2014/10/25

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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Cilic and Pavlyuchenkova Net Moscow Titles

Marin Cilic

Marin Cilic

(October 19, 2014) U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic won the Kremlin Cup on Sunday in Moscow defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4 for his 13th ATP World Tour title of his career and his fourth tournament win of the season.

“After winning such a big tournament as a Grand Slam you have a lot of emotions and it’s important to bounce back and keep going,” said the big-serving Croat. “I feel this is going to be a really good push for my career. All the titles are special but this one will definitely have an important spot. It is important for my progress.

“After winning big titles, players are very motivated to play better and they are playing more [risky]. I felt also that this week I had a lot of tough matches and I was able to stay in the battle and bring out my best tennis.”

On Friday Cilic qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Cilci is the first Croatian to win Moscow since his coach Goran Ivanisevic won in 1996.

 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova photo courtesy of Taste of Tennis

On the ladies side, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 to win the women’s title.

“It’s just the best possible way to end the season,” the home town heroine Pavlyuchenkova said. “It was a really tough match. I just couldn’t have lost at home.”

She is the first Russian woman to win the Kremlin Cup since Elena Dementieva did it in 2007.

For Pavlyuchenkova it’s her seventh title of her career and the second of 2014, having also won at the Paris Indoors.

“After the second set I knew I had to be more energetic and intense out there,” said the Russian. “I knew I had to play my aggressive game and just do something, otherwise she’d be too good. She was playing so well the whole week. The surface really fit her game. I just needed to stop thinking about the score and go for it. I’m happy I could regroup in the third set and win this title at home. I’m extremely happy.”
“It was a great week,” said Begu. “I beat some really good players and this gives me a lot of confidence. She took her chances to step in and dictating the points, so it wasn’t my day. At the same time, I enjoyed the final and did the best that I could.”

 

Pavlyuchenkova and Begu are projected to rise in the ranking to No.25 and No.42 respectively when rankings are released on Monday.
Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev was absent from the trophy presentation. He was banned for a year by the WTA on Friday over comments about the Williams sisters. He attended the men’s trophy presentation.

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Berdych Rallies Past Dimtrov to Take Stockholm Crown

(October 19, 2014) Top seed Tomas Berdych kept himself in the ATP World Tour Race to London by defeating defending champion Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Stockholm Open for the second time.

Berdych won his 10th career title beating the defending champion. The Czech’s win keeps him on course to qualify for the season-ending ATP finals in London for the fifth straight year.

“It’s the first and only tournament I’ve won twice,” Berdych said. “The hospitality and care here is very nice. That’s why I like to come back. I feel at home here.”

“It was a good match, “Dimitrov said. “I give all my respect to Tomas. It’s never easy to lose a final, but he was just better out there today. He had bigger momentum in the second and third (sets). That made the biggest difference.”

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Notes and Quotes: The WTA Top 8 Meet the Press in Singapore

Elite 8

Photo taken from the twitter feed of Maria Sharapova

 

(October 19, 2014) The elite 8 of women’s tennis met the media on Sunday in advance of the WTA Finals which begin on Monday in Singapore. Here are a few notable quotables.

 

Serena Williams responding to Shamil Tarpischev’s comments:

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments. I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying.

“I’ve done the best that I can do, and that’s all I can say. So I just wasn’t very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well.

“But the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that ‑‑ in this day of age, 2014 for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”

 

Maria Sharapova was also asked about Tarpishev’s comments.

“I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA. It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side.”

 

How important is the year‑end No. 1?

SERENA WILLIAMS: “I definitely would be here if I already had it locked up. It’s obviously super important for me. I love being No. 1; I love being the best.

“But at this at the same time, I’m really glad that I was able to get a slam this year, which was really annoying for me that I wasn’t able to capture one.

That was something that was super, super, super important, especially for the goals that I was trying to reach.”

 

 

MARIA SHARAPOVA: “Yeah, my opinion about the No. 1 hasn’t changed very much. I always feel that ranking is also not just based on your results but based on other people’s results and accomplishments.

“That’s why I’ve always experienced the joy of Grand Slam wins so much more, because the spur of the moment. There is actually a point that you have to win in order to get it; whereas the rankings will depend on other people’s performances during the year, at certain tournaments.

