WTA roundup: 3 Americans vie for trophies in Strasbourg and Rabat

It’s an all-American final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in France on Saturday, when good friends Danielle Collins and Madison Keys will play the championship match.

Madison and I have known each other since we were 10. We used to be pen pals. We'd write little letters to each other. Our moms are both from Iowa, so they bonded over that at the junior tournaments. I've known Maddie a long time, and [she's] a good friend. I'm excited to play her here and have some fun tomorrow. Danielle Collins

Before they could play their semi-finals on Friday, though, they had to wait for the 4th quarter-final to be completed between Market Vondrousova and Anhelina Kalinina, which had been held overnight because of rain and was eventually won by the Ukrainian, who upset the Czech World No 6 after a 2 hour 34 minute battle, 5-7 6-3 6-2.

For the first time since 2016, Keys will play in a red-clay final after the 4th-seed defeated Liudmila Samsonova from Russia in the first semi-final, 6-1 6-3.

Keys has now reached 4 clay-court finals in her career, but 2 of them came on green clay at the Credit One Charleston Open in her home country.

Her only previous clay-court final in Europe came when she was an unseeded 21-year-old at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where she defeated two Top 10 opponents before losing to Serena Williams.

Keys, the 4th seed, came into Friday’s match, which was twice paused due to rain, with a favourable head-to-head record against Samsonova, and that trend continued in 67 minutes in Strasbourg.

After losing their first meeting on grass in Berlin 3 years ago, the American has now won 4 straight matches against the Russian, 2 of them this spring, having also defeated her 6-2 6-3 in Madrid.

On this occasion, Keys converted 6 of 10 break points in her 6-1 6-3 win over the No 5 seed.

The 2017 US Open finalist will bid for her 8th career title, and her first since Eastbourne last summer, against her fellow Billie Jean King Cup teammate, Danielle Collins, who is looking for her 3rd title in the last 2 months.

Keys, who is 29, has won 4 of her last 5 finals on the Hologic WTA Tour. She and Collins have not played since 2020.

Danielle Collins came through a sticky first set to defeat Anhelina Kalinina and reach the Strasbourg final

© Johannes Simon/Getty Images

For her 22nd victory in her past 24 matches, Collins, the No 3 seed, struck 31 winners while cruising to a 7-6(3) 6-2 win over Kalinina in the second semi-final, who was playing her second match of the day.

The 20-year old American took an hour and 39 minutes to get past the Ukrainian, bouncing back in a tight first set despite losing 4 straight games from 3-0 up.

“I was excited to come here after Rome and playing some great tennis on clay… having some great matches under my belt this clay-court season and playing some tough opponents,” Collins said afterwards. “It was a tough battle. I definitely felt for her today, having to play two matches in one day.

“And I thought she did really well, moving well, hitting her shots well. I felt for her in the end, because I think the fatigue started to kick in a little bit. It’s sad when that happens, because she had such a great tournament.”

Collins will be looking for her 3rd title of the season Saturday after earlier winning back-to-back events in Miami and Charleston.

Keys and Collins have split their two previous meetings, with the latter winning the last one in 2020 in Brisbane, Australia.

Danielle Collins (L) acknowledges that Anhelina Kalinina had played two tough matches on the same day

Ahead of their showdown, Collins recalled how the two compatriots were once pen pals.

Nearly 20 years ago, the two Americans lived on opposite ends of the state of Florida, with Illinois native Keys relocating to Boca Raton to the Evert Tennis Academy at age 10, which is 4 hours southeast of Collins’ hometown of St Petersburg.

“Madison and I have known each other since we were 10,” Collins revealed in her on-court post-match interview. “We used to be pen pals. We’d write little letters to each other.

“Our moms are both from Iowa, so they bonded over that at the junior tournaments. I’ve known Maddie a long time, and [she’s] a good friend. I’m excited to play her here and have some fun tomorrow.”

Neither woman has lost a set so far in Strasbourg, and each would become the first American champion at the tournament since Jennifer Capriati won the title in 1999.

Peyton Stearns battled past Viktoriya Tomova in 3 tight sets to reach the final in Rabat after 3 hours and 15 minute

© Megan Briggs/Getty Images

At the Grand Prix De Son Altesse Royale La Princesse Lalla Meryem, another American, Peyton Stearns, is looking for her first career title after outlasting Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, 6-7(6) 7-5 7-6(4) in the semi-finals at Rabat, Morocco.

Stearns, who converted 8 of 12 break points, fought back from 1-4 down in the third set to prevail in 3 hours and 15 minutes, and will face Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in Saturday’s title match.

Entering the semis, Stearns had already survived one narrow escape this week, coming from 0-5 down in the third set in Thursday’s quarter-finals to defeat defending champion Lucia Bronzetti, saving 2 match points in the process.

Friday’s comeback wasn’t quite as dramatic for the World No 81, but it was also topsy-turvy, and the longest match of the tournament thus far.

Tomova held set point at 5-4 in the opening frame, but she needed to wait 20 more minutes before clinching the one-set lead in the tiebreak.

Stearns found a plethora of winners to lead 5-2 in the second, but Tomova fought all the way back to 5-5.

An inopportune double-fault, though, from the Bulgarian handed the break back to Stearns, and the American tied up the match with a forehand winner down the line on set point.

In the decider, Stearns methodically chipped away at Tomova’s 4-1 lead, slamming a backhand winner to break for 4-3, then consolidating for 4-4 with an ace.

The first 6 points of the decisive match tiebreak went against serve, and an error-forcing return gave Stearns a key 5-4 lead.

22-year old prevailed in a rally to set up double match point at 6-4, when a Tomova return went long to end the encounter.

Stearns will be seeking her 1st WTA singles title in her 2nd career tour-level final, having been a finalist at 2023 Bogota where she lost the championship match to reigning titleholder Tatjana Maria.

Finalist Mayar Sherif eased past Kamilla Rakhimova and has yet to drop a set in Rabat

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Sherif was on court for just 61 minutes as she sailed to an easy 6-0 6-1 win over Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova.

The Egyptian’s dominant semi-final win was par for the course in Rabat, as the 28-year-old has not dropped more than 3 games in any of the 8 sets she has played this week.

The World No 66 won 82% of her first-serve points and an even better 83% of her second-serve points.

Sherif did drop her serve once, but she never let Rakhimova hold, converting 7 of her 12 break points.

Into her 3rd career WTA singles final, Sherif she is 1-1 in her previous finals, finishing as the runner-up to Andrea Petkovic at 2021 Cluj-Napoca, then capturing her first career WTA singles title by beating Maria Sakkari in the 2022 Parma final.



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