2015/01/26

2015 Australian Open Women’s Contender Profiles

(January 17, 2015) Profiles of the top Women’s Singles contenders for the 2015 Australian Open. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

2014 Record: 52-8

Grand Slam Record: 259-39

Australian Open Record: 61-9

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2003, ’05, ’07. ’09, ‘10)

Fast Fact: At the Australian Open, Serena has only lost twice to a Top Ten player (2001 to Hingis, 2008 to Jankovic).

 

Maria Sharapova

2014 Record: 49-13

Grand Slam Record: 165-40

Australian Open Record: 42-10

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2008)

Fast Fact: With her win last week in Brisbane, Sharapova has won a title in each of the last 13 years, placing her 4th in the Open Era behind Navratilova (21), Evert (18), and Graf (14).

 

Simona Halep

2014 Record: 46-16

Grand Slam Record: 27-18

Australian Open Record: 6-4

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Halep celebrated 50 consecutive weeks in the Top Ten, and will mark her one year anniversary during the Australian Open (reached No. 10 on Jan 27, 2014).

 

Petra Kvitova

2014 Record: 43-16

Grand Slam Record: 64-24

Australian Open Record: 11-6

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2012)

Fast Fact: Kvitova will play her 500th career match in the first round of the Australian Open.

 

Ana Ivanovic

2014 Record: 58-17

Grand Slam Record: 97-39

Australian Open Record: 24-10

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2008)

Fast Fact: Despite having her best season since 2008, Ivanovic lost to lower-ranked players at all of the Grand Slams in 2014.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska

2014 Record: 47-22

Grand Slam Record: 90-34

Australian Open Record: 24-8

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Since beating Venus Williams to win 2014 Canadian Open (Montreal), Radwanska has a losing record, 8-9.

 

Eugenie Bouchard

2014 Record: 43-22

Grand Slam Record: 23-7

Australian Open Record: 5-1

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Bouchard won more Grand Slam matches in 2014 than any other woman (19).

 

Caroline Wozniacki

2014 Record: 49-19

Grand Slam Record: 79-31

Australian Open Record: 22-7

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2011)

Fast Fact: Wozniacki has a 7-0 record in opening round matches at the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam event that she has not lost in the first round.

 

Angelique Kerber

2014 Record: 47-24

Grand Slam Record: 48-28

Australian Open Record: 11-7

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2013, ‘14)

Fast Fact: Kerber has a 1-7 record against Top 50 players at the Australian Open.

 

Ekaterina Makarova

2014 Record: 41-21

Grand Slam Record: 48-29

Australian Open Record: 18-7

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2012, ‘13)

Fast Fact: In her last four Australian Open appearances, Makarova has defeated four Grand Slam champions (Ivanovic, S. Williams, Bartoli, V. Williams).

 

Dominika Cibulkova

2014 Record: 32-24

Grand Slam Record: 53-29

Australian Open Record: 13-7

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2014)

Fast Fact: Cibulkova has won only six matches since Wimbledon, as many matches as she won en route to the Australian Open final in 2014.

 

Flavia Pennetta

2014 Record: 33-20

Grand Slam Record: 69-45

Australian Open Record: 13-11

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Pennetta had a losing record at the Australian Open until reaching the QF in 2014.

 

Andrea Petkovic

2014 Record: 41-23

Grand Slam Record: 31-20

Australian Open Record: 6-5

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2011)

Fast Fact: Petkovic hasn’t won a match at the Australian Open since 2011 (def. Sharapova 4R).

 

Venus Williams

2014 Record: 32-14

Grand Slam Record: 221-57

Australian Open Record: 41-14

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2003)

Fast Fact: With her 2014 Australian Open appearance, Venus moves into 3rd place in the Open Era with 65 Slam appearances, trailing only Frazier (71) and Navratilova (67).

 

Victoria Azarenka

2014 Record: 15-9

Grand Slam Record: 101-32

Australian Open Record: 32-7

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2012, ’13)

Fast Fact: Azarenka enters a Grand Slam event unseeded for the first time since 2007 U.S. Open, after 27 Slams where she was seeded.

