2014/10/30

Williams Continues Her Domination Over Sharapova To Reach 9th Miami Final

 

By Kevin Ware

(March 27, 2014) Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to reach her ninth final in Key Biscayne. Williams came into this semifinal the prohibitive favorite, owing to her 15-2 head-to-head against Sharapova. But it was quickly evident that Williams’ best level hadn’t quite made it to the court by match time.

In a repeat of their 2013 final, Sharapova came out ready to play her best tennis from the very first point. She came out hitting the ball hard, deep, and into the corners. In typical fashion, she struggled with her first serve percentage, but still managed to start the match with a crucial hold.

Williams was slow to get going, and unable to take advantage of her many chances at the Sharapova second serve. She even struggled with her own potent serve at the outset, and was broken in the fourth game for a 4-1 Sharapova lead.

While this type of deficit might lead many players to panic, Williams kept her focus on the big picture. “I thought, Okay, I’m only down a break.  It was really just one break.  The scoreline looked bigger than what it was.  I felt if I could just break back, then I would be back in the match.”

Williams came back after the changeover with her “A” game ready to go. She methodically held serve for 2-4 before breaking Sharapova twice to take the first set 6-4. Her early sluggishness was replaced by big hitting, sharp angles, and untouchable serves.

The slump in Sharapova’s shoulders after Williams held at love for the set said it all. She has chances for a win if Williams is off her game, but knows that it’s going to be tough to beat Williams if she regains here form.

Sharapova was asked about Williams’s ability to take her game to another level when needed, and simply replied, “That’s why she’s No. 1 in the world.”

“There are always going to be drops. But she’s the player that is most capable of coming back from that or regaining focus and regaining that concentration as someone that’s ultimately going to do better.”

There was a glimmer of hope for Sharapova at the start of the second set when Williams took her foot off the pedal for a two-game walkabout that included lax defense, minimal footwork, and one of the worst drop shots seen at this year’s tournament. But Williams again raised her level as needed to break back for a 2-1 lead.

After Sharapova was broken at love in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 Williams lead, there was little chance this match might even go the distance to a third. Sharapova fought hard, but ultimately wilted under pressure. A forehand into the net handed Williams her 15th straight win over her Russian opponent.

Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams in almost a decade, with her last victory coming at the 2004 WTA Championships in Los Angeles. And while many believe this to be one of the WTA’s big rivalries, she is quick to remind everyone that it’s not much of a rivalry until she can get a win.

When asked about their lopsided “rivalry”, Sharapova attempted to put a positive spin on the situation. “I mean, despite my results against her, I still look forward to playing against her because you learn so much from that type of level which she produces.”

“You finish the match, and you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to work on.”

In spite of her win, Williams remained subdued in the press room afterward, fending off questions of rivalries and potential challengers. She takes no one for granted, and views every opponent as a potential rival.

“I mean, everyone I play always plays me hard, so I feel like every match I play I literally have to be on my best, so for me I take a rival as every match, and I think that’s one of the best ways to take it.”

“You have to show up, and if you don’t show up, then your biggest threat will be yourself.”

Williams has won the title in Miami a record six times, one more than Steffi Graf. A seventh title would give her the record for the most Miami titles of all, surpassing the great Andre Agassi.

Williams will face Li Na in Saturday’s final after her late-night three-set win over Dominika Cibulkova.

Kevin Ware is in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Li and Cibulkova Reach Sony Open Semis

 

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

(March 26, 2014) It will be a rematch of the Australian Open women’s final in the semifinal of the Sony Open as both Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova advanced on Wednesday. Li won the Australian Open in straight sets for her second major title.

No. 10 seed Dominika Cibulkova saved  three match points in the second set en route to a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 2 Li Na won the last 4 straight games to close out Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 7-5.

Cibulkova won despite poor serving and unforced errors. She had her serve broken 10 times and double-faulted 8times, committing 51 unforced errors.

One of her match points saved came on a controversial call which was overturned due a challenge.

He match against Radwanska was a repeat of the Arustralian Open semifinal where the Slovak won over the Pole to make her first major final.

The Slovak who is in the Sony Open semis for the first time, will enter the top ten for the first time when the rankings come out on Monday.

“I’m really glad, especially about my win today,” Cibulkova said.

“It wasn’t easy at all to play today against Aga with the wind and conditions, and I had to stay aggressive all the time even if I missed many shots, you know.  I just had to keep going.

“So today the match was really tough, and I’m happy about everything, you know.  Before the match, even before the tournament, like they keep asking me, Top 10 and everything, and I just, you know, I just said, like, Okay, if I should be there, I will be there.  If I should not be there, I will not be there.

“So now I’m there.  So finally it’s over.”

“I think it was so close, the second set,” Radwanska said.  “But I think, you know, in those matches you have to play good and you have to be lucky.

“I was just playing good and she was both.”

With Li Na’s win, she became the first Chinese player to reach the Sony Open semifinals.

“I think today I was feeling she was the best to defend in all the tour, so I was feeling a little bit like player against a wall,” Li said about her match against Wozniacki.  “Because doesn’t matter where is it.  She always come and put the ball back to my court.

“After I was finished the match, I was feeling, Wow, you doing good.  You beat a wall.  Yeah.”

Li Na now leads the tour with 20 match wins on the season

On Thursday six–time Sony Open winner No. 1 Serena Williams will take on five-time finalist and No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova in the first women’s semifinal. Williams holds a 15-2 record against the Russian, winning the last 14 straight.

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Serena Williams Crushes, Maria Sharapova Rebounds to Advance at Sony Open

(March 24, 2014) In a tale of two different matches, expected results as No. 1 Serena Williams and fourth seed Maria Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of the Sony Open on Monday.

Williams dismissed American countrywoman qualifier CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-1 to reach the elite 8 in Miami for the 13th time in 14 appearances.

After her first two matches in the tournament she showed some rust, Williams cleaned up her game hitting 17 winners to only 11 unforced errors and stopping all six break points she faced.

“I was definitely happier today,” Williams said.  “I was really struggling my first two matches, so I just wanted to have a better performance today.”

“She’s improved a great deal,” Williams said of her opponent’s game.  “Her focus is so much better.  Her movement is good.  Her attitude is great.  She’s a nice girl.

“You know, it’s always fun to play with young Americans, I think, and just enjoy it.  It’s so good to see another American doing really well.”

Williams was so impressed with the young American that she spoke to her about possible playing doubles.

“She said, `Listen, you played so well. We’ve got to play doubles. We’d do so well,'” Vandeweghe said.

Next up for Williams will be the No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

“It will be good to play a different opponent,” Williams said.  “I feel like I have played the same person three times in a row.  It will be nice to play a lefty, someone that just plays different.

“Angelique has been able to beat me in the past, so I have to be really focused and be ready in that match.”

 

Maris Sharapova had to reset from a first set drubbing to beat Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The Belgium jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and Sharapova could only win five points during those four games. In the second set Sharapova jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then Flipkens won 4 out of 5 games, but Sharapova broke serve to take the set 6-4.

“I usually like playing the first match, but I didn’t start off the way I wanted to,” Sharapova said. “Nothing was working.”

“Nothing was working in the first set,” Sharapova said. “Yeah, that’s just the way it went in the beginning.

“She’s a different type of opponent. There aren’t too many girls that hit a slice backhand 90% of the time in the rallies. You expect that because she’s been around for a long time, and it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but I wasn’t doing too much from my end and made a lot of mistakes from the first ball, which gives your opponent that confidence and the time they need to do whatever they want.

“It was about finding that combination of getting something in to give her something to play with.”

Sharapova’s momentum carried over into the final set where she kept her errors low and her aggression high, dropping only one more game.

Final stats for Sharapova- 36 unforced errors, 13 winners and 10 double-faults.

Sharapova will play the woman she lost to in the 2011 Wimbledon finals, No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. Kvitova regrouped to stop Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-0.

“We haven’t played for a long time, but we have always had interesting, tough matches against each other,” Sharapova said about her next opponent.  “I think we know what to expect from one another.  She’s always tricky because she is a lefty.  You don’t play so many out there.  I already had one in this tournament, so maybe that was good practice for it.

“She has a different game than someone like Safarova.  She has a powerful game and goes for her shots, and when she’s on it’s tricky to play against her.”

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Federer Makes Quick Work of de Bakker at Sony Open

Federer fh

(March 23, 2014) Roger Federer took just 63 minutes to reach the fourth round of the Sony Open against Thiemo De Bakker winning 6-3, 6-3 on Stadium Court on Sunday.

Federer played a very clean match with 23 winners to 11 unforced errors, with no break points against him, going for 14 at the net.

