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Suárez Navarro Continues To Soar

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MADRID, Spain – No.8 seed Carla Suárez Navarro was down an early break to the always dangerous Sabine Lisicki, but the Spaniard hit back against the former Wimbledon finalist, winning five of the next six games to run away with the match, 6-3, 6-2, and reach the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Madrid right here on wtatennis.com!

“I wasn’t expecting a match in two sets given how I was feeling today,” she told press after the match. “I tried to be out there on the court. I tried to focus and go point by point, game by game.”

With countrywoman Garbiñe Muguruza bowing out late last night, the pressure for hometown glory was firmly on Suárez Navarro as the day session headed into its second match on Court Manolo Santana. Capable of pulling off an upset on any given day, Lisicki looked game for the challenge early on, breaking serve to start and holding to earn a 2-0 lead.

Though dealing with the effects of an upper respiratory illness – one that would later force her and Muguruza to pull out of their second round doubles match against Alla Kudryavtseva and Vania King – Suárez Navarro remained steady, and while Lisicki’s full power game was on display throughout – hitting ten more winners than her higher-ranked opponent – she was ultimately undone by her number of errors (37 to 16).

“Today I have really bad cold so I tried to be on court. I tried to play my game. You know, I was one hour or court.

“I feel good. I win. It’s the most important for me right now.”

For her part, the crowd favorite broke the German’s serve five times, and wrapped up the match in just over an hour, winning the final three games of the match and serving out the win to love.

Up next for Suárez Navarro is former French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, who advanced earlier today when Lucie Safarova was forced to withdraw due to a gastrointestinal illness.

“I’m really sorry to have to withdraw from the Mutua Madrid Open,” the J&T Banka Prague Open champion said in a statement. “I’m unfortunately too unwell to compete. The tournament is so well run and Madrid is an amazing city. I’m really sad to not be able to play. I’ve always been well supported here in Madrid and the fans here are amazing, and i look forward to returning next year.”

Suárez Navarro has split her six encounters with the Aussie, but won their most recent match earlier this year in Brisbane, and their only previous clay court encounter – also in Madrid, back in 2013.

“She is a very dangerous player because she serves well and good forehands and experience in the tour,” Suárez said of her next opponent. “She knows what it is to compete at the maximum level and how to compete here in Madrid. She knows me, so I think that it’s going to be a match where I have to give my 100%.

“I will have to rest good. Let’s see if I can recover and feel better. Let’s see if I’m prepared to play tomorrow.”

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Halep Halts Bacsinszky Streak

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MADRID, Spain – No.6 seed Simona Halep is the highest ranked player left in Madrid, and the former World No.2 lived up to her billing in emphatic style on Wednesday, dispatching rival Timea Bacsinszky, 6-2, 6-3, to reach her second Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinal in the last three years.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Madrid right here on wtatennis.com!

Runner-up at the Premier Mandatory event back in 2014, Halep has had a up and down season thus far, but has largely been on an upward trend since reaching back-to-back quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Miami. Bacsinszky beat her in the last eight of the latter, going on to reach the semifinals of the Miami Open and capture her first title of 2016 at the GP SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem last week. Dealing with a 24-hour turnaround from winning in Rabat, the Swiss star increased her winning streak to seven by reaching the third round of Madrid, but Halep proved too strong in the end, running away with the win in just over an hour.

“I like more to play on clay,” Halep said after the match when asked how she earned her revenge. “I changed tactics. I played less power today and I just tried to mix up the game, to be more creative on court, and to open the court better, to play more on her forehand.

“So I did a good job, and I think I adjusted my game very well to hers.”

The Romanian enjoyed another clean victory, hitting 19 winners to 18 unforced errors, and was the aggressor throughout – coming to net a whopping 19 times and winning 15 of those forays. Bacsinszky wasn’t able to step into the court in the same way that she has for much of the spring, but fatigue was largely a factor in what was her eighth match in nine days.

