2014/10/25

Williams, Halep Set Up Rematch at WTA Finals

Serena Williams
By Stephanie Neppl

(October 25, 2014) SINGAPORE – Serena Williams survived, and Simona Halep cruised. The two will face off for the second time at the WTA Finals in Singapore, this time with the title on the line.

The semifinals were a complete contrast but they were consistent to the tournament for each player. Williams barely made the semifinals, needing Halep to help keep her in the tournament by winning at least a set in her match yesterday against Ana Ivanovic. Halep, on the other hand, was the first player to qualify and she won her first two matches without dropping a set, including the 6-0, 6-2 drubbing of Williams.

Here’s how the semifinals unfolded:

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

The two close friends spent Friday night together at the Mariah Carey concert which was held at the Singapore Sports Hub. Saturday they battled out in front of an appreciative crowd for more than two hours to determine whose season would end, and who would advance to Sunday’s final.

Wozniacki was the better player for the first set, and her deep and well-placed groundstrokes kept Williams off balance as she raced to a 3-0 lead. The American, on the other hand, was erratic especially on her backhand side and Wozniacki held with ease as Williams’ return game was off. The first set took just 25 minutes, and the Dane won it 6-2.

In the second set, Williams’ service games perhaps helped her settle into the match, and she didn’t face a break point all set long. She managed to finally break Wozniacki to go up 3-2 and she got a second break up 5-3 as Wozniacki double faulted down set point to level the match at a set apiece.

The match was just 56 minutes old as the third set began, and both players’ level was strong. Williams served first, and she held her first two games without facing break point. It was Wozniacki who had to fight off the first break point serving at 1-2, but she held on as the rallies and quality of play improved. The two held their serves until the score hit 4-4. Then it was Williams, who hadn’t faced a break point since the first set, who would lose her serve to go down 5-4 as Woznaicki prepared to serve for the match, and the win against a player she had only beaten once in 10 tries.

Serving at 5-4, Williams struck hard and fast. She hit three winners to get to double break point, and she was able to break to thrill the crowd and level the set at 5-5.

Williams then had to fight off her nerves through a tough service hold. She went down break point again but Wozniacki hit a routine backhand into the net. On her second game point, Williams was able to hold and win her third straight games as the crowd went wild.

Receiving up 6-5, Williams hit three errors to give Wozniacki two game points but huge returns by the top-seed brought up a match point, which was saved by the Dane after an amazing rally. Wozniacki would hold serve, and the match would be decided by a tiebreak.

Wozniacki went up 4-1 in the tiebreak as Williams was misfiring her groundstrokes. But from then Williams won five straight points, the first off a Wozniacki double fault, to earn two more match points up 6-4. But the dramatic match ensued, as the world No. 1 could not convert either. But at 6-6, she fired her 12th ace of the match to set up a 4th match point, which she would finally convert to edge Wozniacki 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) in a thriller.

Williams said at 1-4 down in the third set tiebreak she thought “Well, I guess I have to go home now. You know, I told you to get up early in the tiebreak and now you’re down 1‑4. You didn’t listen.”

The American admitted said that if she did play Halep again, she would start out with low expectations. “I’m excited. My goal is to win three games. That’ll be my first goal. I’m going to go from there. Hopefully I can hold serve. That would be good. Most of all, I hope to break once. So I’m starting out with low goals. Then I’m going to go from there. She played really, really well. Even she said she played really well. I’m just going to do the best that I can do and see what happens.”

Wozniacki, who was consistently solid throughout her four WTA Finals matches, was disappointed but said it was a great match. “I played all I could today. I played my heart out. I fought until the end. You know, you can always look back and say, I could have done this and that, but at the end of the day I couldn’t. I played the best I could today. Today, Serena just got the better of me in the end.”

[6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) vs [4] Simona Halep (Romania)

For all the suspense and drama the first semifinal had, the second one offered little doubt who would meet Serena in Sunday’s final.

Halep was just ‘too good’ against Radwanska, and she cruised to a quick 6-2, 6-2 win in just 67 minutes. Halep saved 1 of 2 break points she faced, while the Pole was only able to fight off 1 of the 6 she faced.

The Romanian, coming into the match on the heels of a three-set loss to Ivanovic on Friday night, cranked 26 winners against Radwanska, who only hit 4. Both had 13 unforced errors.

Radwanska said her opponent played a fantastic match, “I think she was very solid from the beginning. No mistakes. Everything coming back. Changing lines. You know, deep balls. Serving very well. I think everything was working for her today, I guess.”

Halep could only agree that she played a wonderful match: “Yeah, it was a great match for everything. Went perfect I think today. I played really well and moved really well on court. I feel very happy because I could play at this level. She’s also great player, but today everything was very well for me.”

The Romanian said Sunday’s final would be a different match than her round robin match against Williams. “Yeah, I played few days ago and it was a very good match for me. But tomorrow will be different. I am prepared for everything. I just want to enjoy the match, enjoy the final first, and then to think what I have to do on court. I know how to play, so we’ll see tomorrow if my game is going to be the same like today.”

Sunday, October 26 schedule:

Centre Court – 4pm

The Doubles Final

Centre court – not before 7pm

(1) Serena Williams vs. (4) Simona Halep

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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Semifinals set at WTA Finals while Serena Williams clinches year-end No. 1

 

By Stephanie Neppl

 

(October 24, 2014) SINGAPORE – Semifinal berths and the year-end WTA No. 1 ranking were on the line as the last round of WTA Finals round-robin play began on Friday.

 

Many scenarios existed to see who would be playing in Saturday’s semifinals, with just Simona Halep having already secured her spot. In the end, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and Serena Williams would complete the semifinal line-up.

 

Here’s how the day’s matches unfolded:

[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

Sharapova had to beat Radwanska in straight sets to keep her hopes alive to advance to the semifinals. The two had a messy start to the match as both hit a fair share of errors as they settled in. Sharapova broke first to go up 2-1, but couldn’t consolidate as both players struggled to find their consistency.

 

Break points were frequent, and it was Sharapova who would get a critical break at 4-4 to serve out the first set. Up 5-4, the Russian was broken after saving three break points so the set was level again at 5-5. But three winners in the next game helped Sharapova break again and she served out the set on her second try, 7-5.

 

The second set looked to be quick for the world No. 2, who raised her game and Radwanska looked resigned to the loss. Sharapova went up 5-1 and had two match points on the Pole’s serve to clinch a straight set win. From that stage, Radwanska started playing solid tennis and she broke Sharapova’s serve twice to get herself back in the match at 5-5.

 

Sharapova twice served for the match, but never reached match point on her own serve. The set eventually went to a tiebreaker, and the momentum was still on Radwanska’s side. She was able to nose ahead in the tiebreak as Sharapova errors kept her behind the whole way. Down 6-4 in the tiebreaker, the Russian double faulted to end her chances to advance to the semifinals. By dropping the set, Sharapova was eliminated from the WTA Finals, meaning Serena Williams clinched year-end #1 for the fourth time.

 

Despite letting the second set slip away, Sharapova was able to regroup and broke Radwanska twice in the third set to win the last four games for the 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 win to end her season with a victory.

 

Sharapova said after the match that she was happy to end the tournament with a win. “I just really wanted to win this match. I had so many chances and it was just not the way that I wanted to go out in the tournament. That was my goal no matter how physical the match or how tough it was to lose that second set was, I wanted to win it.”

 

[3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Wozniacki had already qualified for the semifinals, but she took on Kvitova with the chance to finish 3-0 and finish atop the White Group. Kvitova needed to win the match in order to move on the semifinals, or else Radwanska was in.

 

Kvitova got off to a solid start, breaking early for a 2-1 lead. But Wozniacki was hitting freely and much more aggressively than usual, most likely due to the fact she had already advanced to the semifinals. The Dane reeled off five straight games to take the first set, 6-2.

 

The Czech, who admitted that she was feeling “tired and sick of tennis for a moment” after her loss to Radwanska earlier in the week, showed she wasn’t going away and her huge groundstrokes helped her race out to a 2-0 lead. But it all fell apart again for Kvitova, and Wozniacki’s defense and consistency helped her get a key break at 4-3, and she served out the match for a 6-2, 6-3 win.

 

The victory meant Kvitova, known for her indoor tennis prowess, was out of the 2014 WTA Finals with a 1-2 record and Radwanska finished second in the White Group.

 

Wozniacki finished atop the White Group and said it’s been a great week so far in Singapore. “It’s been a great week. I think I have nothing to complain about. Great tennis and some good wins. It’s just been really nice. You know, I’ve been playing some really good tennis, and today I think is one of the best matches I’ve ever play.”

