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Evert Tags Muguruza as Next No.1

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

World No.2 Garbiñe Muguruza lifted her first major title just two weeks ago at Roland Garros and the 22-year-old Spaniard is set to return to Wimbledon where she finished as runner-up last year. But just how far can she go? The question was put to Chris Evert during an ESPN conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

“I mean, who is going to be next, the next No.1 player, after Serena is gone? You’ve got to put your money on Muguruza because first of all, you have to have power in today’s game.”

While Muguruza became the third consecutive first-time Grand Slam winner, it’s the Spaniard’s power, Evert contends, that separates her from the field of rising WTA stars.

“When I look at the next three, I look at Radwanska, Kerber and Halep. I don’t think either of those three are going to end up No.1 in the world. They don’t have that sort of overwhelming power. Muguruza does have it, very much like Serena, following in her footsteps.

“Muguruza, she still has to mature a little bit. She’s still young. She still has to probably get a little more consistent with her results in the smaller tournaments. But when I look at winning Grand Slams, you’d have to say Muguruza, you’d have to look at Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova – the power players more now more so than the consistent counter-punchers.”

While the expectations remain lofty for Muguruza, Evert also tempered expectations, citing the difficulties of making the immediate adjustment from clay to grass. There’s a reason why only seven players have won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. Muguruza played one grass court tournament before Wimbledon, losing in the opening round to former Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens at the Mallorca Open.

“She’s come a long way,” Evert said. “I think she’s going to have a tough Wimbledon. It’s very hard to carry that momentum. Very few people have won the French and Wimbledon back-to-back, especially at that young of an age.

“That will be a real curiosity for me if she can carry that momentum and confidence and do well, think about last year reaching the finals, or is she going to have a hard time resetting, especially in dealing with people’s expectations.”

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Kvitova Passes Babos Test

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

EASTBOURNE, England – Petra Kvitova got her Wimbledon preparations back on track with a hard-fought win over Timea Babos at the Aegon International Eastbourne on Tuesday.

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Following a frustrating week in Birmingham, Kvitova got some much-needed time on the grass, prevailing in a high-quality encounter, 6-4, 7-6(5). In the third round she will face either Lesia Tsurenko or Johanna Konta.

Kvitova was forced to play second fiddle for much of the opening set, struggling to hang onto her own serve and making little inroad on her opponents’. However, having barely coughed up an error in the opening half hour, at 4-4 Babos suddenly found herself two break points down after a couple of loose groundstrokes.

Sensing her moment, Kvitova ghosted into the net to scythe away the volley. The No.5 seed’s willingness to move forward proved decisive in the following game, too, fending off a couple of break points on the way to serving out the set.

The second set was just as evenly contested, but once again it was Kvitova – who finished the match with 30 winners – playing the more positive tennis at the decisive moments, guiding a backhand down into the corner to close out victory.

“I’m kind of feeling that I am playing well, even though I lost some of the matches in a couple of months,” she said after the match. “It wasn’t easy today, she was serving really well and it was very difficult to break her – I had to wait for my chances.”

After a brilliant first-round display against Lucie Safarova in Birmingham last week, Kvitova spent the next couple of days waiting for the rain to subside before losing a stop-start match with Jelena Ostapenko. And despite more difficult conditions on the south coast, Kvitova is relishing the time on court ahead of her favorite major. 

“It’s always good to get more matches under your belt going into Grand Slams, especially Wimbledon when we don’t have that many events on grass. I’m glad to win today and still be in the draw!”

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Radwanska Advances In Eastbourne

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

EASTBOURNE, England – Former champion Agnieszka Radwanska advanced at the Aegon International Eastbourne when Mirjana Lucic-Baroni retired from their second-round encounter on Tuesday.

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Radwanska, who was leading 6-4, 2-1 when Lucic-Baroni retired with gastrointestinal illness, will now face Eugenie Bouchard for a place in the quarterfinals.

“It was still a tough match – she was playing really good tennis – and I’m happy I could get some time on the grass, but we’re all hoping she gets better soon,” Radwanska said.

