Saturday’s semi-finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix looked very enticing on paper and both delivered. In the hotly anticipated match-up between Maria Sharapova and Kristina Mladenovic, it was the Frenchwoman who prevailed in a three set tussle, 3-6 7-5 6-4 in two hours and 38 minutes.
Sharapova had delivered another clean set to win the opener handily, dropping just four points behind her serve. Mladenovic looked nervous and inhibited early on but she improved on return in the second set and began to play *her* game a little bit better with some injections of variety. From a break down and saving three break points in a marathon game at 5-5 (which she won with a killer drop shot), Mladenovic rallied to win the second set.
In the decider, Sharapova’s lack of match fitness was telling as Mladenovic grew more and more into the match, eventually fending off a late charge from Sharapova to reach her fourth WTA final in eight months. Props to Mlads as I wasn’t convinced whether her nerve would hold in such a high calibre match. I don’t think it was her best performance but mentally and tactically, she did a super job to come back and win in three.
There was plenty of anticipation around the handshake but it was professional from both players.
Mladenovic’s press conference is linked below from the WTA’s Facebook page.
It was good to see the WTA actually make an effort in terms of directing fans to streams and I hope they’ve finally woken up and realised this is KEY going forward. I did see some complaints on Twitter that this particular YouTube feed was glitchy and it was only for US viewers. I managed to find another YouTube stream through Twitter though which was really stable – it was such a bonus to be able to watch on a slightly bigger screen!
In the second semi-final, Laura Siegemund’s love affair with Stuttgart continued as she secured her third top ten win of the week, beating Simona Halep for the second straight year, 6-4 7-5. Halep had two set points in the second set leading *5-4 *40-15 but Siegemund came roaring back, winning ten of the last 11 points.
Halep competed pretty well for the majority of the match but just fell away after the missed set points. I think Halep is one of the leading contenders for the French Open although I still have a nagging concern whether her confidence can hold through seven matches as she does have the tendency, like in this match against Siegemund, to drop off her level after missing opportunities. Still, a positive week for the Romanian and great to see her healthy again.
For Siegemund, wow, just wow. She’s had another stunning run and her physical fitness has come through again. To back up her three hour plus win over Pliskova with another top ten win is mightily impressive. Her game and those drop shots are just mesmerising to watch on the Stuttgart clay.
In a final befitting of 2017, Kristina Mladenovic and Laura Siegemund will square off for the 2017 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title. Siegemund won their only previous match in St. Petersburg last year, 1-6 7-5 6-1. I think it should be a really fun encounter because both play with plenty of variety. I’d have to go for Siegemund – i’m taken with how she can elevate her game at this tournament, thriving on the support of the home crowd. You can just never count her out and I think the adrenaline will overcome her physical exertions of the week. Who you got?
Thanks to those who have commented about Istanbul as i’ve not been following as closely as i’d like this week. Sunday’s final will be contested between Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens. Svitolina dropped a set in her first match of the week but seems to be gathering pace match-by-match on the clay as she comfortably saw off Jana Cepelova in the semi-finals, 6-2 6-3. I can’t say i’ve been convinced by Svitolina on clay in the past, despite reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open in 2015, but this feels like it should be a great time of the year for her.
Mertens is into her second WTA final of the year and staking her claim for Newcomer of the year – she’s had a brilliant week with battling three set wins over Sara Errani and Cagla Buyukakcay, followed by a 6-1 6-1 (!) rout of Irina-Camelia Begu in the semi-finals. Begu’s stats were…
The two tournaments next week are in Prague (Czech Republic) and Rabat (Morocco). The draws are out for both and if I get a chance, i’ll try and preview them tomorrow.
A word of caution to anyone planning to attend the Aegon International in Eastbourne this year. I’ve just realised that Court 1 is now ALL reserved seating between Monday and Thursday. Previously one side of the court was unreserved for Centre Court ticket holders – now it would seem you’ll need to fork about an extra £28 (Monday and Tuesday) or £32 (Wednesday and Thursday) for a court 1 ticket. An explanation below from the official website. Not good 😦
And finally, three day weekends are glorious. I’m back home and in my happy place.
13 thoughts on “Saturday’s Set Points, WTA Stuttgart Day 5: Final all set, Mladenovic vs. Siegemund”
Surprising final! It would really be something if Siegemund could win after how much time she’s had to play this week… I also think Mladenovic has a better net/touch game than any of the women the German has beaten this week (bar Kuznetsova, who was below par). So I’m going for Kiki.
Really pleased for Mertens on reaching the final. She has more than an outside chance at winning. Svitolina hasn’t been her best this week (hasn’t needed to be) but she’s gotten progressively better with each match. She produced some stunning angles with her backhand today! Could be a real weapon over the coming months.
I dug up something really interesting posted on a forum about Laura Siegemund in 2014:
“told this story in the challenger forum, but it’s funny and worth repeating here.
