Maria Sharapova loses to Magdalena Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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Maria Sharapova

​Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova crashed out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Tuesday, losing in straight sets to Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, overcame the former world number one 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in one hour, 53 minutes to level her head-to-head record with Sharapova at one all.

Sharapova was appearing in front of her home fans just 48 hours after claiming the Tianjin Open, her first title since returning in April from a 15-month doping ban.

The Kremlin Cup was the world number 57’s eighth wildcard invitation since testing positive for the banned substance meldonium in early 2016.

“I fought hard today as I really wanted to show my best in Moscow after a 10-year break,” the 30-year-old said.

“If it hadn’t been the Kremlin Cup I probably wouldn’t have come to play in any other event after playing five matches in five days in China.

“Physically I felt I was well but it seems that it wasn’t enough to win today.

“She (Rybarikova) played really intelligent tennis. She played skilfully, running for every single ball.”

The pair traded breaks late in the opening set, which Bratislava resident Rybarikova took in a tiebreak after one hour, seven minutes on court.

The second set was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Rybarikova breaking in the 10th game to take the set and the match.

“It was very difficult for me, because it felt like the Fed Cup. It’s absolutely normal, Maria is a huge superstar here and she’s a real champion,” said Rybarikova, who is seeking her fifth career WTA title this week.

“I’m happy that I went through this match, and it’s good for my confidence. I’m very happy with that,” she added.​

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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to face off for Shanghai Masters title

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Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet in Sunday’s final of the Shanghai Masters, just the latest chapter in their storied rivalry.

The celebrated duo have faced one another 37 times, with the Spaniard and world number one Nadal winning 23 of their contests.

And the 31-year-old Nadal, who has never won the Shanghai Masters, will be slight favourite this time because he goes into the showdown on a terrific run of form and Federer faces a quicker turn around.

Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, triumphed at the US Open and then last week at the China Open for his sixth title of another remarkable campaign.

But he was forced to survive a rollercoaster with fourth seed Marin Cilic in their semi-final, saving three set points in the opener before pulling through 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).

The Swiss Federer, the world number two chasing a second Shanghai crown, rolled back the years to recover from a set down and defeat Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The 36-year-old Federer afterwards dismissed concerns about his shorter rest time – his was the later match – and called the rivalry with Nadal “special”.

“The way we both play, play so very different from one another, and also the attitude, the way we go through our lives, it’s all very different in some ways,” said Federer, a crowd favourite in Shanghai.

“But we have a similar mindset in the big moments, I came to realise that when we played doubles (together recently at the Laver Cup).

“No sense of urgency or panic. You can tell we have been there many, many times before.

“He’s a great champ and he’s definitely one of the guys that makes me a better player.

“He made me rework my game and go back to the practice courts and think about what I could change.

“For that I’m happy for the losses I took (against him) and it’s nice that at this stage of my career we still have these matches going on.”

Federer had said that he wanted revenge over the 16th-seeded Argentine Del Potro for defeat in the quarter-finals at the US Open this summer.

And he eventually got it.

Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion whose career has been blighted by wrist injuries, quickly allayed fears that his latest problem would be a major handicap.

The 29-year-old fell and hurt his left wrist in winning his quarter-final and there were suggestions he may not even make Saturday’s match.

But he showed no ill effects in stunning the pro-Federer crowd to break for 4-2 in the first set.

And Del Potro grasped set point following a thrilling rally that had the spectators whooping, only for 19-time Grand Slam champion Federer to inexplicably shank his volley out of the court.

The second set went with serve until Federer, going after a 94th singles title, made the breakthrough on the Del Potro serve to inch ahead.

Del Potro began showing irritation, engaging in a series of discussions with the umpire, complaining about the crowd chatting during points.

Federer sent the match into a deciding third set and he got the break early to tee up another Nadal meeting.

TOUGH MATCH

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Croatia’s Cilic had only ever got the better of Nadal once in five previous meetings, but he made the top seed work hard for this latest win.

Nadal said he was just glad to be in the final. “The way doesn’t matter,” he said with a smile.

“We are at the highest level of our sport so nobody wins easy.

“And if you want to compete in the most important events of the year and try to go for the victories, for sure you’re going to have tough matches, and today was one of them.”

Nadal displayed a flash of irritation at one point during the second set, as he and Cilic swapped breaks, bashing himself on the knee twice in annoyance with his racquet.

The Spaniard, who has surged back to world number one after a succession of injuries, brushed the incident off.

“Sometimes I get frustrated too, that’s all,” he said.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Caroline Wozniacki begins Hong Kong Open title defence with win over Eugenie Bouchard

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In-form: Wozniacki.

In-form Caroline Wozniacki started the defence of her WTA Hong Kong Open title in rampant style by blowing away Eugenie Bouchard 6-1, 6-1 on Tuesday.

Wozniacki, seeded three and a recent winner of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, dominated the first-round match as Bouchard was forced into a cascade of errors.

Wozniacki never looked remotely in trouble against the former golden girl of tennis, breaking her serve almost at will, and cruising to victory in only 58 minutes.

“It was a great start,” Wozniacki told reporters.

“I feel like I played pretty well, tried to stay aggressive and tried to make her feel pressured and it worked,” added the world number six.

“She never gave me a chance tonight,” said a crestfallen Bouchard.

For the Canadian, once the poster girl for the future of women’s tennis, it was another chastening defeat as the 23-year-old rides the crest of the biggest slump of her young career.

It seems a world away from Bouchard’s breakthrough season of 2014 when her easy-going personality and media friendly appearances were lapped up after she made the Wimbledon final and semi-finals at the Australian and French Opens while soaring to fourth in the world.

Three years on, her career is in freefall and she languishes at 78th having had just one run to a quarter-final in 2017, on the Madrid clay in early May.

Since a second-round exit at the French Open at the end of May, she has won just two matches on tour and it was easy to see why as she crumbled again.

“I really don’t want to look back at previous years,” said a disappointed Bouchard.

“I need to look forward and try to get better than I am now.”

WILLIAMS CRUISES

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

Second seed Venus Williams raced through her opening match 6-2, 6-2 against Japan’s Risa Ozaki in just 74 minutes.

It was an ideal way for Williams to shake off any rust in her first outing since losing to Sloane Stephens in the US Open semi-final a month ago.

Williams punctuated the performance with some trademark power winners and sent down seven aces to overwhelm the world number 95.

“Four weeks goes by pretty fast and the first match is never perfect,” said Williams, who dropped her own serve twice.

“It was a hard-fought match despite the score and it was a great way to start.”

Williams, 37 but seemingly ageless, has enjoyed a magnificent season, reaching two Grand Slam finals to qualify for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore for the first time since 2009.

The second seed faces another Japanese opponent in Naomi Osaka in the second round after she overcame Chilean qualifier Alexa Guarachi 7-5, 6-4.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland swept past local wildcard Zhang Ling 6-1, 6-2 to set up a second-round meeting with former US Open champion Sam Stosur.

“I’ve known Sam for many years, although we didn’t play for a while. I think it’s going to be a really good match,” Radwanska said.

Number one seed Elina Svitolina came through a tough examination against Zarina Dyas, eventually triumphing 6-4, 7-6 in one hour and 43 minutes. 

The Ukrainian world number four trailed 3-0 to the player from Kazakhstan before reeling off five games in a row with a succession of forehand winners and closing out the first set 6-4.

Sporting a heavily strapped left thigh, Svitolina twice failed to serve out for the match in the second set at 5-4 and 6-5 before securing the tiebreak.

Fifth seed Elena Vesnina of Russia suffered the only upset of the first round when she was stunned 6-3, 6-4 by Thailand’s world number 130 Luksika Kumkhum.​

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