Tag: ash barty

2021 WTA Tour Qatar & Lyon previews

DESPITE losing four Grand Slam winners to-date, the 2021 WTA Tour Qatar Ladies Open still looms as a quality event to take place next week. Top five players, Ash Barty, Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin, as well as US Open winner Bianca Andreescu and Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrosova all withdrew from the 500 tournament, but four Top 10 players still remain.

Elina Svitolina has been upgraded to the top seed with the world number five taking advantage of Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka also not attending the event, while Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka and Petra Kvitova round out the top four seeds. Both Pliskova and Kvitova have been in a funk of late, and need to find a way to get back into form. Sabalenka, on the other hand has had nothing but scintillating form, going on a massive winning streak that included a couple of titles late last year, and will look to pick up that again after again falling short of the target at the Australian Open.

Kiki Bertens returns to the Tour at Doha as the fifth seed, while Belinda Bencic has hit her straps in Adelaide and will look to face a host of reinvigorated talents of late. Jennifer Brady is fresh off an Australian Open final to head into the event, while Victoria Azarenka made a Grand Slam final just last year, has rekindled her career-best form and is back inside the Top 20.

The lower end of the draw is still yet to be determined, but the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Ons Jabeur, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva are all expected to take to the court in the 2021 event. Sabalenka is the reigning champion, but Kvitova (2018) and Pliskova (2017) are both past winners here in Doha. Azarenka is a back-to-back winner, having lifted the trophy in 2012-13.

 

Lyon Open:

A second-time event after last year’s debut, the Lyon Open does not quite have the prestige of the Qatar Ladies Open, with world number 33, Ekaterina Alexandrova the top seed. She loves to beat up on lower ranked tournaments and should really get the job done here against a weakened and predominantly European field in France. Though in saying that, there are some good talents here that will push her all the way.

The top two that jump off the page are Argentinian Nadia Podoroska who reached the semi-final at Roland Garros, while rising American teenager Coco Gauff will cause headaches. French trio, Fiona Ferro, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic are also among the Top 50 players at the event, as is Slovenian Polona Hercog.

Lower down the order, United States’ Shelby Rogers, Romanian Sorana Cirstea, Italian Camila Giorgi and Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich are all among the bigger dark horses that could surpass their lower rankings against Top 50 opponents in France.

2021 Adelaide International: Teenagers and Swiss talents reign supreme in quarters

A HUGE couple of semi-finals await at the 2021 Adelaide International after big results ensued yesterday. Two teenagers are well within their chances to show up their more experienced opposition, as two Swiss talents also remain in the hunt. All four players remaining in the draw are under the age of 24, making for an exciting showing of the depth of young talent on the WTA Tour.

An upset over top seed Ash Barty on Wednesday appeared to be Danielle Collins‘ downfall when she took on Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, failing to complete her quarter final matchup and retiring midway through the second set. Swiatek now makes her way to the semis relatively unscathed, with the 6-3 3-0 default win under her belt and sets up an intriguing battle with 61st ranked Swiss talent Jil Teichmann, who disposed of Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in a tough three-setter which went close to three hours. Whilst Teichmann nabbed the first set with relative ease, her opposition would not go down without a fight as the 6-4 6-7 7-5 battle ensued. Fatigue will be a big factor in the semi between Swiatek and Teichmann, with the former sure to take advantage of her opposition’s result in their upcoming encounter.

The second semi will be between American qualifier Coco Gauff and Swiss second seed Belinda Bencic, as both completed solid wins to make their way through. The 16-year-old Gauff took out compatriot Shelby Rogers in three sets, starting slow in the 2-6 6-4 6-4 encounter but building her way back into the contest to reign supreme over her more experienced opposition. As for Bencic, she had a relatively easy encounter against qualifying Australian Storm Sanders, whose excellent week ground to a halt with the 6-2 6-4 sweep from the world number 12. Despite a stronger second set from the qualifier to draw even at 3-3, Bencic utilised her array of skills to wrestle back momentum and take out the win.

