2014/04/16

WTA Round-up; Pavlyuchenkova wins in Paris, Makarova in Pattaya City

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

(February 2, 2014 )Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova rallied to beat Sara Errani of Italy 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to claim the Open GDF Suez in Paris, her sixth career WTA title.

In a topsy turvy match, Errani came back from a1-3 first set deficit winning seven games on the trot to take a 6-3, 2-0 lead. Pavlyuchenkova took the next seven games to even the match 3-6, 6-2, 1-0. The Russian broke the Italian in the eight game of the third set to take a 5-3 lead and served out the match.

Pavlyuchenkova’s title run saw her knock out three top 10 players in the same tournament for the first time in her WTA career – Maria Sharapova in the semifinals, Angelique Kerber of Germany in the quarterfinals and Errani in the final.

“When I lost seven games in a row I don’t really know what happened – maybe I was a little stressed because I was missing some shots and she was so solid,” said the champion. “Also, I was serving so well throughout the tournament and there were times today where I was struggling on serve. But I knew it was from my side, so if I just focused and kept fighting I could get it back.”

“I’m still very happy I could make the final,” said the losing finalist. “I had very good matches from the first round, from Knapp to Svitolina to Cornet, but I was a little bit more tired than normal in the match today because of yesterday. It was very tough to recover. But it was still a very good week for me.”

Ekaterina Makarova won her first title in in almost four years beating Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-6 (7) for the Pattaya Open crown on Sunday. The Russian ranked No. 28 won Eastbourne in 2010, her only other tournament victory.

“Today was a tough match,” said the Russian. “She was playing really good tennis and serving really well. I needed to be very focused on my return. I was a little bit nervous at the end, but I’m really happy to win my second title.”

Makarova was Pattaya City’s fourth Russian champion in the last six years.

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Pavlyuchenkova Upsets Sharapova to Reach Paris Final

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stunned top seed Maria Sharapova in the semifinal of Open GDF Suez topping her Russian countrywoman 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Sharapova handed her opponent the win ending the match with a pair of double faults.

“I’m very happy with my performance today,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Maria’s so tough and she’s always fighting until the end, so I’m happy I stuck with my game and kept fighting out there as well.

She’ll face Sara Errani in the final.

OPEN GDF SUEZ
Paris, France
January 27-February 2, 2014
$710,000/Premier
Hard/Indoors

Results – Saturday, February 1, 2014
Singles – Semifinals
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. (1) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 46 63 64
(3) Sara Errani (ITA) d. Alizé Cornet (FRA) 76(3) 36 76(5)

Doubles – Semifinals
(4) Babos/Mladenovic (HUN/FRA) d. (1) Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) w/o (Errani: cramping)

Order Of Play – Sunday, February 2, 2014
Court Central (from 15.30hrs)
1. Singles Final: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Sara Errani
2. Doubles Final: Babos/Mladenovic vs. Groenefeld/Peschke

 

PTT PATTAYA OPEN
Pattaya City, Thailand
January 27-February 2, 2014
$250,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results - Saturday, February 1, 2014
Singles – Semifinals
(4) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 63 06 64
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. Julia Goerges (GER) 63 46 63

Doubles – Semifinals
(4) Peng/Zhang (CHN/CHN) d. (WC) Lertcheewakarn/Zvonareva (THA/RUS) 62 63

Order Of Play - Sunday, February 2, 2014
Court 1 (from 16.00hrs)
1. Singles Final: Ekaterina Makarova vs. Karolina Pliskova
2. Doubles Final: Peng/Zhang vs. Kudryavtseva/Rodionova

 

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Djokovic Wins Paris Masters, His 40th ATP World Tour Title

Djokovic winner

By Florian Heer

 

(November 3, 2013) PARIS – The last ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the season featured two of the top three players at the top of the rankings as world No. 2 Novak Djokovic met defending champion David Ferrer for the 16th time. Before Sunday’s final the Serb led 10-5 head-to-head and also won the last four meetings.

