February 12, 2016

Murray Wins, Ivanovic Loses as Nigel Sears Collapses in the Stands

 

(January 23, 2016) Nigel Sears, father-in-law to Andy Murray and coach of Ana Ivanovic became ill during Ivanovic’s match against Madison Keys on Saturday. Ivanovic lost to Keys 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, while Murray defeated Joao Sousa 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the fourth round.

The No. 2 seed Murray will play Bernard Tomic in the round of 16.

Ivanovic was leading Keys 6-4, 1-0 when he collapsed and was taken to a nearby hospital. The match was delayed for almost an hour and the players went off court until play resumed.

Keys evened up the match be taking the second set. Ivanovic jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final set, but Keys rebounded winning six of the next seven games to close out the match.

Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic and Madison Keys in lieu of having news conferences gave statements after their respective matches. There were no on-court interviews:

 

Ana Ivanovic:

What would you like to say?
ANA IVANOVIC: Obviously it was a tough match. I played so well. First set, I won it. I felt like I produced some good games, created some opportunities. But she came back strong with a very powerful game.

I thought the third set she served better than me. She could get more on the first shot because of the serve. I felt that was the big difference in the third set.

Obviously the atmosphere and the crowd throughout the whole match was definitely supporting you a lot. Did you feel that?
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, definitely. As soon as we walked on the court, that was amazing feeling. Yeah, I really wanted to win and have a chance to come back. The crowd was just really amazing don’t.

Despite not winning the match, have you been encouraged by the form you’ve shown here?
ANA IVANOVIC: Definitely it was a good match from the beginning on. It was a high level. Like I said, she came out with some firing strokes towards the end of that match. She stepped it up. It went her way.

Obviously a little bit disappointed but a lot to look forward to.

 

Madison Keys:

Great comeback. Talk us through how that match went for you.
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I had chances in the first set. Wasn’t really able to convert. Had one bad service game. Then kind of just a battle throughout the whole second set. A little bit of slow start in the third.

I managed to kind of get it back and figure it out, fight back and get the win.

What did you tell yourself towards the end of the second set when you were down?
MADISON KEYS: I think it was just, you know, try to get one more ball, one more ball; just stay in it; make her win it and not give it to her.

You love playing in Australia. You did well here last year. Great crowd support. What is it about the Australian Open that makes you perform so well?
MADISON KEYS: You know, I love whenever I come here, every city I visit. It’s one of my favorites. I just think Australians are so welcoming. I think after last year, I kind of created somewhat of a fan base.

Coming back to that is always great. Even tonight, even playing Aussie Ana, I definitely had some of my own fans.

Talk about your potential two opponents, Zhang and Lepchenko.
MADISON KEYS: You know, Lepchenko, I’ve played her a couple of times. We’re both from the States. I know her well. I don’t know if we’ve ever played a match. Yeah, we have. She beat me. She can be tough and crafty.

Zhang, we’re so happy for her now. She’s won not only one, but two main draw matches. That’s great for her. I haven’t played her since three, four years now. Obviously she’s playing well if she’s had the upsets that she’s had, so either match will be tough.

 

Andy Murray:

How do you feel the match went?
ANDY MURRAY: I thought I struggled. At the beginning I think he was extremely aggressive, very intense.

You know, so he was getting into position to dictate a lot of points with his forehand. Once I started to hit the ball a little bit cleaner towards the end of the match I was able to get him in his backhand corner and dictate more of the points.

It was tricky. I didn’t feel great. You know, the match against Groth, though I returned well; I didn’t get to hit that many groundstrokes; didn’t feel I was in a great rhythm; wasn’t hitting the ball clean at the start.

He was hitting the ball great, close to the lines, and making me do a lot of running.

Yeah, I just tried to keep fighting. At the end I was actually hitting the ball well and felt better at the end. It was good to get through that one.

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WTA All-Access at 2015 Rogers Cup

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By Brodie Widdifield

(August 10, 2015) TORONTO, Canada – The beginning of August always represents one of the most exciting times of the year for Canadian tennis fans with the Rogers Cup tournament getting underway. For players on the WTA, it represents the beginning of the North American hard court swing, and the end of a short but enjoyable post-Wimbledon holiday.

It’s definitely my favourite time of the season,” said Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has dealt with a back injury this season and stressed the importance of fitness for this difficult yet important part of the season. “The most important thing is to stay healthy.”

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Petra Kvitova has been less lucky with her health, unfortunately. “I spent a few days off in Monaco as a vacation. I was trying to practice a little bit, but unfortunately I was diagnosed with mono.” The Czech emphasized that she was working with her team to properly schedule her practicing in order to conserve energy. “I probably got it during the spring time and I still have a little bit of it. I’m still going to play, but I need to worrying about the practicing, and I’ll try to be ready for the matches.”

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Ana Ivanovic also took some time off, and emphasized switching to hard courts would not be a challenge. “It’s not such a difficult change. A lot of players take time off, which was the case with me. The hardest transition is clay to grass, so I look forward to playing on the hard courts here in the United States and Canada.”

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Romanian Simona Halep was one of the stand out players of 2014, but has found success more difficult to come by in 2015. She seemed excited to get her hard court season under way in Toronto after deciding late to enter the tournament on a wild card. “I need some matches.” However, she enjoyed her time off after Wimbledon and is looking forward to getting back on court. “It was really good. I stayed calm, all four weeks, with my family, with my friends. Now I feel good, I feel confident, and I hope to have good matches here.” “I was a little bit tired after Indian Wells and Miami.”

 

The other hot topic on the lips of reporters and players was the continued success of the world’s best player, Serena Williams. With the season’s first three grand slams in her pocket, she will look to complete what was originally known as “The Grand Slam” – winning all four majors in a calendar year.

Not even Serena Williams herself could say it would be business as usual in New York. “It definitely feels different. Winning the Serena Slam this year took some pressure off.” Even at age 33, the world number 1 has no intentions of slowing down as she enjoys one of the best years of her career. “I feel like every year that goes by I start to love the game more than I did the previous year.”

Other players were genuinely happy for the success of Williams this year. Ana Ivanovic even said she would like to see her win the US Open. “I really hope she can do it. She’s been working really hard, she’s been on top of the game so long so I think she deserves it. We’re so lucky to have someone like her in our sport, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for what she has achieved.”

Simona Halep shared her views. “For me she is the best player in the world. She has a lot of power, and also mental power. I think she can do all four, and win the US Open this year.” But when asked if it was frustrating to constantly have such a dominant player, the Romanian only laughed. “For me it is not. It’s really nice to have a player [like her]. She’s very competitive and she loves to be number one.”

Finally, Garbine Muguruza was perhaps one of the most engaging interviews on the afternoon. Now in the top 8, the Spaniard invites all the attention that comes along with reaching a grand slam final at just 21. “Obviously things are changing, media, people are looking more at what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying it. You have to be ready, you have to be more mature. The good moments go so quickly, and the bad ones are so slow.” She mentioned that she learned a lot from the Wimbledon final, but laughed when asked if she had watched any of the match again. “I just watched the two minute highlights. No more than that.”

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

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Serena Williams Rallies to Reach French Open Final

(June 4, 2015) Sick with the flu and moving slowly around a hot center court, Serena Williams came back from a set and a break down to reach the French Open final for the third time defeating 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Thursday.

Down 6-4, 3-2 the world No. 1 won the next 10 straight games to knock out her Swiss opponent and reach her 24th major final.

“I tried everything,” Williams said in an on-court interview after the match. ”I thought if I lose, I will lose with a fight. I tried, I tried. I found the energy. I don’t know where, but I found it. And I won. I hope that on Saturday, I hope”

She’ll face No. 13 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in Saturday’s final for a chance to win her 20th major title.

Safarova defeated two former Roland Garros champions on the way to the final – defending champion and No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, 2008 titlist and seventh seed Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals earlier in the day on Thursday.

Safarova rebounded from a 2-5 first set deficit to win the next five games in a row.

“I started a little bit slower in the match and wasn’t swinging as much as I should. I was a little slow on my feet,” Safarova said to media. “Ana was playing well right away and going for her shots, too, but I slowly started getting into the rhythm, into the game. Then right away I took the set, took the momentum.”

She had to serve for the match twice in the second set to finally close it out.

“In the second set, when I realized I could finally be in the finals, I got a little bit tense there. And the game at 5-4, I was really overthinking and couldn’t really concentrate to be there in that moment.

“But when I lost serve, I shook it off and started to play aggressive again, and I served it out.”

After 12 years on tour, this will be Safarova’s first singles final of a Grand Slam tournament.

 

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Federer Falls to Countryman Wawrinka at French Open

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka

(June 2,2015) Stan Wawrinka defeated his Swiss countryman and No 2 seed Roger Federer for the first time at a major on Tuesday to reach his first French Open semifinal with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory. This was only the third time in 199 matches between than that Wawrinka came out with the win.

This is the third straight year that Federer has been knocked out in the quarterfinals or earlier. Federer was unable to break his Davis Cup teammate’s serve.

“I played my best match in a Grand Slam tournament,” said Wawrinka after the match, “and my best match on clay.”

“I know that when I play good tennis, when I play my best tennis, I can play so heavy from both sides that it’s really tough for the opponent to play,” said Wawrinka. “That’s why Roger was struggling today. It’s because I was playing so well.”

Wawrinka will play No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next.

Tsonga defeated Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3

After the match, the Frenchman wrote on the red clay using his sneaker “Roland, je t’aime,” and got laid down on the court under the writing

This will be Tsonga’s second semifinal at Roland Garros, and his sixth at a major.

 

Earlier in the day, the first women’s semifinal was set up when 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova won their quarterfinal matches.

Ivanovic is back in the semifinals since winning the French Open seven year ago, beating Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2.

“I don’t know if I should feel very old or very happy,” said the seventh seed.

The 13th seed Safarova, who upset Maria Sharapova on Monday, defeated Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (3), 6-3 to advance to just her second Grand Slam semifinal. Safarova reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

 

More to follow……….

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Former French Open Winners Roger Federer and Ana Ivanovic Reach Fourth Round

(May 29, 2015) Former French Open champions Roger Federer  Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic reached the round of 16 in Paris on Friday.

2009 winner, second seed Federer defeated world No. 88 Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to move into the fourth round of Roland Garros for an 11th straight year.

The match lasted 88 minutes. For Dzumhur, this was his second time in the third round of a major. He is only man from Bosnia/Herzegovina to compete in a major championship.

Federer will face Gael Monfils for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“I think, No. 1, it’s an interesting matchup, Cuevas and Gaël,” Federer said. “I think both look really good on clay, feel comfortable on clay. I felt Cuevas was really strong in Istanbul and also in Rome. Gaël, I played him in some tougher conditions, I guess, for me potentially. Davis Cup was rough, you know. Monaco was so early in the clay court season it was always going to be tough, even though I wasn’t hitting ball so bad, but still not quite understanding how passive or aggressive I needed to play. I thought he played a good, solid match, and me, too. It came down to a few points. It was a pity for me not to get through that one. He’s played me tough, you know, throughout my career, I thought. Especially the last four, five years now. He’s been tougher for me to play against. We have played against each other here on a few occasions as well. Semis, quarters, some of my big years here. So clearly I’d love to play against him, as well. Pablo is also a great guy. I will watch that clearly with a lot of interest.”

Supported by the French crowd, Monfils rallied past Pablo Cuevas 4-6, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the fourth round. Monfils now is 10-3 in five set matches at Roland Garros, tied for the record in wins with former player Harold Solomon.