2021 Adelaide International: Collins gatecrashes Barty Party as Storm Sanders becomes the last Aussie standing

DANIELLE Collins has sought revenge on world number one Ash Barty, overturning the result between the pair at last year’s Adelaide International to win in straight sets and book her place in the last eight. The American went down in three sets in last year’s semi-final showdown which saw Barty go on to win the title, but in the Round of 16, it was Collins who got the better of the Australian, stunning her 6-3 6-4 and condemning Barty to her second consecutive loss.

“I think I was really familiar with her game after losing to her three times,” Collins said post-match. “So I certainly got some great tennis lessons out of that and have learned from it.”

The American was the third from her nation to make her way into the quarter finals following Shelby Rogers‘ victory the day before, and young gun Coco Gauff‘s come-from-behind win over sixth seed Croatian Petra Martic. Gauff had to fight back from a set down to win 5-7 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 12 minutes, saving seven of her 10 break points, whilst breaking her opponent four times in a nail-biting encounter. She now takes on Rogers in an all-American affair.

For Collins, having disposed of one Grand Slam winner in Barty, she now has another to overcome. The unseeded American faces Iga Swiatek in the quarter finals after the Pole Roland Garros winner defeated Australian Maddison Inglis in straight sets, 6-1 6-3. On a day that was a disaster for seeds, Swiatek held firm and won through to the final eight, joining second seed Belinda Bencic as the only other seed through to the quarter finals.

The biggest upset of the day – even more so than Collins over Barty – was Storm Sanders‘ triumph over Yulia Putintseva. The 26-year-old world number 292nd had no fears against the seventh seed and world number 28, winning 6-4 5-7 6-1 in a tight affair. In a remarkable second match since they last played nine years ago when they were teenagers, the now 26-year-olds engaged in a two-hour and 18-minute battle which saw Sanders emerge victorious. She saved eight of 10 break points, whilst capitalising on four of nine herself to make her way into the quarter finals to take on Bencic.

In the other results, Latvian Anastasia Sevastova will lock horns with Swiss rising talent Jil Teichmann after both won their respective matches. Sevastova knocked out Christina McHale in straight sets, 6-4 6-3, while Teichmann came from behind to defeat eighth seed Chinese talent, Wang Qiang, 3-6 6-3 6-3.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Danielle Collins (USA) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-3 6-4
[2] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-1 6-3
[5] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-1 6-3
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [6] Petra Martic (CRO) 5-7 6-3 6-4
Storm Sanders (AUS) defeated [7] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 5-7 6-1
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated [8] Wang Qiang (CHN) 3-6 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) defeated Christina McHale 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/James Elsby

2021 Adelaide International WTA preview: Barty Party not over down under

THOSE Australians wanting more Ash Barty will get what they wished for after the world number one made a surprise late charge at the 2021 Adelaide International WTA 500 event. The tournament was initially featuring a stacked field, but with many of them reaching deep into the Australian Open, withdrawals had left the tournament without a Top 10 player. Then came Barty.

The Australian reached the quarter finals of her home Grand Slam during the week, and has opted to play another tournament Down Under having missed out on so much tennis in the past 12 months. Unsurprisingly, the tournament committee was more than happy to hand her a wildcard alongside fellow Australians Olivia Gadecki – coming off a stunning win over Grand Slam winner Sofia KeninSam Stosur and Ajla Tomljanovic.

The field for the Adelaide International is not the strongest one, but still features some great young talent alongside some players really hoping to build better form in 2021. Roland Garros reigning champion Iga Swiatek could loom as one of the main threat’s to Barty’s crown, with the 17th ranked Pole coming in as the fifth seed. Fellow young gun, Yulia Putintseva is seventh seed and one of seven Top 30 competitors at the event.

