AP Images

WTA Finals: Stephens rallies to reach final vs Svitolina

Leave a comment

SINGAPORE (AP) Sloane Stephens overcame a terrible start against Karolina Pliskova to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the WTA Finals on Saturday, setting up a championship match against Elina Svitolina.

“I came out here a little bit nervous and I wasn’t quite feeling the ball,” said the fifth-seeded Stephens, who is making her debut at the tournament this year. “I just tried to stay in it. I was very proud of my effort today.”

Both Svitolina and Stephens posted 3-0 round-robin records before winning their semifinals.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, let out a huge yell on breaking her Czech opponent’s serve in the third game of the second set after trailing 6-0, 2-0.

From there Stephens found her footing and seventh-seeded Pliskova began to derail.

After Stephens had lost the first eight games, the American said she was thinking “I made it all the way to the semifinal, and I’m going to lose? … I was, like, I’m going to lose 0-0. It’s like I’m trying so hard. Nothing’s working. But then I won one game. Then you know the rest.”

Stephens reached her second Grand Slam final at the French Open in June. She has won one title at Miami this season.

Pliskova was only a point away from a 3-0 lead in the second set.

“I think set and a half I was playing very well,” said Pliskova.

Last year Svitolina became the first Ukrainian woman to play singles at the WTA Finals. This year Svitolina became the first woman from her country to reach the season-ending final after beating Kiki Bertens 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

“It feels amazing and it was such a tough battle today,” said Svitolina, who pumped her fists and then blew kisses to the crowd after winning.

“I think physically in the end it was just about running and chasing every ball.”

Bertens played too risky a brand of tennis, posting 41 winners to 12 for Svitolina, but also making 63 to 36 unforced errors.

“There’s still lots of work ahead,” said sixth-seeded Svitolina. “It’s the last match of the season, definitely now, and I’m going to give my best and leave everything on court.”

Svitolina is chasing her fourth title this season, having already won at Brisbane, Dubai and Rome.

Svitolina qualified for a second consecutive WTA Finals this year only because her Dutch opponent on Saturday failed to reach the Moscow semifinals. The eighth-seeded Bertens eventually qualified for the eight-player field when No. 1 Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament with a back injury.

Bertens saved one set point on her serve in the 10th game of the first set, but couldn’t repeat that trick in the 12th game, double-faulting at 15-40 to surrender the set.

Bertens failed to capitalize on four set points ahead of the second set tiebreaker, but pushed the match into a decisive third set with a return winner on her next set point.

Serving for her place in the final, Svitolina saved two break points before shutting Bertens down.

This year is the first time since the round-robin format was reintroduced in 2003 that none of the top four seeded players – No. 1 Angelique Kerber, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 3 Osaka and No. 4 Petra Kvitova – reached the semifinals.

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Benedetti wins 12th stage; Polanc takes Giro lead

AP Photo
Leave a comment

PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Cesare Benedetti won the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday for his first victory as a professional while Jan Polanc took the overall leader’s pink jersey from UAE Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Benedetti, an Italian with the Bora team who has been a support rider for his entire career, was part of an early breakaway then accelerated from a select group of riders in a sprint finish.

“I’ve worked a lot for the others in the past but today I got my opportunity,” Benedetti said. “I’m not (usually) a winner.”

Benedetti required 3 hours, 41 minutes to complete the 158-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Cuneo to Pinerolo, which featured one major climb and another shorter but steeper ascent just before the finish.

Damiano Caruso crossed second and Eddie Dunbar came third, each with the same time as Benedetti. Polanc, a Slovenian who was also in the breakaway, finished 25 seconds behind.

In the overall standings, Polanc leads Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali, one of the pre-race favorites, is fifth overall, 5:51 behind.

“It was a team tactic that I would go in the breakaway so we could have a better control over the race,” Polanc said. “It was also a way to keep the pink jersey in the team.”

Mikel Landa and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked on the first-category climb to Montoso and gained about 30 seconds on the other overall favorites.

Before the stage began, sprinters Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani withdrew from the race. Ewan won two stages, including the 11th leg a day earlier, while Viviani posted three second-place finishes.

Stage 13 on Friday is one of the race’s toughest, with two category one climbs and one category ascent, along with an uphill finish at the end of the 196-kilometer leg from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.

The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports