23rd Straight Win

Novak Djokovic

(October 4, 2014) No. 1 Novak Djokovic improved his perfect record to 23-0 in Beijing on Saturday when he defeated Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4 to reach his fifth China Open final.

Despite the straight set score, Djokovic felt as though he worked a lot harder.

“It was a two‑set victory today, but still it felt like I had to work hard to win the points,” the Serbian said. “There was a lot of rally exchanges. He had a lot of chances to come back. He was 4‑3 up. Just in important moments I managed to play the best tennis.”

“I just wasn’t myself on the court,” Djokokic commented about his lackluster performances since winning Wimbledon. “I wasn’t really prepared emotionally to go back and compete again after Wimbledon and a very exhausting summer, everything that happened in my professional and private life.

“I’m glad that I’m back in the form that I would like to be in, especially in these courts where I still haven’t lost ever since I played this tournament.”

Djokovic will face Czech Tomas Berdych for the China Open title on Sunday. Berdych defeated Martin Klizan, who upset Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-1.

“It’s a final and it’s against Novak,” Berdych said. “It’s really special day for me. Every Sunday that we have to go on court and play, it means a lot because it’s a final. Playing with No. 1 player in the world is always a bit special.

“But Novak is playing in incredible form, back again. Really, he’s having a great record playing here in China Open. There is a new challenge, a new day, a new opportunity for me. I’m going to try to go there, try to take my chance and, again, try to play my tennis. Let’s see what I can do with that.”

IMG_3625-001

On the ladies side, it will be a rematch of the 2011 Wimbledon title, with the added bonus for the winner to move to No. 2 in the world with Petra Kvitova facing Maria Sharapova on Sunday.

Kvitova was pushed by Samantha Stosur 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, while Sharapova dominated Ana Ivanovic 6-0, 6-4.

Kvitova is going for her second title in China in as many weeks. She captured the inaugural Wuhan Open last week.

He chance to move up to No. 2 is not that important to the Czech.

“I was No. 2 already, so I’m not really excited about,” she said. “But, no, I’m kidding.”

“I’m not really focusing on the number. I mean, it’s just number before my name. More important for me are results on the big tournaments and on the Grand Slams, as well.

“So tomorrow I will play for the title, not for be No. 2.”

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Ivanovic, Goffin, Pliskova and Niculescu Take Tennis Titles This week

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic

(September 21, 2014) Ana Ivanovic, David Goffin, Monica Niculescu and Karolina Pliskova won tournaments this weekend on the WTA and ATP tennis tours.

In Tokyo in a battle between two former WTA number ones, third seed Ana Ivanovic won her fourth title of the year defeating recent US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki for the Pan Pacific Open.

The Serb was dominant the first set, at one point winning 17 straight points, she did not drop a set in the tournament.

“The key for me was coming forward to the net,” Ivanovic said.”She is a great offensive player and gets a lot of balls back so it was important for me to come forward and play well at the net.”

“Caroline played a great match today,” said the current world No. 8, who is set to move to No. 5 in the rankings and 6th in the Race to Singapore standings. “It was a really good battle out there – there were some very tough moments, especially in the second set. But I just tried to take it one point at a time, and I’m really happy to make it through. It’s just an amazing feeling to win this title.”

For Ivanovic, it’s her 15th career title. She is now 52-14 on the year, the most number of wins on the women’s tour this year.

Belgium’s David Goffin took his second career title, claiming the Moselle Open in Metz , France with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Joao Sousa of Portugal on Sunday.

“This is very special because my family was here today,” Goffin said. “That’s the advantage of playing close to home. Winning my second title feels just as good as the first one. I’m very happy.

“I had to play aggressively today, dictate the game. The tactics worked out well and I served well. I was able to focus until the end.”
“This is very special because my family was here today. That’s the advantage of playing close to home,” Goffin said. “Winning my second title feels just as good as the first one.”

“I have to congratulate David on a fantastic week,” Sousa said. Even if I lost today, it was a great week for me as well, reaching the final. I hope that I can come back next year and hopefully go one step further.”

