Stephens claims Miami open title after battling tough opponent

By NewsDesk,

US Open defending champion, Sloane Stephens, battled Jelena Ostapenko to claim Miami Open title in straight sets, 7-6(5), 6-1.

Ostapenko, who is the reigning French Open Champion came into the match without having dropped a set or lost a tiebreak during the entire Miami fortnight, but both streaks came to an end in the hands of Stephens.

The victory will be even sweeter for Stephens come Monday as she’ll make her long-awaited Top 10 debut, landing at World No.9.

In the match which was error-strewn, it was Sloane Stephens who succeeded in holding her nerves to beat Ostapenko and lift the prestigious title for the first time.

Florida native Stephens, who has now won all six finals she has competed in, had been determined to win the last tournament at Key Biscayne before it moves next year.

However a nervy final was not easy on the eye with both players appearing to be struggling to get to grips with the occasion.

There were eight breaks of serve in the first set alone, with French Open champion Ostapenko hitting 29 unforced errors and US Open champion Stephens making just three winners.

It was the first time either player had made it to the final of a WTA Premier Mandatory event and Ostapenko, at just 20 years and 297 days, was the youngest finalist in Miami since Victoria Azarenka won here in 2009.

Ostapenko came into the encounter having not lost a set, an impressive statistic considering she has taken part in five tie-breaks over the last 12 days.

Stephens however, who was raised in Plantation, Florida and was able to call on overwhelming support here, made the stronger start, breaking in the first game.

But serving for the first set with just 36 minutes on the clock, nerves began to hit the American who double faulted to give Ostapenko a breakpoint which she duly won when Stephens hit hopelessly long.

Ostapenko’s serve, however, continued to falter and the 13th seed responded immediately with a fourth break to give herself another chance to win the opening set.

Yet another hopeless service game – at this point Stephens had been successful with just 18% of her second serves – sent the match into a tie-break which was won when the Latvian sent a backhand into the net.

Unsurprisingly, the trend continued with both players broken in the opening two games and when Ostapenko faltered again, Stephens took a 3-1 lead, and this time, she kept on her game to emerge victorious for the sixth title of her career.

Stephens knocks out Azarenka in Miami Open to reach final

Three-times champion Azarenka, playing as a wildcard in her second event after an eight-month absence because of a custody dispute involving her son, showed glimpses of the form that took her to the top of the rankings but ultimately ran out of gas against her 13th-seeded opponent.

Stephens, who also beat Azarenka in the second round at Indian Wells this month, took control of the match early in the second set and never looked back as she raced through the decider with ease.

“I just knew I had to keep fighting. In the first set I was down but I battled back so I knew if I did that in the second, I’d be right in there,” the 25-year-old American said in an on-court interview.

“I ended up winning a lot of games in a row and I just tried to keep the momentum going.”

Stephens will face either French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the sixth seed, or American qualifier Danielle Collins in Saturday’s final at Crandon Park.

Azarenka’s initial comeback after the birth of her child in December, 2016 was short-lived as she played two tournaments before a custody battle with her son’s father prevented her from travelling with her child.

The Belarusian may have played little competitive tennis in recent years but she enjoyed a respectable run in Miami, including victory over Czech world number six Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals.

Azarenka set to play in Miami Open semi-finals after defeating Karolina Pliskova

Victoria Azarenka, three-times champion starts strong, breaking her opponent twice in the opening set, but the number five seed came back to take three games in a row and tie the set at 5-5.

Azarenka converted for the early lead after Pliskova gifted Azarenka a break after her fourth double fault.

Pliskova’s problems on her second serve continued in the second set and despite back-and-forth breaks, Azarenka maintain pressure to seal the match in an hour and a half.

After the match, Azarenka said: “It was not easy. Karolina is a very good player. I felt like I had a very good lead and I let it go – she really stepped it up so I had to fight back.”