Over the past two matches Federer has won at least 90% of his first and second serve points. He was asked if his new racquet has been a factor in his serve statistics.

“I definitely think some of it, for sure,” Federer said.  “I think it just gives me easier power, especially on the first serve.  And I think as time now goes by, I’m getting a better feel for how is the ball going to react, you know, how much spin do I need to put on to stay really accurate and put it really close to the line.

“Because that’s something I also struggled with last year and sometimes before.  It’s just to keep the pace up and keep accuracy up.  Right now I’m doing a good job.

“But then again, you know, this wasn’t Andre Agassi on the other side, or Djokovic.  It’s just important for me to keep that up and remind myself it’s going well so far.

“But you also need to put in the effort again, time and time again.  Then it’s not just to serve.  You know, people think, Oh, he’s winning all these points on first and second serve.

“But there are rallies after that.  It doesn’t just stop right after you’ve hit a serve.  So important it’s how do you back up your serve.  I think that’s also what I’m doing well now.”

 

Federer will play Richard Gasquet in the fourth round.

“We have played many times now in the past, and I’m not sure how he’s playing right now,” Federer said.  “I really don’t know.  I have to find out a little bit.

“I’m not sure about his results as of late, so I have to check a little bit.

“He’s got great game, you know.  Gives himself time, sort of that extra second of time on each shot, forehand and backhand.

“I played him in London recently at the World Tour Finals in ‑‑ I think it was our second‑round group match maybe.  I played a good match against him, but, you know, he’s overall good player.  Can serve well.  Can volley well.  He’s got nice shots, forehand and backhand.

“So he’s a good all‑around player, and I think he’s done well here in the past.  With the wind and the slower conditions, it works quite well for him.

“I think it’s going to be a tough match for me.”

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Li Na Fights Off Madison Keys to Reach Sony Open Fourth Round

Li Na

(March 23, 2014) Li Na held off Madison Keys 7-6(3), 6-3 in a slugfest on Sunday morning at the Sony Open to reach the fourth round.

The world No. 2 and young American who are both represented by agent Max Eisenbud, each broke serve three time in the opening set. Along with hitting deep groundstrokes, both women committed tons of unforced errors.

Li saved set points, down 3-5 in first set and was forced to rebound from being a break down at 0-2 early in the second set. Keys was within a point of going up 3-0 in the second set.

“I think it was pretty tough match,” Li said.  “I think she play well, big serve, big forehand, especially when she was like 3‑1 down and then come back 5‑3‑up and serve for the first set.

“During that time I didn’t think about too much.  I say, Okay, try to hit the ball, try to do what you have to do, and I think the, how you say, save the set point was give me a not lot, but at least I was still on the first set.

“So I think this was maybe change the match a little bit, because after that I was feeling she’s drop a little bit.”

“She’s No. 2 in the world for a reason,” Keys said.  “She just won Australian Open for a reason.  She’s a great player.”

“I played well at times, and she just played the bigger points, you know, really, really well.

“So, I mean, there is a lot to be happy with, but there is also some stuff I need to work on.  That’s what I’m going to go do.”

“I definitely think at times I was doing a good job at taking time away, moving forward a little bit better, and looking for my forehand,” Keys said.

My serve was a little bit up and down today.  But, I mean, overall I think I did a good job of staying in the moment.

Li will play Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round.

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Maria Sharapova Wins Thriller over Lucie Safarova to Advance at Sony Open

Sharapova fh

(March 22, 2014) Maria Sharapova was pushed hard by Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-2 in a three hour contest to move into the round of 16 at the Sony Open. The No. 4 seed won the match on her ninth match point over a pesky opponent, 56 minutes after her first match point, which came in the second set tiebreaker.

Safarova saved 6 match points against Sharapova in the final game of the match with a series of winners.

“There are so many emotions and there are so many ups and downs,” Sharapova said. “You finish off the first set and then I was down a couple of breaks in the second.  Then I brought it back up, and then I had my chances to win that match.  And then it went to a third.

“So of course you’re going through a lot, that I was really happy that I was able to come back after losing the second set and not letting that affect me, although it’s always challenging to know that you had the match so close.”

At the end of the match, instead of the traditional handshake, the women exchanged hugs.

“She was coming up with some really good shots,” said the winner.  “There was not really much that I could do.

