October 22, 2016

Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova Reach Milestones with Wins at Australian Open


(January 22, 2016) Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova reached milestones on Friday at the Australian Open. Federer became the first male player to post 300 wins in majors with his 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov. The four-time Australian Open champion trails Martina Navratilova who leads overall with 306 victories at majors.

“It’s very exciting, I must tell you,” Federer said. “Like when I reached 1,000 last year, it was a big deal for me. Not something I ever aimed for or looked for, but when it happens, it’s very special. Yeah, you look deeper into it, I guess, where it’s all happened and how. Yeah, so it’s very nice. I’m very happy.”

The Swiss who currently sits at No. 3 in the world is now 5-0 against the Bulgarian Dimitrov. Federer hit 48 winners against Dimitrov.

Federer faces No. 15 David Goffin for a spot in the quarterfinals.

No. 5 and 2008 Melbourne champion Maria Sharapova became just the seventh woman in the Open Era to post 600 match-wins when she held off American Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-0 in a third round match.

“Wow. I’ve won 600 matches?” Sharapova asked, in her on-court interview. “Is this like a friendly reminder that I’m getting old?”

She told media: “I think it’s a proud number. I’ve played for many years. I don’t think about those numbers until I finish the match and someone does mention it. I think it’s a good fact that I’ve been able to win that many matches.”

The Russian was up a set and a break when the American began to turn the match around.

“I felt like I made it a little bit more difficult than I should have,” said the five-time major champion. “I definitely had a letup at 2-1, 30-Love. You know, felt like I was hitting the ball well, doing the right things to get in that position, then let up. In a Grand Slam environment against anyone you can’t expect to get away with it, and I didn’t in the second set.

“But overall really happy with how I came out in the third and stepped up, considering it’s been, you know, many weeks since I’ve been in that position. So I was happy with the way I finished.”

Sharapova will take on No. 12 Belinda Bencic in the fourth round. The Swiss defeated Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska had a competitive first set and then dominated the second set to take down Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig 6-4, 6-0. The woman from Poland has reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open for the sixth straight year.

Radwanska will take on Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany next, who upset 13th seed Roberta Vinci 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. Vinci ended Serena Williams’ bid for a calendar Grand Slam when she defeated the world No. 1 in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.


On the men’s side, seventh seed Kei Nishikori had to take a medical time out for his wrist, but reached the fourth round at the Australian Open with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 26 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

“It was little bit sore in the beginning, but after the treatment it was fine,” Nishikori said. “I’m sure it’s going to be okay. Yeah, it was a really tough match. There was many long rallies.

“I have to give a lot of credit to him, because he was hitting really hard. I thought he was going to hit more spin, but he was hitting a lot of flat balls and it was going in.

“So it was, you know, tough to play. But I start playing much better in the third and fourth. I tried to dictate little more, tried to step in and use more forehands, and I think I able to come in many times today.”

The 2014 U.S. Open finalist will play the 2008 Australian Open finalist – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4).

Tsonga says that he expects a tough battle from Nishikori as always.

“Every time we played, it was a good fight,” Tsonga said. “We have a different style. Anyway, yeah, it’s going to be good I think – for spectator, for sure. For us, we’ll see.”

No. 15 David Goffin beat No. 19 Dominic Thiem 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 for his first victory against a Top 20 player at a major.

More to follow…


In Their Own Words – Players Reactions to Allegations of Match Fixing

(January 18, 2016) On Monday at the Australian Open, players were asked to respond about allegations cited in reports by BBC and BuzzFeed News that tennis authorities have suppressed evidence of match fixing and ignored possible cases involving players ranked in the top 50, including winners of majors in singles and doubles.


Here are some of the reactions from players in their news conferences which include Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, as well as the specific questions asked.


Are you aware of reports today that there is possibly match fixing allegations within professional tennis? Would you be surprised to learn of something like this happening?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I just heard about it today, just as a warning that I might be asked about it. But that’s literally all I have heard about it.

