Category: News

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

Zverev wins second Madrid trophy in style

ALEXANDER Zverev has come from behind to down opponent Matteo Berrettini in the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open final yesterday, claiming his fourth ATP Masters 1000 trophy. The German fifth seed dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker after holding a set point, came out with vigour after that to win 6-7 6-4 6-3.

It was the Italian eighth seed’s first ever ATP Masters 1000 final, and whilst he started strongly and held his nerve in the opening tiebreaker, he could not halt the rampaging Zverev, who knocked off the two best clay courters in the world, in Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem back-to-back at the tournament. It was also Zverev’s third straight Top 10 win, and became the first time Zverev has won consecutive matches at three straight tournaments.

“It is great [to win this title], especially after losing my last three finals I played at Masters 1000 events,” Zverev said post-match. “This is definitely special and I just want to enjoy this one.”

It also marked the second Madrid title he has won after taking out the trophy in 2018, defeating Thiem in the final. He has a 15-2 record at the tournament, having competed in four events, and is his most successful ATP Masters tournaments. Despite Berrettini’s best efforts on serve – producing seven aces to Zverev’s five – and claiming the first set 10-8 in the tiebreaker after facing a set point, it would not be enough as Zverev broke the eighth seed four times to one throughout the contest.

“[Matteo’s] game style showed it all,” Zverev said. “I didn’t play anybody this week that can serve 235[km/h] on clay and serve 230km/h kick serves. It definitely was a different match and I am extremely happy right now.”

Berrettini won 72 per cent of his first serve points off a 67 per cent clip, but was eventually eclipsed by the German, who won 76 per cent at 69 per cent efficiency. Overall the points were fairly even, with Zverev winning 52 per cent of them, but won 37 per cent of his return points to Berrettini’s 31 per cent.

Both players will head to Rome to compete in another ATP Masters 1000 event, where the sixth seeded Zverev will face the winner of either Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, or Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien in the Round of 32. Berrettini is seeded ninth at the event, meaning he has to take on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Round of 64, before a second round clash with the winner of Australia’s John Millman or Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

MADRID MASTERS FINAL RESULT:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 6-7 6-4 6-3

 

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Sabalenka bites back with upset win over Barty

ARYNA Sabalenka has reversed the result of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in almost stunning style to defeat world number one Ash Barty and claim the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open title. The Belarusian fifth seed did not even drop a game in the first set – something she conceded to Barty in the second set of their previous final – before holding on in three sets to win, 6-0 3-6 6-4 4. It was Sabalenka’s first ever clay court WTA Tour title.

“I’m not really scared of this surface any more,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Before I was too much thinking about the clay court, that this is surface not for me, that it’s really tough to play on this surface, it’s long rallies. I was really too much thinking about this. This year I relaxed and just play my game. I worked a lot on the movement, so I prepare myself really well for the clay court.”

The win over Barty was an important one, having lost to Barty not only in the Stuttgart decider, but also the Miami Open quarter finals last month. Having not dropped a match in 16 encounters on clay, the Australian was the most in-form player in the competition. Sabalenka has traditionally struggled at high-level events, but defied her critics by beating the best in the world and winning the title.

“I wouldn’t compare match in Miami and here to Stuttgart,” Sabalenka said. “Stuttgart I was injured. “It’s tough to say anything about that match. “She was just unbelievable. “I gave her opportunity there, and she took it. “In Miami, it was really slow courts, long rallies. It was really hot. “There, physically I would say it was much harder to play against her than here.

“I think what I did really well here, I stayed focused from the beginning till the end. “I was putting her under the pressure, especially in the end of the third set. “In those key moments I was a little bit more aggressive. “That’s what really helped me to win this match.”

Sabalenka produced nine aces to three in the one-hour and 39-minute final, whilst winning 69.8 per cent of her first serve points, compared to Barty’s 62.5 per cent. She also broke the Australian five times to three – three of Sabalenka’s which came in the first set – and won 56.5 per cent of her return points. The defeat was hard to take for the Australian who took it with grace and said Sabalenka was outstanding, particularly in the first set.

“She takes the ball out of my court and essentially takes the racquet out of my hand when she serves the way she did in the first set,” Barty said post-match. “I gave her a few too many looks on second serves. “She’s able to dominate and take that away from me. “I guarantee it won’t be the last time that it happens. “I’ll continue to fight and try to find a way back in each and every time.”