“She’s going for her shots and she was hitting winners on the run.  I tried to stay focused, and I think I did a good job of that.  It would have been very easy to let that game go.

“I’m happy to be sitting here winning the match,” the Russian said in press.  “Obviously it was tough to lose that second set after having a couple of match points, but I was really happy with the way I came out.”

Both Sharapova and top seed Serena Williams’ matches were three-set thrillers. Williams stopped Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Serena Williams Pushes Past Caroline Garcia into Miami Round of 16

In the past, early round matches for the women were considered by some as “warm ups” for the rest of the tournament. Sharapova said that nowadays that’s not the case and that women’s tennis is much more competitive.

“I’d say five years ago I’d say you’d consider the first couple of rounds as a warmup to the tournament,” said the fourth seed.  “You don’t see that now.  You don’t see players that are seeded playing the first round, but they have had great wins.

“Someone like (Caroline) Garcia, she’s played three sets against me.  She’s an up and comer and playing really well.

“So we all know that everyone can play, and that’s really why there is a draw and the net goes up in the morning, is because you have to play those matches.

“But it is exciting for women’s tennis.”

In other women’s action on the day:

No. 9 seed Sara Errani fell to Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Kirsten Fipkens advanced into the next round when No. 14 seed Sabine Lisicki withdrew from the tournament due to the flu.

Other seeds advancing on the day were No. 5 Angelique Kerber who beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0, 6-2, No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic who topped Indian Wells winner No. 20 seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-3, No. 8 Petra Kvitova who beat teen qualifier Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4.

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Serena Williams Pushes Past Caroline Garcia into Miami Round of 16

Serena Williams photo ©Sony Open

Serena Williams photo ©Sony Open

(March 22, 2014) In a match in which the world No. 1 committed 41 unforced errors, Serena Williams survived up-and-comer Caroline Garcia of France 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the fourth round of the Sony Open on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Garcia made Williams work – moving the 17-time major champ around the court and blasting serves which were clocked as fast as at 117mph in the two-hour and 30 minute match.

“She plays well,” the 32-year-old Williams said of Garcia.  “I really gave myself a tremendous amount of trouble out there.”

“I think, granted she played great, but I made so many errors.  I hit so short.  It really isn’t the same player.  I just have to do better.”

“It was a good match to play and it was good test for me because she’s good player and she’s always fighting a lot,” Garcia said.

“I’m happy what I did but still disappointing because I didn’t win, but it’s good match.”

“Obviously I wasn’t at my best,” Williams continued.  “I had 40‑ something errors.  It’s not the way to play professional tennis.  Maybe amateur.

“On the professional tour you have to do a little better than that, so hopefully I can, in the next few matches, to do better.”

“She has a great serve,” Williams said complimenting Garcia’s game.  “She does everything well.”

“I think she’s a good player.  I also think I can test myself and say, Look, I can play a hundred times better than what I played before.  I’m capable of doing so much better.  I just have to get to that level.”

Williams hopes to pick up her level of play in the fourth round when she competes against the winner of the Samantha Stosur – Coco Vandeweghe match.

Six-time Sony Open winner Williams is seeking to defend her crown and win a record–setting seventh title.

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Stanislas Wawrinka Back to Winning Ways at the Sony Open

Stanislas Wawrinka

(March 22, 2014) Stanislas Wawrinka improved his record to 14-1 on the year defeating Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 in his opening match on Stadium Court at the Sony Open.

The match was a bit of a test for the No. 1 Swiss player who is participating in the Key Biscayne event for the first time since 2011.

“I start well really first set.  It wasn’t going that well, but I was positive, ready.

“Problem is I still have some up and down mentally.  I was negative in the second set a little bit stupidly, but then I’m really happy the way I start the third set.

“Was important to come back strong, to move well again, to play aggressive, to push him, and was important to get the break early.

“I think then was okay.  I’m happy to win.  That’s the most important.  First one here, it’s never easy.  The condition was really slow today, really humid.  You need to get through.  That’s it.  That’s the most important, just winning matches.”

The Australian Open Champion is very happy with his reception in Key Biscayne.

“It’s been great,” Wawrinka said.  “I have been here since one week.  I was practicing since Monday here.  A lot of fan(s), a lot of people from South America, they always come to watch the practice.

“It’s normally a really good crowd.  They make a lot of noise.  They are really happy to be here.  The reception was great for me.

“I didn’t come last two year, so it was even bigger.

Now that Wawrinka has won a major, he was asked about his additional goals.

“Well, there is one goal that I have since many years,” Wawrinka said.  “It’s the Davis Cup.  Now Roger (Federer) is playing, so we know that we are a strong team to do something.  Well need to be careful, but we have a good chance to make a big result this year, and that’s so far the most important.”

Wawrinka and team Swirzerland will play host to Kazakhstan April 4-6 in the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals.

“I need to focus on what I did before to win the Australian Open,” Wawrinka continued.  “That means I need to focus with my coach, try to improve my game, try to be 100% every day on the court, try to always fight, always try to be at my best in every matches.

“And if I do that, I know I’m going to have some great results this year.”

Wawrinka will face Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the third round.

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Novak Djokovic Moves Into Sony Open Third Round

Djokovic on court 321-001

(March 21, 2014) Three-time former Sony Open champion Novak Djokovic defeated Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-3. The Serb converted on all three break points he had against Chardy.

“When I was supposed to play my best and come up with some good serves and good shots, that’s what I did in both sets,” Djokovic said.

Chardy hurt his right ankle in the eighth game of the second set.

“I assume it was quite bad,” Djokovic said.  “He twisted his ankle.  I talked with him after the match.  He’s still in physio room, so he says it’s not as bad as he thought.  But I wish him recovery.”

One of the keys to the world No. 2’s success has been the improvement of his footwork.

“Footwork is essential,” he said.  “If you want to hit the shot properly, you have to be in the right balance.

“To be in the right balance, you need to have the right footwork and you need to try to adjust to the ball.

Obviously variety of surfaces require variety of footwork and adjustment in the same element.

“I have been dedicating quite a lot of time on and off the court to that matter, and I have been fortunate with a team of people that I have.

I think they are experts in their fields, in their professions, and they are making sure I am, you know, developing that footwork, you know, regarding the place or the surface where I’m playing.

“So I think it’s very, very important, if not the most important thing.”

“I love this sport,” Djokovic said.  “I just love going out and I enjoy competing.  I enjoy, you know, playing the tournaments over and over again, you know, trying to win as many titles as possible, trying to, you know, strive for some kind of perfection, if there is a perfection in this sport, you know, always to get better.  We will see how far I can go.”

Djokovic will now get ready to play Florian Mayer in the third round.

In the last match on Stadium Court, defending champion Andy Murray, playing for the first time since he split with coach Ivan Lendl, rallied from a break down in the third set to beat Matthew Ebden 3-6, 6-0, 6-1.

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Roger Federer Returns to Sony Open with a Win Over Ivo Karlovic

Federer on court-001

(March 21, 2014) Roger Federer returned to the Sony Open on a winning note beating hard-serving, 6-foot-11 Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Friday. Federer missed playing last year’s event in Key Biscayne and was entertained by a video tribute on the stadium scoreboard.

 

With a giggle and a laugh, the 17-time major champion told the crowd that it looked like a farewell video. “I miss one year, and you make me feel guilty,” he said.

 

Federer committed a mere 3 unforced errors during the match. In addition he won 49 of his 52 service points.

 

“I think I was able to play a very clean match on my service games throughout, make sure I had a lot of first serves in, make sure I stayed aggressive from the baseline, had an opportunity,” Federer said.

“I think it worked really well, hardly any unforced errors, I was playing with margin, was able to move Ivo around, and I was able to maintain that throughout the match, which was key.

“Like this I could focus a bit on returning while then holding serve, which is important against Ivo.”

“I’m very relieved and happy to be through,” Federer told media.

 

So what’s it like to play the big-serving Karlovic?

“Physically it’s super easy,” Federer said.  “There are no long rallies.  It’s just like more penalty shootout like in soccer.  I don’t want to say you pick sides, but it’s about quick reaction, not getting frustrated and feeling that the returner is the one who has got less pressure.

“I quite like it.  I enjoy it.  It’s just uncomfortable at times when it comes to the crunch of the sets and you have break points and you know like this is probably your only chance in the set or you know that probably next four or five games you won’t see any more break points, or even for the rest of the match.

“So it just can be quite difficult or overwhelming.  But if you’re in the right mindset mentally, it can also be enjoyable.  That’s how I approach the match, anyway.”

Federer last won the Key Biscayne tournament in 2006

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