Federer returns World top ranking after Raonic during Stuttgart open final

By SportDesk,

World tennis star, Roger Federer, has celebrated his return to top of world rankings by defeating Milos Raonic in the final of the Stuttgart Open on Sunday and lifting the 98th tour-level title of his garlanded career.

The 36-year-old, who by reaching the final had already guaranteed his return to world No.1, supplanting Rafael Nadal when the new rankings are released on Monday, continued his domination over the Canadian with a 6-4 7-6(3) victory.

Federer’s 78-minute win, sealing his first Stuttgart triumph, was the perfect tonic for the Swiss in the build-up to defending his Wimbledon crown, having extended his unbeaten 12-month sequence in grass court matches to 16.

Federer, who beat Raonic en route to winning Wimbledon last year, broke the Canadian’s powerful serve just once in the third game but with his own delivery proving unbreachable, it was enough for him to win the first set.

In a decisive tiebreak after no breaks in the second set, a double fault from Raonic paved the way for Federer, playing his first tournament in 11 weeks after giving the claycourt campaign a miss, to claim victory.

On Monday, Federer will begin a record-extending 310th week at the top of the rankings before seeking to defend his Halle grasscourt crown. If he manages to do so, he will then seek a landmark 100th career title at Wimbledon

Nadal claims 11th French Open crown

World number one Rafael Nadal won an 11th French Open title by beating Austrian Dominic Thiem in straight sets.

Nadal won 6-4 6-3 6-2 to earn his 17th Grand Slam, three behind Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record.

The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second.

And despite having cramp in the third he increased the tempo further, beating Thiem in his first major final when the 24-year-old returned long.

“It’s a dream to win 11 times,” Nadal said.

“It was important to play the way I did. It was a tough moment when I got cramp. He is a player who pushes you to the limit.”

Past six Grand Slam titles have been shared between Nadal and Federer with the next generation of players finding it hard to break the veterans’ stranglehold on the game.

Nadal is the only second player in history to win the same Grand Slam on 11 occasions after Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Open titles between 1960 and 1973.

However, it was not all smooth for Nadal, who missed four match points on his own serve before clinching victory when Thiem went long on the fifth.

Nadal dropped his racquet at the baseline in celebration before turning to his box and raising both hands skywards.

He had been the favourite to win the second Slam of the year, after warming up with three clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

The Majorcan has an air of invincibility at Roland Garros, losing only twice in 87 matches since making his debut in 2005, and again he delivered on his favourite stage.

He had breezed through his opening four matches without dropping a set – extending his own personal best to 37 consecutive sets here – though falling short of Bjorn Borg’s all-time record of 41 by losing the opener of his quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman.

That was about as disheartening as it got for the world number one.

Against seventh seed Thiem he was at his destructive best, using his athleticism and mental resilience to wear the Austrian down with his relentless shot-making.

Thiem, playing in his first Grand Slam final, simply had few answers to Nadal’s brilliance.

Serena should be fit for Wimbledon – Mouratoglou

By Sports Desk

American former world number one tennis player, Serena Williams should be fit for Wimbledon, according to her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of Monday’s last-16 match at the French Open against Maria Sharapova with an injury that affected her serve.

Mouratoglou said, “Within two weeks she should recover and will be able to hit again.”

However, she still has 15 days to do a lot of fitness and improve her speed on court. She should be ready for Wimbledon.”

Roland Garros was the first Grand Slam event Williams had entered since she returned to tennis after giving birth to her first child in September 2017.

The 36-year-old had looked in good form in her opening matches before an injury to her right pectoral muscle forced her to pull out of the highly anticipated encounter with long-time rival Sharapova.

“It was a great idea to not play that match against Maria because she couldn’t serve and it would have been difficult to win without serving,” Mouratoglou added.

“Also because it would take an incredible risk to tear the muscle that was very close to being torn.”

Asked whether seven-time Wimbledon singles champion Williams had enough match practice to go deep into this year’s tournament, which begins on 2 July, her coach replied: “I think so.

“On that level, Roland Garros was fantastic because she started not competing great because she had not competed for so long.

“But after the first set of second match the real Serena popped out.”

Williams beat Kristyna Pliskova and 11th seed Julia Gorges in straight sets in her French Open first and third-round matches. In round two, she fought back from a set down to win against Australian 17th seed Ashleigh Barty.

“I think she is competitive, her level and fitness is back,” Mouratoglou said.

“Plus at Wimbledon she will have the small advantage because she has the serve, which can take her out of bad situations.”

Halep wins French Open to clinch first Grand Slam title

By Sports Desk

Just about one year after blowing the French Open final from a set and a break up, Simona Halep won the title from a set and a break down, leaving Sloane Stephens spent and battered at the end of a wonderful conclusion to the tournament.

A grand slam champion at last, after failing here against Maria Sharapova in 2014 and Jelena Ostapenko last year, as well as in this year’s Australian Open final, Halep let the tears flow the very second that Stephens’s last ball billowed the net. Nadia Comaneci hugged her tight, as she clambered into the stands to celebrate with family and friends, including her manager, Virginia Ruzici, the only other Romanian to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, 40 years ago.

