Anna Kalinskaya eliminates Coco Gauff to set up semifinal with Iga Swiatek in Dubai

Anna Kalinskaya beat Coco Gauff to become the first ever qualifier to reach the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. (WTA)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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Anna Kalinskaya eliminates Coco Gauff to set up semifinal with Iga Swiatek in Dubai

  • The Russian becomes only the fourth qualifier in history to reach final 4 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • Swiatek breezes past last month’s Australian Open finalist Zheng to reach her second successive Dubai semifinal

DUBAI: Qualifier Anna Kalinskaya rallied back from a set down on Thursday night to dump world No. 3 Coco Gauff out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and set up a surprise semifinal with No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Gauff, winner of last year’s US Open at Flushing Meadows, took an early lead and with Kalinskaya requesting a medical timeout shortly before the end of the first set, it looked like a repeat of last year’s semifinal where Gauff met Swiatek.

But the world No. 40 had other ideas, showing her mettle — and the benefits of a little medical attention — to turn the match on its head and secure her second top-10 win of the week and first top-five victory.

Gauff raced into the lead despite facing two breakpoints in the opening game. Kalinskaya, who reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open last month, struggled to settle and was broken again in the fourth after a lengthy service game. Yet with 25-year-old Kalinskaya — making her main-draw debut in Dubai this week — requesting on-court treatment for upper back pain and momentum firmly with Gauff, it was the American’s level that declined in the second set.

Both players dropped early service games, but Kalinskaya held in the fourth to advance 3-1 and showed a strong defensive game to eventually take it to 5-2. Gauff secured a break that gave her hope, but it was not enough as Kalinskaya closed out the set on her serve.

In the decisive third set, an error-prone Gauff failed to match her opponent, who quickly went ahead 2-0 and showed no signs of the early back pains as she played a variety of powerful forehands from the baseline mixed with angled cross-court backhands that had her opponent on her heels. Serving for the match, Kalinskaya — who has never contested a semifinal in a WTA 1000 event — showed some nerves, but ultimately secured what was required.

“It was a difficult match,” said Kalinskaya, who becomes only the fourth qualifier to reach the final four in Dubai. “I started a little bit not so confident. I was getting used to the surface. I played many games this week (in qualifying) but didn’t get the chance to play on center court. I felt the speed of the bounce was a bit different. I couldn’t find my timing.

“In the second set, I actually calmed down a little bit more and I played point-by-point until the end of the match. I could feel the tension until the last point. She kept bringing so many balls back, so I had to stay really patient and decide which ball to go and finish the point.”

Swiatek, 22, crowned champion in Doha last week, extended her unbeaten run in the Middle East this year by making light work of Zheng. The 6-3, 6-2 win meant the Pole also maintained her 100 percent record against last month’s Australian Open champion, having won all five previous encounters, most recently at the United Cup in Perth.

Under the lights at Dubai Tennis Stadium, she convincingly emerged victorious yet again, denying Zheng a break of serve throughout and saving three breakpoints.

“I think I can really play well under pressure and in those important moments,” said Swiatek after extending her winning streak in the Gulf region this year to seven matches. “I guess it’s maybe the decision-making. For sure, mentally I treat those shots the same way as any other shot in the match. I don’t feel extra pressure; I just feel like it’s any other point — which gives me freedom to do anything, honestly.”

For all the pre-tournament talk of this year’s Dubai championship featuring 17 of the world’s top 20 players, Swiatek is the sole semifinalist ranked inside the top 22. Yet while she is undoubtedly favorite now and expected to win, she was quick to play down talk of a title and explain some of the unique demands in playing back-to-back tournaments.

“I’m in the semifinal, so I don’t think anybody would say it’s their title when they’re in the middle of the tournament,” she responded when asked whether she considered the title hers to lose.


Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages

Updated 12 April 2024
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Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages

  • Djokovic: I don’t think I am still at my top level but it was a great test today against a great player, a very talented player
  • De Minaur moved into the last eight with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin

MONTE CARLO: Novak Djokovic avenged last year’s Monte Carlo Masters defeat by Lorenzo Musetti to reach the quarterfinals Thursday along with Jannik Sinner, while Daniil Medvedev launched into a furious tirade during his defeat.

World No. 1 Djokovic made a poor start and endured a second-set wobble before coming through 7-5, 6-3 against the 24th-ranked Musetti, the man who beat him at the same stage 12 months ago.

“I don’t think I am still at my top level but it was a great test today against a great player, a very talented player,” Djokovic said.

“I am really glad to overcome the challenge and look forward to the next one.”

Djokovic goes on to play Alex de Minaur, the 11th seed from Australia, in the last eight.

The Serbian top seed dropped serve in the opening game against Musetti before working his way back to level at 4-4, and then snatched the set on a double fault by his opponent.

Djokovic broke twice early in the second set either side of losing his own serve to surge 4-1 ahead. Musetti clawed back to within a game but Djokovic broke again for 5-3 before closing out the win.

Djokovic has struggled to find his best form in recent times in Monte Carlo. He has not won the tournament since the last of his two titles in 2015, failing to advance beyond the quarter-finals in seven subsequent appearances.

Australian Open champion Sinner improved his record to 24-1 this season with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jan-Lennard Struff.

The world No. 2 broke at 4-4 en route to pocketing the first set and won nine of the final 11 games to sweep to victory.

“I broke him quite early and then he broke me back. I knew it was going to be really tough, but I guess I returned really well, especially on second serves. I can be very happy,” said Sinner.

Sinner next faces Holger Rune who defeated the Italian in the semifinals last year before finishing runner-up to Andrey Rublev.

Rune made the last eight after a three-hour 30-minute 7-6 (11/9), 3-6, 7-6 (7/2) win over Grigor Dimitrov, saving two match points in the 12th game of the deciding set.

“It was a great match,” said Rune. “I thought I played a very good first set, it was very long, one-and-a-half hours. So it was tough physically.”

Like Dimitrov, Rune had earlier completed a rain-delayed third round clash.

“I had a match earlier today which was two sets, so I played five sets today actually, which is pretty brutal,” added the Dane.

Medvedev tore into the officiating for the second day running as he was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Karen Khachanov.

Medvedev was hit with a point penalty to start the final game after berating chair umpire Carlos Bernardes and then became embroiled in a heated discussion with the tournament supervisor.

The world No. 4 had already been warned after hurling his racquet when he double-faulted to lose his service game and leave Khachanov a game away from victory.

Medvedev, who took issue with two line calls in his second-round win on Wednesday, felt aggrieved when a Khachanov forehand was not called out during a rally that resulted in the latter earning two break points at 5-5.

The arrival of the physio to treat a finger bleed at the ensuing changeover tipped Medvedev over the edge, with the Russian yelling “did I ask for the physio!” at the umpire.

He then demanded of the supervisor “who will take responsibility?” for the decisions.

Television replays appeared to show the shot in question from Khachanov had landed wide of the court.

“It’s second day in a row. Guys, open your eyes. Do something. It’s out,” raged Medvedev.

“The mark is out. They don’t know how to referee anymore. Who will take action?

“Yesterday the ball is out, it’s called in. Who will take action. This ball is out there. Who will take responsibility? It’s not my responsibility to referee the matches.

“It’s this guy in the glasses (the line judge). He doesn’t need glasses because he doesn’t see anything. He should not be a referee.”

Khachanov’s reward is a quarterfinal Friday against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who saw off fifth seed Alexander Zverev 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).

De Minaur moved into the last eight with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin.


Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted

Updated 11 April 2024
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Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted

  • The second-seeded Sinner won 95 percent of points on his first serve and saved all three break points in improving his record to 23-1 this year
  • The sixth-seeded Rublev dropped his serve three times against Popyrin, who next faces No. 11 Alex de Minaur in an all-Australian contest

MONACO: After dominating on aggressive hard courts, Jannik Sinner made a smooth transition to softer clay by beating Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-2 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.

But defending champion Andrey Rublev was eliminated after a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Alexei Popyrin.

The second-seeded Sinner won 95 percent of points on his first serve and saved all three break points in improving his record to 23-1 this year. He has three titles in 2024, including the Australian Open — his first major trophy — and recently the Miami Open.

“I moved quite well in these conditions,” said the 22-year-old Italian, who reached the semifinals at Monte Carlo last year. “Every year it is tough to come here and perform well but I am happy with the performance.”

Sinner faces Jan-Lennard Struff on Thursday in the third round, where he will join two-time champions Novak Djokovic — who won on Tuesday — and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 12th-seeded Tsitsipas routed Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-1, 6-0 and next faces No. 5 Alexander Zverev in a contest between big servers. Djokovic takes on unseeded Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

The sixth-seeded Rublev dropped his serve three times against Popyrin, who next faces No. 11 Alex de Minaur in an all-Australian contest at the Monte Carlo Country Club, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

“I am feeling really comfortable on (clay) and happy to beat a guy who was in form, confident and the defending champ,” Popyrin said. “It was an awesome match.”

De Minaur rallied past unseeded Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who is chasing his first title of the year, won 6-2, 6-4 against French veteran Gael Monfils, and two-time French Open runner-up Casper Ruud — seeded eighth — downed Alejandro Tabilo 6-2, 6-4.

Later Wednesday, last year’s runner-up Holger Rune faced qualifier Sumit Nagal of India and No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov played Miomir Kecmanovic.

Also in the second round, there were wins for No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 14 Ugo Humbert, No. 15 Karen Khachanov and lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego, who replaced the injured Carlos Alcaraz after the Spaniard pulled out on Tuesday with a right forearm injury.

Record 11-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal pulled out with a lingering injury before the tournament.


Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured

Updated 10 April 2024
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Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured

  • The Serb needed just one hour and 10 minutes to make a return to winning ways in his first match since a shock early exit at Indian Wells to Italian Luca Nardi
  • German fifth seed Alexander Zverev breezed into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sebastian Ofner

MONTE CARLO, Principality of Monaco: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said his “feeling was great” as he flew past Roman Safiullin in straight sets at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday, after third seed Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the event due to injury.

After receiving a bye in the first round, Djokovic was imperious on the main Rainier III court as he won 6-1, 6-2 against the unseeded Russian.

“My feeling was great,” said Djokovic. “I think... it’s been one of my best performances I had here in quite a few years.

“Monte Carlo is the first big tournament of the clay court season. You know, I haven’t been really able the last six, seven years to start off strong and start off well. I’ve always kind of struggled in this tournament.”

The Serb needed just one hour and 10 minutes to make a return to winning ways in his first match since a shock early exit at Indian Wells to Italian Luca Nardi.

The 36-year-old became the oldest world no.1 in the history of the ATP rankings when he took to the court in Monte Carlo, surpassing Roger Federer’s record.

“It is nice, it is great,” said the 24-time Grand Slam winner.

“I met (Rohan) Bopanna yesterday, who is the oldest doubles no.1 in history. He said we had a combined age of 80, but he does contribute to the 80 more than I do. But it is fun.”

But there was no sign of Djokovic feeling his age as he broke Safiullin’s serve twice to race into a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Djokovic went on to break his opponent’s serve five times over the course of a routine win and now faces a third-round meeting with Lorenzo Musetti, after the Italian ousted rising French starlet Arthur Fils 6-3, 7-5.

Before Djokovic took to court, Alcaraz announced he was pulling out of Monte Carlo after failing to recover from an injury to his right forearm.

“I have been working in Monte Carlo and trying to recover until the last minute from an injured pronator teres (muscle) in my right arm, but it was not possible and I cannot play,” Alcaraz wrote on social media.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, whose last match came in the straight sets defeat by Grigor Dimitrov in Miami last month, was due to go straight into Wednesday’s second round against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He will be replaced in the draw by Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who was drafted in as a lucky loser.

The match against Auger-Aliassime was set to be the two-time Grand Slam winner’s second ever appearance at Monte Carlo, following his withdrawal from the tournament last year and a three-set defeat in his only match of the 2022 edition.

Earlier in the day, American Sebastian Korda, the man responsible for that defeat in 2022, stormed past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-2 in the first round.

After a rain-hit morning causing a two-and-a-half-hour delay to the day’s play, world no.11 Alex de Minaur made up for lost time with a 62-minute straight sets win over Stan Wawrinka.

The 39-year-old wild card Wawrinka, formerly ranked no.3 in the world but now down to no.79, was no match in the first round for the Australian who prevailed 6-3, 6-0.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion in Monte Carlo and a three-time Grand Slam winner, made 28 unforced errors to De Minaur’s 18 and landed just four winners to the 12 made by his opponent.

The 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz overcame Britain’s Jack Draper after nearly two and a half hours on court to reach the second round, winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2).