Have you ever seen any hint of that, any indications of that at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not that I’m aware of. When I’m playing, I can only answer for me, I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard.

I think that, you know, we go –you know, as an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great, but, you know, historic. You know, if that’s going on, I don’t know about it. You know, I’m kind of sometimes in a little bit of a bubble.


Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

There was a report today which suggested there was a problem with match fixing in tennis. Would you be surprised to learn there was a problem with match fixing on the tour?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it is. I didn’t know anything. It’s a little bit surprised, but, I mean, obviously I never, you know, involve with this. Actually I have no idea what’s going on.

So it’s — yeah.


We all turned up today to see the reports of the allegations of match fixing in tennis. What is your take on it? None of these players have been identified. Do you feel bad that it casts a shadow over everybody?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think so. Honestly I’ve heard about the story and I read that there were a couple of players mentioned who are not active anymore, talking about the matches that have happened almost 10 years ago.

Of course, there is no room for any match fixing or corruption in our sport. We’re trying to keep it as clean as possible. We have, I think, a sport evolved and upgraded our programs and authorities to deal with these particular cases.

I don’t think the shadow is cast over our sport. In contrary, people are talking about names, guessing who these players are, guessing those names. But there’s no real proof or evidence yet of any active players, for that matter. As long as it’s like that, it’s just speculation. So I think we have to keep it that way.

Q. In 2007 you were quoted as saying you’d been offered $200,000 to throw a first-round match in St. Petersburg. I believe you didn’t actually even play in the tournament. Can you clarify that and tell us what happened.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not approached directly. I was approached — well, me personally. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team. Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn’t even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn’t even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.

Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, rumors, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar.

I personally was never approached directly, so I have nothing more to say about that.

Q. As a young player on your way up, how did that make you feel, even be indirectly associated with it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It made me feel terrible because I don’t want to be anyhow linked to this kind of — you know, somebody may call it an opportunity. For me, that’s an act of unsportsmanship, a crime in sport honestly. I don’t support it. I think there is no room for it in any sport, especially in tennis.

But, you know, I always have been taught and have been surrounded with people that had nurtured and, you know, respected the sport’s values. That’s the way I’ve grown up. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to, you know, get directly involved in these particular situations.

Q. (Question regarding attending Zupska Berba wine festival with friend Ilija Bozoljac.)
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not so sure. Yeah, Ilija is a good friend of mine. I grew up with him. I drink more water than wine, I must say. So although I like to enjoy every once in a while a glass of wine, not more than that.

I’m sure it’s a great festival. For now I don’t really have time. But I do enjoy my life. I don’t know if you question that. But I assure you that I enjoy my life.

Q. You’re someone who takes your role as an ambassador for the sport really seriously. You care about the message you put out there. Does it make you uncomfortable at all that this Grand Slam has a betting company as one of its big sponsors? There’s so many ads, even on Twitter.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, this is a subject for discussion, I think, today and in the future. It’s a fine line. Honestly it’s on a borderline, I would say. Whether you want to, you know, have betting companies involved in the big tournaments in our sport or not, you know, it’s hard to say what’s right and what’s wrong.

One of the reasons why tennis is a popular and clean sport is because it has always valued its integrity. Protecting that integrity was one of the highest priorities of each and every leadership that was part of the association. I think especially in the Grand Slams that are and always have been the most valued and respected and known tennis tournaments around the world throughout the history of this sport.

You know, I know that there is also many betting companies that on the websites are using the names, the brands, images of tournaments and players and matches in order to profit from that. Tennis hasn’t been really getting the piece of that cake, if you know what I mean.

It’s hard to say. I don’t have yet the stand and clear opinion about that. I think it is a subject of discussion. We’ll see what happens.

Q. We’ve known you for a long time. You always tell it like it is. But how can tennis go to some 137th ranked player who has been struggling on the circuit and tell him don’t double-fault, don’t throw a point here or there, when the top officials themselves go to a betting company and take that money and send an obvious mixed message to everyone?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s the first time that I hear something like that. Obviously I can’t speak about that from this position where I don’t have the support of the facts and information and evidence, you know. Obviously you hear some stories here and there.

