Tag: belinda bencic

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: 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: Halep cleans up in 56 minutes as seeds control proceedings

TWO seeds fell across a widely predictable day on the WTA Tour, with the two events seeing fairly convincing results across the board.

At the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Gand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, four world top 10s all proceeded to the quarter finals, with world number two and top seed Simona Halep doing it in style with a 6-1 6-3 sweep of Czech Marketa Vondrousova in just 56 minutes. Vondrousova’s sixth seed compatriot Karolina Pliskova was the only player taken to three sets. Pliskova may have been tested early by Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, but retained control following a 7-6(6) first set deficit to claim the 6-7 6-4 6-3 victory.

Elina Svitolina overcame former world number one and German hopeful Angie Kerber to ensure she made the quarters, escaping the first set tiebreaker to speed through the second set and come away with the 7-6 6-3 victory. Things went even easier for fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka, overcoming another German in Anna-Lena Friedsam in 79 minutes, 6-4 6-2, hitting five aces apiece by controlling proceedings much better to command victory. The remaining match saw the only upset of the day in Germany, as Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova claimed entry into her maiden clay court quarter final, ousting eighth seed Belinda Bencic in the process. The Russian required 81 minutes to carve out her third top 20 win for 2021, hitting 12 aces in the final match of the day to seal the deal, 6-1 7-5.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-1 6-3
[4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-6 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 6-4 6-2
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-7 6-4 6-3
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-1 7-5

 

Meanwhile, at the WTA 250 TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship in Istanbul, Turkey, top seed Elise Mertens remains in the hunt for the crown with another win on the board, this time over Swiss talent Viktorija Golubic, although she was certainly forced to fight for the upper hand in the 6-4 4-6 6-1 clash. The second set slip did not appear to worry Mertens though, as she got down to business to lock Golubic away in the third set. Mertens is joined by third seed Veronika Kudermetova in the quarter finals, following the Russian’s clean 6-4 6-3 sweep of Estonian hard-hitter Kaia Kanepi.

Fifth seed Czech Barbora Krejcikova was not quite so lucky though, well and truly overcome by Romanian Ana Bogdan who was relentless in the 6-3 6-3 victory. Whilst Krejcikova served at an excellent 80 per cent efficiency, she failed to really take control or win points off her service games which allowed Bogdan to find a look in and claim the win. The remaining match of the day saw unseeded duo Fiona Ferro and Vera Zvonareva go head-to-head, with the former taking out the win in an inefficient showing from both players. Ferro’s lesser errors paid off however, eventually running away with the 6-3 6-3 win in 89 minutes.

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 6-4 4-6 6-1
[3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-4 6-3
Ana Bogdan (ROM) defeated [5] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-3 6-3
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-3 6-3

WTA Tour wrap: Bencic and Sakkari start off Stuttgart proceedings as Istanbul open begins

ANOTHER two WTA Tour events have picked up this week, with the clay court circuit continuing across Europe in Stuttgart, Germany, whilst the Istanbul Championship has begun in Turkey.

Just two matches played out on the opening day of proceedings at the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart, with the two favourites reigning supreme over a couple of homegrown German compatriots. Both Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari got away with excellent sub-90-minute victories in straight sets to proceed to the Round of 16.

Eighth seed Bencic was tested early by teenager Nastasja Schunk before settling into an eventual 6-4 6-2 victory in one hour and 28 minutes. A tight first set was effectively only saved by Bencic’s excellent service game, winning 70.8 per cent of first serve points off a 70.6 per cent clip, and winning 50 per cent of her second set points at a lower efficiency than Schunk, but ultimately only winning three less than the German who was forced to rely on her second serve. The second set saw Bencic kick it up a notch, not broken once in the second on her way to victory over the 17-yeear-old.

For Sakkari, it was a much more straightforward win as she disposed of Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-2 in just 66 minutes. Messiness could well have messed it up though, with missed opportunities during the first set and double faults aplenty. But whilst Sakkari was error-ridden, Petkovic did not capitalise where she could have and served at just 36.8 per cent in the first set, bizarrely not winning a single point off her first serve and just three off her second serve, playing the defensive game much better. Where Sakkari faltered in the first though, she stepped up in the second to run out victor credit to a three-ace second set, winning 92.9 per cent of points off her first serve en route to a scrappy victory.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Nastasja Schunk (GER) 6-4 6-2
Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-2 6-2

At the WTA 250 event in Istanbul, eighth seed Wang Qiang overcame a first set deficit to reign supreme as sixth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova‘s matchup against compatriot Anastasia Potapova was suspended in intriguing circumstances, with the 7-6 6-7 encounter – which currently sits at three hours and 10 minutes in length – suspended due to rainfall, as was the remainder of the day’s draw. Whilst Potapova took out the first set tiebreaker 7-6(2), sixth seed Pavlyuchenkova would not be outdone, fighting back for an extraordinary 7-6(8) second set win to extend the match further. For Wang, it was a sloppy first set that allowed a third Russian in Anastasia Gasanova to gain the early upper hand, before the Chinese sixth seed and world number 50 flicked a switch to overcome the Russian in the latter stages, eventually winning 4-6 6-1 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.