 

Sunday’s encounter became and exciting and highly entertaining one with long rallies, particularly at the beginning of the match. Ferrer gained his first break point after 18 minutes in the fifth game and capitalized on it through a beautiful drop shot after one of the week’s longest rallies – 36 shots. The Spaniard saved break points in the following and confirmed the lead. Djokovic was breathing heavily after six games already and it was the Serb, who paid the physical price for the tough rallies in the beginning of the match. From then on, however, Djokovic successfully tried to shorten the rallies. In a very efficient way, the 2009 Paris champion won four games in a row to take the opening frame after 53 minutes.

 

Ferrer grabbed the momentum back with a break in the opening game of the second set, which would become a copy of the first set. Again in the tenth game, the Spaniard couldn’t serve out  the set and Djokovic came back from 3-5 down to even at 5-5 in first place and eventually take the break in the twelfth game and therewith the match. After one hour and 52 minutes of a hard fight, Ferrer seemed to be tired and the “Djoker” took the encounter winning 7-5, 7-5. The Serb gained his sixth title of the season, the 40th in his career, and keeps his hopes alive for finishing No.1 by winning the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London next week.  “It’s always a pleasure to play against David,” Djokovic told the crowd at the fully packed Palais Omnisports in Bercy in his best French. “Today I was really lucky in the crucial parts of the match. The crowd was really great this week, without the supporters this would not have been possible. I worked really hard to play well here and I’m so happy to gain the title,” the Serb said.

 

“I am definitely playing the best tennis this year now. I’m playing on a very high level and have lots of confidence in myself, in my game.

“I knew that coming into the match I’m going to have to work for my points. He’s a great competitor, one of the most respected guys on tour because he works hard and he’s very humble and he’s a very nice person.

“It was very physical, trust me. But in the last few games of both sets it was mental in the end, just trying to show your opponent that you’re there, that you want to attack, that you want to take your opportunities.

“From tomorrow I’m going to start thinking about London. From tonight, actually. Because on Tuesday night I play Federer already, a huge challenge for me.”

 

“I think it was a really good match, really good rallies,“ Ferrer said. „I played maybe better than yesterday, and I lost.

“I am happy with my game, because the last few tournaments I [played well] and I am happy with myself. Now I want to relax and be with my team, and tomorrow I travel to London for the last tournament of the season.”

 

In the morning the two top-seeded doubles teams consisting of Bob & Mike Bryan as well as Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares, met for the title. In the opening set it was Soares of the Austrian-Brazilian-combination, who lost his serve twice and in the second, it was Peya. Consequently the US-American twins captured their 11th title of the season winning 6-3, 6-3 in one hour.

 

“It was great week for us,“ Bob Bryan said. “We’re very happy with our performance against a team that has had a fantastic year and who is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. Hopefully this bodes well for the last tournament of the season.

“This city has been good to us during our careers. We appreciate the support from the Parisian crowd and today’s atmosphere was fantastic for doubles. We’ll travel onto London tonight and we look forward to playing at The O2, another venue where the spotlight shines brightly on our sport.”

 

“An extraordinary tournament with all the best players at the top of the game led to a fantastic week,” the tournament director Guy Forget concluded.

 

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Nadal, Djokovic, Ferrer and Federer Reach Paris Semis

By Florian Heer

(November 1, 2013) PARIS – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer and Roger Federer have reached the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris on Friday.

It was a very special quarterfinal Friday at the BNP Masters in Paris with all eight players in action, who qualified for next week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

In the opening match on Centre Court of the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, second-seed and 2009 champion Novak Djokovic faced Stanislas Wawrinka. Djokovic has won the past twelve meetings including two epic five-setters at this year’s Australian Open and US Open. Friday it was again the Serbian, who had the better ending but in comparison to the encounters at the Grand Slams, quite effortless. Djokovic beat the Swiss No. 2, who qualified for the season finale for the very first time, in only 84 minutes winning 6-1, 6-4. “I am very satisfied with my great intensity from the start of the match. I tried to be as aggressive as possible when I had a shorter ball,” Djokovic said. “It tells a lot about the quality of this tournament when you see all the players in action today, who are going to London,” the world number two told about the field in Bercy.

