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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Garcia outlasts Vekic to win Nottingham Open

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Garcia outlasts Vekic to win Nottingham Open

MEDIA CREDITS: Tim Goode/PA via AP – Tennis-WTA-Garcia-celebrates-win

NOTTINGHAM, England — Caroline Garcia of France defeated former champion Donna Vekic 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) to win her first title of the year at the Nottingham Open on Sunday.

Top-seeded Garcia, who finished her 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 semifinal victory over American Jennifer Brady earlier Sunday, recovered after losing the first set to outlast the 2017 winner over more than 2 1/2 hours.

It was the 28th-ranked Garcia’s seventh career title and her second on grass after her win in Mallorca in 2016.

Both players hit seven aces and Vekic converted all four of her break points, with Garcia going 2-for-2 on break points.

The rain finally held off after ravaging much of the rest of the tournament. The opening two days were completely washed out before organizers decided to switch the first and second round matches indoors, while Vekic’s quarterfinal against Kristina Mladenovic started on grass but had to be completed indoors on Friday.

Sun, 16 Jun 2019 15:58:33 EDT

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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Fernandez hopes to follow idol’s footsteps after French Open title

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Fernandez hopes to follow idol’s footsteps after French Open title

MEDIA CREDITS: Jean-Francois Badias/AP – Leylah-Annie-Fernandez

MONTREAL — Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez achieved her primary goal for this season by winning the French Open junior girls’ singles title, but now an even more daunting task awaits her — making the transition to the pro tour.

Fernandez, who is just 16, makes no secret of her desire to follow in the footsteps of one of her idols, Justine Henin. The Belgian won the junior title at Roland Garros in 1997 before going on to win the women’s title in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Henin, now 37, won a total of seven Grand Slam titles over her career.

"A coach told me that my game resembles hers a lot," the Laval, Que., native told reporters Tuesday in Montreal. "I am very happy to hear that, because I want to win Grand Slam tournaments. I want to have her attitude. She is fast, she is strong, she is very intelligent on the court."

By all appearances, she is on the right track.

She is the first Canadian to have won the junior girls’ French Open title. The only other Canadian to win a Grand Slam girls’ title was Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon in 2012.

Fernandez realizes she still has a lot to learn before she can be compared to Henin, and she knows significant changes will be needed to allow her to excel on tennis’s biggest stage

She currently trains in Florida, where her father Jorge Fernandez is her coach. She is not part of the national development program, which means she does not receive the support and funding of Tennis Canada. However her father and Sylvain Bruneau, the coach in charge of Tennis Canada’s women’s program, have been in discussions for several weeks to bring her to the next level.

"Leylah is among the elite young players in Canada — think of Denis [Shapovalov], Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and Bianca [Andreescu]," Bruneau said. "Yes, she trains in Florida, but Tennis Canada is involved." He noted that Tennis Canada coach Hugo Di Feo was at Roland Garros to lend her a hand.

Bruneau said he and her father have drawn up a list of coaches who could help the young player, and a selected coach could be announced soon.

Still, Fernandez is a rough diamond who still needs polishing.

"She is only 16, so she still has a lot of work ahead of her," Bruneau said. "She’s learning. She has to continue to develop her game. However what is interesting, is that she has a lot of tools — her game is very versatile — and I believe she is already one of the best players in the world under 18."

He added that there is a good chance Fernandez will get a wild-card spot for the Rogers Cup in Toronto Aug. 3-11.

Bruneau gave media an update on Andreescu, whom he coaches and who has not played since withdrawing with an injury before her second round match at the French Open.

He said there is a good chance Andreescu will not return to competition in time for Wimbledon, which opens July 1.

"She has consulted several doctors to get some diagnoses," he said.

There is no schedule for her return, he added, but he is hopeful she will be fit to play the Rogers Cup.

Tue, 11 Jun 2019 18:19:49 EDT

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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Sharapova to return at Mallorca Open after shoulder injury

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Sharapova to return at Mallorca Open after shoulder injury

MEDIA CREDITS: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP – WTA-tennis-Sharapova-hits-return-shot

MADRID — Maria Sharapova will return to tennis at next week’s Mallorca Open after being sidelined with a right shoulder injury since January.

The Mallorca Open says the former No. 1 has accepted a wild-card invitation.

The 32-year-old Sharapova hasn’t played since her ailing shoulder forced her to withdraw from the St. Petersburg Open in January. In February, she underwent what she called a "small procedure" in hopes of dealing with the issue that had been causing her pain since last year.

Sharapova will be joined by 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who eliminated defending champion Simona Halep at the French Open and reached the semifinals.

The Mallorca Open is run by Toni Nadal, uncle and former coach of Rafael Nadal.

Mon, 10 Jun 2019 08:26:47 EDT

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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Australia’s Ash Barty wins French Open final for 1st Grand Slam title

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Australia’s Ash Barty wins French Open final for 1st Grand Slam title

MEDIA CREDITS: Michel Euler/AP – Ash-Barty

BRISBANE, Australia — Evonne Goolagong Cawley says fellow indigenous athlete Ash Barty’s first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open was "a joy to watch."

Goolagong Cawley won the French Open in 1971, the first of her seven Grand Slam singles tennis titles.

"What a wonderful result for Australia and how exciting that another Aboriginal has won at the French," Goolagong Cawley said Sunday. "I’m almost scared to say it but it’s now 48 years ago I won my first Slam there, too.

"Tennis Australia and lovers of tennis here and around the world will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses. Now they have developed into a beautiful game full of artistry, movement and power. It was there for all to marvel at in Paris. She is a joy to watch."

Goolagong Cawley went on to win Wimbledon for her second major title four weeks later in 1971. Barty will go there with renewed confidence on a grass surface she considered her favourite — until winning on clay on Saturday.

Over the past few years, Goolagong Cawley has become a mentor and friend with Barty, exchanging frequent texts, phone calls and having get-togethers when Barty is back in Australia.

Barty’s 6-1, 6-3 victory over Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the Roland Garros women’s final ended at 1:45 a.m. Sunday on the east coast of Australia. Goolagong Cawley and her husband Roger Cawley said they didn’t get to bed at their home on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane until 6 a.m. after receiving frequent international phone calls over Barty’s victory.

Goolagong Cawley also passed along her congratulations to Barty in Paris, but wanted to keep the contents of the exchange confidential.

"Ash has already heard from me and knows how happy I am for her and her lovely family," Goolagong Cawley said.

Through a great-grandmother on her father Robert’s side, Barty is descended from the Ngarigo indigenous people on the border between Victoria and New South Wales states. She considers herself an indigenous athlete and has said "my heritage is really important to me."

Barty will rise to No. 2 in the WTA rankings, the highest for an Australian woman since Goolagong Cawley, who is a member of the Wiradjuri people, was No. 1 in April 1976.

Australian legend Rod Laver, who was at Roland Garros to watch Barty win, also tweeted his congratulations .

Cricket lovers were also quick to congratulate the Australian, taking a little bit of credit for her rise in the world of tennis.

Barty took nearly two years out from tennis to play for the Brisbane Heat in Australia’s women’s cricket league. The time out from tennis seems to have done her some good, with her ranking going in the right direction since her stint with the bat and ball.

The International Cricket Council congratulated Barty in a Twitter post that said "You can take the athlete out of cricket, but you can’t take cricket out of the athlete!"

The Brisbane Heat was more effusive, telling Barty "We are so proud of you!"

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison also took to Twitter on Sunday to praise Barty’s "stunning victory in the French Open. Our newest Aussie champion!"

Sat, 08 Jun 2019 12:31:47 EDT

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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez wins French Open girls’ title

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez wins French Open girls’ title

MEDIA CREDITS: Jean-Francois Badias/AP – fernandez_1280

PARIS — Leylah Annie Fernandez wasn’t yet five years old when she sat in front of the television, watching Justine Henin and the left-handed Rafael Nadal win the 2007 French Open.

On Saturday, the 16-year-old lefty from Laval, Que., won the French Open junior girls’ singles title with an emphatic 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 8 seed Emma Navarro of the United States.

Fernandez marked the moment by kissing her racket.

"Roland Garros is very special for me because it was the first Grand Slam I saw," Fernandez said. "So being able to win here as a junior player is very special for me."

Fernandez is the first Canadian to win a junior Grand Slam singles title since Felix Auger-Aliassime won the junior US Open in 2016. She is the first girl to win one since Eugenie Bouchard won junior Wimbledon in 2012.

And she is the first Canadian ever to win the French Open juniors.

Fernandez didn’t drop a set en route to the title and lost more than games only twice in 12 sets played.

She dealt with rainouts, cold, wind, wet and muddy conditions — and even three matches in one day on Thursday.

"My first thought was, "Oh my god, I won junior Roland Garros. I’m very happy. It’s true that at the beginning of the week, I didn’t even know what round I was in," Fernandez said.

After breaking Navarro to open the second set in Saturday’s final, Fernandez found herself in a marathon game on her own serve. She ultimately lost it.

It could have been a turning point. But Fernandez regrouped.

"I just turned around and thought, ‘OK, I’m a little tired.’ But I’m sure my opponent is tired, too," she said. "I just thought of the physical work, the hours I’ve put in with my father. The hours I cried because I didn’t want to run any more. I took all that experience into that third game so I could get the momentum back."

Fernandez’s father Jorge, a former soccer player, moved the family to Florida to help foster the tennis development of his two young daughters.

"It’s been quite a journey for her in the clay tournaments. Early on, a lot of people said she was too small to play clay. The good news is that we didn’t listen to it, and I encouraged her to not give up on her dream," Jorge Fernandez said.

"She always wanted to win the French Open. Out of all the tournaments, this is the one she wanted to get done. And from a dad’s perspective, what can I say? I’m in awe. I’m just in awe."

Fernandez, who is 21-2 in four junior tournaments this season, will likely play the U.S. Open juniors. And she hopes 15-year-old sister Bianca will join her there.

But she won’t play at Wimbledon, where she lost in the second round of the singles a year ago. That decision, her father said, was made at the beginning of the season.