 

 

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Kvitova weighs in on Czech Hopes at the Apia International

By Dave Gertler

(January 11, 2015) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – After rain prevented play for most of Sunday at the Apia International, Monday’s schedule will feature even more high-profile WTA matchups than previously planned. First up on Ken Rosewall Arena, home favorite Sam Stosur will take on Czech world No. 15 Lucie Safarova. Stosur will need all the home-crowd support she can muster, having not beaten Safarova in their last six meetings.

 

No. 2 seed Czech Petra Kvitova on Sunday weighed in on Safarova’s chances of having a standout 2015, saying, “I hope that she can make the top 10. She dreamed for it, and hopefully she can make it. I think that she really had a great off-season as well. We practiced in Prostejov at the end of last year. She came for a week, and we had a practice, and she played really well, she’s in good form.”

 

While the winner between Safarova and Stosur will most likely face No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round, Kvitova along with Safarova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova – Wozniacki’s first-round opponent – are the three Czechs contending the bottom half of the draw. In the top half, up-and-coming Czech Karolina Pliskova will face a qualifier to decide who plays top seed Simona Halep in the second round.

 

Last week in Brisbane, Pliskova surprised her opponent, and the Brisbane crowd, by overpowering Victoria Azarenka in three sets on Pat Rafter Arena, and if she can navigate her way past qualifier Polona Hercog, will most likely find herself on centre court again facing top seed Halep.

 

“She went with us to be part of the team in the Fed Cup, last week of the last season,” said Kvitova of 22-year-old Pliskova, “She was great, she really handled it very nicely, and the practice with her was great, so it was very nice to have her in the team. And hopefully, with these experiences she can have now, she can play better and better. She’s playing well, I have to say, she’s serving so well. So hopefully it’s going to be a very good future for her.”

 

The most interesting matchup on Ken Rosewall Arena will be another feature match between third seed Radwanska and world No. 18 Alize Cornet. While Radwanska has enjoyed three main-tour wins to only one loss to the French player, the French player got the better of the Pole only three days ago at the Hopman Cup in Perth. Radwanska will be hoping to follow up on her Apia International title which she failed to defend in 2014.

 

Women’s defending champion, Tsvetana Pironkova, has won through qualifying to the main draw, and will face Italy’s Flavia Pennetta on Monday on Court 3.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney and is covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Stars Descend On Sydney for the Apia International

Julien Benneteau and Ken Rosewall at Sydney International draw ceremony

Julien Benneteau and Ken Rosewall at Sydney International draw ceremony

By Dave Gertler

(January 10, 2015) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Stars of the tennis world have been descending upon Sydney over the last days, while qualifying heats have been contested at the Apia International in Sydney. Last year’s women’s champion Tsvetana Pironkova, who qualified and won eight matches in a row at the 2014 Apia International, has had to navigate through qualifying again – albeit as top seed this year – and will make it into the main draw if she defeats American Nicole Gibbs on Sunday. Despite lifting her ranking from outside the top 100 a year ago to where it is now at No.37, that Pironkova still needed to qualify is testament to the depth of the women’s draw at this year’s event.

The tournament’s top seed Simona Halep will arrive in Sydney on Sunday, from Shenzhen, China where she won the tournament.
Petra Kvitova lost in the semi-finals of Shenzhen.
Caroline Wozniacki  arrived at Sydney Airport last night from Auckland, losing her Auckland final to Venus Williams.
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska will complete the Apia International’s top four seeds when she arrives in Sydney from Perth, where she and Jerzy Janowicz – who will also feature strongly on the men’s side of the Sydney tournament – have won the Hopman Cup in an eventful final against USA’s John Isner and Serena Williams.

Janowicz will continue to be a headline act of Australia’s Summer of Tennis, as he plays young Australian giant-killer Nick Kyrgios in their first round match, which was allotted yesterday during a draw ceremony whose guests of honour included Ken Rosewall and Lesley Bowrey. 2005 Sydney finalist Sam Stosur, as well as 2012 Sydney finalist Julien Benneteau, were also in attendance for their respective WTA and ATP draw ceremonies.

 

While the men’s draw is less stacked than a women’s draw which boasts six top-10 players, Benneteau called the men’s draw, “Very compact,” saying, “Maybe there is not top 10 players, but from the top seeds to the end of the draw, there are tough players between 20, 30, 40, very good players, so I really think that anyone can win on Saturday.”

The men’s top two seeds, Fabio Fognini and David Goffin, will fly surprisingly under the radar at this tournament given that last year’s champion Juan Martin Del Potro, has chosen this event to stage his comeback from injury that has left him sidelined for almost a year. Del Potro flew in on Thursday night and has been using the days since to practice on Ken Rosewall Arena, with some light strapping on his wrist.

 

Ken Rosewall predicted a big year for the new Australian men’s No. 1, saying, “Because of his rapid improvement and his performance at Wimbledon and other senior events, there’ll be a lot of players who’ll be wanting to be in top form when they play against him. Hopefully Nick can remain physically clear without any problems, and he’ll be in good form. But I think there’ll be extra pressure on him this time to kind of stand up to being the number one player in Australia.”

 

At the women’s draw ceremony, Lesley Bowrey, winner of the French Open in 1964 and 1965, had some timely and compassionate words of wisdom for Sam Stosur, who is known for her struggles to win matches on home soil. “I just want to wish Sam all the best,” said Bowrey, “And just go out there and be free and easy, really, and not worry, as you say about everyone else, and what they’re telling you, just play your own game and do what you want to do.” Stosur has been drawn to face Lucie Safarova, the Czech world No.15 to whom she has lost their last six matches.

 

“Look, sometimes when I used to lead in matches, and I used to lose them too,” continued Bowrey, perhaps referring to Stosur’s loss last week in Brisbane to Varvara Lepchenko, after having a match point at 5-1 in the deciding set, “We all do that, it’s nothing new, you just have to find a way. What I used to do is just say, well, if I’m leading 5-1 or 5-2 or 5-3, I’d just tell myself I’m down that, and just take the pressure right off myself. That’s how I used to handle it, just tell myself I’m not leading, I’m down. Tennis is a tough game, it’s a tough sport.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney and is covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Venus Williams Wins Auckland for 46th Career Title

Venus wins Auckland

(January 9, 2015) In a face-off between two former No. 1s, Venus Williams rebounded from dropping the opening set to defeat top seed Caroline Wozniacki 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win the ASB Classic in Auckland New Zealand. For Williams it was her 46th career singles title. She is second among active players in titles behind her sister Serena.

Williams, who had never dropped a set in five previous meeting with Wozniacki, fought back in the second set, rallying from being down a break after the opening game.

“The first set went fast,” Williams said. “After that I was like, ‘All right, time to take it to three.’ But of course with her playing that well, I had to find a way just to get it to three. In the first set she was serving so well. She had an amazing first serve percentage, all those amazing passing shots, even her mis-hits were too good. But I just tried to stay level-headed in the second set and focus on holding, and cut down on my unforced errors too, and it worked for me today.”

Williams took control in the third set breaking in the third game for a 2-1 lead and held on to win.

Williams hit 40 winners which included six aces.

Williams at 34,  became the fourth oldest winner of a WTA event, behind Billie Jean King, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Martina Navratilova.

“I am an old tennis player now,” said Williams said during the trophy ceremony.

“I waited until I was 33 until I came to New Zealand and that was the biggest mistakes of my life.”

“I want to congratulate Venus for a great week,” Wozniacki said.

“Week after week you work so hard and you have been on tour for so long I have a picture on my phone when I was 12 and you told me to stay in school.”

“I remember telling (Wozniacki) to stay in school,” Williams said. “But I didn’t know you would get so good.”

“Venus played really well,” Wozniacki added. “She’s had a great week. I served really well at the start, and I was putting a lot of pressure on her, but she played better and better as the match went on.”

