Muguruza downs Konta to face Azarenka

On a day of attrition and compassion in Rome, Friday’s play at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia saw Johanna Konta fall to Garbiñe Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka comfort an injured Daria Kasatkina after a nasty tumble, and top seeds Simona Halep and Karolina Plíšková...

Nadal not obsessed with records

The two tournament favourites draw closer to settling this year’s Rome Masters 1000 title as they successfully reached the last eight on opposing sides of the draw with the second seeded Rafa Nadal seemingly having the easier passage so far.

Musetti continues his Roman run

At four-all in the second set the lights went out during the Italian Open which could have disrupted the concentration of Italy’s emerging starlet, the 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, who was on his way to eliminating another top player from the Rome Masters listings.

ATP and WTA Kremlin Cup tournaments cancelled

The ATP and WTA jointly announced on Friday that the 2020 Kremlin Cup tournaments in Moscow have been cancelled by a mandate from health officials in the Russian capital, where there has been a surge in coronavirus infections.

Osaka withdraws from Paris, fans reduced

Japan’s Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury, while the FFT is reducing the number of fans that will be allowed to attend Roland Garros due to the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

On the day of the Bagel 

Bagels are pretty rare in pro tennis but in Rome on Thursday, Johanna Konta and Victoria Azarenka scored three between them - Konta taking one against clay-court specialist Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-0 6-4, while just five days after losing the US Open final, Azarenka...

Battling mental health issues to return to the court

In a short film released this week, the LTA follows 38-year-old tennis player Steven McCann from North London, as he shares his inspirational story of battling addiction to reignite his love and passion for the sport. The feature brings to life Steven’s journey to...

Fans to return in Paris

No one at the beginning of this Covid year could have predicted that we here at Tennis Threads would be writing the French Open in September, just a couple of weeks after the US Open had concluded!

Fed Cup rebrands as the Billie Jean King Cup

Tying in with the 50th Anniversary of the Fed Cup, the women’s team competition has been re-named the Billie Jean King Cup by the ITF, it was announced at a virtual press conference on Thursday.

Halep and Plíšková start Rome campaigns

Top seed Simona Halep overcame an early scare as she was broken 5 times by local wildcard Jasime Paolini in her opening match of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, but moved into the second round smoothly enough, 6-3 6-4, on Wednesday, while No 2 seed Karolina Plíšková...
Tennis News, Tennis Results, Live Tennis Scores & Interviews

Shenzhen | Svitolina opens title defence with Pliskova win

With focus on the Purple Group on Day 2 of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, defending champion Elina Svitolina came through a tight contest after needing nearly two hours to defeat the No 2 seed Karolina Pliskova, 7-6(12) 6-4.

I had to really mentally be tough, try to don't think so much because obviously she's a great player. I had to expect that she would step up her game. Elina Svitolina

For the second year running, these familiar foes are in the same group, when Svitolina won their round-robin match in 3 equally tight sets, having lost to the Czech in their first 5 meetings.

“I think I became more complete player. I started to play much better. I’m mentally stronger,” she assessed of her turnaround in the head-to-head.

“I don’t really think about those head-to-heads. I know I’m more consistent now than the game what I was before when we were playing. I think that’s what’s gives me those wins.”

It augurs well for the Ukrainian who, every time she has beaten Pliskova, has gone on to win the title – as well as last year’s clash, she also won their 2017 Rome quarter-final and their 2018 Brisbane semi-final.

Coming from an early break down in the opener, Svitolina survived a titanic tiebreak, in which she ultimately needed 7 set points to win the set, and saved 1 against her.

“You tell yourself to stay in the moment. You just try to play one rally at a time, to don’t rush,” Svitolina revealed after the match.

“Even when I had the chances to finish the set, because there was few, I thought I could play better.

“You just have to quickly restart and just try to take one point at a time, don’t rush and don’t get down on yourself.

“I had to really mentally be tough, try to don’t think so much because obviously she’s a great player. I had to expect that she would step up her game.