It was a heartwarming victory, one that looked unlikely for long stretches, but inevitable at the end, Halep dragging herself out of a numbing torpor to crush the American 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

“In the last game, I felt I could not breath any more,” she said. “I just did not want to repeat what happened last year. I am really thankful this has happened in Paris, my special city.”

After a rousing burst to hold at the start, Halep lost her grip to gift Stephens an early break, but it did little to curb her no-nonsense hitting.

Both players struck with full-blooded power from deep in a series of knife-edge rallies, before Stephens broke for a second time. And on they smote, the crowd captivated by their commitment. Only Camila Giorgi has been able to out-hit Stephens this tournament, though, and she patiently absorbed the best that Halep had to offer.

Although Halep had already secured her world No 1 ranking by reaching the final, there was much more at stake here: her reputation. It would be going some to say she has choked on the big occasion, but she certainly has wrestled with her temperament under pressure.

Stephens, meanwhile, remained a picture of calm, as she has done every time she has made a final, winning all six of them, none more career-changing than the US Open last year. That victory over her friend and compatriot Madison Keys in front of their home support heightened her thirst for the game’s biggest prizes and, when she beat Keys again in the semi-finals here, she showed there was no softness in her, just a steely determination to make the most of her talent. Where once there was petulance and attitude now their is contentment.

Even when her level dipped and Halep worked her way back into the first-set fight, Stephens did not sway from her steady rhythm. Watching from side-on, the drawn-out exchanges were mesmeric, and Halep sucked it up to stay in contention at 3-5.

She needed a change of gear – and a drop-shot that looked almost an afterthought caught everyone by surprise, to snatch a break point. Reverting to her programmed ways, she struck a forehand wide and the set was gone, in 42 minutes.

Halep then needed a line-scorching forehand to save at the start of the second, but Stephens conjured a wonderful running save and cross-court chip to break again.

Stephens’s strokes were flowing as smooth as Tupelo Honey now, and Halep was straining to stay with her. While the dirt near the net remained pristine, the players were digging trenches at either baseline, as they tested each other’s strength and technique to failure.

What had begun as a fair fight was turning into an ordeal for the Romanian. With increasing regularity her best efforts were finding the net. She seemed powerless to stem the remorseless quality of artillery coming her way. But Stephens’s first serve, which had powered her through six matches at an impressive 68% success rate, slipped to 43%, and Halep sniffed a chance.

As despair threatened to overwhelm her, she grabbed three break points, took the first and was back in the contest. It was the shift she had been waiting nearly an hour for.

She held to love. Her fans found fresh voice. All of a sudden, her risky shots were landing clean. Stephens’s legs slowed. Her clarity of purpose deserted her. Halep broke again. It was the American’s turn to struggle – and she responded by breaking back to love and holding to 30.

After looking as if she were about to trample Stephens underfoot, Halep had to dig deep as the rallies lengthened once more. But, hammering the backhand and waiting for a short reply to kill the point, she broke to level at a set apiece.

Having avoided calamity, Halep had conviction in her athletic strut once more, looking altogether the more dominant player at the start of the decider. Still slugging away at her opponent’s increasingly weary backhand, she ground her way to a priceless 3-0 in 11 minutes. Having been on the bus home half an hour earlier, she was back on track. The title was hers to lose.

The challenge for Stephens was not only to rediscover her touch and precision, but to find a second wind. This was the point when Halep faded against Ostapenko. However, when her passing shot clipped the net to confound Stephens’s response, she must have known it was finally her day. And, after a brilliant leaping backhand volley forced a bungled, close-quarters response from Stephens for another break, Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill, jumped from his seat, not a common site.

The journey from there to the finish line was relatively stress-free. When a solid but not blinding serve turned Stephens’s racket to rubber and the ball sailed long, she was one game from elation.

Stephens found a late gasp of resistance to save losing the set to love, but it was futile.

The full-stop to the story arrived just past two hours as Halep found her first ace before finishing the job with a serve that Stephens could do no more than bat into the net.

Nadal crushes Del Potro, reaches French Open final

By Sports Desk

Rafael Nadal booked a record 11th French Open final, defeating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, in three straight sets 6-4 6-1 6-2, in a one-sided match that lasted a little over 2 hours.

Nadal, the favorite for an 11th French Open championship, will on Sunday meet Austrian Dominic Thiem, who in an earlier semi-final pairing beat Italian Marco Cecchinato.

Thiem is the only man to beat Nadal on clay in the last two seasons — in Madrid this year and Rome in 2017.

“It was a very difficult first set and Juan Martin had lots of opportunities. He was a little unfortunate,” said Nadal who reeled off 14 of the last 17 games, having seen Del Potro fail to convert any of his seven break points.

Nadal is now just the second man to reach 11 finals at the same Slam, equalling Roger Federer’s mark at Wimbledon.

“It’s impossible without hard work and going through tough moments.