From my knowledge and information about, you know, the match fixing or anything similar, there is nothing happening on the top level, as far as I know. Challenger level, those tournaments, maybe, maybe not. But, you know, I’m not entitled to really talk about it. I can give my opinion. But there is an organization, authorities, people who take care of that on a daily basis and make sure to track it down.

It’s always a choice for a tennis player, an athlete or any person in life. You know, even though it seems that you don’t, but you always have a choice, especially for somebody who is on the tennis court, whether or not you’re going to accept something that is going against everything that the sport stands for.

I would always make the right choice. But I can only speak on my own behalf.



I’m sure you’ve heard that today there’s been new stories and allegations about match fixing in tennis. As a lot of it happened under your watch when you were head of the Player Council, what is your latest take on it?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know exactly how much new things came out, to be quite honest. I heard old names being dropped. That story was checked out. Clearly you got to take it super serious, you know, like they did back in the day. Since we have the Integrity Unit, it puts more pressure on them that a story like this broke again.

But I don’t know how much new things there is out there. It’s just really important that all the governing bodies and all the people involved take it very seriously, that the players know about it. There’s more pressure on these people now maybe because of this story, which is a good thing.

Under my watch, I mean, we discussed it early on. I actually never heard about it until it was brought up at a player meeting when somebody came and spoke about it. I was like, Okay, came totally from left field. Had no clue what it was about. Didn’t sort of know it existed. I hadn’t been approached.

Doesn’t matter whether I’ve been approached or not, I haven’t. It’s a bit farfetched, all these things. Clearly for a few years now we know this is very serious. Got to do everything about it to keep the sport clean. It’s vital, there’s no doubt about it.

You made your views clear on not being probably spent enough on doping, anti-doping. Do you think there’s enough being done with the TIU, enough resources and men?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know the numbers. Really, you can always do more. It’s like I can always train more. There’s always more you can do. So a story like this is only going to increase the pressure. Hopefully there’s more funding to it. That’s about it. Same as doping. Yes, absolutely, got to be super aggressive in both areas, no doubt about it.

You’ve always called for a level playing field in tennis or other sports. But still perception is so important. How can tennis ask players not to be involved in gambling and yet take one sponsorship deal after another and have big signage promoting betting companies at events?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. It’s a tough one, you know, to talk about one or the other. In some ways they’re connected. In some ways they’re not connected at all. It depends on how you really look at it.

Betting happens all across the world in all the sports. The players just need to know, we need to make sure the integrity of the game is always maintained because without that, I always would say, why do you come and watch this match tonight or any match, because you just don’t know the outcome. As long as we don’t know the outcome, the players, fans, it’s going to be exciting. The moment that gets taken away, there’s no point anymore to be in the stadium.

That’s why it’s super important to keep it clean. In terms of having sponsors around there, I guess there is a lot of money there. Maybe, who knows, could it be helpful maybe? I don’t know. This is a question for more people in suits than a guy in a track suit, I don’t know.

If you got wind of someone you knew was offered or fixing matches, would you tell the authorities straightaway?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, well, I guess so. It’s important that person, how he’s been approached. He needs to feel he’s been supported by the tour, or whatever the governing body is, that there’s a place he can go and speak about it. It’s uncomfortable, not a fun thing. It’s not like, Oh, I’ve just been approached, it’s all cool, and we don’t talk about it.

I think it’s really important that you get supported and get also told how to manage that. So, yes, I guess I would encourage that person to go and say something, otherwise I would say something or I would encourage us to go together or whatever. I would be very helpful in this situation because it’s a very tricky situation to be in.