Top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci from Italy took the doubles title in straight sets 6-2, 6-1 from Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic.

More to follow.

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Wozniacki and Venus Williams Open 2015 with wins in Auckland

Venus wins

(January 6, 2015) Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams began the new year on winning notes in Auckland at the ASB Classic. Top seed Wozniacki beat qualifier Julia Glushko of Israel 6-3, 6-2 while American Williams dominated Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour.

“I was welcomed when I came on the court and I felt like I left off right from last year,” said last year’s finalist Williams. “I felt comfortable right away.”

ASB CLASSIC 2015 – AUCKLAND, NZL
$ 250,000.00
5-10 JANUARY 2015

RESULTS – JANUARY 06, 2015
Singles – First Round
[1] C Wozniacki (DEN) d [Q] J Glushko (ISR) 63 62
[3] V Williams (USA) d J Cepelova (SVK) 61 60
[Q] L Hradecka (CZE) d [5] S Kuznetsova (RUS) 36 76(6) 64
[7] C Vandeweghe (USA) d R Vinci (ITA) 57 62 63
J Goerges (GER) d [Q] A Tatishvili (USA) 61 64
M Erakovic (NZL) d M Puig (PUR) 75 26 64
K Flipkens (BEL) d J Larsson (SWE) 76(1) 16 76(3)
E Vesnina (RUS) d K Mladenovic (FRA) 76(5) 62
[Q] U Radwanska (POL) d F Schiavone (ITA) 64 75

Doubles – First Round
[1] S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) d Y Beygelzimer (UKR) / E Hrdinova (CZE) 26 62 10-1
[2] A Hlavackova (CZE) / L Hradecka (CZE) d D Hantuchova (SVK) / F Schiavone (ITA) 64 64
[4] S Aoyama (JPN) / R Voracova (CZE) d S Fichman (CAN) / M Sanchez (USA) 76(4) 62
P Martic (CRO) / A Tatishvili (USA) d [WC] R Cheng (NZL) / K Westbury (NZL) 60 62
D Jurak (CRO) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) d M Barthel (GER) / M Minella (LUX) 63 67(3) 10-5

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 07, 2015
CENTRE start 12:00 noon
A Konjuh (CRO) vs E Vesnina (RUS)
K Nara (JPN) vs [3] V Williams (USA)
[4] B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) vs M Erakovic (NZL)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[1] C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [WC] T Townsend (USA)
[6] S Stephens (USA) vs L Davis (USA)

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
K Flipkens (BEL) vs [7] C Vandeweghe (USA)

Not Before 1:30 pm
[Q] U Radwanska (POL) vs D Hantuchova (SVK)
[1] S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) vs N Melichar (USA) / L Siegemund (GER)

Not Before 5:00 pm
After suitable rest – [3] J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER) vs P Martic (CRO) / A Tatishvili (USA)

COURT 2 start 2:30 pm
J Goerges (GER) vs [Q] L Hradecka (CZE)

 

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Semifinals set at WTA Finals while Serena Williams clinches year-end No. 1

 

By Stephanie Neppl

 

(October 24, 2014) SINGAPORE – Semifinal berths and the year-end WTA No. 1 ranking were on the line as the last round of WTA Finals round-robin play began on Friday.

 

Many scenarios existed to see who would be playing in Saturday’s semifinals, with just Simona Halep having already secured her spot. In the end, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and Serena Williams would complete the semifinal line-up.

 

Here’s how the day’s matches unfolded:

[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

Sharapova had to beat Radwanska in straight sets to keep her hopes alive to advance to the semifinals. The two had a messy start to the match as both hit a fair share of errors as they settled in. Sharapova broke first to go up 2-1, but couldn’t consolidate as both players struggled to find their consistency.

 

Break points were frequent, and it was Sharapova who would get a critical break at 4-4 to serve out the first set. Up 5-4, the Russian was broken after saving three break points so the set was level again at 5-5. But three winners in the next game helped Sharapova break again and she served out the set on her second try, 7-5.