I saw this girl play on three occasions in consecutive weeks this January, at Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie and Daytona Beach, Florida. I lost count of how many drop shots she tried in the three matches combined, but I swear to God, and this is not an exaggeration, it had to be well over 200. Mind you, these were Har Tru (green clay) events and I do not know if her tactics vary from surface to surface, but on the clay she literally has no other way of winning a point. The matches are invariably long, three set affairs, the sets drawn out to 7-5 or 7-6, and the games all typically have multiple deuces and ad and break points, and you talk about tedious, OK, I love my players to death, but man, oh man, they really should have been paying ME to sit there supporting them that whole time. It was mind-numbing by the third set, I have to tell you.
The first couple dozen times, it was like, ‘oh this is cute’, with a couple of nervous laughs and titters thrown in after that, and then we all pretty much wanted to choke the stuffing out of her. Between that, and her otherworldly ‘YAAAASSSSSS’es that sounded like she was possessed and channeling some demon, each time she won a point, she wasn’t all that easy to like. Let’s put it this way–when Nicole Gibbs threw up her hands in anguish late in the third set at Daytona, after two and a half hours of all of that dipseydoodling, I completely empathized with her when she screamed across the net at Laura, “Can you DO anything ELSE?!?!?!?!””
One problem with the Stuttgart/ Constantinople Saturday matches is that they started at the same time.I really like the– flashscore.com– which gives all the WTA,ATP,ITF in an easy and fast scroll down layout, and it gives the start times in your local time. Handuchova is plugging away in the qualies in Rabat. Thanks “mixedcuentos” for the chrome app extension sportzone!!!
I’m happy the cheater lost and her grunts get louder went losing.
Imo, Mladenovic is one of main contenders for RG. Already two top 10 wins there and no particularly bad losses. Pushed Serena in decent quality very tight 2-setter last year and she says clay is her best surface. Less question marks surrounding her than the bookies favourites according to odds (see my summary below)
Question Marks surrounding Women’s favourites for RG
Sharapova – may not even get WC, will still be rusty after coming back from 15 month ban
Halep – no champion spirit, cannot beat anyone who is playing well, always finds a way to lose early at slams
Muguruza – whole 2017 season so far disrupted by injures
Kerber – extremely mediocre in 2017, Poor win-loss record (1-10) vs. Top 35 players
Pliskova – not great on clay, never gone past R32 at Madrid/Rome or R64 at RG
Svitolina – good player, but not a great player – can become very passive/a ‘pusher’
Konta – awful on clay, never won a match at RG in entire career
Kvitova – might not even play RG as still recovering from knife attack, will be extremely rusty if she makes it
I think that may be pushing it a little. She gets very nervous, I can’t picture her closing out a Slam on her own.
I also disagree that Svitolina is not a great player.
Well we shall see – I think she is due a big slam result, wouldn’t be in the slightest surprised by a SF performance there. About Svitolina – I think we will have to agree to disagree 🙂 I just feel the fact people would consider her as great shows the poor state of WTA, but I respect that we all see different qualities in everyone.
Svitolina is not just a pusher. She can dictate play on both wings in a Djokovic like manner. You can’t have watched many of her matches this year if you don’t think much of her.
And like it or not, she’s in her fifth final in the past 8 months. Not to mention she’s made it to the second week at Roland Garros the past two years.
Well Mladenovic’s bad record in finals just got even worse…
That’s not a concern – Mladenovic was the player she has been in 2017, in previous years – in addition those losses were to Stosur on clay, Coco on grass & Wozniacki on hard; all on their strongest surface and she took 2 of those matches to 3 sets, and won 10games in the other.
Then in 2017 she won the St Petersburg final. Literally everyone in this current WTA would lose to Siegemund in Stuttgart (as seen through the 2016 & 2017 tournaments) as she plays so much better there than anyone else. Only bad final loss was Acapulco and she still won 6 games (not too bad for your worst final).
Still rate her higher than Svitolina who continously seems to choose the International events instead of the Premier events and did not perform well in the three biggest events so far this year: Australian Open (3R), Indian Wells (4R), Miami (2R). Unfortunately, I do not think much of her and until she properly proves herself, I won’t ever have to.
I agree with you that Svitolina is missing something to be a great player. Her serves is not punchy and her forehand can be erratic sometimes.
I enjoyed the Stuttgart semi finals even though the results were the opposite of what I wanted. Kristina Mladenovic has improved since winning her first WTA title this year and is much more confident on court. I expected her to struggle with the pressure when going one set down but she coped well with it. I do not bet on tennis but odds of 50/1 for her to win the FO seem reasonably good value imho. Good to see Sharapova back and I do not think that she lost due to lack of fitness but more because she was a bit rusty on the important points. I am going with Kristina Mladenovic to win the final in 3 sets.
I like this event and I think that this is the 2nd best indoor event of the year ( the best being Singapore ) and one of the top 10 events on the WTA tour and I love the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the German spectators here.
Pro odds makers, just before matches begin, made Svitolina the favorite in Istanbul and Mladenovic a slight favorite in Stuttgart.