(March 16, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – No. 5 Rafael Nadal came back from 2-5 down and a match point at 3-5 in third set to take down up-and-coming 18-year-old German No. 58 Alexander Zverev 6-7(8), 6-0, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open.
Zverev had a match point at 5-3 in third, but he hit a forehand olley into the net and never recovered from his mistake. The Spaniard lost only two points in his Last two service games to close the match.
“I had match point, so I think I did well there. On match point I sucked, so that was it,” Zverev said.
“I missed probably the easiest shot I had the whole match. That’s what happened.”
“I think it was a great match. I mean, Rafa did what he does best; he was fighting. I mean, he’s known for that. So, you know, I still had chances to win. I had an easy shot at match point and I missed it.”
“Look, in the last three weeks I lost 7-5 in the third to Berdych; 6-4 in the fifth to Berdych; and 7-5 in the third with match point to Nadal. So I know how tough losses feel right now.
” Look, I mean, I think it was a great match. I mean, Rafa did what he does best; he was fighting. I mean, he’s known for that. So, you know, I still had chances to win. I had an easy shot at match point and I missed it.
“I’m out and he’s in the quarterfinals.”
“Very happy for the victory, obviously,” Nadal said. “I have been fighting during the whole match. First set I had big chance with not a difficult forehand down the line that I missed. So that first set probably will be the key, if I was able to hit that forehand right place, no?
“But after that, I think I played a great second set. But at the beginning, sometimes when win a set that easy is dangerous for the beginning of the next one, no?
“The beginning of the third he played aggressive, and I think I stopped a little bit the rhythm, so I was in trouble, no?
“Was a great victory. You know, it’s obvious that I played against a great player, a player who was serving unbelievable, at the beginning especially. He served well whole match apart from some double faults.
“”But you think when somebody is serving with that speed in the second serve, some double faults are the normal thing, no?
Is a great victory, as I said before. I’m very happy about it. I am especially happy about the mentality on court, the spirit of fight during the whole match, believing that I can win a match during the whole time even in the tougher situations.”
Nadal talked about the adjustments he needed to make against Zverev.
“Well, beginning of the match he was serving over 133 first serves and second serves over 120.
“I was trying to return inside the court, as I did every day, but with the second serve 120 miles with a lot of spin, 124, 123, 120, was impossible, no?
“At the beginning when that happened I was in a little bit of trouble, because I felt like I cannot lose my serve, because if I lose my serve and he was serving that way, is impossible. So I felt a little bit the pressure at the beginning.
“But then I think I returned really well during the whole match, no? First serve. Second serve I decided to go back three, four meters behind the baseline, because from inside he was — he’s young, ready to take the risks, and if the opponent wants to take the risk on the second serve and he’s having success, it’s difficult to make something, no?
“”I decided to go back and tried to put more balls in, and I think worked well. I think I had enough breaks to win the match.
“Negative thing is I lost my serve twice in the third, something that cannot happen, especially after having the break back. But that’s it. No, no, no, the match was tough. I think any player can win, and is true he had a big chance with match point and that volley.
“Sorry for him. I think at the same time, I deserve victory like this after couple of loses with big chances to win, too.”
Belgian’s David Goffin, ranked 18th in the world, stunned third seed Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) to reach the quarterfinals of Inidan Wells on Wednesday. The victory for Goffin ended a 14- match losing streak against top 10 players.
Wawrinka came back from 0-4 down in the second set to 4-4. Goffin served for the match at 5-4, but failed to close and Wawrinka won the next three games to even the match at a set all. In the third set, Goffin against served for the match and could not hold. The match went on to tiebreak. Wawrinka hit a crucial overhead out at 5-5 to give Goffin match point which capitalized on.
There were 13 breaks of serve in the match.
“I was struggling with my serve and it was difficult with the heat,” Goffin said in press. “In the third, it’s tough to fight again with the heat and with the level of Stan. The tiebreaker is like you flip a coin.”
“Well, not too great day, not too great level,” Wawrinka said smiling. “I didn’t have the rhythm yet. Was a match without brain, let’s put it that way.
