Getty Images

Kvitova escapes first-round scare on Day 1

Leave a comment

PARIS — Screaming in anger and hitting her racket on the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier, Petra Kvitova came close to an early exit at the French Open on the first day of the Grand Slam tournament.

On a rainy Sunday, the two-time Wimbledon champion was pushed to a suspenseful three-set battle by 59th-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who served for the match before Kvitova raised her game and eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, taking the last three games.

In the men’s draw, 17th-seeded Nick Kyrgios lost his temper and received a warning for shouting at a ball kid, but the 21-year-old Australian had no problem advancing to the second round with a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over Marco Cecchinalo. Also advancing before rain halted play early in the afternoon was No. 19 Benoit Paire.

Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan led Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-1, 5-4 and No. 23 Jack Sock of the United States was up 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 2-1 against Robin Haase of the Netherlands when covers were brought on all courts.

Facing a player who never got beyond the second round at any major, Kvitova looked set for a comfortable start to her campaign in the French capital after breaking Kovinic twice to seal the first set 6-2 and opening a 3-1 lead in the second.

Kovinic then changed her approach and destabilized Kvitova with her deep groundstrokes.

“I saw in the first set that my balls were very short and she controlled every point,” the 21-year-old Kovinic said. “I tried to play longer points and with more spins in the second set, and it seemed good.”

Kovinic produced a superb lob to even the match at one set apiece and continued to apply pressure on Kvitova with her powerful tennis.

Showing her frustration, Kvitova smacked her racket on the ground after hitting a double fault and fluffing a backhand in the ninth game of the decider. The Czech hit two more double faults in that game to drop her serve. But with her back against the wall, Kvitova recovered with a series of winners including a backhand down the line to break back.

She then won eight of the next 10 points.

“It was a big fight again. I’m happy that I won it,” Kvitova said. “I played a lot of three-set matches, but it’s not my plan when I’m stepping on the court. I think that from the experience which I have already, I still can believe that I still can win it. Even if she’s serving for the match.”

Earlier, 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova became the first player to advance to the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 win over qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo.

About six months after the deadly attacks in Paris, heightened security at Roland Garros was noticeable Sunday, including extra bag checks and pat-downs that led to longer-than-usual waits at the entrance gates.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

AP Images
Leave a comment

TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

Associated Press
1 Comment

SHANGHAI (AP) Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating the top-ranked Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to win the Shanghai Masters on Sunday.

The Swiss 19-time grand slam winner, who still trails Nadal 23-15 in their overall head-to-head record, didn’t face a break point and started and ended the match with service breaks.

“I don’t know what my expectations were going in,” Federer said. “I thought I might struggle early on because it was a late finish last night.

“I had no nerves before the match, surprisingly. I think I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. I started off very well and relaxed from then on.”

Despite his dominance in 2017, Federer doesn’t rate his chances of catching Nadal in their head-to-head record.

“It’s not going to happen. We don’t have enough years left on the tour. We ranked too good so we play each other only in finals at the moment… You can’t win them all against Rafa, to be honest. He’s too good of a player,” Federer said.

Federer took advantage of three of seven break point opportunities in the match to snap Nadal’s 16-game winning streak, which included his China Open victory last week.

Federer, who has won the last five encounters between the pair dating back to the 2015 Basel final, also beat Nadal in the Australian Open final, a round of 16 match at Indian Wells and the Miami final this year.

“Have been a very difficult match for me,” Nadal said. “He played very fast and he played well.

“Of course was not the best match for me of the week. When somebody plays better than you, sport is not very difficult. That’s the real thing, no? When you play against somebody that is better than you in most of the things that really matters in this sport, in this kind of surface, then it’s tougher.”

The Shanghai Masters is Federer’s 94th career title, moving him into a tie with Ivan Lendl in second place on the Open era list.

Nadal arrived on court with a bandage under his right knee, the same leg he twice smacked with his racket after losing his serve for the first time this week in the semifinal.

Federer said he was surprised to see the wrap and didn’t feel Nadal was struggling with his movement.

In his post-match press conference, Nadal elected not to discuss the knee injury, saying, “I don’t want to talk about that now, sorry, but after losing final is not the moment.”

When asked if he would play upcoming tournaments in Basel, Switzerland and Paris, Nadal refused to confirm his participation.

Federer took advantage of a third break point in the first game of the match with a winning backhand passing shot. He broke Nadal’s serve again on a second break point in the fifth game of the second set when Nadal sailed a backhand crosscourt wide. In the final game, Nadal netted a forehand at 15-40 to end the 72-minute match.