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Errani Crowned Queen Of Dubai

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

DUBAI, UAE – Sara Errani crowned her return to form with a dominant victory over Barbora Strycova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Watch live action from Dubai & Rio de Janeiro this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

A former Top 10 fixture and French Open finalist, Errani’s greater big-match experience shone through as she romped to a 6-0, 6-2 victory after little more than an hour on court.

“I have no words. I’m sorry for Barbora – she’s an amazing player, but I’m really happy to win this tournament. It’s been a tough week for me, and I’m really happy for me, my team and my family and friends,” Errani told Annabel Croft in her on-court interview.

The Italian looked in pensive mood when she stepped out on court, but hit the ground running. Perhaps sensing her opponent’s own nerves, Errani won the toss and elected to receive, a decision that was rewarded by a string of unforced errors and a break to love.

With the occasion seemingly getting the better of her opponent, Errani showed no mercy, rattling through the next couple of games in the blink of an eye. When Strycova belatedly found her range, Errani was her equal, showcasing her extraordinary defensive capabilities to prevail in a 26-shot exchange and move 4-0 ahead.

After 29 one-sided minutes, Strycova surrendered the set after a couple more wild swings, and her mood darkened further when she frittered away a 30-0 lead to drop serve in the next game.

Much to the Czech’s relief, she finally got on the scoreboard a few games, punching away a double-fisted volley to end the prospect of a first whitewash in a WTA final since 2014.

But whatever questions Strycova posed, Errani had an answer for, ploughing relentlessly towards the finishing line.

“She can do everything – coming to the net, drop shots – so I just had to be focused every point and be ready for what could happen,” Errani added.

The only wobble for Errani, who coughed up a meager 11 unforced errors, came with the finishing line looming. A face saving last stand from Strycova saw her uncork a couple of rasping drives to save four match points, before finally finding the net to hand Errani the ninth, and biggest, title of her career.

“No, not really! I was trying to sing a bit, not to think too much,” Errani said when quizzed about her calm demeanor down the home stretch. “Of course, it’s tough [to win] those last points. I had match point at 5-1 and then I closed it on maybe the fifth match point. There were a lot of nerves.”

At times, Strycova was the architect of her own downfall, offsetting 15 winners with 43 unforced errors. Nevertheless, she heads off to Doha for next week’s Qatar Total Open, back inside the Top 40 and with wins over a couple of in-form rivals – Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia – under her belt.

“For sure, well done to Sara,” Strycova said. “I’m sorry for keeping it so short. I tried everything, but nothing was working.

“It was a great week and I’m happy to make the final.”

In the doubles final, Chuang Chia-Jung and Darija Jurak upset No.2 seeds Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-4.

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WTAi Draw Analysis: Doha

WTAi Draw Analysis: Doha

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

The Qatar Total Open draw is out and next week’s Premier 5 tournament sees the return of Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, defending champion Lucie Safarova, and one of the hottest players of the last five months, Agnieszka Radwanska.

Kerber gets back to work: Since her maiden win at the Australian Open, Kerber has been back in Germany, where she played two Fed Cup singles matches in Leipzig and then hit the local media circuit — nice shot, Angie — before pulling out of last week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships due to a right thigh injury.

Now the World No.2 returns to the tour as the top seed in Doha, a tournament that has been a mixed bag through her career. As the only player this year to make two finals, Doha offers a solid test for Kerber’s consistency. She reached the final in 2014 – falling to Simona Halep – but has won just one match in five other appearances.

Kerber has a bye in the first round and will open against either Varvara Lepchenko or Zheng Saisai. Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Belinda Bencic are the top eight seeds in her half of the draw.

Lucie Safarova returns from illness: After an incredible season that saw her win the biggest title of her career here in Doha last year – and go on to make her first major final at the French Open – Safarova’s season ended with a whimper. Diagnosed with a bacterial infection that left her hospitalized after the US Open, Safarova skipped Australia to continue healing. Doha will be her first tournament of the season.

Safarova will drop out of the Top 10 on Monday but she’s seeded No.7 in Doha. Drawn into the bottom half opposite No.2 seed Simona Halep, she has a first round bye and will play either Lucie Hradecka or Cagla Buyakakay. That’s as nice an opener as she could hope for in this loaded draw.

Radwanska hopes to pick up where she left off: Up to No.3 on Monday, Radwanska took some time off after the Australian Open, where she did well to make the semifinals before losing to Serena Williams. That 6-0, 6-4 loss was a tough one to take, but it doesn’t change the fact that no one has been on a hotter streak over the last six months than Radwanska. Since the US Open she’s won four titles – including the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global – and has just one loss so far this season.

Last week’s withdrawal from Dubai due to a lower leg injury was surprising, but it’s also encouraging to see Radwanska manage her schedule to protect her body. After an opening round bye she’ll face either Annika Beck or a qualifier.

Belinda Bencic

Bencic puts her consistency on the line: Given how many events she’s played in 2016, there’s a fair argument to be made that Belinda Bencic has been the most consistent player on tour this year. Set aside a surprise second round loss to Samantha Crawford at the Brisbane International and a loss last week to Jelena Jankovic following a brutal turnaround from St. Petersburg, and Bencic has been the WTA’s most reliable performer.

Bencic has already played six events this season (including Fed Cup) and goes into Doha with 12 wins already under her belt, just one short of Kerber’s tour-leading 13 wins. Her run to the St. Petersburg final propelled her into the Top 10 for the first time and she’s a clear title contender this week. She’ll open against CoCo Vandeweghe or a qualifier in the second round.

Looking for a kickstart: After the 0 for 8 run of the seeds last week in Dubai, quite a number of players turn to Dubai still searching for a kickstart to their seasons. No.2 seed Halep, No.4 seed Muguruza, and No.5 seed Kvitova. All three have played three tour events each this year and have won five matches between them (Halep – 2, Muguruza – 2, Kvitova – 1).

Kvitova has the toughest opening draw. She plays either Kristina Mladenovic or Dubai finalist Barbora Strycova. Halep plays either Dubai semifinalist Caroline Garcia or a qualifier. Muguruza opens against either Nao Hibino or Yaroslava Shvedova.

From a rankings perspective, Halep in particular is under fire. She failed to defend her title last week in Doha and will need to defend Indian Wells and a semifinal in Miami when the tour turns to the North American hard courts next month. A good run in Doha would pick up some much needed points while also giving her a boost of confidence for her upcoming events.

Simona Halep

Eugenie Bouchard takes a wildcard: The Canadian, currently ranked No.61, had an encouraging start to the season. She made the Shenzhen Open quarterfinals and her first final in over a year at the Hobart International. A tough draw saw her bow out early at the Australian Open, with a straight set loss to Radwanska in the second round.

She pulled out of the Rio Open last week citing a change of schedule – she played the NBA Celebrity All-Star game last Friday – took a wildcard into Doha, where she will make her main draw debut. She is entered in Kuala Lumpur next week. She opens against a qualifier and could play Elina Svitolina in the second round and Kerber in the third round.

Projected quarterfinals: Kerber vs. Kvitova, Muguruza vs. Bencic, Radwanska vs. Safarova, Halep vs. Suárez Navarro.

First round matches to watch: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Julia Goerges (a rematch of last week’s rout in Dubai), Karolina Pliskova vs. Margarita Gasparyan, Andrea Petkovic vs. Ekaterina Makarova, and Timea Bacsinszky vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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Strycova Downs Garcia For Final Spot

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

DUBAI, UAE – World No.47 Barbora Strycova employed her brand of unpredictable tennis to power past Caroline Garcia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, and reach her sixth career WTA final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Watch live action from Dubai & Rio de Janeiro this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

She was up against a very familiar opponent in the day’s second semifinal: Strycova and Garcia have played each other four times, with Strycova winning their last three matches in straight sets, including a first-round encounter earlier this year at the Australian Open.

The players started out this encounter very evenly-matched – and they stayed that way for most of the match.

Garcia played her trademark aggressive all-court game, sending Strycova on the defensive early on until the Czech grabbed the first break of the match at 3-2. Garcia used all of her weapons – even throwing in some serving and volleying – but Strycova’s unpredictable style was just too full of surprises, a two-handed backhand slice drop shot throwing Garcia completely off kilter and bringing up the break.

Strycova went on to win the next five games to take the opening set at 6-2 and go up 2-0 in the second.

Not to be outdone, the Frenchwoman held her nerve – and came up with some incredible service games – to win six of the next seven games to take the set 6-3 to level the match.

In the final set, the two were toe-to-toe, neither woman giving an inch: when Garcia broke to start the match, Strycova broke her right back; when Garcia held her serve at love, Strycova held serve at love in reply. They stayed deadlocked until Strycova finally broke for 5-3 – Garcia saved two break points to bring it to deuce, but after a 22-shot-rally Strycova emerged victorious. Serving for the match, Strycova erased both of Garcia’s break opportunities and sealed the match with an ace.

“I kept telling myself play your game and go for it – you have nothing to lose,” Strycova said after the match. “I wasn’t serving well the whole match but in that last game it was important that I pull it through.”

“That last game I was like, ‘Okay, pull something through. And then I made good serves. I’m so happy about it because it wasn’t easy match for me. But to be in the final it’s great.

Awaiting Strycova in the final is 2013 Dubai finalist Sara Errani, winner of the day’s first semifinal against Elina Svitolina. Errani leads their head-to-head record 5-1.

“We always have tough matches with Sara,” Strycova said of her opponent in the final. “Last time I lost from two match points.

“But it’s a final so I will enjoy it. Or I’ll try to enjoy it, actually.”

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Cirstea, Schiavone Into Rio Semis

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Sorana Cirstea survived a rainy quarterfinals afternoon, continuing her road back from injury with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 win over No.3 seed Danka Kovinic and earning a spot into her first WTA semifinal since 2013.

The win is a big milestone for Cirstea, who is playing in her first WTA main draw matches since last summer in Bucharest.

“I´ve been injured for one year and a half, so to come back and play three matches and be fit and healthy is the most important for me,” Cirstea said after the win. “After you come back from an injury you start realizing how lucky you are when you are pain-free and you enjoy more tennis.”

Up next for the Romanian is the resurgent Shelby Rogers, who dashed Brazil’s hopes of a home champion when she ousted qualifier Paula Goncalves 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

“It´s going to be the first time I face Shelby, unfortunately I don´t know her very much,” Cirstea said of the semifinal matchup. “We haven´t even practiced together. It´s going to be a tough match and I´m going to try to focus on my side of the court.”

On the other side of the draw, Francesca Schiavone emerged victorious after a two-and-a-half-hour encounter against Cindy Burger 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3. The Dutch qualifier was the author of an upset in the first round when she sent American Christina McHale packing in a three set thriller.

“It was a difficult match and the conditions were not easy today,” Schiavone said. “The ball kicks a lot on this courts here, so it´s quite challenging. The heat is also extreme, but I like to play on this conditions and I prepared well for that.”

Awaiting the Italian veteran in the semifinal is Petra Martic, who defeated Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.

“It´s going to be a very tough match because Martic plays really well, especially on surfaces where the ball kicks a lot, like it happens here in Rio,” Schiavone said of the dangerous Croatian who stunned No.1 seed Teliana Pereira in the first round. “She is also tall and is definitely going to use that. It´s going to be a challenge, but I think I´m ready

“Of course we have to take into account the fact that at the semifinals we are all ready. We all have 25% chance of getting the title.”

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Where To Watch: Doha

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Tournament Level: Premier 5
Prize Money: $2,517,250
Draw Size: 56 main draw (8 byes)/32 qualifying
Qualifying Dates: Friday, February 19 – Saturday, February 20
First Day of Main Draw: Sunday, February 21
Singles Final: Saturday, February 27, NB 6.00pm AST
Doubles Final: Saturday, February 27, 3.30pm AST

@WTA_Insider – WTA Insider, Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen
@QatarTennis – official tournament handle
Get involved in conversations with the official hashtags, #QatarTotalOpen and #WTA.

· Defending champion Lucie Safarova returns to action after missing the start of the season with a bacterial infection.
· The only other former winner in the draw is Simona Halep, who triumphed in 2014. Former finalists Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004, 2007), Caroline Wozniacki (2011) and Angelique Kerber (2014) have also made the trip to Qatar.
· Dubai finalists, Sara Errani and Barbora Strycova, have both entered Doha. The only players to have completed the Dubai-Doha double are Justine Henin (2007) and Martina Hingis (2001).
· For the complete draw click here.

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN), Fatma Al Nabhani (OMA), Cagla Buyukakcay (TUR)

Serena Williams (flu), Maria Sharapova (left forearm), Peng Shuai (right hand), Irina-Camelia Begu (right knee), Camila Giorgi (right knee), Alizé Cornet (low back), Mona Barthel (illness)

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