September 5, 2015

Serena Williams Advances Easily While Fourth Seed Nishikori Falls on Day 1 of US Open

SerenaWilliamsFaceoff6

(August 31, 2015) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Last year’s US Open men’s finalist and fourth seed Kei Nishikori lost in the first round on Monday while several women’s seeds tumbled out on the first day of Flushing Meadows.

No such drama for the No. 1 seed Serena Williams seeking the US Open to complete a calendar Grand Slam. She moved a step closer to history with an easy win over 86th ranked Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia who retired from the match trailing 6-0, 2-0. She said that she felt a sharp pain hitting a backhand during a point.

“It was definitely different and bizarre,” the 33-year-old Williams said. “But at the same time, I was still focused. I kept thinking: Just stay focused; don’t lose it. You never know what can happen.”

Williams march to completing the first Grand Slam since 1988 seems to have been made easier when a deluge of seeds from her half of the draw lost. They included: No. 3 Maria Sharapova who withdrew on Sunday with an injured right leg, No. 7 Ana Ivanovic, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova and No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 21 Jelena Jankovic, No. 29 Sloane Stephens (who beat Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2013) and No. 30 Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 21-time major champion will play the Netherlands Kiki Bertens. “I think she’s playing well, Williams said. “She does a lot of things well. She has a big serve. It’s definitely something that I look forward to. See what happens.”

“I’m not a person that usually looks at the draws,” Williams said. “I just take it as it comes and as it goes.”

Kei Nishikori was the only shock on the men’s side when the fourth seed fell to France’s Benoit Paire Nishikori’s 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 despite having two match points in the fourth set tiebreak.

“It’s very sad to lose always first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” Nishikori said. “So, I mean, I don’t think I played bad. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match. He’s a good player.

“You know, try to think about next one, and I hope I can come back strong next year.”

“Today for me, when I come on court I know I can beat Nishikori,” Paire said. “I place twice time; I lost two time, but very tough match.

“So when I come on the court, I say, come on. You can beat Kei. He has a game — it’s not like if I play against Roger Federer. For me it’s different because he has good serve.

“Against Kei I know I can play, and for sure some volleys. For me it’s important because I know I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I say, Okay, for sure you can break him.

“So the most important thing is to feel good and to have fun. I think today that’s the most important thing.”

The man Nishikori lost to in last year’s final had few problems in his 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 win.

“I think this tournament is giving me the best chance to play the best over here,” Marin Cilic said. Even before last year, in the past years I was always playing pretty well and reached few times quarterfinals. Even in those matches had some chances. Close to making it to the semis.

“Coming this year again is definitely very special moment for me in my whole career. This experience of, you know, defending the Grand Slam title for the first time is something that I’m going to learn for sure a lot from.”

No. 1 Novak Djokovic destroyed  Brazil’s Joao Souza 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in 71 minutes.

“I couldn’t ask for a better opening of this year’s US Open,” Djokovic said.” Hopefully I can continue in that rhythm.”

Sixteenth seed Gael Monfils retired from his match with a back against Illya Marchenko while trailing 2-6, 6-4, 5-0, 30-0.

Eighth seed Rafael Nadal, playing in the Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2013, beat teenager Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in second night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “Very happy to be back,” Nadal said, “and to be through.”

“I think I played great. The first two sets I played a very high level of tennis. Seriously, then I get a little bit tired. I had some problems. I was sweating a lot. I lost little bit — you know, I don’t feel enough strong after that, no?

“I had little bit of stomach problem so I felt not perfect, physically perfect then.

“But then in the fourth I recovered little bit. I played again more aggressive. Finally was important victory for me. Happy the way that I played when I was, you know, physically good.”

RESULTS – AUGUST 31, 2015
Women’s
Singles – First Round

(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. Vitalia Diatchenko (RUS) 60 20 retired (Left ankle injury)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. (7) Ana Ivanovic 63 36 63
(Q) Anna Tatishvili (USA) d. (8) Karolina Pliskova 62 61
Denisa Allertova (CZE) d. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 61 76(5)
(12) Belinda Bencic (SUI) d. Sesil Karatantcheva (BUL) 61 62
(13) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. Teliana Pereira (BRA) 63 63
(15) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 62 63
(17) Elina Svitolina (UKR) d. (Q) Elizaveta Kulichkova (RUS) 61 64
(18) Madison Keys (USA) d. Klara Koukalova (CZE) 62 64
(WC) Oceane Dodin (FRA) d. (21) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 26 75 63
(23) Venus Williams (USA) d. Monica Puig (PUR) 64 67(7) 63
(25) Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) d. Alison Riske (USA) 64 63
CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) d. (29) Sloane Stephens (USA) 64 63
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. (30) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 63 75
(31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 64 75
(Q) Kiki Bertens (NED) d. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 36 64 62
(WC) Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) d. (Q) Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 64 63
Tereza Smitkova (CZE) d. Andreea Mitu (ROU) 76(4) 62
Magda Linette (POL) d. Urszula Radwanska (POL) 76(3) 61
Misaki Doi (JPN) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 63 63
Irina Falconi (USA) d. (WC) Samantha Crawford (USA) 64 62
(Q) Anett Kontaveit (EST) d. Casey Dellacqua (AUS) 75 62
Madison Brengle (USA) d. Saisai Zheng 62 57 75
(LL) Daria Kasatkina (RUS) d. Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 62 46 75
Ana Konjuh (CRO) d. Tatjana Maria (GER) 64 64
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) d. Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 62 62
Kaia Kanepi (EST) d. Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 61 61
Lauren Davis (USA) d. Heather Watson (GBR) 76(3) 76(0)
Roberta Vinci (ITA) d. Vania King (USA) 64 64
Mariana Duque-Marino (COL) d. (WC) Sofia Kenin (USA) 63 61
Polona Hercog (SLO) d. Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 62 75
(Q) Jessica Pegula (USA) d. Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 75 63

