Author: Sophie Taylor

ATP Tour wrap: Italians compete well on Rome Day 2

IT was a successful day of action for home nation hopefuls on Day 2 of proceedings at the ATP 1000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Masters Open in Rome, as four Italian talents – including three wildcards – reigned supreme and one claimed victory over the only seed of the day.

It was 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti who claimed a big scalp over top 20 Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz, taking out the first set with ease before the 15th seed was forced to retire early in the second.

“It’s always incredible playing here in Rome,” Musetti said. “It’s a fantastic site here in Foro Italico. Even without a crowd, tonight was really fun.”

Musetti hit 13 winners to two unforced errors in a clean first set before Hurkacz was forced to stop play. He is joined by fellow teen Jannik Sinner and other compatriots Gianluca Mager and Stefano Travaglia in the second round, while Fabio Fognini fell to a resurgent Kei Nishikori in straight sets. Mager scalped top-ranked Australian Alex De Minaur while both Sinner and Travaglia earned bragging rights over Frenchmen Ugo Humbert and Benoit Paire, as the remaining French talent on the day in Adrian Mannarino was outclassed by an unlikely victor in qualifying Bolivian Hugo Dellien who picked up his first ATP Tour level win for the year in the process.

A couple of lucky losers in Yoshihito Nishioka and Aljan Bedene could not maintain their luck when they were both disposed of in speedy encounters, falling to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and German Jan-Lennard Struff in 56 minutes and 66 minutes, respectively. Taylor Fritz and Aslan Karastev executed excellent straight sets victories and will need to bring that form into their next respective encounters, setting up huge challenges in the second round with matchups set against Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Sinner is dealt with the tough draw of clay champion, Rafael Nadal next up.

“I was really frustrated to give away the early break,” Fritz said following his victory over Brit, Daniel Evans. “He played two pretty good points, then I missed two forehands. I thought I was hitting the ball really well right from the beginning. I just told myself not to get too upset about it, as I was playing well. Dan has been playing well lately, beating Novak in Monte-Carlo, so it’s great to get a strong win. I am going to try my best [against Djokovic].”

“We (Djokovic) played twice on clay in 2018, in Monte-Carlo and Madrid,” Fritz explained. “I got beaten pretty bad those two times. I feel better prepared to play him now, after the match in Australia.”

In other games, Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis, Croatian Marin Cilic and Chilean Cristian Garin all claimed wins on their opening day.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS: 

[WC] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) defeated [15] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 6-4 2-0 RET
Marin Cilic (CRO) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Karen Khachanov (RUS) 3-6 6-4 6-0
[Q] Hugo Dellien (BOL) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 2-6 7-5 6-2
Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 6-2
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [LL] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-0 6-2
Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 7-5 6-2
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
[WC] Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Alex De Minaur (AUS) 6-4 6-3
Kei Nishikori (JPN) defeated Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 6-2 6-4
Jan Lennard-Struff (GER) defeated [LL] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-3 6-1
[WC] Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

WTA Tour wrap: Sorribes Tormo outlasts in longest match of the season

A BIG first day of women’s proceedings at the 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia saw the longest match of the year so far, as all four of the day’s seeds head into the second round.

It took a marathon three hours and 51 minutes, but it was Sara Sorribes Tormo who came out victor in her huge clash with Italian wildcard Camila Giorgi, 7-6(4) 6-7(7) 7-5. The seesawing contest saw neither player really able to make the most of their momentum or claim a significant ascendancy, as the Spaniard and Italian went toe-to-toe and were unable to be split. But with six double faults to her name compared to Giorgi’s 12, Sorribes Tormo was marginally cleaner on serve and won 52.8 per cent of the match’s total points to reign supreme. It was not the only three-setter of the day, as Petra MarticAnastasija Sevastova and Coco Gauff all ground out wins in three, with the last of the three seeing 17-year-old Gauff require two hours and 57 minutes to dispose of Kazakh, Yulia Putintseva as Sevastova turned around a sloppy start and Martic claimed her first top 50 win of the season.

Petra Kvitova and Maria Sakkari were the remaining three set winner of the day, as the 11th and 17th seeds were tested by their respective opposition. For Kvitova, it ended up being a fairly comprehensive victory despite dropping the first set 1-6. Her opposition in Magda Linette flew out of the blocks but could not continue the same form once the Czech left-hander worked her way into the contest and reduced her unforced errors, eventually reigning supreme 1-6 6-0 6-2 in 95 minutes.

