Guangzhou (Fri): Robson Ends 22-Year Wait For British Finalist

GRC BANK GUANGZHOU INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S OPEN
Guangzhou, China
September 17-22, 2012
$220,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Friday, September 21, 2012
Singles – Semifinals
Laura Robson (GBR) d. (3) Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 64 62
Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) d. (4) Urszula Radwanska (POL) 61 36 60

Doubles – Semifinals
(1) Gajdosova/Niculescu (AUS/ROU) d. Luzhanska/Zheng (USA/CHN) 75 76(3)
(3) Tanasugarn/Zhang (THA/CHN) d. Han/Liu (CHN/CHN) 63 63

Order Of Play – Saturday, September 22, 2012
Centre Court (from 15.00hrs)
1. Singles Final: Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Laura Robson
2. Doubles Final: Gajdosova/Niculescu vs. Tanasugarn/Zhang

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Maria Opens Up

FLUSHING MEADOWS – Maria Sharapova is back to being the front on star of tennis. She is crushing her opponents, while acting like the starlet we all know and love.

After she dispatched Mallory Burdette today – in a match where she thought she would be booed – the 25 year-old started to reflect on her career with the up and comers, like Laura Robson and Sloane Stephens making names for themselves, while Kim Clijsters is retiring to motherhood.

“Well, I’ll tell you, when I was 18 or 19, if someone told me I was going to be playing at 25, which was seven years from then, I’d be like, Stop, this is ridiculous.  You’re crazy,” she said.  “But here I am at 25 years old.  Although I didn’t play for nine, ten months in my career, I’m 25, and I feel like I have so many more years left.  I still wake up in the morning and feel like I can be better and motivated.  I have energy and I’m healthy.”

And she has a legit chance to win her second US Open and start on a second career slam, after winning the French Open this year to gain her first. After being injured with a bad shoulder, Sharapova looked like a has been in recent years, but the strength and skill has returned.

That makes for interesting topics from the mercurial Russian, who at times can seem somewhat arrogant. But that’s her nature and she doesn’t mean to be mean.

In fact she had some kind words to say about her competitors and because of her experience; Sharapova offers some unique insight about each of them.

First there’s Robson , who Sharapova said she knew for years.

“Laura was someone who was obviously throughout the years ‑ I think she won junior Wimbledon, and she’s someone that I think a lot of people expected to do well at an early age,” Sharapova said. “I mean, this is definitely her breakthrough tournament, her breakthrough Grand Slam where she’s been playing extremely well.

“I’ve practiced with her a few times.  Played her at the Olympics and last year at Wimbledon.  She has a big game, and also a lefty, which adds to her strength.”

And then there is Stephens, the young American who many have been comparing to the next coming of Venus Williams. Stephens is the daughter of former NFL running back John Stephens who played for the New England Patriots.

“I played against her in Miami,” Sharapova said.   “I don’t remember the score, but she’s a great athlete.  Moves so well.  I watched a little bit of her match yesterday.  She’s a great fighter and, you know, was able to come back from that match.

“Obviously that’s the newer generation, and I’m somewhere in the middle there. “

Sharapova also had kind words to say about Clijsters, who was sent home by Robson on Wednesday and into retirement.

“I was very fortunate to play a lot of matches against Kim and follow her career,” she said.   “I mean, she was such a great athlete, a great competitor.  We always had really tough battles against each other. It was amazing to see her career unfold.  The way she came back after, you know, becoming a mom and having that dedication and, you know, that fire again, it was pretty incredible.

“It showed how much she loved the sport and how much passion she had for it.”

With all of this going on – and let’s not forget Andy Roddick – it’s easy to forget Sharapova, but she easily won her first three matches, especially today against Burdette, 6-1 6-1.

Seeded No. 3, Sharapova is feeling pretty good about herself.

“I didn’t know too much going into this event because I hadn’t played on hard in a few months,” Sharapova said.   “I think that made me extra focused, and I wanted to really get going from the beginning and be aggressive.

“Yeah, took a little bit of a break after Wimbledon and went home.  I think I kind of recharged a little bit.  Certainly feel a lot more energy than I did maybe after the French.”

She’s going to be tough and someone to watch out for next week.