“Some of the shots were really amazing. What I had to do, I had just to try to get another chance, try to get the point going and to find my way into the match. She was serving couple of times for the set. It was tough.

“I always know when I am tough mentally, I get another chance.”

The champion in Singapore wrapped up the match in a similarly lengthy 2nd set, where she saw an early break of her own slip away, only to win 4 of the last 5 games to wrap up her 4th straight victory against the former World No 1.

From 0-2 down in the 2nd set, Pliskova won 3 straight games to take her first lead of the set, but dropped serve at 3-3 to put the Ukrainian back in front.

Tested on serve in the last two games to seal the win, Svitolina held her nerve from 40-0 up in the eighth game, ultimately holding from deuce, and saved two break points in the last game to wrap up the match.

This 4th straight victory for the Ukrainian over the Czech puts her at the top of the Purple Group.

She won 4 points more than her rival and played better in the decisive moments to seal the deal in straight sets, but it was a gruelling affair.

Pliskova had 37 winners, but also 42 unforced errors, while Svitolina scored to 21 winners and 16 miscues, taming her strokes nicely to top the standings before the second clash in this group between Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep.

Defending her second serve well, Svitlonia faced only 4 break points, suffering 2 breaks and earning 3 breaks from 8 opportunities on the return as she pushed Pliskova’s second serve to the limits.

The tall Czech drew first blood in the opening game with a perfect drop shot, but then sprayed a backhand error in the 4th to lose her serve and letting Svitolina back in at 2-2.

They stayed neck and neck for the remaining of the set, with no opportunities on the returns until the tiebreak that proved to be a real roller-coaster ride, taking 26 points to resolve, the longest breaker on tour this year.

Pliskova wasted a set point at 9-8 but it was all about Svitolina who, in the end, converted her 7th set point at 13-12 with a deep return, securing the opener in 64 minutes and gathering the momentum ahead of set 2.

“That was probably one of the longest tie-breaks I have played,” Svitolina said on court.

“I was just trying to be ready for her big serves today. I tried to move quickly and react quickly. The slightly slower surface gave me a bit more time.

“It’s a big privilege to return to this event. I still can’t believe I won it last year.”

Then, Svitolina’s break in the 7th game of the second proved decisive.

As in the opener, they traded breaks in games 1 and 4 before the Ukrainian grabbed another at 3-3 following a loose forehand from Pliskova, moving 4-3 up and serving for the victory in the 10th game.

Pliskova fought for every point, creating 2 break chances but it wasn’t to be for her, with 2 service winners from Svitolina, who sealed the deal with another one to make a winning start in Shenzhen.

It was the World No 8’s seventh successive win in the WTA Finals.

By virtue of winning in two sets, the No.7 seed now tops the Purple Group, which also includes Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

“There is always pressure, I would say, because you see, last year, I won two matches, then I had to win one more set. I almost lost the match, almost [was] not qualified for the semi-finals,” she said.

“There is always pressure. You always have to be up there, always have to bring your best game. Until the last point is done, you have to fight for every single point, every single game.

“That’s why round-robins are extremely tough, because you never know what’s going to happen. You have to give everything each time you step on the court.”

The lone member of the elite 8 to not reach a final in 2019, but the defending champion has her eyes on similar success to close out her season.

“I think biggest motivation is to get the trophy this year. This is my last chance. I try to win as many matches as I can. That’s the biggest motivation for me,” she said.

“I always try to bring my best game. Just to be here it’s already amazing achievement for everyone. Everyone is a champion. You have to bring your best game.”

US Open champion and World No 4 Bianca Andreescu of Canada took on Romania’s World No 5 Simona Halep in Monday’s late match.
The WTA Finals event sees the world’s top 8 players compete in 2 round-robin groups of 4, with the winners and runners-up advancing to the semi-finals at the weekend.

Svitolina is in the Purple Group alongside Pliskova, Halep and Andreescu, while the Red Group features Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic, who will play again on Tuesday.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.