“The first set I started very badly. I was missing almost everything. On the court… [the ball] was bouncing everywhere as well. A little bit windy. I just had to used to probably everything,” Kvitova said post-match. “The beginning of the second set when finally I held my serve and broke her serve, I think since then it was much, much better.”

Four of Kvitova’s six double faults were hit in the first set, before the Czech broke back to eventually claim five aces and win 75.6 per cent of her first serve points off a 66 per cent clip. Sakkari’s matchup went slightly different as she claimed the opening set, before her opposition in Polona Hercog bit back to take it to three. The 17th seed claimed the ascendancy once more though, running out 7-6 3-6 6-2 victor in two hours and 48 minutes.

Proceedings went very different for the remaining two seeds on the day, as Iga Swiatek worked from a 1-4 deficit to eventually claim a 5-4 victory over retiree Alison Riske, who battled an ongoing injury throughout the contest and could not maintain intensity or mobility to continue the matchup. While Swiatek had a horror start, recording 18 unforced errors throughout the 52 minutes of play, she was fortunate to proceed as Riske jarred her left foot, and was forced to retire following medical attention. The 13th seed in Jennifer Brady continued her run after claiming a 6-1 6-4 victory over Zhang Shuai, winning 72 per cent of her first serve points off a sloppy 43 per cent clip and converting five break points and saving three in the process.

The remaining matches of the day saw two more Americans in Jessica Pegula and Amanda Anisimova join the winners list, whilst one more in Christina McHale fell to Vera Zvonareva, whilst Ekaterina Alexandrova claimed the quickest win of the day – bar Swiatek’s early finish – over Marta Kostyuk, needing just 75 minutes to claim the 6-3 6-1 victory.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 1-6 6-0 6-2
[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-1 6-4
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Alison Riske (USA) 5-4 RET
[17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 7-6 3-6 6-2
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 7-6 6-7 7-5
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-3 6-0
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 7-5 6-3
Amanda Anisimova (USA) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 7-5 6-3
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUN) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-3 6-1
Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-4
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 3-6 6-1 6-3
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 7-5 4-6 6-4

ATP Tour wrap: Internazionali BNL d’Italia begins

THE 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia Masters 1000 event in Rome has begun, with four matches playing out on the opening day of the tournament and both of the day’s seeds heading to the second round.

Eleventh seed Pablo Carreno Busta has already gone one better than his disappointing Madrid Open first round loss last week, outclassing Laslo Djere in a 4-6 6-3 6-1 contest. He still required two hours and 12 minutes to get the win on the board, but overall was far cleaner on serve winning 85 per cent of points off a 64 per cent clip. Whilst his second serve (12 points of 27 at 44 per cent) was not quite as effective, Carreno Busta did not have to rely on it as much as Djere, who won 16 of 37 at 43 per cent and just seven points off Carreno Busta’s first serve.

Comparatively, 12th seed David Goffin took a break before competing in Rome, and it paid off as he completed a classy 6-4 6-1 sweep of Italian wildcard Salvatore Caruso in 82 minutes. Despite a solid start from the homegrown hopeful, Goffin was more consistent converting seven break points and saving three of Caruso’s six chances on his way to winning 58 per cent of the total points to claim victory.

Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime put in a huge effort to overcome similarly unseeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic, taking out the first set and looking to goods to win the second, too, leading 5-4 before Krajinovic broke back to extend the match to three sets. Auger-Aliassime stepped up once more though in the third, winning the first two games of the final set to eventually claim the 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 victory. The Canadian 20-year-old hit seven double faults for 12 aces throughout the two hour and 45-minute encounter, winning 72 per cent of his first serve points but allowed Krajinovic to convert nine of 15 break points.

“I’m really happy,” said Auger-Aliassime. “[It was] a tough match. I’m happy I was able to win today. You’ve got to believe and be resilient at times. I wanted to win badly, so I dug deep and I found a way.”

