May 26, 2016

Roland Garros – Top Seeds Williams and Djokovic Dominate in Opening Wins; Murray Survives in Five

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(May 24, 2016) Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic had easy opening victories at Roland Garros on Tuesday. Williams, the defending champion going for her fourth Paris title destroyed No. 77 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-0 in 42 minutes. The 21-time major champion hit 25 winners and made only five unforced errrors.

Sister Venus also advanced in straight sets. The ninth seed defeated No. 82 Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).

Djokovic is seeking to win his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. The Serb defeated No. 95 Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Also reaching the second round easily was nine-time champion Rafael Nadal who blasted past Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

No. 2 seed completed his first round match which was held over due to darkness, surviving qualifier and former Top 10 player 37-year-old Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.

“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing,” said Murray in an on-court interview. “He had an extremely bad injury last year and was our for eight or nine months. At 37 years old and coming out and fighting like that, playing that way, is unbelievable. I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age! I’m just glad I managed to get through.”
Australian Open champion and third seed Angelique Kerber was the biggest upset on the day. The German suffering from a left shoulder injury lost to No. 58 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Bertens is fresh off winning a title over the weekend in Nürnberg, where she was a qualifier.

Another major surprise on the women’s side saw No. 5 Victoria Azarenka lose to No. 118-ranked Karin Knapp when she was forced to retire with a knee injury down 6-3, 6-7(6), 4-0.

2010 French Open champion, unseeded Francesca Schiavone lost to Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4. It was announced on court that Schiavone was retiring, but she set the record straight during her news conference.

“Roland Garros announced my retirement but I didn’t.”

“So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.”

 

More to follow…

Share

Rafael Nadal Wins 9th Barcelona Crown to Equal Guillermo Vilas’ Clay Court Titles Record at 49

(April 24, 2016) Rafael Nadal beat two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-5 to win the Barcelona Open for the ninth time on Sunday. The Spaniard has now equaled Guillermo Vilas record of 49 career clay court crowns.

It’s two straight weeks of titles for the 14-time major champion, who claimed his 69th career tournament victory.

Nadal now has won nine titles at three different tournaments – Barcelona, Monte-Carlo and Roland Garros.

“I was playing against the No. 6 player in the world, and if you don’t play at your best you aren’t going to win,” Nadal said after the match.

“I served well and that allowed me to play better. In the second set I missed several chances, and at the end it was very close, but I stayed mentally strong.”

“It was a very close match, Nadal said. “There were a lot of chances for both of us but I think I have been solid.
“When you play against players with this very, very high level, the match is often decided by a few moments. So I feel happy that I handled all these important moments well mentally.
“I have been working so hard to enjoy moments like this. The fact that I’m playing at home is always even more special. I’m very happy and I feel lucky to enjoy this again.”

Kei Nishikori

“It’s a great start to the clay court season,” Nishikori said. Even though I lost today I gained some confidence.
“He’s playing another good level of tennis. But also I gave away too many opportunities. And if I could get a couple more points on those important points, maybe the game changes a little bit.
He also gives me a lot of pressure. Every point, he gets every ball, so it’s not easy to win points against him.”

 

Angelique Kerber defended her title in Stuttgart, beating German countrywoman, qualifier Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-0. The Australian Open champion battled back from 0-3 in the first set to win 12 out of the next 13 games. For Kerber this was her ninth career title.

 

It was a career week for the 71st ranked Siegemund, who will see her ranking move to 42 in the world as of Monday. The 28-year-old upset two Top Ten players to reach the final – No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 Simona Halep.

Unseeded Cagla Buyukakcay, ranked 118 in the world had a career week in her hometown as she won the TEP BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup over No.5 seed Danka Kovinic, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Share

Victoria Azarenka to Play Svetlana Kuznetsova in Miami Open Final

(March 31, 2016) A pair of former Miami Open winners and two-time major champions have reached the women’s final. Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 2006 winner of the Miami Open held off Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. 2009 and 2011 Key Biscayne winner, 13th seed Victoria Azarenka gained a little revenge from the Australian Open by beating No. 2 Angelique Kerber. Kerber beat Azarenka in the quarterfinals of Melbourne and went on to beat Serena Williams in the final to capture her first major title.

Kuznetsova knocked out eight-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round of Miami and survived four straight three-set wins to reach the semifinal.

The 30-year-old Russian at No. 19 in the world has become the lowest ranked finalist since 2005, when No. 38 Kim Clijsters won the Miami title.

Should Kuznetsova win the title, she would return to the top ten. She talked about her tournament so far.

“I just take match by match and I just go,” she said. “It’s one more match. I’ll play with another amazing opponent. I had great wins this week, but one match, it’s a lot. It’s almost like everything. It’s great, you know.

“I start really well playing in Sydney, and then Australian Open didn’t happen to me to play good there. But I still felt I was in good level. Then I kind of mess up with Fed Cup and all that results. It was not good for me.

