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CNN Open Court: Paris Moments

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Twenty-seven years on from her major breakthrough, the Barcelona Bumblebee Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario has not lost her love of the game, signing up as the latest ambassador for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

However, for many the Spaniard will forever be the effervescent 17-year-old who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against the then-queen bee Steffi Graf in the 1989 French Open final.

This was one of many enduring memories to have occurred at a tournament that has become synonymous for first thrusting iconic names into the public eye. And as Roland Garros 2016 enters the home stretch, CNN Open Court asked some of the famous old venues’ most fêted competitors to share their memories.

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Insider Notebook: Wet & Wild Tuesday

Insider Notebook: Wet & Wild Tuesday

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Radwanska and Halep sound off: Losing will never sit well with any player. Losing when feeling like your health has been put at risk? That will result in some angry players.

Both No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.6 seed Simona Halep were the favorites to win their suspended matches from Sunday, with both women holding an advantage on the scoreboard when play resumed in their fourth round matches on Tuesday. Radwanska led No.102 Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 3-0 and Halep led No.21 seed Sam Stosur 5-3 in the first set.

After a late start due to the never-ending rain that triggered the first washout at Roland Garros in 16 years on Monday, the players took to their respective courts with rain and drizzle still coming down. Fans in the stadium had their umbrellas up and ponchos on, and the damp conditions clearly got into Radwanska and Halep’s heads.

Radwanska lost 10 consecutive games on the restart and lost to Pironkova 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Halep struggled to find a way to solve a top-form Stosur, who rallied to win 7-6(0), 6-3. Afterwards, the women on the losing ends let their frustration out.

“I’m just so surprised and angry, that we have to play in the rain,” Radwanska said. “It’s not a $10,000 tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. How can you allow players to play in the rain? I cannot play in that conditions.”

Radwanska called a medical timeout at 0-4 in the third set for her right hand, which required surgery a few years ago. “Playing with those balls in that kind of court is pretty much impossible,” she said. “So, I mean, I tried. Maybe I played worse, did worse things other days than when we start to play that match, but it definitely shouldn’t be like this. We shouldn’t play in that kind of rain. Why? We still have couple of days of tournament. What’s the point?”

Agnieszka Radwanska

Halep said she did not feel safe on the court from the moment they walked out. “I don’t care that I lost the match today, but I was close to get injured with my back, so that’s a big problem.”

“I mean, in my opinion [Stosur] played really well and she deserved to win. Her ball was very heavy to return, and her serve especially. She did a great match.”

Radwanska voiced her concerns to the umpire when it began to drizzle again in the third set, but Halep did not raise any concerns until after the match in her press conference. Both women complained about the wet balls and slippery conditions. When told the men’s matches that followed theirs ended when the players complained to the umpire and supervisor and ultimately walked off the court, Halep gave them the literal ‘thumbs up’. “Well done to them.”

“I have no words,” Halep said. “It was impossible to play, in my opinion. And to play tennis matches during the rain I think it’s a bit too much. But everyone was in the same situation, and who was stronger won today.”

Asked why she believed the players were put on court despite the damp weather, Halep deferred to tournament organizers. “Maybe they are scared because the tournament is going, the days are going on and they don’t play matches.

“But is not our fault. Is not their fault. But the decisions were not, I think, the best.”

Sam Stosur

Samantha Stosur returns to the quarterfinals: For the first time since 2012, Stosur is back into the quarterfinals of a major. The 32-year-old, who made the final here in 2010, backed up her big third round win over Lucie Safarova with another self-assured performance to beat Halep for her first Top 10 win since 2014.

“I don’t typically like the heavy, wet, damp conditions, but today I was able to use them I think a lot better, I think, than she was,” Stosur said. “I didn’t necessarily think about hitting with heavy spin, but more higher over the net I guess to get the same kind of result.

“Having a slice backhand I can then hit it a bit shorter, keep it low over the net. The court is dead and wet. If you keep it low it doesn’t bounce that much. I think that really kept her off-balance when I was hitting my slice, whether I was going deep or short. Yeah, when it’s harder to move, that makes it just that a little bit harder. Like I said, then with my forehand, just that little bit of extra height to push her back was working well for me.”

