2015/04/21

Venus and Serena Williams Reach Miami Quarters

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 30, 2015) Venus Williams kept her record perfect against No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki on Monday at the Miami Open defeating the Dane 6-3, 7-6(1).

Venus, a three-time Miami winner joined her sister seven-time winner Serena in the quarterfinals. Serena bested two-time major champ Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3.

Venus and Serena could meet in the final of the tournament.

Venus did not return to Indian Wells as her sister did two weeks ago but spoke about her sister’s return.

“It was wonderful to see,” Venus said. “I definitely watched every moment, and it was great to see her and my family there. Next year will be a big year for us being an Olympic year.

“I can’t exactly say what my schedule will be, but it was wonderful to see her reception.”

“I have heard so much about how much the tournament has just improved in general in terms of the fans and the players.

“So it will be something to see for me.”

“She’s playing really well,” Serena said of her sister’s play. “She’s playing really aggressive. I have always said what Venus has gone through has really motivated me.

“I think a lot of the things happened to help me become a better player in the past few years. You know, that’s another thing. I was really motivated by her and her spirit and her fight.

“I thought that I was doing really well, that I could ‑‑ I thought since she was doing really well, I could, as well.”

Another American reaching the quarterfinals is Sloane Stephens who stopped 18-year-old Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-6 (5). Other women reaching the final eight include Carla Suarez-Navarro, Sabine Lisicki, Karolina Pliskova and Andrea Petkovic.

Four-time champion and No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat qualifier Steve Darcis 6-0, 7-5 to reach the final 16 where he will meet Alexandr Dolgopolov.

“I saw a couple of matches he played here, and he’s feeling good,” Djokovic said of his next opponent. He likes this surface. Generally likes a bit slower court with a higher bounce.

“Very quick dynamic motion on the serve and can serve very big for somebody of his height. And moves around very well around the court.

“So I know his game pretty well. I know what to expect. Hopefully I’ll be able to start as well as I did in the first two matches, but then end it in a bit different way. Keep the concentration going, you know, all the way through.”

Also advancing were No. 4 Kei Nishikori, No. 5 Milos Raonic while No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov fell to John Isner in straight sets.

More to follow.

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Upstarts and Upsets in the second week at Indian Wells

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

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

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

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

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

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

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

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

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

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

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

316Keys-001

Madison Keys

 

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

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

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

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

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

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

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

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

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Serena Williams’ return to Indian Wells praised by peers

 

 

(March 11, 2015) INDIAN WELLS – It is a measure of respect that the top players have for Serena Williams that they were happy to talk about her impending return to Indian Wells, as well as their own chances at the tournament – well at least for all but one of them.

 

As some of the best players in the WTA met members of the press ahead of starting their own campaigns at the BNP Paribas Open, the big news was and of course still is Williams.

 

For 14 years, Indian Wells has been without either of the sisters who have made such a huge impact on the sport. Even after battling with potentially career threatening injuries and illnesses both Venus and Serena are still very much at the top of their games, especially when you take into account Venus’ recent resurgence.

 

As Serena racked up her 19th Grand Slam, the time was right (ironically in a piece written for Time magazine) for Serena to at least forgive and move on. Accepting a wildcard, she would return to the Premier mandatory event for the first time since her win, marred by controversy in 2001.

 

Speaking to one of the players that knows her best, we were given a brief insight into how precious enduing friendships are in the sport. Caroline Wozniacki explained how Williams had stepped in to help her over the very public break-up of her impending nuptials to Irish golfer Rory McIlroy. She described how the World No. 1 had been almost like a “big sister” to her as the pair hit the beach in the summer ahead of some of Wozniacki’s best tennis in her career.

 

It was Williams that was waiting at the New York finish line as Wozniacki completed her first marathon, with the tennis season still in full swing.

 

The Dane said: “She’s special. She’s a great person. She’s there when you need her. We just click.”

 

She continued: “It’s great for her, it’s great for the tournament and it’s great for tennis. It’s a big step for her and I’m sure she will handle it great.”

Last year’s finalist Agnieszka Radwanska said: “There’s so many other top players, but of course she is in the draw as well so it’s going to be even more tough. It’s good that she’s back here, always another challenge for us playing her here.”

 

The players facing Serena would barely have even started their careers when she lifted her second Indian Wells trophy, but no-one has missed the controversy, but it is time to move on.

 

Canada’s Genie Bouchard said: “The past is the past. The players are excited she’s here. She’s the best player in the world, and this is a major tournament. She should be here.”

 

Even Roger Federer, who is still chasing his 18th Grand Slam title believed that Friday’s come-back match was going to be something special at the Tennis Gardens.

 

“It’s wonderful for American fans who have attended this event for so many years and haven’t seen her play here, so I think it’s great for them. I think it’s great for women’s tennis and I think it’s nice that we get to see her here again.”

 

And here she will be, although without her long-term hitting partner Sascha Bajin who has been at her side for the last eight years, but joins Victoria Azarenka’s new coaching set up.

