Monthly Archives: February 2013

Kvitova wins Dubai Tennis Championships in style

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Petra Kvitova won her 10th WTA Tour title on Saturday in a hard-fought 6-2 1-6 6-1 victory over Sara Errani at the Dubai World Tennis Championships.

The 22-year-old faced an aggressive Errani determined to use the serve-volley to her advantage, but Kvitova’s own strong serves and shot selection proved too much in the end.

The former Wimbledon champion had beaten her WTA top-eight opponent in all three of their previous meetings, without even dropping a set, but needed real inspiration to win this final.

Kvitova serving

Kvitova serving

First Set

Kvitova shot off to a superb start, breaking Errani in the first game before stretching her lead to 4-0 without much trouble. Her powerful forehand carved Errani open on numerous occasions, the Czech forcing through points in short rallies.

Errani offered slight resistance with a break of her own to bring it back to 4-2, but could do nothing as Kvitova dispatched a magnificent shot on the back foot to put away the seventh game at break-15.

After a brief turnaround and two deuces, Kvitova was back in her chair boasting a one-set advantage. Her strength had been the key in that first set, Errani winning just one point off her second serve, and the Czech continued into the second with an immediate break.

 

First Set stats

First Set stats

Second Set

However, Errani fought back with a break of her own and took a 2-1 lead in the second before earning break point following a magnificent deft drop at the net to leave Kvitova applauding her opponent. Moments later and Errani had taken her third straight game when the Czech needlessly double faulted.

4-1 was soon 5-1, Errani smashing home a winner after aggressive play against Kvitova’s wearying serves. A magnificent serve-volley before a net volley on a passing shot handed Errani set point, which Kvitova duly crashed low into the net.

Third Set

The Italian came out aggressive in the final set but went 3-1 down when she failed to convert three break points before hitting the net at deuce in the fourth game.

Out of nowhere Kvitova was back in her stride and held her serve to love before breaking after numerous deuces for 5-1.

Kvitova, having won four straight games, served for the title in style. With three championship points under her belt, the Czech nailed her final serve down the line at 110 mph to claim the Dubai title.

Match Summary

Match Summary

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Erratic Robson crashes out of Dubai Tennis Classic

Robson in Dubai

Great Britain’s Laura Robson crashed out in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Classic on Monday after an erratic, error-strewn performance against world number 101 Yulia Putintseva ended in defeat.

Robson also fell in round one in Doha last week and failed to find any sort of consistency in Dubai, losing 6-4 2-6 7-6 to an opponent only just making her way onto the WTA Tour.

The 19-year-old played the majority of the match in front of the baseline, taking the initiative to control rallies against a defensive Putintseva. She was decisive when required but far too often hit unforced errors, blighting every effort to break her opponent at decisive points in the match.

The final set went to a tiebreak, where Robson first gained an advantage before hitting the net to hand Putintseva match point. The Kazakhstan-born needed a second chance to see off the tie, nailing a serve Robson simply couldn’t handle.

Set One

The Brit had two break points at 4-3 up in the first set but hit long on three occasions to hand her opponent the game, and within minutes was a break down herself after hitting another unforced error long of the line.

Set Two

Heading into the second she more than redeemed her early error, breaking quickly before stretching out into a 4-1 lead by the turnover. She went on to take the second 6-2 after cutting out frequent errors, Putintseva guilty of wasting the best of chances herself.

Set Three

Despite holding the momentum heading into the final set, Robson was the first to blink as she hit a backhand wide in the third game, losing her serve and then her cool in the fourth, screaming as a wayward forehand went long to go 3-1 down.

She fell in the next game despite having three break points and Putintseva then broke again for 5-2. Yet inexplicably Robson gave herself hope by winning the next eight points, nailing her serves and pinning Putintseva to the back of the court.

Another break after two impossible cross-court shots levelled the set at 5-5. Suddenly Robson found her confidence and saw off her own service game only for Putintseva to hit level straight away.

Tiebreak

Robson lost her first serve with an unforced error, but claimed a mini break back for 1-2. Two stunning serves put her in the lead and when Putintseva missed a net volley the Brit had daylight at 4-3 on her serve.

An ace and break later and that advantage was lost, however, Putintseva earning the next two rallies to see match point at 6-5. The Kazak hit long under real pressure but Robson hit the net to give Putintseva a match point on her own serve.