As for the court conditions, Stosur did as an Aussie does: She sucked it up and just played. “I guess in this situation they need – every minute counts, and I’m just playing,” the 2011 US Open champion said. “If the umpire says we’re stopping, we’re stopping. I don’t know what the forecast is. I know what it feels like out there and I know it was raining for the first time we went out today, but the court was okay for the most part.

“I don’t think Simona was complaining about it. Again, we’re told to play, we play. If it gets too wet you’ve got to say something. Yeah, I mean, like it’s not good out there, but it was fine for us.”

Despite a good run to the final of the J&T Banka Prague Open, where she lost to Safarova, and the semifinals of the Madrid Open, where she lost to Halep, Stosur came into Paris under the radar. She withdrew from the Internationaux de Strasbourg quarterfinals with a left wrist injury, which clouded her chances here at her, arguably, best Slam. Clearly it hasn’t been an issue. She’s hitting her backhand and slice better than ever.

“Yeah, look, I didn’t know what kind of result or performance I was going to have regardless of the wrist injury,” Stosur said with a laugh, “but I did exactly what I needed to do for that and sort it out and came here early.

“It was unfortunate I had to pull out of Strasbourg, but I needed those days to recover. Thankfully, touch wood, it’s been okay so far. I’m not struggling with it at all. I’m not even thinking about it now. I still have it taped, but it’s not bothering me and I’m able to play some of my best tennis.”

Tsvetana Pironkova

Tsvetana Pironkova sheds her grass court label: The conventional book on the Bulgarian was she was a danger on fast, low-bouncing surfaces like grass. She was a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2010, quarterfinalist in 2011, and made the Round of 16 in 2013. Two years ago she came out of nowhere to win the Sydney International, another fast hardcourt event, as a qualifier.

But muddy, wet, heavy clay? As even Pironkova admitted, “It’s not my thing.”

“I’m not a player who likes slow courts, heavy balls, obviously, but I kind of tried to leave the fact that it’s raining out of my mind and just focus on each and every point. Obviously that worked.”

Ranked No.102, Pironkova hasn’t shown the results to telegraph her first quarterfinal run at Roland Garros, but results can be deceiving.

“I could say I’m surprised, but I think coming to the tournament I was in a very good shape,” Pironkova said. “My results in the previous tournaments didn’t show it, but I was feeling good. Every time someone from the media or my friends asked me, How are you feeling? I was like, It’s strange, but I feel very good.

“So obviously the time came, and right now I showed that actually I’m feeling in a good form.”

Her win over Radwanska was her first Top 10 win since that run to the Sydney title in 2014, and it backed up a dominant win over No.19 seed Sloane Stephens, 6-2, 6-1, in the third round. But it was her opening win over 2012 finalist Sara Errani in the first round that made her believe something big could happen in Paris.

“I played really well, and that match showed me that I have the chance and I should fight for it,” she said.

Rain postpones completion of the Round of 16: The tournament was able to get just over two-hours of play in the books before play was eventually called for rain before 7pm. While the bottom half quarterfinals are now set (Shelby Rogers vs. Garbiñe Muguruza, Samantha Stosur vs. Tsvetana Pironkova), the remaining four fourth round matches – Serena Williams vs. Elina Svitolina, Venus Williams vs. Timea Bacsinszky, Carla Suárez Navarro vs. Yulia Putintseva, and Madison Keys vs. Kiki Bertens – were pushed to Wednesday.

Any Given Week: Fortunes can change in a heartbeat in tennis, and we’ve seen that play out week after week in 2016. Stosur lost to Safarova and Halep in the two biggest results of her clay court run up. She avenged both loses in back-to-back matches in Paris. A couple of forehands here, an ace on break point there, a backhand that floats in instead of long, the margins in the sport are tiny.

“Tennis is something – it can change quickly,” Stosur said. “I was reading the other day, Shelby Rogers, she lost in qualifying in Strasbourg and now she’s in the quarters. One tournament to the next, smallest tournament on tour and the biggest one. She’s had polar opposite results. Shows how quickly things can turn around. Also, the margins are so small. You can make big changes very quickly if you’re prepared to, you know, take them.”