The 23-year-old Goffin, who began the year ranked at 100, will move to No. 35 in the world when the rankings come out on Monday.
Also winning the second title of her career was Monica Niculescu. The Romanian upset second seed Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-0 to win the Guangzhou International tournament.

“I was so happy to finish in the end because it was very hot and very humid, and I was very, very tired,” Niculescu said. “But to finish so strong was amazing for me. I have many emotions right now, but most of it is joy and confidence. It’s my second WTA title and that’s just an amazing feeling.”

Niculescu joins Romanians Virginia Ruzici, Irina Spirlea, Ruxandra Dragomir-Ilie, Alexandra Dulgheru and Simona Halep to win multiple WTA titles.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic defeated Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 to win the Korea Open. For the Czech, it’s her second WTA crown.

This was Pliskova’s fourth WTA final this year.

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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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Serena Williams Wins First Cincinnati Title

By Dave Gertler

(August 17, 2017) MASON, OHIO – Serena Williams proved on Sunday she’s in slam-winning form, by taking out Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the Western & Southern Open, her last match before the US Open begins in New York.
Williams only dropped one set the whole week, on the way to a 62nd WTA title, and was convincing at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, serving 12 aces and only being broken once – in the first game of the match – on her way to a straight-sets win which took just over an hour.

 

Ivanovic joked after her loss that it “Felt like way more” than 12 aces were being fired at her by the world No.1. “She served a lot bigger and was placing it a lot better. It was very hard for me to read her serves too.” The Serbian world No. 11 had raced out to a 3-1 lead, using her cross-court forehand to dictate points from the baseline, before the world No. 1 was able to assert herself in the match. “She was obviously at that point playing so well,” said Williams, “It was good for me to just kind of get through that moment.”

 

The 32-year-old American did exactly that by jumping on Ivanovic’s first and second serves, hitting clean winners off the return of serve and breaking in the 6th game to level the score. Serving to stay in the first set, Ivanovic hit two consecutive double faults to lose the set 4-6.

 

“That’s something that you cannot do,” Ivanovic said of her two double faults, “Especially against Serena when she’s at her best, like I thought she was today. Then serve fell apart because I tried to force it a little too much. She makes you go for more. That’s when the unforced errors creep in, too.”

 

After Ivanovic held for 1-1, Williams closed out the match in dominant form, losing a total of 5 points on her way to 6-1, hitting two aces in her final service game. “My first day of practice here something just clicked,” said Williams, “I was playing better and I was serving better.”

 

“This is definitely a level that could take me to the title,” said Williams, referring to the US Open which begins next week, a couple of weeks before her 33rd birthday on September 26. “I feel great I think at 32,” she said, “I’m in some of the best shape I’ve been in. I can play long points and be ready to go again. I feel really fit. 32 is the new 22, right?”
Ivanovic, whose previous best result in Cincinnati was a semifinal which she lost to Kim Clijsters in 2010, will begin next week in the WTA’s top 10 for the first time in 5 years. “It’s the biggest final I’ve been in in a while,” said the 26-year-old, “It feels good to be part of it. I just want now to keep working hard and keep improving the areas that I can. There are still few points in my game that I feel I need to work on for the US Open and also for the end of season. Definitely exciting times.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney and was covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Birmingham – Ivanovic dominates on the grass, and the weather can’t halt the Rally for Bally

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles – Ivanovic dominates on the grass, and the weather can’t halt the Rally for Bally

 

(June 15, 2014) BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – After a few days of sunshine the good citizens of the City of Birmingham had been lulled into a false sense of security, but it was another overcast day when top seed Ana Ivanovic took to the court for the final of the Aegon Classic.

 

It was another slow start too as she was broken immediately by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova as both ladies vied for their first grass title. But we have seen a very steely-eyed Ivanovic in play this week, standing inside the baseline to punish second serves, coming in to the net to volley, and pretty soon she was back to bossing the points.

 

The poor weather had seen a late night doubles match continue into the rain, and the preceding doubles before the final had the eventual champions using their badges to scrape the mud out of the little grass-court studs on their tennis shoes.

 

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was having to do the same thing, angrily smacking her shoes at one stage as Ivanovic maintained her foothold in the match after breaking back, and surging ahead. The momentum stayed with the Serbian as she closed out a straight sets victory 6-3, 6-2 to pick up her first grass court title.

 

After some barren years following her time in the limelight as French Open champion and World No. 1 in 2008, it has taken Ivanovic a long time to find herself – and with a new Serbia team in place, she has looked more and more like the goofy teenager who hit the tennis heights all those years ago.

 

She said: “For me personally it really helps me because I’m more relaxed and I just see a big picture. I don’t only see, okay, this point or this match, it’s going to be disaster, it’s going to be great. It’s just about seeing the big picture. “

 

Zahlavova Strycova thinks that big picture for Ivanovic could mean a good run at Wimbledon.

 

She said: “Ana is playing great. She takes the ball very early, and it’s really tough to get the rhythm with her. She has some good chances to play great [at Wimbledon].”

 

Rally for Bally

 

The women’s final stopped just as the rain began to fall, which was unfortunate as the Rally for Bally was scheduled afterwards. The exhibition match to honour Elena Baltacha, the former British No. 1 who sadly lost her brief battle with cancer this year started once the dripping clouds had relented, and we caught a glimpse of just how competitive Martina Navratilova is, just how much Tim Henman wished he was on a golf course as he mock-struggled with his back, and the fun between Ward (a late replacement for Queen’s doubles finalist Jamie Murray) and Ann Keothavong as the lanky British No. 3 kept lobbing the TV pundit over and over!

 

In between their many impromptu breaks, Master of Ceremonies Dan Lobb tried to whip up support for the charity, but here Koethavong came into her own. A peer of Baltacha, the pair grew up together, played together and shared a special relationship and times, when they paired up to play doubles at the London 2012 Olympics.

 

Keothavong stood up and challenged those enjoying the corporate seating and hospitality to dig deep and give to the Rally 4 Bally cause, with the proceeds split between the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital and the Elena Baltacha Foundation which administers the tennis academy she set up while she was still competing.

 

There was maybe an added poignancy for Navratilova who won her own battle with breast cancer, and admiration from everyone for Baltacha’s achievements – to have reaching the World Top 50 while managing a chronic liver condition, opening an academy while still competing, coming back after every injury when others would have quit.

 

People may think that the tennis world is full of drama, and perhaps even a little selfish as one of the ultimate solitary sports. But for one day, in three locations, a 30-year-old who left us too soon brought many people together to put life in perspective for all of us.

 

 

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Ana Ivanovic and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova Shine in the Rain to Reach Birmingham Final

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles – Stars shine in the rain

 

(June 14, 2014) BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – Yes we know that the Brits are obsessed with the weather, and one has to wonder whether they had an inside track to the Meteorological Office as it was a surprise to see Ana Ivanovic first up at the Aegon Classic. Well let’s face it, with no Sloane Stephens in the line-up, who else was going to kick things off!?

 

It was actually a worrisome start for the Serbian as Zhang Shuai started with a bit of gusto with an immediate break but Ivanovic spun off nine games in a row and by the time poor Zhang actually got back in the match, it was pretty much all over with a 6-2, 6-2 win.

 

“After slow start I really felt I picked up my rhythm and I played really well,” she said, ever the queen of understatement, but there is a real sense of maturity to Ivanovic that really started after Wimbledon when she called time on her two year coaching arrangement with Nigel Sears.

 

She has already snapped up two titles, a couple of wins over both Williams sisters – so another title is beckoning:

 

“It would mean a lot for me to have a title on grass. It’s been ‑ not to mention my age ‑ but ten years on tour and I never have title on grass.”

 

Ivanovic has come a long way from the excitable youngster that swept to a French Open title and the World No. 1 slot perhaps long before she was ready for all that, and there is something utterly engaging about her giggling her way through a press conference (when she’s won, anyway).

 

Perhaps the most amusing thing, when we look in the context of the young up-and-coming chasing packs of the Simona Haleps and Dominika Cibulkovas, her response when asked where she puts herself amongst these new-comers: “Unfortunately old. (Laughing.)“

 

Equally engaging has been she of the unnecessarily long surname – Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. She has crept through the draw where perhaps the top tip would have been someone from Down Under to grace the final, especially after a much-improved Sam Stosur fell to compatriot Casey Dellacqua. But the Czech also had a run of points that swept the momentum her way.

 

The second semi-final was beset with the rain, twice in one set and at 1-5 down in the tie-break, Zahlavova Strycova gave herself a bit of a talking to (and her coach too) and suddenly kicked into gear, taking the tie-break and going on to close out 7-6(5), 6-1.

 

Zahlavova Strycova was refreshingly frank about a six month suspension after testing positive a banned substance (sibutramine). Although the ingestion was deemed accidental and her sentence backdated and reduced, it still was a significant absence from the tour.

 

“First two months was tough. I didn’t want to play anymore because I felt like it’s really unfair what happened and I didn’t have motivation to come back.

 

“But thinking about it, I was also doing different things. I was living normal life, and I felt like I miss it. Then I start to practice, and I missed adrenaline, I missed the feeling of playing matches.

 

“Then I decided to come back. It was a good decision, and I see the tennis right now a little bit different than before. “

 

She has felt a little overwhelmed with her run here, and laughed when reminded that she trails Ivanovic 2-0 in their head to head, but those were on hard courts, and as we know – grass sorts out the wheat from the chaff, if you will excuse the agricultural metaphor.

 

Expect this to be a close one.

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Seeds stumble at the business end of Birmingham

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Ana Ivanovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles – Seeds stumble at the business end of Birmingham

 

(June 13, 2014) BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – Hot on the heels of Sam Stosur coming out on the losing side of an all-Aussie affair was Sloane Stephens at the Aegon Classic on Friday in Birmingham. Earlier in the week she was asked whether this would be her shot at a final, but it looks like the tennis world will still be waiting, as she was brushed aside by Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-1 for a place in the semi-final.

 

For the third morning in a row the American was opening up proceedings on the Ann Jones Centre Court, and while she seemed to be moving a bit better on another sunny day in Birmingham, her timing and range were a might bit off.

 

Zhang is almost an anti-Sloane Stephens in terms of their successes at Slams verses the tour. Stephens is very much one for the bigger occasions while Zhang has yet to win her first R128 at a Grand Slam. In fact last year she all but missed them.

 

“Last year Australian Open, before I have injury and then I didn’t go to Australia. So French Open I have to play qualies, but I’m still in the Belgium, Brussels, still in the draw. So I don’t have chance to play qualies because same week I’m still in the draw. I can’t play two tournaments same week, so I miss the French Open.

 

“In Wimbledon I have in my country, China, have the national game, so very big tournament of Chinese player. So I stay in China play the national game, so I miss the third Grand Slam last year, Wimbledon. But I come to Wimbledon play doubles and mixed last year.”

 

More brushing aside, top seed Ana Ivanovic ploughed through a sometime tearful Klara Koukalova 6-1, 6-4 and proceeded to chatter enthusiastically about her plans after Birmingham.

 

“I’m going to actually be in London and train there and then, I have some also free time to go to the city a little bit and relax. We don’t get to do that much during the tournament, especially we stay in Wimbledon Village. It’s a good opportunity to do it the week before and let your hair down a little bit and not think too much about the matches yet. Then looking forward Wimbledon pre‑party.”

 

The dream run of Kimiko Date-Krumm ended a lot less glowingly than her great performance yesterday against defending champion Daniela Hantuchova, as it was her turn to be on the unfortunate end of a bagel.

 

Casey Dellacqua, who came back from a set down against fellow countrywoman Sam Stosur was on fire as Date-Krumm needed something a little more than her trademark tea to calm her fraying nerves as Dellacqua allowed the veteran just a single game in the match, as she sets up a semi-final against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

 

Play starts at 12pm BST with Ivanovic and Zhang, followed by Zahlavova Strycova v Dellacqua.

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