The Brit hit her final return well wide, a poor shot that epitomised the erratic nature of her game. Indeed, this match proved there are unsettling problems to her tennis and Robson must keep those groundstrokes consistent if she is to progress on the WTA tour.

Robson's unforced errors cost her

Robson’s unforced errors cost her

Far too often she missed the baseline with high, looping forehands that Putintseva comfortably put away. Neither the result nor the performance – which saw 49 unforced errors – was good enough for a player looking to make the top 30 before the summer is out.

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From Doha to Dubai – the rivalry continues

Azarenka

The rivalry between Victoria Azarenka and new WTA world number one Serena Williams continues this week as the pair gather up their tennis racquets following Sunday’s final in Doha and jet off to Dubai to compete yet again on the hard courts.

Just a day ago Azarenka got revenge on her adversary for pinching the number one spot, ousting Williams over three sets 7-6 2-6 6-3 to claim the Dubai Open crown. It was a strange moment on court, both players delighted and gutted at the same time with their week’s work.

Anyone who thought their rivalry was settled should wait until next weekend, when the pair will most probably meet again in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – catchy title!

With each player heading up their own half of the draw, the chances of either name missing out on the final this coming Sunday are slim to none. Williams has arguably the tougher task – seeded second – and faced Marion Bartoli in the second round before an expected semi with Agnieszka Radwanska.

Azarenka, on the other hand, should cope well in the early stages and will likely meet Angelique Kerber in the semis – the German out of form at the moment having crashed out early at the Australian Open.

Those aches and sores from Melbourne are no doubt still hurting Azarenka but they must pale into insignificance compared to her loss of her WTA number one crown.

Although she can’t reclaim it on Sunday, she can nevertheless inflict another title triumph over Williams and set herself in good spirits heading into the rest of spring.

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Fed Cup: Great Britain to face Argentina

GB will play on Argentina's clayPhoto: nasha_, flickr

GB will play on Argentina’s clay
Photo: nasha_, flickr

Great Britain’s Fed Cup team must travel to Argentina for their World Group II playoff in April, a tie that could see them finally promoted out of the Euro/Africa Group I.

Coach Judy Murray will lead Heather Watson, Laura Robson, Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta to South America where they face lower-ranked opposition on clay in Buenos Aires.

They successfully navigated through a group and finals stage to get to this point, defeating Bulgaria in a last tie 2-0. Yet Argentina, who are only one place above Great Britain in the Fed Cup rankings, pose an entirely different threat from those teams faced earlier this February.

For although their singles players don’t rank up to much – Paula Ormaechea their top-ranked player at 195 in the world – the fact the tie will be on clay will greatly favour the Argentines.

They lost 3-2 to Sweden in World Group II this February, falling to a side that beat Great Britain 4-1 in the playoffs last year. The tie was close and Argentina took a two-match lead: Ormaechea beat world number 70 Johanna Larsson in straight sets, while Florencia Molinero (179) took down Sofia Arvidsson (38) in three sets.

The Buenos Aires clay certainly played a part and although Sweden had enough to eventually win the tie 3-2, GB coach Murray will be wary of how tough their playoff tie will be.

Robson on clayPhoto: Dacoucou, flickr

Robson on clay
Photo: Dacoucou, flickr

Watson and Robson are still relatively new to the circuit, as is Konta, and playing in front of a spirited crowd on a surface that favours their opponents will certainly prove testing.

Great Britain should have enough in their arsenal, however, and if it comes down to our doubles team Konta and Robson showed their clinical partnership with a 6-0 6-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovinian opponents this month.

Argentina v Great Britain, World Group II playoff

20-21 April, Buenos Aires

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Williams nears number one spot

Williams at Roland Garros 21012Photo: y.caradec, flickr

Williams at Roland Garros 2012
Photo: y.caradec, flickr

Serena Williams is now just two matches away from reclaiming the world number one spot after beginning her challenge for the 2013 Qatar Total Open in style with a 6-2 6-1 win over Russian qualifier Daria Gavrilova.

Williams, 31, only needs to make the semis in Doha to leapfrog current world number one Victoria Azarenka to the top of the WTA and considering her potential route this week should have no problem with that task.

Having clinically dispatched Gavrilova without much trouble, Williams will most likely face Urszula Radwanska in the third round before an eagerly anticipated tie with either seventh seed Petra Kvitova or Nadia Petrova.

Whoever she faces the second seed will feel she has enough in the tank to make the final four, although there is one slight concern regarding her fitness.

