2014/08/31

Niculescu Wins Brazil Tennis Cup for First WTA Title

Monica Niculescu photo by Marcelo Ruschel/POA Press

Monica Niculescu photo by Marcelo Ruschel/POA Press

By Barbara Galiza

(March 2, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil – It wasn’t the final most fans in Florianópolis were expecting, but Olga Puchkova and Monica Niculescu made their ticket money worth it. The two battled for two hours until Niculescu came out victorious, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, and snagged her first singles title ever.

 

“I feel so happy and so tired at the same time. At the end, I was cramping a little bit. I think I felt the matches before, when I was playing in the heat, today. I wasn’t 100% fit but I’m happy to finish, I don’t know how I managed to win”, said Niculescu. “I just want to sleep and think about (winning my first title) it tomorrow, when I’ll probably realize what I did. I’m so dead I can’t even smile (laughter).”

 

In the trophy ceremony, Puchkova shared a warm embrace with the Romanian and earnestly congratulated her. The two are good friends.

 

“She’s a nice girl, I was so happy to play with her in the final. We talk everyday. I was so happy. She was so nice at the end. After I won, she said ‘congratulations, I love your slice’, even though she hated in the match”, commented Niculescu on her infamous forehand slice.

 

The tournament, that marked the return of WTA to Brazil since 2002, was headlined by Venus Williams. The American, however, was upset in the semifinals to the eventual runner-up. Even without the former world No. 1 in the final, the tickets for the decisive match sold out.

 

“The public exceeded our expectations. We had nearly 20,000 fans throughout the week and the night matches were all practically full”, said the tournament director, Rafael Westrupp after the final. “Today, before Venus went to the airport, we already started to talk about her coming back in 2014. We want to work towards brings these players back and, hopefully, also a top ten.”

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and was covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis

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British Tennis is Completely Different From 10 Years Ago, Says Keothavong

 

 

By Barbara Galiza

(March 2, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil –With the recent successes of Andy Murray, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, it’s safe to say tennis in Britain is in a great phase. Londoner Anne Keothavong, professional since 2001, says things have come a long way in terms of support for the players.

 

“When I was Laura and Heather’s age, I didn’t have what they have. I had to travel by myself. We didn’t have a national tennis center. Now, 18-year-old players, and juniors, have coaches and a team that accompanies them on tour. With the access you get, there’s no excuse for players today”, said Keothavong on the recent change. “They’re very well supported. Being British, we are in a very lucky position. They are definitely investing more. It’s completely different now than it was 10 years ago.”

 

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), responsible for tennis in the country, and private sponsors, such as AEGON, aid the players on tour. The profit made from Wimbledon is directed to the LTA and invested in the future generation. Last year, nearly 30 million pounds from that money was used on player development and encouraging people to take up the sport.

 

“Sport in general is in a good phase in Britain. In the Olympics, it was amazing to see the whole country coming together and supporting the athletes. Whenever I had the time, I would go and watch other events, outside the tennis”, said the Brit, who played doubles and singles on the London 2012 games. “Andy (Murray) is doing very well under the pressure. Hopefully what he’s done will inspire the new generation.”

 

After making the top 50 in 2009, Keothavong is currently ranked 183th in the world.

 

“My ranking right now is not where I’d like to be, I’ve had a lot of injuries”, said the 29 year-old after losing the first round in Florianópolis to the seventh seed Kristina Mladenovic, 6/3 6/4.

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and was covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis
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“I Tried My Best,” Said Venus Williams After Loss to Puchkova in Florianópolis

Venus Williams loss in Brazil

Venus Williams photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

By Barbara Galiza

(March 1, 2013) Venus Williams looked apathetic in her semifinal loss to Olga Puchkova in Florianópolis, but made no excuses. The American, normally an ace machine, was hitting serves at around 62 mph and, during a few points, seemed close to collapse. The Russian won in 2 hours and 31 minutes, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 and made her first final since 2006.

“Olga played a good match, from start to the end. I did the best I could on the court today, she just played better. It was very close. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the final but hopefully I will return again next year”, said the former number one. “My next tournament is Miami so I’ll go home, rest a little, and get ready to play there.”

Puchkova, all smiles in her post-match news conference, shared a curious story about her and Venus. In the final, the Russian-born player, that trains in California, faces Monica Niculescu.

“When Venus was 18 or 19, and I was about seven, they were throwing this huge campaign for her in Florida and my dad took me there. So I have this picture with her, hugging me, and I still have the ball she autographed for me. It’s pretty amazing, I didn’t know I was ever going to play her. Actually, I wanted to find the picture and ask her to sign it. How crazy would that be?”