In the next match, fifth-seeded Roger Federer took on world No. 4 Juan Martin Del Potro in a repeat of Sunday’s Basel final in which the Argentine won in three sets. Five days ago in Basel the spectators had to wait thirty minutes for the first break point opportunity. Today, the Swiss broke serve after only twelve minutes in the fourth game. Federer started aggressively trying to make his way to the net as often as possible, served big and took the first set in the ninth game. Although the 2011 Paris champion remained untroubled on most of his service games, Del Potro capitalized on his one and only break point chance on set point in the tenth game of the second frame. The final set became more even but it was Federer, who was able to gain the decisive break in the ninth game to earn a fully-deserved win by 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in one hour and 43 minutes. “I was very happy with today’s match,” commented Federer. “I think it was a particularly good first set and a bit of a pity I couldn’t break early in the second. I think I did well today to start stronger this time around in the third set. It was something I couldn’t quite do in Basel. I think I was just overall hitting a better ball again today and moving well and taking good decisions time and time again, so I was very happy with my level of play today,” Federer analyzed afterwards.

For Federer it was his first win over a top ten player since January.

In the evening session more than 13,000 spectators in a fully-packed arena were watching how world No. 1 Rafael Nadal improved his head to head record against local hero, Richard Gasquet, to 12-0. The Spaniard, who has never won the ATP Masters in Paris, only needed 64 minutes to advance into the semis winning 6-4, 6-1.  “I’m sorry for Richard tonight but I think I played my best match here this week,” the top-seed said. “For most of the time during today’s match, I was in control of the point. I played with a lot of confidence from the baseline. I also remained calm and patient to wait for the right moment and then I was able to hit some forehand winners down the line, a shot which has given me a lot of points during the entire season,” Nadal analyzed his game. With this result, it has been the first time since Roland Garros in 2012 that the “Big three – Nadal, Djokovic, Federer” will be in a line-up for a semi-final on the ATP World Tour.

 

In the last match on, third-seeded and reigning champion in person of David Ferrer took on sixth-seed Tomas Berdych. The Czech is the only player in the top ten without a title this year and his only chance to improve this stat will be by capturing the title at the season finale in London. Although Ferrer had a very bad start into today’s encounter by losing his service in the very first game, it was the Spaniard having the better ending when the match went the distance. After two hours and four minutes, Ferrer closed the match out winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to book his spot for an all-Spanish semi-final tomorrow.

RESULTS – FRIDAY, 1 NOVEMBER, 2013

Singles – Quarterfinals
[1] R Nadal (ESP) d [9] R Gasquet (FRA) 64 61
[2] N Djokovic (SRB) d [7] S Wawrinka (SUI) 61 64
[3] D Ferrer (ESP) d [6] T Berdych (CZE) 46 75 63
[5] R Federer (SUI) d [4] J Del Potro (ARG) 63 46 63

Doubles – Quarter-finals
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [8] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) 36 63 10-5
[2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) 36 63 10-5
M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) d [3] M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) 63 64
[4] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) d [5] R Bopanna (IND) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 76(5) 36 10-4

SCHEDULE – SATURDAY, 2 NOVEMBER, 2013

COURT CENTRAL start 11:45 am
M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) vs [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

Not Before 2:30 pm
[5] R Federer (SUI) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)

Not Before 5:00 pm
[1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [3] D Ferrer (ESP)
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs [4] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA)

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Djokovic Passes Test Against Qualifier; Tsonga Falls to Nishikori and Out of Contention for London Year-End

 

Novak Djokovic3

(October 29, 2013) Novak Djokovic moved into the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris with a tough win over 22-year-old French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6(3) 6-3.

Herbert kept pace with Djokovic in the first set and at one point had two set points. Djokovic dismissed them and forced a tiebreak, which the Serb won 7-3. This was only Herbet’s second appearance in an ATP main draw.

Djokovic built a 5-0 lead in the second set when his opponent went on a 3 game run breaking Djokovic as he served for the match.

Kei Nishikori dashed the London hopes for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saving 2 match points and beating the Frenchman 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7). The loss means that  Tsonga‘s quest for a spot in next week’s ATP World Tour Finals is officially over.