Is there anything inside the ATP that talks to younger players, older players, that gives advice on how to deal with people who approach them about match fixing?
ROGER FEDERER: You have the ATP University I went to. It was a three-day training thing. I had it in Monaco back in the day. I know they still have it at the end of the year. There was a time they stopped doing it. They were more handing out CDs and explaining everything. It was about everything: how you handle the press, how you handle financially maybe down the road, your fitness, the tour in general. They explain how things are done. Then part of that definitely today is this one as well, the doping issues as well. It’s just like with the whereabouts you, how important, how serious it is. They educate you there.

So I’m sure match fixing is also a priority in those meetings. All the guys that came up, I don’t know exactly the age, like the first to break into the top 100 maybe, or you’re close to that, you get asked to do it. You have to come and show up at the end of the year, which is a great thing. I wasn’t in favor of them handing out CDs because that just ends up being in a drawer at home. They’re taking it serious again like they did with me back in the day.

Honestly, for me it was very helpful to be there. I wasn’t happy to go there in the first place, but I made friends there. I felt supported by the tour. I learned things. For me it was more about the press, how to handle that, to see the press as an intermediary from us to the fans rather than looking at the press as the bad guy.

For me it was very educational. I hope it’s the same thing for the young guys coming up.

When you’re not top 100 or 150, it’s tough to stay alive on the circuit without finding other ways. That’s probably the reason why, even if we wouldn’t accept, it happens. Don’t you think the problem should be to find some more money for those people who are not top 100? Challengers, minor tournaments, it’s there where they try to fix.
ROGER FEDERER: I completely disagree with you. I think you don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how much money you pump into the system, there’s always going to be people approaching players, or people, any sport. It’s all a question of money, you know.

It doesn’t maybe happen at the challengers. It’s going to happen at the futures. It’s going to go away if you offer $1 million for every player to play at every tournament? It’s not going to change a thing.

Still might be approached. That’s why I think you’re wrong there, that more money there is going to solve the issue completely.

I agree we should have more money at futures, challengers, all these levels. But it’s not going to solve the issue. The issue is elsewhere, in the player’s mind.

Among the allegations in the report was some of the suspected match fixers were Grand Slam singles and doubles players. Is it surprising, that element, that they’re saying Grand Slam champions are being involved?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it’s like who, what. It’s like thrown around. It’s so easy to do that.

I would like to hear the name. I would love to hear names. Then at least it’s concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam? It’s so all over the place. It’s nonsense to answer something that is pure speculation.

Like I said, it’s super serious and it’s super important to maintain the integrity of our sport. So how high up does it go? The higher it goes, the more surprised I would be, no doubt about it. Not about people being approached, but just people doing it in general. I just think there’s no place at all for these kind of behaviors and things in our sport. I have no sympathy for those people.


Today there are a lot of discussions and debates about this match fixing story that came out. Of course, people like you who are top 100 or 10 or so were never in the position to survive getting fixed matches. What do you think? Do you think it exists at the minor level, when someone has to stay from 120 to 180 for five, six years, having to pay maybe a coach, transportation?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, honestly, I really hope not. I mean, to me the sport itself has always meant a lot more than money. I know that the more successful you are and the more matches you win, the more prize money, the more money you will receive.

But ultimately that’s never been my personal driving factor in the sport. There’s just so much more on the line. There’s the competitiveness. There’s the challenge of being better. There’s playing in front of thousands of people, playing you against somebody across the net and you trying to win that match.

When you’re out there, it’s not about money.


Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

What I’m asking is, when you are not a player of your standard, playing in front of thousands of people.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think it really matters what level you are. The sport itself is meaningful. It’s our career. It’s our job. I mean, I guess I can only speak for myself, but we want to succeed at it by improving, by getting better, by beating our own best, and not by anything else.

That’s how I would hope everyone else would think, as well. Make it a better and more competitive sport.

We have the situation where tennis, to its great credit, asks players at all levels not to be involved in gambling. Yet our leading organizations go out and get their own money, so to speak, but getting sponsorships from Betway and other companies. Players aren’t willing to say that’s a bad thing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I personally don’t understand that. It’s not that I’m for or against it. As you know, I’ve had many great opportunities to work with great brands in my career. That’s just not a direction that I’ve ever followed. I don’t even know if I’ve had the chance, because I know my management would shut that down very fast. It’s so far away from any of my interests, everything I want to be a part of and the people I want to work with. It has to be true and real. That’s just not something I would ever associate myself with.

My question is, with all respect, do you think in terms of the sporting public out there, do you think it’s a problem to have signage and sponsors that say betting?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not in their seat. I’m not in the organization’s seat. It’s tough for me to speak about it.


Sam Stosur

Q. The match fixing allegations, Novak said his team historically had been approached to throw a match. Have you ever been?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Never been asked. Never heard of anyone being asked. Don’t know anything about it.

Related Article:

Media Statement From Tennis’ Governing Bodies in Reaction to BBC and BuzzFeed News’s Report on Match Fixing



Defending Champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams Open Australian Open Defenses with Wins


(January 18, 2016) World No. ones and Australian Open defending champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams made straight set starts in Melbourne on Monday. Novak Djokvic dominated teenager Chung Hyeon of South Korea 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 while Williams stopped No. 34 ranked Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5.

Coming into Melbourne, knee inflammation forced Serena Williams to withdraw from Hopman Cup. The 21-time major champion had not played a competitive match since she lost in the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Open, falling short or claiming a calendar Grand Slam.

Williams responded to media questions about her knee:It’s great. It was an hour and 43 minutes and I didn’t feel it at all.”

I think I served well today,” Williams said. “I think, you know, I got broken once, but other than that, I was able to stay focused on that part. And I was able to serve really well and that really helped me.”

Williams gave herself an “A for effort,” for her win.

“I have played her (Giorgi) a couple of times before, and just wanted to be as consistent as I could.”

Williams has won the Australian Open six times.


Djokovic who is trying to win a sixth title at Melbourne had to beat the heat as well his opponent, with temperatures in the 90’s (93 Fahrenheit).

“Having to play somebody for the first time, especially somebody that is as young as him, he’s only 19, you know, it can be tricky,” Djokovic said. “Obviously getting out on the court and playing against a player that has nothing to lose.

“His baseline game is very good, very solid, especially from the backhand side. Very flat, strong backhand, solid shots, both angles. Once he gets into the good rhythm, he can serve well.

“He’s a pretty tall guy. For somebody of his height, he moves very well, as well. He can play equally well from defense to offense. And he’s one of the players that people are talking about as a potential top player in the future.

“He’s got that potential, no question about it. As I said on the court, he needs experience, he needs more time.”

Chung said: “Great honor to play with Novak. He’s No. 1 in the world. He’s my idol. It was good experience to play with him.

“I’m just trying to fight every point, because too tough to win one games. Great experience. Great test to start season.”

Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer had an easy time with Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the night session. In the process, the world No. 3 is playing his 65 straight major, a record.

“That was a good match,” Federer said. “I’m really pleased how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence, you know, because this year I haven’t been able to play properly yet. I mean, I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under, you know, sort of a cloud knowing that I wasn’t 100%.

“But this was a match where I was able to focus, you know, on my game, on tactics, all that stuff. So it was nice to play that way.”

Federer will play Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round.

“I think it’s going to be very tough, to be honest,” Federer said. “I’ve practiced with Dolgopolov in the off-season in Dubai. Had some great practice sessions together there, this year and last year. I know him very well. This is going to be a different challenge than the first round. This was more of an unexperienced player today, but still dangerous and still a good player.

“But Dolgopolov is a different player, a different level. He’s been there before. He’s got the fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ, all that. It’s going to be a big challenge.

“Curious to find out if it’s going to be day or night because that plays a big part in how it plays out. I feel it plays very different day to night, the conditions. Yeah, I’m ready for a very tough match, to be quite honest.”

No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska is into the second round at Melbourne Park with a 6-2, 6-3 win over American Christina McHale as is two-time major champion Petra Kvitova. Kvitova, who had to withdraw from the Shenzhen Open, a warm-up event before the Australian Open, defeated Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1. The Czech lost to her in three sets back in 2014.