Elise Mertens is the one to watch, with the tricky Belgian flying under the radar at times, but has the capacity to push for a Top 10 spot, currently ranked 16th and coming in as the fourth seed. Belinda Bencic and Johanna Konta round out the top four players at the event, with both the Swiss up-and-comer and British talent looking to have better outings than their third and first round exits at Melbourne Park. Sixth seed Petra Martic is in the same boat, exiting the first Grand Slam of the year in the Round of 128 and now the world number 19 is hoping to impress here.

The withdrawals from the tournament include Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady, and young guns Bianca Andreescu, Elena Rybakina, Dayana Yastremska and Marketa Vondrousova. Instead a number of Chinese and French hopes have come into the tournament, with Zhang Shuai, Zheng Saisai and Wang Qiang joining eighth seed Qiang Wang in the draw, as well as Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. American duo Danielle Collins and Shelby Rogers are also among the inclusions following the withdrawals.

While the Australian Open did not go to plan for the world number one, the Barty Party is predicted to roll on in Adelaide, with the Australian star a winner her 12 months ago and is clearly the best player in the draw. Mertens and Swiatek are the biggest threats to her crown based on their form, while one of the other seeds could finally click into gear in 2021 and cause some headaches.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Quarter Finals wrap: Muchova and Brady book semi-final spots

A FIRST-time Grand Slam finalist will be crowned at the end of the semi-finals after 22nd seed Jennifer Brady and 25th seed Karolina Muchova both came back from a set down to win their respective quarter finals. It is an unlikely semi, though it is Brady’s second career Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the last four at the US Open last year.

The 25-year-old American reached the semis of the US Open after not playing a Top 20 player. To her credit, Brady did not drop a set, before running into eventual winner Naomi Osaka who won in three sets. Ironically, that could be the Australian Open final if both players win their semi-finals. Since the semi-final run at the US Open, Brady has reached two semi-finals.

Against compatriot Jessica Pegula, Brady fought back after dropping the first set to win 4-6 6-2 6-1 in an hour and 40 minutes. Brady served seven aces to zero and dominated her service games, with an 82 per cent winning record off her first serve. Unfortunately for the higher ranked player, she only recorded a 49 per cent serving efficiency, and won 38 per cent of of her second serve points.

Pegula does not have the same power off her serve, but she was more consistent, and it showed in the first set. Breaking four times herself, Pegula hit the same amount of in-court winners (15-15), and only three more unforced errors (32-29) during the loss.

“I think I felt really good out there physically,” Brady said post-match. “I could maybe see on the other side of the net, maybe Jess was a little bit tired there. That definitely helped me mentally.

“It just gave me a little bit more confidence knowing that I’m doing pretty good, maybe she’s a little bit tired, now is my chance to really step up here and take advantage of that.”

The big surprise of the day was giant-killer Muchova’s upset come-from-behind win over top seed and home nation hero Ash Barty. The Czech 25th seed won 1-6 6-3 6-2 in just under two hours of match play, with a lot of the talk centered around a controversial injury timeout for Muchova to clear her head. Barty had no problems with it post-match, though it was a turning point, as Muchova broke back and then took the second and deciding set to win in an hour and 57 minutes.

Barty hit four more winners (21-17) as well as four more unforced errors (37-33) but could not capitalise on break point chances after the first set, breaking just once in the last two sets, as Muchova broke four times in that period. After struggling early, the Czech came good, winning 63 per cent of her second serve, much higher than Barty’s 50 per cent. Both players were fairly even, though Muchova’s higher efficiency at the net, with 13 of 23 points helped her get an upperhand there.

“I actually have one memory from here when I was a kid and got my first notebook,” Muchova said post-match. “I put it as a wallpaper Rod Laver, the stadium. I was just, like, I hope one day it would be nice to play there or to look at the arena or whatever. Now I just won a match and make it to semifinals. It’s amazing.”

Brady said she was looking forward to taking on Muchova, with the Czech holding a 1-0 advantage over the American in their head-to-head battle.