The remaining match of the day was also the quickest, as American Reilly Opelka downed Frenchman Richard Gasquet in just under 66 minutes, hitting 18 aces to two on his way to the 6-1 7-5 victory.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 4-6 6-3 6-1
[12] David Goffin (BEL) defeated [W] Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-4 6-1
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-3 6-7 6-4
Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-1 7-5

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

WTA Tour wrap: Barty and Sabalenka set up tantalising Stuttgart rematch for Madrid title

THE Madrid Open semi-finals produced two huge clashes and set up a massive final in their stead, as Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka look to add another title to their respective hauls following respective straight set wins. They will take on one another for the second time in as many weeks, with a rematch of the Stuttgart Open final sure to see both players fly out of the blocks. Sabalenka will hope to exact revenge on Barty in this one, although will have her work cut out for her given Barty’s excellent form this season with three titles in the bag already to her one.

It took Sabalenka just one hour and three minutes to dispose of Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, claiming a 6-2 6-3 victory and heading into the final without dropping a set all week. The fifth seed Belarusian was clinical and relentless in victory, hitting four aces, converting four break points and saving two of three on her way to her Barty rematch. Whilst Pavlyuchenkova was more efficient on serve, Sabalenka was far more consistent winning 70.8 per cent of her total service points and 48.9 per cent on return.

“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court,” Sabalenka said post-match. “For sure, it’s given me some confidence, but there’s still so many things to work on. I’m just really happy with my level here in Madrid.”

The Belarusian hit 21 winners for just 11 unforced errors, outclassing Pavlyuchenkova with her relentless serve to finish off with an ace.

“I think from the side it looks like everything is going my way,” Sabalenka said. “Some games I didn’t feel my serve. Some games something wasn’t working. It’s always part of the process. But I’m really happy that from the side, it looks like everything is going my way.”

Sabalenka boasts a 9-1 win-loss record on clay this season, but will be tested by Barty who has a greater record of 16 straight victories on clay, including the one blemish on Sabalenka’s record.

“Physically I have to be ready for this match,” Sabalenka said. “She’s No.1, she’s great. I played her in Stuttgart. It’s not an easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Just looking forward for this battle.”

Meanwhile, Barty exacted revenge over the only player to defeat her since February, in hometown hopeful and qualifier Paula Badosa. But whilst the Spaniard put in the hard yards, Barty was able to control proceedings and complete the 6-4 6-3 sweep in 75 minutes.

“You have to learn from every game, every match you play against an opponent,” said Barty post-match. “I definitely learnt a lot from the match we played in Charleston. There was a small adjustment. I think just learning from some of her patterns, tendencies that came through and showed through in that match in Charleston.

“I think I was just able to control the court a little bit better. I was able to look after my service games a little bit better, build pressure on return games. That’s a massive part of it: not always winning points, but building pressure. Scoreboard pressure can be a big thing. That was a focus for me today.”

Badosa is the first Spanish woman to reach the final four in Madrid, and showcased her excellent form – which will see her break the top 50 for the first time – during the first set, well and truly keeping the world number one on her toes. But Barty was clinical with 30 winners and six aces, winning 68.3 per cent of her total service points and saving four of five break points, heading to the Madrid final with her head held high.

MADRID OPEN SEMI FINALS RESULTS: 

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-4 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-2 6-3

ATP Tour wrap: Even seeds fail as odds fall the way of victory

THE Round of 16 has well and truly begun at the Madrid Open, as competitors backed up a huge second round of event yesterday with little break as the third round got underway. Whilst the King of Clay retained the mantle with another win, three top 10 seeds fell in a big day on the clay.

It appeared as though every other seed proceeded to the quarter finals in an intriguing day of action, as the odd seeds in Rafael Nadal (first seed), Dominic Thiem (third), and Alexander Zverev (fifth) reigned supreme, whilst the evens in Daniil Medvedev (second), Stefanos Tsitsipas (fourth) and Andrey Rublev (sixth) failed to proceed to the next round.

Two of the major results of the day saw Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev both bundled out, with those two encounters the only three-setters of the day. It was 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin who claimed the scalp of Medvedev, with the equal-biggest win of his career coming in the two and a half hour, 6-4 6-7 6-1 matchup. Whilst Medvedev broke back in the second to win the tiebreaker 6(2)-7, Garin’s overall service game efficiency paid off winning 71 per cent of his service points compared to Medvedev’s 62 per cent, whilst also claiming the ascendancy on return. For Rublev, it was American John Isner who spoiled the party with a 7-6 3-6 7-6 victory in just over two hours. Realistically, Rublev just could not compete with Isner on serve, as the hard-hitter piled on 29 aces to claim easy points, and while Rublev actually led service efficiency and won more off his serve (82 per cent compared to 68 per cent), Isner rallied when it mattered to win both the first and third set tiebreakers.

“I’m very happy,” Isner said post-match. “I wasn’t the better player out there today; I did win the match. “My serve kept me in it. “There’s a reason he’s won so many matches this year.”

“It’s a nice feather in my cap right now with my ranking being a little bit lower,” Isner said. “I haven’t played much since the tour stopped last year. “I think this is my only seventh event. I haven’t had many matches. “But to beat a guy like that, maybe being a little bit undercooked, is a very special moment for me.”

“It is my favourite clay court probably,” Isner said. “It has an indoor feel even though it’s not fully indoors. It’s got a great sound to it. “The court is fast. “To me it doesn’t seem like there’s too much clay on the court so, of all the clay courts I play on, it plays closest to a hard court of any of them. “The altitude in Madrid just really helps my serve. “The ball goes through the air very fast. You put all those things together, it’s a good recipe for me to do some damage on serve.”

The third upset of the day saw Casper Ruud scored a big win over Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6 6-4, as the Norwegian marginally claimed victory winning the same amount of points, but fortunate to retain the upper hand throughout the close contest.

“He is one of the best players this year on the Tour, one of the ones who has won the most matches. He’s won his first Masters 1000 in Monte-Carlo. Barcelona he was very close to getting the title there, as well,” Ruud said post-match. “But the conditions are a bit different here than other clay courts with the fast shots, the ball traveling faster through the air because of the altitude. You get a lot of free points with the serve that you don’t usually [get] on the clay courts. I think that also today went a bit in my advantage.

“I felt like he was doing some mistakes that he doesn’t always do. I was just trying to take care of the chances that I got.”

Nadal and Thiem disposed of a couple of Australians, downing qualifier Alexei Popyrin and top ranked Aussie Alex de Minaur respectively, and rather significantly at that. Nadal was always going to be a huge challenge for Popyrin, who was outclassed 6-3 6-3 in 79 minutes by the Spaniard, who was far more consistent. To Popyrin’s credit he hit seven more aces and won 83 per cent of his first serve points to lead Nadal, however it was the King of Clay’s ability to both save (five from six) and convert break points (four from six) that allowed him to overrun Popyrin and keep down the unforced errors. Meanwhile the matchup between Thiem and De Minaur may have started close but saw Thiem break even in the second, retaining control and forcing errant hits from the Australian.

Fifth seed Zverev joined the winners list with a dismissal of Daniel Evans, whilst eighth seed Matteo Berrettini continued his solid form on clay with a straight sets victory over Federico Delbonis and Alexander Bublik downed a third Russian in Aslan Karatsev to head into the quarter finals.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: 

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 6-4 6-7 6-1
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-6 6-4
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 7-6 6-4
[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-3 7-6
John Isner (USA) defeated [6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) 7-6 3-6 7-6
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) 7-6 6-4
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-4 6-3

ATP Tour wrap: Thiem makes winning return

THE third day of the Madrid Open saw three seeds win as Dominic Thiem made his return to the court, while a couple of players continued impressive runs on the clay.

A close to two-month break from the competitive aspect of the game was not enough to sway Dominic Thiem from a dominant 6-1 6-3 defeat of qualifier Marcos Giron, flying out of the blocks and citing his extended break, stretching from mid-March, for the form he brought to the court to win in 57 minutes flat.

“For my game, I need 100 per cent intensity and 100 per cent energy. I’m not the guy who can serve through a match or who can play with a little bit of intensity and still win. I’m just not that type of guy,” Thiem said.

“[It was] better to come back when it’s possible again to play with that 100 per cent in every aspect of my game.”

Thiem hit five aces and won off a whopping 81 per cent of his first serve points – off an 80 per cent clip – in a virtually flawless effort. The Austrian also converted four break points and won 47 per cent of points on return in a seamless performance. He will take on unseeded Alex De Minaur in the Round of 16, following the Australian’s default victory 6-2 3-0 over South African, Lloyd Harris, who retired midway through the second set.

Thiem is also joined in the third round by sixth and eighth seeds Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini, who both claimed wins over unseeded opposition. Berrettini disposed of compatriot Fabio Fognini with relative ease in a 6-3 6-4, 81-minute clash, and while Fognini was by no means wasteful with the ball, he just could not compete with Berrettini’s 85 per cent winning rate off his first serve off a 74 per cent clip. Fognini was well within his chances but failed to capitalise off his second serve at just a 37 per cent winning rate, compared to Berrettini’s 64 per cent.

Rublev did not have it quite as easy in his Madrid debut and third encounter with American Tommy Paul, dropping the first set tiebreaker 7-6(5) before working his way back into it to claim the 6-7 6-3 6-4 victory in two hours and 19 minutes. While Paul hit seven aces and impressed on serve, he was inefficient on return as Rublev won 70 per cent of his first serve points and saved five of eight break points, converting five in the process.

“It’s important to win when you’re not [playing] your [best] game and things are not going well,” Rublev said post-match. “So it’s really important to win this match to have more confidence. I’m happy that I turned it around.”

The remaining winner of the day was Alexander Bublik, as the Kazakh upset 11th seed Denis Shapovalov. He required two hours and 20 minutes to get past the Canadian, eventually claiming the 6-4 6-7 6-4 victory credit to his ability to win off Shapovalov’s 40 unforced errors, including a whopping 14 double faults for six aces. Comparatively, Bublik hit 10 aces and seven double faults – only marginally better, but making up the difference to win 66 per cent of his service points and take out the win.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS: 

[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated [Q] Marcos Giron (USA) 6-1 6-3
[6] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 6-7-6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated [11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-4 6-7 6-4
Alex De Minaur (AUS) defeated Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-2 3-0 RET

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP

WTA Tour wrap: Seeds fail to fire as upsets made in marathon matches

THREE seeds fell in a highly unpredictable second day of Round of 16 proceedings at Madrid, as the competition heats up heading into the quarter finals. It was a huge difference in comparison to the day prior, as just one of the higher ranked opposition retained the mantle in their respective clashes, as just one match was completed in under two hours.

The big upset of the day saw Elise Mertens down Simona Halep, as the 13th seed Belgian claimed a 4-6 7-5 7-5 scalp of the second seed Romanian. Whilst Halep captured the first set with relative ease, Mertens fought back well to take the upper hand and came from a break down in both the second and third sets to deny Halep the win. Whilst Mertens came in as the underdog with zero wins from three clay court encounters with the Romanian, she was relentless in her approach and despite being error-ridden, capitalised off an uncharacteristically messy Halep.

“I want to be on court as long as possible, especially after losing the first set,” said Mertens. “I didn’t think too much about the score, I was just thinking about the way I should play to improve myself.”

Whilst Halep was more effective on serve throughout, Mertens was far more efficient winning points off 68.3 per cent of her serve, off a 63.2 per cent clip. Mertens will take on Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter finals, following a zippy 6-1 6-2 victory in the lone two-setter of the day against American Jessica Pegula.

“She (Sabalenka) is on fire, she’s making a lot of angles and winners,” said Mertens. “I’ll just try to put as many balls in the court as I can and try to take over a little bit when there’s a shorter ball. “She played Barty (Ash Barty) last week, and I’m definitely going to watch a little bit of that match, because Barty also likes slice and everything to mix it up.”

Sabalenka hit 25 winners for 13 unforced errors throughout the sub-one hour encounter, requiring just 52 minutes in by far the quickest match of the round.

At the other end of the scale were the remaining two Round of 16 matches, which saw Karolina Muchova narrowly claim the win over 16th seed Maria Sakkari 6-0 6-7 7-5, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova downed 11th seed Jennifer Brady in the longest match of the day, needing two hours and 45 minutes to register a tough 7-5 6-7 6-3 victory. With both winners outlasting in thrillers, it is safe to say neither will back down in their quarter final battle tomorrow.

“I tried to forget actually those [first] two sets, and it was 1-1, so we started with a clear slate,” Muchova said. “I just tried to stay focused and on every ball, to fight till the end. Yeah, it showed me that it was worth it.

“I would actually appreciate to play two sets, but I’m happy I made it,” she said. “It was a very tough match. It’s definitely good for confidence for the next matches.”

“I think it’s a hell of a draw since the first round,” Pavlyuchenkova said post-match. “Any tournament when you beat a Top 10, or I beat Karolina (Karolina Pliskova), she was No.6-seeded here, you think, ‘Okay, it either might be a little easier or open draw.’ But it got even tougher. It gets tougher and tougher and tougher.”

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 4-6 7-5 7-5
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-1 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated [11] Jennifer Brady (USA) 7-5 6-7 6-3
Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-0 6-7 7-5

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

ATP Tour wrap: Two of three seeds fall on second day at Madrid

TWO seeds fell on the official second day of competition at the 2021 ATP Mutua Madrid Open in Spain, whilst a couple of qualifiers and a young gun wildcard also proceeded through to the second round.

It was qualifier Argentinian Federico Delbonis that overcame 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta on home soil, dropping the first set to the Spaniard before biting back in the second and retaining control from there on out. The two hour encounter saw Delbonis marginally lead for efficiency on his first and second serve winning rates despite Carreno Busta being cleaner on serve, resulting in the 3-6 6-4 6-3 finish. Meanwhile, South African Lloyd Harris out-hit Grigor Dimitrov, piling on 12 aces to three in the two and a half hour, 6-3 3-6 7-6 contest. The two players could not be split throughout, with the third set tiebreaker showcasing just how tight the matchup was, as both players completed the match winning the same amount of points throughout (104).

The only seed to win on the day was 16th seed Cristian Garin, who ousted a second Spaniard in Fernando Verdasco, while qualifiers Carlos Taberner and Pablo Andujar also fell on home soil, taken down by Italian Fabio Fognini and American Marcos Giron, respectively.

It was not all bad news for Spaniards though, as young gun Carlos Alcaraz proceeds to the second round after disposing of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets, 6-4 6-0, to set up a clash with compatriot and clay champion Rafael Nadal in the Round of 32.

“I started the match a little bit nervous,” Alcaraz said. “I tried to play aggressive to get the nerves out and tried to enjoy playing here, in front of a big crowd in Madrid.”

“For me, [to] play against Rafa is a dream come true,” Alcaraz said. “Since I was a kid, I wished to play a match against Rafa and now I will be able to here [on] the Centre Court of La Caja Magica in Madrid. It is a really special match against Rafa.”

Still only 17-years-old – until next week – Alcaraz pulled off 19 forehand winners against Mannarino, and won an impressive 81 per cent of his first serve points to claim victory.

The remaining four matches saw two more French competitors fall to join Mannarino on the sideline, as Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev pulled off a 7-5 6-4 victory over Ugo Humbert while Daniel Evans overcame a fighting Jeremy Chardy in a two hour and 46-minute classic, 7-6 6-7 6-2, piling on 13 aces for one double fault in the process, compared to Chardy’s four for six. The remaining two matches went the way of John Isner and Dominik Koepfer, with plenty of intriguing matchups coming in the coming days.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[Q] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated [10] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 3-6 6-4 6-3
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [13] Grigor Dimitrov (HUN) 6-3 3-6 7-6
[16] Cristian Garin (CHI) defeated [WC] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-1 6-4
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 6-7 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated [Q] Carlos Taberner (ESP) 7-6 2-6 6-3
John Isner (USA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-4 7-6
Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 7-5 6-4
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4 6-4
[WC] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [Q] Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5

WTA Tour wrap: Badosa proceeds, Barty and Kvitova set up quarter final clash

THE Round of 16 saw some huge results propelling players into the 2021 WTA Tour 1000 Mutua Madrid Open. While one hometown hopeful remains in the draw, three of the four seeds of the day retained their mantle as the ones to watch heading into the quarter finals.

One of the matches of the round was arguably between Ash Barty and Iga Swiatek, with the two seeds going head-to-head for the first time and the matchup not failing to impress. Whilst top seed and world number one Barty came away with the bragging rights over the quick improver in 19-year-old Swiatek, she was tested across both sets to eventually come away with the 7-5 6-4 result in one hour and 41 minutes.

“I really enjoyed myself out there tonight. I enjoyed the challenge. Iga’s game is exceptional. It’s really, really impressive. I love testing myself and trying to figure out the puzzle tonight and the challenges that she created for me,” Barty said post-match.

“I love the way that she plays. I love the way she takes the game on. She plays without fear. I think the way she controls the court, has the ability to move and neutralize from defensive position is very, very impressive.”

While Swiatek won the first three games of the match, the Australian rallied from then on, and did not face a single break point in the first set from there.

“I think probably the first half an hour was a bit of an adjustment period for both of us. I think it took me some time to get used to Iga’s weight of shot. Obviously, we had a game plan going into it, but I had to adjust that and had to kind of learn on the fly a little bit,” Barty said.

“It took me some time to get used to that and kind of nut down what I really wanted to do out there. Once I was able to do that, I became a lot more clear and was able to control the match a little bit more the way that I wanted to.”

While Barty served at an inefficient 53.2 per cent, she made the most of her first serve opportunities to win off 80.5 per cent of her chances. She also converted on three break points, and overall cleaned up her serve impressively in the second to claim the victory, hitting six aces for five double faults in the process, compared to Swiatek’s two and six.

Meanwhile, Spaniard Paula Badosa became the first wildcard to reach the Madrid quarter finals since 2017, overcoming Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in a tough 6-7 7-6 6-0 battle. It was a narrow battle across the first two sets before Badosa flew out of the blocks for the third, with the closeness of the contest proving just how much both players wanted the quarter finals position.

“I got so emotional after the match because of that, of playing home and showing the people the level and that I can win matches. I’m the last Spanish [player] here, so it makes me a little bit more proud. I know the crowd are pushing me a lot,” Badosa said.

“The first two sets were very close. It could go through one side or another one. But then the third set I knew I had to play very aggressive because I was quite tired… I started to be very, very aggressive, concentrated on the first two, three shots. I think that was a little bit the key of the third set.

“It’s an emotional week. I was very nervous when I started the week because I wanted to do very well here. I’m quite happy that it’s coming true. It’s really special… I like to play on clay, as I say always. To reach here the quarterfinals at home, it’s very special, in front of my family, my friends, my people. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Two more seeds claimed wins, as Petra Kvitova disposed of Veronika Kudermetova in three (6-3 4-6 6-4) to ready herself for a huge clash with Barty in the quarters, while Belinda Bencic had the lead in a 7-6 4-3 matchup with Ons Jabeur before the Tunisian retired, citing injury.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [14] Iga Swiatek (POL) 7-5 6-4
[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 7-6 4-3 RET
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-3 4-6 6-4
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-7 7-6 6-0

WTA Tour wrap: Mixed bag at Madrid as Muchova and Pavlyuchenkova claim scalps

DAY 6 at the Mutua Madrid Open saw plenty happen around the courts, as second seed Naomi Osaka was ousted in the lone three-setter of the day, while it was also not sixth seed Karolina Pliskova‘s day as the Czech talent fell in straight sets.

It was an excellent effort from Karolina Muchova that saw her inhibit Osaka in their clash, seeing the Czech claim victory 6-4 3-6 6-1. Whilst Osaka worked her way back into the contest after dropping the first set, Muchova commanded control to run home with a whopping 92.9 per cent winning rate off her first serve in the final set, including two of her five aces.

“It was a tough match today, but we had some preparation,” Muchova said post-match. “I was ready to play with all I had today, and to use all the weapons I could and [do] what I can. I’m definitely happy it worked out today.”

Muchova is the newest member of the WTA world top 20, and in this contest it showed. Overall, she hit 29 winners off a fairly efficient 66.2 per cent first serve, as well as converting four of eight break points.

“I was trying to move [Osaka] as much as possible,” Muchova said. “That was the tactic. It sounds easy like that, but, you know, she’s playing really fast so it’s not that easy on the court.

“In the second set especially, she started to be very aggressive. I got back to what I did in the first set in the third set, and again, tried to move her left, right, dropshots, but still in a fast way. In the third set, it went my way.”

Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the third round with a clean 6-0 7-5 sweep of Pliskova, credit to her 20 winners for just 14 unforced errors. Whilst Pliskova bit back in the second set, she was undone by her own 28 errors which spelled trouble, before Pavlyuchenkova commanded control once more to run out victor in just under 75 minutes. Third seed Simona Halep and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka retained control throughout their respective contests to claim respective one hour and 19-minute wins, while a couple of Americans joined the fray as Jennifer Brady downed Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-1, and Jessica Pegula was dealt a walkover from 12th seed Victoria Azarenka.

The remaining two games ended in fairly predictable circumstances as 13th seed Elise Mertens and 16th seed Maria Sakkari proved too good, and while Mertens was challenged in her two hour and 13 minute matchup with Elena Rybakina, Sakkari skated home against Anett Kontaveit with ease.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) 6-4 3-6 6-1
[3] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-0 6-4
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated [6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-0 7-5
[11] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-2 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) W/O
[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 7-6 7-5
[16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3 6-1