Domination: Djockovic beats Federer, wins ATP Final




ATP WORLD TOR FINAL – There was no out for Roger Federer. He couldn’t shake Novak Djokovic. Oh sure, he had a few opportunities, but he cannot out hit him backhand to backhand. The Serbian kept going there, sitting in the crosscourt, striking deep, hard and nearly being perfect angles.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer would mix it up, charging to the net, dragging him into his gigantic forehand, but Djokovic went going side to side and rarely floated long. At 4-5 in the second set, facing a match point. Federer stood up, tried to twist his kicker second serve on the line but it flew away. He knew he was beaten, with Djokovic winning the title 6-3 6-4.

“It’s hard to play at this pace all the time. Doesn’t need much,” Federer said. “We’re talking margins.
You don’t win a breakpoint, he does, vice versa, it changes the whole outcome of the match. You can’t always be on the winning side. Margins are small at the very top. That’s why this year of Novak’s is amazing. Rafa [Nadal] has been there. I’ve been there. We both know how hard it is to back it up year after year.
It’s not the first good year of Novak. Clearly he’s going into next year with massive confidence. He’s playing great. It’s going to be hard for him to play a bad year, that’s for sure. But this extremely good, it’s always tough”

Federer has had a very decent year, winning Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, and Basel. He is the only man to defeat three wins over Djokovic – Dubai, Cincinnati, and the Round Robin earlier this week in London – but the 28-year-old has beaten the Swiss five times this season, including Wimbledon, the US Open and now the ATP Final.

Everyone can have a bad day, but the No.1 rarely plays badly. It is hard to find out exactly how to stop him. His two-handed backhand is the best in the business. His forehand has become heavier and sharper, let alone cracking it crosscourt. His first serve is super strong, and he can mix it up. His return is mind boggling because even when he it receiving, he seems to know where it is going and manages to punch it back every deep. Then it is 50-50 and he can grind them down.

The 10-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic has put together an incredible years, one of the best ever. He has won 11 titles: the majors at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, the US Open; the ATP Masters 1000 at Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Shanghai and Paris/Bercy; the ATP 500 in Beijing; and now the ATP World Tour Final.

He has only lost six matches this season: four finals against Dubai (Federer) Roland Garros (Stan Wawrinka) Montreal (Andy Murray) and Cincinnati (Federer); the quarters against Ivo Karlovic in Doha in the quarters; and in the Round Robin against Federer a few days ago. But then he beat ‘Fed’ at the most important time in London.

He won’t be able to win every tournament in 2016, but unless he begins to falter, he will continue to beat the best of the best consistently.

Already, he is becoming one of the best top 10 players of all time. He is that good.

“Obviously with wins that I had this season and throughout my career, especially in the last five years, I put myself in a very good position, knowing that I made a lot of records and history,” Djokovic said.

“Of course, it does flatter me, inspire me. It makes me very satisfied and happy. I can’t predict the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen in next years to come. But what I can do for myself is continue respecting the kind of training regime and lifestyle that I had and keeping that mindset. Because of that package, I got myself in this position. I’m convinced with this dedication to the sport, I can achieve more..”

‘He is able to play with no mistakes ‘ Djokovic beat Nadal in semis

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ATP World Tour Finals – When Novak Djokovic is smoking his first serve, twisting around, hitting the lines, aiming wherever he wanted to do go, to be able to beat him these days, he is nearly untouchable.

On Saturday, Djokovic out-hit him and bested Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final. Once the rallies began, the Spaniard was in there, but he couldn’t shake him. Not only was he unable to read his serve – try 0/0 on break points – but also he couldn’t knock him back for the most part.

Very few people are willing to go toe-to-toe against Nadal’s ferocious forehand, but Djokovic was just fine there. The righty moves quickly forward with his two-handed backhand and made sure that the lefty Nadal’s heavy forehand doesn’t go way up past his shoulder. Djokovic reads the ball coming up fast and he hits it before it goes into the sky. Without a doubt, it is impossible to be on top of every single shot against the 14-time Grand Slam Nadal, but he was more than good enough, and in reality, he was better on every turn.

How about Djokovic when he was cracking his first serve: try 25/28 points won on his first serves. The Serbian nailed nine forehand winners, and the Spaniard hit four forehand winners. Djokovic wailed nine backhands, while Nadal’s weaker backhand only had one winner.

