LYON/WASHINGTON, March 2, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
Ekaterina Alexandrova had begun her season in fine form, reaching the semifinals of the Gippsland Trophy in Australia bookended by a couple of third-round performances in Abu Dhabi and the Australian Open. She earned a couple of Top 20 wins against Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep in the Gippsland Trophy during her stay in Melbourne.
As the 32nd-ranked Alexandrova of Russia arrived for this week’s Open 6ème Sens Métropole de Lyon in France seeded No. 1 in this WTA 250 indoor hardcourt event at Halle Tony Garnier, she led the WTA in service aces with 73 through her first 10 matches and held a 7-3 win-loss record.
On Monday, everything caved in on the 26-year-old Alexandrova. That’s because 18-year-old Danish teenager Clara Tauson, a former junior World No. 1, had other plans – like winning for the second time in her young career over a Top 50 opponent.
After going through weekend qualifying to make the main draw, Tauson upset the No. 1 seed Alexandrova 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 32 minutes – despite needing seven match points to close out the victory – and, now, finds herself into the second round in Lyon.
Tremendous from Tauson! 🤩🇩🇰
— wta (@WTA) March 1, 2021
“Honestly, I feel I played good on my match points and I wasn’t too nervous,” Tauson recalled for Tennis TourTalk during a virtual one-on-one interview after her triumph. “[Ekaterina] was hitting winners and playing even really good on those points. What was going through my head was that I was in the lead – even though when I had to serve it out at 5-4 after being broken. I still felt like I was in the lead. I was just trying to keep my head calm and to remember I was in front.”
When Tauson was asked if this was her biggest victory as a pro, she demurred. Instead, she said: “I think winning the first round in the French Open was a little bigger for me, but this is one of my biggest [victories].
“I think [today] I played better in the longer rallies. We had quite a few long rallies in which I thought I was playing well. Maybe, I was in front in the point or leading the point. It was more even, I think, than the scores looked like.”
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Tauson’s steady ascent up the WTA rankings after a celebrated junior career where she won the 2019 Australian Open girls’ singles title and beat US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady in the first round of Roland Garros, has drawn notice. Since then, she recently won a pair of ITF W25 events in Fujairah, U.A.E., and Altenkirchen, Germany, and this week, Tauson is celebrating a career-best ranking of No. 139. This year, she’s 15-3 in all competitions and 35-8 since the resumption of the tour last summer.
“I’m happy that I played really good against a top player – I played solid,” Tauson said of her victory over Alexandrova. “It’s definitely a confidence boost.”
While it remains to be seen if Tauson is a worthy Danish successor to the retired Caroline Wozniacki, the future is promising for the native of Copenhagen.
• Other Monday winners in Lyon: No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France, who came back from a set down to beat Magdalena Frech of Poland, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5; No. 8 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who advanced over Wang Xiyu of China 7-6 (6), 7-4; Greet Minnen of Belgium, who beat Katarzyna Kawa of Poland, 7-5, 7-5; Timea Babos of Hungary, who held on to beat Varvara Gracheva of Russia, 6-4 5-7, 6-3; and Camila Giorgi of Italy, who defeated Victoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-3. There was one other seed besides Alexandrova who lost: No. 6 Sorana Cirstea of Romania was upset by Nina Stojanovic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-0.
Tennis TourTalk asked the 46th-ranked Ferro why she thought she was able to pull out a victory after losing the first set to move on to the next round. She said: “I think my fighting spirit saved me and my attitude because I wasn’t perfect; I made a lot of mistakes. I’m proud of the way I behaved and my attitude.”
Ferro fights on! 💪
— wta (@WTA) March 1, 2021
Now that Ferro is the highest remaining seed at No. 2 following the upset of No. 1 Alexandrova, the French No. 2 said, “Of course it’s a challenge, but it doesn’t add any extra pressure. We saw today that every match is difficult, even in match where an opponent is ranked lower than me. For sure, the next match is going to be a fight. I’m ready for that.”
Ferro will face a qualifier, either Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy or Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic, on Wednesday.
Q & A with Elina Svitolina
World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is the top seed at this week’s Qatar Total Open in Doha. It’s her first tournament since losing to Jessica Pegula in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Svitolina arrived in the Middle East with an 8-3 win-loss record and awaits the winner between Tuesday’s match between Zheng Saisai of China and Japan’s Misaki Doi. In the meantime, Svitolina sat down with reporters Monday afternoon in Doha and Tennis TourTalk had the opportunity to ask her about her loss to Pegula, playing doubles with Victoria Azarenka, where she draws her inspiration from to create her creative TikTok videos, and what she thinks about the current colorful Nike styles she began sporting Down Under.
• Tennis TourTalk: You’re coming into this tournament having reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, and. You lost a tough match to Jessica Pegula, someone you beat in Abu Dhabi. I wanted to find out what you learned from your loss against her. What do you bring forward with you now that y ou’ve had some time since that last match?
“Well, definitely was a tough one. I was playing really good from the beginning of [the] Australian swing and I was feeling really good, and was really sad that I couldn’t go further than the fourth round.
“I think I could go much further, and for sure my goal was to win the tournament. Unfortunately, I played not very good that match and just have to, you know, to analyze. I have to move forward.
“I mean, it’s not much to say, because she played really good at the end of the third set and went for it, and I missed my chances to come back to play well, because she was 4-1 up and then 4-3 and I was serving.
• Tennis TourTalk: This week in Doha you’re scheduled to play doubles with Victoria Azarenka. How did that come about?
“Well, we played a couple of times before, and we are friends. I think it’s nice to play with someone with who you feel comfortable.
“It’s, yeah, just nice to play some doubles, to get used to the surface after Australia. I think you have to regroup really quickly, and I think doubles is one of the ways that you can practice, you can try to adapt quickly.”
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) March 1, 2021
• Tennis TourTalk: I came across your latest TikTok video you created since arriving in Doha. Where do you draw your inspiration for creating them and how long does it take to produce each video?
“The inspiration just comes like instant. You know, I think that it should come like that. I try to sometimes to think, really like sit down and think that I have to do a new TikTok, and that’s not very natural.
“This one just came like instant, and I was thinking that maybe I should post some kind of welcome, like, to Doha. I thought about TikTok, so that’s, yeah, it was very natural.
“Normally takes – it depends. I think the most, the toughest one was for Nike I did to present the new collection. That one took maybe two-and-one-half hours.
“This one was quite easy, and, you know, I really enjoy sharing with people some fun videos. Some, like, piece of me that I think that they can like and to make their day better, to share with them a little bit of story of [a] professional tennis player.
“So, I really enjoy sharing that, and I try to all the time to do something fun (smiling).”
• Tennis TourTalk: Speaking of the Nike collection that you debuted in Melbourne, what do you think of the current style? Certainly, there’s a lot of different colors and combinations.
“There have been many amazing ones, but this one I think is something even more special. And now we have I think five different styles. So, everyone can mix and match, and that’s defintely really nice for the players and I think also for people who are watching tennis to see something different. I really love it.”
Federer pulls out of Miami Open
While the countdown to Roger Federer’s return to the ATP Tour has begun – he’s entered in next week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha – on Monday, he announced his decision to bypass the Miami Open, which begins in three weeks. Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, told the Miami Herald that the Swiss superstar plans to play Doha, and possibly Dubai the following week. Then, he will take a training break to prepare for the European clay season.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 26, 2021
Roger Federer withdraws from upcoming Miami Open. Here is why he’s skipping March event https://t.co/QCE1hatn3O
— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) March 1, 2021
What they’re saying
• Aryna Sabalenka, newly ranked No. 1 in doubles following her title victory at last month’s Australian Open with Elise Mertens, was asked if her doubles success has changed her approach to her singles game: “Well, of course, I’m really happy to be No. 1 in doubles. This, I would say, something unexpected, and at the same time it’s really amazing and really great to be No. 1.
“But I still want to put more focus on singles, and that why we made a decision with Elise to not play doubles in the Grand Slams. We’re still going to play Dubai, Miami, like big event, but in the Grand Slams we’re going to focus on singles and just see what happens.”
— wta (@WTA) February 19, 2021
What they’re sharing on social media
Patrick Mouratoglou / The ‘M’ Factor
Always knew @AlexeiPopyrin99 had the factor…
Congratulations on your first ATP title, Alexei pic.twitter.com/VP8ZAF4O8x
— Patrick Mouratoglou (@pmouratoglou) February 28, 2021
Martina Navratilova / I’m so excited and relieved
Just got my first shot- Pfizer- and I am so excited and relieved and happy etc- if there are any antivaxxers out here- if you can- please get the vaccine… pic.twitter.com/uWeccCQi9k
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) February 28, 2021