Tennis: Pliskova in convincing victory over sluggish Williams

World number three Karolina Pliskova, playing her first match under the guidance of new coach Rennae Stubbs, showcased her heavy artillery. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2017

Tennis: Pliskova in convincing victory over sluggish Williams

SINGAPORE: World number three Karolina Pliskova believes her experience playing on the Singapore Indoor Stadium’s slower court was the catalyst for a crushing straight sets victory over Venus Williams on Sunday.
Pliskova, playing in her second consecutive WTA Finals, overwhelmed a sluggish Williams from the get-go to record a 6-2, 6-2 victory in a one-sided match lasting just one hour and 13 minutes.
Williams was making her debut in Singapore after reaching the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009, when it was played in Doha.
Even though she did not make it out of the group stage a year ago, the Czech said the experience helped enormously.
“I think I had quite an advantage from that she (Williams) was not playing for the last few years in WTA finals,” Pliskova told reporters after the match.
“I don’t know how she felt but I think I was trying to take that advantage that I was here last year.”
Opening the tournament, which fields the top eight players, Pliskova — playing her first match under the guidance of new coach Rennae Stubbs — showcased her heavy artillery.
It was a much-needed confidence boost for the 25-year-old, who slipped in the rankings after being crowned world number one in July.
But the match was an anti-climax for Williams and an early blow to the 37-year-old’s bid to be crowned the world’s number one for the first time in 15 years.
Williams said she was confident of rebounding from the defeat. “Yeah, I have been in this position before,” she said. “So I will be back on Tuesday. I felt like I returned well today. I just didn’t execute as well during the point.”
Even though both players are notable servers, there were four breaks of serve in the first set and Pliskova captured three of them.
Pliskova started the match in trademark fashion with an ace and showed her proficiency in returning by breaking Williams in the second game to gain an early stranglehold.
In just her second tournament since the US Open, Williams struggled to dust off the cobwebs. Her error-strewn first set was marred by nine unforced errors and three double faults.
Williams appeared to be finding her groove early in the second set when she had two chances to break. But Pliskova had all the answers and ran out a comfortable winner.


Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Updated 22 October 2020

Arsenal, Roma open Europa League with comeback wins

Arsenal opened its fourth straight Europa League campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Rapid Vienna on Thursday in an opening round of games affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Star striker Pierre­ Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 74th for Arsenal, which won its group in its previous three campaigns in the second-tier European competition.
Roma also came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Young Boys, as did Granada to upset PSV Eindhoven away.
Rangers’ Kemar Roofe scored the goal of the night in a 2-0 victory at Standard Liege, dribbling his way through three opponents inside his own half and then launching a shot from the halfway line that caught the goalkeeper off guard and looped into the net.
Dutch team AZ Alkmaar overcame a slew of coronavirus cases to upset Napoli 1-0.
Tottenham, AC Milan were among teams playing later Thursday.
Arsenal went behind when goalkeeper Bernd Leno played a poor pass that fell to Rapid forward Taxiarchis Fountas, who slotted in a low shot from a tough angle in the 51st minute.
Arteta sent on Aubameyang and Héctor Bellerín in the 61st, and the substitutes helped spark the comeback.
After David Luiz headed in a free kick from Nicolas Pépé to level the score, Mohamed Elneny freed Bellerín down the right to cross for Aubameyang to complete the comeback from close range.
In the other Group B game, Molde also came from behind to win 2-1 at Dundalk.
AZ Alkmaar flew into Naples with 13 players sidelined with coronavirus infections. Napoli, meanwhile, was coming off a 4-1 win over high-scoring Atalanta 4-1 this past weekend. But the Dutch staved off the hosts’ pressure before Dani de Wit scored the winner in the 57th. Real Sociedad won 1-0 at Rijeka the other Group F game.
With Roma resting striker Edin Džeko, Bruno Peres and Marash Kumbulla led the rally with the second-half goals for the Italian side.
Jean ­Pierre Nsame had given Young Boys the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 14th.
It was the first home loss for Young Boys to an Italian opponent in European competitions after beating Udinese, Napoli and Juventus.
Also in Group A, Romania’s Cluj won 2-0 at Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia.
In Group C, Bayer Leverkusen produced the biggest win of the early games by beating Nice 6-2. Nadiem Amiri and Lucas Alario scored early first-half goals five minutes apart for Leverkusen, while substitute Karim Bellarabi netted two and 17-year-old forward Florian Wirtz came off the bench to complete the rout.
In a game between teams from two countries whose domestic leagues have been interrupted due to high levels of coronavirus infections, Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva beat Czech Republic’s Slavia Prague 3-1.
James Tavernier gave Celtic the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th before Roofe added his spectacular second goal in injury time. Benfica won 4-2 at Lech Poznan in the other Group D game.
In Group E, German forward Mario Götze put PSV ahead in first-half injury time before Jorge Molina and Darwin Machis scored for Granada in the second half. Omonoia drew with PAOK 1-1.