Djokovic hit three incredible rolling lobs after Nadal was right on the top of the net and couldn’t jump high enough. In the last game, Djokovic could sense that he should jump on him now. He attacked immediately, going down the line with a backhand and then a forehand. It was over, the fourth time that Djokovic has beaten him this year, at the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo, Roland Garros, Beijing and now the ATP World Tour Finals. The Serbian has won all nine sets.

Now, head to head, they are tied up 23-23. It’s the first time that the 28- year-old Djokovic and the 30-year old Nadal are tied. Nadal beat him back in 2006 at Roland Garros. It took a very long time to catch up.

“Obviously after 46 matches and 10 years of professional tennis, I managed to tie my head-to-head score with Nadal,” Djokovic said. “It took a lot of time. I think I was a few levels under him at the beginning of my career when I started playing professional tennis. Nadal was alongside Federer dominating the tour. I just couldn’t really do much against him. But because we played so many times I had a chance to really shorten the gap, and now even the score.”

Nadal has been better at the end of this year. He was hurt during the second half in 2014, and he returned in 2015, but he wasn’t 100 percent. But gradually, he became slightly more confident. He was unable to win any of the majors or the ATP 1000s, but he did beat Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and David Ferrer at the ATP World Tour Finals. Pretty close, but no cigar. In fact against Djokovic, he is a long way off.

“Hitting amazing. Well, the return always amazing,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “This year he serving great, I think. And then he is able to play with no mistakes and changing directions so easy, playing so, so long. He’s doing everything good. He was better than me and he deserved to do what he did during the whole season. He played just fantastic. When somebody’s doing like this, just the only thing I can do is congratulate him.”

Nadal will go home in Mallorca. It’s a long time that he was able to play from January to November. At the very least, he can practice every day and when he arrives at Australia Open, maybe he will be closer against Djokovic.

“My body is healthy, is strong. I feel good physically,” Nadal said. “I am able to practice a lot. I am able to compete great in long matches, too.
Today I am not worried about my body. I was much more worried when I started this season than how I am today. I played the full season with not many problems. I finished the season healthy, with good health.

That’s so important for me to keep practicing, have confidence in my body, my movements, and another important thing: if you want to improve your game, you need to practice.”

Djokovic to meet Roger Federer

While Stan Wawrinka almost knocked off Roger Federer in the semifinals here last year, he wasn’t to be, losing 7-6(6) in the third. This time, he started quickly, but then Federer was on top of him, smacking his forehand, chipping him around, and attacking his second serves. He grabbed it 7-5 6-3.

Wawrinka is now done for the season, too, winning Roland Garros for the fist time. He was incredibly good on clay in Paris, but the 30-year-old still have work to do against the Big 4 boys. When he goes up against Federer, Wawrinka is up and down, he is not secured at the net, and he can get sullen.

This year, even though he was unable to win a Grand Slam this season, Federer appears to get better and better at the net cords. Against Wawrinka, he went 24/32 at the net points in two sets – pretty darn good.

He will have to do much the same against Djokovic. Yes, Federer did upend him early this week in the round Robin, but the final is another story. The Serbian wants to win badly as he will end this season nearly perfect. But the same goes with Federer, who has won six titles at the ATP Final and who loves indoors. It’s a pick-em, really.

ATP Finals: Wawrinka out-hits Murray, to reach semi vs. Federer

Stanislas Wawrinka


FROM THE ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS IN LONDON — When Stan Wawrinka starts well enough, he is in it. Even though he was a bit shaky at the end, he overcame Andy Murray 7-6(4) 6-4 to reach the semis against Roger Federer. The 30-year-old Swiss was more aggressive and his one-handed backhands were authoritative. Both players went toe-to-toe with their spinning forehands. In the end, Wawrinka’s first serve was heavier.

Murray was fairly enthusiastic, but he was angry with himself, not able to hit his groundies deep so he could come into the net. He was down 2-5 and two breaks in the second set, but he kept trying while Wawrinka almost disappeared for a few minutes. Murray had a huge chance, he had two break points at 4-5, and he couldn’t go further, so he destroyed his racket. Shortly after, his ball went wide and Wawrinka had moved on, quite happily.