“You have to be focussed and keep your passion for the game. I never dreamed in 2005 when I played my first final here that I would be in another one.”

But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro’s analysis of 20 and 32.

“Thiem is an amazing player. He beat me in Madrid, he has big power so I have to be at my best and improve,” said Nadal.

“But I believe I will be ready for the final.”

World number one Nadal went into Friday’s clash with a 9-5 career record against Del Potro, including all three meetings on clay.

However, it was Del Potro who was in the ascendancy in the rallies in the first set.

The fifth seed, playing in his first Roland Garros semi-final in nine years, had three break points in the third game and three more in the ninth.

However, the 29-year-old was unable to capitalise and Nadal made him pay in the 10th game when he claimed the opener off a netted backhand.

Serena Williams pulls out of French Open

By Sports Desk

World tennis female star, Serena Williams, has called off her Grand Slam comeback, pulling out of the French Open because of a chest injury before she was supposed to play Maria Sharapova.

Williams announced her withdrawal at a news conference at Roland Garros on Monday, ahead her and Sharapova scheduled to play a fourth-round match Monday.

The 36-year-old 23-time grand slam champion, playing in her first slam since the 2017 Australian Open after maternity leave, told a news conference in Paris she had a pectoral muscle injury.

“Unfortunately I’m having some issues with my pec muscle. Right now I can’t actually serve so it’s kind of hard to play,” she said.

Williams also revealed that she will have an MRI scan on Tuesday and was non-committal on her Wimbledon prospects.

“It’s very difficult,” Williams added. “I love playing Maria. I’ve made every sacrifice I could. I made a commitment to myself and my team that if I wasn’t at least 60% I wouldn’t play. I’ve never felt this in my life. It’s so painful.

“I’m beyond disappointed. I gave up so much from time with my daughter & time with my family all for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation.”

Williams revealed she played in the women’s doubles with sister Venus on Sunday to test the injury” “I thought [doubles] was a perfect opportunity to see how I was going. I tried a lot of different tapings and support. It didn’t get a lot better.”

Sharapova will now play either Garbiñe Muguruza or Lesia Tsurenko in the quarter-finals.

Serena to play Sharapova in French Open fourth round

By Sports Desk

Serena Williams set up a mouth-watering French Open last-16 match against bitter rival Maria Sharapova on Saturday.

Three-time champion Williams made the fourth round with a ruthless 6-3, 6-4 romp past German 11th seed Julia Goerges.

Sharapova, the 2012 and 2014 winner in Paris, was equally impressive, seeing off Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-1.

Sharapova and Williams have met 21 times, with the American leading the head-to-head record 19-2 after 18 consecutive wins.

The Russian has not beaten her nemesis since 2004 — before even the birth of Twitter and YouTube.

Sharapova make winning starts at French Open

By Sports Desk

Tennis player, Maria Sharapova bounced back with a winning start in Paris after losing six games in a row and then won the next six.

The Russian appeared to be cruising at 6-1 3-1 ahead but Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp suddenly had her on the ropes, taking the second set and racing 3-0 ahead in the decider.

But Sharapova rediscovered her game in the nick of time to reel off half-a-dozen games for a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.

It was an ultimately sweet moment for the two-time Paris champion.

This time last year Sharapova had recently returned from a 15-month doping ban, but had not built her ranking high enough to qualify and was not offered a wild card.

But 12 months later Sharapova is back in the world’s top 30, seeded 28 at Roland Garros and a potential challenger for a third title.

“I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it’s that way,” she said. “It’s great to be in this draw and great to be back on a court that I have had great success at.”

Sharapova could face a heavyweight showdown with Serena Williams in the last 16 should the pair both get that far.

 

Serena defeats Pliskova after comeback kick off game

By SportDesk,

Serena Williams, has scaled the first hurdle at the French Open, beating 26 year old Czech player, Kristýna Plíšková returning to Grand Slam tennis since her child birth last September.

Plíšková has won one singles and three doubles titles on the WTA Tour, as well as nine singles and eight doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

Serena, the 23 Grand Slam winner secured victory in two sets, 7-6 6-4.

There was a little rust to shake off on her return but all the same Serena was too strong, and too good, for her world 70-ranked opponent to set up a meeting with Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the next round.

“Two years is a really long time but I have trained hard on clay and feel good,” she said courtside afterwards.

“I’m happy to have won a match here and I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

French Open female defending champion out of game

By NewsDesk,

Defending champion at French Open, Jeļena Ostapenko, has been ousted from the tournament in the first round.

The 22 year-old became the third casualty in a day of upsets that also saw veteran Venus Williams and British star, Johanna Konta ousted from the championship.

Ostapenko was sent packing today in straight sets by 24 year-old Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, World number 62. Kozlova won 7-5 6-3.

Ostapenko from Latvia on 19 March 2018, reached her best singles ranking of world No. 5 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), and she peaked at world No. 32 in the WTA doubles rankings on 19 June 2017.

She won the 2017 French Open singles title, becoming the first player from Latvia to win a Grand Slam tournament and the first unseeded player to win the French Open since 1933.