Williams twisted her ankle pretty badly at the Australian Open last month and is wearing heavy strapping around it. Luckily her power was enough to see her through the Gavrilova clash, for Williams only hit 52% of her first serves and with two more matches to play before the semis she may start to feel the pain.

Match Stats: Serena v Gavrilova Image: MatchStat

Match Stats: Serena v Gavrilova
Image: MatchStat

“I have it heavily taped,” Williams told reporters after the match. “As long as the tape doesn’t get loose, it feels really good.

“Physically feeling better is so good, and hopefully I can stay on that level.”

Indeed, Williams is aiming to reach the level once met almost 11 years ago, when she was world number one in 2002. Although she briefly picked it up again in 2009, she has taken the smart decision throughout her career to play less tournaments, meaning that despite winning a staggering 15 Grand Slams, she has never held that number one rank for too long.

Williams in Doha 2008 Photo: Jet Magbanua, flickr

Williams in Doha 2008
Photo: Jet Magbanua, flickr

Now is the time for Williams to rise again and confirm her status as the best in the world. She may not have won in Australia but those two Grand Slams last summer and an Olympic gold medal proved to us fans she is far better than her ranking suggests.

Also in Doha, third-seed Maria Sharapova swept through to the third round with a 6-3 6-2 win over French qualifier Caroline Garcia and is in line to meet Williams in the semis.

In the top half of the draw, Azarenka dispatched Romina Oprandi of Switzerland 6-2 6-3 and could face Sara Errani in the quarters before a first-v-fourth clash with Agnieszka Radwanska.

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Britain gets Fed Cup campaign off to winning start

Fed Cup logo

The future Fed Cup Champions, Great Britain, continued their path to greatness this week after successfully navigating through the pool stage of Euro/Africa Group I with a comprehensive 3-0 victory before progressing through to the World Group II playoffs on Sunday.

OK, so touting Heather Watson, Laura Robson and co. as the future champions of this tournament may be a tad optimistic, but there is nevertheless real hope that these girls can restore some much-needed national pride in a tournament we have failed so miserably at over the years.

Having come so close to escaping the Euro/Africa Group I last year – the girls lost to Sweden in a final playoff – Team GB made sure they still mean business, cruising to victories over Bosnia Herzegovina, Portugal and Hungary in the pool, before a 2-0 result over Bulgaria secured a playoff place in April.

Up against Bosnia Herzegovina first on Thursday, Anne Keothavong got the ball rolling with a straight-sets victory in Israel before Watson and the pairing of Robson and Johanna Konta followed suit.

Friday’s clash with Portugal was slightly trickier, Watson lost her singles clash with Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-1 6-4 and appeared troubled by a shoulder injury throughout. It was the same pain that blighted her Australian Open efforts last month and thankfully was able to rely on Robson to see off Portugal 2-1.

Great Britain recorded the same result against Hungary on Saturday, and although Watson recovered from her injury to thump Timea Babos 6-3 6-2, when doubling up with Robson the pair faired poorly, losing 6-4 2-6 6-2 to Babos and Katalin Marosi.

And so into the playoffs, where Robson dispatched of Dia Evitmova 6-0 6-4 before Watson recovered from a terrible first set against Tsvetana Pironkova to win 1-6 6-4 6-2. The Brit lost seven games in a row against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist, but recovered in the second with her first break of serve before two love holds drew the tie level.

She then went on to win the next four games, and although Pironkova broke back Watson had enough in her tank to finish the job.

Fed Cup playoofs

Not bad, eh? Judy Murray’s Team GB are into the next round of the Fed Cup and that’s all that matters at this stage. Both Watson and Robson are still learning their trade on the tour and Konta, still only 21, is another bright hope for the future.

One concern will be Watson’s shoulder injury. The Fed Cup, like it’s Davis Cup brother on the ATP, usually takes second priority under singles ambitions. If Watson feels this shoulder hurt isn’t going away she may pull out of the next round in April to aid her singles chances heading into the summer.

It’s not a nice call to make – and we at Three_Sets are by no means questioning Watson’s commitment – but sadly that is the reality of singles tennis that takes priority over the team game.

With the experience of Keothavong and Murray in the camp though, we are right to expect big things from GB this year and qualifying for the World Group II in 2014 is very much a possibility.

The team will reunite in April hoping to achieve a major landmark in British women’s tennis and make the World Group II – and although it’s too early to back Team GB for ultimate glory there will be real optimism in the camp they can go far over the next few years.

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