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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Mladenovic & Garcia Grab Last QF Spot

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

PARIS, France – No.5 seeds Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic rounded out the French Open doubles quarterfinals, becoming the last team to advance to the final eight with a dominating victory over German duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Laura Siegemund, 6-3, 6-2.

Mladenovic recovered from Saturday’s heartbreaker against Serena Williams to continue to delight the French crowd alongside partner Garcia by squeezing in a doubles win before the rain halted play for the rest of the day. The Frenchwomen are the No.2 doubles team on the Road To Singapore Leaderboard and have been a regular force on the tour since the start of the year when they teamed up in hopes of an Olympic berth.

Into their first Grand Slam quarterfinal as a team, Garcia and Mladenovic will face the on-form duo of Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson in the next round. The Dutch-Swedish team is fresh off of a title last week at Nürnberg and on Sunday in the third round they dealt Serena Williams and Venus Williams a 7-6(8) 4-6 6-0 upset.

The No.3 seeded team of Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan will have to wait another day to complete their match against No.7 Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. The Russians vaulted ahead to a commanding 6-1 lead, but the Chan sisters were just beginning to mount their comeback in the second set by opening with a break when the rain forced the match to be postponed at 1-2.

The Chans are the highest seeded team remaining in the doubles draw after the shock straight sets defeat of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza on Sunday at the hands of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. Nicknamed “SanTina,” the pair sit at No.1 on the Road To Singapore Leaderboard and share the No.1 ranking in doubles, but they couldn’t muster up any magic against the Czechs as their bid for a “SanTina Slam” came to an end.

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Lepchenko, Tatishvili Bask In Bol Sunshine

Lepchenko, Tatishvili Bask In Bol Sunshine

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

BOL, Croatia – A quartet of Americans shined in the Croatian sun at the Bol Open, a WTA 125K Series event staged in the coastal town of Bol, Croatia. No.2 seed Varvara Lepchenko, Anna Tatishvili, Sachia Vickery and Jennifer Brady took advantage of the famously mild Adriatic climate and all notched wins at the inaugural event.

Watch free live streaming from Bol, Croatia all week right here on wtatennis.com!

The No.2 seeded Lepchenko tamped down a late surge from Croatian wildcard Ana Vrljic on her way to a 6-1, 7-5 victory. Despite Vrljic keeping the score line more competitive in the second set, the American showed more consistency during the key points throughout the match – Lepchenko converted on all five of the break chances she created, compared to Vrljic’s two of seven.

Earlier in the day, Anna Tatishvili survived a two-hour-and-forty-minute battle against Paula Kania to advance 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5. Her countrywomen Sachia Vickery and Jennifer Brady had a more straightforward road to the second round, advancing past both of their opponents in straight sets. Vickery posted a 6-2, 7-5 win against Croatian wildcard Tena Lukas while Brady scored the upset of the day over No.8 seed Patricia Maria Tig.

Ipek Soylu – who made Turkish tennis history at the French Open when she became one of two players to compete in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time – was back to her winning ways in Bol against Israel’s Julia Glushko. Soylu weathered a second-set shutout to come back with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-1 win.

Also through to the second round are Stefanie Voegele, who defeated Andreaa Mitu 6-3, 6-2; Ivana Jorovic, who defeated qualifier Isabella Shiniakova 7-5, 6-2; and Bulgarian qualifier Elitza Kostova, who defeated qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1, 7-6(4).

Tomorrow the No.1 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Croatian favorite Ana Konjuh highlight Day 3 action as they take the court in their Bol openers.

Bol Open

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Stosur Stuns Halep In Paris

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

PARIS, France – Samantha Stosur dodged the rain and rolled back the years to dash Simona Halep’s French Open hopes on Tuesday.

Resuming at 5-3 down in the first set, Stosur powered through the heavy conditions and Halep’s defenses to triumph, 7-6(0), 6-3.