“Is it an incredible accomplishment? Absolutely. It would be amazing to achieve that. I haven’t done that in my career, finishing year‑end No. 1, but I have been in that spot before and been No. 2 before and gotten to No. 1.

If I do perform well, then my chances are better than if I don’t perform well.

And the pic of the night…:) pic.twitter.com/x9t3ajMTb1

— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) October 18, 2014

 

 

A picture is worth a thousand words. Maria Sharapova was asked about why she tweeted the behind the scenes photo from the draw ceremony.

“Just because it’s like a thousand words in one picture. It’s incredible. Can’t wait to write a book. (Laughter.) Those are the moments where I’m like, Oh, my goodness. I just wrote a whole chapter in one evening.

“Yeah, looked like a lot of fun, huh? Love those things.”

 

Petra Kvitova was asked about if it feels different to be a Wimbledon winner the second time around.

“It is different. I think that you can’t really know what to expect from that. Just the time show you what you have to do and change in your life probably.

“I mean, I didn’t want to change myself, but of course the things around me was different, so I need to handle it and try to do best what I can.

“The pressure was there of course on the court, off the court as well. I thought that probably I need to win every match and every tournament I’m playing after that, so it’s not really possible.

“Yeah, this time it’s much more easier for me, if I can say that. I know what I can expect and I know a little bit how to deal with that. It’s not really like the first time, so…

“I’m more relaxed and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Agnieszka Radwanska – Queen of the “Hot Shot.” The World No. was asked about her favorite shot that she hit.

“Well, of course it wasn’t that tricky as last year. Well, I have still few matches, so maybe I will do it here.

“I think I really liked that shot from Montreal from the semifinal. The overhead backhand. Maybe someone remember that.

“I think that was my favorite one, especially because it was a really big moment.

 

Ana Ivanovic- embracing Twitter and Istagram. The 2008 French Open winner and former world No. 1 was asked if she has embraced stardom and if it was due to social media and if it has impacted her on court.

That’s why I started Twitter and Instagram actually. Because I ‑‑ like I spoke just now, before I really felt like I changed also in this sense because I started to feel more comfortable with myself. I matured. It helped me to be okay with myself and who I am as a person and to embrace everything that comes with the job that I do.

“For me, I really struggled to be in the spotlight. It was really strange when I won French Open, when I was No. 1 in the world. It took me some time to accept this and to be okay.

“Now I actually enjoy it. That’s why I think it shows on and off the court I’m much more relaxed because I’m much more content with myself.”

 

What Serena has taught Eugenie Bouchard?

“I’ve learned many things. I think one thing that sticks out is that when it’s not going well, you can seeing her really try to calm herself down. She does her little hand thing, and that really symbolizes in my head she’s really trying to stay calm.

“Even someone as good as her has tough moments, and you can see her struggle with emotions a bit on the court. But she can always kind of collect herself and put it in the past and move forward.

“So I always imagine that, and I’m like, You know what? Serena can stay calm, I can stay calm.

 

Caroline Wozniacki – Not looking at the rankings. In a topsy turvy last couple of years for the two-time year-end No. 1, the Dane talks about the rankings.

“I never really looked at the rankings, but I definitely totally stopped when I went down to 18. I’m like, This is depressing. I don’t want to be down here.

“At the end of day, I just told myself, Doesn’t matter if you’re No. 1 or No. 18. At the end of the day, you have to compete with the same players. A lot of girls play so well now so it’s never easy. I just thought if I play well, the ranking will come back up soon.

“I started playing well, I started finding my form, and then the ranking just came up really quickly.”

 

The recently retired Li Na was asked about having second thoughts about calling it quits:

“Of course I’m not going to come back to tennis. I’m already 32; beginning of the year I already 33. I think I have to take care of my family right now, because last 32 years I was try hard as I can on tennis court.

“Now, you know, tennis is part of the life, so now I have to take care my family.”

Tennis Panorama News is in Singapore this week covering the WTA Finals. Follow on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Serena Williams Responds to Shamil Tarpischev Comments

 

(October 19, 2014) In her pre-tournament news conference at the WTA Finals in Singapore, Serena Williams responded to comments by Shamil Tarpischev, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation, who referred to Serena Williams and her sister Venus as the “Williams brothers.”

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Williams said. “I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying.

“I’ve done the best that I can do, and that’s all I can say. So I just wasn’t very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well.

“But the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that ‑‑ in this day of age, 2014 for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”

 

Maria Sharapova was also asked about Tarpischev’s comments.

“I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA,” said the Russian, world No. 2. “It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side.”

 

On Friday, the WTA Tour levied a $25,000 dollar fine and a year suspension. They also called for Tarpischev to be removed from his post as Chairman of the Kremlin Cup for a year.

Update: WTA Fines and Suspends Shamil Tarpischev for Williams Sisters Comments

The comments were made on a late night Russian TV talk show.

The 33-year-old world No. 1 Williams begins her quest to “three-peat” at the WTA Finals on Monday when she begins round-robin competition in the Red Group against Ana Ivanovic.

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Beck Wins Luxembourg Open, First-Ever WTA Title

(October 18, 2014) Annika Beck became the 14th player on the WTA Tour to win her first title in 2014. The 20-year-old German ranked 60th in the world defeated the fourth seed, Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the final of the Luxembourg Open 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday. Beck did not drop a set on her way to her fist title.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win my first WTA title,” Beck said. “I played the final last year and I said I’d do anything to win the title this year, and it’s an unbelievable feeling to actually do it. I enjoyed every moment I had on the center court. It’s really exciting.”

Beck broke her opponent’s serve seven times in the 93-minute match.

“I’m sad today, but overall it was a great, great week,” said the runner-up. “I was playing well this week. I had my chances today too – unfortunately I couldn’t take them, but this is sport.”

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Update: WTA Fines and Suspends Shamil Tarpischev for Williams Sisters Comments

 

 

(October 17, 2014) Before this week’s Kremlin Cup in Moscow, Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev during the taping of a Russian late-night television show called Evening Urgant, called Venus and Serena Williams “brothers.“

The WTA has come down on Tarpischev fining him the maximum allowed under the WTA tour rules, $25,000 and suspending him from tour for a year for his comments about Serena and Venus Williams.

The WTA Tour wants Tarpischev to be stripped from his position as chairman of the Kremlin Cup tournament for one year.

Here are the full statements from WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster and US Tennis Association President, Chairman and CEO Dave Haggerty.

 

 

Media preview

 

USTA response to recent comments by Shamil Tarpischev regarding the Williams sisters

“As the President of the USTA and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Tennis Federation, I call on Shamil Tarpischev to issue a formal apology to Venus and Serena Williams. As the President of the Russian Tennis Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Tarpischev is expected to conduct himself with the highest degree of integrity and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, his comments do not embody either of these traits and in fact were reprehensible.”

— Dave Haggerty, President, Chairman and CEO, USTA

 

October 18, 2014 Update: An official statement from the Russian Tennis Federation and Tarpischev was released on Sunday.

The Associated Press reported on the statement, here are a few excerpts:

Tarpischev: Williams comments meant as jokes

Asked whether he regretted his comments, Tarpischev told The Associated Press at the Kremlin Cup that the program on which he spoke was “a humorous show,” adding: “I don’t answer stupid questions.”

When asked about his ban, Tarpischev said: “I can’t comment. I don’t understand it.”

In a statement released later by the Russian Tennis Federation, Tarpischev denied any “malicious intent” and said his quotes had been taken out of context.

“I didn’t want to offend any athlete with my words,” he said. “I regret that this joke … has garnered so much attention. I don’t think this incident deserves so much fuss.”

The Williams sisters are “outstanding athletes” who “personify strength and perseverance,” he added.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the ITAR-Tass agency that he regretted that Tarpischev had made the comments and that his suspension was “an unpleasant fact,” but suggested his sanction should be reduced.

“It’s probably worth trying to get the punishment softened,” Mutko said.