“Have some tough time to focus, have some tough time to find what I wanted to play and stay calm. Still try to fight. Got lucky to come back twice. Had the chance to finish the tiebreak. I didn’t, and quite simple.”
“I think he got a bit tired and nervous also,” Wawrinka continued. “He start to miss easy shots. Gave me the chance to come back. Can lose quickly, eh?
“Two time I come back. I had the chance in the third set to finish it also at 5-5 to break him again. I didn’t. I didn’t.
“But in general, he deserved to win. You know, it was the time of. Should have finish before.”
Goffin will play No. 10 seed Marin Cilic, who defeated No. 8 Richard Gasquet, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. Another upset saw No. 12 Milos Raonic beat No. 6 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-6 (7).
“A match where you sort of say you felt great but you went out there and you tried to put the pieces together, Raonic said.
“I got ahead a few service games. He served well. He got ahead. I served well. That was pretty much only one point that I would sort of have played differently. Maybe just be a little bit sharper in the second serves in the beginning service games.
“Other than that, it was all good.”
Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic advanced easily. Williams defeated defending champion Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3.
“It feels really good to get that win,” Williams said. “She obviously has been in good form the past couple years. So, yeah, I feel really good just to get under there and buckle down and to win that.
No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who will move up to No. 2 in the rankings, defeated Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6 (3) to reach the semifinals. She’ll face Serena Williams in the semifinals.
Asked about returning to No. 2 in the world, Radwanska said: “It’s always a good feeling to be back in this position. I wasn’t long last time, but I think that was a few years ago. It’s always good to be back in that position. Now it’s difficult to be No. 1.
“There is always opportunity, but it’s not about one or two tournaments. To be No. 1 you really have to play the whole season very good, and obviously catch Serena. But she is also playing very good tennis and she will want to play good and be there at No. 1.
“Well, I will try my best, and now I have the opportunity that I’m definitely not really defending much points till the grass, so, well, that’s definitely my spot that I can do that. We’ll see if I can.”
Williams said of the match-up: “She knows how to play in big stadiums and big matches, big games.
“Obviously she does everything so well, including running, and this is a good surface for her because it’s a slow surface. I think I expect there will be a lot of long rallies.
“Honestly, I will be ready. I really like Aga on and off the court. I think she’s super exciting to watch on the court, and off the court I think she’s really one of the nicest people.
“Regardless, I think it will be a really good matchup. Whoever wins will go into the final.”
Novak Djokovic defeated Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
“I’m actually glad to have a match like this with not much complications,” Djokovic said.
“I think we both started to play well on our service games, and he was 30-Love on that game when I broke him. Then he missed four first serves. I managed to step in and return very well on those four second serves that I got and just used the opportunity.
“You know, after that I was feeling more comfortable also on the return games even though Feliciano is a very difficult player to play against. He’s left handed and he has a big first serve and he can hit angles, comes to the net, so very strong, physically moves well.
“But I was very solid. I didn’t allow him to come to the net too many times. It was a good performance.”
Kei Nishikori beat John Isner 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) plays Nadal in the quarterfinals.
(March 13, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Serena Williams was pushed to the brink in the first set but defeated Yulia Putintseva 7-6(2), 6-0 to advance to the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.
Putintseva went up a break to take a 3-1 lead in the first set against the world No. 1 and served for the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5 but failed to close. Williams dominated the tiebreak 7-2, and did not lose another game. The 21-time major champion ended he match with an ace.
Williams talked about the first set rollercoaster: “I was just trying to find my rhythm out there. Trying my best to not get off to a slow start. Then I got broken really early and I couldn’t manage to break back.
“But I was just trying to fight out there and do what I could.”
Asked about what makes Putintseva’s game frustrating, Williams said: I don’t know. I found it good to play. I just wasn’t finding my rhythm. I hadn’t played someone like her in a second, so I was just trying to get my bearings there.
“I made a lot of errors in that first set. I went for a lot and I usually make those, but I kept missing. Even in the first game. Wow, this echo is annoying. Is that better? Yes, I think. Yeah. Okay.
“Even though I won, I made some simple errors that just kept going for the first set.”