 

[4] Simona Halep (Romania) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)

The final round-robin singles match was full of intrigue, as the fate of world No. 1 Serena Williams’ standing at the tournament rested on Simona Halep. If Ivanovic managed to defeat Halep in straight sets, Williams was out and Ivanovic would be in the WTA Finals semifinals for the first time since 2007.

 

It all seemed to be going Halep’s, and Williams’, way in the first set. Halep jumped out to a 5-2, double break lead and served for the set. From that stage, she lost four straight games as Ivanovic became more aggressive and many Halep backhands, her best shot, repeatedly found the net.

 

Halep steadied the ship to hold serve down 5-6 and the two engaged in a tense tiebreak. Ivanovic took a 5-2 lead but a forehand error and double fault helped Halep level it at 5-5. The Romanian had a set point up 6-5, but hit a forehand into the net. Ivanovic then hit a backhand long up set point at 7-6 before she managed to grab another set point with a forehand winner and she sealed her first set comeback as she won the tiebreak, 9-7.

 

The second set moved along similarly to the first set, with Halep showing no signs of giving anything but her all in the match. She again led 4-1 before handing the break back while serving at 4-2. But this time, the Romanian would not relent, and she broke at 4-3 and served out the set at love.

 

With the loss of a set, Ivanovic would no longer advance to the semifinal stage, meaning Williams was in. But the Serbian fought hard in the third and broke to go up 5-3 in an effort to end her 2014 season with a win. She served out the match at love to take it 7-6 (7) 3-6 6-3.

 

Ivanovic admitted her disappointment that she did not advance to Saturday’s semifinals. “Yeah, it’s mixed emotions obviously because I feel like it was such a great match tonight, yet it’s such a low not to be able to qualify for the semifinals. Still, on a positive note I won two matches, finished the season with a victory. It’s been amazing year for me.“

 

So, the semifinals will be Williams against Wozniacki and Halep versus Radwanska. Williams leads the head to head 9-1, while Halep leads hers 4-2.

 

RESULTS – OCTOBER 24, 2014
Singles – Round Robin – Red Group
[7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) d [4] Simona Halep (Romania) 76(7) 36 63

Final Standings
1) Simona Halep 2-1 (.714 sets)
2) Serena Williams 2-1 (.667 sets)
3) Ana Ivanovic 2-1 (.537 sets)
4) Eugenie Bouchard 0-3

Round Robin – White Group
[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) d [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) 75 67(4) 62
[8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) d [3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 62 63

Final Standings
1) Caroline Wozniacki 3-0
2) Agnieszka Radwanska 1-2 (.479 sets)
3) Maria Sharapova 1-2 (.464 sets)
4) Petra Kvitova 1-2 (.431 sets)

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic) / Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia) d [1] Sara Errani (Italy) / R Vinci (Italy) 21 ret.

Saturday’s schedule:

Centre Court – 12:00 pm Start

[2] Hsieh Su-Wei (Chinese Taipei) & Peng Shuai  (CHN) vs. Alla Kudryavtseva (Russia) & Anastasia Rodionova (AUS)

Not before 2:30 pm

(1) Serena Wiliams vs. (8) Caroline Wozniacki

 

Not before 6:00 pm

(4) Simona Halep vs (6) Agnieszka Radwanska

[3] Cara Black (Zimbabwe)/Sania Mirza (India) vs. Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic)/Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia)

 

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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WTA Finals race to the semifinals heats up; Halep first through

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 23, 2014) SINGAPORE – With three round robin singles matches on tap for Thursday, it was a full-day of at action at the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore.
[6] Agniezska Radwanska (Poland) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Wozniacki battled her good friend Radwanska and ended on the good side of a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3 match. Radwanska struck early, going up 2-0, but the pair traded breaks back and forth in the first set, and the crowd was treated to many long rallies and crafty play, especially by Radwanska.

The Pole led 3-1, but Wozniacki was able to pull even at 3-3 and the two held serve until the Dane was able to get a break at 5-5. The quality of play got better as the set progressed with Radwanka’s ability to place the ball paired against Wozniack’s great defense. At 5-5, Wozniacki got more aggressive on her returns and was able to break and she held her own serve at 6-5 to take the first set.

In the second set, Radwanska’s groundstrokes continued to let her down, and it was Wozniacki who broke at 3-3 and won the final three games to secure a second round robin win.

“I think it was really tough match overall,” Wozniacki said after the match. “I just kept fighting for every point. There was some ridiculous shot making there at times.”

Radwanska agreed that the crowd witnessed some great tennis, but said for her it was not enough. “Well, I think of course it was couple of amazing rallies and of course couple amazing shots as well. But just not enough, I guess, in that match. I think those shots and the other shots, it all makes good match. But I think I think I just needed some more good serves as well in that match.”

[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
After both losing their opening matches, Sharapova and Kvitova met with a lot on the line for each to stay in contention for the semifinals. Sharapova had won the past five matches against the Czech, who had last beaten the Russian back in the 2011 Wimbledon final.

It seemed that trend would continue as a pumped up Sharapova broke to start the match as Kvitova was missing her shots.

But in the blink of an eye, Kvitova took over the match. She reeled off five straight games and threatened to hand Sharapova a moral bagel. Down 5-2, Sharapova finally held serve but she could not contain Kvitova’s huge serving as she closed out the first set, 6-3.

In the second set, the crowd waited for Sharapova to find her way back in the match, but Kvitova hit winner after winner. Up 5-0 and serving for the match, Sharapova broke her opponent to deny a bagel set, but down 1-5 Sharapova she would face two match points. Kvitova missed her return on both points, and the Russian held on for a second game in the set. But it wasn’t enough, and Kvitova closed out the match on her second try, 6-3, 6-2.

Kvitova admitted later in her news conference that she was “tired and sick of tennis for a moment” after her loss to Radwanska earlier in the week. “So I didn’t practice today as all and I just really relaxed and clean my mind a little bit. I knew that I have a game to beat Maria. So everything what I did today was really good, and I’m glad that I beat her and I have still a chance to go in semifinal.”

Sharapova said that she didn’t feel as sharp in the match as she has against Kvitova in the past. “She served really well. Not fast, but found her spots really well,’ she said. “But I just don’t feel that I reacted as well in her bigger shots. She’s someone that likes to play aggressive and hit the ball, and very deep as well. She countered my shots extremely well and I was just never ready for the next ball. That made it quite difficult for me.”

To advance to the semifinals, Sharapova’s only hope is to win straight sets as well as Wozniacki winning in straight sets.

[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [5] Eugenie Bouchard (Canada)

With every game counting toward Williams’ race to advance to the semifinals and try to hold onto her #1 ranking, she faced Bouchard for the first time since 2013 Cincinnati 2012, when the American battled for a three-set win in their only previous match.

Bouchard has had a standout season, but since reaching the Wimbledon final her record was a lowly 8-8 leading into her final round-robin match.

Williams was coming off her worst loss since 1998, and she put memories of that match behind her with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win over Bouchard. The Canadian quickly went down 0-40 in her first service game but would hold. From then, Williams was far too strong and she won 11 straight games before Bouchard knew what hit her. She could save face by holding serve to get on the board in the second set, but Williams served out the match in her first try for the 58-minute victory.

The world No. 1 said she had to get over her 6-0, 6-2 loss to Halep on Wednesday in order to be ready for today’s match. “I was really disappointed in my play yesterday. I tried, but it didn’t work out for me. I don’t really recover well from losses, but I had a really long talk with Patrick. He just was, you know, telling me what I needed to do and how to get over it.”

The loss to Williams meant an end to Bouchard’s season, and she said she enjoyed the experience in Singapore despite her 0-3 record. “Yeah, it’s been fun. Definitely a unique experience compared to any other tournament, one I would love to come back it in the future. Definitely disappointed with my play this whole week, but I feel like I can do so much better. That’s a positive I can take out of it as well.”

Williams must await the result of the Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic’s match to see whether or not she will advance to the semifinals.

But the world No. 1 said her fate actually rests on herself. “If I wanted to win and be a part of the event, I should have won my match yesterday or should have done better,” she said. “So whatever happens, happens at this time. I did the best that I could do this week. I should have thought about that sooner.”

2014 WTA Finals Scenarios

Friday is the final day of round robin play in singles, and the last first round doubles match will take place at night following singles.

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014
CENTRE COURT start 1:30 pm
[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)
[3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Not Before 7:30 pm
[4] Simona Halep (Romania) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)
[1] Sara Errani (Italy) / Roberta Vinci (Italy) vs Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic) / Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia)

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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Halep hammers Williams at WTA Finals

Halep fh

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 22, 2014) SINGAPORE – The 2014 WTA Finals were thrown a curve ball on Wednesday afternoon when Simona Halep took on world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Halep had never beaten the four-time WTA Finals champion but on Wednesday she would not only get her first win, but she handed Williams one of the worst losses of her career.

