2014/10/25

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Wozniacki wins thriller over Sharapova at WTA Finals

Wozniacki in press

By Stephanie Neppl

(October 21, 2014) SINGAPORE – Day one of the 2014 BNP Paribas WTA Finals featured two relatively tidy straight set wins, and play ended by 10:30pm local time.

But day two was anything but straightforward. At 10:30pm Tuesday night, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki were in the early stages of the third set of their match, which had turned into a marathon.

Fittingly the Dane, who is preparing to run in next month’s New York Marathon, pulled out the 3-hour, 13-minute battle that ended just before 11pm local time. The final score: 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Both players returned to the WTA Finals after an absence. Second seed Sharapova was back after a shoulder injury forced her to miss the event in 2013, while Wozniacki had not qualified for the tournament since 2011 when she was the #1 player on the WTA.

Though Sharapova led the head to head 5-3 before Tuesday’s match, it was Woznaicki who claimed the last victory at the US Open when she won a three-set thriller on her way to the final.

The Dane struck first in the match, racing out to a 3-0 lead. But Sharapova overcame a pair of double faults to get on the board at 3-1 and was able to then break and level the set at 3-3. Sharapova pulled ahead for the first time as she broke to go up 5-4 but two double faults when serving for the set helped hand the break back to Wozniacki. The set eventually went to a tiebreak, and again Sharapova took a lead which she could not keep. Wozniacki battled back from a 2-4 deficit and won five straight points to take the tiebreak 7-6 (4).

The match looked to be going well and truly in Wozniacki’s favor as the second set progressed. She broke and took a 2-0 lead, and up 3-1 threatened to break again before Sharapova held on for 3-2. While serving at 3-2, an issue with the stadium lights bothered Wozniacki and she ended up being broken as the set leveled at 3-3.

With the drama intensifying, Wozniacki resettled to break again and hold for a 5-3 lead and inch closer to her first win at the WTA Finals since a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Agnieszka Radwanska in 2011.

Wozniacki served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but could not close out Sharapova, who broke for 5-5 and then held for a 6-5 lead. The next game was full of drama. Wozniacki had two game points to send the match to a tiebreak but failed, and then a Sharapova shot was called in my the linesperson. The Dane had no challenges remaining and she was furious with the call, which was later determined well wide, and it gave Maria a set point. Woznaicki would hold on to force a second tiebreak as the match clock was already at 2 hours, 38 minutes.

The tiebreak was a fairly messy affair, with errors flowing off both players’ racquets. Sharapova went up 3-0 but saw Wozniacki claw her way back into the set to level at 3-3. But the Russian would not be denied and she pulled out the tiebreak, 7-5.

The third set went much quicker, as the Dane broke early as she had in both previous sets. Though Sharapova broke back and held for 2-2, the Russian looked drained and she would lose the final four games and with those, the match.

The win marked only the second time in Wozniacki’s career that she has defeated a WTA top two opponent (her first was against then No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 WTA Finals).

Wozniacki was pleased to get another hard-fought win over Sharapova.

“I think the first match is always difficult. You have to find your ground out there. I’m just happy to be through,” she said. “ You know, we work so hard physically, and so we’re ready for anything.”

Sharapova, who hit 15 double faults and 76 unforced errors, rued her missed opportunities. “She was the more consistent one” she said. “I felt like I had opportunities in the first set; I didn’t commit to finishing it off when I was serving for it, when I was up in the tiebreaker. You know, it turned into a much tougher match than I feel like it should have been. But I feel like I did that. I can only blame myself for that.”

The doubles draw was held on Tuesday morning, and the 8-team, single-elimination event starts on Wednesday.

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014
CENTRE COURT start 1:30 pm
Alla Kudryavtseva (Russia) & Anastasia Rodionova (Australia) vs [4] Ekaterina Makarova (Russia) & Elena Vesnina (Russia)

Not Before 4:00 pm
[1] Serena Williams (USA) vs [4] Simona Halep (Romania)

Not Before 7:30 pm
[5] Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) vs [7] Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)
Garbine Muguruza (Spain) & Carla Suárez Navarro (Spain) vs [2] Hsieh Su-Wei (Chinese Taipei) & Peng Shuai  (China)
Tracy Austin (USA) & Marion Bartoli (France) vs Iva Majoli (Croatia) & Martina Navratilova (US

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Petra Kvitova Wins Wuhan Open and Qualifies for WTA Year End Championships

Petra Kvitova

(September 27, 2014) In a rematch of the Wimbledon final staged in July, Petra Kvitova defeated Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-4 to claim the inaugural Wuhan Open in China on Saturday.

With the win, the third seeded Czech player has qualified for the season-ending WTA finals in Singapore, along with Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova.

“I knew that I have to play a little bit more aggressive than I played the matches before,” Kvitova said about playing her Canadian opponent. “I need to play a similar game as in Wimbledon, very aggressively going for the shots.”

This was 24-year-old Kvitova’s third title of the year and her first win over a top 10 player on the year.

“It’s been a great week, said the 20-year-old Bouchard. “First of all, of course, I have to congratulate Petra. She’s beaten me in two finals this year, so I will have to figure out what to do to beat her now!”

In the doubles final, Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta won their first title as a team defeating Cara Black and Caroline Garcia 6-4, 5-7, 12-10, saving two match points.

“There aren’t many places I can say I’m coming to for the first time in my 20 years of playing,” Hingis said. “And I really loved this tournament. I really enjoyed every moment. It’s just been a fantastic week.”

For Hingis this was her 39th WTA doubles title.

Share

Sabine Lisicki Wins First Title Since 2011 at Hong Kong Open

Lisicki 3

(September 14, 2014) For the first time since 2011 Sabine Lisicki has won a title. The German beat Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3 in the final of the Hong Kong Open on Sunday.

Lisicki came back from a 1-5 deficit in the first set to win the next six games.

Lisicki last won a WTA title in Dallas in 2011. She has won 4 titles in her WTA career.

“After being in three finals last year and losing them closely, this is a big step forward for me. I’ve won titles in doubles but obviously the main goal is to play well in singles and get these trophies,” Lisicki said. “And I’m even happier because coming here was such a spontaneous decision – we literally decided three or four days before the tournament – and I felt very well all week in Hong Kong.”

“I was feeling quite good at the start, as won a couple of her service games very easily,” Pliskova said. “But then she started to come back and it took a lot of energy out of me.”

Pliskova and her twin sister, Kristyna Pliskova, won their third doubles title together on Sunday, saving a match point.

Share