December 1, 2015

Agnieszka Radwanska Triumphs in Singapore to Win WTA Finals Crown


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.


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.


With Win Over Kvitova, Muguruza Reaches Semis in WTA Finals Debut

By Ros Satar

(October 30, 2015) SINGAPORE – The final day’s Round Robin at the WTA Finals matches saw the highest seed remaining, Garbiñe Muguruza take on former champion Petra Kvitova in the first match of the day. After a disrupted year, Kvitova seemed ill at ease on court in her opener, losing to Germany’s Angelique Kerber and thus setting herself on the back foot for the tournament.


She may have kept up her spotless record against compatriot Lucie Safarova, but after a mammoth hold in her opening service game, staving off three break points, first blood inevitably went to the Spaniard, who this time needed no second invitation to capitalize on the break point.


It was a good response though from the Czech, who kept her head to break straight back, but not to be outdone Muguruza struck back again to regain the advantage. Kvitova picked up her serving to at least stay in contention but the second break put Muguruza in the driver’s seat to serve out the first set, and this secure her qualification at the top of the tree in the white group.


Yet again the pair traded breaks at the start of the second set, as the Czech started to unwind a bit, this time being the one to exert pressure on Muguruza. With the scenarios still dictating that a win would need both Czech lefties to be victorious, the 2011 champion seemed to relax more into her hitting in the second set, easing out to a 3-1 lead.


With three breaks apiece, a botched swipe at the net and the merest of deflections off the net kept Kvitova hanging in, as Muguruza seemed to buckle for the first time this tournament, swinging wide and long, with Kvitova barely having to do much to break to take the set.


This time it was Kvitova who started by swinging for the fences, but again just not being able to hold on to her break advantage. What was at stake was Muguruza’s position in the mix. A win in three for the Spaniard meant we were still theoretically on course for a Maria Sharapova/Muguruza final, but if Kvitova swung for the win, and could call upon compatriot Lucie Safarova to beat Angelique Kerber, the Czech could force a change in the position and throw the script out the window.


Take nothing in women’s tennis for granted. Kvitova’s break was once more nullified by the Spaniard and the game of chess continued. The quality of tennis from both was outstanding, but at the end the nerves of steel belonged to Muguruza after swinging between match-points and break-points, finally sealing it 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 on her fourth.


With that she qualified top of the group with a perfect 3-0 record on her debut, leaving Safarova to save Kvitova’s chances with a straight sets win over Kerber, and with the German needing just a single set to advance.


It was not technically over for the Czech when she came into press, but one couldn’t help feeling that maybe the focus was shifting.


Kvitova said: “I think for me it’s first time in kind of this situation, so it’s kind of new for me. Of course I’m cheering for Lucie, but, I mean, I did everything what I could today. Really didn’t happen. I left everything so I’m okay.


“Still have a Fed Cup final ahead, which is interesting and I’m really looking forward to do that. The main goal is be prepared and healthy for the next season.”


It was undoubtedly Muguruza’s toughest battle yet, and with the singles and the doubles semifinals to contest, it is a tough end to the season coming right up.


Admitting she was tired, and now just concentrating on getting through the week, Muguruza said: “I went to the court thinking that I want to win the match, not only a set or just to qualify. I went there like, No Garbine, go on the court and ‑‑ if you go on the court you have to go and win, not to be half/half.


“So that’s what I did. I had my good and bad moments, but I’m just happy that I’ve been through.”


If there were any hopes this would be a straight forward match, three straight breaks of serve quickly dispelled that. With Safarova managing to consolidate her second break, it was enough to keep her nose ahead, and even squandering two set points on Kerber’s serve was not enough to halt her momentum as she moved half way to putting Kvitova back in the mix.


It was a very rattled Kerber almost tearfully remonstrating with her coach down a break in the second set. It was disappointing that after demonstrating some solid aggressive play, the German was reverting to much more passive play and it was costing her dearly.


It was the cruelest blow to Kerber – for the third time in a row she failed to advance at a time when she looked to be the player most likely to join Muguruza in the semifinals. Match to Safarova 6-4, 6-3.


The semifinal line up is Sharapova verus Kvitova and Muguruza against Radwanska.


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.



Pennetta Loses Her Final Match to Sharapova, While Radwanska Dashes Halep’s Semifinal Hopes at WTA Finals

Radwanska bh

Agnieszka Radwanska

By Ros Satar

(October 29, 2015) SINGAPORE – After the general speculation that swirls around once the Round Robin scenarios start doing the rounds, comes the nail-biting action, and the Red Group kicked all that off in fine style on day five of the WTA Finals in Singapore.