The Scot finished with 22 winners and 30 unforced errors, while Wawrinka finished with 27 winners and 29 unforced. Good enough.

For the No. 2 Murray, he has way too many errors and that cost him, dearly.

“I’m not trying to take anything away from Stan. He serves big. At certain points in the match, he was hitting the ball very hard off both sides, playing sort of high-risk tennis, making a lot of winners,” Murray said.
“There was a period in the middle of the second set where he played extremely well, a lot of passing shots, hitting clean winners onto the line. There’s not much I can do about that obviously.

“Sometimes when you’re playing against the best players in the world, they can play great tennis. Just from my side on the important moments right now, I’m a bit disappointed with how I played them. If he had hit clean winners or played great points at 4-2 in the tiebreak, you come in and you say he was too good at that moment. But in the tiebreak, I made bad mistakes at the wrong time.”

Last year at the ATP Finals, Wawrinka and Federer met each other in the semifinals and put together an amazing match, with Federer winning 4-6 7-5 7-6(6). The two were so tired Saturday that Federer decided not to play at the final, largely because they wanted to play in the Davis Cup next week (which they won).

This time, they will go all out again. Wawrinka blasted him at Roland Garros in the quarters, while Federer took him in the semis at the US Open. Federer is favored, but slightly.

“He’s playing really well. It’s tough to play indoor, especially World Tour Final, he is always fit, always ready,” Wawrinka said. “Last year was an opportunity to beat him, didn’t took them.
Let’s see, I had a tough match now, two hours’ match with a lot of pressure. I also feel quite tired. I’m going to be focused on that, try to rest, try to recover and be ready for hopefully a good match.”

Djokovic very happy, but what if he loses vs Nadal in semis?

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AT THE ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS IN LONDON – For the past two months, Novak Djokovic has been asked whether or not he is truly happy when he wins, and can he continue to be very pleased even if he loses?

What if Djokovic goes down against Rafael Nadal in the semifinals at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday, ending the year when he would no longer be dominated?

What if?

But at least on Friday, he is grinning from ear to ear.

The Serbian has rarely lost this year and the only time that he was down in the dumps for a few minutes was when he lost against Stan Wawrinka in the final of Roland Garros. Had he upended against say Roger Federer or Nadal, he might have been upset longer, because while he is very respectful about both those them, they are not close friends off the court. But apparently, he and Wawrinka are. It’s possible they could play each other in the final. If the Swiss upends Djokovic once again, maybe he will just shrug and continue to be a happy man

“I feel like (I have) a very special relationship with Stan, I think like no other top player, honestly,” Djokovic said. “I do appreciate that. I do enjoy that good relationship we have. I think that was strengthened even more after Roland Garros final.”

It appears that it was. He won Wimbledon in an epic contest over Federer, dropped against Andy Murray and Federer at Montreal and Cincy, but then he won the US Open, by edging Federer once again. Then he won everything, at Beijing, Shanghai and Paris/Bercy. He was on-fire and he wasn’t sputtering at all.

Somewhat amazingly, he lost to Federer here in London at the O2 on Tuesday, but he picked right up, beating Tomas Berdych. Now he is in the semi of Saturday against Nadal.

If he loses that contest, maybe it will be a super disappointment. Or not.

The two have clashed so many times, with Nadal leading head to head 23-22. They have been so close on court, with so many intense rivalry matches. They are both so fast that they can go on for hours, like at the 2012 Australian Open final, won by Djokovic in 5 hours and 53 minutes. They never went down until the very end.

“In terms of amount of matches played, maybe some matches that were long and epic was against Rafa,” Djokovic. “I played against him longer matches, more exciting matches. Grand Slam finals I think were more exciting with Roger [Federer], especially in the last couple of years. So both of them. It’s been amazing rivalries I had with both of them.”

This year, obviously, Djokovic has beaten Nadal every time this year. Nadal is getting better and better, having a decent fall, going fairly deep every time out. Given that since 2005 until now, after the summers ended, his body fell apart. But, this season, after he returned from his injury in the second half of 2014, he has been injury free.

However, against Djokovic, he has been quicker, more powerful, smarter and secure. Last month, they faced off in the Beijing final and Djokovic clocked him 6-2, 6-2.