Halep won the first eight games and wrapped up the 6-0, 6-2 victory in just 65 minutes. It was just the second time in her career that Williams had won just two games in a match. The previous was in a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal defeat to Joannette Kruger in Oklahoma City way back in 1998. Williams was 16 at the time.

Williams started the match with an ace but a double fault and errors led to the first break of the match. Her double fault count kept rising and she did not reach game point in any of her services game in the first set. Halep meanwhile, never faced a break point in the first set and she quickly wrapped up the bagel in 20 minutes.

In the second set, Williams got to game point in her first service game, but Halep would get a fourth straight break and hold to lead 6-0, 2-0. Williams finally got on the board in the third game, overcoming her 7th double fault to hold on her first game point on her serve.

With Halep leading 2-1, the fourth game gave hope that Williams was pulling herself back into the match. Some fantastic rallies kept the crowd entertained as Williams threatened to break back. But Halep held tough, fighting off two break points and hold to lead 3-1. The Romanian then went up a double break and held for a 6-0, 5-1 lead. Williams, renowned for her comebacks when down, had two chances to get a break back as nerves crept into Halep’s game as she tried to serve for her biggest career win. But Halep held strong, and she was rewarded with the 6-0, 6-2 win.

Williams praised her opponent after the match. “I think she played really well, to be honest. Personally I’ve never seen her play like this. Ever. But obviously she had nothing to lose and went for a lot of shots. You know, I think she just played a really, really good game.”

The world No. 1 confirmed she wasn’t not feeling 100% but said that was not a factor in her loss. “I’m definitely not 100% okay. I’m just here playing, but I’m not nowhere near 100%,” she said. “That has nothing to do with today’s match. I think Simona played really well and the best match of her career. To be quite frankly honest, I’m looking forward to our next meeting because she is making me going to go home and work hard and particularly train for her.”

Halep said the win meant a lot to her. “It means a lot, this match. On the important moments I played really well,” she said. “So after today, my confidence went higher.”

The win was Halep’s first over a top three opponent, and she acknowledged beating Williams was huge. “It’s the first time that I beat Serena. She’s No. 1. Yeah, was a dream to beat one of the sisters because they were ‑ they are ‑ very good players. For my mind it’s very important, this victory.”

Halep moved to the top of the Red Group at 2-0 while Serena fell to 1-1.

Earlier in the day session, Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova upset the 4th seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, last year’s WTA Finals runners-up, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2014
CENTRE COURT start 1:30 pm
[6] Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) vs [8] Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
[2] Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs [3] Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
Not Before 7:30 pm
[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [5] Eugenie Bouchard (Canada)
[3] Cara Black (Zimbabwe) / Sania Mirza (India) vs Raquel Kops-Jones (USA) / Abigail Spears (USA)
Tracy Austin (USA) / Martina Navratilova (USA) vs Marion Bartoli (France) / Iva Majoli (Croatia)

 

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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Williams and Halep victorious on Day 1 at the WTA Finals

wtafinals

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 20, 2014) SINGAPORE – With the top eight WTA players in the world taking center stage in Singapore at the WTA Finals, there’s no such thing as an easy match. But the tournament certainly started off with a bang as top seed and two-time defending champion Serena Williams took on Ana Ivanovic Monday night.

The debut match of the tournament was greeted by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd. Following an opening ceremony that featured WTA Finals ambassador Li Na serving the ceremonial first serve of the event (donning high heels no less), the crowd roared as Williams and Ivanovic took to the court.

The Serbian, back in the WTA Finals for the first time since 2008, dealt Williams her first grand-slam blow of 2014 at the Australian Open with a 4th round win. Since then, the two have played three more times, with the American coming out on top but two of the three battles went deep into third sets before Williams prevailed.

Ivanovic has had one of her best seasons on tour this year, and her return to the Top 10 was accompanied by four titles and 56 total wins, the best on tour.

Heading into the match, Williams boasted a 15-match winning streak at this event. With concerns about her left knee hanging overhead, the world No. 1 faced a pair of break points in her opening service game, but saved both with aces. After a tough hold to start, Williams settled in and quickly took a 4-1 lead as Ivanovic struggled with her serve.

But after holding for 2-4, Ivanovic broke Williams at love, and then leveled the match at 4-4. An energetic crowd watched as the Serbian had a break point that would give her a chance to serve for the first set, but Williams held on. Serving to stay in the set, Ivanovic threw in two double faults, including one down set point, and Williams broke for a 6-4 lead.

Ivanovic immediately broke the Williams serve in the second set, partially due to two double faults by Williams, but she was broken straight back. Each player then held serve until 5-4, when Ivanovic served to stay in the match. Just as in the first set, Ivanovic could not withstand the pressure and she was broken to give Williams the 6-4, 6-4 win and her 16th straight WTA Finals match victory.

Ivanovic was plagued by double faults all night, and she tossed in seven during the match and said later she felt she was rushing her serve. “She was putting a lot of pressure on my serve,” Ivanovic said. “She served really well today I thought and created more pressure on my service game. I didn’t feel my rhythm, so I was trying to make more first serves.”

Williams’ serve, on the flip side, was firing. She hit 12 aces overall, giving her 430 for the season, the most of any player on the WTA Tour. “I was pleased with my serve,” Williams said after the match. “Ana is a very aggressive returner, and I went really hard at my second serve.”

The world No. 1 played without her left knee strapped, and she said it felt much better. “Compared to what it was in Beijing, it feels so much better,” Williams said. “I’m getting better, which is great.”

The win helps Williams’ chance of wrapping up the WTA year-end No. 1 spot, and now Sharapova will need to reach the final with a 2-1 record or win the title to have a chance to take away the top spot.

In the second match, Simona Halep won the battle of the WTA Finals newcomers over Genie Bouchard, with a tidy 6-2, 6-3 win. Halep raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and even had a point for a 5-0, triple break lead before Bouchard held to get on the board at 1-4. After clinching the first set 6-2, Halep broke early in the second and held on to wrap up the 6-2, 6-3 victory. Bouchard hit 30 errors and 5 double faults in the match.

Tuesday’s schedule features Maria Sharapova versus Caroline Wozniacki, followed by Petra Kvitova against Agnieszka Radwanska.

ORDER OF PLAY – October 21, 2014

Singapore Indoor Stadium – Start 5:30 pm

Rising Stars Final

Rising Stars Final – Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) vs Zheng SaiSai (China)

Not before 7:30 pm

(2) Maria Sharapova (Russia) vs (8) Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

(3) Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) vs (6) Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

Stephanie Neppl is in Singapore covering the WTA Finals for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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The Solidly Mercurial Halep

By Abigail Hinto

 

(October 2, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – For sports, where it’s about definitive results, where a win is a win, we do manage to talk a lot about beauty.  And tennis is no exception.  Simona Halep, with her fluid strokes plays a more aesthetically pleasing game compared to her opponent Thursday, Andrea Petkovic who has more mechanical looking strokes.  But was it Halep’s beautiful game that beat Petkovic?

 

Halep has steadily risen in the rankings since last year with consistent results week in week out, winning several tournaments along the way and getting deep into grand slams.  To reach the top of the rankings in tennis, where Halep is now as the No. 2 ranked player in the world, playing well consistently is the name of the game.

 

However, Halep’s match against Petkovic was the opposite of consistent.  One game Halep was playing flawlessly, dictating points and hitting winners all over the court, the next game, out of nowhere, she could no longer find the court with any of her strokes.  Flawless game to break, error-strewn game to get broken back.  Meanwhile, Petkovic with her mechanical, steady groundstrokes was the more consistent of the two throughout the match.  Unfortunately for Petkovic, it was in the two crucial tiebreaks where her game fell apart while Halep managed to steady herself to eventually win 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (1).

 

So how does one reconcile Halep’s erratic game with her consistent results?  The beauty of tennis is the presence of important points.  Those pressure situations where as is often the case, the best comes out on top.   And that’s what both Halep and Petkovic showed in this match.  The better player, the player who ended up winning, was the one who played the two tiebreakers solidly.  And in the end, the mercurial Halep managed to reign in her game in time, in those two pressure situations, to get the win.  Something she has been doing consistently for over a year now.

Unfortunately for both players, Halep has pulled out of the China Open with a hip injury.  Her next opponent, Ana Ivanovic moves on to the semifinals.

“It was a tough match against Andrea today, and I had to fight a lot,” Halep said in a statement. “I’m happy I was able to win and finish the match in the right way, but I have a hip injury and it would be risky for me to play again tomorrow.”

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Simona Halep Falls to Former Teen Phenom Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

 

(August 29, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – No. 2 seed Simona Halep has crashed out of the US Open falling to qualifier and former teen tennis phenom, 32-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, ranked 121 in the world 7-6 (6), 6-2.

The Croat was down a break in the first set and won 11 of the next 15 games to close out the match.

Halep had some success in the majors this year, losing the French Open final and reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Halep double-faulted 7 times and hit 23 unforced errors, while Lucic-Baroni 31 winners.

The winner is back into the fourth round of a major for the first time since 1999 Wimbledon when she reached the semifinal as a teenager.

“It’s amazing,” Lucic-Baroni said. “I finally been able to play the tennis that I love the way I love to play. You know, being really aggressive and consistent at the same time. Yeah, I mean, I keep playing better and better each round. Today was against one of the best players in the world. She’s amazing. I expected a really tough match. I didn’t think about anything except following the tactics and playing the way I was supposed to play. I was able to do that; it’s incredible.”

“I’m a little bit emotional now,” she said in press and began to cry. “It’s been really hard. Sorry. After so many years to be here again, it’s incredible. I wanted this so bad. So many times I would get to, you know, a place where I could do it. Then I wanted it so bad that I’m kind of burned out. And I apologize again. Yeah, I’m so happy.

Halep was trying to make the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the second straight year.

“She played really well today,” Halep said. “After I had 5-2 and the two set points, she came back really well and she started to hit every ball. Everything was in for her. It wasn’t my best day, but still I did everything I could on court. She was better than me today, so I have to just to keep working every day hard and to look forward for the next one.”
“She was hitting the balls very strong,” Halep said of her challenger. She’s tall and she serves well. So I knew that she’s a good player. But still, like I said, I wasn’t in a good mood also. I didn’t play my best today. But she deserves to win.”

“I started pretty good the match,” the Romanian continued. ”I had 5-2 and two set balls. I started aggressive. I played well. But after that, after she came back really well. I couldn’t hit very long the balls. So was too short, my game. But it happened, and I have just to take like it was. Good mood I didn’t have because, you know, sometimes after you lose a set from 5-2 you lose a little bit of the confidence. But still I tried everything I could.”

“I feel goofy right now,” said the Croat. “I feel like I’m 15 now. I feel so excited. It’s crazy. I’m 32, but I don’t feel like that. My body is really great. That’s really important. I feel fit. I feel strong in my mind. I feel very excited, even after so many years on tour. That’s what I find really — exciting is not the word. Kind of surprising a little bit. I still have so much desire, so much to play. And what I meant today is when I said on the court I realized later what was I saying? I was saying I have such an amazing husband and such a happy life at home that I don’t need to do this, you know. I would be perfectly fine having a family. But people don’t realize how much I want this and how hard I worked for this. Yeah, it’s these moments in these last two weeks that are just — I mean, it’s what I work for. It’s just so fulfilling, so amazing.”

Lucic-Baroni will play Sara Errani next. The Italian knocked out Venus Williams 6-0. 0-6, 7-6(5).

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For Danielle Rose Collins It’s Back to School after Grand Slam and Main Draw Debut at US Open

 

(August 25, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – No. 2 seed Simona Halep did the honors in opening play on Arthur Ashe stadium on the first day of the US Open on Monday.

The Romanian, a French Open finalist this year,  who last year at this time was ranked 21st in the world, had to get over some opening set jitters and a unfamiliar opponent to beat wild card and NCAA champion Danielle Rose Collins 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2.

“I didn’t know how she looks because I never saw her on the tour,” Halep admitted. “She’s a great player. Of course she has good motivation. I saw her second ball. She was screaming, Come on. So it’s a good thing for her.

“A big challenge for me because I played the first match of this tournament on center court,” Halep said. “It’s not easy to manage the situation, but I think after first set did I very well. I played better than first set. I started a little bit nervous, but it’s normal. And she played really well, as well. She was hitting the balls really good. She was serving good. She will have, for sure, a good future.”
Collins came into the match up to the challenge with no fear.

“I think a lot of times people get a little bit intimidated if they focus too much on who they’re playing against, especially if you’re looking at it, like, oh, you’re playing Simona Halep or you’re playing the No. 2 girl in the world,” said the American. “I kind of threw all of that out the door and took the pressure off myself and just really focused on the things I could do and the things that I could control.”