Laura Robson, the Surprise of the Open

FLUSHING, NY – Move over Andy Murray, there’s a new Brit in town.

Laura Robson has become the feel good story at this Open, after she won her third round against Na Li, 6-4 6-7 6-2 to advance to the fourth round.

And this comes after she sent Kim Clijsters into retirement.

Call her the Giant killer.

“When the draw first came out I wasn’t really looking past the first round,” the 18 year-old said. “ And then, you know, when I heard that I was playing Li Na after I played Kim, I didn’t really think anything.  I just knew that it was going to be an extremely tough match, which it was, and that she’s a great player.

“So I knew I had to play well; that’s what I did.”

So far in 2012, Robson seemed to take a step back. After making the second round last year at Wimbledon and the Open, she was one and done at the other majors this year.

But that isn’t stopping her here.

She fought Clijsters in straight sets, 7-6(4) 7-6(5), in the second round, sending the three time US Open champion into full time motherhood.

And now she took down Li, who was seeded ninth at the Open and many expected to make the second week.

“I have had a fairly tough draw, haven’t I?” she asked with a smile. “Well, you know, you have to beat who is in front of you.  That’s what I managed to do so far.  I think I play [Sam] Stosur now, who is defending champ.  That’s going to be really tough.  I’ve never played her before, so, you know, I’m going to just work hard tomorrow and recover as best as I can for the next one.”

Ah yes, the defending champ. That would be a tough matchup, but they said that about Clijsters and Li. In today’s match, Robson easily took the first set and then lost a tie break in the second to give Li life, even though she was up 3-1 at one point in the breaker.

Then in the third, she took control with a 6-2 cruising, putting her on the map. The funny thing she never gets down on herself, which many 18 year-olds do.

“I’m only 18, so if I was that negative, you know, last year or a year ago, then who knows what I’m going to be like in a few years,” Robson said. “But, no, I have always thought that I can play with the top girls.  Whenever I’ve practiced with, you know, Caroline or Maria, I’ve always felt that the level was there.

“It was just taking that onto the match court and keeping the level up for the whole match.  That’s what I have worked on.  Yeah, that’s been the biggest difference.”

Well maybe Murray can give her pointers now on handling on the British press. Well on second thought, the way she took care of them today, she will do just fine.

Family Comes First For Kim

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Cross Sports Journalist off the list of potential careers for Kim Clijsters. When asked tonight, she gave a very quick, no.

“I definitely read the press in my first few years that I was on tour, and then I completely ignored the press,” Clijsters said.  Also because positive, negative, I didn’t want it to get to me.  It did when I was younger whether there was negative press, positive press.”

Well she will have plenty of time to decide after her second round loss to Brittan’s Laura Robson, 7-6 7-6, because that’s it for the three-time US Open Champion as she calls it a career.

“Now that I’m almost completely finished, you think about when I first stepped on tour, you know and met Steffi Graf and Monica Seles,” she said.  “First in Belgium when I was able to practice in a tennis center against Sabine Appelmans and Dominique Monami.

“It’s been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis.  As a little girl, I got tennis racquets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and I would want to wear them to bed I was so excited.

“So for me to have been able to have been a part of women’s tennis, and on top of women’s tennis for so many years, now that I think back ‑‑ you know, you don’t think about it when you’re in it.  You’re kind of on automatic pilot.  You don’t think about those things anyway.

“Now that I think about it, it’s been a crazy rollercoaster at times, as well.  All of a sudden when you’re 15, you kind of get thrown in the spotlight, you go through puberty in the spotlight, you have your first boyfriend in the spotlight, you know, everything.

“It’s not just the tennis side of things that you think about now, it’s about life.  We’ve had a lot of things happen in these last 15 years that I’ve been on tour.  I’m able to look back at them, and I’m very happy with the progress that I’ve made.”

And what a career it has been. Three US Open Champions (2005, 2009, 2010), one Australian Open Championship (2011) and two French Open Finals (2001, 2003) and add to that two doubles majors at the French and Wimbledon in 2003. She, of course retied once and came back looking better than ever.

More importantly, though she goes out on her terms, as she retires for the second and final (we think) time.