In other matches, it was only up-and-coming Croatian Ana Konjuh who got away scot free claiming a straight sets victory on the day, defeating Italian Sara Errani 7-5 6-2 in the clear quickest match of the day. Comparatively, Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova and Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic both required the full length to overcome their respective Spanish opponents, as Siniakova overcame an early surge from Cristina Bucsa to post a 7-6 3-6 6-3 win, whilst Golubic defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz in just over two hours, 6-4 2-6 6-3.

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[8] Wang Qiang (CHN) defeated Anastasia Gasanova (RUS) 4-6 6-1 6-2
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated Sara Errani (ITA) 7-5 6-2
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) defeated Cristina Bucsa (ESP) 7-6 3-6 6-3
Viktorija Golubic (SUI) defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) 6-4 2-6 6-3

Anastasia Potapova (RUS) v. [6] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-6 6-7 SUSP

WTA Tour wrap: Barty’s clay court court campaign recommences with 61-minute demolition

ASH Barty continued her red-hot form to completely dismantle unseeded Japanese talent Misaki Doi 6-2 6-1 to advance through to the Round of 16 at the Volvo Car Open. The world number one moved to a 15-2 record on the 2021 WTA Tour, which also stretches out to 27-4 since her first-up match at the 2020 Adelaide International 15 months ago.

She went on to win that Adelaide International, and after sitting out the 2020 WTA Tour season once it returned in the second half of the year, Barty remained world number one and started off 2021 as if she had not ever stopped. Her first tournament of the year she won in Melbourne, defeating Garbine Muguruza in the final, a player who had competed throughout the past 12 months.

A shock loss to Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open, followed by another defeat at the hands of Danielle Collins might have momentarily caused some unwarranted questions towards the world number one and how she would go this year. Like true champions do, Barty answered those critics with a stunning run in Miami to defend her title there and claim the WTA 1000 event. It was not just winning the event that mattered, but it was the quality of opposition she beat.

After drawing a qualifier in the second round – following a first round bye – Barty took out former Top 5 talent Jelena Ostapenko, then proceeded to dismiss Top 10 players and Grand Slam champions alike on the way to the Miami Open title. She moved past Belarusian duo Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka – the former being the runner-up at the 2020 US Open and the latter being the most in-form player entering 2021 – before defeating Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu – albeit the Andreescu win was due to retirement, though Barty was in control – to make it six wins on the trot.

The critics have quietened down for now, but Barty is a player that somehow draws criticism for one bad loss amongst double-figure impressive wins. The world number one will always have extra pressure on them, but Barty answers those questions with class and grace. Her 61-minute rout of Doi was the most impressive of any Round of 16 match at the Volvo Car Open. Keeping in mind it was Barty’s first clay match in almost two years, and the Australian looked at home on the red dirt. The Australian now takes on Shelby Rogers in the next round after she toppled Amanda Anisimova in an upset.

In other results, the next highest seed behind Barty to advance to the Round of 16 was Tunisian Ons Jabeur (12th), with compatriot Coco Gauff, and 15th seed Russian Veronika Kudermetova the others. It was carnage in the top end though, with American duo Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys both bombing out to compatriots Lauren Davis and Sloane Stephens respectively. Spain’s Paula Badosa also took care of Belinda Bencic in three sets, while Frenchwoman Alize Cornet won against Elise Mertens in straight sets. In terms of the unseeded players, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, United States’ Cate McNally and Japan’s Kurumi Nara all advanced to the next round.

In the lower seeded Copa Colsanitas, all the seeds had a forgettable day, with the first, third, sixth and eighth seeds all knocked out in the Round of 16. Zheng Saisai, Arantxa Rus, Jasmine Paolini and Wang Yafan all departed prior to the quarter finals, as Spanish qualifiers Nuria Parrizas Diaz and Lara Arruabarrena, Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele and Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova all booked their spots in the final eight. In the sole unseeded match, Italian Sara Errani knocked off Aliona Bolsova in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.