Of all the players that came to Singapore at the end of last week, it was maybe Agnieszka Radwanska who looked to be in the best form. She had a solid Asian swing with just a blip in Wuhan and was looking to finish the year strong.


She was up against Simona Halep who was coming off the back of an injury but seemed to be up for the challenge, starting with a confident win, but seemingly coming unraveled yet again at the hands of Maria Sharapova.


Starting with a break, against Radwanska who had looked somewhat lacklustre against Flavia Pennetta, it looked as though the Pole was going to be starting her holidays early with a 0-3 record. But gradually those trademark Ninja skills came into play, and with some breathtakingly bold shots out of necessity to keep the ball in play, she struck back.



As Radwanska hung on to force a first set tie-breaker, sure enough Halep pushed and hustled her way to a 5-1 lead, but credit to Radwanska she kept plugging away, catching up to Halep, and pushing past her for a set point. In the rally of the tournament, she won surely the point of the tournament to take the set, winning the next six points in a row.


Momentum is everything and although Halep came through a tough hold, saving a break point along the way in the first game of the second set, that was the last show of resistance as Radwanska bulldozed past her to give herself a slim chance of making the semifinals with a 1-2 record.


After failing to maybe deliver throughout the clay court season, Halep still finishes high in the rankings with some good titles behind her, so all in all – a good performance?


She said: “I think I had a good year this year. Ups and downs, but it was okay. I will finish No. 2 or No. 3 in the world so it’s pretty good for me. It’s second year in a row.


“I want to get better for the next year. I have many things to improve. I have to run a little bit more because I need. Today I couldn’t breathe anymore in the second set. But it’s normal. I have to be healthy first and then to train hard. I really want to get better; I want to do better next year.”


For Radwanska, her hopes were alive albeit in the hands of Sharapova, as she described her comeback to win 7-6(5), 6-1.


She said: “That definitely was a crazy set. Up and downs pretty much whole set. Every point matters in that case. Well, the tiebreak I didn’t really know that I could come back, and suddenly ‑‑ I think I was really relaxed. I didn’t get tight and I think I made really good shot in important moments. When was just 5‑1 down I think I just kind of play aggressive tennis and that works.


“What I can do right now is just watch and cheer for Maria. So that’s it. (Laughter.)”


It was certainly going to be all eyes on Sharapova, but also on Pennetta, who was potentially in her last match, unless she could take at least a set off the former champion.


For a time it looked like we would see just that – Pennetta started with a break and stayed steady until around the middle of the set, when Sharapova kicked up a notch to get the break back.


Many had thought she could take a set off Sharapova, having won the last three matches over her including at Indian Wells this year. But once more when the momentum was with Sharapova, she was not going to relinquish it in a hurry as she quickly dominated the second set, winning 7-5, 6-1.


As the sun set on Pennetta’s career, it was a quick exit as she declined an on court ceremony after a hug at the net with Sharapova, who finishes top of the group with Radwanska second.


Pennetta explained her rapid departure: “I’m happy to have the chance to play this tournament. I think to have the last match against Maria was amazing play such a good champion. Was a good way also to say good‑bye, because when you lose against such a good player there is not too many things to say.


“I don’t want any drama. I don’t like drama. I wasn’t able to do that, so I prefer maybe to do it in few months. I don’t know, maybe in Rome or wherever. But in that time ‑‑ I don’t like drama and I don’t like to cry, and I know if I was there I will cry. So why? No. (Laughter.)”


Pennetta spoke about what she’ll miss about playing the tour: “I think I will miss the players in a way it’s like a family. But I cannot tell you what I going to miss more than that.  I think also I will miss the competition.  When you go on the court, the central court, it’s something special.  I don’t think I will have it anymore. But in the other way, I am really happy to start a new part of life, new things.”


Sharapova had already qualified and knew that but did not know what the specific scenarios were as far as Pennetta was concerned.


She said: “I knew that I had qualified before my match, but I didn’t know about how the result of the match would change the standings or who would go in.       I knew if she would win she would go through. Other than that, I didn’t know the calculations exactly.


“I didn’t know in the last point that if I had won match in two that she was out, so it wasn’t something that I had thought about. But then it was mentioned to me after, right before I threw the balls up in the air that she was out.”


She continued: “Every match for me just counts at this point in the season in the last tournament. As I said before, I wanted to try to play a high‑quality three matches, and I didn’t know the results would have gone the way that I have expected.


“I’m actually, I think, also a little bit surprised that I’ve been able to win three matches, as physical as some of those matches were. I think knowing that I qualified allowed me to be a little bit more aggressive today. I thought I played quite aggressively in the second set and had a good ratio of winners and unforced errors, was quite solid. Served well.


“So all those things helped me. And also not playing a third set against Flavia, as we have done previously, is also a big help for me.”


Friday’s scenarios are a little less clean cut, but it would be a surprise not to see Garbiñe Muguruza mirror Sharapova with a clean sweep of wins, and few would begrudge Angelique Kerber her shot at getting out of the round robin stages for the first time.


With the Singapore Tennis Evening taking up the night’s festivities, play starts at 11am.

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.



Kvitova Beats Safarova, Muguruza Moves to 2-0 at WTA Finals in Singapore

By Ros Satar

(October 28, 2015) SINGAPORE – On a rainy day in Singapore, Petra Kvitova finally found a way to shine as she challenged fellow leftie Czech Lucie Safarova. With both having lost their opening rounds, it was really a must win for either of them to avoid an early trip home (albeit to prepare for the Fed Cup Final).


It might not have been the prettiest of tennis out there, but the match was a tight two-setter with Safarova going toe-to-toe with Kvitova, neither player conceding a break point until the end of the first set, as Safarova strove to get the advantage.


It took the 2011 champion two set points to get the much needed edge over her Fed Cup team-mate, but that was no deterrent to Safarova as she came out swinging for the fences. Catching Kvitova on the hop, she ripped through the first three games before the two-time Wimbledon champion shot back with four games on the trot to get right back in it.


She even threatened to break again, forcing Safarova to save two break points, before finally delivering the blow in the final game, breaking for the match 7-5, 7-5.


Kvitova described how she felt she had turned things around, saying: “I think in the last game she missed two forehands down the line. I think that’s her best shot. So probably that helped me in that game. But really tough to say. I mean, always when it’s really tight, the sets, you going to try to keep to putting as many balls in and just try and wait what going to happen.”


With the pair set to team up in the Fed Cup Final, Safarova described how the different dynamic helps pull the team together.


She said: I prefer playing with Petra. We always had a lot of fun through Fed Cup weeks. We are a great team, which we show with our results in last few years. I’m excited about that. It will be nice to play in Prague, at home, in front of our crowd. We have sold out the arena already, so I’m sure it will be amazing.


“[The team] do all sorts. We have every day team dinners, and of course we have practices together. We have fun in the locker room. We always in the evening hang out together at our doctor’s room and just chat. Someone has a treatment and all the others are there with them. So it’s just a really nice week. Like all activities what we do we do together.”


Next up on the menu was Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, and many felt this had the potential to be a corker of a match. It certainly started with intent as the Spaniard, currently on a three match-winning streak over Kerber, including two wins in Grand Slams this year.


That may well have played on her mind, as she lost her opening game, although broke back to set things back on an even keel. Neither player seemed to be giving an inch, but a sloppy ninth game saw Muguruza force Kerber onto the back foot. One break-point was saved but it was not enough as Muguruza struck before edging out the first set 6-4.


She wanted to carry on that momentum, pushing Kerber to defend three break points but the German would not allow her the early momentum. That being said, Kerber just could not make a dent in the Muguruza service game, and struggled once more with Muguruza playing very solidly and being rewarded with the break.


Credit where it is due though, as the German battled back but all that effort was to no avail as she was broken straight back as Muguruza stepped up to serve the match out 6-4, 6-4.


With three match points behind her the nerves kicked in, throwing in her first double fault of the match. But a beautiful finish at the net saw Muguruza in the running for qualification with a 2-0 lead, but of course life is never that simple with the scenarios.


Muguruza said: “I’m feeling very good. You never know how it’s going to go here when you come first time. For sure I’m very happy of how is it going.


“Hopefully I can keep playing like this. It’s great to be here in singles and doubles. I’ve played all the year singles and doubles, singles and doubles, so it’s great to have this payoff being here.”


Kerber said: I think it was a good match from both of us. It was a close one in the first, and in the second set I had my chances. I couldn’t take it in the first set and as well in the second set.


“I was coming back in the second set. I was trying to play until the last point. Again, I was fighting, like I’m always doing. But she was more aggressive in the important moments. I think that was the key at the end for the match.”


She continued: “I think she played a good year. I mean, she reached the top 10, top 5 right now. But I think right now she had a lot of confidence from the last few weeks, and I think that helps her like to be very confident in the important moment and just go for it. I think that’s why she is so dangerous right now.”


The scenarios for both groups give everyone some kind of chance as we head into the last matches of the round robin stages and return to the Red Group, as top seed Simona Halep takes on Agnieszka Radwanska, and Maria Sharapova possibly closes the door on US Open champion Flavia Pennetta’s career.


Play begins at 1pm with the doubles on Thursday.


