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Madison rises above in Charleston

Grace Beahm of The Post and Courier

By Editorial Team

Madison Keys was able to beat her long-time friend for the first time after 4 attempts today at the Charleston, SC Volvo Open.

This event hosts some of the top WTA players in the world each year. With Sloane as a past champion and #1 seed, expectations for another title after a disappointing loss in the Miami Open would have been a major boost this season.

Net play was the difference. Madison was able to come in to the net more in this match. This put extra pressure on Sloane to hit deeper into the court. With a few key unforced errors down the stretch by Sloane, Madison took the 3rd and final set 6-2 in dominating fashion with a host of big forehand winners.

Sloane has had a rocky start to the year after losing her coach, Kamau Murray to the veteran Monica Puig this year. Slaone has been almost forced to work with the USTA and others to find her rhythm and stability on tour.

It appears that Monica is transitioning nicely with Kamau as she has made her first semifinal appearance this season and now must face the battle tested Keys for a spot in the finals.

As for Madison, see seeks an important title after reaching the semifinal round last year – losing to the eventual champion, KiKi Bertens.

In order for Madison to push through she must continue to pound forehands and maintain her composure late in the match. Monica will test her consistency early in the match, but Madison should be able to come out victorious over her less talented opponent.

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Pro Tour

2019 Wimbledon Wildcards: Clarke, Watson, Jubb & Gauff

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By Editorial Team

Grass court season is coming into full bloom as the Wimbledon Championships are only days away; the qualifying rounds begin on Monday the 24th. This year there were four black wildcards that will compete for a title.

The timing of the wildcard announcement caught both fans and players off-guard. Some players only had days to prepare for their qualifying matches with such late notices. In addition, according to the website, there are still 6 spots available (2 men and 4 women) that have not been used or reserved for next direct acceptance.

Regardless of the selection process or timing, this year’s wildcards are very deserving and have a real chance of making a dent in the main draw. Many have been competing in the warm-up tournaments this week and last week honing their games and adjusting to the high level of play expected during the Championships at the  All England Club.

The draws have not been released yet, but our Editorial Team has put together the current list of wildcards and their status leading into the tournament.

Jay Clarke is one of England’s rising stars. With a top 150 ranking he is sure to make a splash in this year’s main draw as a wildcard recipient. Jay has the perfect all-around game for the grass courts as he is able to serve and volley effortlessly and attack using his big forehand weapon from the ground. It is important that Jay continue his quest toward the top 100 and a couple of wins in the main draw will definitely springboard this young 20 year old into tennis stardom.

Heather Watson is definitely not new to this. This is her 6th year at Wimbledon, but she is still gathering her footing on the WTA Tour after the close upset she had against Serena several years back at Wimbledon. Heather will attempt to rekindle that spark once lit. With a more focused and consistent training schedule and better efforts in major events, Heather could easily go deep in grand slams. She is hoping that a couple of wins here in Wimbledon could put her back into the spotlight as the top European tennis talent.

Paul Jubb is also an England homeboy who made such a heroic effort to win the 2019 NCAA Collegiate Championships last month. In addition to the main draw US Open wildcard he was able secure the Wimbledon main draw wildcard due to his British heritage. Paul could make some noise in the main draw with a big win, but he will mostly likely use the experience to propel his pro career and hopefully sidestep the more grueling ITF World Tennis Tour. Expect to see great things from the University of South Carolina tennis star.

Cori Gauff has been coming on strong professionally this year after winning the French Open Juniors last year and getting past the first round in the Miami Open. This qualifying draw wildcard definitely gives her a boost to complete against the world’s best. One of Cori’s biggest strengths is that she is a very quick learner and can make adjustments from tournament to tournament. Expect to see a qualifying winner and main draw birth from one of the world’s best young talents at age 15.

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Pro Tour

Felix to face “the showman” Brown in Stuttgart Quarters

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By Editorial Team

The French Open is in the rearview mirror for the pro tour and grass court play has begun in Europe. Felix Aguer-Aliassime is getting off to a quick start in Stuttgart this week at the Mercedes Cup with a big win against a former top 10 tour player, Gilles Simon.

The match was a display of power and perfect form as Felix was able to win 79% of his first serve points in addition to throwing in 15 aces, easily defeating Gilles 7-5, 6-4.

It seemed like Felix was in full stride with big forehand winners while driving backhands into the open court. Felix is making his way into the net more by following his huge serve which seems to be deadly on the faster grass surface.

With the win today Felix must now contend with the super-talented Dustin Brown in the quarterfinal round. Dustin had a much tougher opponent in the R16 against number one seed Alexander Zverev.

Dustin got off to a great start with an early break and first set win to put himself in position to receive a match point in the second set. Dustin was able to run Alex north to south in an unorthodox style of play to edge out the win decisively in the third set winning 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

Up next should be a classic match between a power player and a finesse player. Felix should be able to run down the north-south patterns and make Dustin pay for opening up the court.

Dustin must cut down on unforced errors at the baseline and attack the net on every occasion. Dustin has such a natural serve and volley game on grass; this should benefit him as he plays more warm-up tournaments leading up to Wimbledon.

Felix is blazing the ATP Tour and seems fresh after withdrawing from the French Open due to injury. Players, including Rafa Nadal, are taking notice of the 18 year old from Canada.

With a likely win here, Felix would make his fourth semi-final appearance this season and possibly his first big ATP Tour 250 title win of his career. Ranked #21 in world doesn’t hurt either as he comes into Wimbledon as a seeded favorite.

Felix stated in regards to his chances here in Stuttgart,

“I still have a lot of things to learn on this surface, moving, coming forward, mixing shots, but it is all positive at the moment. I’m still chasing my first title and it would be cool to grab it here in Stuttgart or later this year.”

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Pro Tour

Sloane edges closer to French Open title

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By Editorial Team

Sloane Stephens passed a huge test today against Garbine Muguruza who seemed to be playing top tennis coming into the round of 16 match today.

Sloane had to overcome an early service break in the first set to reel off consecutive games with a 6-4 first set. win.

With the wind at her back she was able to maintain her focus and rip passing shots by the more impatient Muguruza as she approached the net against her faster opponent.

The road to the finals shifts into full gear now as Sloane must face a former top-5 player, Johanna Konta on Tuesday. Sloane’s match history against Johanna has not been a blazing success by any stretch. With no wins to speak of and losses this season on both clay and hard courts, Sloane must strategically position herself and muster up a much needed win.

Johanna is the more aggressive player who enjoys taking balls on the rise so Sloane must use her speed to retrieve balls while drawing her less graceful opponent into the net.

The match will come down to execution during the big points. Sloane appears to be in a zone with her game coming together in a timely fashion and fit enough to last three sets if needed. This is sure to be a fight to the finish as both players are set to be heavy favorites coming into the semifinal round.

The bottom half of the draw is wide open with Sloane in great position to take full advantage of Pliskova, Wozniacki and Kerber all dismissed in the early rounds. Sloane anticipates a rematch against Halep or Keys in the finals, but she must get past Konta on Tuesday whom she has not managed to defeat in any of their previous matches in Rome or Brisbane.

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