2014/10/02

Montreal Day 01 Wrap-Up: Mixed Feelings for the Seeds

 

Sabine Lisicki (Photo by Maria Noble)

Sabine Lisicki (Photo by Maria Noble)

Montreal Day 01 Wrap-Up: Mixed Feelings for the Seeds

Written by Charles David Mathieu-Poulin and Maxime Labrecque | August 4th, 2014

MONTREAL – Four seeds were in action on the first day of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, and only two of them got through to the second round. Here is a wrap-up of the events of the day.

Lisicki wins battle of former Grand Slam finalists

The first round match between Sabine Lisicki and 13th seed Sara Errani was the most intriguing on paper: two players, one a natural attacker and the other one a high-level defender, and two former Grand Slam finalists. The German has struggled in 2014, except for her cherished Wimbledon tournament, and had never won a match in Montreal in her previous two tries. But she played what could be considered a perfect first set, hitting an outstanding 18 winners to none for her opponent, and came back late in the second to wrap up the match in two sets. This is a very positive win for Lisicki, who will face the winner of the Kuznetsova/Keys first round, another tough-to-call opener, in what is the most open section of the draw.

Sorana Cirstea

Points come and go…

Last year, Sorana Cirstea literally came out of nowhere to reach the Rogers Cup final in Toronto, beating back-to-back the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova and Na Li. It was one of the most impressive series of wins of the year, but also a large amount of points all crammed in a single week. It was good enough to keep her in the top 40 all year, but there was a large risk of a major drop in case of an early exit in Montreal. When the draw was made and her first round opponent was known (Czech Lucie Safarova, Wimbledon semifinalist and 15th seed), a few people cringed at the possible impact on her rankings. After an expected 6-4 6-2 win by Safarova today, it was confirmed that Cirstea would most likely drop out of the top 80. A tough road ahead for the Romanian who will now have to fight her way back to the top 50.

Tough night for local wildcards

Françoise Abanda and Aleksandra Wozniak, the two Canadian wildcards of the tournament, had a difficult night on Monday against higher-ranked opponents. While Abanda managed to win a set against 12th-seed Cibulkova in her first ever Rogers Cup main draw, Wozniak struggled to find any rhythm against Sloane Stephens and lost in two quick sets. Abanda, who is only 17, has been climbing up the ranks quickly after a very successful junior career and said herself that she ‘‘played one of [her] best matches ever tonight’’. Usually very-calm-bordering-on-stoic, she showed more emotions tonight, an encouraging signs of things to come. Clearly, this is the first of many more Rogers Cup main draw appearances for her. Wozniak, on the other hand, has had her fair shares of appearances at the Rogers Cup, and this one won’t go down in the books. Simply overplayed for most of the match, she lacked some depth on her shots and her shoulder issues of the past few years were put forth when serving. Asked whether she feels frustrated about being far from her best level, she mentioned that she needs to ‘’work, and work a lot’’ with coach Nathalie Tauziat. The two remaining local hopes, Stéphanie Dubois and Eugenie Bouchard, will play their first matches tomorrow.

Other results

[Q] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) def (12) Flavia Pennetta 7-6 (5) 6-3

Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) def. Alison Riske (USA) 6-1 6-3
Klara Koukalova (CZE) def. Kiki Bertens 7-5 7-6 (5)
[Q] Shelby Rogers (USA) def. [WC] Ajla Tomljanovic (CRO) 6-4 7-6 (5)
Alize Cornet (FRA) def. Lauren Davis (USA) 6-3 7-5
[Q] Heather Watson (GBR) def. [Q] Tereza Smitkova (CZE) 6-4 5-7 6-4
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) def. Roberta Vinci (ITA) 7-5 7-5

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Taking a Look on the Montreal Draw

 

Montreal Rogers Cup: Draw Analysis

Eugenie Bouchard (r) and Aleksandra Wozniak (l)

Eugenie Bouchard (r) and Aleksandra Wozniak (l)

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin and Maxime Labrecque | August 3, 2014

MONTREAL – The Rogers Cup in Montreal will start on Monday with part of the first round matches. Here is an analysis of each section of the draw, and our picks as to who will emerge.