“I didn’t feel going in that good shape going to the U.S. swing. I was not feeling confident at all. After I had a loss in Indian Wells I tried to work a lot and training every morning a lot just to get confidence back, get my fitness.

“I’m doing better. I’m appreciate, I am blessed I have my body to play so many years and to win against good players, top players. It’s great when things come together. Either way, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a great week. I’m really pleased and happy the way I fight through all these tournaments and weeks and players.”

On-court after the match, the former French Open and U.S. Open champion said she was happy wrapping up the match in straight sets.

“I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down,” said Kuznetsova.

“I’m happy I’m still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest.”

 

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

Azarenka advanced during the Thursday night session, improving her record this year to 21-1, not dropping a set during the tournament. Should the Belarusian win, she’d become only the third woman player to win the Indian Wells – Miami double in the same year.

Both Azarenka and Kerber produced hard-hitting shots with very exciting rallies. Azarenka had her serve broken, serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set but won the next two games to close it.

Azarenka broke the German’s serve seven time during the match, hitting 29 winners and only making 16 unforced errors.

“Vika, she is doing amazing,” Kuznetsova said about potentially playing her in the final. “She is extremely prepared. Playing really confident taking all her chances.”

Azarenka is 4-4 against Kuznetsova in head-to-head competition. The last time they faced each other was in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open. Azarenka won the match and went on to win her second straight Melbourne crown.

Kei Nishikori photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

Kei Nishikori photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

On the men’s side of the draw, No. 6 Kei Nishikori survived five match points to beat No. 16 Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to advance to the semifinals on Thursday. He’ll face No. 24 seed Nick Kyrgios who surprised No. 12 Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(4).

Nishikori was down 4-5, 0-40 before fighting off the Frenchman.

“I was up a break and I had many chances to break again, you know, second time,” said the top player from Japan.

“You know, I just try to focus when I lost the game for 4-All. Actually, I knew something like that was going to be happen, so I was kind of ready and like 50/50.

“But when I was down 4-5, Love-40, I thought, All right, that’s it. Especially the last couple games I wasn’t serving well, so that was — I thought it’s going to be tough to come back. I tried to play one point at time. Yeah, I thought I have to hit the ball to win the points, and I did.

“The tiebreak I was try to be focus again. I saw he was down a little bit, so try to be focus again. Yeah, did pretty good in tiebreak.”

“Then I think at 3-4 I really raise my level,” Monfils said. “I think I start to be very aggressive, start to go for it, and still had the strong feeling that I can make it.

“At the end, I think I push very hard. Then definitely I have opportunity it close it out, but actually Kei played strong. He fought well.

“Actually, I think in the breaker he was just better than me.”

Kyrgios talked about playing Nishikori next: “Obviously Kei is one of the greatest players in the world at the moment. He has an unbelievable return of serve, moves unbelievably fast, hits big from the baseline, doesn’t have many weaknesses.

“When I played him in Shanghai I didn’t really do too much wrong. I played a great match the whole time and he just played a really well in the big moments. I definitely had chances.

“I know what my game plan is going to be. It’s going to be a tough match, but I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great guy.”

For his efforts in Miami, the young Australian’s ranking will move into the top 20.

MIAMI OPEN RESULTS – MARCH 31, 2016
Women’s Singles – Semifinals
[13] V. Azarenka (BLR) d [2] A. Kerber (GER) 62 75
[15] S. Kuznetsova (RUS) d [19] T. Bacsinszky (SUI) 75 63

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[6] K. Nishikori (JPN) d [16] G. Monfils (FRA) 46 63 76(3) – saved 5 m.p.
[24] N. Kyrgios (AUS) d [12] M. Raonic (CAN) 64 76(4)

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals
[5] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) d [4] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) 63 63
R. Klaasen (RSA) / R. Ram (USA) d T. Huey (PHI) / M. Mirnyi (BLR) 64 62

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, APRIL 01, 2016
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
ATP – [1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [15] D. Goffin (BEL)
WTA – M. Gasparyan (RUS) / M. Niculescu (ROU) vs [4] T. Babos (HUN) / Y. Shvedova (KAZ)

7:00 pm
ATP – [24] N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs [6] K. Nishikori (JPN)
WTA – [3] B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / L. Safarova (CZE) vs [8] Y. Xu (CHN) / S. Zheng (CHN)

Share

Djokovic and Azarenka Two Wins Away From an Indian Wells – Miami Double

(March 30, 2016) No. 1 Novak Djokovic is a match closer to claiming his sixth Miami Open title and third in a row. The Serb, dealing with back spasms on Wednesday night stopped No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3 to reach the semifinals. His opponent will be No. 15 David Goffin of Belgium. Goffin, reaching his second straight Masters 1000 semifinal rallied past Frenchman and No. 18 seed Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Djokovic is now 26-1 on the year. He stand two wins away from pulling off a fourth career Indian Wells – Miami double.