 

The second set looked to be quick for the world No. 2, who raised her game and Radwanska looked resigned to the loss. Sharapova went up 5-1 and had two match points on the Pole’s serve to clinch a straight set win. From that stage, Radwanska started playing solid tennis and she broke Sharapova’s serve twice to get herself back in the match at 5-5.

 

Sharapova twice served for the match, but never reached match point on her own serve. The set eventually went to a tiebreaker, and the momentum was still on Radwanska’s side. She was able to nose ahead in the tiebreak as Sharapova errors kept her behind the whole way. Down 6-4 in the tiebreaker, the Russian double faulted to end her chances to advance to the semifinals. By dropping the set, Sharapova was eliminated from the WTA Finals, meaning Serena Williams clinched year-end #1 for the fourth time.

 

Despite letting the second set slip away, Sharapova was able to regroup and broke Radwanska twice in the third set to win the last four games for the 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 win to end her season with a victory.

 

Sharapova said after the match that she was happy to end the tournament with a win. “I just really wanted to win this match. I had so many chances and it was just not the way that I wanted to go out in the tournament. That was my goal no matter how physical the match or how tough it was to lose that second set was, I wanted to win it.”

 

[3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Wozniacki had already qualified for the semifinals, but she took on Kvitova with the chance to finish 3-0 and finish atop the White Group. Kvitova needed to win the match in order to move on the semifinals, or else Radwanska was in.

 

Kvitova got off to a solid start, breaking early for a 2-1 lead. But Wozniacki was hitting freely and much more aggressively than usual, most likely due to the fact she had already advanced to the semifinals. The Dane reeled off five straight games to take the first set, 6-2.

 

The Czech, who admitted that she was feeling “tired and sick of tennis for a moment” after her loss to Radwanska earlier in the week, showed she wasn’t going away and her huge groundstrokes helped her race out to a 2-0 lead. But it all fell apart again for Kvitova, and Wozniacki’s defense and consistency helped her get a key break at 4-3, and she served out the match for a 6-2, 6-3 win.

 

The victory meant Kvitova, known for her indoor tennis prowess, was out of the 2014 WTA Finals with a 1-2 record and Radwanska finished second in the White Group.

 

Wozniacki finished atop the White Group and said it’s been a great week so far in Singapore. “It’s been a great week. I think I have nothing to complain about. Great tennis and some good wins. It’s just been really nice. You know, I’ve been playing some really good tennis, and today I think is one of the best matches I’ve ever play.”

 

[4] Simona Halep (Romania) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)

The final round-robin singles match was full of intrigue, as the fate of world No. 1 Serena Williams’ standing at the tournament rested on Simona Halep. If Ivanovic managed to defeat Halep in straight sets, Williams was out and Ivanovic would be in the WTA Finals semifinals for the first time since 2007.

 

It all seemed to be going Halep’s, and Williams’, way in the first set. Halep jumped out to a 5-2, double break lead and served for the set. From that stage, she lost four straight games as Ivanovic became more aggressive and many Halep backhands, her best shot, repeatedly found the net.

 

Halep steadied the ship to hold serve down 5-6 and the two engaged in a tense tiebreak. Ivanovic took a 5-2 lead but a forehand error and double fault helped Halep level it at 5-5. The Romanian had a set point up 6-5, but hit a forehand into the net. Ivanovic then hit a backhand long up set point at 7-6 before she managed to grab another set point with a forehand winner and she sealed her first set comeback as she won the tiebreak, 9-7.

 

The second set moved along similarly to the first set, with Halep showing no signs of giving anything but her all in the match. She again led 4-1 before handing the break back while serving at 4-2. But this time, the Romanian would not relent, and she broke at 4-3 and served out the set at love.

 

With the loss of a set, Ivanovic would no longer advance to the semifinal stage, meaning Williams was in. But the Serbian fought hard in the third and broke to go up 5-3 in an effort to end her 2014 season with a win. She served out the match at love to take it 7-6 (7) 3-6 6-3.