Collins earned her wild card into the US Open by winning the NCAA championship in May, representing Virginia, the first Cavalier to pull off the feat. She spoke about her experience earning the title as an unseeded player. “I think it was mainly surprising just because of a lot of the injuries that I was dealing with throughout the year. But, you know, I work with two really great coaches and they have always had a lot of confidence and faith in me. You know, I feel like when you surround yourself with good people, it makes everything a lot more easier. So I was always really confident and believed in myself leading up to the end of the tournament, and so I went in there with the attitude, you know, I can do this and I can, you know, play with these girls and beat these girls. That was like the main thing that helped me and led me to winning.”
Next stop for Collins is back to school at Virginia to begin her junior year.

“We’ll probably try to look into flights and stuff tonight or tomorrow unfortunately,” she said. “So it’s going to be a quick turnaround, and then first day of classes is tomorrow. I’ll be in class this time tomorrow.”

“I love UVA, but school’s tough,” said the 20-year-old. “School is very tough. So back to work for me.”

“Play some more pro tournaments. Maybe play a couple pro tournaments during the fall season. Fortunately we are allowed to do that, so that will be more experience I can get under my belt for the future.”

Collins says she’ll treasure the experience of playing in her first major, and her first main draw match to boot. “It’s obviously an incredible experience, she said. “It was my childhood dream to play in a Grand Slam and to play in the US Open. I got that off the bucket list. I obviously had a really good experience taking a set off the No. 2 ranked girl in the world. I think there is a lot of positive things to take from it. It can only go up from here for me. Obviously a big confidence booster. You know, I don’t think a lot of people were expecting me to take a set off of her, so overall, an incredible experience. I mean, that’s something I’ll never forget.”

“Summer was too much fun,” Collins said. “I’ll be in class this time tomorrow.”

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Simona Halep Rapidly Rising

 

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(August 23, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – No. 2 seed Romanian Simona Halep has seen her ranking surge over the past two years.

“Last year I didn’t expect that I can get in top 10 this year, but it was my dream to be in top 20,” she told media on Saturday in a pre-US Open news conference. “Now I’m second in the rankings, so it’s an amazing feeling for me. I’m not very surprised because I had good matches in the past also with top players. I beat them, and then I got more confidence in myself. My game, it starts to be — I improved more in my game. In my serve also. With my forehand I hit stronger than before. So it’s I think I deserve to be here because I won few titles and also important matches. I did finals in Grand Slam. So I just want to keep this work going and to see how far and how good I can be, how better I can be in the future.”

“This year I had the chance to practice in Arthur Ashe, and it’s huge,” she said as someone who is used to playing on smaller courts. “It’s very big. It’s good to have this experience. Maybe I will play a match maybe first round or I don’t know. I have experience everywhere now to play, so I feel prepared for everything. I have just to do my game on court, because I think that’s the most important thing. Doesn’t matter the court where are you playing. Just to play your best.”

“I think it’s a very nice thing to play in front of thousand people watching you,” she added later. “For me it doesn’t matter if they are loud up there, because when I’m on court I’m very focused, so I don’t care about that they are screaming sometimes or during the points. It’s normal. Everyone can do everything they want. Every people is free to do. But sometimes like a player, you need some quiet during the points. But, you know, every player it’s different, so for me that doesn’t matter. No problem at all.”

Still not a household name on the international tennis scene, she said that she still has been recognized by one person in New York City.

“Policeman,” she said. “He told me, you are Simona Halep, no? Yes, I am. Only one.”

Halep will face off against l Danielle Rose Collins of the USA in the first round.

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Kvitova, Wozniacki, Bouchard and Halep “Meet the Press” in New Haven for All-Access Hour at Connecticut Open (Podcast)

 

(August 17, 2014) NEW HAVEN – Top seeds for the Connecticut Open – Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova,  Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Woznacki met the media on Sunday.

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Petra Kvitova – The 2012 winner of the New Haven event is just off her second title at Wimbledon back in early July. She said the the second win at the All England Club is even more special.

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Caroline Wozniacki – A four -time champion at New Haven, the Dane says she’s very happy with her current form on the court and is looking forward to running the New York Marathon in the fall to raise money for charity.

 

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Eugenie Bouchard – The world No. 8 and recent Wimbledon finalist evaluated her season so far and spoke about what separates the Top 50 players is the mental side of the game.

 

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Simona Halep – Last year’s champion, the top seed and world No. 2 discussed her rise over the past two years and that she likes to eat chocolate.

(Note – due to the news conferences being held outside, there is background noise from the wind and crowd sounds in the recordings.)

 

 

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