Roberto Bautista Agut to Headline the Three-Event Series ‘UTR Pro Series-Spain’

Roberto Bautista Agut is heading back to the court…

The 32-year-old Spanish professional tennis player will headline the UTR Pro Series-Spain, a three-event series that’ll be played on successive weekends beginning July 10 in Barcelona.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Conspicuous in his absence: ATP No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t taken part in any of the growing number of “re-opening” events tennis entrepreneurs and officials have staged during the suspension of ATP and WTA tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish events will feature Bautista Agut, ranked No. 12 in the world, No. 25 Pablo Carreno Busta, and Albert Ramos-Viñolas, who is No. 41. Two of the other committed players are well-known veterans Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, both of whom are still ranked in the Top 100.

The UTR Pro Series tournament format is modeled on the wildly popular exhibition event created by Roger Federer, the Laver Cup (this year’s event, scheduled for Boston in late September, has been canceled due to a conflict with the postponed French Open). 

The eight participants in the UTR showdown will be divided into two teams. The matches will be best-three sets, but with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set.

UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating, is an organization built on the foundation of a rating system that differs substantially from the formal ATP ranking system. It rates all players, including top pros, solely on the basis of their results against each other in recent matches recognized by UTR. It’s already widely used in junior play and by college recruiters, and has sponsored a number of exhibitions in recent months.

Federer is out of action for the rest of the year due to an aggravated knee injury. Novak Djokovic made his first appearance as a player during the coronavirus pandemic in late June, but the four-tournament Adria Tour he conceived turned into a debacle due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Djokovic was among those who tested positive for Covid-19.

Nadal has kept his distance from the exhibition circuit, and has also expressed disappointment at the prospect of playing without fans in attendance at the upcoming US Open. He hasn’t yet decided if he’ll defend his title in New York.

Caroline Garcia Defeats No. 1 Seed Karolina Pliskova to Win Tianjin Open Title

Caroline Garcia is a big winner in China again…

The 24-year-old Spanish-French tennis player outlasted Karolina Pliskova 7-6(7), 6-3 to win the Tianjin Open and earn her first WTA singles title of the season.

Caroline Garcia

After both players held their serves in a tight first set, Garcia, ranked No. 16 in the world, fought from 1-5 down to edge the decisive tiebreak 9-7.

Garcia then won the first five games of the second set before sealing the win over No. 1 seed Pliskova on her serve, winning the match in one hour, 47 minutes.

It’s Garcia’s first WTA title since lifting the Beijing Open in October 2017.

“It’s very nice for me to win a title again, because the emotion and the feeling after the match point is something very special and very difficult to describe,” Garcia told reporters after the match.

“That’s what you’re working on all year long to get, this trophy in your hand and those emotions.”

Maria Sanchez & Asia Muhammad Win the WTA Coupe Banque Nationale’s Women’s Doubles Title

Maria Sanchez is back in the winner’s circle…

The 28-year-old Latina tennis player and her doubles partner Asia Muhammad defeated Croatia’s Darija Jurak and Switzerland’s Xenia Knoll to win the WTA Coupe Banque Nationale women’s doubles title.

Maria Sanchez

The unranked Sanchez and Muhammad defeated the tournament’s No. 2 seeds in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

It’s Sanchez’s second WTA title, her first since winning the ASB Classic in 2014.

Carla Suarez Navarro Defeats Maria Sharapova to Advance to the US Open Quarterfinals

It’s a birthday to remember for Carla Suarez Navarro

The Spanish tennis player ended former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova‘s perfect record in night matches at the US Open, reaching the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory Monday on her 30th birthday.

Carla Suarez Navarro

Suarez Navarro, the No. 30 seed at Flushing Meadows, face 2017 runner-up Madison Keys in her bid to reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.

Sharapova, seeded 22nd, had been 22-0 under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 2006 champion has lost in the fourth round of her past three appearances.

“Just a little too up-and-down,” is the way Sharapova described her performance Monday.

Sharapova collected the trophy in New York at age 19 in 2006 and owns a total of five Grand Slam titles, but the Russian was far shakier during this match than Suarez Navarro, who never has made it past the quarterfinals at a major.

The Spaniard will be at that stage for the second time at the US Open, five years after her other run to that round.

“A really complete performance,” is the way she described her play.

Suarez Navarro let the 22nd-seeded Sharapova create her own problems.

Sharapova had all sorts of trouble serving, repeatedly catching wayward ball tosses and committing eight double faults. She was broken in six of her 10 service games.

