Category Archives: Tennis

Emma Raducanu ‘optimistic’ to find new coach before Australian Open

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu stated on Sunday she is “optimistic” about finding a new coach before the Australian Open starts in January and will be relying on her own instincts at this week’s Transylvania Open in Romania.

Raducanu, who stunned the sporting world when she won the Flushing Meadows title in September as a qualifier, revealed after the Grand Slam that she would no longer be working with former Davis Cup player Andrew Richardson.

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The 18-year-old confirmed reports she had a trial last week with Johanna Konta’s former coach Esteban Carril among others as she continues her search for a mentor to guide her during the next phase of her career.

Raducanu has travelled to Cluj-Napoca with physiotherapist Will Herbert, agent Chris Helliar and her father Ian, who is Romanian.

“I am feeling optimistic about trying to have something in place for the off-season and the Australian Open. No, I haven’t decided on the coach. But things are moving forward,” Raducanu stated.

“I think having a coach is great, but you are on your own on the court. I don’t think it is great to be dependent. You need to coach yourself. That is something I am learning.

“Part of the experience I am having is being able to learn to coach myself. Sometimes it won’t always work, like in Indian Wells, but in the long-term if I keep doing that then I will be better in the situations in the future.”

The Transylvania Open started on Monday and was held without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Romanian government.

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Anett Kontaveit wins Kremlin Cup in comeback over Ekaterina Alexandrova

Anett Kontaveit twice came back from the brink of defeat to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 and gain the Kremlin Cup on Sunday to stay in contention for a place at the WTA Finals.

After dropping a set for the first time in the tournament, Kontaveit turned the second set around from 4-0 down and mounted another comeback to win the decider with a break of serve when Alexandrova served for the match at 5-4 up.

“I’m still a little bit speechless,” Kontaveit stated. “Congratulations to Ekaterina. You played such great tennis today.”

Playing in Moscow with a wild card, the Estonian won her third title on tour in as many months after winning the Cleveland Ladies Open in August and the Ostrava Open last month. On the women’s tour only top-ranked Ash Barty has won more than three titles this campaign, with five. Barbora Krejcikova also has three.

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“Unfortunately I couldn’t manage to achieve more today and I’m really very sad but I’m going to work on this and hope something like that won’t happen again next time,” Alexandrova said.

Next week either Kontaveit or Ons Jabeur can secure the last spot at the WTA Finals.

Jabeur has a points lead, meaning Kontaveit would need to collect the Transylvania Open in Romania and hope Jabeur does not reach the semifinals in Courmayeur, Italy.

Aslan Karatsev won the men’s tournament without dropping a set to deny Marin Cilic a third title in Moscow.

Karatsev saved the only break point he faced on his way to a 6-2, 6-4 win over Cilic. He is the third consecutive Russian winner of the tournament following Karen Khachanov in 2018 and Andrey Rublev in 2019. Last year’s Kremlin Cup was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the second tour title for Karatsev in a breakout season that started with his surprise run to the Australian Open semifinals despite being in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

The 33-year-old Cilic was bidding to win a 20th career title and was the oldest men’s finalist in Kremlin Cup history.

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Andy Murray battles to European Open win against Frances Tiafoe

Andy Murray applauded adversary Frances Tiafoe off the court after saving two match points before winning an epic three-set encounter lasting three hours and 45 minutes at the European Open in Antwerp on Tuesday.

Murray, who suffered a second round defeat to Tiafoe at the Winston-Salem Open in August, showed how far he has come in the last couple of months as he gained revenge with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) triumph.

The two-time Wimbledon champion will at least get a day off before returning to face second seed Diego Schwartzman on Thursday.

“I don’t think I’ve played a match like that. I think it’s the longest three-set match that I’ve ever played by quite a distance,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I’m tired right now. It was an unbelievable battle.

“He kept coming up with brilliant serves and great shots when I was getting chances.

“My body is old now, I’ve played a lot of matches on the tour so I don’t mind playing long matches but that was taking it to another level.” Murray enjoyed a dream run in Belgium’s port city two years ago for his first title following hip surgery.

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He looked on course for a first-round victory when he came through a 78-minute first set in which he found himself 1-2, 5-6 and a set point down before prevailing in a tie-break.

The second set was even longer at one hour and 21 minutes and although the former world No 1 showed his battling qualities, saving five set points, world No 48 Tiafoe finally took his opportunity at the sixth attempt with a crushing forehand half-volley.

Murray and Tiafoe traded breaks of serve midway through the decider, which was inevitably settled in a final-set tie-break.

The American failed to take his two match points permitting world No 172 Murray to get the job done with a brilliant drop shot.

Murray added: “It’s just so nice to be back playing in front of crowds again and it’s so important for events like this to get crowd support at the beginning of the week.

“I’ll use my day off tomorrow to try and rest and hopefully be okay for Thursday.”

Jenson Brooksby continued his good form with a 6-4 6-4 victory versus fifth seed Reilly Opelka, while San Diego-native Brandon Nakashima also impressed in a 6-4 6-0 win against sixth seed Alex de Minaur.

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Daniil Medvedev reaches round of 16; Karolina Pliskova upset in 2 sets on windy day at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Daniil Medvedev defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (1) to reach the round of 16 on a gusty Monday night at the BNP Paribas Open. Karolina Pliskova, the women’s top seed, was upset by Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 7-5.

Medvedev, the US Open champion, connected on 70% of his first serves and fired four aces despite challenging weather conditions.

Haddad Maia got into the main draw as a lucky loser. She lost in the final round of qualifying and got in when No. 29 seed Nadia Podoroska withdrew with a thigh injury. Haddad Maia inherited Podoroska’s first-round bye and then beat Mayar Sherif in the second round.

Ranked 115th, the Brazilian reached the round of 16 at a WTA 1000 event for the first time.

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On a windy day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Pliskova held serve to tie the second set 5-5, but she got broken eight times in the match.

Haddad Maia held and then broke Pliskova in the final game to wrap up her second career win over a Top-5 player.

No. 15 Coco Gauff lost to 21st-seeded Paula Badosa 6-2, 6-2 in a match that was briefly suspended by rain on a night of wild weather in the desert.

No. 10 Angelique Kerber defeated 20th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. No. 12 Ons Jabeur defeat Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-3 for her Tour-leading 46th match win of the year.

No. 16 seed Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 champion, lost to 18th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (5), 6-3.

On the men’s side, No. 6 Casper Ruud outlasted Lloyd Harris 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4. No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz and 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman advanced. No. 16 Reilly Opelka lost to 23rd-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4.

No. 9 Denis Shapovalov was beaten by 19th-seeded Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-2.

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Sloane Stephens survives to oust Heather Watson in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens gained seven of 18 break points. She raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held, then served out the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens advanced to a second-round match versus fellow American Jessica Pegula. American Shelby Rogers, who upset top-ranked Ash Barty in the third round of the U.S. Open, was set to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a night match.

Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

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Men’s main draw play starts Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards into the event. U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are entered.

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport’s biggest names, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men’s side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka stated she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Novak Djokovic pulls out of BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is the latest big-name tennis player to drop out of the BNP Paribas Open set for next month in the Southern California desert.

“I am sorry I won’t get to see my fans in Indian Wells and play in the desert, my favorite place to go,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Djokovic came up one triumph short of claiming all four Grand Slam titles this year, losing in the US Open final earlier this month. He acquired the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Djokovic joins women’s No. 1 Ash Barty in skipping the tournament featuring the combined men’s and women’s tours. It will be played Oct. 4-17, a switch from its usual March date on the calendar because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Emma Raducanu, the surprise U.S. Open women’s winner, received a wild card into the event.

Also in the women’s field are teenagers Leylah Fernandez, the US Open runner-up, and Coco Gauff.

Also out of the event are former winners Naomi Osaka and Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery in August.

His withdrawal means there will definitely be a first-time winner on the men’s side in this year’s BNP Paribas Open. Along with Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, the only other active players to have won in Indian Wells are Juan Martin del Potro and defending champion Dominic Thiem, both of whom are not in the field due to injuries. 

Without Djokovic, Russian Daniil Medvedev, the second-ranked player in the world, is expected to be the top seed at Indian Wells. Alexander Zverev of Germany, who collected the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will also be among the favorites.

The two of them, along with third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas and fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev round out the likely top four seeds in the men’s draw.

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Emma Raducanu moves up 127 spots to No. 23 in WTA rankings after winning US Open title

Emma Raducanu’s qualifier-to-champion run at the US Open vaulted her 127 spots in the WTA rankings to a career-high No. 23 on Monday.

The 18-year-old from Britain started the year ranked 345th, rose to 179th in July by reaching Wimbledon’s fourth round in her Grand Slam debut and arrived at Flushing Meadows at 150th.

Then Raducanu won all 20 sets she played across 10 victories — three in qualifying and seven in the main draw — to become the youngest woman to attain a major championship since Maria Sharapova, who won at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17.

Raducanu is the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.

The player she beat 6-4, 6-3 in the final Saturday, 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada, also made a big jump in the rankings, going from 73rd to a career-best 28th.

Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka stayed at Nos. 1 and 2, while 2018 and 2020 US Open champion Naomi Osaka slid from No. 3 to No. 5 after losing in the third round to Fernandez.

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Karolina Pliskova is now No. 3, and Elina Svitolina is No. 4 after each moved up a spot by getting to the quarterfinals in New York.

No. 1 Novak Djokovic is still comfortably ahead of No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the ATP rankings after Medvedev beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the US Open men’s final Sunday.

That prevented Djokovic from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam — and from breaking the men’s career record of 20 major titles he currently shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Asked whether he might adjust his canlendar to try to overtake Djokovic by the end of the season, Medvedev replied, “I think, honestly, it’s almost impossible.”

“That’s not my first goal in my mind — to try to achieve it this year,” said Medvedev, a 25-year-old from Russia who was the runner-up to Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open and to Nadal at the 2019 US Open. “If I manage to do it one day, it’s great.”

Two players who made their major quarterfinal debuts at the US Open made substantial jumps: South Africa’s Lloyd Harris rose 15 spots to No. 31, and Spain’s 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz went up 17 spots to No. 38.

Two Americans moved into the top 20 for the first time Monday: Coco Gauff, 17, is No. 19 in the WTA rankings; Reilly Opelka, 24, is No. 19 in the ATP rankings.

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Leylah Fernandez advances to US Open final with 3-set win over Aryna Sabalenka

Leylah Fernandez’s first major semifinal, at the US Open just days after her 19th birthday, did not go her way at the start.

After she recovered from that to take a lead, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka pushed a match filled with momentum swings to a back-and-forth third set. No matter what, Fernandez did not worry. Didn’t waver.

And why would she at this point? The Canadian’s poise, it seems, is as limitless as her potential. And no foe, no matter how accomplished or highly ranked, poses an insurmountable problem.

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Speedy afoot and steady at crunch time, the unseeded Fernandez edged Sabalenka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, earning the right to play for a Grand Slam title.

It was the 73rd-ranked Fernandez’s fourth consecutive three-set triumph over a seeded opponent.

First came No. 3 Naomi Osaka, the 2018 and 2020 US Open champion. Then came No. 16 Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champ. That was followed by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka.

In Saturday’s final, the left-handed Fernandez will face either another unseeded teen, 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu of Britain, or 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece. Neither of them has participated in a Grand Slam title match, either.

In the end, it was Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist in July, who let things get away from her. In the last match, she double-faulted twice in a row to set up match point, then sailed a forehand long.

Fernandez collapsed to the court and put her hands to her face. The men’s semifinals are Friday: No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia versus No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany, and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia against No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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Naomi Osaka upset in second round of Western & Southern Open by No. 76 Jil Teichmann

Naomi Osaka’s first WTA tour appearance since the French Open in late May did not last long.

The second-ranked Osaka sprayed balls all over the court in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to No. 76 Jil Teichmann on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open.

Osaka repeatedly punched her left thigh with her left wrist and talked loudly to herself, trying to get herself going, but she was impassive as she shook hands at the net with the exuberant Teichmann.

Meanwhile, top-ranked Ash Barty rolled through the first 10 games of her match with defending champion Victoria Azarenka in a 6-0, 6-2 victory to reach the women’s quarterfinals.

“I think sometimes the scoreline in tennis can fool you,” Barty said. “Though it seemed like a quite convincing scoreline in the match, each and every game had crucial points and I was able to win most of those.”

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Former tournament women’s champion Karolina Pliskova advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Jessica Pegula. Olympic champion and third-seeded Alexander Zverev also moved on, defeating Guido Pella 6-2, 6-3, while Roland Garros-finalist and second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas was pushed by Lorenzo Sonego to three sets before prevailing, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Medvedev bounced back up after a nasty fall early in the second set and went on to close out the win.

“You can’t see this on video, but my racket got between my legs and hit the back of my calf,” Medvedev said. “I don’t know how that happens. I actually have a bruise on my calf. A bruise is a bruise. It’s nothing serious.”

The second-ranked Russian, the winner last week in Toronto, won when Dimitrov double-faulted on match point. Medvedev has been on the court for only 2 hours, 28 minutes while winning his first two matches in consecutive sets after a first-round bye.

Medvedev is the first player not named Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray to crack the top two since July 18, 2005. Injuries and other issues kept Djokovic, Federer and Nadal from competing this year.

While his matches have been short, Medvedev feels winning will go a long way. “The more matches I can win in these two tournaments that are similar to New York, the more confidence you have,” he said.

“Confidence is the big key. It’s good coming there knowing that you’re capable of playing good. Now, I know it’s possible. A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. They’re tough. Opponents want to beat you. You hope you show your best tennis.”

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