"It’s a scheduling thing. We made a commitment to play all the Canadian Challengers," Jorge Fernandez said. "I’m a big believer in taking care of the body. I didn’t feel it was wise, having very little break from one tournament to the next. And grass is not easy. It’s very hard on the body.

Fernandez hasn’t ruled out playing the Wimbledon juniors in 2020.

Fernandez will play a series of three professional events on Canadian soil beginning the week of July 8: $25,000 ITF events in Saskatoon, Sask. and Gatineau, Que. and then, an $80,000 tournament in Granby, Que.

After that, Fernandez hopes to play the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where she would need to be granted a wild card.

"We’re going to take it one Challenger at a time, one practice at a time," her father said. "She’s going to get stronger. She’s going to get faster. And she’s going to get smarter. And we’re going to help her develop her game.

"We hope that game will be unique enough to make a difference in the professionals. I think she has all the other attributes. Now it’s about adding a little more essence to it."

Sat, 08 Jun 2019 09:49:31 EDT

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SPORTSNET TENNIS: Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski falls in French Open mixed doubles final

SPORTSNET TENNIS: Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski falls in French Open mixed doubles final

MEDIA CREDITS: – dabrowski-tennis-french-open-canada

PARIS — For Gabriela Dabrowski, it’s all about Grand Slam titles.

The Ottawa tennis player has been to the late stages of major tournaments often enough that there’s no longer reward in just reaching a final.

There was a little more heartbreak for Dabrowski on Friday as the 27-year-old and partner Mate Pavic of Croatia, the No. 2 seeds, lost 6-1, 7-6 (5) to unseeded Latisha Chan of Taiwan and Ivan Dodig of Croatia in the French Open mixed doubles final.

It was Dabrowski’s third consecutive mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, but it was the second year in a row the Canadian and Pavic were beaten by the same team. Dabrowski won the event in 2017 with Rohan Bopanna of India.

"I think in all of our matches we kind of started a little bit slowly," said Dabrowski, who won the 2018 Australian Open mixed doubles crown with Pavic.

"So today was no different. We went up 4-1, playing much better in the second set. But we couldn’t keep the momentum, sadly. Because I think we could have won that set. And in a (match) tiebreaker, anything can happen."

Stiff winds made things difficult.

"It was really, really tough," Dabrowski said of the challenging conditions. "Sometimes, mid-point, you had clay in your eyes. It was not easy."

The loss capped a week in which Dabrowski fell a bit short of where she hoped to end up.

In women’s doubles, Dabrowski and partner Yifan Xu of China — who won a prep tournament in Germany the week before the second Grand Slam of the season — had match point to reach the French Open semifinals.

They led 5-3 in the third set, only to lose 7-5 to the unseeded Chinese pair of Saisai Zheng and Yingying Duan.

"We had a lot of good results coming into the tournament. Even Mate (Pavic) won a tournament coming in. But here in Paris, I had a couple of struggles. I rolled my ankle. And then I had my clay shoes stolen, and they were only one day old," Dabrowski said. "So there have been a couple of punches I’ve taken the last two weeks that have been a little bit rough."

Dabrowski wasn’t able to get the shoes replaced in time. She played with regular "all-court" shoes during the tournament.

Dabrowski had a Friday evening flight to London, where she will prepare for a quick transition to the grass courts. Her first tournament will be in Nottingham.

A year ago, she and Xu won a pre-Wimbledon event at Eastbourne, and then reached the semifinals at the main event.

Meanwhile, there was better news for Canada in junior girls’ singles as 16-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., reached the final.

The No. 1 seed defeated Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia 6-2, 6-4 on Friday and will play No. 8 seed Emma Navarro of the United States in the final on Saturday.

"The conditions were very difficult. A lot of wind, it was cold. It’s raining — and then it’s not raining. I felt I was stronger mentally than her, and was ready to just put one more ball into play," Fernandez said

Fernandez had to play three matches Thursday — two singles and a doubles — because of the backup caused by the Wednesday’s washout.

She showed no ill effects from that Friday. Fernandez posted her fifth consecutive straight-sets singles win.

After a close one in her first round, Fernandez has dropped just 11 games in her last eight sets played.

"From the start, I knew it’d be a difficult match," Fernandez said. "(Osorio Serrano) fights for every point. Last year, I lost to her in the U.S. Open. And I wasn’t happy. I wanted my revenge today, and I got it."

It is the second consecutive Grand Slam junior girls’ final for Fernandez, after she lost to Clara Tauson of Denmark at the Australian Open.

Tauson, the No. 1-ranked junior girl in the world, was slated to be the No. 1 seed in Paris. But after she withdrew because of injury, Fernandez (currently at No. 6) took over the top spot. She has handled the pressure like a veteran.

For Navarro, who turned 18 in May and is 16 months older than Fernandez, it is only the second junior Grand Slam tournament she qualified for with her own ranking. She received a wild card into the U.S. Open juniors last summer.

"I have the experience now of being in the final. And I’m happy to be in another one," Fernandez said. "The main thing is to have fun. And embrace the moment."

Fri, 07 Jun 2019 09:13:33 EDT

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