Since making her debut a decade ago, Radwanska has been an ever-present at Devonshire Park, lifting the title in 2008 and finishing runner-up to Belinda Bencic in 2015. This time she is top seed and following an early exit in Birmingham is in need of time on grass ahead of Wimbledon.

“I really like these courts and I’m always feeling great here – it’s my 10th time here!”

Her next opponent, Bouchard, is also no stranger to success on grass, reaching the Wimbledon final two years ago. Since then, Bouchard has endured an up and down time on tour, but is eager to rediscover the form that fueled her initial rise up the rankings.

“I’ve had some results that I wasn’t satisfied with, so coming into this week I really kicked myself in the butt,” she said. “I told myself to go after it and not have any regrets.”

There were certainly no regrets against No.15 seed Irina-Camelia Begu, whom Bouchard brushed aside, 6-3, 6-1.

Also springing an upset in the top half were Kristina Mladenovic, who saw off No.4 seed Timea Bacsinszky, 6-1, 7-5, and Kateryna Bondarenko, a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 winner over No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

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Halep To Hit The Ground Running

Halep To Hit The Ground Running

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Simona Halep began the French Open as a heavy favorite, but her tournament ended in heavy conditions and with heavier disappointment.

“It was impossible to play, in my opinion,” she said after her fourth round loss to Samantha Stosur. “And to play tennis matches during the rain, I think it’s a bit too much.”

The Romanian had been in control of the match before an 18-hour washout forced her and her Aussie opposition onto a drizzling court that her feeling pain in her back and Achilles. And those were just the physical effects.

“I was far to think about the title, but I think that I had a chance. If the courts are dry here I have a chance, because I like the conditions when it’s normal weather.

“In Madrid was different. That’s why I played so well. I like those conditions.”

Simona Halep

From her press conference, it was clear that she felt robbed of a golden opportunity at what has been her most successful Grand Slam tournament. But the former World No.2 is hardly a clay court specialist.

Two weeks after narrowly losing to Maria Sharapova in the 2014 French Open final, the Romanian shrugged off the disappointment and channeled it into her best-ever Wimbledon result. In her first quarterfinal at the All England Club, she dismantled former finalist Sabine Lisicki before disaster struck against Eugenie Bouchard.

Up a break in the opening set, Halep took a heavy turn on her ankle, eventually fading in two sets and missing out on the chance to play Petra Kvitova – a player she had never lost to – for Wimbledon glory.

“It was difficult to continue because I twisted my ankle and it was very hard,” she said at the time. “I felt a big pain in the moment, and I couldn’t push anymore in my leg. My first serve was really bad after that. Yeah, it was difficult to continue.”

This year, Halep has shown steady improvements after a slow start to the season, but injury concerns in the form of a persistent Achilles injury ruled her out of the Aegon Classic.

Simona Halep

“I started to feel it since I came here,” she said at the start of last week. “I have some fluid inside the tendon so the doctor says that I have to rest for a few days. It’s nothing serious but it’s a bit sore. I have almost two weeks to recover before Wimbledon so I will take a few days rest and then some treatment and then start to play again.

“This was my first tournament on grass and it was important to have some matches but I cannot change things. It’s important to take care of my body.”

Under the tutelage of reknowned coach Darren Cahill, Halep has been eager to match and surpass the heights she hit in her peak 2014 season. But while she won many matches throughout that auspicious year, she also prioritized her health above all other committments, frequently amending her schedule to ensure she was ready to perform on the game’s biggest stages.

Disappointed as she was to have left Paris without the trophy, the Romanian won’t feel her form cost her the chance. Taking the time to reset her body and mind ahead of what promises to be a stressful time of year may be the best decision the former semifinalist could have made. Fit and ready to wade past the undertow of uncertainty that cut her campaign short one year ago, Halep will be keen to ensure her preparation meets opportunity at Wimbledon.

Click here to read more about this year’s Wimbledon Contenders, courtesy of WTA Insider.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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