David Goffin

David Goffin

“Yeah, the first set it was tough because it was a good set with a good level,” Goffin said. “Gilles was really solid on his baseline, but I didn’t serve really well in the first set. I didn’t have any free points with my serve, so it was tough.

“I had so many opportunities to come back in the set. I didn’t take, yeah, any occasions to come back. I knew that the level was there and I had to keep going like this, just to stay more focus on some shots just to finish the points, some volleys, some smash, maybe some easy forehands. Maybe just be more precise, because I knew that I was feeling really good.

“Then game after game I was feeling much better. The serve was there in the third set. Yeah, I think with the serve it was the key to win the third.”

Goffin talked about his good run over the past few weeks: “I had a good level all this year during practice. I just had to reproduce my level during a match.

“I think match after match — you know, the first one against Frances Tiafoe in Indian Wells was not the best, but I won that one. Match after match was feeling much better.

“After the Davis Cup of course when I won against Marin Cilic, then match after match I was feeling much better. I won many matches in Indian Wells and here in Miami continued to win, so, yeah, I think the level is here. I have just to keep going like this. Stay aggressive.

“I worked a lot when I practiced with my coach, my two coaches. I think it’s already pays off.”

As for playing Djokovic in semifinals: “I have nothing to lose,” Goffin said. He won almost everything this year. He’s playing unbelievable tennis at the moment. But I played a great match against him last year in Cincinnati, and it could be interesting to watch the match.”

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka stands two wins away from achieving the rare Indian Wells- Miami double. The 13th seed and two-time major winner defeated Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the Miami Open on Wednesday.

Only two women have won Indian Wells and Miami in the same year and they are Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996.

“If I’m able to make it, it’s great,” Azarenka said after the match. “It seems so close, but it’s really far. I want to stay in the present. I want to continue to fight and keep getting better.”

“Great player,” Azarenka said of Konta. “I was very impressed with her improvement taking from last year and seeing how well she’s handling the pressure and going in big stages and playing really well. That’s impressive. I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more of her in the future.

“I think especially for England not having women player stand out, she’s going to be the one, I think.”

I think it’s exciting to watch her journey and see happens. She’s definitely playing top 10 level right now.”

The Belarusian who has struggled with injuries the last few years said that she always believed in herself but she still hasn’t reached her peak. “I never doubt my abilities,” said the 2009 and 2011 Miami Open winner. “What came to my mind is definitely after being for so long injured, the doubt was to get healthy. So always been a little bit on my mind.

“But I still feel that I’m far from my best, and that’s what’s really exciting for me, to be motivated, to keep improving. Everybody has doubts. We’re human beings. I always trust my ability and I believe in myself.”

Azarenka will face-off against No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber who defeated No. 22 Madison Keys 6-3, 6-2 in the evening session.

For the reigning Australian Open champion, Kerber this will be her first semifinal in Miami.

Kerber dominated her American opponent, Keys made 39 unforced errors during the match. Kerber rushed need just a little over an hour to complete the victory.

“It’s nice to play a match like this,” Kerber said. “I was feeling good. Madison is always a tough opponent. I know this because we had a lot of tough battles in the past.

“I knew that I must play very good to beat her because she played very well here in the last few matches. So it’s good. It’s good.”

She continued: “I was really trying to stay focus(ed) and stay really concentrate point by point and actually trying to really only focusing on points, on point by point.

“Because I know the tennis game, and sometimes one ball can change and turn around the match. That was my goal: to be focus(ed) and playing my game until the last point.”

Kerber notched her first win over Azarenka in the most recent quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Coming into that match, the Belarusian had a 6-0 advantage over the German.

“I went out there and trying to be really aggressive from the first point, trying to really believe in myself, because until this time I never won the match against her,” Kerber said. “It was 0-6; now it’s 1-6. I will try to go out there again like in Australia and try to believe in my game and myself and, yeah, trying to challenge her.

“It will be not easy. It will be tough match. But this is for what I am practicing, for the big matches out there, to really show what, yeah, we can do and playing the best tennis.

“So I’m really looking forward to play against her again this year.”

As for playing Azarenka in the next round, Kerber said: “She had a great start of the year, of course. She is like, yeah, on fire I think right now. I will just trying to play my game go out and try to beat her. I mean, we played two times already this year and that’s the third time.

“Yeah, I will try to enjoy it. I know that I must play really my best tennis to beat her because she won Indian Wells; she’s here now in the semis.

“Yeah, I will try to take this challenge against her.”

The other semifinal which will take place on Thursday will pit No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated No. 1 Serena Williams in the third round, against No. 19 seed Timea Bacsinszky who knocked out two straight top 5 seeds to reach the final four.