1st Quarter

The first quarter is surely the strongest and is headlined by defending champion and top-ranked Serena Williams. Despite a very disappointing year in the Slams, the American is holding on strong to her No.1 ranking, but has an impressive streak of wins to defend. Her draw isn’t too kind, as she may start against Samantha Stosur, who, despite some poor recent results, always is a threat. Serena isn’t the only one in her section with points to defend: Sorana Cirstea, last year’s surprising finalist, starts up against Wimbledon semifinalist and 15th seed Safarova; a loss here would push her out of the top 70. The winner of that match should face Serena in the third round.

Eugenie ‘Genie’ Bouchard is coming to Montreal as the obvious crowd-favorite; she is the talk of the town and all eyes will be on her. A wildcard last year, she is now ranked 7th the world, seeded 5th and has won more Grand Slam matches than anyone in 2014. While this pressure might be overwhelming for a lot of players, Genie thrives in these conditions and will want to impress her countrymen. Her third round opponent should be 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki, who is finding some form in the past few weeks. A former champion in Montreal and now 100% focused on tennis, she will be looking to make a big move on the top players and the Rogers Cup could be the first step to a comeback to the top ranks.

Our picks:

CD and Max: Wozniacki def. Serena

2nd Quarter

Maria Sharapova is playing her first event after Wimbledon, and she seems determined to make it good. Despite being scheduled to play her first match on Wednesday, the fourth seed arrived in Montreal on Thursday night and was seen practicing intensely with coach Sven Groeneveld all weekend. Her second round opponent could be rising star Muguruza, who barely upset the Russian at the French Open. The hard-hitting Spaniard will try to knock Maria off her game and have her on the run, where she may not be as comfortable. The winner of that one should sail to the quarters.

Angelique Kerber is often forgotten, but the German has been consistently reaching the latter stages of tournaments for over two years. Her road to the quarters could be tricky with young Garcia and then either Venus Williams, Pavlyuchenkova or Pennetta. All eyes will be on the American, who will be coming to Montreal for the first time of her career. Astonishingly, Venus Williams has never won a match at the Rogers Cup, going 0-4 in Toronto, and her first round clash with Pavlyuchenkova could be a good one. If consistency prevails, Kerber should reach the quarters and aim to repeat her Wimbledon upset over Sharapova.

Our picks:

CD and Max: Sharapova def. Kerber

3rd Quarter:

The third quarter is the most unpredictable of all: Agnieszka Radwanska is the top seed of the section, but she lost last week in her first match to Lepchenko and is prone to upsets lately. She should win her opener, but will struggle against the winner of the Errani/Lisicki/Kuznetsova/Keys portion, which is by far the most intriguing. It’s anyone’s bet as to who will come out of the section.

Viktoria Azarenka, who missed most of 2014, squeaked in the first 8 seeds and could find her form back by fighting through her draw. Her second round opponent should be Cornet, who has had a solid year but isn’t at her best on faster hardcourts. Then awaits Cibulkova, who despite a fantastic start of the year, has been struggling to back up her wins. Hardcourts are Vika’s bread and butter, and she has a good record at the Rogers Cup; expect her to make some noise here.

Our picks:

CD: Azarenka def. Kuznetsova

Max: Radwanska def. Cornet

4th Quarter:

Petra Kvitova is just out of her honeymoon after her second Wimbledon crown and she will be aiming at keeping her winning streak alive in Montreal. Usually not the most comfortable during the North American summer, the second seed did win the title here two years ago and should be full of confidence. Her draw is tricky, with doubles partner Flipkens possibly in round 2, then Makarova or Petkovic in the third round. She has a losing record to both Flipkens and Petkovic, so her presence late in the tournament is nothing but safe.

Jelena Jankovic rounds up the fourth section as the 7th seed and is looking to win her first match since the French Open in May. Her opening match should be against either Sloane Stephens or local favorite Aleksandra Wozniak, who will be facing off in a marquee match on Monday night. In the third round should await Ana Ivanovic, who barely upset Serena Williams last week in Stanford and has what seems like two easy first matches. Ivanovic, with a 9-3 lead over Jankovic, will be a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals.

Our picks:

CD: Ivanovic def. Kvitova

Max: Petkovic def. Ivanovic

Stay tuned for daily updates from the Tennis Panorama News in Montreal all week. Follow instant updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Around the Grounds at the Rogers Cup Toronto

 

(August 3, 2014) TORONTO, CANADA – Photographer Nida Alibhai snapped photos all around the grounds of the Rogers Cup on Sunday, August 3, 2014.