Asked about playing Federer next, he said:

“Honestly, I don’t know. Is like, I just play my game. You know, somehow sometime, because some matches Roger kill me. Somehow I just maybe find a couple stuff, you know, in my game, to put him in trouble and to actually move him — I think Roger is very comfortable on couple of shots or couple, you know, area that I try to manage to put him out of this comfort zone. And then also I try, you know, to find a rhythm also with Roger that I’m happy with, because Roger always wants to dictate the match the way he wants, the way he make you wait or speed up the match, the way he will select his shot. And me, I really try to change out of him, and sometime Roger get pissed a little bit. And also, whether I will — and I know he will respect it, but when he’s good — actually, when I saw it the most it was in US Open, you know, Roger was very unhappy when the crowd is not behind him. And that will help me a lot, for sure,” Monfils said smiling.

 

Defending champion Sharapova is into the second week of the French Open reaching the fourth round after beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-3, 6-4. Next she takes on Lucie Safarova.

 

After challenges in the first two rounds, Ana Ivanovic moved quickly past Croatian Donna Vekic 6-0, 6-3 to reach the second week of the tournament in 53 minutes.

The Serb who won the French Open title in 2008 talked about her growing confidence.

“The first two matches I really felt like I had kind of a slow start, and I spoke to my coach, to Mats about it, and to my team and everything. This is something I really wanted to change today. I was happy I did that, because it’s not easy playing late and then playing first. Also today conditions were a little bit heavier, it was colder in the morning. I was really happy I was able to change that.”

“After first two matches, I really started to get a little bit of feeling and groove, and yesterday I had easy day, she said. “Today I really had strict game plan. I had an idea what I wanted to do, and obviously confidence from first two matches helped me in today’s performance, too. I really knew I was working hard for few weeks now, and I spoke about it even last few weeks. You know, when you know you are working the right direction, it always gets results. Today I did some things better than I did in my first two matches, which I was happy about.”

She’ll play No. 9 seed Ekaterina Makarova next. Makarova defeated Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4.

Stan Wawrinka moved into the fourth round of Paris with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson in 89 minutes. He’ll play Gilles Simon, who beat fellow Frenchman Nicholas in five sets.

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet advanced reach the fourth round of her home major for the first time match with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Cornet celebrated the victory as though she had won the tournament.

“At last, I’m into the second week at Roland,” Cornet said. “I’ve been waiting for this for 11 years.”

“The crowd was amazing, once more, today. It really helped me getting through tough time on the court. Mirjana was playing very aggressive, and I was playing with all my heart. The crowd being behind me like this was helping me a lot, giving me a lot of energy to keep going, not to let go. Yeah, I owe them a lot today, because I think I went over my limits. And the fact that it was in Roland Garros was definitely a big help for me today. It’s a pleasure to play here on the center court especially because I love this court. So I’m really glad.”

More good news for the home country as Richard Gasquet completed his match halted due to darkness 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 over Carlos Berlocq and advance to the third round.

The 20th seed will play 15th-seeded Kevin Anderson for a place in the 4th round.

Also advancing were No. 13 Lucie Safarova and No. 19 Elina Svitolina.

 

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For the Good of the Sport

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 18, 2015) The women’s side of the draw flipped on its head once more as the young up and coming pack started to fall away after some famous wins this week. Gone was Caroline Garcia, who felled Ana Ivanovic, while Jelena Jankovic hit one more for the oldies when she dispatched Belinda Bencic to book her place in the quarter-final.

 

But perhaps the biggest surprise was Lesia Tsurenko defeating Genie Bouchard, whose come-back had been going quite swimmingly until that point. And she’s going to be one to watch as she faces the 2010 champion Jankovic next. The Serbian is playing some really solid tennis at the moment, perhaps buoyed by a great win over the very hard-hitting Madison Keys, but she can also come undone fairly spectacularly when she’s up against a player she has not played before. We could expect all kinds of potential tantrums on court, but it still will have been her best result for quite some time.

