2014/10/22

Familiar Face for the Finals of the Connecticut Open

Petra Kvitova photo by Jack Cunniff

Petra Kvitova photo by Jack Cunniff

By Jack Cunniff

(August 22, 2014) NEW HAVEN – The Connecticut Open has a history of players repeating as finalists, and there’s another name to add to the list. Petra Kvitova, the second seed, defeated Sam Stosur in the semifinals and advanced to her third consecutive final in New Haven. She follows the trend set by Venus Williams (four straight finals between 1999-2002), Lindsay Davenport (five appearances in six finals between 2001-2006), and Caroline Wozniacki (four straight finals between 2008 – 2011)

 

Kvitova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, easily dispatched the 2011 U.S. Open champion Stosur, 6-3, 6-1. Kvitova’s win in the semifinals was reminiscent of her Wimbledon final, where she cruised past Genie Bouchard 6-3, 6-0. Everything was working for Kvitova, most notably her serve. She served 11 aces in eight services games. Stosur, who had blasted 22 aces in her first three matches of the Connecticut Open, managed none against the Kvitova return.

 

Kvitova is at her best when she’s in her comfort zone, and New Haven provides that. With much of the tennis world’s focus on the U.S. Open preparations 90 minutes away in New York, New Haven offers a more laid back atmosphere. Kvitova has called New Haven “the calm before the storm,” and on her Twitter account this past week, the 24-year-old Czech posted that it “feels like being home when I come back here and play on this court”, and asked “Can I play in New Haven every week?” In addition to her love of this event, Kvitova has a very successful 12-4 record in tour finals. That will make things tough for her opponent in the Connecticut Open final, Magdalena Rybarikova.

 

Rybarikova, from Slovakia, earned her way to the final by outwitting Camila Giorgi. Giorgi had used aggressive hitting to power through two higher ranked opponents, Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza, earlier in the week. Rybarikova changed tactics. She mixed the pace and angles of her shots, and served and volleyed on key points, refusing to get into a hitting contest. The strategy kept Giorgi off balance, and drew multiple errors from the Italian. As Rybarikova noted afterwards, Giorgi “has A plan but no B plan”, which allowed Rybarikova to stay in control.

 

The final on Saturday pits two good friends and former doubles partners against each other. Kvitova leads the head-to-head 4-1, with Rybarikova winning their most recent match, an ITF final in Prague, May 2011. That final was in Kvitova’s home country; this one will be in her home away from home.

 

Jack Cunniff is covering the Connecticut Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.

 

CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
$ 710,000.00
17-23 AUGUST 2014

RESULTS – AUGUST 22, 2014
Women’s
Singles – Semifinals

[2] P Kvitova (CZE) d [WC] S Stosur (AUS) 63 61
M Rybarikova (SVK) d C Giorgi (ITA) 62 64

Women’s
Doubles – Semifinals

M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) d C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU) 62 57 11-9
A Klepac (SLO) / S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d D Jurak (CRO) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) 76(3) 46 10-8

US Open National Playoffs
Mixed Doubles Championship – Semifinals

J Cako (USA) / J Kielbowicz (USA) d N Melichar (USA) / P Smith (USA) 57 60 10-8
E Shibahara (USA) / S Shibahara (USA) d B Bohrnstedt (USA) / M Rose (USA) 62 36 12-10

 

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 2014
STADIUM start 12:30 pm
WTA DOUBLES FINAL – M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) vs A Klepac (SLO) / S Soler-Espinosa (ESP)

Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA SINGLES FINAL – M Rybarikova (SVK) vs [2] P Kvitova (CZE)

GRANDSTAND start 1:30 pm
USONP MIXED DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP – J Cako (USA) / J Kielbowicz (USA) vs E Shibahara (USA) / S Shibahara (USA)

 

 

Share

Flipkens No Fluke

Flipkens photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

Flipkens photo by Cristiano Andujar/Foto Arena

By Jack Cunniff

(August 21, 2014) NEW HAVEN – Samantha Stosur continued to improve her 2014 form with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Kirsten Flipkens in the Connecticut Open. It was a competitive match throughout, with Stosur pulling ahead at the end by capturing the final three games. But she had her hands full with Flipkens. The 28-year-old Belgian is a rarity on the WTA Tour, a player who relies on change of pace and placement, frequently looking to end points at the net. She has a solid serve, that troubled Stosur most of the evening, and is dangerous from all places on the court. Flipkens, best known as a 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist, has struggled through the majority of 2014. Her solid play in New Haven shows that Flipkens is no fluke, and will continue to be a tough opponent for the top players.

