Tag: aryna sabalenka

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: 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

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

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

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

WTA Tour wrap: Top seeds all survive day two in Madrid

NAOMI Osaka was among all eight seeds to book their spot in the Madrid Open second round, following a straight sets win over compatriot Misaki Doi. In her first clay event in almost two years, Osaka overcame some early resistance from Doi to post a 7-5 6-2 victory and move through to the Round of 32.

“When I was playing on clay that year, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” Osaka said post-match. “The two matches that I lost, it was more mental than it was physical. “Like, I didn’t feel uncomfortable sliding or I didn’t feel that tired. “So I’m actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.”

Osaka was one of four Top 10 seeds to advance through to the second round, with sixth seed Karolina Pliskova coming back from a set down to shake off teenage talent Coco Gauff in three sets. Pliskova won 5-7 6-3 6-2 in a tight contest to eventually finish the stronger of the pair and post a comfortable victory.

“We never played so it was definitely a difficult match. “I think I didn’t start really well, but later in the match, I was finding by game and finding my serve. “This was very important in this match because she can also serve very big,” Pliskova said post-match.

“I’m super happy that I’m through. “I’ve played one semifinal here, so I’ve had a couple of good matches here in the past, but I’m hoping to hopefully improve my game in the next match.”

Third seed Simona Halep started like a house on fire by racing to a 6-0 first set win, before having more of a struggle against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second set, eventually getting up 6-0 7-5. The other Top 10 seed to advance was fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka who destroyed Russian Zera Zvonareva in 66 minutes, 6-1 6-2.

Fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka won in three sets over Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, with 13th seed Elise Mertens and 16th seed Maria Sakkari also advanced into the Round of 32, with Sakkari remarkably going 6-0 down against American Amanda Anisimova before getting up 0-6 6-1 6-4.

In other results, Russian duo Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina both won through to the next stage, with a mixed bag for the Chinese hopefuls. Saisai Zheng defeated Poland’s Magda Linette in three sets, before Wang Qiang went down to Karolina Muchova in a disappointing 6-1 6-3 loss. Also through to the second round were Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, Estonia’ Anett Kontaveit and United States’ Jessica Pegula.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 7-5 6-2
[3] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-0 7-5
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-1 6-2
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-2
[11] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-2 6-4
[12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-5 3-6 6-1
[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-3 6-3
[16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Amanda Anisimova (USA) 0-6 6-1 6-4
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-4 6-0
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-3 6-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Madison Keys (USA) 7-5 6-2
Saisai Zheng (CHN) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 7-6 6-3
Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 7-6 7-5
Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-1 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 4-6 6-4 7-6

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Barty wins third title of the year to lead tally as Cirstea claims second title at long last

ASH Barty topped off her birthday weekend by adding a third WTA Tour singles trophy to her collection, battling hard for a third come-from-behind victory this week to take out the Stuttgart title. At Istanbul, Romanian Sorana Cirstea broke her drought with a second career WTA Tour title and her first in over 10 years, taking out her third top 20 win for the year in the process.

World number one Barty did not quite look like herself in the early stages of her matchup with fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka, dropping the first set 3-6 before fighting back to command control in the second and ride that momentum home in the third, claiming the 3-6 6-0 6-3 victory in one hour and 47 minutes.

An uncharacteristically error-ridden first set from Barty saw Sabalenka steal the early ascendancy, winning 81 per cent of her first serve points in the first set whilst Barty won just 66.7 per cent despite being more effective on serve at 72.7 per cent.

“Tennis is a strange sport at times,” Barty said post-match. “Even though you can be a set down, I didn’t feel I was very far off. I had a couple of break points and opportunities myself, you take one or two of those and it’s a completely different ball game.”

But after the first Barty came out flying, hitting two aces for zero double faults as she coasted to a 6-0 second set win in just 20 minutes, winning off a whopping 91 per cent of her first serve points and converting three break points to head to the decider.

“I think it’s important to just continue to work in the right direction, try to do right things and know that over time you hopefully get the result, and if you don’t, you just keep going for the next time, and I think that’s a massively important attitude to have.”

Whilst Sabalenka fought much better in the third to come from 3-0 down to challenge at 3-2, Barty had the upper hand and did not relinquish it, finishing out the match in much better form to take out her second clay trophy and 11th singles title overall.

“This week’s been phenomenal for me,” Barty said. “We’ve played a lot of tennis, a lot of matches.

“And I’ve certainly felt like I’m taking my tennis to kind of a new level, in a sense of being able to be calm and play with freedom and play without consequence in a way, just going out there and try to bring my best every single point.”

To make things even better for the now-25-year-old, Barty fired on all cylinders later that day to claim the doubles title in Stuttgart too alongside American Jennifer Brady, with the duo upsetting top seeded doubles duo Desirae Krawczyk and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

For Cirstea, it was a drought-breaking victory as she claimed her first singles title since her maiden 2008 title at Tashkent, defeating top seed Elise Mertens in straight sets 6-1 7-6(3), in one hour and 40 minutes. An excellent start was all it took for for Cirstea to take the upper hand, sweeping Mertens under the rug with 6-1 start and forcing 16 unforced errors from Mertens who hit just the three winners in the first.