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and is covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis. Follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Venus Williams March 1 2013 news conference Brazil Cup

WTA BRASIL TENNIS CUP
Florianopolis, Brazil

February 24-March 2, 2013
$235,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Friday, March 1, 2013
Singles – Semifinals
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. (1) Venus Williams (USA) 46 64 75
Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. (7) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 60 62

Doubles – Final
(1) Medina Garrigues/Shvedova (ESP/KAZ) d. Keothavong/Savinykh (GBR/RUS) 60 64

Order Of Play – Saturday, March 2, 2013
Centre Court (from 20.00hrs)
1. Singles Final: Olga Puchkova vs. Monica Niculescu

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Venus Williams Wins Ten Games in a Row to Make Florianópolis’ Semifinals

Venus Williams flora quarters

By Barbara Galiza

(February 28, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil –A nearly packed stadium welcomed Venus Williams, the tournament’s star, last night in Florianópolis. The top favourite had a slow start, going down 2/4 against the Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, but picked up her rhythm and won ten games in a row to seal the match. With the win, the American makes the semifinals, where she will face Olga Puchkova, 109th in the rankings.

 

“First of all, I’d like to say my opponent played really well. I couldn’t control her in the first set”, said Venus post-victory.

 

“I tried to keep my focus. In reality, I didn’t even notice (I won ten games in a row). I just wanted to play my best, choose the right shots, be aggressive and control the points. I like the feeling of being in control of the point, so that’s what I tried to do.”

 

The first semifinal to be played Friday afternoon is between Monica Niculescu, of Romania, and the French Kristina Mladenovic, at 4pm local time. Venus will enter court right after.

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and is covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis. Follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

WTA BRASIL TENNIS CUP
Florianopolis, Brazil

February 24-March 2, 2013
$235,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Thursday, February 28, 2013
Singles – Quarterfinals
(1) Venus Williams (USA) d. (5) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 64 60
(7) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Melinda Czink (HUN) 64 63
Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. Timea Babos (HUN) 63 62
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. Jana Cepelova (SVK) 61 61

Doubles – Semifinals
(1) Medina Garrigues/Shvedova (ESP/KAZ) d. (3) Babos/Date-Krumm (HUN/JPN) 63 46 105 (Match TB)
Keothavong/Savinykh (GBR/RUS) d. Barrois/Malek (GER/GER) 64 16 106 (Match TB)

Order Of Play – Friday, March 1, 2013
Centre Court (from 16.00hrs)
1. Monica Niculescu vs. Kristina Mladenovic
2. Venus Williams vs. Olga Puchkova
3. Doubles Final: Medina Garrigues/Shvedova vs. Keothavong/Savinykh

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Brazilian Teen Beatriz Maia Debuts Big Game and Personality in Florianópolis

Beatriz Maia photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

Beatriz Maia photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

By Barbara Galiza

(February 28, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil – Big game and big personality. That’s how one could describe Beatriz Haddad Maia, the 16 year-old Brazilian wildcard. Bia, as she’s known, got to Florianópolis’ second round, until wasting three match points and falling to top 100 Melinda Czink. It was the first WTA tournament for the 6’1” girl, but with powerful groundstrokes and a great forehand, it likely won’t be her last.

In both of her matches, she was supported by Brazilian tennis’ elite: the three-time Grand Slam Champion Gustavo Kuerten and his former coach, Larri Passos. Maia, who trains at Passos’ academy, was mentored by him throughout the week and said their presence made her first WTA win even better.

“It must be one of the happiest days on a tennis court I’ve ever had”, said Bia after beating qualifier Chieh-Yu Hsu, 6-1, 6-2, in the first round. “Having Larri and Guga supporting me, even smiling, made it more special. I consider them both to be genius of the sport. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Guga play that much, because when he was winning Roland Garros, I had just been born (laughter).”

The Florianópolis tournament was the first WTA event held in Brazil since 2002. For the young local players, this was an unique opportunity.

“You’ve got this great advantage playing at home that is being supported by the crowd. The feeling you get, when you hit a winner, and you hear people cheering, is great. That you’re not alone. I imagine what that sound must be like when you’re at a Grand Slam.”

In both matches, Maia displayed consistency and power from the baseline. Her lefty forehand made an impact on her opponents, as she was one point away from making the quarterfinals.

“I feel like I’ve worked a lot for this week and I’m starting to see the results. It brings me happiness to see I’m able to do what I’ve trained for”, she said. “I’ve got a lot to improve, you’re never perfect. I’ve been working a lot on my physical. Since I’m big and heavy, I still need to improve my agility. Larri and I believe that, in tennis nowadays, the player that defends well and has variety succeeds.”