 

Ivanovic admitted her disappointment that she did not advance to Saturday’s semifinals. “Yeah, it’s mixed emotions obviously because I feel like it was such a great match tonight, yet it’s such a low not to be able to qualify for the semifinals. Still, on a positive note I won two matches, finished the season with a victory. It’s been amazing year for me.“

 

So, the semifinals will be Williams against Wozniacki and Halep versus Radwanska. Williams leads the head to head 9-1, while Halep leads hers 4-2.

 

RESULTS – OCTOBER 24, 2014
Singles – Round Robin – Red Group
[7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) d [4] Simona Halep (Romania) 76(7) 36 63

Final Standings
1) Simona Halep 2-1 (.714 sets)
2) Serena Williams 2-1 (.667 sets)
3) Ana Ivanovic 2-1 (.537 sets)
4) Eugenie Bouchard 0-3

Round Robin – White Group
[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) d [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) 75 67(4) 62
[8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) d [3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 62 63

Final Standings
1) Caroline Wozniacki 3-0
2) Agnieszka Radwanska 1-2 (.479 sets)
3) Maria Sharapova 1-2 (.464 sets)
4) Petra Kvitova 1-2 (.431 sets)

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic) / Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia) d [1] Sara Errani (Italy) / R Vinci (Italy) 21 ret.

Saturday’s schedule:

Centre Court – 12:00 pm Start

[2] Hsieh Su-Wei (Chinese Taipei) & Peng Shuai  (CHN) vs. Alla Kudryavtseva (Russia) & Anastasia Rodionova (AUS)

Not before 2:30 pm

(1) Serena Wiliams vs. (8) Caroline Wozniacki

 

Not before 6:00 pm

(4) Simona Halep vs (6) Agnieszka Radwanska

[3] Cara Black (Zimbabwe)/Sania Mirza (India) vs. Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic)/Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia)

 

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

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WTA Finals race to the semifinals heats up; Halep first through

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 23, 2014) SINGAPORE – With three round robin singles matches on tap for Thursday, it was a full-day of at action at the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore.
[6] Agniezska Radwanska (Poland) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Wozniacki battled her good friend Radwanska and ended on the good side of a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3 match. Radwanska struck early, going up 2-0, but the pair traded breaks back and forth in the first set, and the crowd was treated to many long rallies and crafty play, especially by Radwanska.

The Pole led 3-1, but Wozniacki was able to pull even at 3-3 and the two held serve until the Dane was able to get a break at 5-5. The quality of play got better as the set progressed with Radwanka’s ability to place the ball paired against Wozniack’s great defense. At 5-5, Wozniacki got more aggressive on her returns and was able to break and she held her own serve at 6-5 to take the first set.

In the second set, Radwanska’s groundstrokes continued to let her down, and it was Wozniacki who broke at 3-3 and won the final three games to secure a second round robin win.

“I think it was really tough match overall,” Wozniacki said after the match. “I just kept fighting for every point. There was some ridiculous shot making there at times.”

Radwanska agreed that the crowd witnessed some great tennis, but said for her it was not enough. “Well, I think of course it was couple of amazing rallies and of course couple amazing shots as well. But just not enough, I guess, in that match. I think those shots and the other shots, it all makes good match. But I think I think I just needed some more good serves as well in that match.”

[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
After both losing their opening matches, Sharapova and Kvitova met with a lot on the line for each to stay in contention for the semifinals. Sharapova had won the past five matches against the Czech, who had last beaten the Russian back in the 2011 Wimbledon final.

It seemed that trend would continue as a pumped up Sharapova broke to start the match as Kvitova was missing her shots.

But in the blink of an eye, Kvitova took over the match. She reeled off five straight games and threatened to hand Sharapova a moral bagel. Down 5-2, Sharapova finally held serve but she could not contain Kvitova’s huge serving as she closed out the first set, 6-3.

In the second set, the crowd waited for Sharapova to find her way back in the match, but Kvitova hit winner after winner. Up 5-0 and serving for the match, Sharapova broke her opponent to deny a bagel set, but down 1-5 Sharapova she would face two match points. Kvitova missed her return on both points, and the Russian held on for a second game in the set. But it wasn’t enough, and Kvitova closed out the match on her second try, 6-3, 6-2.

Kvitova admitted later in her news conference that she was “tired and sick of tennis for a moment” after her loss to Radwanska earlier in the week. “So I didn’t practice today as all and I just really relaxed and clean my mind a little bit. I knew that I have a game to beat Maria. So everything what I did today was really good, and I’m glad that I beat her and I have still a chance to go in semifinal.”

Sharapova said that she didn’t feel as sharp in the match as she has against Kvitova in the past. “She served really well. Not fast, but found her spots really well,’ she said. “But I just don’t feel that I reacted as well in her bigger shots. She’s someone that likes to play aggressive and hit the ball, and very deep as well. She countered my shots extremely well and I was just never ready for the next ball. That made it quite difficult for me.”

To advance to the semifinals, Sharapova’s only hope is to win straight sets as well as Wozniacki winning in straight sets.

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [5] Eugenie Bouchard (Canada)

With every game counting toward Williams’ race to advance to the semifinals and try to hold onto her #1 ranking, she faced Bouchard for the first time since 2013 Cincinnati 2012, when the American battled for a three-set win in their only previous match.

Bouchard has had a standout season, but since reaching the Wimbledon final her record was a lowly 8-8 leading into her final round-robin match.

Williams was coming off her worst loss since 1998, and she put memories of that match behind her with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win over Bouchard. The Canadian quickly went down 0-40 in her first service game but would hold. From then, Williams was far too strong and she won 11 straight games before Bouchard knew what hit her. She could save face by holding serve to get on the board in the second set, but Williams served out the match in her first try for the 58-minute victory.

The world No. 1 said she had to get over her 6-0, 6-2 loss to Halep on Wednesday in order to be ready for today’s match. “I was really disappointed in my play yesterday. I tried, but it didn’t work out for me. I don’t really recover well from losses, but I had a really long talk with Patrick. He just was, you know, telling me what I needed to do and how to get over it.”

The loss to Williams meant an end to Bouchard’s season, and she said she enjoyed the experience in Singapore despite her 0-3 record. “Yeah, it’s been fun. Definitely a unique experience compared to any other tournament, one I would love to come back it in the future. Definitely disappointed with my play this whole week, but I feel like I can do so much better. That’s a positive I can take out of it as well.”

Williams must await the result of the Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic’s match to see whether or not she will advance to the semifinals.

But the world No. 1 said her fate actually rests on herself. “If I wanted to win and be a part of the event, I should have won my match yesterday or should have done better,” she said. “So whatever happens, happens at this time. I did the best that I could do this week. I should have thought about that sooner.”

2014 WTA Finals Scenarios

Friday is the final day of round robin play in singles, and the last first round doubles match will take place at night following singles.

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014
CENTRE COURT start 1:30 pm
[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)
[3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Not Before 7:30 pm
[4] Simona Halep (Romania) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)
[1] Sara Errani (Italy) / Roberta Vinci (Italy) vs Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic) / Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia)

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

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Wozniacki wins thriller over Sharapova at WTA Finals

Wozniacki in press

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 21, 2014) SINGAPORE – Day one of the 2014 BNP Paribas WTA Finals featured two relatively tidy straight set wins, and play ended by 10:30pm local time.

But day two was anything but straightforward. At 10:30pm Tuesday night, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki were in the early stages of the third set of their match, which had turned into a marathon.

Fittingly the Dane, who is preparing to run in next month’s New York Marathon, pulled out the 3-hour, 13-minute battle that ended just before 11pm local time. The final score: 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Both players returned to the WTA Finals after an absence. Second seed Sharapova was back after a shoulder injury forced her to miss the event in 2013, while Wozniacki had not qualified for the tournament since 2011 when she was the #1 player on the WTA.

Though Sharapova led the head to head 5-3 before Tuesday’s match, it was Woznaicki who claimed the last victory at the US Open when she won a three-set thriller on her way to the final.

