Bencic tops Jabeur for Charleston Open title

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – Belinda Bencic won three of the last four games to outlast Ons Jabeur 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 and win the Charleston Open for her first clay-court championship.

Bencic won her sixth career WTA title and first since the Tokyo Olympic.

Bencic lost her opening match in Indian Wells last month and wasn’t sure what direction she was headed. Things began to turn in Miami where she reached the semifinals before losing and she built on that positive momentum in Charleston.

“I feel like is is the tournament that you breakthrough and then it goes the right way,” she said. “So I’m happy about it.”

Bencic, of Switzerland, reached the semifinals here in her first visit in 2014 and hadn’t advanced that far until this year. She earned $158,000 for winning the season’s opening clay-court tournament.

“It’s so cozy here,” Bencic told the crowd at the trophy presentation. “You always make this such a family event.”

Bencic, seeded 10th, looked like she’d have an easy time with Jabeur, from Tunisia, who she broke twice on the way to taking the opening set.

But Jabeur, the fourth seed ranked 10th in the world, cut down on the unforced errors and drew on the energy of the crowd, who applauded almost every move the dynamic 27-year-old made much of the week.

Jabeur held serve at 5-all in the second set before ripping a forehand to break Bencic and tie the match. Jabeur got down on one keep and pumped her fist in celebration heading to the deciding set.

But it was Bencic who regained her form to open a 3-1 lead. Jabeur had one last rally, squaring the set at three-all with her final break of Bencic’s serve.

That’s when Bencic’s smooth ground strokes and near-perfect placement wore down Jabeur. Bencic took control for good after Jabeur sent a shot long to go up 4-3.

Bencic won the final game at love, dropping to her knees and covering her face in celebration after Jabeur’s forehand sailed over the baseline.

The two shared a long hug at the net after the match. Bencic moved to 2-0 against Jabeur, both of the wins coming on clay.

Despite the loss, Jabeur had another successful run on the green clay at Charleston. She reached the semifinals of this event a year ago, then made the finals of a companion tournament here a week later.

Jabeur wasn’t thinking about the big picture. She broke out in tears at the trophy ceremony and in media interviews. This was her fifth WTA final with the only win coming in Birmingham, England last year.

“Too many emotions today,” Jabeur said. “But hopefully, I can get past this. It’s a very tough loss, I think one of the toughest of my career. But I’ll keep going, you know.”

The tournament, first played in 1973 on Hilton Head Island, celebrated its 50th year. It was the first women’s only pro tournament in the United States. It moved to its current location in 2001 and was rebranded the Credit One Charleston Open this year.

“Thank you for your support of women’s tennis,” Bencic said.

Bencic, at 25, feels more consistent and confident with her game. Where it takes her next, she’s excited to find out.

“To show that I can do it in Olympics and I can it here on the clay, it’s like a big challenge that I’ve overcome in myself and it helps me going forward,” Bencic said.

It was the first championship Sunday for the renovated Credit One Stadium after event owner Ben Navarro razed the old facility and rebuilt and expanded the venue from top to bottom. It was a renovation increased capacity from 7,000 to 11,000 seats, took two years to complete and cost approximately $50 million.

In the doubles final, Magda Linette of Poland and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia defeated Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic and Sania Mirza of India 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7).

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.