Bia has a bubbly personality and even at an young age, she is comfortable with the Brazilian media. In her first Florianópolis news conference, she excitedly entered the press room wishing everyone a good night and asking: “Can I use the microphone? It’s looks fancy”.  She describes herself as a relaxed, normal 16 year-old.

“I’m not the type that goes out a lot, I prefer stay in with my father, mother and sister. Of course there are teenage fights with the family, like ‘oh, leave me alone’, but I’m alright.”

Her plan for 2013 is already settled. Bia will play the main junior events (Grand Slams, Banana Bowl, Gerdau Cup) and start transitioning to the pro tour, with Challenger and Future tournaments.

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and is covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis. Follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Venus Williams Holds off Muguruza in Brazil

Venus Williams flora

(February 27, 2013) Playing her first match since losing in the third round of the Australian Oepn, No. 20 Venus Williams fought off No. 96 Garbine Muguruza of Spain 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals of the Brazil Tennis Cup on Wednesday in Florianopolis.

Top seed Williams closed out the match on her fourth match point to stop Muguruza in 2 hours, 12 minutes after rallying from a break down in the final set.

Williams will now face fifth seed Magdalena Rybarikova  for a spot in the semifinals.

WTA BRASIL TENNIS CUP
Florianopolis, Brazil
February 24-March 2, 2013
$235,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Singles – Second Round
(1) Venus Williams (USA) d. Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) 64 26 75
Timea Babos (HUN) d. (4) Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) 61 62
(5) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. (Q) Beatriz García Vidagany (ESP) 64 36 64
(7) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Tatjana Malek (GER) 62 61
Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. (Q) Tereza Mrdeza (CRO) 61 61
Melinda Czink (HUN) d. (WC) Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 16 62 76(3) (saved 3mp)
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. Caroline Garcia (FRA) 36 63 63

Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Medina Garrigues/Shvedova (ESP/KAZ) d. Molinero/Pérez (ARG/VEN) 61 61
(3) Babos/Date-Krumm (HUN/JPN) d. Peer/Scheepers (ISR/RSA) 62 62
Keothavong/Savinykh (GBR/RUS) d. Alves/Lucic-Baroni (BRA/CRO) 62 16 119 (Match TB)
Barrois/Malek (GER/GER) d. (WC) Forte/Haddad Maia (BRA/BRA) 63 62

Order Of Play – Thursday, February 28, 2013
Centre Court (from 15.00hrs)
1. Kristina Mladenovic vs. Melinda Czink
2. Keothavong/Savinykh vs. Barrois/Malek
3. Olga Puchkova vs. Jana Cepelova (NB 18.00hrs)
4. Venus Williams vs. Magdalena Rybarikova (NB 20.00hrs)

Court 1 (from 15.00hrs)
1. Monica Niculescu vs. Timea Babos
2. Medina Garrigues/Shvedova vs. Babos/Date-Krumm (NB 17.30hrs; after suitable rest)

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Junior Roland Garros Champion Annika Beck is Learning to Adapt to the WTA Tour

By Barbara Galiza

 

(February 27, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil – Ten months ago, Annika Beck was lifting the junior version of the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, having just won the girls’ singles’ Roland Garros title. Now, at 19, after a fast adaptation to the professional tour, the German is already ranked 66th in the world: the fifth youngest player inside the top 100.

 

“Sometimes it was difficult for me to understand why it was going so fast. I didn’t recognize (what was happening) and, at times, thought it was all too big for me”, said Beck. “ Last year I played a lot on the ITF circuit. It’s why I’m working on the mental aspect with my coach. I’m still accepting that, with my ranking, I am now a player on the WTA tour.”

 

Beck took part in the brand new WTA Florianópolis this week, as one of the favourites for the title. She was the 8th seed but was upset by Jana Cepelova, still in the second round, in a match with 13 breaks of serve. Instead of being frustrated by the early loss, the German displayed her full potential by showing maturity. As a 19-year-old just starting on the tour, she stated that her current focus should be on learning and improving, not necessarily winning:

 

“It’s tougher to play (in the WTA) and you have to take your experience, and learn, from every match. If you stay calm, accept you can lose matches, you can take advantage of that. Next week you’ve got another chance.”

 

Because of her young age and height, 5’7”, Beck is lovingly called “die kleine” (the kid, in German) by her country’s players. Being considered small for today’s tennis, the 19 year-old understands she can’t have a game based solely on consistency to succeed on tour nowadays.

 

“I want to change my game to have more weapons to choose from. Tall ones have got a big advantage for serve and groundstrokes. But I’m not the tallest one so I have got to find solutions to beat, someday, a Sharapova or a Williams”, she analysed. “I need to attack more, to go to the net, to mix it up a bit to win those matches. I was always successful with my game in juniors, but now I lose more. I have to get out of my comfort zone”.

 

Beck represented Germany in Fed Cup for the first time in her career this year, taking part in an away tie against France. She had the opportunity to play alongside her country’s top players, such as Julia Goerges (27th in the rankings) and Sabine Lisicki (37th).

 

“They’ve won so many tournaments and they help showing you the way to the top. Playing in Fed Cup was a great time for me, it lets me get used to that high level. I ask them many questions about WTA rules and tournaments I don’t know. I hope I can play again (in the next tie against Serbia) in Stuttgart.”

 

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and is covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis. Follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Flipkens Talks About Relationship with Clijsters

Flipkens photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

Kirsten Flipkens photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

By Barbara Galiza

(February 26, 2013) Florianópolis – This week, at 27, Kirsten Flipkens reached the highest ranking of her career – 31st – and became Belgium’s No. 1 tennis player for the first time. Her happiness, however, was short-lived. Complaining of a right leg injury, Flipkens fell in three sets in WTA Florianópolis’ first round. After the loss, she talked about her relationship with countrywoman Kim Clijsters and her sudden rise in the WTA rankings.

“Last year I was ranked 262 and now I’m 31, it’s a great step. I don’t know what changed, I was just trying to focus on my game”, said Flipkens. “I’ve had lots of injuries in the past couple of years and now everything was falling into pieces. I quit with the (Belgian Tennis) Federation and I now have the right people around me. That made a difference.”

In Florianópolis, the Belgian lost to Olga Puchkova, from Russia, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Since her next tournament is Indian Wells, Flipkens stated her main concern was getting fit for the mandatory mixed event.

“In the second set, I slowly felt the power in my right leg going away and I didn’t know what was going on. Last week in Memphis and in Fed Cup, I had the same struggle. Because of my back’s rotation, I feel weakness on my leg”, Flipkens explained.

“It’s sad because I’m confident and I’m in my highest ranking ever this week. It was a shame”, she said. “Right now my focus is getting my body 200% fit for Indian Wells. Maybe I will have to take a scan of my lower back because I’ve had problems with it before. I want to know what’s going on because I can’t continue to play like this.”

Last year, Flipkens was briefly helped by former No. 1 and longtime friend Kim Clijsters. The Belgians, that have known each other since kids, paired up for doubles in the U.S. Open, before Clijsters retired from professional tennis.

“There are too many people thinking Kim is my coach. Right now I’m practicing in her academy, in Belgium, but she’s not coaching me”, said Flipkens. “It’s not like she’s giving me tactical advice, she’s just supporting me. I’ve known her since I was 12, she is a good friend of mine, like an older sister. Now, for example, she’s pregnant, so her family life is a priority. Maybe if it’s the right time and the right place, she’ll come (coach) with me, but her family is in the first place now and it’s logic.”

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and is covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis. Follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

 

WTA BRASIL TENNIS CUP
Florianopolis, Brazil
February 24-March 2, 2013
$235,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Singles – Second Round
Jana Cepelova (SVK) d. (8) Annika Beck (GER) 76(6) 64

Singles – First Round
(1) Venus Williams (USA) d. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 63 63
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. (3) Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 26 64 64
(5) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) 63 60
(7) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Anne Keothavong (GBR) 63 64
Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) d. (Q) Kristina Barrois (GER) 62 62
Tatjana Malek (GER) d. Teliana Pereira (BRA) 64 62
Timea Babos (HUN) d. Valeria Savinykh (RUS) 76(5) 67(3) 62
(WC) Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) d (Q) Chieh-Yu Hsu (USA) 61 62

Doubles – First Round
Barrois/Malek (GER/GER) d. (2) Martic/Mladenovic (CRO/FRA) 63 75
Alves/Lucic-Baroni (BRA/CRO) d. Czink/Niculescu (HUN/ROU) 75 64
(WC) Forte/Haddad Maia (BRA/BRA) d. Auroux/Irigoyen (ARG/ARG) 62 75

Order Of Play – Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Centre Court (from 11.00hrs)
1. Timea Babos vs. Chanelle Scheepers
2. Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Melinda Czink (NB 12.30hrs)
3. Beatriz García Vidagany vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
4. Alves/Lucic-Baroni vs. Keothavong/Savinykh
5. Venus Williams vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (NB 20.00hrs)

Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Medina Garrigues/Shvedova vs. Molinero/Pérez
2. Kristina Mladenovic vs. Tatjana Malek
3. Babos/Date-Krumm vs. Peer/Scheepers (after suitable rest)
4. Forte/Haddad Maia vs. Barrois/Malek (after suitable rest)

Court 2 (from 12.00hrs)
1. Olga Puchkova vs. Caroline Garcia
2. Monica Niculescu vs. Tereza Mrdeza

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