The court at the ATP Finals is fairy fast, but slower than it used to be. Nadal has won three matches, beating Wawrinka, Andy Murray and now David Ferrer, who he out-lasted him 6-7 6-3 6-4 in more than two-and-a-half hours on Friday.

Djokovic is favored, but eventually, if he is 100 percent physically and mentally, Nadal will get him one day. But on Saturday, if he isn’t substantially aggressive, there is no way he can win. Djokovic can hit the ball back until he gets a good look off a short ball and he will swing away.

The Spaniard has to take some risks.

But maybe he won’t.

“I going to try to keep playing the way I am playing,” Nadal said. “Then maybe is not enough. But I cannot go crazy. I cannot go on the court and thinking that I have to do something that I cannot do it. I going to try to play my game. I going to try to play aggressive. I going to try to be strong mentally. I know the surface is better for him than for me obviously.  He plays in a very good surface for him. He plays a tournament that he won already couple of times. He come here after having an amazing season. All the positive things are for him.

“But for me is a motivation. I am here to try my best tomorrow. Then if is not enough what I have today, it’s fine. I going to keep working to keep improving the things that I need to do to try to be in better shape next time that I going to compete against him. Tomorrow is an opportunity for me to play well, to see how far I am.”

Murray falls to Nadal, wants to win first ATP World Tour Final

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FROM THE ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS IN LONDON – Andy Murray was not furious on Wednesday, but he wasn’t thrilled either. Rafael Nadal tore him apart, winning 6-4, 6-1. The Spaniard is getting better and better, while Murray dropped down, at least on that day, when his forehand was spotty, he didn’t serve particularly well and he wasn’t able to control the baseline.

In once sense, it doesn’t really matter, not when you can still win the ATP World Tour Finals title. Now, Murray is 1-1, having beaten David Ferrer and then losing against Nadal, who is now by the way, 16-6 head to head vs. the Scot.  Stan Wawrinka is also 1-1, having also lost against Nadal, but he beat Ferrer in straight sets. On Friday night, Murray will face Wawrinka, and the winner will reach the semi and go up against Roger Federer, who went undefeated by over-coming Kei Nishikori 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in a terrific contest.

For about 20 minutes, Wawrinka was way off against Ferrer, banging his racket. Soon, he picked up, found the lines, dominated with his phenomenal one-handed backhand and then he took him down quickly, 7-5, 6-2. The fast Swiss is now ready to out-stroke the irritated Murray.

For the past couple of months, Murray was considering not playing at the ATP Finals, because next week, he will go to the Davis Cup final on clay in Belgium, and he wants to make sure that he is 100 percent and not be hurt or exhausted. But now, he is locked in the 02 London Arena and he wants to show the locals and the other players that he can actually win this event, to beat the best. He was asked whether he wasn’t that upset after Nadal pounded with his ferocious forehand. Murray knew that he still has an opportunity to reach the semis, so he didn’t feel down in the dumps, but he was a little angry.

“I think the way the format is, almost every game is important,” Murray said. “Rather than thinking like, ‘Oh, well, I can just lose this set, it’s fine.’ Maybe in the last round if you need to win one set to qualify, it’s a bit different. But every year when I’ve played matches, pretty much where I needed one set to get through—I played Tsonga [in the ATP Finals in 2012] and won that match in two sets. I played Roger in Shanghai a few years ago where I already qualified [for the ATP Finals] and played near a three-hour match with him. I’ve never looked at any of the matches like that. You certainly don’t want to lose to one of the guys that you’re competing against in the biggest events for the biggest titles in the sport quickly in the second set.”

Murray is currently ranked No. 2, which is very good, but he has not been spectacular all year, which is why he did not win a major, but he did grab two ATP Masters Series events, at Madrid and Montreal.

The 28-year-old has 37 titles, which is pretty darn good, having won two Grand Slams (the US Open and Wimbledon), the 2012 Olympics and a slew of ATP 1000s, but he has yet to reach the final at the ATP World Tour Finals. At home in the UK when he is up against the so-called Big 4-plus 1 (Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, himself and Wawrinka), the competition about as good as it gets.

Perhaps Andy Murray has been saying that the Davis Cup Final is more important, because Great Britain has not won since 1936, when Fred Perry lead their charge. Perry was the last British winner at Wimbledon and a couple of years ago, Murray raised the trophy on SW19, breaking the drought. He was heroic.

