Monday, February 25, 2019

Weekend Tennis Roundup

The headline out of the United Arab Emirates might have been "Belinda and Belinda" as Belinda Bencic defeated four seeds to win her first WTA title in three-and-a-half years. The unseeded Swiss won the Dubai Championships final in style, at times overpowering Petra Kvitova in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 victory. The 45th-ranked Bencic -- who unbelievably is still just 21 years old -- has struggled with injuries in recent years but finally seems to be back to her best, following up wins against second-ranked Simona Halep and two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina before outlasting Kvitova. “It’s incredible. I mean, I still cannot believe it,” Bencic, who also saved six match points against No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka in the second round, told the Associated Press. “So many times I was close to defeat. It’s unbelievable that I ended up winning this.” Bencic had not won a title since the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2015. Back then, she was still a teenager and viewed as one of the top talents on the WTA Tour, breaking into the top 10 in the rankings. But injuries, including wrist surgery, have held her back until now.

No.1 seed Alison Van Uytvanck successfully defended her title in Budapest on Sunday, rallying to defeat No.8 seed Marketa Vondrousova 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in exactly two hours. The openly gay Belgian had saved five match points in her semifinal win over No.5 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, and had to come from a set down for the third match in a row in the final to hold on to her crown. 

"I really love Hungary, and this court, and this event," a delighted Van Uytvanck told the crowd during the trophy presentation that featured none other than the ethnically Hungarian Monica Seles. (I'm assuming Andrea Temesvari wasn't available.) Van Uytvanck also congratulated Vondrousova, telling her: "You're still young, you have a long and good road ahead of you -- keep working like that and you'll have more titles for sure."

Sexy orphan Laslo Djere -- whose Instagram I've been stalking for a while now -- had a career-changing week Down South American way, beating 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-3, 7-5 to take the Rio Open. It was the 23-year-old Serbian's first ATP Tour title and a 500 at that.

Neither Djere nor Auger-Aliassime had competed in a tour-level final before. Djere, who upset No. 1 seed Dominic Thiem in the first round, entered the event at No. 90 in the ATP rankings and will rise to No. 37 on Monday.

“It’s been the week of my dreams. So many things have been achieved here. I’m really happy, excited and emotional now. I’m happy I could push through this match because it was very tough mentally and physically,” Djere said.

I really have to hand it to Stefanos Tsitsipas. Ever since he made his splash on the ATP Tour, he's continually lived up to the hype. This week he was seeded No. 1 and clinched his second ATP Tour singles title with a 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan at the Marseille Open on Sunday. Tsitsipas, who reached the Australian Open semifinals last month, battled hard to secure victory over the 31-year-old Kukushkin in a little under two hours. The 20-year-old Greek, who did not drop a set in the entire tournament, hit 14 aces and won 86% of his first-serve points. "Winning titles is the thing that I am working for. It's the biggest satisfaction and the biggest joy in tennis," Tsitsipas said afterward. (P.S. Happy to see David Goffin in the semis.)

Radu Albot became the first Moldovan to win an ATP Tour event on Sunday, beating white-trash-Brit Daniel Evans 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) in a dramatic Delray Beach Open final. Albot saved three match points in the third-set tiebreaker, and Evans double faulted on Albot’s first match point to give the 5-9, 29-year-old the win.

And though I don't quite understand how someone could be close to their father, I sure do feel for Stevie Johnson, who is still hurting two years after the death of his. Read HERE.

(With wire services)

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