MUTUA MADRID OPEN FINAL RESULT:

[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-0 3-6 6-4

Picture credit: Mutua Madrid Open

ATP Tour wrap: Berrettini books Zverev clash in Madrid final

EIGHTH seed Italian Matteo Berrettini has put recent inconsistent form behind him to post a strong semi-final win over Norwegian Casper Ruud and book his spot in the 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 clash. The Italian proved too good for the world number 22, winning 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 22 minutes to secure a spot in the decider against fifth seed Alexander Zverev. Berrettini, who served five aces and only dropped three points off his first serve – and five off his second – did not even face a break point on his way to an almighty win.

“It’s a great, unbelievable feeling, especially coming from Monte-Carlo where I wasn’t feeling that good,” Berrettini said post-match. “I won in Belgrade and now I’m in the final, so I’m really looking forward to playing against Sascha. I hope I enjoy it tomorrow the way I enjoyed tonight.”

Berrettini was unbeatable on serve, and managed to grab the required break in each set to down the clay court specialist Ruud, to step up and reach his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final, becoming just the third Italian in history to do so after Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner – both in the past three years.

“My serve is my weapon, but today I think I returned a lot and I put pressure on him,” Berrettini said. “I was just playing more aggressive. He’s kind of like me, he likes to run around the forehand and play with spin. But I guess today I was playing better than him.

“The other time he beat me, so it’s always a great fight against him. He [reached] three semi-finals in a row [also Monte-Carlo and Munich] so he was feeling confident. I guess that’s why I’m maybe even more happy with my win today.”

The Italian hit 24 winners and kept his defensive pressure high as Ruud could only manage the seven for the match. Despite the win, Berrettini knows who good his next opponent is – Zverev – considering his last two victories at Madrid.

“I saw him, he’s playing really good,” Berrettini said. “He’s solid. “He moves well. “For his height, he’s really good. “He serves well. “I mean, he’s in the final. “He beat Rafa [Nadal] and Dominic [Thiem], probably the best players on clay.”

After toppling Nadal in the quarter finals, Zverev claimed the semi-final win over the next best clay courter in reigning US Open winner Thiem, 6-3 6-4. The German served six aces to one and won 78 per cent of his first serve points off a 66 per cent clip. He broke Thiem three times from 11 chances, and was only broken once himself in a dominant performance against the Austrian. Zverev said he was pleased to get the win against an opponent who more often than not had his measure.

“We have had some fantastic matches. We have played the biggest matches in the world. We have played Masters 1000 finals, we have played Grand Slam finals and [the rivalry] is still developing,” Zverev said post-match interview. “It is still going to go on for a few more years. Hopefully we will play a few more amazing matches.”

After defeating Thiem in the 2019 Madrid Masters 1000 final, Zverev has reached his second decider at the event, and will need to take down Italian Berrettini to claim another huge title.

“It is going to mean a lot to me [if I can win the final]. I am definitely looking forward to it,” Zverev said. “I am definitely looking forward to playing another big final and I hope I can turn it my way this time.”

MADRID MASTERS 1000 SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Casper Ruud (NOR) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Zverev stuns Nadal on clay for third straight win over top seed

ALEXANDER Zverev has found the winning formula to defeating Rafael Nadal, and it has now stretched to the clay courts, defeating the top seed Spaniard in straight sets to book a 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 semi-finals spot. The German fifth seed backed up his wins in the 2019 ATP Finals and 2020 Paris Masters with a third straight win in the Madrid Masters, but this victory was different. It was back on clay and in Nadal’s home nation, where the King of Clay is near-unbeatable. By the time the match ended, Zverev had won 6-4 6-4, coming back from 2-4 down in the first set to post the win in one hour and 44 minutes.

“[It is] definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said post-match. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

The German served four aces, won 82 per cent of his first serve points, and broke Nadal three times to one during the match to secure his spot in the last four. Zverev won here in 2018, and holds a 13-2 record, also not dropping a set thus far in the 2021 edition. In the 2018 final, Zverev knocked off Dominic Thiem, which was the only time the German has been the third seed Austrian on clay. Thiem has an 8-2 head-to-head record against Zverev, and 4-1 on clay including the memorable come-from-behind five-set US Open final.

“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. “I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. “I am looking forward to the match.”