“I played the best I could today, but obviously against such a good player, it’s not enough,” Bacsinszky said after the match. “For sure, in these kinds of tournaments, you’re hoping not to play a player as fierce as Simona. She’s a great sportswoman and physically she’s always ready.

“Last time we met, I was doing really well physically and hadn’t played as many matches as I have here. Energy-wise, I was really on a high level in Miami and I had a lack of that today. Sadly, it’s tough to admit sometimes that you’re not better on the day; it was quite even at the beginning of the match. On the key points, you need to be fresh in your mind to make good decisions on the court, because it goes so quickly. Even if I’ve gained confidence from winning all those matches, when you have a lack of energy, it could make a huge gap between you and your opponent.”

Halep’s win guaranteed a Romanian woman in the semifinals as compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu backed up her stunning upset of Garbiñe Muguruza with yet another three-set thriller, this time recovering from a set down to defeat Christina McHale, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4.

“You know, I like playing for at least two hours!” Begu said with a laugh, having won her third three-setter in a row to reach the quarterfinals.

“It was a tough match; I started a little bit slower at the beginning. I had some chances, but I was too slow and she was trying to hit the ball a little bit faster. But even like this, I had a set point. I was a little disappointed after losing that set but I was trying to fight, but I’m in the quarterfinals again!”

With Romanian and former ATP player Ion Tiriac the owner of the tournament, Madrid has always been a special place for Halep, who credits the wildcard Tiriac offered her in 2013 with kickstarting her career.

“It’s a Romanian tournament, I can say,” she said with a smile. “I feel like home here. I feel good always. I have great memories from 2014. I just try to make it best tournament for myself. I try just to enjoy it, because I like it very much.

“Of course many Romanians are on the draw and they keep winning. It’s a good thing for our country.”

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News | WTA Tennis English

News | WTA Tennis English

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MELBOURNE, Australia – The bottom half of the draw is back in action led by Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova. We preview all the day’s matchups right here at wtatennis.com.

Thursday, Second Round

[2] Serena Williams (USA #2) vs Lucie Safarova (CZE #61)
Head-to-head:
Serena leads 9-0
Key Stat: Serena is contesting the Australian Open for the 17th time – the joint-most along with sister Venus Williams

Lucie Safarova saved an astonishing nine match points in her opening match against Yanina Wickmayer, a two-hour three-set marathon. But unfortunately for the Czech, it doesn’t get any easier in the second round, where she’ll need all that grit against six-time champion Serena Williams.

The last time these two met was at the final of the French Open back in 2015, with this early encounter a testament to the pair’s diverging career paths. Serena is now seeking her record breaking 23rd Grand Slam title in Melbourne and Safarova, a former World No.5, plummeting out of the Top 50 after struggling with injury and illness.

“I didn’t come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all,” Serena told press earlier in the tournament. “I’m just here to play and to win obviously, but just to play.”

Agnieszka Radwanska

 [3] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #3) vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO #79)
Head-to-head:
Radwanska leads 2-0
Key Stat
: Lucic-Baroni is 3-14 against Top 5 players

The last time Mirjana Lucic-Baroni won a match in Melbourne it was 1998 – Martina Hingis was the WTA World No.1 and Serena Williams hadn’t yet won her first career title.

But there’s not much time for the former Wimbledon semifinal to revel in the three-set comeback win over Wang Qiang, because up next is World No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska.

A two-time semifinalist here, Radwanska faced a battle in her opener against Tsvetana Pironkova but saved her best for last to move into the second round for the ninth time in her career. The Pole is hoping to continue that run and bring her signature mix of skill and creativity to the second week of this Slam.

“I really feel good on this center court,” Radwanska said in press. “I like to play here, I like Australia. I’ve been always playing good tennis here, two semis.

“Of course, that’s always very close till the end. Hopefully I can do one step forward and play seven matches here.”

Karolina Pliskova

[5] Karolina Pliskova (CZE #5) vs [Q] Anna Blinkova (RUS #189)
Head-to-head:
First meeting
Key Stat: This is Blinkova’s first ever match against a Top 10 opponent

No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova barely broke a sweat in her Melbourne opener, making quick work of Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and needing just one hour and dropping two games en route to the second round.

But she still wasn’t completely satisfied after the 6-2, 6-0 victory:

“I think there are more things which I want to improve. First round, it’s always tricky, and I didn’t feel that good in the first set there.

“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, made a lot of mistakes on my forehand, especially no first serves. So this I want to improve high percentage of the first serve, definitely.”

It’s a scary prospect that the WTA’s undisputed ace leader still wants to improve her serve. But that’s what Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova will be up against in her first ever match against a Top 10 opponent.

Blinkova might be slightly out of her depths against big-hitting Pliskova, but don’t count her out just yet: she started her Australian Open main draw campaign with a statement win over the No.32-ranked Monica Niculescu.  

Around the grounds…

No.6 seed Dominika Cibulkova continues her quest for a maiden Slam in her second round clash against Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei. Cibulkova leads their head-to-head 1-0, but they haven’t played in almost three years. Also in action, Naomi Osaka will look for Grand Slam revenge against No.9 seed Johanna Konta. The Brit won the pair’s only previous encounter, which came in the second round of qualifying at the 2015 US Open. No.17 seed Caroline Wozniacki is hoping for another comfortable win in her rematch against Donna Vekic, who’s into the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2015 French Open. Meanwhile, No.22 seed Daria Gavrilova carries home hopes in her second round clash against 19-year-old Ana Konjuh. Gavrilova is one of two Aussies remaining in the draw.

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Romania Rules In Madrid

Romania Rules In Madrid

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MADRID, Spain – When the quarterfinals begin at the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday, half of the tournament’s final eight will be flying the Romanian flag with pride. While it’s no surprise to see 2014 finalist Simona Halep in the mix, Romania’s alpha is joined by Irina-Camelia Begu, qualifier Patricia Maria Tig, and wildcard Sorana Cirstea in a tournament owned and operated by Romanian legend Ion Tiriac.

It seems the Bucharest Open has come a couple of months early.

“It’s a Romanian tournament, I can say,” Halep said with a laugh after her strong 6-2, 6-3 win over Timea Bacsinszky. “I feel [at] home here. I feel good always. I have great memories from 2014. I just try to make it best tournament for myself. I try just to enjoy it, because I like it very much.”

Halep is the only seed left in the draw and will face Begu on Thursday, ensuring Romania will have a representative in the semifinals. Begu has never been further than the quarterfinal stage at a Premier Mandatory, while Halep made back-to-back quarterfinals in March in Indian Wells and Miami. The two have played three times with Halep winning all six sets, but they have not squared off in over four years.

“I expect a tough match,” Halep said. “She plays well on clay. Last year she did quarterfinals here, so [that] means that she likes the court.

“I know her pretty well, since long time ago, but officially we didn’t play too many matches. It’s a big challenge for me tomorrow.”

Irina-Camelia Begu

The big surprises in the draw were Cirstea and Tig. Cirstea has made good on a wildcard into the tournament to make her first Premier Mandatory quarterfinal. The former No.21 has not lost a set in three matches, beating Jelena Jankovic, Danka Kovinic, and Laura Siegemund to join her compatriots among Madrid’s Elite Eight.

“I think that’s amazing,” Cirstea said. “Four girls in the quarterfinals means half of the girls are Romanians, which I think is impressive coming from a country like Romania. I think everyone knows we don’t have a system or anything. We were each separate and trying to find a way. I think it’s amazing that we are one of the biggest forces now in tennis.”

At 26 years old, Cirstea is the oldest of the bunch. “We grew up together,” she said. “I played Simona when I was eight years old. “We both had short hair, we were very boyish. Our parents were there [pushed up] against the fence [watching]. It’s funny how we all grew up together and now to be all here is really impressive.”

“Patricia is younger but I remember her skinny legs when she was 14 when we went to a winter camp together. She was this quiet girl. We’ve known each other for a very long time. I’m happy to see all of us here and all of us succeeding and having a good run.