“She’s crafty,” Brady said. “She looks to move forward, has an all-court game. She’s really athletic. I hope it will be a good, competitive match. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 1-6 6-3 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-1

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Women’s Round of 16 wrap: Barty, Muchova, American duo reign supreme on day eight

THE Australian Open women’s Round of 16 was complete yesterday, with one major upset amongst a big day on the park. Two of the three American competitors joined Serena Williams in the quarter finals as their remaining compatriot left in the draw was ousted by world number one Ash Barty, who disposed of Shelby Rogers in the quickest match of the day.

True to form, Barty continued her excellent run at the title on home soil with another convincing showing at Rod Laver Arena, defeating Rogers for a second time in as many  weeks. The Australian was clinical taking on the American, disposing of Rogers 6-3 6-4, hitting 21 winners to 16 unforced errors, compared to Rogers’ 14-25, and whilst Rogers was marginally more consistent on serve, winning 61 per cent of points off both her first and second serve, Barty won 76 per cent off her first serve to carve out the win.

“I knew it was going to be vital to serve well tonight,” Barty said post-match. “That was something I really wanted to try and focus on, just to try and give myself a chance to be in control of more points. There were a couple of runs of points [and] games in our match last week that Shelby was able to get on a roll and run away with it a little bit. I wanted to try and avoid that and just bring it back on my terms as much as I could, and try and be the aggressor when I could.”

Next up Barty will take on 25th seed Czech Karolina Muchova, who took out a tight 7-6 7-5 victory over Elise Mertens yesterday afternoon. Whilst the Czech got off to a sloppy 0-4 start credit to Mertens’ composure, she is not in the midst of a personal best winning streak for nothing, as she ran away with the momentum and eventually, the win in just under two hours.

Meanwhile, the remaining two Americans in this half of the draw will do battle after both 22nd seed Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula reigned supreme in their respective encounters. Pegula came away with the upset of the day as she disposed of fifth seed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, getting away to a hot start in her first career win over a Top 10 player.

“I thought I served really well pretty much the whole time,” Pegula said. “I think that I kind of got a little tentative in the second set. “I played a good game to break her, then I didn’t hold serve. “That was huge.

“I’m just happy that I reset at the start of the third. I think that’s huge. Obviously you know you’re going to go three sets eventually. “I think the way I kind of switched the momentum and turned it around was really, really important.

“I can’t get more confident, it is my best result yet and I’m playing good tennis and today was a hard fought win, so, yeah, I’m feeling pretty good.”

Brady disposed of Donna Vekic in the second three-setter of the day, coming away victor in a 6-1 7-5 encounter, narrowly reigning supreme in the second set to stop the match in its tracks.

In today’s proceedings, unseeded veteran Hsieh Su-Wei will look to continue her excellent form as she takes on a player more than 10 years her junior in world number three Naomi Osaka, while a huge battle is expected between top 10 champions Simona Halep and Williams in the evening.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-3 6-4
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [18] Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-6 7-5
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated [28] Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-1 7-5

Picture credit: Tennis Australia

Australian Open Women’s Round of 16 wrap: Hsieh into maiden Grand Slam quarter final as Osaka comes back from the brink

A BLOCKBUSTER day of Australian Open action completed the first week at Melbourne Park, as a couple more upsets were added to the list and tight encounters were pushed all the way as the tournament heats up.

Three three-setters set the tone for the huge day on the park, as Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka were pushed all the way by their respective opposition after slow starts, and Serena Williams overcame an uncharacteristic second set to win the longest match of the day against Aryna Sabalenka, 6-4 2-6 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes.

This victory marks Williams’ 13th quarterfinals appearance at the Australian Open, and in the duos’ first encounter it took a lot to overcome the Belarusian, who was the first to take a set off the American champion during the tournament thus far.

“It was obviously real important because I didn’t want to be out of the tournament, so it felt good to kind of clutch that in the end and get through that,” Williams said post-match.

“I just felt like even games that I lost, I was so close to winning,” Williams said. “Not all games, but probably most of those games. I just needed to play better on the big points. “I knew that I could. “I still hadn’t reached my peak. “I was like, ‘Okay, Serena, you got this, just keep going.”