Men’s singles

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Joao Souza (BRA) 61 61 61
Benoit Paire (FRA) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) [4] 64 36 46 76(6) 64 – saved 2 MP
Marin Cilic (CRO) [9] d. Guido Pella (ARG) 63 76(3) 76(3)
Milos Raonic (CAN) [10] d. Tim Smyczek (USA) 64 76(8) 61
David Goffin (BEL) [14] d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 64 61 62
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [17] d. Matthew Ebden (AUS) 64 62 64
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [18] d. Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 76(5) 61 63
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [19] d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 63 61 61
Andreas Seppi (ITA) [25] d. Tommy Paul (USA) 64 60 75
Tommy Robredo (ESP) [26] d. Michael Berrer (GER) 62 62 64
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) [27] d. Ryan Shane (USA) 62 61 67(6) 62
Mardy Fish (USA) d. Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 67(5) 63 61 63
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Tommy Haas (GER) 36 61 67(3) 63 61
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 63 63 30 ret.
Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) d. John Millman (AUS) 61 36 76(3) 64
Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Lukas Lacko (SVK) 62 63 61
Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) d. Lucas Pouille (FRA) 62 67(3) 62 64
Marsel Ilhan (TUR) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 60 26 64 32 ret,
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) d. Joao Sousa (POR) 62 62 46 26 76(4)

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News at the US Open

 

 

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Simona Halep Safely into the Final 16 in Toronto While Five Seeds Fall

Halep 2182015-001

By Brodie Widdifield

 

(August 12, 2015) TORONTO, Canada – While much of the mainstream media’s attention has been on the baffling struggles of Eugenie Bouchard, Simona Halep has quietly had a disappointing 2015. After falling in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, she went on to win Indian Wells – the biggest title of her career. Beyond that, it was disappointment as she fell in the second and first rounds of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, tournaments she had made the final and semifinals of just a year prior.

 

The 23-year- old Romanian admitted to being tired after Indian Wells and Miami. “At the beginning of the year I played some good tennis, but after I lost at two grand slams were last year I played good tennis. But maybe I couldn’t handle the pressure, and maybe I was a little bit tired. My life has changed a lot. Obviously everyone in my country is recognizing me and it’s a little bit tough. I have to accept and go forward.”

 

After a post Wimbledon break with her family, Halep decided to play Toronto, and the fans in Canada could not have been happier about her decision. Romanian fans came out in droves to support Sorana Cirstea during her unlikely run to the final in 2013 in Toronto, and they were chanting Simona‘s name after just the first game.

 

“I’m really happy that I have such a big support. Romanians are everywhere, so I really want to thank them for supporting me. It’s really nice to see our flag everywhere. Many Romanian words in the crowd. So that makes me happy on the court and makes me more, you know, more stronger that I have big support, and I can say that I fight easier.”

 

The support certainly did not hurt. Halep came out of the gate strong against Jelena Jankovic Wednesday afternoon. Changing directions early in the rally and keeping the ball deep, she was consistently on top in rallies. “I tried just to be aggressive, to take the ball as soon as possible, because I know that she has good defense. I tried to keep my first serve in because she’s returning well. I tried to play her forehand more, because I know she has a strong backhand. I didn’t want to rush myself, just go into the court and just to take the ball fast and to open the court.”

 

Continuing to move well and keeping errors low, the good form continued into the second set and Halep went on to take the second round match 6-3, 6-4. “I can say that I had stress free because I did not have expectations for this match because I had a long break. But I did pretty well today and I’m really happy I could win in two sets.” The win could set up some of the best matches of the tournament, as Halep will face Angelique Kerber on Thursday and potentially Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.

 

Brodie Widdifield is the author of the tennis web site mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.

ROGERS CUP PRESENTED BY NATIONAL BANK – TORONTO, CANADA
$ 2,513,000.00
10- 16 AUGUST 2015

RESULTS – AUGUST 12, 2015
Women’s
Singles – Second Round

[2] [WC] S. Halep (ROU) d J. Jankovic (SRB) 63 64
V. Azarenka (BLR) d [3] P. Kvitova (CZE) 62 63
B. Bencic (SUI) d [4] C. Wozniacki (DEN) 75 75
[5] A. Ivanovic (SRB) d [Q] O. Govortsova (BLR) 64 76(4)
[6] A. Radwanska (POL) d [LL] J. Goerges (GER) 75 63
D. Gavrilova (RUS) d [7] L. Safarova (CZE) 46 75 75
[Q] L. Tsurenko (UKR) d [8] G. Muguruza (ESP) 75 61
[Q] P. Hercog (SLO) d [11] E. Makarova (RUS) 62 67(2) 75
[13] A. Kerber (GER) d [Q] M. Puig (PUR) 62 63
[15] S. Errani (ITA) d M. Brengle (USA) 63 26 63
[16] A. Petkovic (GER) d [Q] H. Watson (GBR) 64 63
R. Vinci (ITA) d [Q] M. Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 63 63
S. Lisicki (GER) d B. Strycova (CZE) 76(3) 64
[Q] C. Witthoeft (GER) d A. Riske (USA) 64 57 63
A. Cornet (FRA) d D. Cibulkova (SVK) 63 62