“I think it shows if you really have character and if you really want this and you work hard, you can do it.”

Sorana Cirstea

With her run to the quarterfinals, Cirstea will return to the Top 100 for the first time since January 2015 (read more about her journey back here). Not bad for a player who was ranked No.248 last November and has played ITFs for most of the year. On Thursday she’ll play Dominika Cibulkova, who got past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.

Last but most assuredly not least is 21-year-old Tig, the most improbable quarterfinalist of them all. Ranked No.134, Tig has racked up an impressive list of wins this week as a qualifier, beating Nicole Gibbs and Maria Sakkari in qualifying, and then Daria Kasatkina, Sloane Stephens, and Madison Keys for the biggest result of her career.

“I’m feeling unbelievably happy,” Tig told WTA Insider. “It was a great week for me. I didn’t expect this to happen. But since I was working so hard, I think sometimes you don’t know when you get rewarded.”

Before this week, Tig’s best result came last year when she made the final in Baku. Her successful qualifying campaign here put her into the main draw of a Premier Mandatory for the first time in her career and she’s on the verge of breaking into the Top 100.

Patricia Maria Tig

“Actually when I first came here I felt so good being here. I had a feeling that everything was going to be fine. I had a first practice which was going good. I thought, “OK I just have to go on the court and play the best I can for every point and don’t expect anything.'”

Tig’s straight-set win over Gibbs in the first round of qualifying gave her the belief that she could compete with the top quality field in Madrid. On Thursday she’ll find out how her game stacks up against a Slam champion in Sam Stosur, who defeated Carla Suárez Navarro in three sets to make the quarterfinals.

“I mean I was watching her for 10 years playing on TV,” Tig said. “I really like her and her game. She’s a really top player. She’s going to make me do some stupid things but I’m going to try not do them,” she said with a laugh.

“I cannot say anything about the match because I’m not expecting anything. I just want to go on court and just play the best I can and whatever is going to happen I will be so happy with it anyway.”

All photos courtesy of Getty Images and Mutua Madrid Open.

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News | WTA Tennis English

News | WTA Tennis English

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MELBOURNE, Australia – No.17 seed Caroline Wozniacki had little trouble in her straight-sets win against Donna Vekic, playing solid tennis to ease through 6-1, 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open.

But Wozniacki will be happy with wrapping up the comfortable victory in just under an hour and twenty minutes, because awaiting in Round Three is the very in-form Johanna Konta.

The former No.1 got off to a strong start against Vekic, ruthlessly punishing any weak serve that came her way to rocket up to a double break lead. The Croat did her best to hang in there, occasionally foraying to the net and peppering her game with drop shots.

“I feel really good body-wise and mentally, which is huge for me,” Wozniacki said in her post-match press conference. “Patches of my matches have been really good. I thought I started off pretty well today. In the end, maybe a little bit too passive. But generally, I think it was steady and played pretty decent.”

 Caroline Wozniacki and Donna Vekic

Wozniacki struggled with her ball toss throughout the match under the bright midday sun on Rod Laver Arena, and a pair of double faults in the same game gave Vekic a chance to break back at 4-1, wrong-footing Wozniacki with her inside-out forehand winners. The momentary lapse did nothing to halt the Dane’s momentum and she got right back on track in the next game, breaking back and serving out the set comfortably.

She broke three more times in the final set, absorbing Vekic’s pace and rhythm to force the errors, which came fast and thick towards the end of the match. After just an hour and 18 minutes she made her way to the third round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2014.

The former No.1 was just too solid, hitting 21 winners to 9 unforced errors against Vekic’s 23 winners and 32 unforced errors. The Dane was also a force at the net, winning 80% of her 15 forays to the net.

She’ll look to continue that form against Konta, her opponent in the third round.

“She plays really well, you know, big forehand, big serve,” Wozniacki said. “But I’m ready. I’m playing well. I’m excited for the challenge.

“She’s obviously won last week in Sydney. She had a good last year. I’m here to fight. I’m here to do my best, and try and win the match.”

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Stosur Thwarts Tig Hopes In Madrid

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MADRID, Spain – Samantha Stosur became the last woman into the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday night, ending a spirited challenge from qualifier Patricia Maria Tig, taking out the Romanian, 6-3, 6-4.

Watch highlights, interviews and more video from Madrid right here on wtatennis.com!

“I feel like I picked up well from last night,” Stosur said after the match, referring to her big three-set win over Carla Suárez Navarro on Wednesday.

“Obviously it was a different opponent, but I was able to combat that with my tennis.”

At 21 years of age, Tig earned a trio of impressive main draw wins to reach the last eight, defeating Daria Kasatkina, No.16 seed Sloane Stephens, and Madison Keys to set up the meeting with the 2011 US Open champion.

“I’m actually quite impressed with her game; she’s got a really good first serve and really goes after the ball. She moves well, slides, and hits the ball with a lot of pace – even when she’s behind the baseline. So she can be very tricky; all around, she has a really tidy game and aggressive style, so I think she’ll do quite well.”

Though the Romanian would finish the match with a positive winners to unforced error differential, the Aussie’s experience shone throught when it mattered, hitting 22 winners of her own and saving all six break points faced in the match – including three in a row at 0-40 in the final game.

“I don’t think I played really terribly for those three points to get myself in that deficit; nevertheless, it’s not the ideal start to trying to serve out a match. But I made a lot of first serves in that last game, and ended up getting through it.”

Into to the semifinals of Madrid for the first time in her career, Stosur booked an encounter with No.6 seed and 2014 finalist Simona Halep, who is the highest ranked player in the draw. Stosur and Halep have an even head-to-head, but the top ranked Romanian has won their last three matches – all three coming in 2013.

“We haven’t played for a long time, but when we did, we went through a span of playing each other a lot and had some really close three-setters. I’ve got to expect a tough one; she’s going to make me play and make me work. I don’t think there’ll be too many easy points out there, so when I’m able to win the point, I’ll have to win it. It’ll have to be a balance of being aggressive and being patient. Winning, but not losing on my own racquet!”

One of the most consistent clay courters of the last six years, Stosur’s singles breakout first came at the French Open in 2009, when she reached the semifinals; the veteran backed up that run the very next year by reaching the final, going through a murderer’s row of Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic along the way.

“If I can bring my best tennis, or close to my best tennis, I do feel like I’ve got a good shot against anyone. Over the course of my career, I’ve proved that, and that’s a really good thing to know. But you’ve got to be at your best level consistently to be at the top of the game. That’s where I was a few years ago; obviously I’ve dropped back a little bit now, so I’m really working towards trying to get back there now.

“These first couple of weeks on the red clay have been really good, and I’m happy with where things are going, so I’m hoping there’s still a little bit of room for improvement.”

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WTA Shot Of The Month: Niculescu

WTA Shot Of The Month: Niculescu

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

April was packed with plenty of amazing shots – we narrowed it down to the five best.

In the end it was Monica Niculescu who, ironically enough, was on the wrong end of last month’s honors when Agnieszka Radwanska hit her shot of the month at the BNP Paribas Open. This time, it’s the Romanian veteran who got to shine in her thrilling three-setter against Petra Kvitova at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

Showing off her signature slice forehand, Niculescu sets up the point brilliantly before striking a stab backhand down the line against the two-time Wimbledon winner – taking home this month’s top votes.

Click here to watch all of April’s finalists.

Final Results for April’s WTA Shot Of The Month

1. Monica Niculescu (79%)
2. Angelique Kerber (9%)
3. Sara Errani (5%)
4. Laura Siegemund (5%)
5. Caroline Garcia (2%)

 Monica Niculescu

2016 WTA Shot of the Month Winners

January: Caroline Wozniacki
February: Agnieszka Radwanska
March: Agnieszka Radwanska


How it works:

Five shots are selected by wtatennis.com
Winner is then determined by a fan vote on wtatennis.com
 

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