During lengthy exchanges from the baseline, Sharapova often blinked first, although a couple of times the righty managed to switch her racket to her left hand for a desperation shot to extend a point.

While both women finished with 15 winners, Sharapova had nearly twice as many unforced errors as Suarez Navarro, 38-20.

“I didn’t take care of the chances that I had. By ‘chances,’ I mean the balls that were a little bit shorter. I hesitated to move forward,” Sharapova said. “The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on that inside-out forehand today.”

Since her championship, Sharapova has only once made it to the quarterfinals at the US Open — in 2012, when she lost in the semifinals. Since then, the best she has done are fourth-round exits in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

After this latest loss, Sharapova was asked whether she envisions herself getting back to her best in the future.

“First of all, if I didn’t have the belief to keep doing this and to keep having the motivation and the grind of doing this every day in order to get myself in these positions, I don’t think I would be here. I think I’ve done plenty in my career, established a lot for myself personally, professionally,” she replied.

“The belief is not something that I’m eager to show everybody else,” Sharapova continued. “The belief matters most when it’s internal and when you have a passion for something. If you don’t, it’s your choice to not continue that, not for anyone else to tell you so.”

Carla Suarez Navarro Advances to Connecticut Open Final…

Carla Suarez Navarro is one win away from her next title…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis player will compete for the Connecticut Open championship, despite completing just one full match this week and playing less than four sets.

Carla Suarez Navarro 

Navarro advanced Friday when Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig retired during their first set of their semifinal with an abdominal injury.

Suarez Navarro will face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who upset fifth-seeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the first semifinal.

“I feel like I didn’t play and I’m in the final,” Suarez Navarro said. “But, well, I cannot do nothing.”

Suarez Navarro won her first match against Barbora Strycova in straight sets. Her second-round opponent, Johanna Konta, withdrew with an illness. She was leading 6-3 in the quarterfinals Thursday when third-seeded Petra Kvitova bowed out with a shoulder injury.

Puig was leading 4-3 after exchanging service breaks with Suarez Navarro when she left the court holding her abdomen. Puig, the reigning Olympic champion, returned five minutes later, lost the next game, then approached the net in tears and announced she could not continue.

“It was a bit of an abdominal strain that I started feeling in my second service game,” Puig said. “I just gradually got worse from there. Obviously, with the US Open so close, it’s better not to make it worse, miss a tournament. I mean, I already know the consequences of getting injured and missing a Grand Slam. That’s not ideal.”

Puig  said she is hopeful of playing in New York against Stefanie Vogele of Switzerland on Tuesday.

Suarez Navarro will be seeking her third career WTA title.

Conchita Martínez Among International Tennis Hall of Fame Nominees

Conchita Martínez may be earning a spot in the Tennis Hall of Fame.

The 46-year-old Spanish former tennis player, the first Spanish player to win the women’s singles title at Wimbledon, has landed on the eight-player ballot for next year’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Conchita Martínez 

Martínez is eligible for enshrinement in the player category next year, as announced by the ITHOF.

“This is an exciting year for the International Tennis Hall of Fame election process, with a broad-ranging group of candidates and our first ever Fan Vote. The eight candidates on the ballot come from seven nations, and have achieved tremendous results on tennis’ biggest stages – winning Grand Slam titles and Olympic medals, and topping the world rankings,” stated ITHF President Stan Smith, who also serves as Chairman of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

“They’ve also each had massive impact on the sport in their home nations as trailblazers, Olympic and Fed and Davis Cup Champions, first-time Slam winners from their countries, and great ambassadors for tennis. Each has done much for the sport and I hope we’ll see their many fans turn out to vote online to support their Hall of Fame candidacy.”

In a 15-year career on the WTA Tour, Martínez won 33 singles titles and 13 doubles titles. She was the 1994 Wimbledon champion, defeating nine-time champion Martina Navratilova in the final.

She was also a finalist at the Australian Open and French Open.

Martínez reached a career high of world No. 2 and spent 190 weeks ranked inside the world’s Top 5. In addition, she was a key member of five championship Fed Cup teams and a three-time Olympic medalist in doubles.

But Martinez isn’t the only Latin player on the ballot…

Sergi Bruguera is one of the men to make the cut.

The 47-year-old Spanish former tennis player won consecutive men’s singles titles at the French Open in 1993 and 1994, a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in men’s singles and reached a career-high ranking of 3 in August 1994.