Kvitova, who had to withdraw from a warmup tournament in China because of a stomach virus, said her preparation was disrupted and she was nervous ahead of the rematch with Kumkhum.

In the night session, Maria Sharapova had no problems against Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3. Sharapova did not play a warm-up tournament before the Australian Open due to a left forearm injury.

There were some upsets on the women’s side. No. 16 Caroline Wozniacki lost to 76th-ranked Yulia Putintseva 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, No. 17 Sara Errani fell to Margarita Gasparyan 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, No. 22 Andrea Petkovic lost to Elizaveta Kulichkova 7-5, 6-4,  2013 quarterfinalist 24th seed Sloane Stephens had no answers Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang who won 6-3, 6-3, 25th seed, Australian Sam Stosur was beaten by qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 6-4, 7-6(6), 26th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was eliminated by American Lauren Davis 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 27 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova went down 6-3, 6-3 to Daria Kasatkina in the first round.


No. 7 Kei Nishikori beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. He’ll play friend Austin Krajicek in the next round.

Actually, it’s great to see him, especially on Grand Slam,” Nishikori said of the American. “We can play each other it’s great because, you know, because we train together when we are really young, like when we were junior(s).
“It’s going to be not an easy one.”

“It’s always tough to play with friends. Actually tougher than maybe top 10 players.”

Other men’s seeds advancing included No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych and No. 15 David Goffin. No. 22 seed Ivo Karlovic retired from his match with a left knee injury trailing Federico Delbonis 7-6 (4), 6-4, 2-1.

In the upset of the day on the men’s side of the draw, 19-year-old wild card Noah Rubin from Long Island, New York, ranked 328th in the world dismissed 17th seed Benoit Paire 7-6(4), 7-6(6), 7-6(5) for his first main draw win at a major

More to follow….


Agnieszka Radwanska Triumphs in Singapore to Win WTA Finals Crown


By Ros Satar

(November 1, 2015) SINGAPORE – It is fair to say this was a title that no-one was expecting at the start of the week, as Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova took to the court. This was going to be the first time anyone with a 1-2 record in the round robin phase of the WTA Finals would go on to lift the championship trophy.


But all that needed to be put aside, especially for Kvitova, who quickly found herself down a break at the start of the opening set. Steadying the nerves to at least get on the board, it was going to be important for her to stay in contention, against an in-form Radwanska – who was ready to punish any careless generosity of points from the Czech.


The first set was completely out of her reach in 33 minutes as Radwanska’s control versus Kvitova’s errors told the story in the score line of 6-2. If ever there was a time that Kvitova needed to be on the winning side of a brutal game it was now, but Radwanska could seemingly do no wrong, breaking the Czech in the first game.


The only way out for Kvitova would be to keep the points short and somehow, she seemed to find her groove, reeling off nine points in a row to get things back on serve. Keeping the pressure on now was vital if she wanted to delay/deny Radwanska making some Polish history. At the very least (especially after a Doubles final drubbing for Carla Suarez Navarro and Garbine Muguruza in a little over an hour), the crowd needed to have a match to get their teeth into.


By the third set though it was clear that the heavy strapping on Kvitova’s right thigh was causing her grief. On more than one occasion she had looked in pain as the momentum shifted first the Czech’s way, and then back to Radwanska as she came from a break down in the decider to lead by a break.


Neither seemed willing to hold until finally Radwanska seemed to steady the ship to edge to a 5-3 lead. Kvitova’s grip loosened as Radwanska broke her to win as Kvitova dumped a forehand into the net.


Given that both players came in with a losing record, and Kvitova was reliant on Lucie Safarova delivering a straight sets win, it was a time to reflect ahead of the Fed Cup final next week.


“I think with this kind of tournament it’s more positives for sure,” Kvitova said. “I mean, I had a great match yesterday with Maria (Sharapova), and I just think that today was really big fight and just about few points and I didn’t make it.