Next week, when he and the boys head to Belgium, they will be super intense and ready to go. However, this week is substantially important. If he can take out Wawrinka – who won Roland Garros this year – the 17-time major winner Federer, and either No. 1 Djokovic or the 14-time Slam champ Nadal, that would be one of his best titles ever. With all due respect, beating the No. 16 David Goffin, No. 85 Steve Darcis and No. 105 Ruben Bemelmans of the Belgium won’t count for as much as a title here.

Whomever wins the Davis Cup tie, it will turn just a few heads (especially in the UK). But 10 years from now, when everyone is discussing what occurred and who pulled off the biggest matches of 2015, if Murray upended the Big 4-plus 1, that will be when Andy had risen once again.

Rafa Nadal: Very good, or very bad

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From the ATP World Tour Finals at LondonRafael Nadal is very intense. Obviously, he has not had a terrific year, not even close. He knew coming into 2015 that his body was pretty much done and he was in a fair amount of pain from wear and tear in the second half of 2014, But in January 2015, he was ready to go and he was hoping that he would be 100 percent.

But his recovery has been much longer than expected. The best news is he has been able to play all year. The bad news is that not only has the 14-time Grand Slam champion has not won a major, when he has not even reached to the semifinal. And how about this? At the ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, he did manage to reach the final at Madrid in 2015, but he has won 27 Masters 1000s since he began back in 2005, which has been quite a feat, so not winning at all this season, which has unglued him mentally.

“I think that I am playing in the toughest surface for me to play, indoor, and in the worst part of the season always for me, these last tournaments of the year,” Nadal said of the 02 Arena in London. “If I am able to play well here, I think that’s great news because that can be a good chance to start next year again with positive feelings,” he said.

But here is the good news: he has been pretty consistent this fall, reaching the final of Beijing, taking down Fabio Fognini in the semis (the Italian had stunned Nadal in five set at the US Open) and then falling against Novak Djokovic. He beat Stan Wawrinka in Shanghai in the quarters before going down against Jo Tsonga. In Basel, he beat Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet before he fell against Roger Federer in the semis. In Paris, Wawrinka got his revenge and beat him in the quarters. For Nadal, at least he has been grinding, which is a positive. He is vulnerable, but he is not giving up.

“Then the results on Beijing, Shanghai, Basel, Paris confirms that I am playing much better, no? So happy for that,” Nadal said. “As I said in Beijing, my main goal is try to start next year with my level, with the level that I want to be. I am working to make that happen.”

On Monday, Nadal took out Wawrinka 6-3 6-2. He did not have to play fantastic, as the Swiss was way off, but he was directed, crushing his famous forehand. His serve isn’t massive andhis backhand is still landing too short. But, he still doesn’t believe that he can dominate with his volleys.

However, he is getting closer and closer, which is why he is ranked No. 5. That is not horrible at all.

Maybe in 2016, he will be ready to rumble again

“I don’t know what’s going on next year, but for sure the end of the season helps,” said Nadal. “The way I am playing at the end of this season helps to try to start the next year with a different energy than what I started last year. It’s obvious that I am working hard.”

However, Nadal has said that he doesn’t like the surface on the ATP Finals. Exactly what type of serves, who knows? Is it too fast? Too medium? Too slow?

“I never say that is fast here. Here everybody is saying that it’s slow. The court is not fast. The court is okay. But it’s obvious that I am playing against the best players of the world. I only won the first match. That’s important for me. I never say that is fast here. Here everybody is saying that it’s slow. It’s not that I’m saying it’s fast,” Nadal said.

The odd thing is that Nadal has won just about everything. He has won Australia, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. He has also pocketed Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Tokyo (a 500) and Beijing (also a 500), among others. Without a doubt, Nadal can win on every surface if he is playing his absolute best.

But the reality is that after the US Open, or the summer overall, he has historically declined in the fall. He rarely went deep from October-November, but in 2013, he was on fire, reaching the ATP World Tour Finals. Maybe he is ready to pounce. On Wednesday, he wiped out Murray 64 61. Now, you are talking






Fed Cup Final: Kvitova & Sharapova both win, faceoff Sunday

Czech’s Petra d Pavlyuchenkova, Maria d Pliskova, locked at 1-1


Petra Kvitova with the Fed Cup, won in 2011.

PRAGUE – It was going to come to this, wasn’t it? Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova both won their contests on Saturday in the Fed Cup Final, with the Czech starting off the tie and besting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 6-1 6-1 and then the Russian beating Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-3. The tie is knotted 1-1.

On Sunday, they will clash first, starting at 12 PM. Whomever wins, it still won’t be over as their homeland has to win three matches. Still, Kvitova and Sharapova are not only that the best players out there, but mentally, they are the ones who their teammates will look for guidance.

On Saturday, both Kvitova and Sharapova sounded self-assured.

But, without a doubt, the 25-year-old Kvitova needs to find some patience.Kvitova was off. Way, way off. In the first set, she couldn’t put a ball in play, not to the left or the right, or short or deep. She was bad and, then, worse. She was so nervous that it didn’t matter whether which way she was aiming, because the ball was headed in the net or extremely wide or long. She couldn’t crack her first serves, either.

Pavlyuchenkova was fairly consistent, and she really didn’t have to do much. The Russian tossed up some big first serves, she rolled her forehands deep and she spanked her backhands, which was good enough. Down 5-2, Kvitova was trying to get herself going, yelling at herself, but she wasn’t quite there and Pavlyuchenkova won the first set by charging forward, lifting her backhand off and sweetly touching her racket just over the net for a winner.

Clearly, Kvitova knew that the match had a long way to go. In the first game of the second set, she smacked a couple accurate returns and she was ready to rumble. Instead of falling backwards, she was leaning forward. She knew when it was time to attack. The lefty was more patient and she was in control. Kvitova raced through the second set, finishing it off with a twisting ace.

“I was a little down on myself,” Pavlyuchenkova said.

It appeared that the third set would be extremely tight, as they had played eight times before and most of the contests were pretty close (six to two for Kvitova). However, very quickly, the Czech raced away. Kvitova knew that she was in a comfortable zone and she figured that on the fast courts, she would out-hit the Russian.

The Russian couldn’t move her strokes around and she couldn’t go down the line effectively.

Later, Pavlyuchenkova said that she was gone mentally. The Russian didn’t think she could come back.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want to be there anymore,’ ” Pavlyuchenkova said.

Kvitova admitted that her start was rough. “I was nervous, I was so tight and my body was so heavy,” Kvitova said. “But I got a break to start the second set and that was the key.”

Sharapova starts on a roll

Sharapova is set for a matchup vs. Kvitova. JIMMIE48 TENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sharapova is set for a matchup vs. Kvitova. JIMMIE48 TENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Sharapova came out super aggressive and didn’t stop. Pliskova has improved a ton this year, especially in the first half. Her improvement stalled after reaching the final of Stanford in early August and then she fell apart until last week in November in Zhuhai.

She can hit her first serve about as hard as anyone out there, but she can falter fast. When she is on, she can smoke the lines with her forehands and backhands, but she does not move particularly well going side to side. Plus, the 23-year-old needs to improve her returns.

Pliskova certainly had a few good moments/ Even though Sharapova was a bit off with her strong first serves, Pliskova could not figure her out.

The 28-year-old Sharapova nailed a number of winners down the line when Pliskova didn’t know which way she was going, likely because the two had not faced off before.

In Prague, the packed fans were working to help Pliskova raise her game to her highest level. Down a break at 3-4 in the second set, Pliskova was up 0-40, but then Sharapova crushed a couple serves, rushed to the net, swung with her forehand that was coming down from the top of the ceiling and put it away. She held, she breathed a sigh of relief and ended up winning 6-3 6-4.

“The courts were faster,” Sharapova said. ‘“She likes the fast ball and hits it deep and hard and try the angles, and make her move a little and some defense. The returns helped because I didn’t serve at all. When it mattered, I stayed up.”

Two weeks ago in Singapore, Kvitova and Sharapova played in the semis. The Czech won by the Czech as she edged the Russian in two tight sets. Sharapova is 6 to 4 head to head, having beaten Kvitova in two semifinals at the 2012 Australian Open and Roland Garros. But let’s not forget that in 2011, Kvitova stunned Sharapova in the Wimbledon final.

