A busy few days for me so here’s a bumper Saturday’s Set Points to catch up on the last three days. We’re enjoying some lovely weather in the UK right now and i’m writing this with a Pimms! I was planning to go to Birmingham qualifying today but decided the 6am alarm was just too much. This time next week though i’ll be in Eastbourne! 😁.
In Nottingham, Johanna Konta advanced to her first ever final on grass with a 6-2 7-5 win over Magdalena Rybarikova. The Brit played a clean first set and then seized on her opportunity in the second set at 5-5 with some forceful returns and breaking on a Rybarikova double fault.
A mention for Rybarikova who i’m thrilled to see back on the grass – her game is gorgeous to watch. She had a bit of strapping on her leg and was stretching out her back at the end but hopefully nothing too serious. This was Rybarikova’s ninth match on grass having won the ITF tournament in Surbiton last week. I’m hoping Rybarikova has done enough to earn a main draw wildcard for Wimbledon.
In the second semi-final, an absolute nailbiter, Donna Vekic beat Lucie Safarova, 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(4) in two hours and 48 minutes. I thought it was a top effort from both players in what was a gruelling third set.
Vekic recovered from a emotional outburst midway through the third set at a line call she disagreed with and broke Safarova’s serve when she was 40-0 up. Vekic served for the match at *5-3. Safarova seemed to be running out of steam, which was not a surprise considering she arrived in Nottingham straight from Roland Garros and had played three consecutive three setters, spending over six hours on the court. This would prove to be the longest match of the tournament and Safarova battled tremendously well to force a third set tiebreak.
In the third set tiebreak, Safarova got hosed by an umpire overrule – Vekic’s serve was called out but the umpire corrected. I think the umpire realised she had made a mistake because she paused as she corrected it. You rarely see Safarova argue calls but she did with this one! Still, the Czech player dusted herself off and remained focused to win the next two points. Vekic’s defence was superb at the end and she produced a gorgeous forehand passing shot winner that stayed in the air for an eternity! Safarova ended with two errors as Vekic reached her fifth WTA final after a thoroughly entertaining match.
I’m gutted for Lucie to lose such a close match but there are so many positives to take away – I didn’t have high expectations for her this week but she’s had plenty of time on the grass and still has Birmingham and Eastbourne to come before Wimbledon. Huge credit to Donna for the win. I don’t think her negative attitude and arguing line calls helps her at times but she was very committed at the end and played some superb tennis.
So it will be Konta vs. Vekic for the Nottingham title.
In ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a new WTA champion will be crowned as the final will be contested between Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Anett Kontaveit.
Vikhlyantseva beat Ana Konjuh, 6-3 7-5, in the first of the semi-finals. While both born in 1997, the older of the pair, Vikhlyantseva, hasn’t had as much exposure of WTA-level tournaments as Konjuh. It was Vikhlyantseva who held her nerve in the pressure moments and served well – Konjuh won a higher percentage of return points but missed many returns on key points.
It seemed that the tide was turning in the second set as Konjuh battled back from a break down and won 13 points in a row. The Croatian player was also two points from the set with Vikhlyantseva serving at *4-5 *30-30. It felt like it was destined to go to a decider but Vikhylantseva did really well to halt Konjuh’s momentum which came to a grinding halt in her final service game as the unforced errors were once again her downfall including a wild forehand down break point.
Vikhylantseva is into her first WTA final and will be another player to add to the list of unseeded threats at Wimbledon. For Konjuh, a player I have high hopes for during this grass court season, this was a solid start in reaching the semi-finals. Today was a quick turnaround from her 6-3 6-7(4) 7-6(10) quarter-final win over Evgeniya Rodina on Friday where she saved five match points in the third set tiebreak. I still think there’s a lot that can go pearshaped with Konjuh’s game but when on, she’s pretty awesome to watch. Next stop is Mallorca…
Despite being dropped a tiebagel by Lesia Tsurenko in the second set, Kontaveit rebounded in positive fashion to reach her second WTA final of the year with a 6-3 6-7(0) 6-2 victory. I watched bits of the first and second sets and this was a fun one with plenty of super rallies. I’m really high on Kontaveit and she’s obviously buzzing with confidence right now – the Estonian player has won 12 of 14 three set matches in 2017.
As it stands, Kontaveit is probably top of my list of unseeded players to watch out for at Wimbledon. If she were to win the title, she would actually be pretty close to getting one of the last seeded spots for SW19!
A highlight from Thursday – a pair of hotshots from Richel Hogenkamp in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
More hits to the entry list for Birmingham – Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, Monica Puig and Jelena Ostapenko all pulled out of Birmingham.
Still though a quality main draw for Birmingham. A preview will be up tomorrow on Moo’s Tennis Blog!
Sam Stosur is likely out of Eastbourne and Wimbledon.
I’m thrilled to see Angelique Kerber has taken a wild card into Eastbourne! I know it’s been a tough year for Angie but she’s always been one of my favourite players to watch live and photograph.
Dipping into ATP, this was special from Lucas Pouille on Wednesday.
Enjoyed this segment with Roberta Vinci.
And finally, the excitement for Wimbledon is rising. Loved this!