 

 

MIAMI OPEN PRESENTED BY ITAU – MIAMI, UNITED STATES
21 MARCH – 3 APRIL, 2016

RESULTS – MARCH 30, 2016
Women’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[2] A. Kerber (GER) d [22] M. Keys (USA) 63 62
[13] V. Azarenka (BLR) d [24] J. Konta (GBR) 64 62

Women’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
[3] B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / L. Safarova (CZE) d [5] A. Hlavackova (CZE) / L. Hradecka (CZE) 75 63
[4] T. Babos (HUN) / Y. Shvedova (KAZ) d K. Bondarenko (UKR) / O. Savchuk (UKR) 62 64
[8] Y. Xu (CHN) / S. Zheng (CHN) d E. Makarova (RUS) / B. Strycova (CZE) 62 62

Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) d [7] T. Berdych (CZE) 63 63
[15] D. Goffin (BEL) d [18] G. Simon (FRA) 36 62 61

Doubles – Quarterfinals
[4] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d [WC] O. Jasika (AUS) / J. Smith (AUS) 76(5) 63
[5] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) d J. Chardy (FRA) / F. Martin (FRA) 67(5) 76(5) 10-7
R. Klaasen (RSA) / R. Ram (USA) d P. Petzschner (GER) / A. Peya (AUT) 76(5) 57 10-7
T. Huey (PHI) / M. Mirnyi (BLR) d J. Isner (USA) / N. Monroe (USA) 61 75

 

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2016
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
WTA – [15] S. Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [19] T. Bacsinszky (SUI)

Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP – [6] K. Nishikori (JPN) vs [16] G. Monfils (FRA)

7:00 pm
ATP – [12] M. Raonic (CAN) vs [24] N. Kyrgios (AUS)

Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA – [13] V. Azarenka (BLR) vs [2] A. Kerber (GER)

GRANDSTAND start 1:00 pm
ATP – [5] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) vs [4] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA)

Not Before 5:00 pm
ATP – R. Klaasen (RSA) / R. Ram (USA) vs T. Huey (PHI) / M. Mirnyi (BLR)

Share

Denisa Allertova Beats Second Seed Angelique Kerber in Second Round of BNP Paribas Open

 

(March 12, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Angelique Kerber became another women’s seed casualty on Saturday at the BNP Paribas open. No. 64 Denisa Allertova surprised the reigning Australian Open champion 7-5, 7-5 on Stadium 1 to open the day session.

 

The Czech is making her main draw debut in Indian Wells, she lost in last year’s qualifying tournament.

The 23–year-old from Prague is now 2-1 against Top five opponents. She beat No. 2 Simona Halep at the 2015 Guangzhou and lost to No. 5 Wozniacki at Wimbledon last year.

Kerber was up a break in the first and was serving for the second set at 5-4.

Kerber admitted that she was not 100% physically.

“Actually, she was playing not bad today,” Kerber said. “I was trying to find my rhythm and trying to play my game, but, yeah, it was not my day.

“Yeah, my leg was bothering me in the last few days already, so I was taping it and I was trying it. It will be helping a little bit, but at the end the match I was feeling it a little bit more.

“Yeah, but it’s not the excuse that’s why I lost the match”

 

Kerber is now 1-3 since winning the Australian Open title in January.

Is there more pressure on Kerber since she now a major champion?

“Of course the pressure is much different than it was like few months ago. It’s a completely new situation for me, that’s right. But, yeah, I’m trying to get used to it, she said.

“It’s much more different because I have much more things to do off court. I’m here one week and, yeah, it was a busy week for me.

“But still, I mean, I’m trying — I have my team and I’m trying to go out there, work my tennis, improve it.

“Yeah, and like I said, it’s a completely new situation. I will try to get used to it and, yeah, and let’s see. I mean, yeah, I’m working hard still and my game will not change. I mean, my game is like it is.

“I try to improve like few more things into it, but at the end I will still play like I was playing the last years.”

“That’s the one thing I was dreaming my whole career and I reached it,” the German continued. “I won a Grand Slam. Of course still the year, it’s long and there are so many tournaments. In tennis you have every week the chance to get a new challenge. If you lose first round or like early in the tournament, you have the chance next week to make it better.

“But, no, I mean, it’s a new situation and new experience. So I think it will be also like making me more comfortable in the next few months making me actually stronger.”

.Kerber joins the list of upsets on the women’s side. So far  nine women’s seeds have fallen in Indian Wells.

Allertova will face the 25th seed Johanna Konta in the third round.

 

More to follow…

 

Karen Pestaina is covering the BNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Related article:

Angelique Kerber Upsets Serena Williams to Win Australian Open Title

Share

Angelique Kerber Upsets Serena Williams to Win Australian Open Title

Kerber

(January 30, 2016) A point away from being knocked out in the first round 13 days ago, No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber came back to win her match against  Misaki Doi and on Saturday surprised No. 1 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to claim her first major title, the 2016 Australian Open.