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.



Sharapova 2-0 with Win Over Halep, While Pennetta Notches First Win at WTA Finals

By Ros Satar

(October 27,2015) SINGAPORE- The aftermath of Monday night’s defeat at the WTA Finals in Singapore seemed to weigh heavy in the practice courts for Petra Kvitova, as certainly the first part of her training session revolved around some earnest and animated discussion on the side of her coach David Kotyza before they finally got to hitting (the ball, not each other).


Meanwhile Flavia Pennetta looked relaxed in her warm up and despite getting broken in her first game as she took to the court in the day session against Agnieszka Radwanska, she looked to be playing far more aggressively than she had against Simona Halep.


As you might come to expect from this pair, the use of angles, the entire court and lines was on full display as the pair matched each other, a break here, a recovery there before Pennetta edged the tiebreak 7-6(5).


There was a brief pause as the Italian had to get her ankle strapped after tweaking it in the first set, but she continued to look just that little bit sharper than Radwanska whose customary magic skills seemed to falter against the Italian, as she was edged out 7-6(5), 6-4.


Pennetta can appreciate what it must be like for Maria Sharapova to have come back after such a lengthy time off the tour, and to feel she may now have some momentum.


The Italian said: “The win she had against Radwanska the first match the first day was impressive. She play good. Of course she is healthy. She has this adrenaline because she was out for three or four months, something like that. When you come in the court after so long you are with a lot of energy. It’s going to be tough for sure. “


With her 500th tour win in the balance, and of course her chances of making the semifinals of the tournament, it was going to be a very nail-biting evening for Radwanska as her place in the tournament now depends on the outcome of the match between Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova. She would need Halep to lose to keep her hopes alive.


Coming out looking fierce, Halep responded to getting broken straight away by whipping straight back but a sloppy could games where she failed to her chances to go up another break cost her dear as some pleasing variety from Sharapova saw her break on a third set point for the first set.


The second set started in the same way with Sharapova making the first strike, but this time Halep was all at sea as Sharapova broke her again to leap out to a 5-1 lead. Those couple of months out might have accounted for a little serving-out rust as Halep ground back two breaks but just could not consolidate to stay in with a fighting chance, with Sharapova winning 6-4, 6-4.


Halep acknowledged that Sharapova’s level rises when they play, saying: “She played really well today, even if she didn’t play for a long time, since Wimbledon. Yeah she knows how to play. She’s a champion. She has experience. I can say I feel she’s playing really well against me always, but that’s tennis. I have to accept and to do things better.”


Sharapova expects another grueling and physical encounter in the final round robin match, and if Pennetta and Halep both win their matches in straight sets, Sharapova will be eliminated.


She said: “I’ve always been a player that goes into a match and I don’t seek perfection because I don’t know if that’s possible. At least I’ve never proven to myself that’s possible. You’re always going to make mistakes and errors.


Sometimes, and most of the time, I feel happier when I get through a match and I didn’t play my best tennis but found a way to win. That gives me a lot more confidence.”


The second round robin stage for the white group kicks off with the all-Czech encounter between Kvitova and Lucie Safarova, with the night-match focus falling on arguably the other favourite for the title, Garbiñe Muguruza.

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.


Muguruza and Kerber Win Their Opening Matches at WTA Finals in Singapore

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber


By Ros Satar


(October 26, 2015) SINGAPORE –  It was the turn of the White Group to get underway in Singapore, after a high quality end to the opening day, as the two busiest stars opened the evening’s proceedings.


Garbine Muguruza may have looked sluggish and like an easy target in their doubles on Sunday where she and partner Carla Suárez Navarro lost to Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but her steely focus was back in full effect as she sought to push for a break before the first change of ends, finally coming good on her fourth break point.


She went hunting for a double break cushion in a lengthy see-sawing game but had to wait until the end of the set to get her reward, breaking the Czech for a second time to seal the first set 6-3.


Safarova kicked into gear at the start of the second set, breaking Muguruza to start, as she built up a 3-1 lead. The Spaniard edged back on equal terms as the pair upped the quality of their play, pushing each other towards a tie-break.


It was a more aggressive start by Muguruza, as she built up a head of steam, leaving Safarova on the back foot. Even a couple of mini-breaks was not quite enough to put her back in contention, as Muguruza closed out with two breaks of the Safarova serve to claim her first singles win at the WTA Finals, 6-3, 7-6(4).


Despite the loss, Safarova was able to take some positives away, and of course lives to come back another day.


She said: “It was a good match today. She was serving very well and pressuring me. Was going for her shots. I think the difference maybe a lot in self‑confidence. Even in those key moments she remained very strong.”


She continued: “So I feel like I’m slowly back in my game, but of course you need the wins. So I will keep positive and keep fighting in the next matches.”


For Muguruza it was a dream start on what has been an outstanding year.


She told media, after the match: “Obviously to go there and play and win for the first time, it’s great. So I feel now more calm, more in the tournament.


“I just went here and maybe … she hasn’t played for maybe couple of weeks. But I definitely played good today, so I think that helped a lot. (Smiling.)”


The remaining lefties came right along to do battle next. In practice, Petra Kvitova had looked happy and relaxed, but it was Angelique Kerber who made the quickest adjustment to the court, swiftly breaking to establish a lead that Kvitova never looked close to eradicating.


Things looked more hopeful for the 2011 champion as she ground away at Kerber to break away for a 3-1 lead, before the pair traded breaks back and forth on their way to a tie-break. Once ahead, Kerber hung on to grab the victory 6-2, 7-6(3).


For a match that promised so much, Kvitova could only acknowledge Kerber’s late burst of form at the tail end of the year.


She said: “I know that she’s a great player. She’s very good mover and fighter as well, so I know it’s going to be difficult. I think in the second set it was kind of the fight finally.


“I was trying what I can in the moment. I expect for sure difficult match. She play really good swing in Asia. I just knew it’s going to be good match. I didn’t really play the best in the first set, but I was trying to do something a little bit better in the second.”


It was a satisfied Kerber who took to the platform – but surprisingly may have also been gearing up for the long haul. She admitted: “I was a little bit nervous before I went on court, but I was actually trying to just play my game plan and it works.


“The second set was like a little bit close and was up and downs. Yeah, but I played the tiebreak at the end very good, so that was the key for the match at the end.”


Agnieszka Radwanska gets the singles program underway on Tuesday against Flavia Pennetta, with the evening match set for another epic encounter between top seed Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


WTA Finals – Sharapova Rallies While Halep Dominates in Opening Wins

By Ros Satar

(October 25, 2015) SINGAPORE –

Simona Halep [1] d Flavia Pennetta [7]

Halep fist pump-001

Any doubts over Halep’s fitness was dispelled pretty much in an instant (well, at least in the first 25 minutes) as the Romanian scampered around as well as she has ever done, to wrap up the first set over the last Slam title winner of the year in just 25 minutes without dropping a game.


Halep, who has struggled in the past with the variety and finesse that an on-form Pennetta has to offer, could seemingly do nothing wrong in the first set, as Pennetta struggled to find any way into the match.


The second set saw a lot more attacking play from the Italian as Halep maybe faltered ever so slightly, not quite finding the lines but having no trouble with the wide open space behind them.


But Pennetta admitted that she just was not on point to take her chances today as Halep set down a marker that her run to the finals last year was no fluke.


She admitted: “The second set was much better. I was trying to find something more, to be more aggressive, and I was more close and I have my chance. I didn’t make it.”


Of course the beauty of the round robin format is you live to fight another day. While Pennetta has been to the season ending finals before, winning with doubles partner Gisela Dulko in 2010, this was her first (and of course last) shot at the singles.


“I think I have to recover a little bit, to have more energy, to be more aggressive, and that’s going to be my goal for the next match for sure.”


For the Romanian – if she can keep up that level of aggression, she will be targeting her first win over Maria Sharapova.


She said: “I was well‑prepared and I knew how to play against her. I was expecting that she’s going to play the same like in US Open, and I knew how to adapt the game. So I was solid. I was smart‑aggressive, I can say. I didn’t use overpower. I just opened the court and I tried to finish the point.”


Halep started quickly last year, stunning Serena Williams in the round-robin stages before succumbing in the final on her debut. She admitted that last year she was just happy to be there, but if she plays throughout the early stages like she did today, she has to be a favourite to win at the end of next Sunday.



Maria Sharapova [3] d Agnieszka Radwanska [5] 4-6 6-3 6-4

Sharapova gets ready to serve

If Halep was speedy, we knew we were in for the long haul as Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska embarked upon games that were almost half as long as the first set of Halep/Pennetta.


Sharapova looked to be a little rusty – something that she probably expected having not gotten through a full match since her semifinal defeat by Serena Williams this summer at Wimbledon. Fist-pumping battling, it was left to Radwanska to pull out the ninja tricks with some outstanding shot-making to keep herself in contention as they both had their chances to make a break, neither being able to convert.


After a quick start in the second set by Sharapova, they seemed to be back to their old dueling ways as Radwanska righted the ship to get back on the board at 1-3. But by now the bit was between the Russian’s teeth as she leveled the match to set up a decider, and more importantly to answer the question about how match-ready she was.