 

Having struggled with a virus at the start of the year, that limited her Fed Cup duty following her sixth Australian Open win and a 19th Grand Slam, Williams will talk to the press on Thursday ahead of starting her campaign against Monica Niculescu in Friday’s night match.

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

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Halep and Pliskova Reach Dubai Final

Photos by Nida Alibhai

(February 20, 2015) DUBAI, UAE – Top seed Simona Halep will play Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Saturday.

Halep rebounded after dropping the opening set to defeat Caroline Wozniacki 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, while Pliskova came through an almost three hour match with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 win over Garbine Muguruza.

“I was trying everything,” Wozniacki said of the match. “I was just making so many errors, and I don’t really know where they came from. I think I was just tired. You know, it’s been a long week for me.””

“I started the match with a bad tactic,” Halep said. “I just wanted to hit every ball, and I did many mistakes. I couldn’t find the rhythm. So in the second set I said that I have to change it and just to play with a good length and to open the court more. I didn’t want to force too much like in first set. That worked very well for me.”

 

“It was a really long match,” said Pliskova. “There was so many close points and close games. I was losing. She had some break points in the third set, as well. There’s just few points which is deciding.”

“I think the key was her serve,” said Muguruza. “She served so good. I couldn’t break her serve. I mean, obviously when you cannot break the other one’s serve you feel a lot of pressure with your serve. But it was a very good week. I won incredible matches.”

Halep is looking to win her second title of the year, the Romanian won in Shenzen in January. Pliskova will be playing in her second final of the year, losing in the final at Sydney.

 

DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS – DUBAI, UAE
$ 2,513,000.00
15-21 FEBRUARY 2015

RESULTS – FEBRUARY 20, 2015
Women’s
Singles – Semifinals

[1] S. Halep (ROU) d [3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) 26 61 61
[17] Ka. Pliskova (CZE) d G. Muguruza (ESP) 64 57 75

Women’s
Doubles – Semifinals

[6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 62 63
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) d [7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) 36 61 10-5

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 5:00 pm
DOUBLES FINAL – [6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs [8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA)

Not Before 7:00 pm
SINGLES FINAL – [1] S. Halep (ROU) vs [17] Ka. Pliskova (CZE)

 

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Halep and Wozniacki Reach Dubai Semifinals

Photos by Nida Alibhai

(February 19, 2015) Dubai UAETop seeded Simona Halep will play third seeded Caroline Wozniacki, and 17th seed Karolina Pliskova will play unseeded Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday.

 

It took Halep two hours and seven minutes to beat Etkaterina Makarova 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 and avenge her defeat by in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last month. Wozniacki withstood a competitive first set to beat Flavia Pennetta 7-5, 6-0.

 

Pliskova needed two hours 26 minutes to rally past Lucie Safarova 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 and Muguruza took two hours 19 minutes to overcome Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3.

 

Halep failed to serve out the match at 5-3 and then needing five match points to clinch the win.

 

“I didn’t believe in my serve at that moment, and I just tried to finish very quickly and wasn’t good idea,” said Halep. “I was very nervous, and I wanted just to hit winners. It’s not possible at this level, and she’s a good player. I’m really happy that I could finish in the right way and to win, because it was a tough match.”

 

Wozniacki has been struggling with a sore throat this week.

 

“I knew that when I’m out there I need to focus 100% on each point,” said Wozniacki. “I can’t just give loose ones away, because that means longer time on court which means I have less of a chance of winning, so especially like now. I think that’s definitely helped me focus.”

 

Pliskova’s win was her second in two weeks over Safarova after she also won their quarter-final match in Antwerp, but she had to work hard to gain an advantage.

 

“I would say that she deserved to win as well. I’m a little bit sorry for her,” said Pliskova, “I called coach and he really helped me, and that’s probably the main thing why I won the second set, and then why I won the third set as well.”

 

Muguruza beat her friend, doubles partner and fellow Spaniard Suarez Navarro.

 

“I was sad because I lost the first set, but I said, ‘If I want to win this match I cannot play bad the second set’,” said Muguruza. “My only chance is to win the second set and try to have chances to win the match. So I said, Okay, the second set I’m going to give it all, and if I win I will have options to win the match.”

 

DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS – DUBAI, UAE
$ 2,513,000.00
15-21 FEBRUARY 2015

RESULTS – FEBRUARY 19, 2015
Women’s
Singles – Quarterfinals

[1] S. Halep (ROU) d [6] E. Makarova (RUS) 63 16 75
[3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d [10] [WC] F. Pennetta (ITA) 75 60
[17] K. Pliskova (CZE) d [11] L. Safarova (CZE) 36 76(5) 61
G. Muguruza (ESP) d [13] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) 67(4) 63 63

Women’s
Doubles – Quarterfinals

[7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d [2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS) 75 62
[6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) 75 64
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) d M Niculescu (ROU) / A Panova (RUS) 76(6) 64
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER) 75 76(1)

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) vs [7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO)

Not Before 5:00 pm
[17] K. Pliskova (CZE) vs G. Muguruza (ESP)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] S. Halep (ROU) vs [3] C. Wozniacki (DEN)
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP)

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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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