The last Australian Open Champion to save a match point on the way to the title was 2014 champion Li Na.

Williams came into the final as an overwhelming favorite to win her 22nd major and equal Steffi Graf for the most in the Open Era. Williams had not lost an Australian final before Saturday.

Conversely, with the victory, Kerber became the first German to win a major since Graf. Coming into Melbourne, Kerber was the only member of the Top Ten yet to reach a major final. The win gave Kerber her first win over a No. 1 player. She was 0-8 previously.

Kerber is the first lefthander to win the Australina Open since Monica Seles in 1996.

“I had goosebumps. My whole life I’ve worked hard. To say ‘I am a Grand Slam champion’ is crazy,” Kerber said during the trophy ceremony. “My dream has come true tonight”

A gracious Williams crossed over the net to congratulate Kerber at the end of the match, giving her a big hug. “Congratulations Angie,” Williams said. “You were the best player this tournament. I really hope you enjoy this moment. You truly deserve it.”

Kerber was consistent through the match hitting 25 winners to 13 errors. She made Williams run from corner to corner. Williams had 46 errors and 47 winners but her powerful serve was broken five times by the 28-year-old. This was only Kerber’s second victory over Williams, with the first one coming in Cincinnati in 2012. Williams leads the head-to-head record at 5-2.

“I was actually really happy for her,” Williams said in her post-match news conference. “She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot.

“She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up.

“I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”

“I was missing a lot off the ground, coming to the net,” said the 34-year-old. “She kept hitting some great shots actually every time I came in. I think I kept picking the wrong shots coming into it.

“But, honestly, it’s something to learn from, just to try to get better.”

“I had really crazy two weeks,” kerber said to media. “I mean, with the first round where I was match point down, and then with the win over (Victoria) Azarenka in the quarters. I never beat her.

“And now to play against Serena, what was a really honor to play against her in a Grand Slam final. It was my first final. You know, I was really looking forward. I was really excited.

“I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me. It was a really great match from both of us.

“Yeah, really it’s a special moment for me.”

 

“I was trying to stay relaxed until the last point,” Kerber said. “The first set I played very well. The second set she was serving much better. The third set every game was really close.

“I mean, the game to 3-2, it was like 10 minutes, I think. You know, I was trying really to focusing on myself because when I was up 5-2, I was sure the match is not over yet, you know.

“Then like 5-3, 5-4, and she was serving, so I was just telling myself, Okay, you breaked her before few times, so you can do it again. Just play point by point.

“When I hit the match point, I was just try to hoping to return the ball over the net. Just hoping, yeah, that I can make the ball and just going for it if I have the chance.

“Yeah, when the ball was out from her, I was just, yeah, so happy. I mean, it’s amazing.”

Share

Kerber Surprises Azarenka to Reach Australian Open Semifinals; In Melbourne Debut Konta Makes Final Four

Kerber fistpump-001

(January 26, 2016) No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber rallied from 2-5 down in the second set to close out No. 14 seed and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 to reach her first semifinal in Melbourne. It was the German’s first-ever victory against the Belarusian, to she had lost to in six previous attempts.

“I won against her for the first time. Does feel really good,” Kerber said. “Before I went on court also yesterday I was practicing in my practice to be more aggressive.

“I played very well. I mean, I was playing my game from the first point. Also when I was down 2-5, I was actually, yeah, playing more aggressive on this time. I think that was the key.

“I served very well and was moving good. I think the key from this match was that I was playing and I won the match. She doesn’t lose it; I actually won it.”

Kerber had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set. Azarenka regained one of the breaks to get to 3-4 but failed to capitalize on break points to draw even in the eighth game.

“I did put myself in the situations to be able to turn the match around,” said Azarenka. “I just didn’t commit enough, and that’s on me.”

“When I was 4-0 up in the first set, my nerves came a little bit,” Kerber explained. “I was feeling it. It was close that it was 4-4. I was able to do the 5-3 in the first set, so that was a really important moment in the first set.

“Then I was just trying, you know, to focus on my game, to be aggressive, to be the player who makes the winners and who is going for it. I was not thinking too much about the score, I was just trying to focusing more to play a good match, to play my game like I played in the practice. That was the whole time until the last point in my mind.”

Azarenka hit 33 unforced errors in the match while Kerber broke Azarenka’s serve six times.

“I think I was a little bit too flat today,” said the former No. 1. “I obviously didn’t start great. For me personally, it was a little bit 10% not enough of everything.

“My footwork didn’t have enough. My shots didn’t have enough. I felt I did a little bit too many unforced errors in the key moments. I created a lot of opportunities, but then I was not enough on my opportunities. I didn’t take them. I had plenty.