“I think was still great even for me. The season was good. I mean, of course I wish a little bit better, but on the side I think could be much more worse. It’s still okay.”


The winner still had a look of disbelief about her, although she was reduced to speechlessness when asked if any of her prize money would be buying presents for the press!


When all said and done though, Radwanska deserved to be in the final with her tough match against Muguruza, and perhaps the results did not truly reflect the standard of her game for the large part.


She said: “I lost first two matches, but it’s not like I was playing bad. It was still good matches. I just didn’t use the chances. I wasn’t really focus enough and something just slip away and then it was hard to come back. But definitely not bad matches, especially the one against Maria. That’s why I didn’t ‑‑ I just knew being fresh and have a good rest, that is very important for us.


“I don’t know how, but I was really feeling better afterwards, and I think I used to conditions, used to surface. I think I was playing even better in those two days.”


It is worth noting that Amelie Mauresmo was the last WTA Finals champion without having won a Slam previously, and the following year she went on to win two.


She said: “Well, for sure give me more confidence, especially that in a Grand Slam you also to have win and beat couple of top players in a row.


“I think here it’s even harder because just eight of us and you don’t have any first rounds to used to the courts. But definitely a good start. I’ll definitely try to do that next year. (Smiling.)”


Kvitova of course heads to the Fed Cup Final in Prague, and Radwanska will join the IPTL this year.


Ros Satar was in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Kvitova to Face Radwanska for WTA Finals Crown

Agniezska Radwanska

Agniezska Radwanska

By Ros Satar

(October 31, 2015) SINGAPORE – The question around the media centre at the WTA Finals was just how much had Garbiñe Muguruza’s efforts in both the singles and the doubles taken out of her. A grueling match with Petra Kvitova had left her admitting that she felt pretty tired, whereas for Agnieszka Radwanska, it was a slot gained by the supreme play so far from Maria Sharapova, coming in with a 1-2 record for the second time in a row.


Even watching them in training in the morning, Radwanska seemed the more care-free and free-swinging while Muguruza looked a bit inhibited and more subdued. That being said, the nerves were evident for both as they started with trading breaks, before Radwanska held serve before the first change of ends.


With a run of four games on the trot, it looked as though Muguruza’s bubble had burst, while Radwanska, on her seventh time out at the season ending championships looked on the verge of getting past the semi-finals for the first time.


Calling out coach Sam Sumyk, Muguruza looked impassive as he murmured his advice, but whatever he said, it worked as she decided it was high time she went on a little winning spree of her own, winning the next three games to put her right back in contention.


Now things were picking up as the Muguruza started to apply a little more pressure, moving the magician around, putting some of that doubles prowess to good use, to force a first set tie-break.


Despite once more building up an advantage, Muguruza came back from 1-4 down to win five points in a row to bring up set point. Radwanska pulled off a regular Houdini trick to save it, and after a slugging rally, a bewitched net cord delivered Radwanska the cruelest blow, dropping the ball back on her side to hand Muguruza the first set with quite some drama.


If we thought the momentum would be with the second seed, we could not have been more wrong. Once more Radwanska was the quicker off the mark, quickly leaping out to a 4-0 lead before Muguruza would get on the board. This time, though there would be no miracle come back as Radwanska leveled the match.


With a feeling of déjà vu, Radwanska once more picked up a 3-0 lead, and this time it looked as though Muguruza was done. Yet again though with her back against the wall, Muguruza slowly crept back into the game. But the fatigue finally caught up with the Spaniard who could not serve to force a tie-break, with Radwanska breaking on her second match point to win 7-6(5,) 3-6, 7-5.


Radwanska said, after the match: “I was just so happy to get through that match. Like I was saying before, I didn’t really expect to be in the semis after the first losses and now it’s the final. So that was really big match. Well, a lot of emotion during that match I think all three hours. I’m just so relieved that it’s over and I could win that match.”