After winning a first title in two injury-hit years in Marrakech on Sunday, Italian Matteo Berrettini’s stay in Monte Carlo was cut short by Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-1.

German fifth seed Alexander Zverev breezed into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sebastian Ofner.

Gael Monfils of France came back from a double break down in the third set to record an impressive 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-5 victory against Australian Aleksandar Vukic.
 


Danielle Collins triumphs again with title in Charleston

Updated 08 April 2024
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Danielle Collins triumphs again with title in Charleston

  • The 30-year-old Collins has announced that she will retire from the sport at the end of this season but has found herself playing in the form of her life and has extended her winning streak to 13 matches
  • Collins’ 22 wins for the season is matched only by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina

MIAMI: American Danielle Collins continued her late career rich vein of form, winning the WTA Charleston Open clay court title on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

The victory comes a week after Collins enjoyed the biggest win of her career, clinching the Miami Open 1000 hard court title and her back-to-back wins means she will move up to 15th in the world rankings.

The 30-year-old Collins has announced that she will retire from the sport at the end of this season but has found herself playing in the form of her life and has extended her winning streak to 13 matches.

Kasatkina, the 2017 winner in Charleston, reached the final after a three-set semifinal win over top seed Jessica Pegula but Collins proved to be a step too far.

Collins, who defeated Greece’s Maria Sakkari in her semi, needed just 77 minutes to defeat Kasatkina and the contest moved decisively in her direction when she broke to go 2-0 up in the second set, celebrating with a forceful first-pump.

The change in surface from Miami made little difference to Collins who marched to victory with her powerful strokeplay that was simply too much for the 26-year-old Russian.

Collins won 95.2 percent of first serve points and saved the two break points that she faced.

“I’m blessed to be able to have the opportunity to live out my dream, I am so grateful,” said Collins.

Kasatkina joked that she was glad to know that Collins would be leaving the tour after this season.

“I was going to stay that I’m going to miss you on the tour but after this match, I’m not sure,” she quipped.

“I am going to miss you because you are such a character, your personality is amazing. Enjoy these moments, you are playing amazing,” she said.

The Floridian has dropped just two of 28 sets in her last two tournaments. The last player to win Miami and Charleston in the same year was Serena Williams in 2013.

Collins’ 22 wins for the season is matched only by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina.


Djokovic keeping his Monte Carlo expectations in check

Updated 06 April 2024
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Djokovic keeping his Monte Carlo expectations in check

  • The 24-time Grand Slam titleholder was quick to emphasize that the arrangement is so far strictly temporary
  • Djokovic said that building his clay game for Roland Garros is his main priority and that any result here will be “a bonus“

MONTE CARLO: Novak Djokovic admitted on Saturday that he is not expecting too much from his clay game heading into Sunday’s start of the Monte Carlo Masters.
The world number one who exited early on the Indian Wells hardcourts last month and did not play in Miami, had a training session at the Monte Carlo Country Club venue with fill-in coach Nenad Zimonjic.
But the 24-time Grand Slam titleholder was quick to emphasize that the arrangement is so far strictly temporary following his recent split with longtime mentor Goran Ivanizevic.
Djokovic said that building his clay game for Roland Garros is his main priority and that any result here will be “a bonus.”
“The expectations are not very high,” the 36-year-old said. “My results here in previous years (titles in 2013 and 2015) are not great.
“It’s all about building my game for clay courts. I want to reach my peak for Paris — that’s where I want to play my best tennis.
“Anything else is a bonus, so let’s see what happens.”
The Serb shed slightly more light on his surprise split from 2001 Wimbledon winner Ivanizevic after winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles with the Croat heading his team.
“We felt we gave each other the maximum, it was time to move on — it’s pretty simple.
“Goran remains one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game.
“We’ve done something that cannot be deleted, the results speak for themselves.
“He also remains a dear friend of me and my family.”
Djokovic said that he will work to prepare for the Summer Olympic tournament to be staged in late July in Paris at Roland Garros.
“But there is this little tournament called Wimbledon which comes in between (the French Open and the Games.
“The Paris Olympics are very important, the Olympics have always been a priority for me.
“But in the last three or four Olympics it’s not been possible for me to reach the later stages.
“The situation is a bit different now, we are playing our first Olympics on clay. I want to be ready physically and mentally.”