 

Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters put women’s tennis on the map for Belgium. As they began their success in the pro ranks, Flipkens was right behind, winning the Junior Girls titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2003. Results on the pro tour did not come immediately. Her career was beset by injuries, although she achieved moderate success to earn a career-high ranking of No. 59 in June, 2010. Her lowest point came in April, 2012. Diagnosed with blood clots in her calf, she was forced off the tour for two months. Shortly after, the Flemish Tennis Foundation pulled their funding for Flipkens. Her ranking dropped to No. 262, too low to enter Wimbledon qualifying. Flipkens was able to play qualifying for the Wimbledon grass court warmup in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and she made the most of it. She qualified then reached the semifinals without dropping a set. Along the way, she defeated Roberta Vinci and Stosur.

 

This was the spark Flipkens needed. She won two ITF tournaments in the summer of 2012, then qualified for the U.S. Open before falling to No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round. After the U.S. Open, she won her first WTA event in Quebec City, defeating four Top Sixty players. Throughout this period, without the support of her federation, Flipkens was on her own with no coach, no hitting partners, and no on-site support system. She relied on support from her home base, including her good friend Clijsters.

 

After Quebec City, Flipkens was on a roll. In her next four events, she reached two semifinals and one quarterfinal. At the 2013 Australian Open, she reached the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam event for the first time. Strong results continued, and her ranking was No. 20 entering Wimbledon. The next two weeks at the All England Club were the pinnacle of her career, culminating in a quarterfinal Wimbledon win over the 2011 champion Kvitova. A few weeks later, a win over Venus Williams in Toronto pushed her ranking to No. 13, which remains a career high.

 

This year has not been as successful for Flipkens. Her best result remains a semifinal in Auckland, the opening event of 2014. Her defeat of No. 19 Petkovic in the second round of the Connecticut Open was her best win of the year, and three sets against an in-form Stosur shows that she’s not ready to fade from view quite yet.

 

Around the grounds… It was a rematch of the Wimbledon quarterfinal between Petra Kvitiova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, with the same result. Kvitova was down a break early, but swept through ten of the last eleven games to advance 6-4, 6-1… Magdalena Rybarikova withstood a second set 6-0 drubbing at the hands of American Allison Riske, and reached the semifinals 7-5, 0-6, 6-4. Riske battled throughout the third set, but three double faults in the sixth game didn’t help her cause… Camila Giorgi wasn’t as dominant in the quarterfinals, as she dropped serve six times in her match against Garbine Muguruza. But the Italian played her game of all-court aggression to reach her second semifinal of the year, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.

 

CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
$ 710,000.00
17-23 AUGUST 2014

RESULTS – AUGUST 21, 2014
Women’s
Singles – Quarterfinals

[2] P Kvitova (CZE) d B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 64 61
M Rybarikova (SVK) d A Riske (USA) 75 06 64
C Giorgi (ITA) d G Muguruza (ESP) 64 67(4) 62
[WC] S Stosur (AUS) d [WC] K Flipkens (BEL) 63 46 63

Women’s
Doubles – Quarterfinals

C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU) d [1] C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND) 76(2) 64
M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) d [5] A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) 16 75 10-7

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 2014
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
WTA – M Rybarikova (SVK) vs C Giorgi (ITA)
WTA – D Jurak (CRO) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) vs A Klepac (SLO) / S Soler-Espinosa (ESP)

Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – [WC] S Stosur (AUS) vs [2] P Kvitova (CZE)
WTA – C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU) vs M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP)

Share

A Former Number One Faces an Uphill Climb

Wozniacki-001

By Jack Cunniff

 

(August 20, 2014) NEW HAVEN – Caroline Wozniacki lost to Camila Giorgi in the second round of the Connecticut Open, 6-4, 6-2. Giorgi, a hard-hitting Italian player, used a strong serve and aggressive groundstrokes to keep Wozniacki on her heels from the start of the match. Wozniacki dropped serve in the opening game, and failed to convert two break points in the second game, her only break opportunities of the day. Giorgi, who also ushered Wozniacki out of the 2013 U.S. Open, gave no rhythm, going for broke on almost all of her shots. It was a decisive loss for Wozniacki in the venue of her most dominant performances.

 

It was only three years ago, August 2011, that Wozniacki was ranked No. 1 in the world, holding that spot for all but one week of the previous 10 months. She was in the process of winning her fourth consecutive Connecticut Open, and had won seven other titles over the last twelve months. Aside from the growing criticism about her failure to win a Grand Slam event, she was on top of the world. Preparing for the 2011 U.S. Open, Caroline liked her chances: “Well, definitely I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. I’m on a good roll. I’m looking forward to the Open next week.”

 

But there were signs of rust in Wozniacki’s game. In July 2011, she had to retire from a second round Swedish Open match against Sofia Arvidsson. Following that, she suffered back-to-back opening round losses for the first time in two years, losing to Roberta Vinci in Toronto and Christina McHale in Cincinnati. Wozniacki’s downward slide had begun. After beating Petra Cetkovska to defend her New Haven title, it would be over a year before her next title in Seoul, Korea, September 2012. She began losing to lower-ranked players, such as Tamira Paszek and Irena-Camelia Begu. In the process, she would tumble from No. 1 to No. 11.

 

Her struggles continued in 2013 through Wimbledon 2014. She made sporadic appearances in­­­­ finals and semifinals, usually at smaller events. Her record against Top Ten players was a dismal 2-9. She hired and dismissed a couple of different coaches during that period, while retaining father Piotr as a primary coach. Her personal life was fodder for the tabloids, culminating in a broken engagement in May.

 

But something clicked after Wimbledon this past June. She won the Istanbul Cup in July, her first title in nine months. She reached the quarterfinals in Montreal, taking world No. 1 Serena Williams deep in a three set loss. The following week in Cincinnati, she defeated Top Ten players (Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska) in back-to-back matches for the first time since the WTA Tour Championships in October 2010. Cincinnati provided another tight three set battle against Williams, this time in the semifinals. Heading into the Connecticut Open, Wozniacki assessed her form: “My confidence is high. I feel like I’ve played really well, I’ve had some good wins and I’ve had a lot of matches, which is great leading up to the Open.”

 

The result in New Haven, long considered Wozniacki’s home away from home, is a half-step back. Wozniacki was disappointed with the loss, and that she could never get into the match. But she wouldn’t let one match result derail her successful summer results, and is expecting success at the U.S. Open.

 

In other play Wednesday at the Connecticut Open, 2011 U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur easily dismissed a hobbled Genie Bouchard. Bouchard, the third seed, had her left thigh wrapped, and could never make an impression on the Stosur serve, falling 6-2, 6-2… Kristen Flipkens won a see-saw battle over Andrea Petkovic, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. Petkovic served for the match twice in the second set, Flipkens was up a break through most of the third set, but it all came down to a third set tiebreak. When Petkovic saved three match points to even the tiebreak at 6-6, Flipkens held her nerve. A successful serve and volley on match point puts her in the quarterfinals against Stosur… Next for Camila Giorgi is Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza, best known for her dismissal of Serena Williams in the 2014 French Open, came from a break down in the third set to win over Shuai Peng, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

 

Jack Cunniff is covering the Connecticut Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.

 

CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
$ 710,000.00
17-23 AUGUST 2014

RESULTS – AUGUST 20, 2014
Women’s
Singles – Second Round

[WC] S Stosur (AUS) d [3] E Bouchard (CAN) 62 62
C Giorgi (ITA) d [4] C Wozniacki (DEN) 64 62
G Muguruza (ESP) d [Q] S Peng (CHN) 62 36 63
[WC] K Flipkens (BEL) d [WC] A Petkovic (GER) 46 76(4) 76(6)

Women’s
Doubles – Quarterfinals

D Jurak (CRO) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) d [Alt] A Riske (USA) / C Vandeweghe (USA) 76(4) 16 10-8
A Klepac (SLO) / S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d C Dellacqua (AUS) / S Voegele (SUI) 63 26 10-6

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 2014
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
WTA – B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) vs [2] P Kvitova (CZE)
WTA – M Rybarikova (SVK) vs A Riske (USA)
WTA – C Giorgi (ITA) vs G Muguruza (ESP)

Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – [WC] K Flipkens (BEL) vs [WC] S Stosur (AUS)
Men’s Legends – J Blake (USA) vs A Roddick (USA)

GRANDSTAND start 1:00 pm
WTA – [5] A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP)
WTA – [1] C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND) vs C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU)

Share

Former U.S. Open Champ Tries to Recapture Form at Connecticut Open

 

By Jack Cunniff

(August 18, 2014) NEW HAVEN – It has been a tough summer for Samantha Stosur. The Australian, who won the U.S. Open Ladies Singles Championship in 2011, suffered three straight opening round losses in Eastbourne, Wimbledon, and Stanford. The loss in Stanford was a low point, as she fell to a Japanese qualifier, Naomi Osaka, who was ranked outside of the Top 400. As a result of the slump, Stosur’s WTA ranking dropped to No. 25, and she finds herself outside the Top Twenty for the first time in five years. And as a result of her ranking drop, she now enters most events unseeded, facing tougher draws. That scenario played out over the last two weeks when Stosur faced world No. 1 Serena Williams in the second round of both Montreal and Cincinnati.

 

In Cincinnati, Stosur finally showed signs of life. While she lost to Williams in the second round, it was two close tiebreak sets, significantly better than the 6-0, 6-2 drubbing at the hands of Serena the week earlier in Montreal. Encouraged, Stosur took a wild card to The Connecticut Open, the final event leading into the 2014 U.S. Open.

 

In her opening round in New Haven, Stosur battled past a game opponent in Kurumi Nara. Nara is relatively new to the scene. “I never played her before, never seen her hit a ball, to be honest with you,” Stosur admitted after the match. But the Japanese player has had recent success, reaching the finals of Washington D.C. a few weeks ago, propelling her to a career high ranking of No. 32, not that far from Stosur’s own ranking. It was an up and down match: Nara grabbed an early lead, Stosur came from a 1-5 deficit to win the first set, Stosur lost match point opportunities in the second set, and finally took hold of the match in the final set. Stosur was happy to come through with the win. “Anytime you can battle through a match like that, it’s great for your confidence and belief… you can’t work on those things in practice.”

 

Like Montreal and Cincinnati, the road in New Haven gets much tougher for Stosur in the second round. Genie Bouchard, the Canadian success story who has risen to No. 8 in the world with her Wimbledon runner-up result, awaits. Stosur beat Bouchard in a tournament final in Japan last October, but they have been on separate paths since then. Stosur acknowledged the battle ahead against Bouchard: “She’s obviously improved a lot in the last ten or twelve months, and (she’s) putting consistent results together especially in grand slams. Two semis [Australian and French Opens] and a final [Wimbledon], you’re doing something well.” A win over Bouchard would be the best win for Stosur over the last 12 months, and could put her back on the road to the Top Twenty.

Around the grounds… Four time New Haven champ Caroline Wozniacki overcame a slow start to defeat Timea Bacsinszky, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2… Bouchard nabbed her first win since Wimbledon, crushing Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1, 6-1… Caroline Garcia of France lost in the final round of qualifying, but advanced to the main draw when the No. 8 seed, Carla Suarez Navarro, withdrew with a gastrointestinal ailment. Garcia’s first round opponent? Irina-Cameila Begu, who defeated her in qualifying. Garcia turned the tables, winning 7-6, 7-6… Sara Errani, seeded No. 7, became the first seed to tumble, losing to Garbine Muguruza, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

 

Jack Cunniff is covering the Connecticut Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.

 

 

CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
$ 710,000.00
17-23 AUGUST 2014

RESULTS – AUGUST 18, 2014
Women’s
Singles – First Round

[3] E Bouchard (CAN) d B Jovanovski (SRB) 61 61
[4] C Wozniacki (DEN) d [Q] T Bacsinszky (SUI) 46 61 62
[WC] A Petkovic (GER) d [5] [WC] D Cibulkova (SVK) 76(2) 63
G Muguruza (ESP) d [7] S Errani (ITA) 62 36 61
M Rybarikova (SVK) d [Q] S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 64 63
[Q] S Peng (CHN) d E Svitolina (UKR) 64 63
[WC] K Flipkens (BEL) d [Q] M Doi (JPN) 63 46 62
[WC] S Stosur (AUS) d K Nara (JPN) 76(5) 67(10) 62
[LL] C Garcia (FRA) d [Q] I Begu (ROU) 76(4) 76(4)
B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) d [Q] B Bencic (SUI) 64 57 63

Women’s
Doubles – First Round

[5] A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) d S Peer (ISR) / K Piter (POL) 64 61
C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU) d A Groenefeld (GER) / K Koukalova (CZE) 60 57 14-12
C Dellacqua (AUS) / S Voegele (SUI) d O Kalashnikova (GEO) / A Rosolska (POL) 76(3) 61

USONP
Men’s
Singles
Championship – Finals

[1] S Singh (IND) d [2] J Dadamo (USA) 62 62

USONP
Women’s
Singles
Championship – Finals

C Whoriskey (USA) d M Gordon (USA) 26 62 61

ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2014
STADIUM start 12:00 noon
WTA – A Riske (USA) vs [6] F Pennetta (ITA)
WTA – [LL] C Garcia (FRA) vs B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE)
WTA – [Alt] A Riske (USA) / C Vandeweghe (USA) vs [WC] N Gibbs (USA) / G Min (USA)

Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – [1] S Halep (ROU) vs M Rybarikova (SVK)
WTA – E Makarova (RUS) vs [2] P Kvitova (CZE)

GRANDSTAND start 2:00 pm
WTA – [1] C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND) vs K Pliskova (CZE) / K Pliskova (CZE)
WTA – G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs M Erakovic (NZL) / A Parra Santonja (ESP)

Share

Serena Williams Nets Record 61st Match Win at Australian Open

SerenaWilliamsIstanbul

(January 17, 2014) Serena Williams extended her current win streak to 24 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova to move into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday.  With the victory, the No. 1 player has surpassed Margaret Court’s record of 60 wins at the Australian Open.

It was another hot day in Melbourne as the heat wave continued, during the 1 hour and 20 minute match the temperature reached 102F.

“I feel good to have gotten through that one because it was tough conditions out there, but I was happy to win,” said the five-time champion.

“It’s definitely a lot of physical, but you have to be ready.

“Today actually wasn’t as hot.  I think it was more hot yesterday.  So it wasn’t as bad today.

“Honestly, on the one end I felt it was like a cool breeze coming over, so that was a good sign.”

Williams announced during her post-match news conference that she and sister Venus were pulling out of the doubles, due to her sister’s lower leg injury.

In an exchange with a reporter who alluded to Indian Wells, Williams said that she was thinking about it, a tournament she has not played in over a decade, due her treatment by the crowd during the 2001 final.

Here is the transcript of the questions posed:

Q.  You love to laugh but you also have a serious side.  You have your schools in Africa and have read Mandela closely.  Mandela’s message was pretty much forgiveness and reconciliation.  Work with the springbox for reconciliation, put his jail in the front row of the inauguration.  Do you think that spirit could affect your thoughts about what happened in the desert?  There is a new generation of people who would love to see you there.  Would that ever cross your mind as a possibility?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, it actually crossed my mind a couple days ago, or after I saw the movie.

Q.  Do you think you would?  It would be such a wonderful event for American tennis and for your career.  Do you think that’s something you might consider in the future?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Like I said, it crossed my mind not too long ago when I went to see the movie.  I thought about it.

Williams will take on either 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur or 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round.

“Either player will be very tough,” Williams said.  “Ivanovic, I think is doing really well.  She’s on a little winning streak herself.

“Stosur has the home crowd behind her.  She’s the fan favorite.  Obviously she’s beaten me a few times.

“It will be an interesting, whoever I play.  I think it will be a great match for me to really start to try to play better in this tournament.”

“I definitely look forward to playing in the cooler temperatures,” Williams said about the weather forecast which predicts a break in the heat wave. “I think, you know, the players that I have played, they have done really well in the heat.

“I just look forward to some cooler weather.”

 

Third seed Li Na saved a match point, stopping Lucie Safarova 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 to advance to the fourth round.

“I think the five centimeters save my tournament,” Li said.  “If she hit in, I think, Whole team on the way to the airport.

“Yeah, I mean, at least I win the match, so still in the tournament.  I was really happy the way is fight on the court from first point until the last point.”

Share

Stosur and Ivanovic Among Field for WTA Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria

(October 22, 2013) SOFIA, BULGARIA – Four of the world’s Top 20 ranked women, including former world No.1 and 2008 Roland Garros champion Ana Ivanovic and 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur will be among the eight-player field competing at the $750,000 Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions, to be staged in Bulgaria’s capital city from October 29–November 3, 2013. This marks the second year of three that Sofia will host the annual season-ending championships for the WTA’s International tournaments.

 

Serbian star Ivanovic, a two-time champion of the event when it was held in Bali, was awarded a wildcard into this year’s field. For her part Australian Stosur is among the six highest ranked winners of International Series tournament winners eligible to compete in Sofia, along with Simona Halep of Romania, Russians Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Alizé Cornet of France. Bulgaria’s own Tsvetana Pironkova has again received a wildcard to compete in front of her home fans, and will be looking to produce another strong showing following her semifinal run last year. Initially the players will be split into two groups of four for round robin competition, with each group’s top two players advancing to the semifinals.

 

“I would like to congratulate this wonderful group of players on their respective successes in 2013 as they eagerly await the start of the Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Between them they have won 13 WTA singles titles this year and tennis fans in Sofia are in for a week of incredible tennis as our very special 40 Love season draws to a close.”

 

This year’s ‘Road to Sofia’ comprised 30 WTA International events held on six continents. The 2012 WTA Tournament of Champions attracted more than 30,000 fans over six days of competition, with host broadcaster BNT reporting average daily viewership of nearly 2.8 million households in a country with a population of 7.4 million. Matches were broadcast to more than 25 countries and Russia’s Nadia Petrova was crowned champion, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Turkish construction company Garanti Koza was recently announced as the event’s new title sponsor.

 

Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions – Sofia 2013 Participants:

 

Simona Halep, Romania, No.14 

Halep is one of the WTA’s 2013 breakthrough stars, winning five titles from all five finals played, having previously been a runner-up on three occasions. Only Serena Williams has won more singles titles this year (10) and Halep holds the distinction of being the only player to win events on all three major playing surfaces (hard, clay, grass). Her debut win came at the International-level Nürnberger Versicherungscup in Germany and this was followed by victories at the Topshelf Open (‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands) the following week and the Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest). She then captured her first Premier-level title at the New Haven Open at Yale (d. Kvitova in final) and arrives in Sofia having won her second event at that level, last week’s Kremlin Cup (d. Stosur in final). Her win in Moscow saw the 22-year-old rise to a new career-high ranking of No.14, up from No.47 at the start of the season. She is making her Tournament of Champions debut.

Ana Ivanovic, Serbia, No.16

Ivanovic is making her third WTA Tournament of Champions appearance, having won the event in back-to-back years when it was held in Bali (2010-11). The winner of 11 singles titles to date, she has reached three Grand Slam finals so far in her career, famously winning 2008 Roland Garros and rising to No.1 in the world rankings. More recently the 25-year-old Serb was runner-up to Angelique Kerber at the Generali Ladies Linz, while other 2013 season highlights have included semifinal showings at the Mutua Madrid Open and the Southern California Open (Carlsbad); she also posted strong runs to the round of 16 at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open.

Maria Kirilenko, Russia, No.18

After a memorable 2012 that saw her collect the doubles bronze medal at the London Olympics as well as win the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships (both with fellow Russian Petrova), Kirilenko will remember 2013 as the year she made her singles Top 10 debut following a run to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. A wildcard at Sofia last year, the 26-year-old booked her return visit with an early-season title – the sixth of her career, and first in five years – at the PTT Pattaya Open in Thailand, where she defeated Sabine Lisicki in a hard-fought final. Her other notable results this year have included semifinal finishes at the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) and the Monterrey Open and a run to the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

Samantha Stosur, Australia, No.19

Stosur qualified for Sofia by winning the HP Open in Osaka, Japan, her second title of the season after victory at the Southern California Open (Carlsbad) where she overcame Victoria Azarenka in the final.  Indeed, this year marks the first time in her career the 28-year-old Australian has won two singles titles in a season and she went close to capturing a third just last week at the Kremlin Cup, where Halep ended her nine-match winning streak in the final. Stosur’s biggest title to date is of course the 2011 US Open, where she defeated Serena Williams in the final to become the first Australian woman to win a major since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980. In addition to her singles successes Stosur is also a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, winning her 24th career title last week in Moscow with Svetlana Kuznetsova. She competed at the inaugural staging of the Tournament of Champions in Bali in 2009, going 1-1 in round robin play.

Elena Vesnina, Russia, No.25

Vesnina has enjoyed a career season in 2013, achieving a string of breakthroughs at the age of 27.  After finishing runner-up in six WTA finals she finally won her first title at January’s Moorilla Hobart International, which made her an early contender on the Road to Sofia. More success was to come when she won her first Premier-level title at the Aegon International (Eastbourne) where she defeated the likes of Ivanovic and Li Na en route. Now 2-6 in singles finals, Vesnina has continued to enjoy success in doubles, capturing her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros with Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian duo was also victorious at Indian Wells and qualified for the four-team TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, where Vesnina will compete before arriving in Sofia.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, No.26

Pavlyuchenkova is making her second appearance at the Tournament of Champions, having competed in Bali in 2010. Still just 22, the former top-ranked junior reached four singles finals in 2013, winning her fourth career title at the Monterrey Open (an event she has now won in three of the past four years) and fifth at the Portugal Open in Oeiras. At January’s Brisbane International it took Serena Williams to stop Pavlyuchenkova in the final and last month at the KDB Korea Open in Seoul she was edged for the winner’s trophy by Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets. She arrives in Sofia in good indoor form having reached the semifinals at her home event, the Kremlin Cup.

Alizé Cornet, France, No.27

Having made the trip to Sofia in 2012 as second alternate – she did not get to play a match – Cornet put herself in the running again this year by winning on home soil at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in May. All three of the 23-year-old Frenchwoman’s WTA singles titles have now been won on red clay, but it is consistent results on all surfaces this year, including two semifinals, two quarterfinals and solid third round runs at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open (where she pushed Azarenka to three sets) that have seen the former world No.11 firmly re-establish herself in the Top 30.

Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, No.118

Pironkova, the first Bulgarian to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon (2010) and also a quarterfinalist at the All England Club in 2011, will be bidding for her first WTA title in Sofia. In 2013 the 26-year-old was again at her best on Wimbledon’s lawns, where she reached the fourth round before falling to Radwanska in three sets. Other season highlights for the native of Plovdiv, Bulgaria have included quarterfinal efforts at the Moorilla Hobart International and the Topshelf Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Last year she advanced to the semis in Sofia before falling to Wozniacki.

Share

Stosur Moves Past Keys, Hampton Tops 20th Seed

Samantha Stosur

Samantha Stosur

(March 9, 2013) World No. 9, Australia’s Samantha Stosur moved into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, defeating American teenager Madison Keys 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday.

 

Stosur was happy with her play during the 75 minute match.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” said Stosur. “I thought I served very well.”

 

“As soon as I put a little bit of pressure on her early on in her service game … I really took a bit of a stranglehold on the match.”
Stosur sees a lot of potential in the 18-year-old Keys.
“I think she’s got a big game,” the Australian said. “Obviously her forehand is massive. She’s got a very big serve.

 

“You know, she’s got pretty decent kick serve for a second serve. You know, she handled a lot of my slice actually quite well sometimes.

 

“I think she’s got a big game. She’s just got to, you know, put all the pieces together. I think I said to somebody earlier. She’s only 18. I had lots of pieces like that when I was 18 and wasn’t as together as probably what she is now.

 

“I think she’s got a lot of potential. There is obviously things you need to improve, but she has those big weapons that, you know, win these big matches.

Keys says it’s all a learning experience.

“I think I did a lot of things pretty well,  Keys said.  There are some things that I need to work on, and, you know, I think ‑‑ I mean, especially my returns.  I think if I was returning better today, you know, maybe I could have made the match a little bit tighter.

“You know, go back, work on those, and, you know, move on to the next tournament.”

While one young American fell on stadium court, another was taking out a seed. American Jamie Hampton knocked 20th seed Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 6-3, 6-3.

 

“I’m always looking to bring a good bit of intensity to the match or the court,” Hampton said. “I think as I get a little bit older and in these situations more frequently, I will probably settle down a bit, get more comfortable with the atmosphere and the environment.

 

“I haven’t been a pro too long so I haven’t had a ton of experience in a big match setting.”

No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber, also moved on with a win over Irina Begu 6-3, 6-2.

 

Keys (2)

Keys 3

Keys 4

Stosur 1

Stosur 3

Stosur 5

Share

Stosur Falls Apart as Zheng Advances at Australian Open

SamanthaStosurTennis PanoramaNews

By Jaclyn Stacey

 

(January 16, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia - Jie Zheng progressed through an error filled match against ninth seed Samantha Stosur in two hours and 42 minutes on Rod Laver Arena in day three action at Australian Open 2013.

 

Stosur served for the match in the final set with a 5-2 lead before mentally falling apart and double faulting on match point down to gift Zheng a place in the third round against Julia Goerges.

 

The 2011 US Open champion has struggled playing on home soil in the recent past, falling in the first round at Australian Open 2012 and never progressing past the fourth round in 13 appearances.

 

Stosur led their head-to-head 3-2 coming into the match but Zheng had defeated Stosur last week in Sydney to have the mental edge in the match.

 

Stosur had opportunities to break early in the first set but it remained on serve until Zheng secured the first break after a superb return game, hitting some sweeping cross court winners past Stosur to take a 4-3 lead. Stosur immediately broke back to level at 4-4 before she again lost momentum in the next game, Zheng regaining the break and serving out the set on her eighth set point opportunity 6-4.

 

After a tough first game hold Stosur picked up momentum and stormed to a 6-1 second set win to send the match into a third set decider.

 

Zheng won the final set and the match after Stosur failed to serve out the match while leading 5-2, losing the next five games.

 

In the post-match news conference Zheng spoke about the match and referred to the first time she played on Rod Laver Arena and her desire to keep playing the big matches there.

 

“In the final set 2-5, I was thinking first time I played in center court is 2006.  I thinking, How many times I can play like this court? I need to keep fighting and enjoy the match.”

 

“Today I feel Sam Stosur is play much better for last week. Kick serve and the big forehand. Also backhand slice is give me the big trouble.”

 

“But today I try to play more aggressive. I try to go to the net, give her some pressure, yeah.

I think this is my coaches tell me give her some the pressure, and this way is for the key for

win this match.”

 

Stosur was disappointed following the match. “I mean, obviously it’s a pretty hard one to take when you get yourself well and truly into a winning position, yeah, playing really quite well. Then all of a sudden you get to 5-2 and you lose five games straight.”

 

Stosur has often had trouble holding on to momentum in matches and when asked whether losing the match was a mental thing she said “You know, unfortunately it was — it just kept happening point after point after point. You know, then crazy things start popping into your head, and before you know it, you’re back on even terms and really lost a lead that, you know, with two breaks in the third should never go away.”

Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.

Share

Tennis News Net Notes

RafaelNadalTasteofTennis

(December 13, 2012) A quick look at the recent news in the world of tennis.

The Chilean newspaper La Tercera reports that the Vina de Mar tournament wants to offer Rafael Nadal a $1.2 million appearance fee to play the tournament. Vina del Mar is a clay court event played the week of February 4, 2013.

Nadal confirmed on Tuesday that he’ll play the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi in late December. “Can’t wait to get back on court in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month,” said on his Facebook page and Twitter account. “I won the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in 2010 and 2011 – would love to get my hands on the trophy again this year!”

Nadal has been off the tour with a knee injury since losing in the second round of Wimbledon.

 

Serena Williams and Andy Murray have been nominated for a Laureus Sports Award. Williams is nominated in the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year category while Murray is up for Breakthrough of the Year award.

Williams was also tapped on Wednesday by the French newspaper L’Equipe as Sportswoman of the year.

 

Wimbledon recorded record profits in 2012. The Lawn Tennis Association reports that profits jumped 7.1 percent to a record $60.8 million dollars.

 

Former  No.  1 Kim Clijsters bid farewell to tennis on Wednesday in an exhibition match against Venus Williams in Belgium. Clijsters won the match 6-3, 6-3. Clijsters played her last competitive match at the US Open.

 

The ATP finalized the sale of the Los Angeles tournament to Bogota, Colombia on Wednesday.

The ATP World Tour 250 event tournament will take place July 15-21, 2013 at the Centro de Alto Rendimiento in Bogotá, the same venue that hosted an ATP World Tour event from 1997–2002.

 

The Lawn Tennis Association Limited (LTA) appointed David Gregson as independent Chairman of the LTA Board on Wednesday.

David is the Chairman of Precise Media Group, and of CRI, a leading UK health and social care charity. He is also a Director of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is transforming the Olympic Park following the 2012 Games, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Sutton Trust, promoting social mobility through education.

Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur have committed to play the Bank of the West Classic. The tournament will take place July 22-28 at Stanford’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

Share

Azarenka Clinches No. 1 Ranking at WTA Championships

 

(October 26, 2012) Victoria Azarenka sealed the No. 1 ranking for the year by defeating Li Na 7-6(4), 6-3 at the WTA Championships on Friday in Istanbul. The victory for the Belarusian also moved her into the semifinals on Saturday where she’ll take on Maria Sharapova.

“It’s incredible achievement,” Azarenka told media.  “I’m really, really proud of that.  I still feel that I don’t want to really get into it too much because I’m still in competition and I would like to keep that focus for two more days I have left.  It’s the most that’s it’s going to take.

“But it’s important to stay a little bit grounded.  After that, I can enjoy my time and celebrate that.”

It was a career year for Azarenka who began the year with a 26-match win streak capturing her first major – the Australian Open. “Definitely this was a breakthrough.  It’s good to see women’s game, you know, raising its level so much more.  Especially over this year I felt like all the top players are kind of pushing each other to be better.  It’s great for our sport.

“If you look at the list of these people (Number one’s), it’s kind of difficult to believe that a little girl from Belarus is on that list.

“But it’s really incredible achievement.  When I started to play tennis I had this big picture in my head that I want to be there.  Back then it’s so far away.  It’s like pretty much touching the sky.”

 

Li Na despite the loss remains upbeat: “I think I still have positive to take away, but at least on this tournament I play No. 1, 3, and 5 in the world, so pretty good challenge for the self.

“End of the season at least I was healthy.  I didn’t have any injury.  So really looking forward for the next yeah, next season.”

Azarenka will play Sharapova on Saturday in the semis who demolished alternate Samantha Stosur 6-0, 6-3 to complete a perfect round-robin record.

“It’s definitely not going to be a surprise that I’m going to play Maria, Azarenka said, “and for her will not be a surprise that she’s playing me.

“But it is different occasion.  It is a different place.  We played in the semifinals before, but actually I never played her in the Championships.  So it is new and it is not new.  So you can take it both ways.”

“I certainly didn’t want to play as long a match as I did in the previous round, Sharpaova said of her win over Stosur. “I wanted to do a better job of a few things and I think I did.”

Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Sara Errani 6‑7, 7‑5, 6‑4 in 3 hours and 29 minutes – the longest recorded best-of-three-set match in WTA Championships history.

“I had to play my best tennis until the end of the match because every game was a big fight,” Radwanska said.

Williams was undefeated in three matches in her Red Group and didn’t play on Friday.

The match between Radwanksa and Errani lasted 3 hours, 29 minutes and was the longest recorded best-of-three-set match in WTA Championships history.

“I think altogether of course I’m exhausted,” Azarenka said.  “I never played so many hours last three days, so was a lot of tennis.  Now for sure it’s going to be hard; no day off.

“I really need to be ready for tomorrow.  But I’m actually really happy that at least one of those marathon matches I could win and made for the first time semifinal.

“I was out of power,” Errani said.  “I was dead maybe from the second.  So I just try to fight.  In tennis you have to fight.  I just try to play point by point also if I was tired, and that’s it.  I think only about that, not other things.

“All the game were very long; also the one that I lost.  So just try to maybe push a bit more to make shorter the point, but was tough.

“I’m here playing in the master with the best players of the year.  It’s good results for me.  I won one match; this is one was very tough.

“I just try everything on the court, try to give my best, give everything, and this is it.  This is what I did.”

“I was happy to come back.  Actually I start pretty good in the third set, but obviously she’s a big fighter so she didn’t give up as well.  So I really had to play my best tennis until the end of the match, because every game was the big fight.”

Order of play for Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stadium (from 13.00hrs)
1. Huber/Raymond vs. Hlavackova/Hradecka
2. Serena Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (NB 15.00hrs)
3. Maria Sharapova vs. Victoria Azarenka
4. Errani/Vinci vs. Kirilenko/Petrova

Share