She is obviously an all-time great up there with her contemporaries like the Williams sisters and Justine Henin, and and even can be compared with  her idols like Graf and Seles, who inspired her to become a tennis player.

“I hate to lose,” she said. “ My husband and I, we play ping‑pong in our garage and I don’t even want to give him a point.  I hate to lose, but I’m very aware or I understand and appreciate when you have an opponent who’s playing really well and plays good tennis.

“I always try to be better than my opponent.  I always try to find a solution to try and win a match, but I was also aware or understood that, you know, players can be better than you on the day.

“Losses have always motivated me more to go back.  I have a little gym in my basement downstairs.  Even when I was supposed to take a few days off, I would go into the gym and just run and do intervals and workouts to try and be better next time after a loss.”

But not this time. With her daughter Jada getting older and going to school, the travelling is just too much. Clijsters wants to be a good mother and there for her child while growing up. It makes it difficult to do that and go out on tour.

That’s may be her greatest legacy. The wins are one thing, but to balance being a mother, staying in shape after giving birth and coming back even stronger puts her in the echelon of Margaret Court.

“When I hear it, it is special, and I feel proud that I was able to win a slam as a mother, just because I know how much work it took after I had Jada to get back physically, tennis‑wise, and mentally to get back into the sport,” she mused.

“On the other hand, I never thought about that when I was playing.  You know, there were moments that it was hard.  Especially when I first started coming on tour it was hard to find the balance between figuring out ‑‑ when I was home, I was still working out, practicing hard, but I was 100% mom.

“If Jada was sick, I would call up and say, I need to be home now.  During a tournament, I can’t call the tournament director and say, Hey, can you move my match because I need to be home for Jada or something.

“Again, you know, you have a team that you work with.  Nicole, our nanny, has been maybe the most important member of our team because she’s given me so much comfort knowing that my daughter was with somebody I trust.

“When I want Brian to watch me play, Jada is with her.  Whether they’re in the hotel or sitting somewhere in the stadium, it’s so comforting knowing that she’s okay.  Knowing that, that’s when I’m able to play tennis and go to practice.  It got a little bit easier for me to leave home when she started going to school because I didn’t have to feel that guilty of leaving her behind when I had to go to practice.

“It’s been tough at times, too.  As a mother, you feel guilty if something happens that you can’t be there, good things or bad things.  Unfortunately, those kind of things have been there.

“On the other hand, I know with our lifestyle I’m maybe more with her than parents who work hard and who work from 9:00 to 5:00.

“But, yeah, I think as a parent you always feel like you miss out on things or feel a little bit guilty and you want to do better and be the perfect parent.”

That’s why she is leaving. She was smart enough to know the window was closing to play professional tennis and now her life becomes her family.

At the age of 29, she made the smartest decision of them all, to be a full time mother.

She will be missed at the Open.

 

 

 

 

Maria Sharapova Transcript

Q.  How do you feel going into this tournament winning in Cincinnati?  Must have given you a lot of confidence.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I came into Cincinnati, you know, asking to play a lot of matches for myself, as many as I could at that tournament.

It was great to win the tournament.  I beat some really good opponents, played some good matches.  You know, the final was a little whacky, but I just managed to win that one.

Yeah, it’s great.  Obviously coming into the Open it’s great to have a title under your belt.

 

Q.  How different are you this year compared to last year at the same time for the US Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m seeded higher.  I’ve won two titles this year.  You know, I feel like my tennis is at a much better level than it was last year.  Yeah, I’m a better player, definitely.

 

Q.  How do you expect to deal with the expected hurricane in the next 24 hours?  What are your plans and what are your thoughts about being here for this?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m a Florida girl so I’m used to this stuff.  (Laughter.)

I think everyone’s a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that.  But, I mean, where are we gonna go?  All hundreds of us?

So I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy, you know.  That’s all we can do, right?

 

Q.  What do you know about Heather Watson?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Not too much.  I’ve never played her before.  I saw a little bit of her matches in the past I think at Wimbledon her first rounds.  Yeah, she’s someone that’s up and coming, and those are sometimes dangerous because they’re quite fearless when they go on the court, don’t have much to lose.