 

RESULTS – TUESDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2013

Singles – Second Round
[2] N Djokovic (SRB) d [Q] P Herbert (FRA) 76(3) 63
K Nishikori (JPN) d [8] J Tsonga (FRA) 16 76(4) 76(7) – saved 2 M.P.
[9] R Gasquet (FRA) d F Verdasco (ESP) 75 67(6) 63
[14] J Janowicz (POL) d [Q] S Giraldo (COL) 76(3) 63

Singles – First Round

M Granollers (ESP) d D Tursunov (RUS) 64 64
[WC] N Mahut (FRA) d A Dolgopolov (UKR) 76(6) 61
*[LL] P Andujar (ESP) d V Pospisil (CAN) 64 26 64
K Anderson (RSA) d M Youzhny (RUS) 46 76 21 ret. (right elbow)
G Dimitrov (BUL) d [WC] M Llodra (FRA) 67(5) 63 63
I Dodig (CRO) d E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 76(6) 64
[Q] M Przysiezny (POL) d J Nieminen (FIN) 63 76(6)

Doubles – First Round
J Isner (USA) / N Monroe (USA) d J Marray (GBR) / I Sijsling (NED) 36 63 10-4
S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) d J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) 64 75
F Fognini (ITA) / A Seppi (ITA) d T Huey (PHI) / D Inglot (GBR) 76(5) 63

*[LL] P Andujar (ESP) replaced G Monfils (FRA) – left wrist

SCHEDULE – WEDNESDAY, 30 OCTOBER, 2013

COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
[3] D Ferrer (ESP) vs L Rosol (CZE)
[WC] N Mahut (FRA) vs [15] G Simon (FRA)
M Cilic (CRO) vs [4] J del Potro (ARG)
[1] R Nadal (ESP) vs M Granollers (ESP)
Not Before 7:30 pm
[5] R Federer (SUI) vs K Anderson (RSA)
Not Before 8:30 pm
[10] M Raonic (CAN) vs [Q] R Haase (NED)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am

[13] J Isner (USA) vs [Q] M Przysiezny (POL)
I Dodig (CRO) vs [12] N Almagro (ESP)
[7] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs F Lopez (ESP)
[16] F Fognini (ITA) vs G Dimitrov (BUL)
P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs [11] T Haas (GER)
[LL] P Andujar (ESP) vs [6] T Berdych (CZE)

COURT 2 start 11:00 am

M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) vs L Kubot (POL) / R Lindstedt (SWE)
L Dlouhy (CZE) / E Gulbis (LAT) vs J Benneteau (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
Not Before 2:00 pm
[WC] K De Schepper (FRA) / P Herbert (FRA) vs M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
J Isner (USA) / N Monroe (USA) vs [5] R Bopanna (IND) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
M Llodra (FRA) / N Mahut (FRA) vs E Butorac (USA) / R Klaasen (RSA)
[7] D Nestor (CAN) / L Paes (IND) vs S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA)

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Back From Doping Ban, Marin Cilic Happy as “a kid playing for the first time,” after Opening Win at Paris Masters

Marin Cilic

(October 28, 2013) Marin Cilic returned to the ATP Tour on Monday following a four month ban due to doping. He was originally supposed to be banned for nine months after the international Tennis Federation said he failed a test for the banned stimulant nikethamide.

The Croatian was joyous after his first round win at the Paris Masters on Monday stopping Igor Sijsling 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

Cilic said in a news conference “I felt like a kid playing for the first time.”

“The feeling was amazing just to be back on the court, to be competing and I enjoyed every moment.

“My thoughts were just on how much I am enjoying it and how I am happy to be back on the court.”

No. 1 Rafael Nadal told media that he was happy that Cilic was back on tour. The Spaniard said that Cilic was a good guy and a great player and if he’s back on tour that it’s fair.

ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Paris, France  (+1 hour GMT)
28 October-3 November 2013     Surface: Indoor Hard

RESULTS – MONDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2013

Singles – First Round
[Q] S Giraldo (COL) d [WC] A Mannarino (FRA) 63 26 64
F Verdasco (ESP) d E Gulbis (LAT) 76(3) 76(5)
K Nishikori (JPN) d J Benneteau (FRA) 64 62
L Rosol (CZE) d J Chardy (FRA) 63 64
[Q] R Haase (NED) d D Istomin (UZB) 76(8) 63
P Kohlschreiber (GER) d A Seppi (ITA) 63 36 64
M Cilic (CRO) d [Q] I Sijsling (NED) 57 61 64
F Lopez (ESP) d [Q] B Tomic (AUS) 64 67(4) 76(1)
[Q] P Herbert (FRA) d B Paire (FRA) 62 62

Doubles – First Round

J Chardy (FRA) / G Simon (FRA) d [WC] A Mannarino (FRA) / G Monfils (FRA) 67(4) 63 10-7

SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 29 OCTOBER, 2013

COURT CENTRAL start 11:00 am
[WC] M Llodra (FRA) vs G Dimitrov (BUL)
*Lucky Loser vs V Pospisil (CAN)
[9] R Gasquet (FRA) vs F Verdasco (ESP)
Not Before 7:30 pm
K Nishikori (JPN) vs [8] J Tsonga (FRA)
Not Before 8:30 pm
[Q] P Herbert (FRA) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
[Q] M Przysiezny (POL) vs J Nieminen (FIN)
[WC] N Mahut (FRA) vs A Dolgopolov (UKR)
E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs I Dodig (CRO)
D Tursunov (RUS) vs M Granollers (ESP)
K Anderson (RSA) vs M Youzhny (RUS)
[Q] S Giraldo (COL) vs [14] J Janowicz (POL)

COURT 2 start 2:00 pm

J Isner (USA) / N Monroe (USA) vs J Marray (GBR) / I Sijsling (NED)
Not Before 4:00 pm
T Huey (PHI) / D Inglot (GBR) vs F Fognini (ITA) / A Seppi (ITA) – Possible Court Change
S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) vs J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS)

*Lucky Loser to replace G Monfils (FRA) – left wrist

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Monday Schedules for Paris and Nanjing Tennis Tournaments

atp wta

ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Paris, France  (+1 hour GMT)
28 October-3 November 2013     Surface: Indoor Hard

SCHEDULE – MONDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2013

CENTRAL COURT start 11:00 am
L Rosol (CZE) vs J Chardy (FRA)
F Lopez (ESP) vs [Q] B Tomic (AUS)
E Gulbis (LAT) vs F Verdasco (ESP)

Not Before 7:30 pm
K Nishikori (JPN) vs J Benneteau (FRA)

Not Before 8:30 pm
B Paire (FRA) vs [Q] P Herbert (FRA)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
[WC] A Mannarino (FRA) vs [Q] S Giraldo (COL)
D Istomin (UZB) vs [Q] R Haase (NED)
[Q] I Sijsling (NED) vs M Cilic (CRO)
A Seppi (ITA) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER)

COURT TBA start 4:00 pm
Not Before 4:00 pm
J Chardy (FRA) / G Simon (FRA) vs [WC] A Mannarino (FRA) / G Monfils (FRA)

2013 NANJING LADIES OPEN
Nanjing, China
October 28-November 3, 2013
$125,000/WTA 125K Series
Hard/Outdoors

Order Of Play - Monday, October 28, 2013
Court A (from 11.00hrs)
1. Irina-Camelia Begu vs. Daria Gavrilova
2. Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Olga Puchkova
3. Caroline Garcia vs. Zheng Saisai
4. Doi/Xu vs. Begu/Wickmayer

Court B (from 11.00hrs)

1. Risa Ozaki vs. Anna Schmiedlova
2. Anna-Lena Friedsam vs. Katarzyna Piter
3. Tereza Mrdeza vs. Alla Kudryavtseva
4. Gajdosova/Gavrilova vs. Liang/Sun

Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Tang/Yang vs. Wang/Zhang
2. Shvedova/Zhang vs. Dubois/Han
3. Liu/Tian vs. Chen/Sun (NB 15.00hrs)

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Serena Williams Makes It Sweet 16

Serena Williams Day 2 Press Conference

By Ros Satar

 

(June 8, 2013) PARIS – How does Maria Sharapova solve a problem like Serena?

 

The answer is she doesn’t, at least not today as the head-to-head between them grew to 14-2, when Serena Williams regained the title she won back in 2002 6-4, 6-4.

 

It perhaps feels uncharitable to say that there was an air of inevitability around this final.