VOLVO CAR OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-2 6-1
Lauren Davis (USA) defeated [2] Sofia Kenin (USA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated [5] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-2 6-7 6-1
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated [7] Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-5 6-3
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated [8] Madison Keys (USA) 6-4 6-4
[12] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated [WC] Hailey Baptiste (USA) 6-3 6-3
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [13] Amanda Anisimova (USA) 1-6 7-5 6-4
[14] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 4-6 6-1 6-4
[15] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [WC] Emma Navarro (USA) 6-4 6-4
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) defeated Marie Bouzkova (RUS) 4-6 7-5 7-5
Danka Kovinic (MNE) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Cate McNally (USA) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 7-6 2-6 6-4
Kurumi Nara (JPN) defeated Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-1 6-4

COPA COLSANITAS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Stefanie Voegele (SUI) defeated [1] Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-4 6-1
[Q] Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP) defeated [3] Arantxa Rus (NED) 7-6 2-6 6-1
[Q] Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) defeated [6] Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 2-6 6-4 6-2
Viktoriya Tomova (BUL) defeated [8] Wang Yafan (CHN) 6-3 6-3
Sara Errani (ITA) defeated Aliona Bolsova (ESP) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith

WTA Miami Open 1000: Ana Konjuh’s up some magic to power past Swiatek

CROATIAN former Top 20 talent Ana Konjuh has upset Roland Garros reigning champion Iga Swiatek in the third round of the WTA 1000 Miami Open overnight. The Croatian world number 338th turned 23 in December last year and still has a bright future ahead of her, smashing 40 winners on her way to a three-set win, 6-4 2-6 6-2.

Konjuh served 10 aces to five and only four double faults to six, winning 71.4 per cent of her first serve points to Swiatek’s 62.9 per cent. The Polish player broke her lower ranked opponent three times from seven chances, while the Croatian created 14 break point opportunities, but only converted four of them. The final two were enough to secure the third set victory comfortably and advance through to the next round.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Konjuh said post-match. “I just told myself I need to stay and be offensive and not give her many chances. That second set maybe I screwed up a little bit, but overall, credit to her. You know, she stepped up her game. But I just wanted to stay mentally in it in those key moments just to be able to, you know, produce some great shots. I did that.”

It was a mixed bag for the two Latvians in Miami, with Anastasija Sevastova not even needing to take the court in order to advance to the Round of 16, after third seed Simona Halep pulled out. Top seed Ash Barty won comfortably against the other Latvian in Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-2 in her first match outside Australia in more than 12 months.

Meanwhile both Belarusian’s advanced to the Round of 16, with Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka winning in straight sets against their respective opponents. The seventh seed Sabalenka won 7-6 6-4 defeating 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova, while Azarenka trumped 24th seed Angelique Kerber, 7-5 6-2.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina forced her way past 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in a first set tiebreaker and overall tight match 7-6 6-4, while two Czechs featured in the remaining two matches. Earlier in the day, Marketa Vondrousova toppled 11th seed Belinda Bencic 4-6 6-4 6-4, while Petra Kvitova smashed Great Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes on court.

WTA MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated [3] Simona Halep (ROU) W/O
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [30] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated [17] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-1 6-2
[19] Marketa Vondrousova ( CZE) defeated [11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 4-6 6-4 6-4
[14] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated [24] Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-5 6-2
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated [15] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4 2-6 6-2

Picture credit: WTA Tour

WTA Miami Open 1000: Konjuh shocks Keys as Barty shaky on international return

THE Round of 64 at the 2021 Miami Open has already produced some excellent efforts and intriguing results as the top seeds enter the main draw, with Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka amongst the seeds who were challenged on their opening day.

In a mostly successful day for seeds, just one fell despite hard challenges against the aforementioned top five competitors. It was Madison Keys who was disposed of by Croatian Ana Konjuh, who in the process of completing the 6-4 6-2 clean sweep of the 18th seed, also posted her first top 20 win in four years. It took the 23-year-old and former world number 20 – who now ranks 338th in the world – just one hour and 12 minutes to down the American, cleanly and efficiently outclassing Keys in her first back-to-back win since 2017 following four elbow surgeries.

Barty was forced to overcome a comeback from the Slovak Republic’s Kristina Kucova, taking out the first set but appearing to take the foot off the accelerator as the match went on, dropping the second set 4-6 before Kucova looked to serve for the match at 5-3 in the third. But Barty rallied from there, saving a match point before winning the last five games of the match to run out victor, 6-3 4-6 7-5. Regardless of her shakiness, Barty still registered a solid 78.7 per cent win rate off her first serve credit to a whopping 15 aces on her way to victory, despite only serving off a 50.5 per cent clip. As for Sabalenka, it was her compatriot in Tsvetana Pironkova who provided a real challenge, with her opposition firing from the get-go with a 6-0 start against the seventh seed. But Sabalenka fired from there, still not appearing to be at her best but proving her winning experience was crucial in this encounter to reign supreme 0-6 6-3 7-6(9). The higher ranked Belarusian hit six aces for 11 double faults in an uncharacteristically messy outing, which saw Pironkova intriguingly lead majority of the overall stats but still fall in a huge 7-6(9) final set tiebreaker. The third big test was played out between Elina Svitolina and Shelby Rogers, with the former marginally reigning supreme in the 3-6 7-5 6-3 two hour and 29 minute encounter. While Svitolina lacked consistency in windy conditions and was forced to take a medical timeout for a wrist injury, she clawed her way back with a huge second set to steal momentum and eventual victory.

Angelique Kerber appeared to be back to her best in the quickest match of the day, disposing of Renata Zarazua in just 61 minutes, completing a 6-0 6-0 sweep as Ekaterina AlexandrovaBelinda BencicIga Swiatek and Veronika Kudermetova all followed suit in 70-80 minute respective wins. Also amongst the winners circle on Day 3 at Miami were 17th seed Johanna Konta and unseeded Jelena Ostapenko, whilst three matches are yet to be complete at time of publish.

MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Kristina Kucova (SLO) 6-3 4-6 7-6
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 3-6 7-5 6-3
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (BLR) 0-6 6-3 7-6
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-2 6-1
[16] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-4 6-2
[17] Johanna Konta (GBR) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 6-4 7-5
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated [18] Madison Keys (USA) 6-4 6-2
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-4 6-4
[24] Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Renata Zarazua (MEX) 6-0 6-0
[30] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-0 6-4
[32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Danielle Collins (USA) 6-3 6-2
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-2 5-7 6-3

[3] Simona Halep (ROM) v. Caroline Garcia (FRA)
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) v. Alize Cornet (FRA)
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) v. [31] Coco Gauff (USA)

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA Tour wrap: Pegula smashes Pliskova on her way to final eight

RED-HOT Jessica Pegula is knocking down the door of the Top 30 during the 2021 WTA Dubai Tennis Championships, and her form suggests it could be a lot higher given her dominant 6-0 6-2 demolition job on second seed Karolina Pliskova, her second victory in as many weeks over the Czech. In 2021, Pegula is 21-4 and has made two quarter finals and one semi-final in her past three tournaments including the WTA 1000 Dubai event.

Coming into Dubai. Pegula was already at a career-high 36th in the world, but after her 53-minute rout of world number six Pliskova, Pegula has the opportunity to roll into the seeded places at a Grand Slam, breaking her highly fancied opponent in six of Pliskova’s seven games, and only dropping 11 points on serve in an eye-opening upset victory. The win backed up her previous victories over fellow Top 10 player Elina Svitolina and Pliskova in Doha.

Pegula will be a first-time WTA 1000 quarter finalist alongside another couple of underdogs in Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova and Czech doubles talent Barbora Krejcikova. Potapova ended the run of sixth seed Belinda Bencic in three sets, 6-1 2-6 7-5 in a topsy turvy match, leading the top half of the draw completely seedless. Krejcikova disposed of Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to enter her first WTA 1000 quarter final, and will battle Potapova for further history eyeing off a semi-final.

With Coco Gauff and Jil Teichmann facing one another in the other quarter final in the top half, one player will reach their first ever WTA Tour 1000 final. Gauff took care of Czech qualfier Tereza Martincova in straight sets, 6-4 6-2 to face Teichmann who overcame Tunisian Ons Jabeur in an eye-opening match, 6-3 6-3. Gauff turns 17 on Saturday – the Dubai Tennis Championships final – with the teenager the highly fancied one to reach the decider.

In other results, the seeds rolled through with victories, as 10th seed Elise Mertens took care of France’s Caroline Garcia 6-4 6-2 to set up a clash with Pegula in the quarter finals. Meanwhile third seed Aryna Sabalenka will meet ninth seed Garbine Muguruza in a battle of different styles, with the Belarusian power player knocking out 15th seed Estonian Anett Kontaveit, while the reliable Spanish all-court talent took down Roland Garros winner Iga Swiatek, 6-0 6-4 in a dominant performance.

Krejcikova and Potapova are up first on Centre Court with Mertens and Pegula facing off in the other day match. At night, Muguruza and Sabalenka open the prime time slot, finished off by rising talents Teichmann and Gauff. Both Krejcikova and Pegula have a busy schedule on quarter finals day, also taking part in the doubles quarter finals too.

DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-0 6-2
[3] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [15] Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3 6-2
[WC] Anastasia Potapova (RSU) defeated [6] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-1 2-6 7-5
[9] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [8] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-0 6-4
[10] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-4 6-2
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-3 6-3
[WC] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [Q] Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-4 6-2
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3 6-2

 

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA