A Change Of Scenery Good For Teichmann And Svitolina

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Sometimes, a change of scenery does a player good. Take Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, for instance. After a disappointing first-round loss on clay last week in Rome, Teichmann has returned strong on the terre battue in Strasbourg, France, with back-to-back quality wins over No. 6 seed Amanda Anisimova and 2018 Strasbourg titlist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Teichmann’s 7-6 (3), 7-5 win against Pavlyuchenkova that began play Tuesday afternoon on Patrice Dominguez Court at Tennis Club de Strasbourg lifted the Swiss No. 2 into Thursday’s quarterfinal round against No. 2 seed Elina Svitolina, who rallied to beat 36th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland, 7-6 (0), 7-5.

Teichmann came on strong at the end of her one hour and 57-minute match against the 38th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova from Russia, winning 16 of the final 20 points.

“I cannot really say [why I was the better player],” said Teichmann in a video chat with Tennis TourTalk after her victory. “I focused on every point. I was 5-3 down. She was really playing very good; she upped her game. I played each point, game by game, and I just kept playing better and better.”

Following a 7-3 hard court swing in the United States after the WTA relaunch, in which she was runner-up at Lexington, Ky., Teichmann is 2-1 on clay. Overall, she’s 15-10 in all competitions this year.

Reflecting upon her 6-3, 6-3 loss in Rome last week, to 59th-ranked Anna Blinkova of Russia, Teichmann said: “Obviously, it was my first match on clay, so it’s always a bit different. I didn’t find perfectly my game, but Anna Blinkova played really well. So, all the praise to her.”

Teichmann was asked if it’s been difficult to acclimate herself to clay after spending a month playing on hardcourts in the United States. Honestly, I thought it would be tougher,” she said. “When I restarted [after taking some time off], I restarted on clay, six-seven-eight weeks on clay. It really helped me for the comeback right now from hardcourt to clay court.”

With a quarterfinal match against Svitolina coming up, plus the start of Roland Garros next week, Teichmann’s got a lot to think about. “It’s going to be a tough match,” she said. “Honestly, I’m just thinking about this week.

“Next week, Roland Garros is obviously a big tournament, a Grand Slam. It’s very important for everyone. I’m just focusing on my matches here, taking it day by day. Next week will be another story.”

Svitolina: ‘I was just trying to fight’

Meanwhile, Svitolina arrived in Strasbourg as the second seed behind Karolina Pliskova following her quarterfinal finish in Rome. However, after the World No. 4 pulled out of the tournament over the weekend because she was still competing in the Italian Open, it elevated Svitolina into the de-facto top spot.

For a while, the World No. 5 from Ukraine looked ripe for an upset. However, she came on strong to garner the first-set tiebreak without losing a point and recovered from a double-break down in the second set to beat Linette, 7-6 (0), 7-5, in one hour and 58 minutes. She’s now 2-0 lifetime against the Polish No. 1.

Svitolina saved seven of 11 break points, broke Linette’s serve five times in six tries and outpointed her opponent 96-81 to advance against Teichmann.

“It definitely was not easy,” said Svitolina during a Zoom chat with reporters after her victory. “It was up and down. She was fighting back; she was trying to produce a good level. I was up and down. It’s not easy to come from another tournament with different balls, different conditions. It was not easy. I was trying just to fight, and, in the end, I was lucky I finished in two sets. Both sets were difficult.”

Svitolina came to Strasbourg after losing in the Rome quarterfinals to Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova, in her first tournament since Monterrey back in early March. She battled both an upset-minded opponent in Linette as well as her own up-and-down level of play. Both two points away from dropping the opening set as well as facing a set point on Linette’s serve in the second set, Svitolina kept coming up with big points in critical moments that enabled her to work out of trouble and advance to the Strasbourg quarterfinals.

“Definitely when you are down and you don’t want to lose a set, you are more aware of what’s going on,” Svitolina admitted. “You are trying to be 100 percent focused and not give easy points to your opponents. So, you are slightly more focused – and if you get through this, you are rewarded – you get back into the match. If not, you lose the set. 

“So, it’s kind of a tricky situation. But, when I was down, I was playing quite good. So, it was important for me to stay in the match and not lose the set.”

Rybakina overcomes Cornet 

In a featured afternoon match, seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan advanced over 2013 Strasbourg champion Alizé Cornet from France, 6-3, 7-6 (8), to reach her first clay-court quarterfinal of the season.

Although the No. 52 Cornet saved five match points during the one hour and 49-minute second-round encounter before succumbing to the Hobart champion during a second-set tiebreak, she expressed disappointed in the outcome and wondered what might have been had she been able to win the tiebreak and extend the match to a deciding set.

Cornet told Tennis TourTalk: “I thought I was in control of the second set. I came back from the match points and I’m disappointed that I lost the tiebreak. I would have loved to go into a third set. I thought I was playing better and better throughout the match. It’s a big shame I couldn’t make it – I had set points [at 6-5 and in the tiebreak] but didn’t play very well – but that’s tennis. It can be very contrite at times.”

The 18th-ranked Rybakina, who earlier this year beat Cornet in straight sets during her run to the title in Hobart, improved her tiebreak record this season to 8-6. It was her 26th victory of the year and fifth in eight matches since the relaunch.