Women’s
Doubles – Second Round

[3] B. Mattek-Sands (USA) / L. Safarova (CZE) d D. Jurak (CRO) / R. Kops-Jones (USA) 62 62
I. Begu (ROU) / I. Olaru (ROU) d [8] G. Muguruza (ESP) / C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) 76(5) 06 10-4
First Round
[6] S. Errani (ITA) / F. Pennetta (ITA) d [Alt] M. Barthel (GER) / M. Minella (LUX) 61 63
H. Chan (TPE) / Y. Chan (TPE) d [7] A. Hlavackova (CZE) / L. Hradecka (CZE) 64 36 10-8
A. Medina Garrigues (ESP) / A. Parra Santonja (ESP) d C. Chuang (TPE) / C. Liang (CHN) 36 61 10-8
[WC] F. Abanda (CAN) / H. El Tabakh (CAN) d G. Dabrowski (CAN) / A. Rosolska (POL) 75 75
[WC] B. Bencic (SUI) / D. Cibulkova (SVK) d L. Arruabarrena (ESP) / A. Klepac (SLO) 61 76(5)
[WC] S. Fichman (CAN) / C. Zhao (CAN) d C. Chan (TPE) / P. Kania (POL) 16 64 10-5

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
R. Vinci (ITA) vs D. Gavrilova (RUS)

Not Before 1:00 pm
[13] A. Kerber (GER) vs [2] [WC] S. Halep (ROU)
[15] S. Errani (ITA) vs V. Azarenka (BLR)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] S. Williams (USA) vs [16] A. Petkovic (GER)
[Q] P. Hercog (SLO) vs [5] A. Ivanovic (SRB)

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[Q] L. Tsurenko (UKR) vs [Q] C. Witthoeft (GER)
B. Bencic (SUI) vs S. Lisicki (GER)
[6] A. Radwanska (POL) vs A. Cornet (FRA)

Not Before 6:00 pm
K. Mladenovic (FRA) / K. Pliskova (CZE) vs M. Krajicek (NED) / B. Strycova (CZE)
A. Medina Garrigues (ESP) / A. Parra Santonja (ESP) vs H. Chan (TPE) / Y. Chan (TPE)

COURT 1 start 12:00 noon
[WC] S. Fichman (CAN) / C. Zhao (CAN) vs [2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)

Not Before 1:00 pm
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) vs [WC] F. Abanda (CAN) / H. El Tabakh (CAN)
[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) vs J. Goerges (GER) / K. Jans-Ignacik (POL)

Not Before 3:00 pm
After Suitable Rest – [6] S. Errani (ITA) / F. Pennetta (ITA) vs [WC] B. Bencic (SUI) / D. Cibulkova (SVK)

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Jelena Jankovic Upsets Defending Champion Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

 

(July 4, 2015) Former No. 1, 28th seed Jelena Jankovic pulled off the biggest upset of the Wimbledon fortnight on the Ladies’ side when she defeated No. 2 and defending champion Petra Kvitova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

The Czech looked to be confidently cruising past the Serbian, with a 6-3, 4-2 lead, but Jankovic turned the match around from that point onward.

“Playing on grass is very difficult for me. It does not come natural,” Jankovic said. “I just tried to stay one point at a time, just hang in there, stay positive and fight, and I made it. But playing on Centre Court against the defending champion was just unbelievable. I’m really really happy to win this match!”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m so excited. My heart is still pumping,” Jankovic said after the match.

“It didn’t matter how badly I was playing or what was happening out there, I really just tried to stay one point at a time and fight, and when I won that second set I knew I just had to keep going out there.

“When I won, I couldn’t believe what just happened. I lost to Petra the last time we played in Rome, and I know she plays amazing here. But that’s what this sport is all about. It’s such a great excitement for me – I’m so glad I was able to win and this gives me a lot of confidence the rest of the tournament.”

For Kvitova who also won Wimbledon in 2011, this was her earliest exit from the All-England Club since 2009.

“I’m not really sure what happened out there,” Kvitova said in press. “Suddenly I felt like she’s coming back, playing a little bit aggressive.

“Suddenly from my side, I didn’t have answer for it. My serve didn’t help me at all this time, as well. I was really struggling with each shot which I played.”

“But I don’t think that I lost today because I was defending champion from last year,” Kvitova said.  “I don’t think is really the thing why.

“I think that she really played a good match.  Looked a little bit on the other side when I played Venus last year, when I was the worst player in the first two sets, then I won.  This time just turn the other side for her.”

“Here I am in the fourth round, in the second week of Wimbledon,” Jankovic said.  “I just beat a defending champion.  I mean, it’s unbelievable.  You know, I don’t think I can ask for more.  I hope to keep going.”