The second set was far better from Mertens, who drew out a 5-3 lead before a huge comeback effort saw Cirstea regain momentum and win the 7-6(3) tiebreaker, claiming the victory in the process. Overall, Cirstea hit one ace for zero double faults compared to Mertens’ one and six, as the Romanian won 54.5 per cent of points off her first serve off a 65.7 per cent clip, whilst a solid 69.6 per cent winning rate off her second serve compared to Mertens’ 39.3 per cent.

“I’m very, very happy for this trophy,” Cirstea said during the trophy ceremony. “I did not expect it, to be honest, so probably I’m twice as glad!”

The Romanian jumps nine ranks on the world rankings from 67th to 58th in the world in the process.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

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

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL SEMI-FINAL RESULTS:

[3] Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [1] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-1 7-6

WTA Tour wrap: Barty birthday treat in come-from-behind win

WORLD number one Ash Barty has produced a sterling come-from-behind win for the best possible birthday present – to book a spot in the 2021 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final. The Australian dynamo won 4-6 7-6 6-2 in two hours and five minutes against fourth seed Ukrainan Elina Svitolina, to set up a decider date with fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

On her 25th birthday, Barty weathered the Svitolina serving storm of nine aces, whilst only serving the one ace herself. She won 79 per cent of her first serve points off a 69.7 per cent clip, matching it with her opponent who had a high 75 per cent success rate off a 72.3 per cent clip. Barty did put pressure on the Svitolina second serve however, with the Ukrainian successful just 34.6 per cent of the time, and the Australian broke four times from 10 chances, as Svitolina broke three from five.

“I think you learn from every single match regardless of who the opponent is, but I think the Top 10 players and particularly the WTA Top 10 have, in the last five or six years, been exceptional quality,” Barty said post-match having beaten the Ukrainian for the third straight time after five straight losses to begin their head-to-heads.

“I think you have to bring your best to be able to compete,” she said. “You know when it forces some of your best tennis out of you. So, it’s nice, in the critical moments, to come up with some pretty good stuff yesterday and today again. But obviously you enjoy the challenge of playing against the world’s best as well.”

Barty will now take on Sabalenka, who took care of second seed Simona Halep in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. The win was a huge one for the Belarusian, who hit 28 winners to Halep’s 12, and only had four more unforced errors (21-17), whilst winning 38 of her 50 service points to blow away one of the top clay courters in the world. Sabalenka has been criticised in the past for not winning big tournaments, having claimed nine in total – including Abu Dhabi earlier this year, but a WTA 500 title would be a huge step in the right direction for the talented European.

Meanwhile in Istanbul, Belgian Elise Mertens cruised closer to another title, taking care of her biggest danger, third seed Russian Veronika Kudermetova. Mertens won 6-1 6-4 to book her spot in the final against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, after the latter knocked off Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 4-6 7-6 6-2
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 6-3 6-2

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL SEMI-FINAL RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Big guns book spots in Stuttgart

FOUR of the top five players at the 2021 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, setting up a blockbuster pair of semi-finals. Top seed Ash Barty came from behind to post a three-set win over sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in an impressive 2-6 6-1 7-5 victory, one of three full-length quarter finals matches.

The match lasted two hours and one minute before Barty could book her spot in the final four, serving seven aces to five and winning 30 of 38 points off her first serve, as she punished Pliskova’s second serve (35.9 per cent success rate). Pliskova did break Barty three times from her only chances, but Barty set up a whopping 19 break point chances. She did only break five times in the end, but the pressure was immense.

“In a sense it was probably a match of two sets,” Barty said post-match. “In the first set I wasn’t able to build any pressure. Kaja was getting in and out of her serving games too quickly, and in turn was then having freedom on my service games. But being able to flip that switch right from the first game of the second set was important. To then make it more of a physical match was what we were after, and over time we were able to get the match back on my terms as much as we expected.”

Fourth seed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina also had to come from behind, fighting off two match points from seventh seed Czech Petra Kvitova to win in three sets, 6-7 7-5 6-2 to secure a semi-finals spot. The match lasted two hours and 37 minutes, and Svitolina dropped the first set tiebreaker 7-4, before managing to win eight of the last 10 games of the match to secure the victory.

“A big battle is always very satisfying, and you know that the hard work pays off,” Svitolina said post-match. “It’s always an unbelievable feeling to go through this kind of match.”

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka also had to battle through in three sets, eventually overcoming Estonian Anett Kontaveit, 7-5 4-6 6-1. The Belarusian won in two hours and 28 minutes in another epic struggle, serving seven aces to four, and winning 70.7 per cent of her first serve points off a 60.5 per cent clip. She broke five times from 10 chances against the Estonian, but more impressively saved 15 of 18 break point opportunities for her opponent.

Meanwhile over in Istanbul, top seed Elise Mertens breezed through in straight sets over Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-4, joining third seed Veronika Kudermetova in the final four after the Russian won in a come-from-behind victory over Romanian Ana Bogdan, 2-6 6-3 6-3. Also through to the semi-finals were Romanian Sorana Cirstea and Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk. Cirstea defeated Fiona Ferro 6-4 0-0 with the Frenchwoman having to retire after the first set, while Kostyuk went the full distance to win 7-5 4-6 6-3 over Croatian Ana Konjuh.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 2-6 6-1 7-5
[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
[4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [7] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-7 7-5 6-2
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Anett Kontaveit (EST) 7-5 4-6 6-1

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-4 6-4
[3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 2-6 6-3 6-3
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4 0-0 RET
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Ana Konjuh (CRO) 7-5 4-6 6-3

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA