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Pliskova’s Monumental Win Over Mladenovic Gives Czechs The Lead

Pliskova’s Monumental Win Over Mladenovic Gives Czechs The Lead

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

STRASBOURG, France – Karolina Pliskova overcame France’s Kristina Mladenovic in the longest set in Fed Cup final history to give the Czech Republic the first victory, 6-3, 4-6, 16-14.

“I heard that it’s the longest one!” Pliskova told FedCup.com after the record-setting match. “I was just looking at the score and just counting the games and we were still continuing.

“Unbelievable match from both of us. My tennis was maybe not 100 percent, but it still counts as a win. Really happy that we got the first point.”

Walking into the first rubber of the 2016 Fed Cup final, Pliskova and Mladenovic’s head-to-head record was split at one win apiece and the pair had to set their long friendship aside in hopes of giving their team the early advantage.

Mladenovic suffered a break of serve in the nerving opening game, misfiring a backhand and later double faulting to hand Pliskova the first lead. The surface seemed to suit Pliskova as well, as the Czech enjoyed the high bounce of the court at the Rhenus Sport Arena to wreak havoc with her big serve.

After Mladenovic leveled the set at 3-3, Pliskova found another gear and dropped just one point on her serve as she broke twice to take the first set 6-3.

The Frenchwoman had the home crowd roaring as she charged back in the second set. Mladenovic earned the first break at 4-3, and then weathered two consecutive breaks to emerge with the edge and the set.

Kristina Mladenovic

Pliskova wrestled the momentum away as she quickly climbed to a 5-2 lead in the final set. Mladenovic was two points away from losing the match as Pliskova continued to hammer her vulnerable second serve and run her around the court, but she fended off the assault to claw her way back into the match and get back on serve.

With her back against the wall, Mladenovic rallied the French crowd and kept herself in the match time and time again and, with no final set tiebreak in Fed Cup, the match continued. Mladenovic fought past fatigue and cramping – and saved two match points with a gutsy dropshot and a zinging crosscourt backhand – to hold for 9-9, but the final set was barely getting started.

Pliskova stayed cool despite it all, trading breaks at 12-12 as the pair broke the Fed Cup final record for longest set ever played. After a monumental three hours and forty-eight minutes (two hours and 23 minutes in the final set), Mladenovic finally blinked in the last game, being broken to love to but an end to the thrilling match and hand the Czech Republic a vital 1-0 lead.

“I feel fresh, actually! But no it’s my longest match that I’ve played ever, so I’m really happy with the way I ended,” Pliskova laughed afterwards, speaking to FedCup.com.

“I was really waiting for my chance. And she was serving so well in the third set that I didn’t really have that many chances. I’m just happy with the win.”

Karolina Pliskova

– All photos courtesy of Getty Images

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Konta, Suárez Navarro & Kvitova Headline 2016 Elite Trophy Zhuhai Field

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

ZHUHAI, China – Following their season-long success and resurgent Asian Swing performances, Johanna Konta, Carla Suárez Navarro and Petra Kvitova are set to lead a world-class field at the 2016 Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.

Joining them at the season-ending event are Elina Svitolina, Roberta Vinci, Timea Bacsinszky, Elena Vesnina, Samantha Stosur, Barbora Strycova, Kiki Bertens, Caroline Garcia and wildcard Zhang Shuai. Timea Babos will be an alternate. Between all qualified competitors, they represent nine WTA singles titles won in 2016.

Here is a more in-depth look at the singles players competing in the 2016 Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai:

WTA Ranking

(as of 10/23)

Player

2016 Best Results

10

Konta (GBR)

Won – Stanford

F – Beijing

SF – Australian Open, Eastbourne

QF – Monterrey, Miami, Montréal, Olympics, Wuhan

12

Suarez Navarro (ESP)

Won – Doha

SF – Linz , Birmingham, Brisbane

QF – Cincinnati, Stuttgart, Australian Open

13

Kvitova (CZE)

Won – Wuhan

F – Luxembourg

SF – New Haven, Olympics, Stuttgart

QF – Beijing, Indian Wells

15

Svitolina (UKR)

Won – Kuala Lumpur

F – New Haven

SF – Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Dubai

QF – Olympics

17

Vinci (ITA)

Won – St. Petersburg

QF – US Open, New Haven, Stuttgart, Doha, Brisbane

18

Bacsinszky (SUI)

Won – Rabat

SF – Gstaad, Miami

QF – Roland Garros, Rome

19

Vesnina (RUS)

F – Charleston

SF – Wimbledon

QF -New Haven, Eastbourne, Strasbourg, Doha

20

Stosur (AUS)

F – Prague

SF -Roland Garros, Madrid

QF – Washington DC, Strasbourg, Sydney

21

Strycova ( CZE)

F – Birmingham, Dubai

QF – Wuhan, Rome, Prague

23

Bertens (NED)

Won – Nurnberg

F – Gstaad

SF – Luxembourg, Roland Garros, Rabat

26

Garcia (FRA)

Won – Mallorca, Strasbourg

SF – Monterrey, Dubai

28 (WC)

Zhang (CHN)

SF – Seoul, Tokyo International

QF – Beijing, Australian Open

 

“We are looking forward to the second edition of the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, showcasing some of the top athletes on the WTA,” said WTA CEO Steve Simon. “This event features many of our top stars who have accomplished much success during the 2016 season and now have the opportunity to compete against each other for the Zhuhai title.”