“I think I always believe in myself, no matter what.  Like I said, if I’m healthy, if I can put that work in on a daily basis and work hard, improve.

“You know, to be honest, right now I’m not at the level I want to be at. First of all, physically I have to get a lot stronger a lot faster.  As I said before, getting injured, not being able to go to the gym, to spend some time on the practice court.  I will need some time to get to the form, to the level I want to be at, and where I can be. That’s what will satisfy my, you know, needs and wishes.

“So we’ll see.  I always think I can do it.  I’m not old. I’m still young at heart.  I look pretty good, so why not (laughter)?  I mean, give me a break, guys.  What’s old?”

“I’m very determined.  Like I said, I want to get, you know, to where I think I belong.  I’ve done it in the past.  I’ve been many years in the top 10, I’ve been No. 1 in the world, I’ve played against all these players.

“Like I said, just if I’m able to work hard and believe in myself, hopefully my time will come again.”

Other winners on the Ladies’ side included fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki over Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-2, No. 20 Garbine Muguruza dismissed 2012 semifinalist Angelique Kerber 7-6 (12), 1-6, 6-2, No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 15 Timea Bacsinszky, No. 21 Madison Keys, Olga Govortsova and Monica Niculescu also advanced.

Seven-time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer dropped a set to advance to the round of 16 beating hard-hitting Sam Groth 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Groth hit the second fastest serve in Wimbledon history – 147 mph.

No. 3 Andy Murray beat No. 25 Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.  Seppi received a visit from a trainer to work on his lower right leg, and won the next six game. Murray also received a medical time out for a stiff right shoulder after trailing 1-0 in the fourth set, and then took next six game to win the match.

Dustin Brown, the qualifier who upset Rafael Nadal, lost his very next match to 22nd seed Viktor Troicki 6-4, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3.

“Obviously having the pleasure and being able to play on Centre Court and then to play a match like that (on Thursday), doesn’t make a difference if I lost today or not, no one will ever be able to take that away from me,” said Brown.

“I think I played well and I wouldn’t compare it to any other matches.  That’s what I said after winning against (Rendy) Lu, and Rafa (Nadal), it’s always a totally different match.  I’m happy with my tournament.  When I came to quallies, someone would have said sign here for beating Rafa, making second round and qualifying, I would have signed that paper.”

Completing a match held over from Friday at 10-10 in the fifth due to darkness, Marin Cilic bested John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (4), 12-10

Also Saturday, Wimbledon’s marathon man fell short this time. John Isner, the American who won the longest tennis match in history in 2010, lost 12-10 in the fifth set to U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. The Croat beat Isner 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (4), 12-10 in a match that resumed Saturday at 10-10.

“Marathon man” Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010, the longest match in tennis history.

No. 12 seed Gilles Simon defeated French countryman No. 18 seed Gael Monfils in five sets, in a match which had to be moved from
Court 1  when darkness came early in the fourth set, and completed under the roof of Centre Court.

Other men moving in to the fourth round: Vasek Pospisil, No. 23 Ivo Karlovic and No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut.


Ladies Singles – Third Round

(28) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) d. (2) Petra Kvitova (CZE) 36 75 64
(5) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d. (31) Camila Giorgi (ITA) 62 62
(20) Garbine Muguruza (ESP) d. (10) Angelique Kerber (GER) 76(12) 16 62
(13) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Casey Dellacqua (AUS)
(15) Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) d. (18) Sabine Lisicki (GER) 63 62
(21) Madison Keys (USA) d. Tatjana Maria (GER) 64 64
(Q) Olga Govortsova (BLR) d. Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 76(4) 63
Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. Krystina Pliskova (CZE) 63 75

Gentlemen’s Singles

Third Round – Third Round

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) d. Sam Groth (AUS) 64 64 67(5) 62
[3] Andy Murray (GBR) d. [25] Andreas Seppi (ITA) 62 62 16 61
[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 46 60 63 76(3)
[9] Marin Cilic (CRO) d. [17] John Isner (USA) 76(4) 67(6) 64 67(4) 12-10
[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs. [18] Gael Monfils (FRA)
[23] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. [13] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 76(3) 46 76(2) 76(9)
[20] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) d. Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 76(4) 61 60
[22] Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. Dustin Brown (GER) 64 76(3) 46 63
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) d. James Ward (GBR) 64 36 26 63 86

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Catching up with Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

By Ros Satar

(June 20, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – It has been something of a turbulent year for the always-entertaining Serbian, Jelena Jankovic. She had laughed and joked her way to the Indian Wells final earlier this year, a venerable ‘old woman’ against the young 20-somethings that litter the top rankings, before injury crumbled her clay court season to dust.

 

Returning to a surface that has not always been her friend, despite providing her one and only Grand Slam title to date (Mixed doubles with Jamie Murray in 2007), she put together a run to the semi-finals of ‘s-Hertogenbosch before bowing out to fourth seed Angelique Kerber in the third round in Birmingham this week. Ironically that was also the year that she won the title in Birmingham (beating Maria Sharapova) and made the final of Den Bosch (losing to Anna Chakvetadze).

 

We caught up with her after her loss to Kerber, which seemingly hung on a pivotal point in the sixth game of the first set.