The first advantage in the decider went to Sharapova in a hold just shy of 14 minutes followed by a break to put Radwanska firmly on the back foot. By now looking spent, it was as much as she could do to stay in contention as Sharapova faltered once after breaking to serve out the match for the first time, before finally grinding out the win, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.


Radwanska had to admit this was the one that got away, after the match: “I think she is just kind of player that even that she didn’t play for couple months, she’s always ready to play matches and always in shape to play really good match.


“I think we always playing three hours match in Championships, so I’m not surprised.


“I think it was really good match. I didn’t really use my chances. Couple of off games that I just slip away a little bit.”


“Even when you lose you have chances to go for it. Of course no easy matches here, so I’ll be very happy to play the same tennis that I was playing today and we’ll see.”


For Sharapova, the relief of having completed her first match since July was palpable.


She explained: “I’ve had a lot of starts and stops, and I was just really thrilled that despite not playing these last few months and not playing my best tennis, I was facing an opponent that obviously deserved a spot in tournament and has had a really great last few months, and I just felt like I was able to take myself to another level physically, which I didn’t exactly expect that I would be able to.


“I know we have pretty long ones. I know a lot of you look forward to them. I do, too. I really do enjoy playing against her. I feel like those are some of the matches that I like to watch on TV, when different styles of games clash against each other. Becomes that bit of a cat and mouse game.”


Play will continue on Monday with both Garbiñe Muguruza taking on Lucie Safarova in the evening session, followed by Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


All Access at the WTA Finals

The 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global returns to Singapore for the second consecutive year with the top women competing for $7 million in prize money from October 23 to November 1. This year's singles field poses with the Billie Jean King Trophy in front of the National Gallery Singapore. Left to Right: Flavia Pennetta (Italy), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Simona Halep (Romania), Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic), Angelique Kerber (Germany) and Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic). Credit: Getty Images.

The 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global returns to Singapore for the second consecutive year with the top women competing for $7 million in prize money from October 23 to November 1. This year’s singles field poses with the Billie Jean King Trophy in front of the National Gallery Singapore. Left to Right: Flavia Pennetta (Italy), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Simona Halep (Romania), Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic), Angelique Kerber (Germany) and Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic). Credit: Getty Images.

By Ros Satar


(October 24, 2015) SINGAPORE – With the draw out of the way, it was time for the stars of this year’s WTA Finals to meet the press, after a week of frenzied calculations of who may or may not make the cut.


With World No. 1 Serena Williams’ absence, the field is possibly one of the most open in recent times, with an all-European cast, with three debutantes (Garbiñe Muguruza, Flavia Pennetta and Lucie Safarova), and a frenetic sprint to the finish for the last spots.

Kvitova bh-001

First up on the scene was Petra Kvitova, who clinched the title on her debut in 2011. It has been an up and down year for the Czech, who still has the Fed Cup final to go before she can call time on her season.


Kvitova took the brave move to take a couple of months off the spring hard-court swing, citing exhaustion and later it emerged she had been struggling with mononucleosis so to qualify for the WTA Finals was an achievement worth smiling about.


She said: “To qualify again after what was a tough year for me, I’m really satisfied that I made it again. In the beginning of the year if somebody told me that I’m going to qualify, I’m not really going to believe them. I hope that next year will be a bit boring.”


The fourth seed heads up a trio of lefties that have all wound up in the White Group, and felt that despite the lack of the World No. 1, the field was ready to put on a good show.


“I know that we are missing Serena. I think she needed the time off so it’s good for her. Of course she is a great champion and probably for many people she is one of the greatest player. So they are probably a little bit sad she isn’t here.


“But I think it’s still a great draw and a great two groups. I think you’re going to see great tennis from everyone here.”


Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Top seed Simona Halep is thankfully out of the leftie group, but has the challenge of Maria Sharapova in hers and feels ready to tackle the 2004 champion and get her first win over her.


Halep said: “I never beat her, but maybe I will have the chance here. I just want to play match by match, everyone is playing tough here. We are the best eight players in the world so every match is like a final. I have nothing to lose. I have no expectations.”


Halep stunned Williams last year in the Round Robin stages before meeting her again in the final, on her debut last year. With three players making their debut this year, she felt like the field could be wide open this year.


She continued: “A few players are coming very strong. Muguruza – she’s coming very strong. She’s strong, she’s a strong player. She can win many matches, many important tournaments, Radwanska, is coming back again. She’s playing well, Pennetta won US Open, for the first time.


“So of course she will give everything she has because she said she’s going to retire so she has nothing to lose anymore. It’s my second year playing the WTA Finals so I have nothing to lose too because last year I had great result. So I think everyone can win the title.”