Williams piled on the pressure with nine aces and hitting 30 winners for 26 unforced errors, and was also marginally more efficient on serve despite her second set dip, winning 78 per cent of points off her first serve and 40 per cent off her second, compared to the slightly more consistent Sabalenka’s 68 and 50 per cent effectiveness.

The other two day sessions played host to an exciting comeback from Osaka, who came from 3-5 down in the third set to win her match against 2020 Australian Open runner up Garbine Muguruza, 4-6 6-4 7-5, and an excellent outing from Hsieh Su-Wei who ousted 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova in the lone two set win of the day, 6-4 6-2.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty good match. We had a lot of great points,” Muguruza said post-match. “I felt, of course, a little bit disappointed being 5-3 in the third set up, having match points. It’s never a good feeling losing a match that you feel you could have change in one second. “But I left the court with a good feeling, very good feeling of this tournament in general.”

“I felt like I couldn’t hit any ball at a slower pace or else she would immediately move me. I think that’s why I made so many unforced errors, because I was sort of playing in a zone that wasn’t comfortable for me,” Osaka said.

“But I also think that’s something that you get when you play against a Grand Slam champion. “For me, that’s where I feel I play the best because I feel like I’m pushed really hard.”

Osaka will have the test of overcoming Hsieh in the quarter final, as the Chinese Taipei talent makes her maiden grand slam quarter final appearance from 38 main draw appearances. The veteran was clinical in her ousting of Vondrousova, winning a whopping 80 per cent off her first serve, and whilst her second serve 53 per cent efficiency was nothing exciting, she did not have to rely on the second given her 28 points off her first serve. The final match of the round saw Halep dispose of Polish youngster Iga Swiatek, coming from a set down to reign supreme 3-6 6-1 6-4.

In today’s matches, a trio of Americans will try their hand at joining Williams in the quarter finals, as unseeded duo Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers take on Elina Svitolina and Ash Barty respectively, whilst 22nd seed Jennifer Brady will take on 28th seed Donna Vekic, and the remaining match will play out between a couple more seeds in Elise Mertens and Karolina Muchova.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated [15] Iga Swiatek (POL) 3-6 6-1 6-4
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated [14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 4-6 6-4 7-5
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated [7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-4 2-6 6-4
Hsieh Su-Wei (TAI) defeated [19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-4 6-2

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

Australian Open Women’s Round of 32 wrap: Upsets galore as Muchova overcomes Pliskova in huge comeback

A COUPLE of seeded encounters ended in intriguing upsets during the beginning of the Round of 32 at the Australian Open, as the first weekend of zero spectators at the Melbourne Park event began.

Whilst the top seeds of the day in Ash Barty and Elina Svitolina were successful in their pursuits, and a trio of Americans impressed as the competition tightened, Karolina PliskovaBelinda Bencic and Anett Kontaveit all were left behind on day six after all going down in straight sets to their respective opposition. Pliskova came away runner up in one of the tightest encounters of the day, going down to compatriot and 25th seed Karolina Muchova 7-6 7-6 in just under two hours, with a huge comeback from the lower ranked Czech doing wonders for her second week chances, coming back from 5-0 in the second set to reign supreme in the tiebreaker.

“The feeling was not great from any of the matches here. Some were a little bit better, some were a little bit worse,” Pliskova said.

“I think overall, too many mistakes, too much panic in the rallies. “I don’t know if it’s just not having any matches much lately, even last year. I don’t feel safe with anything that I was really doing on the court.

“I thought there were couple close games where I could really go 6-0,” Pliskova said. There was a long game for 5-1 and 6-0.

“I thought she just played a little bit better at this moment. Of course, I played quite amazing to 5-0, but then it’s quite tough to hold this level for a longer time. I was going for big shots.”