 

Serena Williams finally ended the great run of Acapulco and Monterrey champion Timea Bacsinszky, and while she admitted she could almost see the trophy in her hands (the first American to win it since her victory in 2001) she acknowledged that she had still a way to go.

 

She said: “I think it will be really good. It’s a good surface for her. I feel like she can definitely come out here, and when we play, play really well. Hopefully I can start playing better. “

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

But maybe, and perhaps disappointingly, the focus at the start of the day was more on the news that Wayne Odesnik had been caught again on a doping charge, despite protesting his innocence. He was caught in two samples, and in light of his two year ban in 2010-2011 for being caught with a growth hormone and medical materials in his possession, he was banned for 15 years, and thus announced his retirement from the sport.

 

Needless to say there are not many offering to give him a handshake for his “achievements” (if a world ranking of No. 77 and no titles are to be celebrated).

 

Andy Murray tweeted “Good riddance” and called into question, quite reasonably, if one had been caught once, why would you do it again?

 

He said: “He’s been linked to a number of people that have been involved in doping presently and in the past and surrounded himself with those people, so I can’t say I’m surprised.   To have three separate issues is ridiculous. It’s good that he’s off the tour now.”

 

 

Rafael Nadal was a touch surprised to hear the news but broadly agreed, saying: “I really don’t know about him, so it’s difficult to say one or another thing. But obviously when that happens twice, you don’t deserve to be on the tour.”

 

Quarter-final action continues on Thursday.

 

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

 

 

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Upstarts and Upsets in the second week at Indian Wells

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

(March 16, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – As the women’s draw started to fill the brackets for the last of the round of 16, we saw some of the old guard fall foul to the up-and-comers.

First in (and indeed out) was Caroline Wozniacki who met her end to Belinda Bencic. The last time the pair played was in Istanbul last year. Wozniacki was at the start of a tear through the tournaments after an upsetting summer with the collapse of her impending nuptials to Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, and it was the making of the latter half of her tennis year.

However in the way was Bencic who was battered off court that day 6-0, 6-0 in just 44 minutes. In fairness the Swiss had hardly been on a roll since the start of the year, winning just one match in Dubai but she could at least gleefully poke fun at her Istanbul outing.

“The difference was that I won a game!” Bencic joked. “No, I was really happy after the first game I won, obviously, but I think I played more solid today. In Istanbul I had maybe too much respect and I was afraid, nervous. Today I really had a good game plan. I did what I had to do out there. I served well and had some easy points on my serve because of that. It was a solid match.”

Wozniacki had to acknowledge that on the day she had just come across a better player, saying: “Honestly, it was two completely different matches,” Wozniacki told reporters. “She was steady, she took the ball early and she served well, but I just didn’t put three balls in play today. But hats off to her – she took advantage of that and she played well during the important points in the match today.”

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

There was almost another grand old lady of the tour on the ropes as Jelena Jankovic had to fight from a set down to get past the power hitting of Madison Keys 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. As always with Jankovic, humour got the better of her, and why not? She was feeling god, and quite possibly dealt a bloody nose to one of the WTA Rising Stars that felt this had been a winnable match.

Keys smacked Petra Kvitova off the court at the Australian Open, and Jankovic could certainly see why as she explained in her press conference.

“It was like bombs or bullets constantly coming at me for about two‑and‑a‑half hours. I mean, her ball is so strong. It’s such a heavy ball. I think she’s probably, I mean, maybe with Serena. Probably the hardest hitting player out there in this moment.”

At times Jankovic tried to slow the pace down by taking her time to get ready between points, and she joked: “But you would take your time too when those balls are coming at you. What else am I supposed to do?”

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Madison Keys

 

For Keys though, while it was a tough loss she was at least able to find some slight vein of amusement at her tactics against Jankovic who, on her day, can mix up and disrupt play with the best of them, as she assessed her failing backhand.

Ruefully smiling, she said: “Yeah, I’m that person, Oh, I didn’t make it? Let me try it again 37 times.”

