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Can Radwanska Defend Her Singapore Title? Five Takeaways From The China Open Final

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

BEIJING, China – World No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska captured her third title of the season on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Johanna Konta to win her second China Open title. With a clean ace on match point, Radwanska capped off a dominant week, which saw her romp to the title without the loss of a set – the third time she’s done so this season.

Asia proves to be fertile ground once again for Aga.

Radwanska has no idea why she’s earned her best results in Asia. She has now won 10 of her 20 titles in the Asia-Pacific region, including the last eight finals she’s contested here. Last year her captured three titles in the fall Asian swing, including the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and the trend has continued this season. She kicked it off this year with a run to the Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinals, followed that up with the quarterfinals in Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, and now became the first woman to win Beijing twice since the tournament became a Premier Mandatory in 2009.

On the whole it’s been a frustrating season for Radwanska, who, after making the semifinals or better at five of her first six tournaments, made just one semifinal in her next 10 events, culminating in a surprise Round of 16 exit from the US Open to Ana Konjuh. To see her steel herself and get back to her winning ways in Asia is great to see.

“Seriously, the Asian swing is really the toughest for everyone, me as well,” Radwanska told WTA Insider. “But maybe because New York is not really for me so always I’m home a bit earlier and I have a bit of rest and I practice really hard to do good in Asia. There is always something good from losing earlier so maybe I’m just taking my chances here.”

Radwanska stepping up in finals.

With her Beijing win, Radwanska has now won her last six finals, dating back to her title in Tokyo last year. She can be vulnerable in the early rounds, as many top players can be, but once she gets to the business end of the tournament Radwanska has found a way to stay relaxed and play her best tennis. The most nervous Radwanska has ever been in a final came at Wimbledon in 2012, where she lost in three sets to Serena Williams. Every final after that has felt, at least emotionally, like a piece of cake compared to that.

“I think when you played couple of big ones, you go for the final like a normal match,” Radwanska told reporters. “I think this kind of feeling, it’s just helping you. When you too nervous, you want too much. It’s not really good. It’s not going your way. Sometimes the hand is shaking too much.

“I was relaxed pretty much from the beginning. I didn’t really feel any pressure. That’s why I could win that match in two sets.”

One step short, but progress made by Konta.

As Konta put it, she ran up against “the human wall” on Sunday. Radwanska gave her nothing, hitting just eight unforced errors in the match, and her defense kept the pressure on Konta, who fired 34 unforced errors in the match. She was able to muster just one break of Radwanska’s always vulnerable serve.

“Agnieszka, she was definitely a woman on a mission,” Konta told reporters. “Whenever I felt I could have got a little bit of a foothold in the match, she took it away from me. She played a consistently consistent match, to be honest. She hardly missed a ball. When she is so consistent and she moves the ball around as well as that, she’s very, very difficult to beat. So all credit to her.”

There’s no shame in losing to the No.3 player in the world and definitely no shame in what Konta was able to accomplish this week in Beijing. Making her tournament debut she knocked off two Top 10 players in gritty fashion, beating Karolina Pliskova in a third-set tiebreak and Madison Keys in another grueling three-setter. She will be the first British woman inside the Top 10 on Monday, ending a drought of 32 years, and she’s positioned herself well to qualify for her first WTA Finals if she can do well next week in Hong Kong.

Konta leaves Beijing at No.8 in the Road to Singapore leaderboard but the level-headed Brit insists she’s not too fussed about the qualifying chase. “The way that Singapore works, not all of it’s under my control. It also depends on how the other players do. From what I’m understanding and hearing, quite a lot of us are very close together. I think it will be what it will be once the deadline comes.”

Radwanska hits an elite milestone.

Not only did Radwanska’s third title of the season tie her with Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens, and Victoria Azarenka with the most titles this season, but she became just the fourth player to have won three or more Premier Mandatory trophies. The other three women: Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Maria Sharapova.

“The club is small because there’s not a lot of those tournaments,” Radwanska said. “It’s great to be a part of that group. It definitely feels like a small Grand Slam because everyone is playing it and it’s a big draw. I didn’t have a bye here. It’s a really tough week.”

Radwanska building steam towards Singapore.

Radwanska is currently entered in next week’s Tianjin Open, where she is the defending champion. Last year she won the tournament under pressure, needing the title to qualify for Singapore. This year she has far less pressure and can use the upcoming weeks to fine-tune her game and rest. She’ll arrive in Singapore refreshed and ready for her title defense.

“I think it’s more relaxed especially after a good three weeks,” Radwanska said. “I played a lot of good matches, I won a lot of matches against to players. Now it’s time to cool down and enjoy the matches and enjoy my tennis, and hopefully have a few days off.”

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Venus Cruises Into Second Round In Hong Kong

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Hong Kong, SAR – No.2 seed Venus Williams eased into the second round of the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Japan’s Risa Ozaki.

The No.2 seed suffered a slow start to the match. Forced to defend three break points in the opening game, a wild backhand handed the 22-year-old first blood. However, the veteran American soon struck back, levelling proceedings with a cross-court volley.

Ozaki proved to be a spirited opponent in the first set and moved up a break once more to take a 3-2 lead but again failed to consolidate her advantage, sending a forehand wide to allow Williams back into the set.

Williams finally moved ahead in the final game of the first set, with Ozaki sending a volley into the net on break point after valiant defensive play.

Firmly out of the traps, the 36-year-old cruised to victory in the second set, racing into a 3-0 lead after breaking thanks to another wayward volley from Ozaki. Williams’ advantage became all the more commanding after breaking once more, before wrapping up the match with a forehand winner.

“A win is a win,” Williams said after the match.

“She played really well with so many defensive shots, she was very competitive and she wanted to win. It didn’t matter to her that she was playing an opponent with much more experience.

“She really was motivated to win. I really respected her competitive spirit.”

Williams has played well in Asia of late, winning the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and WTA Elite Trophy last year, as well as reaching the semifinals in Hong Kong.

Elsewhere, Alizé Cornet beat Varvara Lepchenko, 6-3, 6-2, Louisa Chirico scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over Lee Ya-Hsuan, Daria Gavrilova defeated Zhu Lin, 6-0, 6-2, and Aleksandra Krunic cruised past Luksika Kumkhum, 6-1, 6-0.

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Wozniacki & Kerber Advance In Hong Kong

Wozniacki & Kerber Advance In Hong Kong

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

HONG KONG, SAR – Caroline Wozniacki overcame a plucky Zheng Saisai in straight sets to reach the second round of the Prudential Hong Kong Open.

The No.5 seed suffered a slow start to the match, being broken by the Chinese 22-year-old in her opening game but she bounced back quickly, recovering the deficit immediately. From then on, she wasted no time in securing the first set 6-1.

Zheng returned with renewed vigour in the second set, holding serve for the first time in the match before pushing Wozniacki to the brink in the following game, squandering five break points in a marathon that lasted for over 11 minutes.

The Dane soon went up two breaks to the good but, serving for the match and 40-0 up, Zheng pulled off a stunning comeback to half the deficit before holding to put Wozniacki under pressure. The Chinese 22-year-old went 0-30 up in Wozniacki’s next service game but the former World No.1 rallied to claim victory with her sixth match point.

Angelique Kerber Hong Kong

She was joined in the next round by current World No.1 Angelique Kerber, who overcame Maria Sakkari, 6-4, 6-4. The German skipped into a 2-0 lead in the first set and though the Greek youngster broke back, she retook the advantage and successfully closed out the first set.

Kerber then moved 5-2 ahead in the second set and though Sakkari enjoyed a moderate recovery, breaking back once, the US Open winner closed out a routine victory.

Defending champion Jelena Jankovic also cruised through to the next round by defeating Samantha Crawford, 6-3, 6-1. Breaking in the first and last games of the first set, the Serbian went behind early in the second set but rattled off six straight games to book her place in the next round.

Meanwhile, Sam Stosur crashed out of the tournament at the hands of Japanese youngster Nao Hibino. Having broken in the first game of the match, the Australian surrendered her advantage immediately. Hibino broke once more to go 4-2 up and closed out the set.

Stosur was not at the top of her game and went a break down in the second. Though she later drew level, she immediately slipped behind once more. She fought until the end, saving four match points in the final game, but the World No.84 was able to hold her never to claim a famous scalp.

Johanna Konta kept up her pursuit of a spot at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global by defeating fellow Brit Naomi Broady at a canter, 6-2, 6-2.

Heather Watson squeezed into the next round thanks to a narrow victory over Marina Erakovic. The Brit got the pivotal break in the penultimate game of the first set and though she went 4-1 behind in the second, she mounted a comeback, sealing the win in a tie-break.

Elsewhere, Kristina Mladenovic beat Dalila Jakupovic, 7-6(6), 6-1, Caroline Garcia sailed through, 6-3, 6-0, against Tereza Martincova, Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Basak Eraydin, 6-1, 6-2, and Wang Qiang defeated Zhang Ling, 6-2, 6-2.

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