She will now face US Open champion Sloane Stephens who notched up 11 winners in the 23-minute first set, and going on to claim a 6-1 6-2 victory in just over one hour on court to win against Angelique Kerber in straight sets to advance to her first semi-final place since her victory in New York.

 

World tennis female star performs Miami Open semi-finals.

By SportDesk,

American Sloane Stephens had cause for a double celebration on Tuesday after beating Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 to reach the WTA Miami Open semi-finals.

The US 13th seed’s comprehensive triumph in tricky wind conditions over the former world number one ensured Stephens reached the last four at Key Biscayne for the first time.

It also means the reigning US Open champion will finally be named in the world’s top 10 when the WTA release their rankings next week.

“I am so tired of hearing that I am number 11 in the world,” said a smiling Stephens, who will face either Victoria Azarenka of Belarus or sixth-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova for a place in Saturday’s final.

“It’s very exciting to get there, something I have wanted to do for a while. Getting into the top 10 is pretty special and something I have worked on for a long time.”

Stephens’ previous best here in Key Biscayne came with a quarter-finals run in 2015 so the emotions on display at the end of what was an ultimately straightforward win over the world number 10 were understandable.

Since her debut Grand Slam triumph at the US Open last September, the 25-year-old has struggled to follow on. Stephens arrived at Key Biscayne having not beaten a top-50 player since the run at Flushing Meadows.

But this week has seen the American, who was raised in South Florida, get back to her roots — and to winning ways.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Gabrine Muguruza was emphatically dispatched in straight sets Monday before Kerber received similar treatment.

Wind hampered both players but it was Stephens who adapted far better, the power of her groundstrokes and superior movement leaving Kerber frustrated and unable to find a way into the encounter.

“The wind is uncomfortable for both of us. But it can help push you outside of your comfort zone. You just have to embrace it,” Stephens said.

Stephens took just 23 minutes to wrap up the first set, Kerber looked sluggish from the start.

Kerber was deep in conversation with coach Wim Fissette during the break, being urged to assert herself.

Kerber saved four break points in the fifth game but Stephens was did not allow her opponent into the match and a 22nd winner sealed the triumph.

“You have to execute your game well and make sure you stick with it,” Stephens said. “It’s easy to start doing other things so I just need to keep to my plan and make sure I didn’t venture off.”

Kerber admitted coming through a grueling three-set win over qualifier Wang Yafan the day before had left her flat.

“I was really feeling a little bit tired today,” Kerber said. “It was windy, it was tricky, but I’ve played so many matches in the last three months that I was feeling it a little bit in my body.”

Federer loses world top position to Australians star during Miami master

By SportDesk,

The Roger Federer’s latest reign atop world rankings has ended after Swiss great’s shock loss to Australian qualifier, Thanasi Kokkinakis, in second round of Miami Masters on Saturday.

The 36-year-old Federer wasted no time in announcing he’ll skip the clay-court season, including the French Open, just as he did last year after winning titles in Indian Wells and Miami.

Kokkinakis, ranked 175th in the world, needed a wild card just to get into qualifying. But he showed nerves of steel in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) triumph over 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer.

“I was calmer than I thought,” Kokkinakis said of the third-set tiebreaker. “Inside I was pretty happy, I was excited, but I kept pretty calm.”

Federer, who won his 20th Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open, regained the number one spot in February after winning the ATP title in Rotterdam but needed to reach the quarter-finals to remain at the summit.

Instead he’ll be replaced by Spain’s Rafael Nadal when the rankings are released at the end of the tournament.

The 21-year-old Kokkinakis, who has battled injury in his young career, became the lowest-ranked player to beat a world number one since Spain’s Francisco Clavet was 178th when he upset top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt in the second round at Miami in 2003.

Federer appeared firmly in control when he breezed through the first set without facing a break point, dropping just six points on his own serve. His lone break for a 3-1 lead was all he needed to pocket the set.

But Kokkinakis seized upon a lackluster service game from Federer to break for a 3-1 lead in the second, holding firm on his own serve to force the decider.

“I didn’t really put any pressure on him (in the first set),” Kokkinakis said. “In the second set I kind of used a couple of loose errors — I started getting in the rallies more and dictating a bit with my forehand.”

Federer qualifies for BNP Paribas open, bidding for sixth trophies

By SportDesk,

World number tennis start Roger Federer qualification for BNP Paribas Open final in Indian after came from behind to overcome Croat Borna Coric at the first semi-final of the competition, California on Saturday, would make it his appearances of the game.

Of course, the victory made it Federer’s eighth appearance in the final of the tournament but if he wins forthcoming, it would be sixth trophies from the games as he had won the championship five times.

Federer, playing with many errors, fell behind in the first set, losing 5-7. In the second set, he tried to bring his A-Game together to win the second set 6-4 and also rallied in the deciding set to edge out Coric.

Coric had broken him

It was a disappointing end for Coric and Federer was honest to admit he was lucky to escape with a win.

“Borna was incredibly steady… it was tough to do anything often,” Federer says on court. “Those 10 minutes when I was down a set and a break it was hard for me to accept. … I got a bit lucky. It was a good match”, he said.

South African tennis champ’s catches up on ATP Mexican Open table

By SportDesk,

After wining  New York Open crown two weeks ago, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson moved one step closer to capturing his second consecutive title with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over American qualifier Jared Donaldson at Acapulco’s ATP Mexican Open.

The world number eight tennis star has plenty of confidence heading into Saturday’s final where he will face Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro.

“It just feels great to win tonight’s match, “When you’re out there, you’re not really thinking about finals and what happened before. In the heat of the battle, I thought it was a really tough match” Anderson said.

Since last January, when he plunged to 80th in the world, Anderson has made five finals comprising Washington D.C., the US Open, Pune, New York and now Acapulco. He was runner-up at the 2017 US Open.

Anderson saw his ranking fall of as a result of a variety of injuries and health issues.

In the other semi-final, Del Potro blasted six aces and broke Alexander Zverev’s serve three times en route to a 6-4, 6-2 win on Friday night.

Del Potro, who is seeded sixth, won 78 percent of his first-serve points and 55 percent of his second serves in the one hour, 31 minute match.

Zverev, of Germany, hammered 10 aces but had two double faults.

On the women’s side of the draw, defending champion Lesia Tsurenko earned a ninth straight victory at this event as she held off a late charge from Daria Gavrilova to return to the WTA final with a 6-2, 6-4 win.

Tsurenko will have the opportunity to play for her fourth career WTA title against Swiss Stefanie Voegele who cruised past Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

“I just really like it here. I think all the conditions for the tournament are just great and I know that all the players enjoy to play here,” the Ukrainian Tsurenko said.

Bulgarian tennis star performances at Dubai duty free game

By NewsDesk, with Agency report, 

Bulgarian top seed Grigor Dimitrov suffered a shock 4-6 7-5 6-4 to Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri in first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday.

Bulgarian world number four Dimitrov, who came into the event in good form having reached the final in Rotterdam last week, claimed the opening set with ease but failed to build on the momentum and lost in two hours and 17 minutes.

Jaziri, a quarter-finalist in Dubai four years ago, saved seven out of the eight break points he faced to seal the biggest win of his career. The world number 117 will take on Dutchman Robin Haase in the next round.

An ailing Richard Gasquet lost 6-4 6-3 to Croatian world number 50 Borna Coric in 75 minutes. The Frenchman played despite being hampered by a knee injury he picked up on Monday. Another Frenchman, Benoit Paire, is up next for Coric.

Lucas Pouille of France eased past Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-4 6-4 to set up a second round match with Karen Khachanov, who beat him in the Marseille final at the weekend. Khachanov advanced with a 7-6(1) 7-6(0) win over fellow Russian Denis Istomin.

Also progressing to the second round were Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic and eighth seed Yuichi Sugita.

Shake up awaits tennis world ahead 18-nation World Cup of Tennis Finals.

