Tag: ash barty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

WTA Tour wrap: Barty and Swiatek set up huge quarter finals clash

THE first day of Round of 32 action is done and dusted at the Madrid Open in Spain, with a couple of intriguing tests making life difficult for seeded competitors.

Ash Barty continued her winning run for the year, still leading all-comers with the most wins to her name in 2021 but was really tested by Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in an intriguing 6-4 1-6 6-3, one hour and 58 minute encounter.

“A really tough match,” Barty said. “I felt my margins were a little bit off today. Made a lot of errors. I think I was missing in the right way, but still just a foot or two here or there makes a big difference. I felt like there were probably too many loose ones for me today.”

Barty was uncharacteristically inefficient off her first serve at just 51 per cent throughout, but still managing to claim the ascendancy with an improved winning rate off said serve. A huge second set from Zidansek – winning her first ever set off a top 10 player – could have spelled trouble for the world number one, however an improved third set saw Barty wrench momentum back in her favour, capitalising off Zidansek’s errors to claim the win.

“I don’t think there was a lot in it by any means,” Barty said. “We had a lot of close games in the first set, early in the second set. In the third, as well, there were a lot of close games. I think the response early in the third was good. I was a bit more aggressive, was able to bring the match back on my terms.”

Meanwhile, a win to Iga Swiatek over German Laura Siegemund has set up a massive quarter final encounter between Swiatek and Barty, with the 2019 and 2020 Roland Garros champions meeting on court for the first time. While Barty was challenged in the second round, Swiatek had a much easier time against Siegemund to claim a 6-3 6-3 victory. Even despite dropping a 3-0 start to the second set as Siegemund recovered to even up the ledger to 3-0, Swiatek won the remaining games to claim the one hour and 40 minute victory.

“It was pretty hard to close that match,” Swiatek said. “Match balls are pretty stressful because you know you’re almost at the end. Sometimes a crazy idea may come up. I tried to just be focused on my basic game, to play safe.

“Anyway, I made a lot of little mistakes. I wasn’t sure where it came from. It was pretty annoying. It just shows that Laura is a great fighter. You could see that also in previous games. In second game of second set, she had amazing rallies, amazing points. She’s fighting till the end and she’s not giving anything for free.”

Both players are looking forward to their encounter, with only a practice hit-out to go off in the past.

“Real exciting,” said Barty. “A match that I look forward to. I’ve hit with her once in Melbourne a few months ago. She’s got a seriously impressive game. Moves very well on the clay court, can slide off both legs, controls her body really well on clay. Likes to use her hopper, gets around, controls the court with her forehand. It’s a challenge that we go into with a really clean slate, a little bit of a period of trying to figure each other out and how our games match up.”

“She has a great slice,” Swiatek said. “I remember it was hard in Melbourne to keep your legs low, just playing back those slices. I think most of the girls have problem with that. I’m going to remember about that.”

“I really respect her,” she said. “Basically I think it’s a good example of dealing with expectations, just having some kind of a distance to the game. I’m also having a hard time finding it. I want to kind of win every match, I want to win right now. Sometimes I’m not giving myself time. She did that.

In other games, Eighth and ninth seeds Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova both reigned supreme, whilst another two seeds fell in intriguing results, with Kiki Bertens and Johanna Konta both disposed of in straight sets by Russian, Veronika Kudermetova and Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova, respectively. Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa were the remaining two winners of the day to head to the quarter finals.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-4 1-6 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [7] Kiki Bertens (NED) 6-4 6-3
[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 3-6 6-1 7-6
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-4 7-5
[14] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3 6-3
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated [15] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3 6-3
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-1 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 5-7 6-1 6-2

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WTA Tour wrap: Svitolina overcome by Teichmann, Barty and Swiatek skate through at Madrid

THE WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open has begun in Spain, with the opening day of action seeing plenty of fascinating results. Just one seed fell across the board in the lone three-setter of the day, setting up a massive second round already when proceedings have only just begun.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina was the first to fall, despite a stellar start giving her the upper hand against Swiss talent Jil Teichmann. But Svitolina failed to bring the heat in the resulting second set as Teichmann piled on the pressure, as a third set ensued before Teichmann ran out 2-6 6-4 7-6(5) victor in just over two and a half hours.