She continued: “Because it’s one of those things that as soon as you hit it, That was so dumb; why did I do that? The crosscourt is completely open, yet I try to hit it an inch other the net and I missed it. Again. Let me try it again next point. It’s not smart, for sure. I really wish I could tell you, you know, it’s just because I’m stubborn and I just wanted to make one. If I ever figure it out, you’ll be the first one that I can tell.”

Another seed to fall by the wayside was Ana Ivanovic, who lost for the second time in a row, in as many weeks to Caroline Garcia 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. After a brisk start to the year, Ivanovic has had to deal with a broken toe (from slamming her foot against the shower door) and now an inflamed elbow.

She said: “I have to work because I haven’t been playing lots of matches and so on. I feel like I need to get back in shape. It’s getting better but I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done and then yet I have these niggles here and there that are stopping me.”

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

With Maria Sharapova restoring some sense of order, dispatching one of the trickier names in the draw, Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3, we close out a day which more or less saw the honours split evenly between the old ladies of the tour and the chasing pack of Rising Stars.

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

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A Sense of Normality in the Desert

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Photos by Curt Janka

 

(March 14, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Not that we want to gloss over the important or emotional resonance of the return of Serena Williams, but in the 24 hours that followed that match, there was a sense that we were almost back in business.

For the whole week the anticipation leading up to the match everything had been focused on Friday night, but now it felt like we were all back to normal. There were some entertaining tussles – the battle of the fist-pumpers as an older and wiser Ana Ivanovic took on a feisty Yulia Putintseva.

There was the predictable sweep through of defending champion Novak Djokovic as he started his campaign against former Top 10 player Marcos Baghdatis, who seemed to enjoy the kiss-cam antics of TV screen director at the change of ends.

But one match hat stood out was Victoria Azarenka’s albeit straight-forward result and the mouth-watering prospect of a third round clash with Maria Sharapova. Her come-back has been much anticipated and few can forget the almost pitiful site of her struggling to even stand much less run about and swing at a ball this time last year at Indian Wells.

But it’s more than that. Asking her about her earlier come-back during last year’s grass court season, it as clear that she has been so completely frustrated by not being out on court and she admitted that her return had been too early.

She said: “When I came back to Eastbourne I don’t think I was fit enough to play at all. But I wanted to play. It’s been such a long time. It was one of the lessons that I had to learn, that I didn’t prepare well. Preparation is the key to really go out and play and be confident and actually be happy on the court.”

 

The Azarenka we see now seems to be very much happier with the world, after admitting she had gone through some dark times personally in her time off the court.

 

She elaborated: “If you know that you put in work, you feel good, you can enjoy it. Tennis is really my passion. You go in life through some tough moments on and off the court, but in the end of the day you just really need to figure out what you want to do in life and what you enjoy.”

 

When she faces Sharapova in the third round, she will be up against another fighter who had a long haul back from potentially career threatening injuries. In Stuttgart last year she explained how coming back and playing after possibly contemplating the end of her career made every achievement special. There is a sense that Azarenka has reached that same stage of thinking compared to the drive “must work harder” mentality that seemed to weigh her down more last summer.

 

Right now the Belarusian is the one person players must dread in the draw as she continues her climb back up the rankings, and pretty soon she will be back in the upper echelons but she has a sense of gratitude that for now, she has to get there the hard way.

“Every day is beautiful. Every day I think is a blessing, so I just try to approach it that way. Tennis has given me so much to be grateful for that I cannot be, you know, sad that I’m on the court in front of a great crowd in this the big tournament. I cannot be ungrateful.”

 

On Sunday the last of the ATP second round matches will be done, and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will have their own campaigns underway, and it feels now as though the tournament is really getting started.

 

The only upset, if we could call it that, was the departure of Marin Cilic. The US Open champion played his first match in 2015, losing to Juan Monaco, but his loss opened up the thorny question of his participation in the IPTL exhibition league last year.

 

He maintained, however, it had not been an issue for him, saying: “I played there six, seven matches and didn’t hurt me that much. Then later it took pretty long time to get back and to reheal it. And even if I would know this I would probably skip playing Masters end of the year, Tour Finals. But at that time I didn’t know it’s going to take really that long.”

 

A quarter of his year has been lost, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has yet to make his return, having been injured during the Davis Cup final, only to show up on the IPTL for the duration of the tour. Even Ana Ivanovic admitted during the pre-tournament press obligations that the winter had been a long haul, although she really seemed to flourish under the format.

 

And yet inevitably we return to Williams. It is almost a relief to see she has been scheduled in the afternoon on Sunday and not just the night matches every time. The conditions are hit and humid and during the day those balls zip about like fluffy day-glo missiles, but in the evening when it is a little cooler, the conditions change. She may have said she feels she has won already just by being here, but she is a born competitor, who needs to get the ‘W’ on the scoresheet come what may. Roll on Sunday.

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

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Venus Williams, Kvitova, Ivanovic and Radwanska suffer early exits in Dubai

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Photos by Nida Alibhai

(February 18, 2015) DUBAI, UAE – Wednesday marked a day of upsets at the Dubai Tennis Championships. Defending champion Venus Williams was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Lucie Safarova in the third round along with No. 2 Petra Kvitova, fourth seed Ana Ivanovic, fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and seventh seed Angelique Kerber.

 

For three-time champion Williams, it snapped her 16-match win-streak, her first loss in Dubai since 2005.

 

“I think she played awesome,” said Williams of her conqueror Safarova. “There were a couple of games there that I didn’t even get my racquet on the ball. What can I say to that? I don’t think I played badly, but I couldn’t afford to make any errors today. The errors that I made were really costly, so, you know, credit to her. I wish her the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”

 

“I was firing the ball, serving really well,” Safarova said. “I put the pressure right away from the first point. My lefty serve into her body and mixing the lefty serve with the really flat and fast serves, that seems give her a little trouble.”

 

Second seed Kvitova fell to Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

 

“Yeah, everybody can beat everyone in the top,” The Czech said. “And, yeah, maybe it’s nice for the fans that they can see something new and some surprises, but not every time it’s nice for us.”

Radwanska was upset 6-4, 6-2 by Garbine Muguruza after arriving in Dubai struggling with her health.

 

“I think when you’re not playing your best tennis then it’s hard to compete with those kind of players,” said Radwanska. “I think I didn’t serve enough, you know, to win that. I think that was really important part in that match.”

 

Muguruza believes there is always a chance to upset the top players if you work hard and keep your concentration.

 

“I think that nowadays there are so many girls that play so good that the difference between the top players and the other ones are really small,” she said. “So I think that you have a chance if you work and play and be concentrate and do your game, I think you can beat them.”

 

The day was not all about upsets as top seed Simona Halep beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3, third seed Caroline Wozniacki overcame 2014 Dubai finalist Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-0 and Ekaterina Makarova also advanced, beating Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-4.

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$ 2,513,000
15-21 FEBRUARY 2015

RESULTS – FEBRUARY 18, 2015
Singles – Third Round
[1] S. Halep (ROU) d T. Pironkova (BUL) 64 63
[13] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) d [2] P. Kvitova (CZE) 63 46 63
[3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d [15] A. Cornet (FRA) 64 60
[17] K. Pliskova (CZE) d [4] A. Ivanovic (SRB) 62 46 64
G. Muguruza (ESP) d [5] A. Radwanska (POL) 64 62
[6] E. Makarova (RUS) d Z. Diyas (KAZ) 63 64
[10] [WC] F. Pennetta (ITA) d [7] A. Kerber (GER) 62 36 61
[11] L. Safarova (CZE) d [8] V. Williams (USA) 64 62