By SportDesk,

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has disclosed on Monday that a massive shake-up of Davis Cup competition would see formation of an 18-nation World Cup of Tennis Finals.

As gathered, the event played in one location over seven days in November could start next year, pending approval by the ITF Board.

The President, ITF, David Haggerty, said it would be a game-changer for tennis, just as a statement outlined a 25-year, $3 billion partnership with investment group Kosmos, whose founder and president is Barcelona and Spain soccer player Gerard Pique.

“Our vision is to create a major season-ending finale that will be a festival of tennis and entertainment, featuring the world’s greatest players representing their nations to decide the Davis Cup champions,” he said.

According to the statement, the new event represents a huge revamp for the Davis Cup which has been in existence since 1900 but has suffered in recent years with top players not turning out for their nations.

Number one Roger Federer has not played for Switzerland since 2015 while Rafael Nadal has only played one doubles rubber for Spain in the past two years.

In the current format employed since 1981, 16 World Group nations take part in a knockout competition over three weekends in February, July and September before the final in November.

Ties are hosted by one or other of the competing nations, producing a partisan atmosphere which has become a popular feature of the Davis Cup.

Each tie is best-of-five-matches, four singles and one doubles.

The investment from Kosmos will include significant increases in prize money for players and ITF member nations, according to the sport’s London-based governing body.

Haggerty said a prize pool of $20 million would be up for grabs for the 18 qualifying nations.

“This is a complete game-changer for the ITF and for tennis,” he said.

“This new partnership will not only create a true World Cup of Tennis, but will also unlock record levels of new investment for future generations of tennis players and fans.”

The ITF said several “world-class” cities from several continents had expressed interest in hosting the new event.

The plans will be submitted to the ITF Annual General Meeting, to be held in August in Orlando, Florida and a two-thirds majority will be required for final approval.

“Kosmos is thrilled to join in this exciting partnership with the ITF,” Pique said.

“Together we can elevate Davis Cup by BNP Paribas to new heights by putting on a must-see World Cup of Tennis Finals featuring the top nations and top players.”

The event would be run on a round-robin format before a knockout phase with matches consisting of two singles and one doubles rubber. Ties will be played over one day with matches using a best-of-three-set format.

Sixteen World Group nations will automatically qualify for the Finals, with a further two nations to be selected.

The eight teams failing to qualify for the quarter-finals would then play off against the eight zonal Group One qualifiers to try to qualify for the following year’s Finals.

Zonal Groups I and II home-and-away ties will continue to be played during the traditional three weeks of the calendar.

Giant killer, Giorgi, eliminates Radwanska, sets up Kerber clash

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Italian lowly ranked tennis player, Camila Giorgi, continued her impressive run at the Sydney International by beating Polish tennis player, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1 6-2 on Thursday, January 11, to set up a semi-final clash with Angelique Kerber.

The world’s 100th ranked tennis player, shook off her rating to beat U.S. Open champion, Sloane Stephens, in the first round and then ousted two-time Wimbledon and former Sydney champion, Petra Kvitova.

She is yet to drop a set over six matches in qualifying or the main draw, and will next meet world number 22, Kerber, who staged a 6-3 6-1 victory over Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter final.

Former world number one, Kerber, fell out of the top 20 in 2017, but has made a strong start to 2018 ahead of the Australian Open, with victories over Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams recently.

Kerber, who won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open titles in 2016, said: “I‘m not looking back 2017 any more.

”I’ve had a great off-season and I‘m working hard. I‘m trying to do my best on court and win as many matches before going to Melbourne.

“It’s just the beginning of the year. I‘m trying to play my game again, enjoy every minute on court. I‘m trying to be aggressive and play like I did the year before last.”

Meanwhile, the other semi-final, in Sydney, will be an all-Australian affair as Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova face each other for a place in the final.

Barty completed a 6-3 6-2 victory over Czech’s Barbora Strycova, while Gavrilova advanced after her quarter-final opponent, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew due to a leg injury.