Halep was very much in ascendency when the match was originally stopped on Sunday evening. However, on their return 2010 runner-up Stosur was a different proposition entirely, winning the first seven points. A netted backhand ended the streak but did not halt the momentum, an inside-out forehand winner drawing her level at 5-5.

This vintage form continued into the tie-break, Stosur steamrolling Halep to complete the turnaround. The only thing that threatened the Australian’s dominance was the rain, which duly arrived at 3-2 in the second set.

This merely delayed the celebrations, though, Stosur returning to complete the job when Halep sent a drive volley sailing long.

Stosur arrived in Paris carrying a wrist injury, which forced her to withdraw from her final tune-up event.

“I didn’t know what kind of result or performance I was going to have regardless of the wrist injury, but I said after my first round I did exactly what I needed to do for that and sort it out and came here early.

“It was unfortunate I had to pull out of Strasbourg, but I needed those days to recover. Thankfully, touch wood, it’s been okay so far. I’m not struggling with it at all. I’m not even thinking about it now. I still have it taped, but it’s not bothering me and I’m able to play some of my best tennis.”

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Sánchez-Vicario Named WTA Finals Ambassador

Sánchez-Vicario Named WTA Finals Ambassador

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

PARIS, France – The WTA announced on Tuesday that 29-time WTA singles and 69-time doubles champion Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario will return as an ambassador to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global 2016.

“I had a great experience at the WTA Finals in Singapore last year – spectator support was fantastic and the atmosphere was electric,” the three-time French Open champion said at a press conference held at Roland Garros. “I am honored to return, as it gives me the opportunity to interact with the local fans and friends, old and new, while doing my bit to give back to the sport I love.”

Sánchez-Vicario qualified for the WTA Finals 13 times during her successful career, winning the doubles title twice with Helena Sukova in 1992 and with Jana Novotna in 1995, while finishing as singles runner-up to Steffi Graf in 1993.

In her role as ambassador, the 14-time Grand Slam champion and International Tennis Hall of Fame member joins fellow legend, 59-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova to promote the “Road to Singapore,” a season-long journey which follows players on their quest to make the cut for WTA’s crown jewel event in Singapore.

Barbara Schett, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

During the festival, the two legends will be participating in a mix of community and fan engagement activities including tennis clinics as well as appearances at the WTA Finals Fan Zone and the Racquet Club.

“Over the years, Arantxa has been an icon of women’s tennis and a great ambassador of the sport,” noted Melissa Pine, Vice-President of WTA Asia-Pacific and Tournament Director of the WTA Finals. “It is an absolute honor to have her back this year. Her love for the game has been one of the key reasons for her success, and we are really excited for her to bring that same passion to tennis fans at the WTA Finals in Singapore come October.”

The ambassadorship comes as part of an effort by the WTA and Lagardère Sports to enhance fan engagement by bringing them closer to the action during the 10-day festival of sports, lifestyle, business and entertainment from October 21-30, 2016.

“The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global is a key event in the sporting calendar,” said Sarah Clements, Vice-President of Tennis – Asia at Lagardère Sports. “Besides the uniqueness of the competition, where fans get to watch the best eight singles players and doubles pairs in the world in action on court, the festival of tennis will also captivate fans’ attention with innovative offerings that will keep them entertained.”

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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Insider Podcast: Rainy Day Recap

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

PARIS, France – WTA Insider Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen and Web Editor David Kane reconvene on a rainy second Monday at the French Open to assess a first week free of the dramatic upsets and draw-changing results to which fans have become accustomed.

How has World No.1 Serena Williams fared as she began her quest for her record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title?

Plus, an analysis of the noteworthy but ultimately unsurprising early exits of No.3 seed Angelique Kerber and No.5 seed Victoria Azarenka, No.8 seed Timea Bacsinszky’s continued consistency on clay, unseeded Shelby Rogers’ role as the fortnight’s Cinderella story, and who will be most affected by the postponed round of 16 encounters involving No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No.6 seed Simona Halep.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on any podcast app of your choice and reviews are always helpful, so if you like what you’ve heard so far, leave us one. You can also get new episode alerts by following us on Twitter @WTA_Insider.

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