 

She said: “I was playing quite well in the first set, and you know I lost my focus a little bit. Kerber is quite solid. She does not give you any mistakes, she’s not going give you any gifts, so while I was being aggressive and hitting my shots, all of a sudden I got into a bad rhythm and I started making all these mistakes.”

 

In true Jankovic form, she proceeded to give an in-depth analysis complete with laughter and trying to demonstrate how frustrated she was at balls refusing to bounce.

 

She elaborated: “It was unbelievable, it was 3-2 and I had many break points and she’s a leftie and she kept serving that serve out wide and I would return at times a really good return and she would just kind of block it and the ball wouldn’t bounce, and I would have trouble reaching the next one.

 

“It was just unfortunate. She did really well you know, she came up with the good answers. I tried hitting down the line, cross court and somehow she would get those balls back and the ball wouldn’t really bounce for the next shot.

 

“I would run there and I would be at the ball and I couldn’t dig it out. And that game was quite crucial. If I went up a break, you know who knows what would happen. It would of course make a big difference.”

 

It is the first time Jankovic has put together a couple of tournaments in a row, and picked up some solid wins, opting to stay here in Birmingham as the field dwindled to practice, and can often be heard in peals of laughter from the players’ lounge, just across from the media centre.

 

She told us: “This is the first time that I’ve played two tournaments in a while and we’ll see. I know what I need to improve, the little segments, the little things that will make a big difference in my game.

 

“I asked for a wildcard [to Birmingham]. I was not supposed to play here, because in the previous years I only played Wimbledon, or barely one tournament if not. This year I decided to play a little bit more so that I would give myself a chance to play well at Wimbledon.

 

“You know I think played some really good matches, I played quite a lot of tennis for so long there has been sitting on the sidelines for maybe five/six months of the season. So you know, I have to take care of my body, I’m not at the stage where I can play really a lot, so I have to play, be smart do the rehabilitation, recover my body and then start fresh again.”

 

Since that decent run in 2007, Jankovic and grass have not necessarily been a good mix, but that has not deterred her from trying to conquer the slick surface this year.

 

She mused: “Actually I think I have pretty good shots to play on grass. I have a ball that’s quite flat, I move quite well, I can slice, I can drop-shot, I can play pretty good volleys, there’s no reason for me not to play decent on grass. Of course it’s not my favourite surface, because I like to construct my points and be a little smarter than just slapping the ball.

 

“It’s just that sometimes the ball digs in (laughs) I cannot get it up from the ground and yeah you have to have strong legs, a low centre of gravity. You’ve got to have strong quads to keep up with those shots. Not just today, day after day and that’s a big difference.”

 

Jankovic is currently ranked 29 in the world.

 

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

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Birmingham Day 4 – Weeding Out the Field

 

By Ros Satar

(June 18, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – With seeds and home favourites having stumbled over the past few days in the Midlands, the championship is now largely on Simona Halep’s racquet to lose. Having come through a good brace of results now, she is putting what was ultimately a disappointing clay court season behind her and pushing on impressively on the grass.

 

After dashing British hopes in the second round, beating Naomi Broady 6-4, 6-2, she eased into the quarter-finals with a 50 minute workout over Klara Koukalova, 6-1, 6-3.

 

Having been usurped over the clay court season, where she was expected to shine, Halep was taking nothing for granted.

 

She said, after the match: “I expected a tough match because she plays very hard on grass with her type of game. It’s difficult to play her on this surface but I didn’t really want to think about that – I just came out here and played my game, played my style, stayed aggressive and especially served very well in the match.”

 

She later joined British No. 1 Heather Watson, who was edged out in her opening round in straight sets, and looking for some wins under her belt – but it certainly was not looking likely as the pair were swiftly battling against a 0-5 deficit in the opening set.

 

The first time pairing got themselves together in the second set, breaking for the advantage, and although they were pegged back, another break to the scratch twosome meant they could serve out for the set.

 

It was nip and tuck throughout the match tie-break until Watson and Halep close out a 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 win.

 

She said: “It was difficult at the beginning because, [it] was my first match on grass, doubles on grass. It’s not easy. The ball was coming very fast and I didn’t know where to hit because I saw both of them there. So it was really difficult, and I’m really happy we could win this match. It’s really important. It’s good we played first time together, so it’s a nice game.”

 

She continued: “I have no expectation from me this grass season, so I just want to go on court and play what I know. On clay I had pressure and I couldn’t handle it. I played bad and I couldn’t feel like relaxed on court. So that was the bad thing.

 

“So I just took some days off home and I said that I have to relax my mind and just going on court to play.”

 

With third seed Carla Suarez Navarro also posting a solid win today, the field looks set for a high quality finale, as the pair were joined by Angelique Kerber who got the better of former champion Jelena Jankovic, and fresh from her record breaking ace haul, Sabine Lisicki looks to be returning to the kind of grass form that put her in her maiden Grand Slam final.

 

The quarterfinals start on Friday at 11am.

 

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

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Birmingham Day 3 – Seeds Blow in the Breeze

By Ros Satar

(June 17, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – After the sunshine of the second day, the clouds, the rain and the drizzle brought a little bit of havoc to the draw on Wednesday.

 

After her battling win on Tuesday, Victoria Azarenka had to withdraw with a left foot injury, handing Zarina Diyas a walkover into the third round. It completed a pretty dismal day for the organisers as defending champion Ana Ivanovic was edged out in a deciding set tie-breaker against Michelle Larcher de Brito, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6), despite serving for the match in the decider, and saving two match points.