Doubles – Second Round
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d [1] S Hsieh (TPE) / S Mirza (IND) 64 46 10-7
[2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS) d K Koukalova (CZE) / K Siniakova (CZE) 76(0) 64
A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) d [3] M Hingis (SUI) / F Pennetta (ITA) 63 76(2)
M Niculescu (ROU) / A Panova (RUS) d [4] S Peng (CHN) / K Peschke (CZE) 76(8) 76(7)
[6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d J Jankovic (SRB) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) 64 64
[7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d M Erakovic (NZL) / H Watson (GBR) 63 64
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) d [WC] F Al Nabhani (OMA) / M Barthel (GER) 61 62
J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER) d C Dellacqua (AUS) / S Stosur (AUS) 64 62

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
[11] L. Safarova (CZE) vs [17] K. Pliskova (CZE)
G. Muguruza (ESP) vs [13] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] S. Halep (ROU) vs [6] E. Makarova (RUS)
[3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) vs [10] [WC] F. Pennetta (ITA)

COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) vs M Niculescu (ROU) / A Panova (RUS)
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER)

Not Before 6:00 pm
After suitable rest – A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) vs [6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP)
After suitable rest – [7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs [2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS)

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Ana Ivanovic and Seven other Women Upset in First Round of Australian Open

(January 19, 2015) No. 5 Ana Ivanovic, who led the women’s tour with 58 match wins last year, struggled with her serve and hernerves as she became a first round major upset victim on the Opening day of the 2015 Australian Open. The Serb lost to Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka, who is ranked at No. 142 in the world 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Ivanovic had a positive start to her year in Brisbane, reaching the final and losing to Maria Sharapova.

For Ivanovic, she became the first Top 5 player to lose in the first round of the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati lost to Marlene Weingartner back in 2003. This is Ivanovic’s worst result in a major since 2011.

“I think the whole match I didn’t really feel like myself out there,” Ivanovic said. “It was really tough for me to find rhythm a little bit. In the third set really felt like she raised her level.”

“There is always nerves in the beginning. I felt like I was maybe lacking a little bit practice this week. I had some issues. But I’m still, you know, I played okay in the beginning. Just I felt second and third set I really dropped my level.”

Ivanovic breezed through the first set in 21 minutes, after that Hradecka picked up her game controlled the baseline rallies putting the Serb on the defense.

“I’m happy,” said the Czech. “I still don’t believe that I am true. So probably in a couple hours I will know that I am in second round in Australian and I beat Ana. Yeah, whole times, it’s two hours after match, and I’m still smiling.

“In the first set I was so nervy. Of course, I have the feeling on the court that the court is so big. I couldn’t hit any balls in the court. When I went outside, I started the serve in second set, I think, Okay, it cannot be the worst. Let’s play every point and let’s see what will happen.”

This is the fourth time in the last six Australian Opens that Ivanovic lost after winning the first set. It’s the 5th time in 41 Grand Slam appearances that she has lost in the first round.

“It’s really disappointing,” said the Serb. “It’s probably the worst thing could happen. But still, the year is young and I really have to now sit and work on few things and just maybe try to have a different approach to this kind of event and try to see what was lacking.”

Ivanovic hit 10 double-faults and made 30 unforced errors. She has reached a mere 2 quarterfinals in her last 27 majors.

Asked about the role that nerves plays in her matches, Ivanovic said; “I think it will always do. I think it does with all the players. Just some people deal with it differently and play with it differently. I’m sure if I got through this round probably it improves. But it was just very, very tough. Like I said, in third set I really felt like she played great.”

Along with Ivanovic, seven other women’s seeds fell on Monday in Melbourne: No. 9  Angelique Kerber out to Irina -Camelia Begu 6-4, 0-6, 6-1, No. 16 Lucie Safarova to Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 2-6, 8-6, No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova out to Yanina Wickmayer 4-6,6-3, 6-3, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, defeated by Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 6-1,  No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova lost 6-4, 6-2 to Caroline Garcia, No. 28 Sabine Lisicki fell to Kristina Mladenovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 32 Belinda Bencic was defeated by Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-1.

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