Thiem had to get himself out of trouble after losing the first set and having to save several break points in the fifth game of the second set to remain in the contest against American John Isner, going on to post a three-set win. The Austrian broke his opponent in the penultimate game of the match to take out the deciding set and win, 3-6 6-3 6-4 to set up the huge semi-final with Zverev.

“I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve,” Thiem said post-match. “I was a little bit surprised by his return games. I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set].”

Isner served 18 aces without a double fault, and won 77 per cent of his first serve points. He managed to match Thiem on return points off his second serve, but could not convert more than one of his seven break point chances which proved costly. Thiem on the other hand managed to convert the two from four, and won a higher percentage of first serve points (79 per cent).

In the other quarter finals results, eighth seed Italian Matteo Berrettini came from a set down to storm to victory against 16th seed Chilean Cristian Garin, not dropping a game in the deciding set to win, 5-7 6-3 6-0. That victory set up a final four meeting with Norwegian Casper Ruud who knocked off Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 7-5 6-1. Zverev and Thiem are up first at 4pm local time ahead of the women’s final between Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, with the Ruud-Berrettini semi-final at night.

MADRID MASTERS 1000 RESULTS:

[5] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[3] Dominic Theim (AUT) defeated John Isner (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-4
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [16] Cristian Garin (CHI) 5-7 6-3 6-0
Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 7-5 6-1

Picture credit: 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

WTA Tour wrap: Barty holds firm as Badosa doubles up on Bencic win

WORLD number one Ash Barty has held firm to win her eleventh three-set contest in 2021 to advance through to the semi-finals of the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open. She has only dropped one three-set match – that coming at the Australian Open against Karolina Muchova in the quarter finals – but has claimed ever other full-distance match. The most recent was her quarter finals victory over another Czech, ninth seed Petra Kvitova, 6-1 3-6 6-3.

“It’s just always staying in the fight,” Barty said post-match. “Always staying in the hunt and never letting it slide away. That certainly doesn’t guarantee results, doesn’t guarantee success. It guarantees you give yourself the best chance to do what you do and to figure it out and to find your way.

“I think it’s important not to panic, but everyone emotionally has different ways that they play on the court. I have always been quite calm on the court. That’s just always been my demeanor. But for me, it’s more about just trusting myself and knowing that we just keep chipping away and trying to find a way – and then give yourself time to do that.”

Barty moved through to the final four with the win in one hour and 48 minutes, serving six aces to five, and winning 63.5 and 62.5 of her first and second serve points. She also saved five of seven break points, and broke her opponent four times from 12 opportunities. The win means Barty is strong favourite to take out another clay tournament, with the opponent she beat in the final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix – Aryna Sabalenka – the only seed remaining in the Madrid Open.

The Belarusian accounted for 13th seed Belgian Elise Mertens who was under clear duress, retiring at 6-1 4-0 down in the second set. Sabaleka had only dropped two points off her first serve by that stage – though was serving at a horrible 44.7 per cent efficiency – and nine points off her second serve. She saved all three break points, and broke Mertens a total of four times, and restricted the Belgian to just 15 points for the match. The pair often combine in doubles, and the fifth seed certainly had concern for her close friend who retired due to a left thigh injury.

“I feel really sorry for this, and I hope that she will get better soon,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Hopefully she will be ready for the next one in Rome.”

Before she could potentially face Barty, the Belarusian will come up against unseeded Spaniard Paula Badosa who is in some great form this year. Badosa accounted for eighth seed Belinda Bencic 6-4 7-5, defeating her for the second time in a fortnight having knocked her off at the Volvo Car Open in three sets. This time it was a lot easier, and with a win over Barty last tournament too, Badosa will be confident going forward, though admitted she was not so much heading into the match.

“I have to be honest, I was very nervous today,” Badosa said post-match. “Because sometimes these matches are a little bit tricky when you played her two, three weeks ago and you think in your head that you have that opportunity to make a semifinals. I was quite nervous, but I’m quite happy that I could control all the nerves and I could play my game quite good.”

In the other quarter final, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced through to the semi-finals to take on Barty for a spot in the final, needing just under two hours to win in a couple of tiebreakers against Muchova. The unseeded Russian won 7-4 in the first tiebreaker and 7-2 in the second one to bring about a stirring victory.

MADRID OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-1 3-6 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [13] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-1 4-0 RET
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated [8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-4 7-5
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Karolina Muchova (CZE) 7-6 7-6

Picture credit: Mutua Madrid Open