The 2016 WTA Elite Trophy will run from November 1-6, 2016 at the custom-designed and state-of-the-art Zhuhai Hengqin International Tennis Centre. The event features both singles and doubles and will be staged in the southern Chinese coastal city of Zhuhai with a total prize money of over $2.2 million on the line.

The players will compete in four round-robin groups of three, with the winners of each group advancing to the semifinals. The six doubles teams will be split into two round-robin groups, with the winner of each advancing to the final.

The doubles field consists of Zheng Saisai and Xu Yifan, Arantxa Parra Santoja and Andrea Klepac, Olga Savchuk and Anastasia Rodionova, and Tatjana Maria and Oksana Kalashnikova, as well as the two wildcard teams of Wang Yafan and Liang Chen and You Xiaodi and Yang Zhaoxuan.

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Singapore Wednesday: Radwanska & Muguruza On The Brink

Singapore Wednesday: Radwanska & Muguruza On The Brink

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SINGAPORE – Semifinal spots are on the line as the White Group takes center stage on Wednesday at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. We preview the action.

Wednesday, White Group, Round Robin

[4] Karolina Pliskova (CZE #5) vs [8] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS #9)
Head-to-Head: Pliskova leads 1-0

Key Stat: Pliskova, the WTA aces leader, hit 14 aces in her opening win over Muguruza. She is the first player to record consecutive seasons with 500+ aces.

Svetlana Kuznetsova’s magical run continued in full force on Monday in Singapore as she saved a match point to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in a two-hour and 48-minute cliffhanger. Kuznetsova heads into her second career meeting with Karolina Pliskova with brimming confidence after taking the Kremlin Cup title to complete an eleventh-hour qualification for Singapore. Now that she’s here, the Russian is playing with house money and loving every minute of it.

“Sometimes it’s not easy, and sometimes you’re pulling through,” Kuznetsova said on Monday after defeating Radwanska for the 13th time in 17 career matches. “I put aside that I’m tired, put aside the emotions, the jet lag – I didn’t want to think about it. We came here to fight, let’s put everything else to one side.”

There was plenty of fight coming from Pliskova on Monday as well. The Czech also fought off a match point as she battled past Garbiñe Muguruza to earn her first WTA Finals victory in dramatic
fashion. Pliskova’s big-match composure has been a recurring theme in the second half of the season, and she has made a habit out of delivering her best tennis in the clutch. But she’ll have to be on song once again on Wednesday if she is to get past the scorching-hot Kuznetsova. There’s much on the line in this the second ​career meeting between these two – the winner has a good chance of securing safe passage into the semifinals.

Pick: Kuznetsova in three

[2] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL #3) vs. [5] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP #6)
Head-to-Head: Muguruza leads 4-3

Key Stat: On six occasions, a player has lost a match in the round-robin stage and gone on to win the WTA Finals title.

Two players eager for a shot of redemption and facing possible elimination will meet for the eighth time on Wednesday when Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbiñe Muguruza lock horns in the nightcap at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Both squandered match points in heartbreaking fashion on Monday, as Muguruza blew a double-break lead in the third set against her long-time nemesis Karolina Pliskova while Radwanska failed to convert a match point late in the third set against Svetlana Kuznetsova. The pair have not met since last year’s WTA Finals, when defending champion
Radwanska snapped a four-match losing streak against the Spaniard en route to the biggest title of her career. The Pole will seek to replicate the magic against a player that can be as formidable as they come when she is on her game. Will Radwanska be able to keep the powerful Muguruza at bay again in Singapore, or will the Spaniard rebound from a disappointing opening loss to earn a much-needed victory?

Pick: Muguruza in three

White Group Semifinal Qualification Scenarios…
1. If Kuznetsova and Radwanska win, Kuznetsova qualifies for semifinals, Muguruza is eliminated.

2. If Pliskova and Muguruza win, Pliskova qualifies for semifinals, Radwanska is eliminated.

3. Any other combination of results will mean White Group semifinal qualification comes down to Friday’s matches.

By the Numbers…
14 –
Pliskova hammered 14 aces in 16 service games in her win over Muguruza on Monday.

8 – Radwanska is bidding to become the eighth player to successfully defend a WTA Finals title.

3 – No. of Czech players that have claimed a WTA Finals title (Navratilova, Novotna, Kvitova).

0 – Muguruza is bidding to become the first Spaniard to win the title at the WTA Finals.

Official WTA Finals Mobile App, Created by SAP

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Insider Reacts: Three Things From Cibulkova's Upset Win Over Halep In Singapore

Insider Reacts: Three Things From Cibulkova's Upset Win Over Halep In Singapore

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SINGAPORE – Out of the 16 semifinal scenarios that could have come to fore in the Red Group, only one involved No.7 seed Dominika Cibulkova reaching the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in her debut appearance. By knocking out No.3 seed Simona Halep, 6-3, 7-6(5), she did all she could do to make that lone scenario happen on Thursday, outlasting the Romanian and playing her best tennis of the week to keep herself in semifinal contention.

With Angelique Kerber’s straight-set win over Madison Keys, Cibulkova advances into her first Singapore semifinal after a statement victory from the Slovak.

Read how the match unfolded in the WTA Insider Live Blog.

Cibulkova shows off her refined mental toughness.

The second set was crucial for both women. Win it, and remain in contention for the semifinals; lose it, and book your first ticket home.

Cibulkova admitted she very nearly did that before taking the court on Thursday.

“I was like, ‘Okay if I lose today, tomorrow we fly for holidays.’ So we booked…well, no, we didn’t book the flight, but it was like, ‘Okay, if I lose today we fly tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to holidays.’

“So I just give everything into this match today. I knew it could be possibly the last. All the circumstances made me play really well today.”

Perhaps the mind game helped her stay focused through the tensest set of the week, but even that is a symptom of a successful tenure with a sports psychologist, whom she began working with last year.

“I was playing such good rallies, and then somehow she’d put the ball back again. There were few situations I was like, ‘Okay, I want to leave the court. This is unreal.’

“That’s what made me so strong, the mental toughness, that I knew I cannot lose even one point. I had to just think about what I want to do on the next point. That’s what made me win the second set. It was extremely tough mentally and physically, but tennis-wise, it was such a high level.”

Out of challenges late in the second set, Cibulkova refused to be rattled, and gamely won the last three points of the second set’s sudden death.

“The pressure of me winning in two sets, that’s what made me like, ‘Okay, breathe and just forget it.’ Because I saw the ball was in. I think I have a good eye. I knew it was in.

“Maybe in a different match, different time, it would make me go crazy and I could lose two, three points likes this and the set would be over. I knew I cannot do this right now. I just had to refocus. This is what I’m talking about, the mental strength I had today.”

Halep ends the season how she started.

Injuries and illness plagued the start of Simona Halep’s 2016, to the point where she hardly thought it possible to return to Singapore in the spring. Sporting a left knee strapping against Cibulkova, there were some clear movement issues for most of the match, which, while it made her fight all the more impressive, it kept her from taking the aggressive stance necessary to take the second set.

“I think she saw that backhand is not very strong because of the leg,” Halep said in press. “It was not easy for me to push.”

Not wanting to talk too much about the injury, Halep heads into the off-season with plenty of positives: another Premier Mandatory title at the Mutua Madrid Open, a return to the Top 3 after dropping as low as No.7, all under the umbrella of a successful tenure with coach Darren Cahill.

“This tournament was a bonus for me. At the middle of the year I said that I cannot qualify because I was very far after four months, tough four months.

“But once I qualified I say that it’s a bonus, and I have just to give everything I have. I didn’t have enough to qualify in the semis, but it was a good experience again, third year in a row, so it’s a good thing.”

Heading back to Romania to visit her newborn niece, Halep plans to revamp her pre-season with a trip to Australia with Cahill.

“The plan is to go to Australia in December. Before he is coming to Romania, so we will mix. I wanted to change something and get used to that time, weather before Shenzhen and before Australia.”

Core team key to Cibulkova’s success.

A tennis player is often only as good as his or her team, and Cibulkova has spent years bonding with hers, headed by longtime fiance – now husband – Michal Navara.

“He’s really important. He’s there for me. Sometimes when there are tough, tough times he can make me see the other side. You know, he always says, ‘Okay, the life is not that bad, you know.’

“He can make me sometimes be more relaxed. Even if I lose a match, he can make me see different things. That’s what really helps me. There are so many things that he’s helping me with, but this is one of them.

“He’s really one of the biggest positive energy in our team.”

Accenting her team this week in Singapore is the addition of both parents – Cibulkova typically travels with just one or the other to any given tournament – and it’s clear the Slovak’s passion and determination is genetic.

“My father, after my win today, he jumped down and again the security took him away. He’s a little bit emotional. You can see me on the court. I get emotions. Maybe probably it’s from him I get these emotions.

“Do you remember Stanford when he jumped down on the court? Yeah, today he didn’t get on the court but he jumped down from the stands.

“Mostly I’m looking in my box. My coach, they are more calm. But I’m happy my parents are here with me and they can see me playing a great tennis at the WTA Finals in Singapore. When I was starting playing tennis it was never, never in our dreams to be here.”

Official WTA Finals Mobile App, Created by SAP

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Kerber Meets President Obama

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Being World No.1 certainly has its perks. Angelique Kerber capped a career-best season with a once-in-a-lifetime selfie with US President Barack Obama.

Kerber tweeted about meeting the 44th President of the United States:

It’s already been a busy off-season for Kerber, who won a pair of Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and US Open, and reached the final of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The year-end No.1 also held a kid’s clinic, giving advice to the next generation of players:

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WTA Stars Take Spelling Quiz

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

These WTA stars definitely know each other’s game, but can they spell each other’s name? Find out if your favorite players passed the WTA Spelling Quiz!

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