“You know, that’s not going to win matches in quarterfinals. You have to bring it, and I didn’t.”

Kerber will play Great Britain’s Johanna Konta in the semifinals. She beat Shuai Zhang 6-4, 6-1 in the later quarterfinal match.

“It doesn’t matter against who I’m playing in the semis,” Kerber said. “I mean, who is in the semis played very good four matches actually, or five matches. I think I will just try to focusing on my game, as well. I mean, I will try to not thinking against who I’m playing. I will just try to focusing like today, to be aggressive, more focusing on my game, and then let’s see how far I can get here.”

“I’m in the right direction,” Azarenka said. “I just need to keep going that way and work harder, be as professional as I am. I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong in my preparation. It’s just today I didn’t push myself enough.”

Konta’s victory makes her the first British woman to reach the final four of a major since 1984. Konta, who is making her debut in the main draw in Melbourne will see her ranking move into the Top 30. She’ll be the first British woman in the Top 30 since Laura Robson in July 2013. A year ago the Sydney-born Brit was 144th in the world.

She upset No. 8 Venus Williams in the first round and knocked out former Australian Open semifinalist 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova in the round of 16.

Konta stopped a seven-match win streak of Zhang, going back to the beginning of the qualifying tournament. Zhang had not won a match at a major coming into the Australian Open, she’s now 4-14.

“It will be my first match against her,” Konta said of her semifinal match-up against Kerber. “She’s top 10. She’s an incredibly decorated and successful competitor and player. I’m just going to go out there and bring to the court what I can.”

“I mean, whether you’re the favorite or the underdog, I think that’s very much a circumstantial thing outside of the match that I’m playing. I don’t really think about that. It’s neither here nor there for me.

“For me it’s just about going into every match and being very clear on what I want to achieve out there and being very processor orientated and sticking to my beliefs and really the not judging myself on the results that come.

“Just really make sure that I give my best out there.”

The other semifinalists which were determined on Tuesday, are six-time champion Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska.

The women’s semifinals will be played on Thursday.

On the men’s side of the draw – in addition to Great Britain having a women’s semifinalist, it also has a men’s. No. 2 seed Andy Murray stopped No. 8 seed David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 to reach his 6th final four in Melbourne in the last seven years.

Joining Murray in his semifinal will be Milos Raonic. Raonic became the first Canadian to get to this stage at the Australian Open. Raonic defeated No. 23 Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Murray has a 3-3 record against Raonic.

 

Share

Azarenka Sails into Australian Open Quarterfinals; Will Face Kerber

Victoria Azarekna

(January 25, 2016) Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka has moved into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open with a a 6-2, 6-4 win over Barbora Strycova. This marks the third year in succession that the two women have played each other in Melbourne. They faced each other in the second round in 2014 and the third round in 2015.

“Maybe next year, we’ll play in the quarters!” Azarenka joked with on-court interviewer Rennae Stubbs after the match.

“She’s such a tough opponent, and I’m just so happy that I went through. I played smart, aggressively, took my opportunities and I really kept my composure.”

“I was more focused on staying focused because she’s a type of player that throws you a lot off your rhythm,” Azarenka said to media. I was just trying to focus more on execution and be aggressive and follow my game plan from the first point to the last.

“But I think I played pretty well there. There are things I could have done better I think always. That’s the perfectionist in me. But overall, pretty solid.”

The 14th seed Azarenka will match up against No. 7 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. Kerber beat German countrywoman Annika Beck 6-4, 6-0 in the first match in Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Azarenka said. “We always have such amazing battles. She’s such a fighter and an amazing person off the court, as well. I just want to make sure we show some good tennis, enjoy myself and do my best. I’m sure she’s going to do the same.”

Azarenka recently defeated Kerber in the Brisbane International final earlier in the month.

“I had tough matches against her in the past,” Kerber said. “The last one was in Brisbane in the finals. I never won against her right now, but that will be a challenge, you know. I will looking forward when I play against her to really take my chances, take the next match.

“It’s a new one, it starts from zero, and I know what’s coming from her. I will try to be aggressive and try to go and win the match. She played very well from the first match here in Melbourne. Yeah, I will try to get another chance the next challenge against her, and we will see what’s happen then.”

Kerber talked about wheat she needs to do to win against the Belarusian:”I think I must serve for sure better, because she’s returning very well. Be more aggressive. Playing aggressive. Moving good and actually playing my game like I’m playing on practice and just focusing more on me and not on her game.”

Kerber survived a first round scare when she was down match point to Misaki Doi.

“It’s exciting,” Azarenka commented. “You know, I always look forward to play against her. She gives me always tough matches. I prepare myself for a very tough match because she’s very solid, very consistent, and an amazing fighter.

“I have to, you know, play my best game to beat her, for sure.”

Azarenka has a 6-0 record against the German.