Williams had 29 unforced errors in the first set.
Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, making a 10th straight appearance in Indian Wells defeated 32nd seed Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-1. She was the 2014 runner-up.
She was asked about the upsets tournament, but in women’s tennis in general. Half of the women’s seeds are out of the tournament.
“I think the conditions also are very tough,” she. But, well, to be honest, those lower-ranked players are also playing good tennis, so it’s not like you can play your 50% and you’re gonna win.
“Maybe that how was like maybe 10 years ago, that you really didn’t play your best and you was still keep winning even two easy sets
“And I think at the moment you really have to play 100% from the first rounds because there are no easy matches. Especially that a lot of players unseeded, and you think they kind of should be in the top 20 and you are playing them in the first round and you’re in trouble.
“Well, I think that’s tennis. What you’re not have your day, you are in trouble.”
Eighth seed Petra Kvitova survived Johanna Larsson 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Larsson was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set before Kvitova broke serve.
The Czech was very happy to advance.
“It’s such a relief, I think. I think I fought much more than the first set, so the relief is a little bit bigger.
“I think I played better, as well, especially first set. Unfortunately the accident happen on the stands, so it was kind of weird, you know, to sitting on the chair and someone is really struggling with the hot. It was just tough.
“I think that she really pushed me a lot, because she couldn’t really miss anything. I was like really have to doing everything what I could in the moment and really trying to have some winners, because otherwise we can play still now,” she said with a smile.
More to follow….
(January 5, 2016) Petra Kvitova was forced to retire from her opening match at the Shenzhen Open due to a gastrointestinal illness. China’s Zheng Saisai took the first set 6-2 when the Czech retired.
SHENZHEN OPEN – SHENZHEN, CHINA
2-9 JANUARY, 2016
RESULTS – JANUARY 05, 2016
Singles – First Round
 A. Radwanska (POL) d A. Krunic (SRB) 64 63
S. Zheng (CHN) d  P. Kvitova (CZE) 62 00 Retired – gastrointestinal illness
Q. Wang (CHN) d  J. Konta (GBR) 63 36 63
 E. Bouchard (CAN) d D. Vekic (CRO) 64 16 75
[WC] S. Zhang (CHN) d [WC] I. Khromacheva (RUS) 63 63
V. King (USA) d [LL] S. Voegele (SUI) 75 64
[Q] N. Gibbs (USA) d [Q] T. Smitkova (CZE) 60 62
A. Kontaveit (EST) d [Q] Y. Shvedova (KAZ) 64 76(5)
Doubles – First Round
 V. Dushevina (RUS) / K. Siniakova (CZE) d A. Beck (GER) / E. Rodina (RUS) 76(3) 63
 C. Buyukakcay (TUR) / A. Krunic (SRB) d M. Linette (POL) / K. Zhang (CHN) walkover – gastrointestinal illness, Linette
C. Mitu (ROU) / P. Tig (ROU) d Z. Diyas (KAZ) / L. Zhang (HKG) 62 64
ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 06, 2016
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
 I. Begu (ROU) vs A. Friedsam (GER)
 E. Bouchard (CAN) vs [Q] N. Gibbs (USA)
Not Before 2:00 pm
 A. Radwanska (POL) vs [WC] S. Zhang (CHN)
A. Kontaveit (EST) vs S. Zheng (CHN)
COURT 1 start 11:00 am
T. Babos (HUN) vs  M. Niculescu (ROU)
Not Before 12:30 pm
V. King (USA) vs Q. Wang (CHN)
 C. Buyukakcay (TUR) / A. Krunic (SRB) vs C. Liang (CHN) / S. Peng (CHN)
After suitable rest – I. Khromacheva (RUS) / L. Marozava (BLR) vs V. King (USA) / M. Niculescu (ROU)
COURT 2 start 11:00 am
A. Riske (USA) vs S. Hsieh (TPE)
K. Siniakova (CZE) vs  Z. Diyas (KAZ)
C. Mitu (ROU) / P. Tig (ROU) vs  V. Dushevina (RUS) / K. Siniakova (CZE)
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
By Ros Satar
(October 28, 2015) SINGAPORE – On a rainy day in Singapore, Petra Kvitova finally found a way to shine as she challenged fellow leftie Czech Lucie Safarova. With both having lost their opening rounds, it was really a must win for either of them to avoid an early trip home (albeit to prepare for the Fed Cup Final).