Bruguera has been selected to captain the Spain Davis Cup team in 2018

Candidates on the ballot for International Tennis Hall of Fame induction are selected from nominations submitted by the general public and tennis community. The ITHF Enshrinee Nominating Committee, which meets annually in June, then reviews all nominations and determines the ballot. The committee is comprised of 23 individuals from around the world with expertise in various areas of the sport.

The ITHF Voting Group, which consists of tennis media and Hall of Famers, then casts their votes. To be inducted, an affirmative vote of 75 percent of returned ballots is required. Votes are tallied by an independent accounting firm.

New for 2019, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has introduced a fan vote component to the process. From Aug. 27 through Oct. 7, fans around the world are able to participate in the Hall of Fame election process by voting online at vote.tennisfame.com. The top three vote getters in the Fan Vote will receive bonus percentage points added onto their result from the committee to determine their ultimate final result.

The candidate with the highest result in the Fan Vote will receive three additional percentage points, while second and third places will receive two and one additional percentage points respectively.

The results of fan voting will be announced at the conclusion of the voting period in early October. The overall results and the complete Class of 2019 will be announced in January at the Australian Open. The 2019 Induction Ceremony will be hosted on July 20, 2019.

Monica Puig Defeats World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki at the Miami Open

She may have started the match slow, but Monica Puig didn’t let that stop her from dispatching one of the tournament’s top seeds at the WTA Miami Open

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican tennis player shrugged off an opening set bagel to rally past World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki 0-6 6-4 6-4 in the second round on Friday.

Monica Puig

It was Wozniacki’s fastest exit at the Miami Open. She appeared to be headed to an easy victory after winning the first set in less than 30 minutes before it all went south.

Puig broke Wozniacki’s serve in the second set to take a 4-2 lead and closed it out to even the match, and Puig, ranked No. 82 in the world, then earned an early break in the decisive set to go ahead 2-0 and held on for the victory.

Puig, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, clinched the win with a blistering forehand winner on the second match point.

She now faces Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the third round.

Garbine Muguruza Named WTA Player of the Year

Garbine Muguruza is capping off the year with a special honor…

The 24-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan player, this year’s Wimbledon champion, has been named the WTA Player of the Year.

Garbine Muguruza

The women’s tennis tour announced the annual honors Friday. The awards are voted on by members of the media.

Muguruza beat Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final in July for her second Grand Slam title, then moved up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time in September.

US Open champion Sloane Stephens is the Comeback Player of the Year.

Other award recipients include French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko as Most Improved Player, CiCi Bellis as Newcomer of the Year, and Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan as Doubles Team of the Year.

Garbine Muguruza Wins Her First Western & Southern Open Title

Garbine Muguruza has claimed her first title in the United States…

The 23-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player added another trophy in her breakthrough summer, beating Simona Halep on Sunday for her first Western & Southern Open title.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza’s 6-1, 6-0 win in only 56 minutes extended her streak of playing deep into tournaments and denied Halep a chance to claim the No. 1 spot in the next WTA rankings.

Muguruza won her first title in the U.S. and her second of the year, after defeating Venus Williams at Wimbledon earlier this summer. In three tournaments since, she has at least reached the quarterfinals.

Muguruza broke Halep to go up 2-0 in the first set and was in control. Halep won only 12 points in the set, which lasted 23 minutes. Muguruza broke her again to open the second set and faced only two break points all match.

When it ended, Muguruza congratulated Halep and walked around the court with her smiling face cradled in both hands, taking it all in. Then she put her hands over her heart and reached toward the applauding crowd.

The women’s bracket was missing Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Muguruza knocked off defending champion Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Garbine Muguruza Upsets Karolina Pliskova to Reach Western & Southern Open Final

Garbine Muguruza has taken down the world No. 1 to reach her first Western & Southern Open final.

The 23-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player and reigning Wimbledon champion beat World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova to secure a place in Sunday’s final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where she’ll take on No. 2 seed Simona Halep.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza came through 6-3, 6-2, having set the tone after breaking Pliskova in the very first game.

Muguruza kept the pressure on Pliskova’s serve, securing a key break to lead 4-2 in the second set before closing out victory in one hour and 21 minutes after taking a fifth match-point chance against the top seed.

Halep, meanwhile, could take over from Pliskova at the top of the WTA rankings if she’s able to win the tournament.

Halep had to battle past British No. 1 Johanna Konta 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) in their quarterfinal, which lasted almost two hours.

However, Halep coasted through the second semifinal with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Sloane Stephens in just 56 minutes.