Share

Agnieszka Radwanska Triumphs in Singapore to Win WTA Finals Crown

Radwanska

By Ros Satar

(November 1, 2015) SINGAPORE – It is fair to say this was a title that no-one was expecting at the start of the week, as Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova took to the court. This was going to be the first time anyone with a 1-2 record in the round robin phase of the WTA Finals would go on to lift the championship trophy.

 

But all that needed to be put aside, especially for Kvitova, who quickly found herself down a break at the start of the opening set. Steadying the nerves to at least get on the board, it was going to be important for her to stay in contention, against an in-form Radwanska – who was ready to punish any careless generosity of points from the Czech.

 

The first set was completely out of her reach in 33 minutes as Radwanska’s control versus Kvitova’s errors told the story in the score line of 6-2. If ever there was a time that Kvitova needed to be on the winning side of a brutal game it was now, but Radwanska could seemingly do no wrong, breaking the Czech in the first game.

 

The only way out for Kvitova would be to keep the points short and somehow, she seemed to find her groove, reeling off nine points in a row to get things back on serve. Keeping the pressure on now was vital if she wanted to delay/deny Radwanska making some Polish history. At the very least (especially after a Doubles final drubbing for Carla Suarez Navarro and Garbine Muguruza in a little over an hour), the crowd needed to have a match to get their teeth into.

 

By the third set though it was clear that the heavy strapping on Kvitova’s right thigh was causing her grief. On more than one occasion she had looked in pain as the momentum shifted first the Czech’s way, and then back to Radwanska as she came from a break down in the decider to lead by a break.

 

Neither seemed willing to hold until finally Radwanska seemed to steady the ship to edge to a 5-3 lead. Kvitova’s grip loosened as Radwanska broke her to win as Kvitova dumped a forehand into the net.

 

Given that both players came in with a losing record, and Kvitova was reliant on Lucie Safarova delivering a straight sets win, it was a time to reflect ahead of the Fed Cup final next week.

 

“I think with this kind of tournament it’s more positives for sure,” Kvitova said. “I mean, I had a great match yesterday with Maria (Sharapova), and I just think that today was really big fight and just about few points and I didn’t make it.

 

“I think was still great even for me. The season was good. I mean, of course I wish a little bit better, but on the side I think could be much more worse. It’s still okay.”

 

The winner still had a look of disbelief about her, although she was reduced to speechlessness when asked if any of her prize money would be buying presents for the press!

 

When all said and done though, Radwanska deserved to be in the final with her tough match against Muguruza, and perhaps the results did not truly reflect the standard of her game for the large part.

 

She said: “I lost first two matches, but it’s not like I was playing bad. It was still good matches. I just didn’t use the chances. I wasn’t really focus enough and something just slip away and then it was hard to come back. But definitely not bad matches, especially the one against Maria. That’s why I didn’t ‑‑ I just knew being fresh and have a good rest, that is very important for us.

 

“I don’t know how, but I was really feeling better afterwards, and I think I used to conditions, used to surface. I think I was playing even better in those two days.”

 

It is worth noting that Amelie Mauresmo was the last WTA Finals champion without having won a Slam previously, and the following year she went on to win two.

 

She said: “Well, for sure give me more confidence, especially that in a Grand Slam you also to have win and beat couple of top players in a row.

 

“I think here it’s even harder because just eight of us and you don’t have any first rounds to used to the courts. But definitely a good start. I’ll definitely try to do that next year. (Smiling.)”

 

Kvitova of course heads to the Fed Cup Final in Prague, and Radwanska will join the IPTL this year.

 

Ros Satar was in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

Share

Kvitova to Face Radwanska for WTA Finals Crown

Agniezska Radwanska

Agniezska Radwanska

By Ros Satar

(October 31, 2015) SINGAPORE – The question around the media centre at the WTA Finals was just how much had Garbiñe Muguruza’s efforts in both the singles and the doubles taken out of her. A grueling match with Petra Kvitova had left her admitting that she felt pretty tired, whereas for Agnieszka Radwanska, it was a slot gained by the supreme play so far from Maria Sharapova, coming in with a 1-2 record for the second time in a row.

 

Even watching them in training in the morning, Radwanska seemed the more care-free and free-swinging while Muguruza looked a bit inhibited and more subdued. That being said, the nerves were evident for both as they started with trading breaks, before Radwanska held serve before the first change of ends.

 

With a run of four games on the trot, it looked as though Muguruza’s bubble had burst, while Radwanska, on her seventh time out at the season ending championships looked on the verge of getting past the semi-finals for the first time.

 

Calling out coach Sam Sumyk, Muguruza looked impassive as he murmured his advice, but whatever he said, it worked as she decided it was high time she went on a little winning spree of her own, winning the next three games to put her right back in contention.

 

Now things were picking up as the Muguruza started to apply a little more pressure, moving the magician around, putting some of that doubles prowess to good use, to force a first set tie-break.