It’s not too often that you play an opponent you haven’t played against before, so, yeah, it’s not an easy first round.

 

Q.  You had experience of that obviously at Wimbledon against another British youngster in Laura Robson.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Uh‑huh.

 

Q.  Sort of a similar situation?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I guess, but they’re two different players.

 

Q.  In the (Head) advertising you were on the court with Djokovic or it’s…

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah.  I was there watching it happen.

 

Q.  You always say you enjoy the process, but now that the process is paying off, where is your level of enjoyment in competing right now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re winning more matches, that’s for sure.

Actually it’s a lot easier to go out on the practice court.  I mean, even when you take a few losses it’s a little bit easier to shrug them off because you know you have that level.  You just need maybe sometimes a little time or just a few things to click to get it back.

Whereas when you haven’t had it for a while, you kind of are trying to find it, trying to find it.  You play one good match, and then, Do I have it now?  Do I feel it?  It’s definitely different.

 

Q.  Coming to a tournament now, fourth seed, obviously people think you’re one of the favorites here.  Do you feed off that?  Does it give you confidence coming into a tournament like this?  Do you feel a bit more pressure now that you’ve got more of an X on your back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, to be honest, I have been seeded a lot lower and I’ve still been one of the favorites, so it’s not anything new for me that people expect me to do well.

 

Q.  How do you look back now on your run to the final at Wimbledon?  What do you come out of that tournament with?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, my opponent played a really unbelievable match.  You know, I had my chances, and it’s quite important in tennis to take them.  She was able to find an answer, you know, in things that I kind of challenged her with.

It was a really great match for her at a big stage.  That’s the only way you can really look at it.

 

Q.  She hasn’t had a great summer since then.  Is that pretty normal when you come off a great breakthrough win like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, it’s not easy, that’s for sure, especially after your first one, definitely.

Yeah, I think she’s a good enough player to find her form back here.

 

Q.  In all the time since your shoulder problems, how would you compare how you feel now with the process which was discussed earlier?  Getting over that, the surgery, everything till now, what is your feeling now compared to all the times since then?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s just great to still be a tennis player.  I’ve said this many times.  I’m very fortunate to do what I do, obviously, to do it at a high level and to win tournaments and to win big matches obviously.

It gives you tremendous amount of confidence and delight that the work you’ve put in, you know, is paying off.  It’s the time that you spend away from the courts, the time that people don’t see what you put into the sport of trying to get back there.  Just to play a match, and then do it over and over again, not many people experience that feeling, see it.

So to be able to prove to yourself that you’ve put in that work and there you are at that stage again, giving yourself these opportunities to win Grand Slams again, it’s a good feeling.

 

Q.  But your level of play now and your level of confidence, how would you compare it with all the time since your shoulder problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I just feel like this year I’ve improved.  Last year I felt like I would play a couple good matches and then I’d play a bad match.  I didn’t have that sense of consistency, and that’s something I felt like something that has changed this year.

 

Q.  Do you have any memories of working out with Freddy Adu at IMG?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No.

 

Q.  Somebody was doing something on him and said you guys might have crossed paths for a couple weeks.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think we worked out at the same facility in Florida, but I don’t think I’ve ever ‑‑ I mean, I sure hope I wasn’t doing a soccer workout.

 

Q.  Just one of those questions we needed to ask.  Were you in the city at all this morning?  Could you characterize the mood here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  This morning?

 

Q.  Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I left pretty early.  I left at 8:00 a.m., so I’m not really sure if everyone was sleeping in New York on a Saturday morning or if it’s the hurricane effect.  But it was pretty quiet.

 

Q.  You were talking about your chances and things like that.  When you see the news that somebody like a Kim Clijsters is not playing, what goes through your mind?  Do you feel like it opens up another alley?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I can’t really think like that.  I don’t think that’s a mindset of a winner, to be honest.  You’ve got to be ready to face anyone at any given moment.  It’s obviously unfortunate that she can’t come back as a defending champion.

But on the other hand, you know, she is the one that has the memory of holding up that trophy last year.  It’s I have been in that position before.  It’s definitely tough, there is no doubt about it, to not be able to defend such a big title.  It’s sometimes the adversity that we’re faced with.