Describing some of the outstanding tennis on show today, she said: “Sometimes like, Oh, my God. It’s in! But tennis is so fast, so you’re not really have time to think. That’s just the reaction. We have not even a second to make shot, a decision, and it’s just suddenly there. But, well, I’m just always very happy to make those shots. Well, yeah. (Smiling.)”


With Muguruza still having to play the doubles semifinal later today, she was positive about the whole run, saying: “In the first set like I kind of give it all, and then it was hard for me to start the second one. But, well, I just wanted to give everything I had, and doesn’t matter how long I was going to be able to keep it. I just went out there, and if I die on the court, I die, but at least I go out from there happy.


“I’m super happy the way I played. I think it’s amazing: Tokyo, Wuhan, Beijing, and here and be able to keep the level and go out there and just have amazing matches.”

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

The second semifinal had all the promise of a long slugfest with Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova trading breaks right at the start, before they got right down to business. But it has been a bit of an unsettled tournament for Kvitova. A lackluster start, and a tough battle to finish with a 1-2 record, reliant on an outstanding display by Lucie Safarova to dump Angelique Kerber out of the competition.


Any concerns though that she might have checked out a bit, went with two breaks at the end of the set in succession.


With the Russian hustling to a 3-0 lead at the start of the second, and no doubt having watched the first semifinal grind out with a sense of glee, she proceeded to make extremely light work of the Czech. Faced with yet another 1-4 score-line deficit, were we going to see another memorable comeback this evening?


The answer turned out to be yes, as Kvitova clicked into focus and worked her way back in, and Sharapova, who has been so strong throughout started to unravel a bit, while Kvitova ran off five games on the trot. Sharapova managed to stop the rot, to push the second set into a tie-break. Kvitova by now was locked in as she went on a run of four straight points to set up a final with Radwanska, winning 6-3, 7-6(3).


There were a lot of positives for Sharapova to take away from a tournament which signaled her first complete run since July this year.


She explained: “I didn’t have expectations coming into this week. Of course it’s always tough to sit after a match and say you’re happy, especially after you lose it. But I think it would be quite unprofessional of me to not take a lot of positives out of this week. I think there’s a lot to look forward to in the off‑season and next year, yeah, as well as couple of the matches in two weeks.


“I was able to play quite physical matches and get through them. I think that was something that I wasn’t sure of coming into this week because I hadn’t played a lot.


“I don’t know what to expect [from the Fed Cup Final]. I know it’s going to be much more difficult than the first time around, but it’s never easy playing away and never easy being in the final as well. Yeah, I just look forward to the experience. Something new for me.”


Kvitova had gone from being fairly disinterested in proceedings after almost accepting that her season (excepting Fed Cup) was over, to now having a shot at a second title.


She said: “It’s very weird, I have to say. Yesterday I was talking about my season, and it’s still not over yet. But I’m happy for that for sure. I mean, I couldn’t really believe that I going to play semifinal; now I’m the final, which is very interesting. I’m really looking forward. I think Aga is kind of in the same situation, so it’s going to be interesting.


“[She is a] difficult opponent, for sure. She’s very smart. I think she has a lot the variety on the court. She getting so many balls, so sometimes it feels that she’s never‑ending story on the court. So it’s really about the patient and still be kind of sharp, but playing a lot of shots and rallies. It’s difficult. But last match of the season for her, for me ‑ even if I’m not counting with the Fed Cup ‑‑ so both of us will leave everything out there tomorrow.”


Kvitova and Radwanska will play the final, on Stadium Court at 6:30pm.


Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


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

By Ros Satar

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.



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

Radwanska bh

Agnieszka Radwanska

By Ros Satar

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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.



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

By Ros Satar

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Ros Satar is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals as media for Tennis Panorama News. She is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


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

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber


By Ros Satar


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


WTA Finals – Sharapova Rallies While Halep Dominates in Opening Wins

By Ros Satar

(October 25, 2015) SINGAPORE –

Simona Halep [1] d Flavia Pennetta [7]

Halep fist pump-001

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

Sharapova gets ready to serve

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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