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Serena Williams eases to Charleston title

Serena Charleston

Serena Williams won her third title of the season on Sunday after surviving a first-set scare to beat Jelena Jankovic 3-6 6-0 6-2 at the Family Circle Cup final in Charleston.

The victory puts Serena in good stead heading into the clay season, where she faces a tough few weeks in Monte Carlo and Madrid before heading into the summer’s first grand slam at Roland Garros.

Not that Serena had it all her own way under the North Carolina sunshine; Jankovic served with supreme accuracy to boss Serena in the opening set but couldn’t continue her momentum into the second, collapsing to the American’s power to lose six straight games.

Jankovic on serve

Jankovic on serve

The 2012 defending champion wowed the crowd with some impressive base-line rallies and was quick to pounce on Jankovic’s serves, especially in a match-turning second set.

Serena remained calm and collective into the third, broke twice and served out for the match in style with a strong serve-volley.

It was the third time the 31-year-old has won the Charleston title and her first clay title of the season. What was most impressive was not only her fitness – that has put her in good stead all week – but the fact she used the home crowd to her advantage with some fairly vocal performances after nailing crucial points.

The combination of power and momentum eventually did it for Serena – who beat her sister Venus 6-1 6-2 in the semis to reach her fourth final on the Charleston clay.

Match Summary:

Charleston 2013 final serena


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Serena v Venus – Williams rivalry returns at Charleston

Serena 1

American tennis fans are in for a real treat on Saturday afternoon as Serena Williams takes on bigger sister Venus for the first time in four years.

The siblings will clash in the 2013 Family Circle Cup in Charleston this weekend with a place in Sunday’s final at stake.

Serena is clear favourite after winning the Miami Masters just last week and has looked comfortable on the Charleston clay. On her first clay event of the season, the world number one hasn’t dropped a set and has reeled away in the last set in each of her three matches.

That sort of fitness and confidence should prove the difference against Venus, who has been pushed to three sets twice already this week. A 6-4 6-4 victory over Madison Keys will give her confidence but without a win over her sister in their last four meetings the ball is very much in Serena’s court.

Only once have the sisters met on clay – at the 2002 French Open – and Serena took the match 7-5 6-3. Expect her to do the same again without the aid of a tiebreak.

Photo: Jet Magbanua, flickr

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Azarenka pulls out of Miami Masters


Victoria Azarenka confirmed what we all suspected on Friday: that she won’t try and reclaim the Miami Masters crown after withdrawing because of an ankle injury.

The world number three has been struggling with the hurt for some time and pulled out of Indian Wells last week because of the problem.

Her withdrawal means Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova effectively have a free run to the final, where the WTA’s top two players should clash next weekend.

It is disappointing yet not too surprising Azarenka pulled out of the Sony Open Tennis. Her ankle has plagued her for a number of days now and there was simply not enough time between these two mandatory events to correct herself.

What her absence does mean, however, is that she protects her unbeaten record in 2013.

Azarenka is currently 17-0 this season, having won he Australian Open and Doha while withdrawing late on in Brisbane and Indian Wells.

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Sharapova crowned champion of Indian Wells

Indian Wells final 2013

Maria Sharapova put on a masterclass display of tennis to devastatingly beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-2 at the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells.

The Russian, who leaps up to second in the world thanks to her triumph in California, broke in the first game and never looked back as she outclassed and outsmarted an opponent making her first WTA tour final since October.

Sharapova was simply too good for her Danish counterpart, nailing 33 winners to two and slamming four aces – the last of which earned her the BNP Paribas Open crown for a second time in her career.

Indian Wells final stats

Sadly for Wozniacki there was nothing she could do against such a formidable opponent who, although Sharapova made her fair share of unforced errors, nevertheless dictated rallies throughout.

Wozniacki qualified for the final after defeating Angelique Kerber over three sets in the semis, having earned a bye into the last four thanks to first-seed Victoria Azarenka’s withdrawal through injury.

Wozniacki facing the Sharapova serve

Wozniacki facing the Sharapova serve

Sharapova, meanwhile, careered through 6-4 6-3 against Maria Kirilenko and hadn’t dropped a set throughout the tournament. That record was reminiscent of her 2013 form where, over the past two events (Melbourne and Doha) she had won every set played until tournament elimination.

Sharapova meant business from the off, breaking her opponent in the first game before acing to go 2-0 up. The set then went with serve until Sharapova again broke to make it 5-2 and just moments later the Russian powered down a forehand to take the eighth and decisive game by love.

First set stats

First set stats

Into the second and Sharapova remained strong, claiming an immediate break before making it five games in a row with a smooth service of her own. Wozniacki proved her mettle in the fourth game, saving her serve despite a break opportunity for Sharapova, but the Dane could do nothing against the Sharapova serve as her rival pushed on to 4-2.

Wozniacki had her chances to claw a game back on her serve in the seventh but Sharapova’s determination was too much for the 22-year-old, who saved a break and lost two advantages of her own before Sharapova’s might forced through a winner for 5-2.

Sharapova's route to the final

Sharapova’s route to the final

Into the last game and the 2012 Roland Garros champion proved her class, acing the final point to claim an historic Indian Wells title that saw her win every set over the two-week tournament.

Her winning ace

Her winning ace

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Big names safely through in Indian Wells

Bnpparibasopen indian wells

Indian Wells has proven testament to the competitive strength of the WTA after all big names survived first round matches at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.

With world number one Serena Williams boycotting the tournament, the competition is fierce to win this prestigious event which offers major prize money and important ranking points.

The top three seeds Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska all progressed without dropping a set while Angelique Kerber (4), Petra Kvitova (5) and Sara Errani (6) all went through with relative ease.

The biggest name to drop at round two is 15th-seed Sloane Stephens, who lost 6-3 6-4 to Radwanska’s younger sister Urszula. Stephens will be relatively disappointed with the result but it doesn’t come as a surprise. The American has dropped out early in both Doha and Dubai since making the Australian Open semis.

Sloane StephensPhoto: Keith Allison, flickr

Sloane Stephens
Photo: Keith Allison, flickr

Heading into round three, nine of the 16 remaining ties pit seeds against each other. Azarenka should have no problem against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens while Sharapova will dispose of 25th-seed Carla Suarez Navarro with ease.

The most unpredictable match-up heading into round three is Nadia Petrova (10) against Julia Goerges (21). Russia’s Petrova breezed past Stefanie Vögele in the first round and made the quarters of Dubai last month, while Goerges is in good form after making the Melbourne last-eight.

With neither player showing any particular weakness from round two this tie may well prove a close battle.

Certainly Indian Wells will produce a deserved winner this year and the crème has already started to rise to the top. It is refreshing and pleasing to see that while we champion the underdog spirit those who boast top ranks in the WTA deserve to be where they are.

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Kvitova wins Dubai Tennis Championships in style


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.


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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