Sharapova has won five majors, while Kvitova has taken only two. Over the years, the Russian has been more successful, but in Prague, the Czech has to be given an edge, as she has been lights out in the Fed Cup. However, even though Sharapova said that she was nervous during the entire match against Pliskova, she wasn’t shaking. Perhaps she will be on Sunday, but we all know that Kvitova will be, too.

“We know each other so well,” Sharapova said. “She’s very tough, it will be a great atmosphere, and she’s a great player.”

Whoever wins, there will be a fourth match, between the Russian Pavlyuchenkova (assuming the somewhat hurt Ekaterina Makarova comes in at the singles) versus Pliskova (assuming Lucie Safarova will be healthy and can play singles). That is a toss up.

It could be 2-2 and the Fed Cup Final could go be the last contest in the doubles: maybe the fine, highly-ranked team of Makarova/Elena Vesnina against the talented Safarova/Barbora Strycova.

As the Russian captain Anastasia Myskina said, “There is a lot of pressure.”

And how.

Shocker? Radwanska d. Murguruza, Kvitova d. Sharapova to reach final in WTA Finals



SINGAPORE – For the first time at the WTA Finals, two players who went 1-2 in the groups have now reached the finals: Aga Radwanska surprised the up-and-coming Garbine Muguruza 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5, while Petra Kvitova out-hit Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6(3).


The 22-year-old Muguruza, who is ranked No. 3, was worn down in the season’s final tournament. Even

though she was tired after a tough week as she was competing in singles and doubles, she nearly came though.

“I just wanted to give everything I had, and doesn’t matter how long I was going to be able to keep it. I just went out there, and if I die on the court, I die, but at least I go out from there happy,” the Spaniard said.

Like Muguruza, Sharapova was 3-0 entering the semifinal. She had beaten Kvitova five of the last six times, but the Czech couldn’t let her breath. She came right at her and didn’t stop. Sharapova knows that when Kvitova is on fire, it’s hard to handle her.

“She’s a very aggressive player. She has a lot of depth and power. She goes for her shots. I think when she commits to her game and she executes, it’s a very powerful game,” Sharapova said.

Somewhat amazingly, Kvitova and Radwanska have played eight times, with the Czech owning with a 6-2 edge. However, the 25 year olds have played four WTA Finals, in 2011, when Kvitova won the title, beating the Pole in straights in the Round Robin in Istanbul; in 2012, when Radwanska won in straight sets in a Round Robin; in 2013, with the Czech winning in straight sets and in 2014, when ‘Aga’ won easily last year in the Round Robin at Singapore.

They are tied up in the WTA Finals. While Kvitova has been a better player overall, Radwanska is on a roll. The contest should be very close.

“It’s difficult opponent, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She’s very smart. I think she has a lot the variety on the court. She getting so many balls, so sometimes it feels that she’s never‑ending story on the court.

So it’s really about the patient and still be kind of sharp, but playing a lot of shots and rallies. It’s difficult. So both of us will leave everything.”


Pennetta waves goodbye forever after she loses to Sharapova


Flavia Pennetta: in her last WTA match. Jimmie48 Tennis Photography.

SINGAPORE — Say goodbye Flavia Pennetta, who fell to Maria Sharapova 7-5 6-1.

With her 2015 U.S. Open trophy in her hands, Pennetta announced thus Woolf be her last season. If she had extended the match, she would have lived to play another day in the semifinals. But, Sharapova is a steamroller now and she denied Pennetta.

The 33-year-old Italian was very aggressive and forceful in the first set, but Sharapova kept going for her shots, moved forward and make sure that she wasn’t going to go side to side for a few hours.

After beating Radwanska on Sunday, Sharapova was thrilled. Since Wimbledon, she only had been able to play for half a match in Wuhan before she retired with an injury. Then she went to Europe to get her legs better and then she came over to Singapore early. She really wanted to get out on court and try it. She did not become injured again, could run as fast as she could, and could swing away with her powerful arms.

As Pennetta said, she played very well, but Sharapova was on fire, especially in the second set, wracking winners. Her huge serve, her massive forehands and backhands, and her ability to charge the net and not go backwards showed how confident she is.

“I was playing I think really well. I just has one game in the 4‑3 where I play a little bit worse,” Pennetta said. “I had two double fault, and so I lost my chance I think on that game. But I think was really good game. She play unbelievable. I didn’t remember see Maria playing so good and serving so good from ‑‑ the second set was perfect for her doing everything, drop shot, volley. Everything was work good for her.”

The last time they played, Pennetta out-stroked Sharapova at Indian Wells last March. That time, Pennetta was dictating once they got into rallies. But on Thursday, the five-time Grand Slam was under control

“It’s strange, I have to say,” Pennetta said. “Before the tournament I didn’t expect to see Maria so focus and so good and everything. Sometimes it’s good to stay away a little bit. You recover and you have more energy. You come with more ambition. So sometimes you need to stay away for a while. So for her, of course it’s working really good.”

Sharapova said wanted to be 100 percent before she got to Singapore, and she wanted to make sure that she is fully healthy. She did not want to have to stop again. She hit the gym and practiced when she could.

“So in a way, yeah, you’re taking a break, but you’re still working towards staying fit and strong and mentally positive,” Sharapova said. “You still have to work a lot. You don’t just sit around and hope that you feel better one day.”

Pennetta is retired now, but she doesn’t realize it yet. She says that she feels happy, but she didn’t want to stay on the court after she was done, as she didn’t want to cry. She will miss seeing week in and wake out, but she can deal with that, as she will be around here and there at the tournaments, watching her fiancee, Fabio Fognini.

“I will miss the competition. When you go on the court, the central court, it’s something special,” she said. “I don’t think I will have it anymore.”

Sharapova doesn’t know whom she will play on Saturday. The US Open champion Pennetta doesn’t know what she is going to do on Saturday either.

Maybe she will rest, for the first time when Pennetta became a pro in 2000. Maybe she will just bounce the balls around. Pennetta isnt sure yet, but she is already smiling.

“I am really happy to start a new part of life, new things.”

Halep is all done for the year: Radwanska hung in there, made semis


Simona Halep is first to be eliminated in Singapore. Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

SINGAPORE – Simon Halep is now gone from the rest of the year and really, since she quickly lost against Flavia Pennetta in the US Open semis, she was mentally disturbed and couldn’t calm her frayed nerves .

On Thursday, Aga Radwanska took her down 7-6(5) 6-1. Halep was up 5-1 in the tiebreak, but the Pole kept running as at top speed. Somehow, someway, she got to 6-5. Both Radwanska and Halep went side to side, foreward and backward, under and over, way up high in the sky and touching their rackets well above their heads. Finally, Halep bent down, her legs were wobbly, and she tried to hit a forehand volley and went wide. Without a doubt, it was one of the best point of the year.

But Radwanska was revived and jubilent, while Halep folded quickly.

“I was done. No energy anymore,” Halep said. “I was tired. I felt that I lost the chance to win the first set and probably I lost the chance to win the match in that moment. My coach [Darren Cahill] was telling me many things, but I couldn’t hear because I was done and I was very nervous there.”

Later, the Pole could have hung her head, too. This week, she lost a brutal contest against Maria Sharapova on Sunday, and then lost a tough contest match against Pennetta on Tuesday, but when she went on court, she decided that she wasn’t going home yet. She would just swing away when she could and have a little bit of fun. Radwanska did, especially in the second set, when she was as aggressive as she can be.

But she was asked whether had she lost in the first set, would have she thought that it had been a long year, it was time to say good‑bye. She was leaving. See ya.

“You were just reading my mind actually,” she said. “That was it. I went on court, and to be honest I didn’t practice yesterday. I was really tired and I’m falling apart a little bit as well. So what I had yesterday, it’s half an hour in the gym, two sessions of treatment. What I wanted to do is really play my best tennis today. Like you’re saying, it’s been a really long trip and I lost already two matches. I think that works for me. I think I will have to take more of the day off,” she said with a smile.

Halep says that on Monday, she will announce that she and her coach, Cahill, will continue on next year.

The Romanian says that she has had a pretty good season, which she said there were “ups and down” with her higlight winning Indian Wells, and her low light being upset early at Roland Garros.

She is one of the fastest players on tour who runs and runs and runs, but not in Singapore this week. Her legs were pooped. “Today I couldn’t breathe anymore in the second set,” she said.

Radwanska made it to the semifinals and, depending on today’s outcome, she could face Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, or Angie Kerber on Saturday.