 

Despite once more building up an advantage, Muguruza came back from 1-4 down to win five points in a row to bring up set point. Radwanska pulled off a regular Houdini trick to save it, and after a slugging rally, a bewitched net cord delivered Radwanska the cruelest blow, dropping the ball back on her side to hand Muguruza the first set with quite some drama.

 

If we thought the momentum would be with the second seed, we could not have been more wrong. Once more Radwanska was the quicker off the mark, quickly leaping out to a 4-0 lead before Muguruza would get on the board. This time, though there would be no miracle come back as Radwanska leveled the match.

 

With a feeling of déjà vu, Radwanska once more picked up a 3-0 lead, and this time it looked as though Muguruza was done. Yet again though with her back against the wall, Muguruza slowly crept back into the game. But the fatigue finally caught up with the Spaniard who could not serve to force a tie-break, with Radwanska breaking on her second match point to win 7-6(5,) 3-6, 7-5.

 

Radwanska said, after the match: “I was just so happy to get through that match. Like I was saying before, I didn’t really expect to be in the semis after the first losses and now it’s the final. So that was really big match. Well, a lot of emotion during that match I think all three hours. I’m just so relieved that it’s over and I could win that match.”

 

Describing some of the outstanding tennis on show today, she said: “Sometimes like, Oh, my God. It’s in! But tennis is so fast, so you’re not really have time to think. That’s just the reaction. We have not even a second to make shot, a decision, and it’s just suddenly there. But, well, I’m just always very happy to make those shots. Well, yeah. (Smiling.)”

 

With Muguruza still having to play the doubles semifinal later today, she was positive about the whole run, saying: “In the first set like I kind of give it all, and then it was hard for me to start the second one. But, well, I just wanted to give everything I had, and doesn’t matter how long I was going to be able to keep it. I just went out there, and if I die on the court, I die, but at least I go out from there happy.

 

“I’m super happy the way I played. I think it’s amazing: Tokyo, Wuhan, Beijing, and here and be able to keep the level and go out there and just have amazing matches.”

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

The second semifinal had all the promise of a long slugfest with Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova trading breaks right at the start, before they got right down to business. But it has been a bit of an unsettled tournament for Kvitova. A lackluster start, and a tough battle to finish with a 1-2 record, reliant on an outstanding display by Lucie Safarova to dump Angelique Kerber out of the competition.

 

Any concerns though that she might have checked out a bit, went with two breaks at the end of the set in succession.

 

With the Russian hustling to a 3-0 lead at the start of the second, and no doubt having watched the first semifinal grind out with a sense of glee, she proceeded to make extremely light work of the Czech. Faced with yet another 1-4 score-line deficit, were we going to see another memorable comeback this evening?

 

The answer turned out to be yes, as Kvitova clicked into focus and worked her way back in, and Sharapova, who has been so strong throughout started to unravel a bit, while Kvitova ran off five games on the trot. Sharapova managed to stop the rot, to push the second set into a tie-break. Kvitova by now was locked in as she went on a run of four straight points to set up a final with Radwanska, winning 6-3, 7-6(3).

 

There were a lot of positives for Sharapova to take away from a tournament which signaled her first complete run since July this year.

 

She explained: “I didn’t have expectations coming into this week. Of course it’s always tough to sit after a match and say you’re happy, especially after you lose it. But I think it would be quite unprofessional of me to not take a lot of positives out of this week. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in the off‑season and next year, yeah, as well as couple of the matches in two weeks.

 

“I was able to play quite physical matches and get through them. I think that was something that I wasn’t sure of coming into this week because I hadn’t played a lot.

 

“I don’t know what to expect [from the Fed Cup Final]. I know it’s going to be much more difficult than the first time around, but it’s never easy playing away and never easy being in the final as well. Yeah, I just look forward to the experience. Something new for me.”

 

Kvitova had gone from being fairly disinterested in proceedings after almost accepting that her season (excepting Fed Cup) was over, to now having a shot at a second title.

 

She said: “It’s very weird, I have to say. Yesterday I was talking about my season, and it’s still not over yet. But I’m happy for that for sure. I mean, I couldn’t really believe that I going to play semifinal; now I’m the final, which is very interesting. I’m really looking forward. I think Aga is kind of in the same situation, so it’s going to be interesting.

 

“[She is a] difficult opponent, for sure. She’s very smart. I think she has a lot the variety on the court. She getting so many balls, so sometimes it feels that she’s never‑ending story on the court. So it’s really about the patient and still be kind of sharp, but playing a lot of shots and rallies. It’s difficult. But last match of the season for her, for me ‑ even if I’m not counting with the Fed Cup ‑‑ so both of us will leave everything out there tomorrow.”

 

Kvitova and Radwanska will play the final, on Stadium Court at 6:30pm.

 

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

Share