It might not have been the prettiest of tennis out there, but the match was a tight two-setter with Safarova going toe-to-toe with Kvitova, neither player conceding a break point until the end of the first set, as Safarova strove to get the advantage.
It took the 2011 champion two set points to get the much needed edge over her Fed Cup team-mate, but that was no deterrent to Safarova as she came out swinging for the fences. Catching Kvitova on the hop, she ripped through the first three games before the two-time Wimbledon champion shot back with four games on the trot to get right back in it.
She even threatened to break again, forcing Safarova to save two break points, before finally delivering the blow in the final game, breaking for the match 7-5, 7-5.
Kvitova described how she felt she had turned things around, saying: “I think in the last game she missed two forehands down the line. I think that’s her best shot. So probably that helped me in that game. But really tough to say. I mean, always when it’s really tight, the sets, you going to try to keep to putting as many balls in and just try and wait what going to happen.”
With the pair set to team up in the Fed Cup Final, Safarova described how the different dynamic helps pull the team together.
She said: I prefer playing with Petra. We always had a lot of fun through Fed Cup weeks. We are a great team, which we show with our results in last few years. I’m excited about that. It will be nice to play in Prague, at home, in front of our crowd. We have sold out the arena already, so I’m sure it will be amazing.
“[The team] do all sorts. We have every day team dinners, and of course we have practices together. We have fun in the locker room. We always in the evening hang out together at our doctor’s room and just chat. Someone has a treatment and all the others are there with them. So it’s just a really nice week. Like all activities what we do we do together.”
Next up on the menu was Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, and many felt this had the potential to be a corker of a match. It certainly started with intent as the Spaniard, currently on a three match-winning streak over Kerber, including two wins in Grand Slams this year.
That may well have played on her mind, as she lost her opening game, although broke back to set things back on an even keel. Neither player seemed to be giving an inch, but a sloppy ninth game saw Muguruza force Kerber onto the back foot. One break-point was saved but it was not enough as Muguruza struck before edging out the first set 6-4.
She wanted to carry on that momentum, pushing Kerber to defend three break points but the German would not allow her the early momentum. That being said, Kerber just could not make a dent in the Muguruza service game, and struggled once more with Muguruza playing very solidly and being rewarded with the break.
Credit where it is due though, as the German battled back but all that effort was to no avail as she was broken straight back as Muguruza stepped up to serve the match out 6-4, 6-4.
With three match points behind her the nerves kicked in, throwing in her first double fault of the match. But a beautiful finish at the net saw Muguruza in the running for qualification with a 2-0 lead, but of course life is never that simple with the scenarios.
Muguruza said: “I’m feeling very good. You never know how it’s going to go here when you come first time. For sure I’m very happy of how is it going.
“Hopefully I can keep playing like this. It’s great to be here in singles and doubles. I’ve played all the year singles and doubles, singles and doubles, so it’s great to have this payoff being here.”
Kerber said: I think it was a good match from both of us. It was a close one in the first, and in the second set I had my chances. I couldn’t take it in the first set and as well in the second set.
“I was coming back in the second set. I was trying to play until the last point. Again, I was fighting, like I’m always doing. But she was more aggressive in the important moments. I think that was the key at the end for the match.”
She continued: “I think she played a good year. I mean, she reached the top 10, top 5 right now. But I think right now she had a lot of confidence from the last few weeks, and I think that helps her like to be very confident in the important moment and just go for it. I think that’s why she is so dangerous right now.”
The scenarios for both groups give everyone some kind of chance as we head into the last matches of the round robin stages and return to the Red Group, as top seed Simona Halep takes on Agnieszka Radwanska, and Maria Sharapova possibly closes the door on US Open champion Flavia Pennetta’s career.
Play begins at 1pm with the doubles on Thursday.
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.