 

After all, the numbers do not lie and at best people wanted the match to be competitive at least, especially those who remember the London 2012 Olympic Final.

 

It is always a challenge to defend a title and Maria Sharapova certainly made her intentions clear at the start of the match, gritting her way to defending four breakpoints, before breaking Williams in the next game.

 

But of course, the world No. 1 was not standing for that – with the first set a bizarre see-saw of breaks and clutch points and “come-on’s” from them both.

 

If Sharapova was going to make her claim to defend her crown, it really had to be here to put Williams under pressure from the start.

 

You just had the feeling, though, that it was taking every ounce of effort from Sharapova to stay in contention, so it was no surprise when Williams served out for the first set, having nudged ahead again.

 

The second set started in much the same way, with a long protracted hold and the saving of many break points (again) from Sharapova.

 

Even though it came down to a single break at the start of the second set, Sharapova never stopped fighting, but Williams stepped up a gear, firing down three aces to start and finish the last game, and with it gaining her second Roland-Garros title, and her 16th Grand Slam title.

 

She now holds the most slam titles of any active player, and the sixth of all time, as well as becoming the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era – it may be impolite to refer to a lady’s age but just for the record, it’s 31 years, 256 days by the tournament end date.

 

Having nothing to defend here after her first round loss was a key for Williams today.

 

“I played so well leading up to the French Open last year ‑ and same thing happened again this year ‑ but I didn’t put any pressure on myself,” Wiliams said.

 

Sharapova had pointed out that Williams was serving harder that tomorrow’s finalist David Ferrer.

 

“I think growing up with Venus, you know, she’s serving so big, I was like, I want to serve big, too,” she said.

 

“So I think this definitely really helped me a lot.  Again, I am not the tallest girl on tour, but I definitely think I use my height in a very effective way, and I use it to the fullest of my ability.”

 

Seated alongside the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, Williams admitted her had been very nervous in serving for the match.

 

“I thought, I’m not going to be able to hit groundstrokes.  (Laughter.)

“No joke.  As you see the one groundstroke I did hit went like 100 feet out.

 

“I thought to myself, Look, Serena, you’ve just got to hit aces.  That’s your only choice.”

 

Of course having been on the receiving end of those, it was an obviously reflective Sharapova who faced the press later.

 

“I think getting to the Roland-Garros final is not too shabby, so I’d say that’s a positive.  Coming back as a defending champion, I know it’s never easy to come back with that title, so I’m happy that I was able to produce good tennis within these last two weeks and come to that stage.”

 

To reverse a trend of losses against Williams dating back to 2004 is obviously a work in progress (to put it mildly), but today showed that Sharapova could go toe-to-toe with her.

 

“Some of the results against her last year were not so good.  But the match in Miami and the match here, I think I’m doing a few more right things than maybe I have done in the past, yet obviously not consistent enough.”

 

We are only half way through the season, with Wimbledon coming up, so Sharapova could at least look ahead.

 

“It’s always the one that I always want to perform well at and the one that I always look forward to.

 

“It’s not like I really need someone to give me motivation towards that.”

 

If age is just a number now to Serena, and a new number was reached today (16 Grand Slam titles), then does she have her eye on the next prize?

 

“If it means I stop at 16 or if it means I have more, I definitely want to continue my journey to get a few more.”

 

Roll on Wimbledon and the US Open.

 

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Sharapova Edges Jankovic, Meets Azarenka in Semifinal

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

By Ros Satar

 

(June 5, 2013) PARIS – Defending champion Maria Sharapova edged out Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic in a nervy three-setter to book her slot in the women’s semifinals – 0-6 6-4, 6-3.

 

Certainly the start of the match slipped away from Sharapova rapidly as Jankovic stormed ahead break after break, closing out a 6-0 score line in just under half an hour.

 

Sharapova, however, got her eye back in the game, breaking Jankovic right at the start of the second set and again for that all important double-break cushion.

 

There looked like there might be a brief wobble, at Sharapova’s first attempt to serve the set out, getting broken.

 

The Russian made no mistake the second time, leaving Jankovic to berate herself, her box and probably anyone else in earshot.

 

Perhaps even more ironic, this pair had completed two sets before Azarenka/Kirilenko had managed to finish their first set.