While Pliskova hit three more aces (6-3) and two more winners (24-22), she also hit eight more unforced errors (40-32) and was not quite as consistent off her serve, as Muchova well and truly took advantage of a rough day on the park from her higher ranked opposition. The same could not be said for Bencic though, with the 11th seed disposed of quickly and efficiently by 18th seed Elise Mertens 6-2 6-1 in the shortest match of the day, just 62 minutes. Interestingly, the remaining short encounter played out between the last upset to round out the set of three, as unseeded American Shelby Rogers overcame 21st seed Anett Kontveit in 68 minutes. She joins 22nd seed Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula in the Round of 16, whilst Kontaveit’s compatriot Kaia Kanepi was disposed of in the lone three-setter of the day,  as 28th seed Donna Vekic overcame the power-hitter 5-7 7-6 6-4.

While not quite as remarkable as some of the other matches on day six, Barty’s solid victory over 29th seed Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova and Svitolina’s win against 26th seed Kazakh Yulia Putintseva were no easy feats, as the two top five talents proved just why they are capable of going all the way.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [29] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2 6-4
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [26] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 6-0
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-5 7-5
[18] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [11] Belinda Bencic [SUI) 6-2 6-1
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [21] Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-4 6-3
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated [Q] Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-1 6-3
[28] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Kaia Kanepi (EST) 5-7 7-6 6-4
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2 6-1

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Women’s Round of 32 wrap: Top ranked players all advance to fourth round

JUST one unseeded player remains in the bottom half of the Australian Open Women’s draw after all of the highest ranked players won through on day five of the Grand Slam event. The final unseeded player remaining is Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh, who took out Italian qualifier and former Top 5 player Sara Errani in three sets, 6-4 2-6 7-5 to book her spot in the Round of 16.

Across the board the favourites all got up with that all-unseeded clash being the only match requiring three sets. The next closest – at least for a set – was Serena Williams needing a tiebreaker against Russian Anastasia Potapova, before clicking into gear with a dominant second set to win, 7-6 6-2 and advance through to the fourth round. Also through in straight sets were fellow Top 10 players, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka. Halep took out 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-3, Osaka brushed aside 27th seed Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-2, while Sabalenka ended the winning streak of Ann Li in 2021 courtesy of a 6-3 6-1 victory.

The wins set up an unbelievable fourth round match between Williams and Sabalenka. The 10th seed American is going for the equal-record 24th Grand Slam title, while the Belarusian – despite yet to secure her first – has an 18-1 record since late last year, triumphing in three consecutive tournaments to close out the season.

“It’s a big challenge, but it’s a tough one, but I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match, like mentally be ready to get this win,” Sabalenka said post-match of Williams after her win against Li. “She’s a great player, and it’s always a big challenge to play against these kind of players. But I’m going to do everything I can to get this win. We’re all here for the wins and I’m going to do everything.”

Williams said she did not like the way she played in the first set against the teenage Potapova, before having more consistent strokes in the second set.

“I just was not striking in that first set. I was making errors, I was slow,” Williams said post-match. “At one point, i just started playing defense because it was the only thing I could do. “It was good to get through that match. The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. “I was able to play a little more free in the second set.”

Williams said she was looking forward to the clash with Sabalenka, in what shapes to be a power spectacular with the two biggest hitters in the game going head-to-head.

“She hits very hard. She has a big, big power game,” Williams said. “She’s a big girl. “Strong like myself. “I think it will be a really good match.”

In the other seeded results, last year’s finalist Garbine Muguruza continued her form at Melbourne Park with a dominant 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, while Marketa Vondrousova toppled giant-killer Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-4, and Iga Swiatek proved too good for Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro, winning in straight sets in the late match.

Aside from the Williams-Sabalenka clash, Halep takes on Swiatek, Osaka faces Muguruza and in the only match not featuring a Grand Slam winner, Vondrousova locks horns with Su-Wei. In today’s action, the three key matches are top seed Ash Barty up against Russian 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, 11th seed Belinda Bencic taking on 18th seed Elise Mertens, and sixth seed Karolina Pliskova facing Czech compatriot and 25th seed, Karolina Muchova.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated [32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-3
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated [27] Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-3 6-2
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Ann Li (USA) 6-3 6-1
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 7-6 6-2
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-1 6-1
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4 6-3
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 6-2 6-4
Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) defeated [Q] Sara Errani (ITA) 6-4 2-6 7-5

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

Australian Open Women’s Round of 64 wrap: Reigning champion Kenin falters

WHILE rain delays may have soured Day 4 of the 2021 Australian Open, there was not much to sour the women’s draw as the Round of 64 concluded, with a much more predictable day at the office compared to Wednesday’s results. But one result was the upset of the round – and possibly the week – as defending Australian Open champion and world number four, Sofia Kenin, was disposed of in straight sets by Estonian power-hitter, Kaia Kanepi.

It was an uncharacteristic outing from Kenin that sees her finish off her time in Melbourne on the sidelines, failing to withstand the pressure of Kanepi’s powerful serve, with the Estonian racking up 22 winners and 10 aces to Kenin’s 10 and one at an 80 per cent first serve win rate. But it was not just her own serve that Kanepi won off, but also Kenin’s, with the American winning points off 60 per cent of her first serve and 44 per cent off her second, unable to compare and going down in 64 minutes.

“I was obviously way too nervous,” Kenin said post-match. “I felt like I obviously wasn’t there. My head wasn’t there.

“I’m not going to take any credit away from her. She played really well. She came up with some good shots. She obviously had a good plan against me.

“I had chances. I just couldn’t take it. I obviously know why because the nerves big-time got to me.

“I just couldn’t execute my shots.”

While the show is over for the reigning champion, all other competing seeds on the day continued their winning form with Ash Barty tested by compatriot Daria Gavrilova in a 6-1 7-6 outing, eventually overcoming the wildcard in just over 90 minutes, while Karolina Pliskova was tested early by American Danielle Collins before running out a 7-6 6-2 victor.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina was challenged in patches by exciting youngster Coco Gauff before utilising her experience to come away with a 6-4 6-3 victory, and the same could be said for 18th seed Elise Mertens who defeated Zhu Lin 7-6 6-1, while fellow seeds Jennifer Brady, Karolina Muchova, Donna Vekic and Ekaterina Alexandrova all joined the straight sets winners club.

Three players were extended to two-plus hours in their respective encounters, with seeds Belinda Bencic and Anett Kontaveit pushed by their respective opponents in Svetlana Kuznetsova and Heather Watson, while Egyptian Mayar Sherif fell out of the winners circle after winning the first set against Kaja Juvan, eventually going down 3-6 7-6 6-3 in two hours and 39 minutes. The final three-setter of the round saw Kazakh 26th seed Yulia Putintseva steal victory away from Alison Van Uytvanck after a sloppy 1-6 second set, eventually reigning supreme in one hour and 55 minutes.

In the remaining matches of the round, American duo Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers both came out on top relatively unscathed and are joined by Kristina Mladenovic in the third round. Today’s proceedings will see seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka and Serena Williams headline the day session at Rod Laver Arena, with the likes of 2020 Australian Open runner up Garbine Muguruza and US Open winner Naomi Osaka playing at Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena respectively. World number two Simona Halep will take on Veronika Kudermetova in the evening at Rod Laver, and French Open victor Iga Swiatek will hope to continue her run.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [WC] Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-1 7-6
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [4] Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-3 6-2
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 6-4 6-3
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Danielle Collins (USA) 7-5 6-2
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 7-5 2-6 6-4
[18] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zhu Lin (CHN) 7-6 6-1
[21] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Heather Watson (GBR) 6-7 6-4 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Madison Brengle (USA) 6-1 6-2
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Mona Barthel (GER) 6-4 6-1
[26] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-4 1-6 6-2
[28] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-2 6-2
[29] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-3 7-6
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [WC] Sam Stosur (AUS) 6-0 6-1
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated [Q] Mayar Sherif (EGY) 3-6 7-6 6-3
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [Q] Olga Danilovic (SRB) 6-2 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated Nao Hibino (JPN) 7-5 6-1