Agniezska Radwanska

Fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska is another player who has had a tough year, but in a spurt towards the end of the year picked up pace to qualify fifth for the WTA Finals.


“Of course, beginning of the year was tough. To be honest, I didn’t really change much. I was practicing the same. It’s just during the matches, something didn’t work. I couldn’t really play my best game during the matches.


“[The] grass court season I think gave me much more confidence on court. That was kind of a click out there. I was playing much better, feeling much better on court than beginning of the year. It was still not too late to be here, to make much more points in the second part of the season.”



The wait was possibly more nail-biting for Angelique Kerber, who was relying on the results of others to make the cut.


“You know, of course it’s better if you have it in your hands. But at the end, I was waiting and watching a little bit on the live score how the other is playing.


“At the end I did everything I could this year to be here. Of course, I’m proud that I qualified at the end. It was I think the most toughest and closest to qualify at the end.”


For Muguruza – it is her singles debut, having made the doubles event here last year, and she will be contesting both this year. Since winning her highest profile tournament to date in Beijing, she has been in Singapore preparing for this tournament, and the challenges of playing both the singles and doubles.


“I think is very tough to play singles and doubles, especially when you are really in high rankings because every match you play, you really need to be 100%. Obviously playing singles and doubles makes you more tired. You have to spend more hours in the side practicing, talking and thinking. But I enjoy playing doubles with Carla (Suarez Navarro). We said two years ago, Carla, let’s play doubles and see what happens.


“We are playing Masters again, it’s amazing. I think it helps me a lot, doubles, as a better player, to learn things. So far I’m enjoying singles and doubles, but it’s hard, really hard.”


Flavia Pennetta

Flavia Pennetta

After Flavia Pennetta triumphed in New York, winning her maiden slam and then announcing this would be her last year in tennis, she acknowledged that once she had a chance to make the cut, she would fight for it.


But she was very clear – this is her final tournament as a player, and while she emphatically shut down the thought of becoming a coach to at least a senior player, the thought of perhaps shaping how stars of the future are made appealed.


She said: “That thing is going to be something that I like to do, more to just explain them how it is the life. I mean, now I feel there is a lot of pressure [on] the young children to become champions. I think there is a right time for everything.


“They need to be a child. They need to have fun. They don’t have to be professional at 10 years old. I mean, they have so much time in the life. Why to rush too much? Now I think they are really push from the sponsor, from the family, from everyone. Before was more relaxing everything. Now they want it too much, so early.”


Lucie Safarova

Lucie Safarova

In fact Pennetta is not the only player who has found success a little later in her career, with Lucie Safarova joining the cast of players this year, following her run to the final of the French Open.


“I’ve been improving through last couple years already. I’ve been climbing the rankings. It hasn’t been as fast as some other players jump there. But the more I really enjoy it, I’m thankful for it.”


She will be partnering Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles.


Pride of place in terms of the day’s procession of players was 2004 champion Maria Sharapova. One of only two players here who won on their debut, it has been an up and down year for the Russian, who battled with injury throughout the US hard court season and only took to the court after Wimbledon for the first time in Wuhan, where she had to retire in her opening match.


Sharapova might avoid the ‘group of lefties’ but with little match play and even with no nemesis Williams in the mix, and the prospect of the Fed Cup final ahead, there are plenty of challenges enough this week in Singapore.


She said: “Considering I haven’t played much, it doesn’t change much for me. I think, as I said before, it’s not so much who I’m playing against or what my record is than it is about me being out there and staying healthy and working my way through the matches.


“I feel there’s definitely been a big mix of a few players that have done extremely well at certain times of the year and not so in other parts of the year. Besides Serena, the consistency has been lacking, that’s for sure.


“Of course, there are definitely names that have been around, a younger generation that we always believed would come through, is proving to show that. There are also players that have had great potential around my age that have come through and done extremely well, and even older. There’s been a mix of everything this year.”


Sharapova will be part of the opening day’s line-up, playing on the opening night against Radwanska. Earlier in the day the WTA Rising Stars final will take place, and will be followed by Halep v Pennetta.


Monday’s schedule will see Muguruza kick off the White Group matches against Safarova while Kvitova and Kerber take the night match honours.


Play on Sunday begins at 11am with Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Safarova v Muguruza/Suárez Navarro.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Donald Young Overcomes Two-Set Deficit to Win, Federer, Murray, Wawrinka and Azarenka Advance at US Open

(September 5, 2015) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Day six of US Open featured a second come from behind victory from two sets down by Donald Young over 22nd seed Victor Troicki 4-6, 0-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-4 to reach the round of 16 on Saturday. The American ranked 68th in the world pulled off a similar come from behind stunner against No. 11 seed Gilles Simon on Tuesday in the first round.

“It was 90 percent you guys,” Young told the fans on the Grandstand court, “10 percent me.”

“I was pretty upset the first two sets,” the 26-year-old told media. “Things turned around. The crowd was awesome. They made the court feel like home, like 17 to me. Those fans honestly are the reason I was able to win. If that match would have probably been somewhere else, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking.”

“Those two sets were over. I just kind of had to keep feeling. I felt like I was in the first set. Even though I lost 6-0, I had game points in the games. I felt like I still had more to give. The body allowing me to go ahead, a lot more to give. I was going to give it. If that was enough, I would win. If it wasn’t, I would be satisfied with going out there and competing my butt off.”

Young will face fifth seed and two-time major champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the quarterfinals. The No. 2 Swiss behind Roger Federer defeated the Belgian Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-4.

Wawrinka discussed his upcoming match with Young at his news conference: “It’s going to be exciting match for sure. I watch a little bit his match today. He came back again. After the first round he came back two sets to zero down.

“He’s a tough player. He improved a lot. Especially his attitude on the court, he’s fighting way more. He’s always trying. He has a nice game to watch. He try to get the crowd with him. So it’s going to be, for sure, a great match to play against him.

“I lost a few years ago against him in five sets. I was playing well. I’m waiting for a tough one.”

No comebacks were needed for the high seeds as No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 3 Andy Murray, No. 2 Simona Halep or Petra Kvitova.

Federer defeated the 29th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The Swiss will take on a very tall order next, in the form of 6-foot-10 American John Isner in the round of 16.

“I have done pretty well over the years against big servers, so, I mean, clearly I will think about it. But I don’t think that’s going to be the turning point of the match, to be quite honest. I need to make sure I protect my own serve first.”

Isner reached the fourth round when his opponent Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic retired after the second set due to a neck injury. He is the 16th player to retire from a match at the US Open this year, a record for a major.

As to the thought of playing Federer, Isner said: “I haven’t thought about that too much, actually. So I have probably … I don’t know, 48 hours to think about that.”

“It’s going to be fun. It’s what I work so hard for, to get an opportunity like this. On Monday I’m going to have fun with it.

“At the same time, I’m going to go out there and believe that I can win the match.”

No. 3 Andy Murray defeated No. 30 Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in the last night match.

No. 20 Victoria Azarenka and No. 22 Sam Stosur also reached the women’s round of 16. No. 2 Hallep beat qualifier Shelby Rogers of the U.S. 6-2, 6-3 and Azarenka, two-time major champion took three hours to stop 11th-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

“I just tried to stay focused and tried to give my best at every point,” Azarenka said.

“You know, she was playing incredible. She was pushing me. I was pushing her. So, you know, from both sides it was just head-to-head. It was amazing, I think.
“You know, every moment to me is special. Just being able to go out there and fight hard and compete, it’s exciting.

“I don’t ever want to take it for granted that I go on Arthur Ashe Stadium and I play no matter which round it is. It’s just that feeling of competition, making yourself better, to improve, you know, really hustle, battle. Whatever it takes, it’s my home. I don’t know, I feel at home when I’m in that moment.”

Azarenka will face-off against British woman Johanna Konta who surprised 18 seed Andrea Petkovic 7-6, 6-3.

“Today was not an easy task,” Kpnta said, “even if she wasn’t feeling her best, she’s still one of the best competitors out there. Yeah, she definitely didn’t give it to me in the end. I’m just happy I was able to come through that.


Women’s Singles – Third Round

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) def. Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-2, 6-3

[5] Petra Kvitova (CZE) def. [32] Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-2, 6-1
[20] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) def. [11] Angelique Kerber 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
[22] Samantha Stosur (AUS) def. [16] Sara Errani 7-5, 2-6, 6-1
Johanna Konta (GBR) def. [18] Andrea Petkovic (GER) 7-6(2), 6-3

[24] Sabine Lisicki (GER) def. Barbora Strycova (CZE) 6-4, 4-6, 7-5

[26] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) def. Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) def. Mona Barthel (GER) 1-6, 6-3, 6-4

Men’s Singles – Third Round

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) d. [29] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) d. [30] Tomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

[5] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d.  Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-4.
[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. [31] Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-7(2), 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-3
[12] Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. [24] Bernard Tomic (AUS) 64 63 61
[13] John Isner (USA) d. Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-3, 6-4 ret.

[15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) d. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(3)

Donald Young (USA) d. [22] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 4-6, 0-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-4