Photos include: Roger Federer, Grigor Dimitrov, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Bernard Tomic,Tomas Berdych, Feliciano Lopez and others.

Follow Nida Alibhai’s photo coverage of the tournament on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

 

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Rafael Nadal Withdraws from Toronto and Cincinnati with Wrist Injury

Nadal at changeover

 

(July 30, 2014) World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from both the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati due to a right wrist injury.

 

“I’m extremely disappointed that I am unable to defend my Rogers Cup title this year,” said Nadal through a Rogers Cup press release. “I was looking forward to coming there and playing again in Toronto as I have always loved to play in Canada and had great results in the past at a very important event.

 

“Unfortunately I injured my right wrist yesterday during practice and after the tests I have undergone today in Spain, including an MRI, and checking with my doctors, I will have to stay out of competition for at least 2-3 weeks,” Nadal said via a news release from the Western & Southern Open. I am sorry and wish the best to the tournament and thank all of the fans for their support,” said Nadal. “I’m extremely disappointed that I am unable to defend my titles and compete in Toronto and Cincinnati this year. I was looking forward to coming and playing again after my great results last year.”

 

Official announcement from Nadal’s management team in Spanish:

Rafa Nadal no podrá participar y defender los títulos que ganó en la pasada temporada en los torneos de Toronto y Cincinnati.
El jugador ha sufrido una molestia en los entrenamientos preparativos para la gira norte americana y tras unas pruebas realizadas hoy en la Clínica Mapfre de Medicina del Tenis, se ha encontrado una pequeña desinserción de la vaina del cubital posterior de la muñeca derecha.
El tenista tendrá que estar de 2 a 3 semanas con una célula de inmovilización de la muñeca derecha.
En función de la evolución, que será seguida detenidamente por el Doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro incluyendo pruebas de ecografia y resonancia magnética, se valorará el retorno del jugador a la competición prevista inicialmente para el US Open.

 

More to follow…..

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Montreal Recap – A Tournament Filled With Emotions

Nadal 88

By Dominique Cambron-Goulet

(August 11, 2013) MONTREAL – The last week was full of emotions at Montreal ATP Masters 1000. The great performances of Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic made of this year’s tournament one of the most memorable here in Montreal.

The final might not have been as exciting as the semifinals tennis-wise, it will be remembered for sure by both players. “It’s always special for me to play in Montreal, because I won my first tournament on hard here in 2005”, said Rafael Nadal right after the match.

Raonic will also remember what he qualified as a “stepping stone” of his young career. “The standing ovation I received when I entered the court was the best moment of my career”, he said with a trembling tone in news conference. It’s also with the runner-up points that he’ll become the first Canadian to ever figure in the singles top-10.

The fans, will never forget the emotions provided by the matches of six Canadians in the main draw, the Andy Murray’s upset on his first appearance after Wimbledon and the two third set tiebreakers semifinals, including an all-Canadian one.

The 2013 Montreal Masters had lots of world premieres, upsets and crowned a winner that wasn’t expected at the beginning of the American hard court season. We’ll see if Cincinnati and the US Open will bring us their share of records and milestones as well.

Some Milestsones

–          John Isner’s loss against Vasek Pospisil knocked the Americans out of the top-20 for the first in history of rankings.

–          Due to his presence in final, Milos Raonic is the first Canadian to get in the top-10 in history of rankings.

–          Vasek Pospisil climbed up 31 ranks with his presence in semifinal to reach 40th place.

–          Rafael Nadal wins four Masters in a year for the second time of his career. He has three tournaments left to even Novak Djokovic’s record of five titles in a year.

“To win here, I have to be playing my top level. Very happy the way that I played almost every match in this tournament,” Nadal said. “Is very important for me, this title. Just very happy for everything.”

“I feel I have an advantage, but not enough to say that I am the favorite, Nadal said of his his lead in the ATP race for the year-end top ranking. “On this kind of surface, Novak is really good. [There] remains three Masters 1000s, one Grand Slam, [Barclays ATP World Tour Finals] – more favorable surfaces for him than for me. So we are talking about 6,500 points.

“We have to realize how many points I have to win to be No. 1. I think I will not be No. 1 if I have less than 10,000 points at the end of the season. Today I have 8,000. I need to win minimum 2,000 more. That’s very difficult in this part of the season, but I’m going to try.”

Dominique Cambron-Goulet has been teaching tennis for ten years and is now a journalist in Montreal.

Photos by Marc-André Gauthier

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Serena Williams Routs Sorana Cirstea for Toronto Title

 

Final Conference 015

By Brodie Elgin

(August 11, 2013) TORONTO – Another year, another title in Toronto for Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup. In 2011, it was an emotional return from injury for Williams as she needed six matches to take the title as an unseeded player, eventually defeating Samantha Stosur in the final. This year, a title run looked imminent as the 31 year-old American did not drop a set all tournament and eventually defeated Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-0 in Sunday’s final.

 

“No tournament is ever easy, especially being in the position I am in. The tournament starts and they expect you to win,” said Williams. “Even though I won Sweden, I was not happy with the way I played. So I went home and was working with my dad a lot and just going back to the basics.” Williams won her second Roland Garros title this year and despite playing so well this week, admitted the big moments can still get to her. “I had butterflies today. I will have butterflies at the Open. Hopefully I will have seven singles matches at the Open.”

 

Williams clearly enjoys playing in Toronto, having lost just two sets in her past 11 matches in the city. “Drake came out today. We are really good friends. We have always been good friends.”

Final Conference 005

For the 23 year-old Romanian, it has been a career week. Cirstea saved two match points, defeated two former number 1s as well as defeating two former champions. While Sorana was tearful after the match, they may have been more tears of joy than disappointment, as she thanked her coaches, Victor Ionita and Darren Cahill for their help as well as the support from the fans, saying Toronto was her new favorite tournament. “I usually I am quite emotional, but of course I was a little bit disappointed. I think even if I would have won I would have been crying,” laughed Cirstea after the match. “I didn’t expect to be that emotional, but that’s me.” “I’m looking forward to coming back here, because it’s been an amazing week.” Cirstea will reach a career high rank of 21 on Monday morning.

 

Despite the fact that Williams will be the top seed at Flushing Meadows and is the prime favorite to win her fifth US Open title, the American says there is still work to be done and there are always things to improve on. “For me, it’s always about constantly improving and never saying I did great and I can be satisfied. For me, it’s like I did great but what can I do better? What can I improve on? That’s what I always strive for.”

 

Both finalists will now travel to Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open. Serena Williams is the top seed and will play a qualifier in her opening match, and Sorana Cirstea will play Washington doubles partner Yanina Wickmayer, with a win potentially setting up a rematch from earlier in the week against Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

 

Brodie Elgin is the writer of mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He was covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News.

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Perfect Scenario for Rogers Cup Final Weekend in Montreal

Nadal wins

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(August 10, 2013) MONTREAL – The Montreal fans are particularly fond of two things, tennis-wise: big charismatic stars exuding passion and local players battling it out like there is no tomorrow. Therefore, no one could have set up a better scenario than the semifinals played in Montreal on Saturday. And the matches delivered, both ending in third set tie-breaks.

While the Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic showdown wasn’t a surprise and was actually expected and hoped for when the draw came out, the Milos Raonic-Vasek Pospisil match revived the patriotic flame of many: it was the first time since 1969 that a Canadian reached this stage and the winner would be the first Canadian finalist since 1958!

The two Davis Cup teammates were the first to hit the court in the afternoon, under perfect weather for tennis: sunny, breezy and a touch chilly. The atmosphere was just as perfect, with a packed crowd of over 12,000 anxious fans, hesitant about for whom to cheer for as if they were asked to choose between their (tennis) children.

Milos Raonic was the favorite on paper, but was also the one with all the pressure and it showed in his on-court manners: while he was stone-faced and focused, Pospisil was vocal and animated and clearly had nothing to lose in this encounter.

As it often happens when two players that know each other well face off, the level of play wasn’t spectacular. Both players seemed nervous from the get-go, and most points were decided either on unreturned serves or unforced errors. Raonic was the first one to draw blood and break, and he rode the way until finishing up the forgettable 6-4 set on an ace.

Raonic 88

The second set followed a totally different route: Pospisil started receiving better and being more aggressive, and Raonic seemed lost in his defensive role. While the underdog was getting pumped up, the 11th seed seemed frustrated and about to give up the set. Breaking twice, Pospisil leveled things off, wining the second set 6-1.

Raonic then retreated to the locker rooms, in the hopes of breaking the rhythm and changing the momentum. He later admitted in his post-match interview that he ‘yelled at [himself] to let the anger out, but not too loud as there was someone else in the bathroom’.

The third set saw some better play and built up quite the drama. While Pospisil got closer in more of Raonic’s serve game, the favorite never got broken and led in the score all set, as he was serving first. Vasek was solid serving under pressure, bringing the set to a tiebreak. Raonic stormed to an early lead with two mini-breaks, but Pospisil immediately erased them with inspired play. Clearly nervous, the serve speeds started dropping, especially on Raonic’s side, but he remained more solid off the ground and closed out the set, reaching his first ever Masters 1000 final and entering the top 10 for the first time of his career. He becomes the first ever Canadian male player to achieve that feat, a fact that made him quite emotional after the match.

His final opponent was also decided in a nail-biter under the lights. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic had played 35 times in the past, and their match-up always leads to spectacular rallies and intense battles. While Nadal was coming into this match undefeated on hardcourts in 2013, Djokovic had won all their encounters on this surface since 2010.

Nadal stormed off to a two break lead, as his consistency was too much for the Serb. Djokovic started finding his range late in the set, erasing one of the breaks, but it was too little too late as the 4th seed won the first 6-4.

The second set started with close games and intense rallies, and the drama peaked with an umpiring mistake. With Djokovic serving at 5-3, when Nadal challenged a call and was right, the score was announced wrong. While both players and the umpire agreed that it was 30-all, the scoreboard mentioned 40-15, and the crowd was raucous towards the mistake. The chair umpire, remaining silent, lost control over the crowd, which seemed to affect Djokovic who lost the following (very important) point. But when he saved it and then leveled off the match, we knew we would be treated to a dramatic third set.

Following a similar pattern than the first semifinal, both players, who had been broken two times each until then, managed to hold until a third set tiebreak. The stand-out moment happened in the middle of the set when Nadal hit a backhand pass directly at Novak in a heated net exchange: when the Spaniard tried to apologize, Novak looked away in frustration, adding to the already high tension.

The tiebreak proved to be quite an anticlimactic end to a fantastic match. Despite losing the last game to love, the Spaniard played inspired tennis, enjoyed a few loose points from the first seed, and rapidly built a huge 6-0 lead. While Djokovic saved the first two on impressive winners, he hit a ball just long on the third match point, handing Nadal his 21st win against the Serb.

Nadal will be looking to win his third Rogers Cup in Sunday’s final against Raonic. The crowd is expected to be strongly behind the Canadian, especially as, for the first time, fans will be able to get in the Uniprix Stadium grounds to watch the final on a big-screen, Henman Hill-style. It will be a fitting end to one of the best ever editions of the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.
RESULTS – SATURDAY, 10 AUGUST 2013

Singles – Semi-finals
[4] R Nadal (ESP) d [1] N Djokovic (SRB) 64 36 76(2)
[11] M Raonic (CAN) d [WC] V Pospisil (CAN) 64 16 76(4)

Doubles – Semi-finals
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) 62 76(3)
C Fleming (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) d [6] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 63 60

SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, 11 AUGUST 2013

CENTRAL start 12:30
C Fleming (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) vs [3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

Not Before 15:00
[4] R Nadal (ESP) vs [11] M Raonic (CAN)

 

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Serena Williams Pushes Past Radwanska to Advance to Toronto Final

SerenaWilliams MadridOpen5-7-12

By Brodie Elgin

(August 10, 2013) TORONTO – It is often said that athletes do not practice for when they play their best, but for when they play their worst. From very early on in their semifinal, it was clear Serena Williams did not have her best game. Serena had a clear plan to push Agnieszka Radwanska out wide while serving and attack the open space. However, she looked slow at times and missed several forehands to put points away.

After taking the first set in a tiebreak, Williams called for the trainer in what was officially announced as “gastro intestinal issues”.

“I just had some stomach problems. I’m fine,” said Williams. These problems may have contributed to Serena’s sometimes sporadic game that alternated between extreme aggression and surprisingly passive patterns of play. Williams eventually let her emotions get the better of her as she ended up screaming at no one in particular. “I was just a little frustrated with myself, I think, as well as I don’t think I was playing
as aggressive as I needed to play.”

Serena Williams Presser Saturday 011-001
This made for incredibly long rallies at times, typically ending with one player pushing another side to side and attempting to finish it at the net. “I think here the courts are not that fast and the balls also not that fast. That’s why we could play a lot of long rallies and long games,” said Radwanska.

Ultimately, Radwanska would drop her one break lead in the second set, as Williams did find a way to be more aggressive and largely over power her opponent, particularly with strong returning. The American broke to end the match, taking it 7-6(3), 6-4. Having won the 2011 Rogers Cup as an unseeded player, Williams has now won her last 10 matches in Toronto, and has yet to lose a set in this year’s edition of the tournament. “I love playing here. I have a lot of friends that always come out. It’s always like you really want them to keep coming, so it’s a good time.”

Her opponent in Sunday’s final will be Sorana Cirstea, a player she defeated handily in Roland Garros earlier this year, but has had a career week in Toronto. “Last few months she has been really consistent,” said the world No. 1. “She is just a player who has finally found herself, and she’s playing better and better and getting more confident. It’s going to be a really tough match.”

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

ROGERS CUP
Toronto, Canada
August 5-11, 2013
$2,369,000/Premier
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Saturday, August 10, 2013
Singles – Semifinals
(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. (3) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 76(3) 64
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) d. (4) Li Na (CHN) 61 76(5)

Doubles – Semifinals
(3) Groenefeld/Peschke (GER/CZE) d. (2) Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 62 64
Jankovic/Srebotnik (SRB/SLO) d. (WC) Dabrowski/Fichman (CAN/CAN) 75 63

Order Of Play – Sunday, August 11, 2013
Centre Court (NB 13.00hrs)

1. Singles Final: Serena Williams vs. Sorana Cirstea
2. Doubles Final: Jankovic/Srebotnik vs. Groenefeld/Peschke

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Sorana Cirstea Stuns Li Na to Reach Toronto Final

Sorana Presser Again 007-001

By Brodie Elgin

(August 10, 2013) TORONTO – Having already defeated two former world number ones and the 2012 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the task would not get any easier for Sorana Cirstea in the semifinals as she would be forced to take on 2012 Roland Garros champion and defending Rogers Cup finalist Li Na.

 

“Everyone knows that I start a little bit slow,” Cirstea said on Thursday. “I think if you looked at the matches from last year, I’m sure I had even more rounds where I came from a set behind. But this year I’ve been trying to change a little bit, and for me to actually start better from the beginning and try to get ahead.” While the Romanian dropped the first set to Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova, she had no trouble starting against Li Na in their semifinal match in Toronto Saturday afternoon.

 

Cirstea quickly found ways to punch weak responses into the corners for winners and was dominating on serve, dropping just four points and not facing a break point all set. Li, on the other hand, struggled to find a rhythm early. She was particularly bothered by shots in the middle of the court, where she often failed to set her feet in time, or fired wide as she tried to create angles on her forehand. “I think today she was [playing] a little bit different. Today she was play sometime like topspin. Sometimes I was feeling she couldn’t hit a winner, but the ball [would come back] as a winner,” Li said smiling. “She’s got a lot of confidence right now.”

 

In a blistering 21 minutes, Cirstea took the first set 6-1. “I would have said I am a slow starter, but as I have proved this week, things are changing,” said a smiling Cirstea after the match.

 

Both players called down their coaches. Li Na admitted she didn’t exactly take much of her husband’s advice. “I offer him to come to the court. I never listen [to] what he says,” she joked. “Like, left in, right out, you know.” She also confirmed coach Carlos Rodriguez would be joining her in Cincinnati.

 

Unsurprisingly, the streaky Li raised her game and managed to reach deuce on her first return game. Eventually serving for the second set at 5-3, Li was broken twice and was forced to try to break Cirstea, who served for the match at 6-5. After blowing two match points and being broken, it would have been easy for the Romanian to get down on herself. “Once I lost that game, I was fine. I was like, “okay, let’s try and get this tiebreak.”” She fought back in the tiebreak from a 1-4 deficit, and eventually won on her third match point via a Li double fault, taking the match and advancing to the final 6-1, 7-6(5). “I think that’s another big change for me, because maybe before I would get down on myself.”

 

Despite being ranked in the top 30 for some time, this is just Cirstea’s third career WTA final and her first since winning the now defunct 2008 Tashkent Open. Cirstea acknowledged that she wouldn’t be thinking about the final today, but her smile indicated she might feel a few nerves Sunday morning. “I’m still trying to enjoy this victory, because it’s a good one for me. When I’m going to wake up tomorrow, I’m going to start worrying about the final.”

 

Regardless of Sunday’s result, this is surely the greatest week of Cirstea‘s career. “This is probably the biggest tournament so far, but I think it’s the start of something good. Everything is based on hard work. Everyone can see that I have been doing some great steps in the right direction.” Cirstea continued to give glowing credit to both of her coaches, particularly Darren Cahill’s inspiring pep talks. “I have been working with Darren for six years, and I was the first girl that he ever coached coming into the Adidas player development team. He’s amazing. Both of these victories are his in a way.”

 

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

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Cirstea Continues Her Run in Toronto Beating Kvitova to Reach Semis

Sorana Cirstea Presser 002-001

By Brodie Elgin

(August 9, 2013) TORONTO – Down two match points late Wednesday night to Caroline Wozniacki, one more lost point would have made for a respectable, closely fought second round loss for Sorana Cirstea. They were impressively saved, the second with a blistering down the line backhand winner, and Cirstea quickly reeled off 15 straight points and eventually won the match in three sets. She did not face another match point all match.

 

It was the sort of odd break that can give a player a new found life in a tournament. The Romanian defeated Jankovic in straight sets less than 24 hours later, and was faced with the tough task of playing Czech Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. It was also the first time Cirstea had played on the Toronto centre court.

 

An admitted slow starter, it was more of the same from Cirstea who fought back from 0-3 to tie the match at 3-3, but was less than impressive later in the set as she was broken to love to drop the set, 6-4. Having played Cirstea four times prior, Kvitova was ready for the challenge in the second set. “Well, I knew that she can come back, for sure.  I mean, when we played in Rome she came back too and in the second set, and I was ready for it. ”

 

Cirstea did indeed play well, quickly winning the first four games of the second set. Things quickly got away from her, and she called her coach down after losing three straight games. “he came at 4‑3 in the second set, and he pointed at the little girl in the stand and said, Where does she want to be?  I said, Here in my place playing.  So he said, Okay, so that’s why you are here for.  That’s why you have been doing all the work.  That’s why you have been sacrificing everything for these moments.  There is no other place in the world where you’d rather be. That speech had nothing to do with tennis.  It was just motivational.”

 

Eventually forced to serve to stay in the set, Cirstea did so convincingly and eventually took the set 7-5. It was a similar story to start the third as Cirstea took the first four games yet again. There was no let up this time, as the Romanian won the set and the match, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

 

Having previously won a WTA title in Tashkent as well as making the Roland Garros quarterfinals at age 19, this is one of the greatest weeks of Cirstea’s career, still only 23 years old. “It’s probably the best tournament in a long, long time.  As I said, it might come as a surprise, you know, to many people. I don’t think for me and my team it’s such a big surprise, because we have been working consistently  on things. From week to week I got better.  So it’s come kind of like a natural step.” Her continued calmness on court and new sense of self belief helped her win her tenth match this season after dropping the first set. “Maybe before in the important moments I didn’t really have that belief in me which now, you know, I know that any moment I can turn it around.”

 

In particular, Cirstea is becoming more comfortable in reeling in her aggression when things aren’t going her way, and developing a plan B in difficult situations. “When I have a great day, you know, everything, it’s going my way, I hit winners left and right.  But when I don’t really have a good day, I don’t really have much to rely on, which now we have been working to have that base now, to have that solid game that no matter what happens, know that sort of game, it’s day in, day out. So of course now I have that base. I can play long rallies, you know, and then just accelerate whenever I feel is the right moment.”

 

Overall, it was a disappointing loss for Kvitova as the defending champion from the 2012 Montreal version of the Rogers Cup. She admitted to feeling tired after not being able to sleep well following her Thursday night victory over Samanth Stosur. “At the beginning of the second set I [started] to feel a little bit low on energy. The serve was really bad after this, and I didn’t find energy from my legs,” said the Czech. “Unfortunately, when I finished so late here, I didn’t sleep well after.”

 

Next up for Sorana Cirstea is Li Na, a player she has played five times but beaten only once – 2012 Wimbledon. “She’s always a very solid player.She’s quite aggressive. It’s gonna be a very, very good match.”

 

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

 

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