 

Ivanovic said, after her match: “It’s tough playing someone who already had few matches on the grass. Today I started really bad until I found my rhythm and so on. Her ball was staying very, very low, so I struggled with it a little bit at times.

 

“I was really disappointed I couldn’t hold my serve in the third set. I think getting a win and moving on to the next one, it would be different game next match. But it’s always tough, that change.”

 

Swiftly following her out of the tournament was Victoria Azarenka, before she had even taken to the court, withdrawing from the final planned match of the day with a foot injury.

 

She said, in a statement: “It’s very disappointing for me to make this decision but I tried to practice and it just doesn’t feel 10-0 percent. I don’t think it’s the best time for me to take a risk right now, especially right before Wimbledon, and I need to make sure I have the best preparation possible.”

 

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard continued her troubling lack of form, despite a spirited attack after a rain delay, which helped her cause somewhat when it came to the second set, where she leveled the match. However, that relief was short-lived, after Kristina Mladenovic steamed through the final set without letting up a game 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

 

“I think I played okay,” said the despondent Canadian. “A little bit up and down. I was trying to be more aggressive than I’ve been in the past, so I felt I did that okay in the first and second set. Then I don’t know what happened in the third.”

 

When asked how she would describe her mood overall: “Every negative adjective you could think of, I would use that. Just very, very frustrated.”

 

It was not all doom and gloom on a day disrupted with drizzles over day. 2007 champion Jelena Jankovic was not following Ivanovic on the train down to London, as she advanced to the third round, where she will meet Angelique Kerber.

 

We caught up with the German after her victory over Tsvetana Pironkova, as she assessed her performance so far this year after collecting titles in Charleston and Stuttgart.

 

Kerber said: “After Stuttgart and Charleston, and the clay season, I think I’m playing good again, I’m really comfortable, and I’m looking forward now to playing the grass season.

 

“Of course I was a little bit disappointed after my third round loss in Paris, but clay was never my favourite surface, so in the end I think played a good clay season, and so overall I was happy.”

 

Kerber has a decent track record on the grass, and feels ready for the new season, saying: “I play very well the last few years. I reached the semis of Wimbledon, twice Eastbourne the finals, so it’s always nice to play on grass some tournaments, but of course the first matches on grass is always a little bit tricky but that’s why I’m here, to have a lot of matches before Wimbledon.”

 

Home hopes lay with British No. 2 Johanna Konta, as she carried on her strong momentum from reaching the Nottingham quarter-finals with another Top 100 win in the opening round against Jarmila Gajdosova, before starting well against sixth seed Karolina Pliskova. With the rain causing havoc to the schedule, it suited the Czech a little more, as she leveled the match, before the players came off once more.

 

As the clouds darkened, they came out once more in an attempt to finish, with Pliskova taking an early lead, but the heavens opened one more time with the Czech serving at 4-3 15/30.

 

Play will resume at 11am BST on Thursday.

 

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

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Rain Washes Out Some Matches in Miami – Halep, Azarenka and Stephens Advance

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

(March 27, 2015) Rain saw the cancellation of some late afternoon matches and the evening session at the Miami Open on Friday including Serena Williams’ opening match. Saturday’s new schedule will be announced.

Miami Open – Official Statement from Tournament Director Office Regarding Tickets

Third seed Simona Halep who took home the BNP Paribas Open title, just last Sunday, won 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 against wild card Nicole Vaidisova. Vaidisova a former two-time Grand Slam semifinalist and once No. 7 in the world, is back on the tour since retiring and coming back from multiple shoulder surgeries.

 

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens

In the all-American battle on Stadium court in the late afternoon, No. 45 Soane Stephens defeated No. 17 Madison Keys 6-4, 6-2.

In the first meeting between both women, Stephens broke Keys’ serve five times during the match. Keys had 36 unforced errors during the match to only 14 winners.

“One of those days where didn’t quite have the feeling; couldn’t really find it,” Keys said.

 

“Sloane played really well. I thought in the first set I kind of had a chance to come back and maybe get into the match a little bit more, but a couple of bad points here and there and it kind of just got away from me.”

 

“It was windy,” Stephens said. “The conditions weren’t that great.

 

“Because I know going out there I had to play my game and stay focused and really focus on myself. I tried to do that the best I could. Obviously the conditions were tough, so I was just happy to get out with the win.”

 

“It’s always really good to see Sloane playing well,” Keys commented on her past Fed Cup teammate. “I thought ‑ I knew ‑ it was going to be a tough match.

 

“You know, she just played better than me today. You know, wishing her all the best and hoping she goes deep now.”

 

“I just go out and play my game and stay focused,” Stephens said. “Obviously she’s a great player. I knew I had to go out there and execute.

 

“That’s what I did out there with the tough conditions. I was pleased with myself.”

 

“I know Maddy is going to have a great career,” Stephens said.

 

“I am going to see her for like the next 10 years of my life consistently. I’m looking forward to seeing her get better and keep playing and doing what she’s doing now.”

 

 

Stephens will match up against Sweden’s Larsson, Johanna, who defeated 10th seed Lucie Safarova.

 

Victoria Azarekna

Victoria Azarekna

Former Miami champion Victoria Azarenka is into the third round of Miami by beating world No. 20 Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-1.

The former No. 1 Jankovic was 0-13 on break point chances.

“I just really tried to stay focused and tried to find a way to stay in the game,” Azarenka said. I had to save a couple of break points right away, and then there was, you know, this battle.

 

“I know that Jelena is a fighter. Doesn’t matter what score it is, she will not give up. Some of those rallies she just went for it, and I felt like I wasn’t that aggressive on some points.

 

“So I just had to stay focused and stay tough and try to find a way to finish the match. You know, in those moments that’s what I really look for right now, to be able to step up my game when it’s needed.”

 

Azarenka, a former No 1 who has been plagued with injuries over the last two years, is currently ranked No. 36 in the world and trying to regain her form.

 

More to follow

 

Related article:
“This one I think I played a lot smarter” – Cici Bellis Defeats Zarina Diyas in Miami for some U. S. Open Revenge
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Victoria Azarenka is Looking Forward to Building Momentum in Miami

316Azarenkalowfh-001

MIAMI, FL. (March 25, 2015) Playing for the first time since 2012, two-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka moved into the the second round Wednesday, besting Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-3.

The Belarusian missed playing the last two years with ankle and foot injuries. The injuries over the years have seen the two-time Australian Open champion’s ranking fall. She ended the 2014 season ranked No. 32.

“It’s been unfortunate the last couple of years for me, but I love this tournament,” said the currently ranked world No. 36. “I think, you know, the field is very strong all the time for me.

“I’m just happy to play anywhere I can,” she said smiling. “Obviously coming back to a place where I have a lot of great memories, it’s always nice.

“So I’m just looking forward to build my momentum here again and try to play as many matches as possible, but really to improve my level.”

As for evaluating her match on Wednesday, she said: “I think it was a pretty good first set. You know, second set there was a little bit too many mistakes in the beginning. I felt like I lost my momentum, and she led the way a little bit.

“But I’m glad I could turn it around and play well when I needed to. But I just would like to see a little bit more consistency from my game.”

Nick Bollettieri  and Victoria Azarenka at Miami Open Kids Day

Nick Bollettieri and Victoria Azarenka at Miami Open Kids Day

“I remember when I came here and I won my first two matches how excited I was. It was like, Oh, my God, I made it to third round in Miami and I played Anastasia Myskina.

“For me, it felt like I won a Grand Slam. I was that happy. But obviously being here at 25, it feels a little bit different. Definitely I think you evolve. Every year I came here, now it feels so much different than when I was here at 19.”

Next up for Azarenka will be 20th seed Jelena Jankovic, just coming off her finalist appearance at Indian Wells this past Sunday.

“It’s tough match,” Azarenka noted. “Being an unseeded player, I’m going to have really difficult, you know, first couple of rounds.

“I’m looking forward to that. I just need to, you know, keep working on my game and trying to do my best every match.

“But, yeah, Jelena had such a great week in the past, so she’s playing with a lot of confidence. She’s always a dangerous player, so I just need to focus on myself and try to play my best.”

Azarenka leads in the head-to-head record against Jankovic 6-4.

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Simona Halep Rallies Past Jelena Jankovic for Indian Wells Title

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

(March 22, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – It might not have been the final that people wanted, in amongst the hoopla surrounding Serena Williams return and subsequent withdrawal in the semi-final, but with 16 minutes gone and only two games on the board, there was no doubt the crowd were going to get their money’s worth, between former champion Jelena Jankovic and World No. 3 Simona Halep.

 

It was always going to be important for Jankovic to be able to move, and having struggle with injury ahead of the match, she kept the press core in stitches with her lack of preparation, but ultimately bringing in attacking play as well as defence would be the key.

 

There were early signs of nerves by Halep who struggled for eight minutes as Jankovic put in a pleasing display of aggressive drive volleys and her trademark backhand down the line to take the first game, but failed to consolidate as Halep settled back down quite quickly, as the first passage of play resolved on serve as Halep got the first hold of the day.

 

Jankovic took the initiative once more, this time managing to consolidate on a break of serve, nudging her into a commanding position at 4-2. With Halep venting her frustration on her racquet, it was clear to see that Jankovic’s aggression was perhaps throwing Halep off her game plan a little, as the Serbian broke again to come out and serve for the match.

 

With Halep receiving a medical timeout for her toe before the second set, it was important that she came out to hold her first service game, but her relief was short lived, as Jankovic kept the pressure on, in fact if anything starting to get a little frustrated at herself, which may have spurred her on to put the hammer down on the Romanian.

 

A loose game by the Serbian to get broken to love put Halep back in the driver’s seat and the second set back on serve at 3-3, and for the briefest moment it looked like we could be in for the three-setter that we wanted but the Romanian handed the break straight back and with it, her hopes for her biggest title in her career.

 

Halep had to dig out a further break, aided and abetted by some typical Jankovic drama which included three double faults, a time violation warning, and Jankovic trying to serve while a ball-kid was still scrambling off the court. It was an emotional rollercoaster for Halep, who once more found herself rapidly facing break points succumbing to the fourth straight break of serve this match, but more dangerously giving Jankovic serving for the title.