The Dane struck first in the match, racing out to a 3-0 lead. But Sharapova overcame a pair of double faults to get on the board at 3-1 and was able to then break and level the set at 3-3. Sharapova pulled ahead for the first time as she broke to go up 5-4 but two double faults when serving for the set helped hand the break back to Wozniacki. The set eventually went to a tiebreak, and again Sharapova took a lead which she could not keep. Wozniacki battled back from a 2-4 deficit and won five straight points to take the tiebreak 7-6 (4).

The match looked to be going well and truly in Wozniacki’s favor as the second set progressed. She broke and took a 2-0 lead, and up 3-1 threatened to break again before Sharapova held on for 3-2. While serving at 3-2, an issue with the stadium lights bothered Wozniacki and she ended up being broken as the set leveled at 3-3.

With the drama intensifying, Wozniacki resettled to break again and hold for a 5-3 lead and inch closer to her first win at the WTA Finals since a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Agnieszka Radwanska in 2011.

Wozniacki served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but could not close out Sharapova, who broke for 5-5 and then held for a 6-5 lead. The next game was full of drama. Wozniacki had two game points to send the match to a tiebreak but failed, and then a Sharapova shot was called in my the linesperson. The Dane had no challenges remaining and she was furious with the call, which was later determined well wide, and it gave Maria a set point. Woznaicki would hold on to force a second tiebreak as the match clock was already at 2 hours, 38 minutes.

The tiebreak was a fairly messy affair, with errors flowing off both players’ racquets. Sharapova went up 3-0 but saw Wozniacki claw her way back into the set to level at 3-3. But the Russian would not be denied and she pulled out the tiebreak, 7-5.

The third set went much quicker, as the Dane broke early as she had in both previous sets. Though Sharapova broke back and held for 2-2, the Russian looked drained and she would lose the final four games and with those, the match.

The win marked only the second time in Wozniacki’s career that she has defeated a WTA top two opponent (her first was against then No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 WTA Finals).

Wozniacki was pleased to get another hard-fought win over Sharapova.

“I think the first match is always difficult. You have to find your ground out there. I’m just happy to be through,” she said. “ You know, we work so hard physically, and so we’re ready for anything.”

Sharapova, who hit 15 double faults and 76 unforced errors, rued her missed opportunities. “She was the more consistent one” she said. “I felt like I had opportunities in the first set; I didn’t commit to finishing it off when I was serving for it, when I was up in the tiebreaker. You know, it turned into a much tougher match than I feel like it should have been. But I feel like I did that. I can only blame myself for that.”

The doubles draw was held on Tuesday morning, and the 8-team, single-elimination event starts on Wednesday.

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014
CENTRE COURT start 1:30 pm
Alla Kudryavtseva (Russia) & Anastasia Rodionova (Australia) vs [4] Ekaterina Makarova (Russia) & Elena Vesnina (Russia)

Not Before 4:00 pm
[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [4] Simona Halep (Romania)

Not Before 7:30 pm
[5] Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)
Garbine Muguruza (Spain) & Carla Suárez Navarro (Spain) vs [2] Hsieh Su-Wei (Chinese Taipei) & Peng Shuai  (China)
Tracy Austin (USA) & Marion Bartoli (France) vs Iva Majoli (Croatia) & Martina Navratilova (US

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

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Williams and Halep victorious on Day 1 at the WTA Finals

wtafinals

By Stephanie Neppl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ORDER OF PLAY – October 21, 2014

Singapore Indoor Stadium – Start 5:30 pm

Rising Stars Final

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

Not before 7:30 pm

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

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

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

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

Elite 8

Photo taken from the twitter feed of Maria Sharapova

 

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

 

Serena Williams responding to Shamil Tarpischev’s comments:

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

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

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

 

Maria Sharapova was also asked about Tarpishev’s comments.

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

 

How important is the year‑end No. 1?

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) October 18, 2014

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

What Serena has taught Eugenie Bouchard?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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