When Rybakina was asked by Tennis TourTalk what the difference between winning and losing was, she said: “I was just focusing on every point, because it’s not the first time I’m actually up [in the score]. Last tournament in Rome, I was up, for example, and my concentration went down. I just knew that I had to focus on every point. It doesn’t matter the score, just work every point and try to do my best.”

Rybakina credited Cornet for making her work hard for her victory. She said: “She played really good from 4-2. She was defending every point, she was fighting until the end. So, it was not easy, of course.”

A learning experience for French teen Burel

Next, Rybakina will face 40th-ranked qualifier Zhang Shuai of China, who held off the challenge of 415th-ranked French wild card Clara Burel, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in one hour and 48 minutes It was Zhang’s first main draw win since the Australian Open. Burel, a 19-year-old former junior World No. 1 from Rennes, France, earned her first WTA tour-level win Sunday when she beat No. 287 Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, and was seeking her first Top 100 victory against Zhang.

In the second set, Burel had a couple of set points that she wasn’t able to cash in. Then, during the tiebreak, Zhang came back from down 1-2 and captured six of the last seven points – breaking Burel’s serve four times – to win the match.

Despite losing to Zhang, Burel considered it a good experience for her. “It was a positive match for me, it was close – especially the second set. I have to learn from this match,” she said.

Burel, who was runner-up at the 2018 Australian Open and US Open junior competitions, is coming back from a wrist injury that sidelined her through much of 2019. She said beating Bondarenko to gain her first WTA tour-level victory helped boost her confidence. “For me, I now know I can beat one of those players who are Top 50,” she said.

Next week, Burel will play in the main draw of the French Open after being awarded a coveted wild card. Asked what kind of goals she’s set for herself for the remainder of this year, beyond doing well at Roland Garros, Burel replied: “Just improving my game.”

Ostapenko-Dabrowski through to Strasbourg semifinals

Seconds seeds Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Gaby Dabrowski from Canada are the first through to the semifinal round at Strasbourg. Ostapenko (ranked 19th) and Dabrowski (8th) defeated Japan’s Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya, 7-5, 6-1. The Latvian/Canadian pair formed in 2017 and have compiled a 21-7 win-loss record together, including one title. They were finalists at Doha before the WTA tour shutdown in March. They’ve reached the quarterfinals or better in three of four tournaments they’ve entered this year.

On Monday, Tennis TourTalk asked Ostapenko what makes her and Dabrowski a formidable team. She said: “I enjoy playing doubles and I never put any pressure on myself. When I play doubles, I’m much looser. My priority is still singles, but with Gaby we’re friends. I play good at the baseline and she’s good at the net. The chemistry is working.”

Andreescu bids adieu to 2020 season

World No. 7 Bianca Andreescu announced via social media Tuesday she would skip the autumn clay season and take the remainder of the 2020 season off “to focus on my health and training.”

The 2019 US Open champion, who has not played this year due to injuries that began at last year’s WTA Finals, called it a “difficult decision” but said “I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics.” 

Andreescu went on to say she wants to use her down time “to focus on my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever.”

What they’re saying in Strasbourg

Elina Svitolina on bypassing the U.S. hardcourt season, including the US Open, to remain in Europe practicing on clay: “I don’t have any regrets. First, it was not easy because it was the first time I had missed a Grand Slam. I was a little bit sad that I couldn’t go, but at the same time, I had to really think what was important for me and that was preparation for the clay [season]. I trained for four and one-half months on clay, so I could be really strong mentally and not be so down. Even not playing so great in Rome, it was important for me to not doubt myself and to try to work hard. Every tournament now is a treasure.”

Alize Cornet, following her loss to Elena Rybakina: “Right now, there’s nothing [to learn from this loss], to be honest, but maybe in a few hours I will learn something. I hope someday that I can turn around and finally make the crucial points that can turn a match around. Yes, I’m disappointed but I can still learn something.”

Elena Rybakina, looking ahead to the quarterfinal round against Zhang Shuai: “I have to think about the tactics, and focus on my serve. Today, in the beginning of the match, it was good, the serve, but then I dropped a bit, doing many double faults in the second set. So, I’ll focus on serve, and we’ll see how it goes.”

What they’re saying in Hamburg

Felix Auger-Aliassime on what made the difference between winning and losing his match against Lorenzo Sonego: “I think I served well from the start. Taking the first set was an advantage in the tennis match; it was a good thing. I saved all the break points in the second set. When things got tighter, I got tighter. But I was able to serve well and keep pressure on [my opponent] in the tiebreak. … I think my game is adapting well.”

• Hamburg European Opener qualifier Tommy Paul of the United States, who faces fifth seed Andrey Rublev in a second-round match on Wednesday, won the 2015 Roland Garros junior boys singles title. After his three-set win over Kevin Anderson Monday, he was asked what it was like transitioning from playing juniors to ATP Tour-level competition after he turned pro: “The players are a lot better. They’re better from the beginning of a tournament; you have to be ready to play. There’s a world-class player in every first round of a tournament. In the juniors, I would relax through my first and second rounds before things would start getting tougher.”

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