WTA 250 – Internationaux de Strasbourg, France
Unseeded Slovenian Kaja Juvan upset top seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic on Friday to advance to her first WTA final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in France.
I felt like I was really fast, and I felt really strong, so I wasn’t too worried if it’s going to go to the third set, if it’s going to be a long match. ... I relaxed and tried to stick to my plan, because I thought at the end it’s going to be worth it, no matter what happens. Kaja Juvan
Juvan, ranked 81 in the world, converted all 4 of her break point opportunities in a 6-2 7-5 victory against her 8th-ranked opponent, winning 70 percent of the points, 28 of 40, on her first serve.
With the win over Pliskova, Juvan now has two Top 10 victories in her career after the 21-year-old grabbed her first Top 10 win in January, when she defeated Aryna Sabalenka in Adelaide.
“This whole year, I feel like I’ve been so close to beating these players,” Juvan said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s go for it, let’s be aggressive, I can do it, I’m always so close’.
“We prepared well, and I think I stuck to being aggressive and trying to make the points, not just waiting for her, and that worked at the end.
“I felt like I was really fast, and I felt really strong, so I wasn’t too worried if it’s going to go to the third set, if it’s going to be a long match. … I relaxed and tried to stick to my plan, because I thought at the end it’s going to be worth it, no matter what happens.”
Juvan powered through the first set before former World No 1 Pliskova battled back in the second, surging from an early break down to keep things level through 5-5, when the Slovenian earned the critical break to lead 6-5 and, from there, she came back from a break point down to close out the match with a backhand winner.
Standing in the way of Juvan’s maiden singles title is 2nd-seeded Angelique Kerber from Germany, who was leading 7-6(2), 1-0 in the other semi-final when France’s Oceane Dodin retired due to illness.
The No 2 seed posted her best clay-court showing in over 6 years, reaching her first clay-court final since she won the Stuttgart title on home soil in 2016.
Powerful Dodin, ranked 94, was cracking huge returns with ease as she claimed an early 3-1 lead, but Kerber found vintage down-the-line winners to get back on serve, eventually queuing up a first-set tiebreak.
A forehand winner gave the German a commanding 4-1 lead in the breaker, and she reached quadruple set point with a deft drop shot for 6-2 and when Dodin netted a forehand on the first set point, she ceded the opener.
The Frenchwoman retired after being broken in the opening game of the second set.
Juvan goes into Saturday’s final knowing she has defeated Kerber in their only previous encounter, and on clay to boot, when she knocked the German out in the first round of 2020 Roland Garros, 6-3 6-3.
Kerber has 13 career WTA titles to her name, including 3 Grand Slams, but has not won a trophy on clay since 2016, and while clay has never been her favourite surface, and Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam Kerber has not won, the left-hander survived tough 3-set battles against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Magda Linette this week.
Juvan lost her previous two semi-finals appearances at Bol 2019 and Portoroz 2021 and has had a stronger season than Kerber, picking up 19 wins before this event, while her opponent scored just two.
In the 4 matches leading up to the final, Juvan did not drop a set, getting past both Elise Mertens and Pliskova to make the last 2.
WTA 250 – Grand Prix Ser La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Rabat, Morocco
Martina Trevisan advanced to her first WTA Tour final by defeating fellow Italian Lucia Bronzetti, 6-3 6-3 in the semi-finals in the Morocco Open, and the 28-year old will meet another unseeded player and first-time WTA Tour finalist in American Claire Liu, who won in a walk-over as Hungary’s Anna Bondar withdrew before their semi-final match due to a right shoulder injury.
Liu has been red-hot on clay, coming off a championship last week at the inaugural WTA 125 Open Clarins event in Paris.
The 21-year old American survived an inspired performance from Mayar Sherif in the quarter-finals, saving a match point on the Egyptian’s serve before getting a walkover Bondar.
Meanwhile, Trevisan has been playing stellar clay-court tennis all week, even getting a scalp over former World No 1 Garbiñe Mugurza in the 2nd-round.
Liu, ranked 92, is on an 8-match winning streak, while Trevisan had her break-through tournament at Roland Garros 2020, where she reached the quarter-finals.
Although she struggled to adjust to the main tour in 2021, compiling a 3-16 record in WTA main draws, Trevisan rebuilt her form and ranking beneath that level, reaching the Karlsruhe 125 final last September.
This week in Rabat, No.85-ranked Trevisan has delivered in style and against a younger compatriot ranked only 2 spots ahead of her, she committed to a higher-risk strategy to control the majority of the match.
Bronzetti, 23, reached the quarter-finals of her first 3 WTA main draws last year in Lausanne, Palermo and Portoroz, and backed that up this year by making the last 16 of Miami, but despite capturing the first break of the match for 3-2 in the first set, the World No 83 paid the price for overly conservative tactics.
Trevisan went for the lines, tended to be the first to open up the court with her hefty forehand, and deployed fine drop-shots at the right times.
A swashbuckling drive volley levelled the match at 3-3, and an exquisite forehand angle enabled her to break for 2-1 in the second set, which proved decisive.
Bronzetti upped her aggression in the latter stages of the match, but the resultant unforced errors only played further into Trevisan’s hands and a fine inside-in forehand winner sealed victory for the Italian, and a chance to capture her maiden title in a first-time encounter with Liu.