 

The third set was a tighter affair, with the decisive first break going Sharapova’s way to lead 4-3, delivering the final blow by breaking to take the third set 6-3.

 

After the match, Jankovic summed the match up, saying: “Overall was a big fight.  “It was great tennis out there.  We battled, you know, [it] was few points here and there that made a difference.”

 

Jankovic had been playing in three disciplines at the French Open, in a bit to use the doubles experience to help improve her singles play, but acknowledged it had been a lot of tennis in the last two weeks.

 

In an earlier news conference, Jankovic had joked that maybe the last time the pair had faced each other on clay, it would have been at the Bollettieri academy, when they were about 12.

 

But she praised Sharapova today, saying: “Credit to her.

 

“At the end she was a better player.  I was a bit unlucky, but I fought hard until the end.”

 

“I played a lot, but overall I had an amazing tournament.”

 

Sharapova admitted her own start had been less than spectacular.

 

She said: “I think clay really suits her game.

 

“She plays extremely well on it because she loves to defend.  She can do that all day long.”

 

It was important for her to put that first set behind her, and regroup for the decider.

 

“In the third set it was still extremely tough.  You know, we held serve for a while, and it was really important to get that break.”

 

Over on Lenglen, the passage of play could not have been more different.

 

While Sharapova and Jankovic were getting into their decider, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko were duking it out in a first set that lasted 76 minutes.

 

Kirilenko left the court for a medical timeout, leaving Azarenka to practice serves.

 

Then after a 10 minute hold, a couple of breaks at the tail end of the set pushed the pair into a tie-break.

 

Azarenka was able to build up a lead to take the first set 76(3).

 

After that, it seemed to be plain sailing for the Belarusian, breaking Kirilenko early in the second, and then again in the last game to finish their match while the other Russian was still battling in the decider.

 

Having described herself in the past as not quite “married” to the clay yet, she elaborated that the relationship might have moved on.

 

“I still don’t have any ring on my finger.  (Smiling.)

“But I feel like, you know, we made a step forward.  We are moving in together.  (Laughter.)”

 

Azarenka leads the head-to-head against Sharapova 7-5, but Sharapova has beaten her the two times they have played on clay.

 

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Tsonga Ousts Federer at French Open

Tsonga Celebrates

By Ros Satar

(June 4, 2013) PARIS – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the French Open tournament, putting Roger Federer out, in straight sets 7-5 6-3 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

 

For many, the fact that Tsonga beat him may not have been the surprise. He had not dropped a set in this year’s run, and since being coached by Roger Rasheed at the start of the year, there was an expectation that results would and should come.

 

Despite being broken first by Federer, he settled into an aggressive game, breaking back and putting things back on serve. It came down to a miss-hit soaring high, that handed the first set to the Frenchman.

 

A single early break in the second set was all that was needed to set up a two-set lead.

 

The third set was perhaps the danger area for the Frenchman, with Federer breaking him in the first game, but being broken straight back.

 

Federer was able to peg back one match point, but it was not enough to stop Tsonga from claiming a semi-final place.

 

Federer said afterwards: “I think I struggled a little bit everywhere.

“To be honest, personally, I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played. “Jo does a good job keeping the pressure on.”

 

In his post-match news conference, Tsonga spoke of his focus for the match.

 

He said: “I think tactically I played really good tennis, because from the beginning until the end I played the same tennis.”

 

Understandably as it is a home slam, there is a lot of expectation on his shoulders, but he shrugged it off, saying that it was not just for this tournament, but for everything he does.

 

He will face David Ferrer who came through a comparatively easy quarter-final against Tommy Robredo, who could not repeat the feats of his earlier rounds.

 

Ferrer defeated Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

 

Tsonga said: “I feel I’m able to beat him because I believe I have the weapons for that.

 

“I have more endurance now.  I’m more consistent.  I hit harder than he does.”

 

Tsonga is carrying the hopes of a nation to be the first Frenchman since Yannick Noah to win the title (1983). The last Frenchman to get to the semi-finals was Gael Monfils in 2008.

 

Ferrer is through to his second French Open semi-final in a row and, like Tsonga, has not dropped a set.

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