 

 

Courtesy of the WTA

Courtesy of the WTA WTAtennis.com Posted on October 19, 2014

 

Related story:

Serena Williams Responds to Shamil Tarpischev Comments

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Karolina Pliskova Saves a Match Point to Claim Second Title of the Year in Linz

Generali_Ladies_Linz_logo

(October 12, 2014) Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic came back from a match point down before defeating Italy’s Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (4) to win the Generali Ladies event on Sunday.

Pliskova served for the match twice in the third set and saved a match point at 5-6 in the third set.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come back from a match point,” said the Czech. This was Pliskova’s third WTA title, second in as many months. She has three career WTA titles.

“It could have been a little easier, but I’m still happy I won the title!,” Pliskoova said. “After I was 5-1 up and she came back and had match point, I was already thinking I would lose, and that I would cry afterwards! But she was playing so well in that part of the third set. Before that she was making so many mistakes, but she stopped doing that and calmed down, and she played so much better there.”

The 30th ranked Pliskova was the only seed left in the tournament after the first round. The top two seeds Eugenie Bouchard and No. 2 Ana Ivanovic withdrew with injuries, while Dominika Cibulkova, Andrea Petkovic and Sabine Lisicki all lost.

Pliskova is now 16-3 since the US Open.

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“Lucky” Federer Wins Shanghai Masters for Fourth Title of the Year

Federer wins with arms raised

(October 12, 2014) Roger Federer defeated Gilles Simon 7-6 (6), 7-6 (2) to capture his first Shanghai Masters title on Sunday, his fourth tournament win of the season, 81st of his career.

Down five match points in his opening match against Leonardo Mayer just four days ago, who would have thought that Roger Federer would be the champion of the Shanghai Masters.

“I got very, very lucky,” Federer said after the match. “I know what a privilege it is to be here today.”

Federer had his serve broken to begin the match, but brought the match back on serve breaking his French opponent as Simon was serving for the first set at 5-4.

Simon had a set point in the first set tiebreak, which the Swiss fought off with an unreturnable serve.

Forward to the tightly contested second set where Simon had set points on Federer as the 17-time major champion was serving at 5-6 in which he could not take advantage. Federer dominated the tiebreak 7-2 to close the match.

Federer leads the men’s tour this year in match wins with 61, top ten wins with 13 and final appearances with 9.

“It makes me very happy winning here because this tournament means a lot to me,” Federer said. “I’ve always enjoyed coming here. I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve always wanted to win it as a Masters 1000.

“I feel unbelievable prestige to win this event. Especially putting my hands on the trophy for the first time is a good feeling, I must say. I’m very happy with the way I’m playing. Overall I’m just extremely happy right now.”

Playing a more aggressive game, Federer won 24 of 35 points at net.

“He still has the same strengths, this fantastic serve and this huge forehand,” Simon said. “He’s always showing you that he is ready to be really aggressive on every shot. So he keeps you under pressure.”

Federer will move past Rafael Nadal into the No. 2 spot in the rankings on Monday. Nadal who lost in Shanghai in his opening round match against Feliciano Lopes, is dealing with appendicitis.

Simon, currently No. 29, will move up to No. 19 in the world.

The Bryan Brothers, who won the doubles title, became the first pair to clinch a career golden Masters – winning all of the Masters Series events at least once. For Bob and Mike it was their 101st career title as a team.

“It’s another great milestone,” said Bob Bryan. “This week was full of them for us. To come and get in the title match, have a shot at winning the tournament that’s eluded us, complete the Golden Masters, is amazing.”

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Riske Wins Tianjin for First WTA Title

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

Alison Riske photo by Steve Fogleman

(October 12, 2014) Sixth seeded Alison Riske defeated third seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday for her first WTA Tour title.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me to win my first WTA title, and I was here by myself, which made it even more special, just to know that I was able to do it by myself,” said the American Riske. “I hope I can keep up the momentum and try to compete every week as best as I can. Obviously there was a little momentum change in the second set. But that was because Belinda upped her level at that point. She’s been playing so well this year and has a really bright future ahead of her. I knew coming into the match that it would be a battle and it really was.”
Benic, the 17-year-old Swiss, playing in her first final, was trying to become the youngest woman to win a tournament since 15-year-old Tamira Paszek won the Portoroz title in 2006.

 

Riske is now the fifth American to win a WTA title in 2014, joining  Serena Williams  Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

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