 

Admitting to her coach Chip Brooks that she was nervous she reverted to the defence we often see in her game, just giving Halep the opportunities to dig out winners, breaking her with the fifth consecutive time this set. With finally a hold to stop the run of breaks, Halep suddenly seemed the aggressor as Jankovic tightened up as the match went into a decider.

 

Again the initial advantage went to the volatile Serbian, but Halep was never far away from breaking back, as the pair treated the crowd to some great rallies, not to mention more drama as the chair umpire seemed to forget about the nuances of second serves.

 

 

With both struggling to keep hold of their serve in the final set, Jankovic called her coach back once more but her serve and resolve seemed to desert her once and for all as Halep broke for a 5-3 lead to serve for the title, but handed back the advantage straight away.

 

It took yet another break to love to seal the deal for the Romanian 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 after what started out as a difficult week for her, after a personal bereavement. It had been a great run for Jankovic who struggled to deal with the nerves of closing out, having won her last title in 2013.

 

After the match, Jankovic admitted that she had let her opportunities pass her by.

 

She said: “I let those nerves take the best out of me. That shouldn’t happen. I was full of emotions. I was just overwhelmed and excited that I’m in the final and I put myself into a position to win.

 

“So it’s been an amazing two weeks. Yes, of course I’m disappointed that I lost this final, because I really had a chance to win and hold that trophy. But I’m still proud of myself and my team how far I came into this tournament and what I have achieved.”

 

Halep admitted she knew she was being rushed into mistakes, especially in the first set, and finally the key had been to make her run over the three sets.

 

Talking to the press with the giant glass trophy at her side, she said: “She knew how to play me today to make more mistakes. It was difficult for me to take that balls very high and without power, so I did many mistakes with my forehand.

 

“My coach came on court and he said that I’m rushing at that balls. So I said, Okay, I understand, and I go now to play not very strong those balls.

 

“I just try to stay cool, to make her run a lot. I know that she’s running well, but still my backhand down the line was good today. Forehand so so. Everything went well, and, you know, I have no comments now. I have like, in my mind, it’s like ‑‑ I have another title, my biggest title now, so it’s amazing. I feel great.”

 

After attempting to lift it, she confirmed she intends to play Miami, as does Jankovic.

 

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

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Old Guard Shine Once More

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

(March 19, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – We could be heading for a Serena Williams / Jelena Jankovic final after the Serbian continued her strong run of form at the tournament she won back in 2010. Always reliable for a chuckle in press, she walked in with a heavy sigh as if she had lost, before joking about how she and Williams had been high-fiving each other at their achievements this week.

 

In a week where the WTA Rising Stars rose up for a fraction of a time to dispatch top seeds, the old guard have reasserted themselves, and we were almost entertaining three players over the age of 30 in the semi-finals.

 

Jankovic’s passage into the final was quick, as Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko sadly struggled throughout their quarter-final with an ankle injury she picked up in the previous round, and retired to hand Jankovic a 6-1, 4-1 win.

 

“It’s never nice to end a match in that way. I think Lesia has had such a great tournament and she has beaten so many great players throughout the draw. I knew it was going to be a tough match today. In the first set I think we played well. I didn’t see some problems. I was feeling pretty good out there. I was playing my game and waiting for my chances to execute. I was solid.”

 

She continued: “In the second set she started limping and I saw that she had some problem. You know, that’s the time as well I lost a little bit of my focus. I was kind of looking at what she was doing. It was crucial for me to win that game at 2‑1, because who knows what would happen if it was 2‑All.”

 

Defending champion Flavia Pennetta was not so lucky though, starting slowly against Sabine Lisicki before finally starting to play a bit better. After her overwhelming emotions at beating World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, she had to battle once more from a set down to keep her defence alive, even saving a match point on the way to leveling the match.

 

The tides turned in the decider, as Pennetta had her chances to close out the match, but Lisicki, who had never won in Indian Wells, edged her for a place in the semi-final 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) . The crowds gathering for the night match were treated to a spectacle, and the semi-finals ought to live up to that as Serena Williams will face gritty Simona Halep in the final night match on Friday, with Jankovic and Lisicki opening up the show.

 

Meanwhile the men’s quarter-finals got underway with Andy Murray thwarting Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard could not get a break (quite literally) as Murray quietly and efficiently dismantled his serve and rendered his coming forward moot winning 6-3, 6-4.

 

He explained: “I don’t have as much trouble with the lefties just because I grew up playing with one, and that’s obviously one of his biggest advantages. I thought I played a good match. Every time he came to net I made it very difficult for him. I passed very well, and that was important, because it meant that he spent more time at the back of the court.

 

“When we were in the baseline rallies, I felt like I was able to dictate a lot of those points. Passing shots were important today.”

 

With the disappointing news that Bernard Tomic had withdrawn officially with a back injury, but also troubled with a wisdom tooth, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic gets a walkover into the semi-final, but after struggling against him last year, Murray believes he has a chance to redress the balance.

 

He said: “He’s played extremely well here in the past. You know, he will be totally fresh as well and ready for the semis, so it will be a tough one for me. But I feel like I played well this week, and, you know, if I can keep that level up and for a sustained period on Saturday, I’ll have a chance.”

 

The men’s quarter-finals conclude on Friday.

 

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

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