It was an untidy first set from Teichmann that allowed Svitolina to take out the early ascendancy, before an impressive turnaround – including a much more consistent serve and two aces in the third – allowed the Swiss native to switch the momentum and claim victory. Whilst a 1-5 start to the third set may have looked dangerous, Teichmann flipped a switch to save six match points and pulled off a remarkable come-from-behind win.

“I started slow, especially with a lot of unforced errors,” Teichmann said. “Giving her too many free points. So I found a way to be more solid, to hit more balls.”

Where Teichmann’s compatriot and eighth seed Belinda Bencic was also successful in a 6-4 6-2 encounter with Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, Svitolina’s compatriot Kateryna Kozlova was overcome in the same result by German Laura Siegemund.

A number of American names filtered across the courts in Madrid, with results split evenly down the middle. Two of the day’s top United States prospects in Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske were overcome by seeds who came out flying, with top seed Australian Ash Barty in fine form defeated Rogers 6-2 6-1 in one hour flat, whilst Riske struggled against in-form youngster Iga Swiatek on her Madrid debut, downed 6-1 6-1 in 67 minutes.

“I’ve played Shelby many times this year… and it’s always a very big challenge,” Barty said post-match. “I needed to make sure that I was at my very best to be able to compete today.”

“Every time you step out on the court against Shelby, you really need to be switched on, play your very best because she has the ability to take the match away from you very quickly. It was important for me to start well, across the whole match. It was always going to be a big factor.”

Barty hit eight aces and did not face a single break point on her way to victory, also piling on 19 winners for just nine unforced errors in a classy showing. While Barty is fresh off a clay court title last week at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, 14th seed Swiatek took the court for the first time on clay this season and effectively the first time since her breakthrough French Open victory in 2020.

“Today I just wanted to play solid and to use all the tactics, the clues that my coach gave me to implement everything in my game that he told me. I did that pretty well,” Swiatek said.

“I did some unforced errors that I wish they didn’t happen, but they didn’t have much influence on the score. Also I try to come back to the solid game, so I did that pretty well.”

“[It’s] my first time here. For sure the balls are going pretty high because of the air here. Madrid is elevated. It’s totally different. I strung my racquet more tight. I think most of the players are doing that, so it’s not something special.

“You just have to be ready for every shot because I felt that on practices and even today, that when I did something like a small mistake technically, the ball went out two meters. You really have to be careful here and just kind of really, really focus on techniques.”

The remaining two United States competitors of the day both claimed wins in relatively simple circumstances, as Bernarda Pera and Sloane Stephens got wins on the board in 76 and 82 minutes, respectively. Three more seeds reigned supreme, with seventh seed and defending Madrid champion Kiki Bertens, three-time winner and ninth seed Petra Kvitova – by default after compatriot Marie Bouzkova was forced to retire at 6-2 2-3 – and 15th seed Johanna Konta all heading into the second round. Another six competitors will look to hit the ground running in the Round of 32, with Anastasija SevastovaTamara ZidansekVeronika Kudermetova, hometown hope Paula BadosaOns Jabeur and Angelique Kerber all claiming straight set wins.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-2 6-1
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 2-6 6-4 7-6
[7] Kiki Bertens (NED) defeated Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND) 6-4 6-0
[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-4 6-2
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-2 2-3 RET
[14] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Alison Riske (USA) 6-1 6-1
[15] Johanna Konta (GBR) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 6-2
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated Petra Martic (CRO) 6-3 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROM) 6-0 6-3
Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 6-4 6-2
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated Danka Kovinic (MNE) 6-4 6-1
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) 6-2 6-4
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Elena Vesnina (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-1 7-5
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-2 6-3
Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 7-6 6-1

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