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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
Winner is then determined by a fan vote on

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WTA Breakthrough Of The Month: Buyukakcay

WTA Breakthrough Of The Month: Buyukakcay

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Cagla Buyukakcay

Cagla Buyukakcay rewrote enough pages of WTA history to fill a whole book. The Turkish star became the first from her country to reach a WTA semfinal, final, and capture a title – all in one week in front of her home country at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup.

“It’s an incredible week for me to win the title at home, to break into the Top 100 with this tournament, to play against someone with my crowd,” she said after the match. “It was an amazing atmosphere today. I was playing better and better every day, but of course every day is another day, so I didn’t expect to win at the beginning of the week. I’m so excited and so happy for today.

The winning week at home also helped her become the first Turkish woman to enter the Top 100, and earned her the most fan votes for April’s WTA Breakthrough of the Month with over 40,000 votes.

For all of those reasons, Buyukakcay is your Breakthrough Player of the Month!

Final Results for April’s WTA Breakthrough Performance Of The Month

1. Cagla Buyukakcay (92%)
2. Laura Siegemund (5%)
3. Irina Falconi (3%)

2016 Breakthrough Player Of The Month

January: Zhang Shuai
February: Jelena Ostapenko
March: Nicole Gibbs

How it works:

Finalists are selected by
Winner is then determined by a fan vote on

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Madrid Friday: Semis Set

Madrid Friday: Semis Set

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Mutua Madrid Open

MADRID, Spain – Simona Halep is just two matches from another Premier Mandatory title, but an Aussie veteran in Samantha Stosur will look to stop the Romanian’s run, while marathon woman Dominika Cibulkova takes on a young challenger from the United States; 19-year-old Louisa Chirico qualified for the main draw and is having the week of her life. Who will make it into Saturday’s final?

Friday, Semifinals

[6] Simona Halep (ROU #7) vs Samantha Stosur (AUS #23)
Head-to-head: Tied at 3-3
Key Stat: Halep won their last three meetings (all in 2013).

After an up and down start to 2016, Halep appears to have finally slid into a vein of good form, overcoming compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu to earn her biggest result of the season by reaching the semifinals in Madrid. Standing between her and a second final at the Caja Magica in three years is 2010 French Open finalist Samantha Stosur.

The Aussie veteran dominated her rivalry with the Romanian early in the latter’s career, but in her breakout 2013 season, Halep won all three of their meetings – though two went to three sets in Cincinnati and Sofia at the Tournament of Champions. Halep was the highest ranked woman left in the tournament as of the quarterfinals – and the only seed – but Stosur is no slouch on the big stages, and tends to play at her best when she can play hunter to a higher ranked opponent’s hunted.

Facing off qualifier Patricia Maria Tig in two tight sets, Stosur will like her chances against Halep, who has yet to reach a final this year and has dropped from No.2 down to No.6, but Halep herself has endured a difficult draw, one that put her up against one of last year’s French Open semifinalists and rival Timea Bacsinszky, who returns to the Top 10 on Monday.

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK #38) vs Louisa Chirico (USA #130)
Head-to-head: First meeting
Key Stat: Both women are playing in their first Premier semifinal of 2016 (Chirico: career debut)

Cibulkova has had to battle throughout her week in Madrid, but began her campaign with a quality win over top seed and World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska, and recovered from a set down to defeat an unseeded but dangerous trio in Caroline Garcia, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Sorana Cirstea.

With three WTA semifinal appearances already under her belt in 2016, Cibulkova credits her title run at the Katowice Open with giving her the confidence to play her best tennis on the big stages – having narrowly missed out on upset opportunities in Indian Wells and Miami against Radwanska and Garbiñe Muguruza, respectively.

For Chirico, this may be her first appearance this far in a WTA tournament, but the run hardly came from nowhere. The American teenager made good on a wildcard into the Volvo Car Open main draw to reach the third round – taking out No.4 seed Lucie Safarova en route – and qualifid for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix just two weeks ago. In Madrid, she outlasted former No.1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, and backed up the upset with a two-set win over 2015 Rome semifinalist Daria Gavrilova in the quarterfinals.

The first set could well be crucial for the 19-year-old, but the Slovak has proven she can brush off an early deficit to win in the end.

Also in action: The women’s doubles semifinals will take place back-to-back on Estadio 3, with a potential for a rematch of the Stuttgart final on the menu. No.5 seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic will attempt to win a 13th straight match over the recently reunited No.8 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, while top seeds and Co-No.1s Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza will be in the hunt for revenge against Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva, who upset them in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open. The only unseeded pair left in Madrid, King and Kudryavtseva are currently No.9 on the Road to Singapore standings and reached their second straight semifinal after saving two match points to defeat  No.4 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan.

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Halep Holds Off Begu For Semifinal Spot

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MADRID, Spain – 2014 Madrid runner up Simona Halep held off an inspired performance from Romanian qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu and secured her spot in the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals, 6-3, 0-6, 6-1.

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

No.6 seed Halep – the only seed still standing in Madrid – leads the pack of four Romanians who’ve reached the quarterfinal stage here. It’s a historic showing for the small Latin country in Eastern Europe.

“I think it’s a big thing for our country,” Halep said. “It’s a small country, and four girls to be in the quarterfinals of such a big tournament, it means a lot.

“I am in the semifinals. Maybe the other two is going to be going in the semis. It’s going to be a good thing.”

Plenty of chances went Begu’s way in the first set: she built up 30-0 leads twice in Halep’s service games, and despite creating three break chances in the set she couldn’t convert any of them. On paper they were drawn very evenly in the first set – seven winners apiece and 12 unforced errors from Halep to Begu’s 15, but in the key moments Begu’s usually reliable forehand misfired leaving Halep in command.

Begu learned from her first set mistakes, though, and went into the second looking like she couldn’t miss – only making one error all set long. She drew Halep out of her comfort zone and left her feeling rushed, striking nine errors and suffering her first bagel set of 2016. Halep righted the ship right away though, breaking Begu early on allowing her just one game in the final set.

As good as having four Romanians in the quarterfinals was for her country, it was at times a source of distraction for Halep, who admitted afterwards that she could overhear Begu’s coaching breaks.

“Yeah, affected me a little bit, but I was stronger in the third set and I didn’t care anymore,” Halep said. “It wasn’t my best day. Anyway, if I won means that I played good tennis. I’m confident it was a good match for me.

“I take it like a positive one, even if I gave that second set easy. I was there until the end, and I’m glad that I could control myself until the end.”

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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!

“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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