Tag: danielle collins

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: Qualifiers share spotlight as main draw takes the court

DAY 2 of the Adelaide International qualifying round saw the WTA 500 tournament’s main draw begin, with plenty of hotly contested matches on centre court during the first day of the official competition, as Anastasija Sevastova, Wang QiangShelby Rogers and Danielle Collins headed into the Round of 16 with relative ease.

Sevastova was the first to win through to the Round of 16, defeating Caroline Garcia in 81 minutes 6-2 6-4. It was a solid first serve efficiency that saw the Latvian take out the victory, winning 65 per cent of first serve points off a 72.7 per cent clip, controlling the match despite the Frenchwoman fighting back in the second. A game-for-game first set between eighth seed Wang and wildcard Olivia Gadecki – who sits barely within the top 400 at 399th in the world – drew plenty of eyes as the Australian challenged Wang, before the Chinese talent ran away with the second set and eventual victory with her ability to win off her first serve paying dividends with an effectiveness of close to 88 per cent.

On the first and second show courts, it was the underdogs that showcased their form as the likes of Storm Sanders and Liudmila Samsonova reigned supreme and headed into the main draw. Sanders had an excellent outing against American Caty McNally, downing the ninth seed in 75 minute 6-2 6-3. Whilst not as huge a scalp as Sanders’ victory – ranking 292nd in the world to McNally’s 118th – 10th seed and 117th ranked Samsonova got the chocolates over Japanese fifth seed and world number 86 Misaki Doi, 7-6 6-3. Meanwhile, an excellent showing from Latvian Kaja Juvan saw the 20-year-old speed away to an early lead, before 16-year-old top seed Coco Gauff clapped back midway through the second to force a deciding set after a huge come from behind effort, eventually winning 3-6 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes.

A mammoth effort from Maddison Inglis saw the Australian join the winners list with an excellent outing against third seed Christina McHale. Whilst the American seemed to have all proceedings going her way early, a stellar comeback across the second and third sets handed Inglis her entry into the main draw and a chance at her maiden WTA Tour win. With a 65.6 per cent win rate on her first serve off a 78 per cent clip, Inglis was far more effective on serve and utilised her service speed to knock off the world number 85, 4-6 6-2 6-1 in just under two hours.

The remaining two Round of 32 encounters saw a fired-up Rogers fly through the first set against Veronika Kudermetova, before the Russian bit back in the second to force a tiebreaker but unable to rein in the American, as Rogers’ compatriot Collins downed Zheng Saisai and Madison Brengle won through to the main draw alongside Italian Jasmine Paolini.

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 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

Australian Open Women’s Round of 64 wrap: Cirstea stuns Kvitova as Halep holds on

A COUPLE of massive upsets and an almost even bigger upset were the talking points on day three of the Australian Open women’s competition. Eighth seed Bianca Andreescu‘s second match back from injury did not go to plan, losing in straight sets to Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh, while ninth seed Petra Kvitova‘s lacklustre form of late continued, losing out to unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

The world’s best doubles player – but ranked 71st in singles – Su-Wei showed no mercy against the Canadian US Open winner, claiming a 6-2 6-3 win in just 83 minutes on court. Su-Wei hit four less winners (16-20), but had 11 less unforced errors (14-25), as she broke six times from nine chances compared to Andreescu’s two from four. It meant that in the past 18 months, the Canadian young gun has played just the two matches – both here at Melbourne Park and back-to-back – for a net result of 1-1.

The more disappointing of the two results was Kvitova’s three-set loss to world number 68 Cirstea. Whilst making it a battle, Kvitova faded out in the deciding set to lose 6-4 1-6 6-1 in two hours and three minutes. One of, if not the best left hander in the world, the Czech has not been herself of late, and needs to rekindle the form soon or she could slip right outside the Top 10. Full credit to Cirstea who broke six times from 16 chances – compared to five from 13 – whilst hitting 14 less unforced errors (30-44) and only four less winners (17-21).

Almost witnessing the biggest upset of the tournament to-date, fans on Margaret Court Arena could hardly believe their eyes when Australian Ajla Tomljanovic was serving for the match against second seed Simona Halep. The home nation support tried to will on their competitor who won the first set, and then was 5-2 up in the third set. Unfortunately for Tomljanovic, that is where it all swung in the world number two’s favour, as Halep won the last five games of the match – crucially breaking in the ninth game of the set and booking her spot in the third round. After losing every singles match in the second half of last year – not an exaggeration – Tomljanovic has shown good form in 2021, winning two from five, with losses to Halep, Aryna Sabalenka and a three-set defeat to Alize Cornet last week.

Speaking of Sabalenka, she continued her great form of the past six months to post a straight sets win over Russian Daria Kasatkina. She joined other Top 10 players, Naomi Osaka, Sabalenka and Serena Williams in the next round without dropping a set. Other seeds to win in two sets were last year’s Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza, reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, and the resurgent Tunisian, Ons Jabeur.

In an all-Russian battle, 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova booked her spot in the Round of 32 courtesy of a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win over Varvara Gracheva. She joined Anastasia Potapova in the next round after the Russian took care of Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos, 6-2 6-4. The only other seed to drop out at the second round stage was Elena Rybakina with the rising Kazakh talent unable to repeat her early form last year, going down to France’s Fiona Ferro, 6-4 6-4.

One could have been forgiven if they thought they had time travelled 10 to 15 years. Italian qualifier and former Top 5 player Sara Errani easily overcame an injured Venus Williams 6-1 6-0, in what was a battle of the veterans. A much younger Ann Li continued her unbeaten run in 2021, defeating Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets, while Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas also made it through to the Round of 32.

The match of the third round has to be third seed Osaka up against 27th seed Jabeur, with the winner likely to play Muguruza in the Round of 16. The stunning upsets of Andreescu and Kvitova has opened the draw wide open for Vondrousova, who could easily make a quarter final if she can play at her best as the only Top 60 player in her section. Sabalenka takes on Li, whilst a potential fourth round clash between the power punchers in Sabalenka and Serena Williams would be a dream, much like a similar clash if Halep and Swiatek win their respective third round matches.

Looking ahead to today, and top seed Ash Barty is back on court up against compatriot Daria Gavrilova in a must-watch for the home nation. Forget not dropping a set, Barty is yet to drop a game after her double-donut performance against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in the first round. Other matches that could provide some highlights include 11th seed Belinda Benci up against Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin take on Danielle Collins and Kaia Kanepi respectively. The match of the day is most likely fifth seed Elina Svitolina clashing with young gun Coco Gauff in a head-to-head not to be missed.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 4-6 6-4 7-5
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-2 6-3
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 7-6 6-3
Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) defeated [8] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 6-3 6-2
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-4 1-6 6-1
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-3 6-0
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [Q] Liudmilla Samsonova (RUS) 6-3 6-1
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-2 6-4
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated [17] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-4 6-4
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated [Q] Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-1 7-5
[27] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated [LL] Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3 6-2
[32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Ann Li (USA) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2 7-6
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated [Q] Timea Babos (HUN) 6-2 6-4
[Q] Sara Errani (ITA) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-1 6-0

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Barty Party rolls into final as other semi-finalists decided

IT was a massive day at the WTA 500 events as players squeezed in shortened matches to keep the tournaments on track after no play took place on Thursday. The Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy semi-finals have been determined, whilst the quarter finalists are known in the Gippsland Trophy.

Ash Barty is through to the Yarra Valley Classic final following a shortened quarter final and walkover semi-final. The Australian world number one needed three sets to take care of American Shelby Rogers, but to save time on a day filled with double-ups, the players took part in a third set super tiebreak rather than a full set. Barty won 7-5 2-6 10-4 to book her spot in the semis, before would-be opponent Serena Williams pulled out with a shoulder injury.

The decision for Williams to pull out came not long after she fought off compatriot Danielle Collins in three sets. It meant Barty will have an extra day to rest and come in fresh for the final in her first WTA Tour tournament in almost 12 months. The Australian will play the winner of sixth seed Garbine Muguruza and eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova.

Muguruza sought revenge on Sofia Kenin from last year’s Australian Open final, this time easily dishing out a one-sided result to win 6-2 6-2. It was the only straight sets win of the quarter finals, with Vondrousova defeating Argentinian Nadia Podoroska in three sets. If Vondrousova is able to topple Muguruza, then it will be a rematch against Barty for the 2019 Roland Garros title.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC QUARTER FINALS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 7-5 2-6 1-0
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [2] Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-2 6-2
[5] Serena Williams (USA) defeated [13] Danielle Collins (USA) 6-2 4-6 1-0
[8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated [14] Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 4-6 6-3 1-0

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC SEMI-FINALS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [5] Serena Williams (USA) W/O

The semi-finals of the Gippsland Trophy have been decided with only one of the top six seeds making it through to the final four. Top seed Simona Halep was smashed out of the tournament by Ekaterina Alexandrova, the ninth seed Russian dominating play to win 6-2 6-1 in a one-sided win.

Usually strong at this time of year, Alexandrova will now move through to take on unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi. The sole unseeded player remaining in the draw had a walkover against eighth seed Czech Karolina Muchova to be the freshest of the four players remaining in the tournament.

In the other semi-final, second seed Naomi Osaka will be the favourite to take out the title, having moved past unseeded Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. The Japanese rising star won 7-5 6-1 to book her spot in the last four, taking on seventh seed Belgian Elise Mertens, who won through after an epic contest against third seed Ukrainian, Elina Svitolina.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [1] Simona Halep (ROU) 6-2 6-1
[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 7-5 6-1
[7] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3 5-7 10-6
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) W/O

Looking to the Grampians Trophy in the Round of 16 results, there were a couple of upsets to keep it fresh, in an otherwise predictable day of results. The two biggest surprises were losses to second seed Belinda Bencic and fourth seed Elena Rybakina who both bowed out of the tournament. Sonia Cirstea knocked off Bencic in straight sets, while Barbora Krejcikova won in the super tiebreak against Rybakina in what was a fascinating contest.

The only other unseeded player through to the final eight was Ann Li, with the American defeating Russian Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5 6-3. In terms of the seeds, the top ranked player remaining in the draw now is third seed, Victoria Azarenka with the Grand Slam winner knocking off Yulia Putintseva 11-9 in the super tiebreak following a disappointing second set.

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari, sixth seed Anett Kontaveit, seventh seed Jennifer Brady and eighth seed Angelique Kerber all made it through to the quarter finals having won in straight sets easily over their respective opponents.

GRAMPIANS TROPHY ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Sonia Cirstea (ROU) defeated [2] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 7-5 6-2
[3] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 1-6 11-9
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 10-6
[5] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Leylan Fernandez (CAN) 6-2 6-2
[6] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Bethany Mattek-Sands (USA) 7-5 7-5
[7] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-1 6-4
[8] Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-4 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-5 6-3

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Czechs fall as other top seeds advance

A HUGE day at Melbourne Park saw all three events – Yarra Valley Classic, Gippsland Trophy and Grampians Trophy – underway, in what was a largely predictable day, though did feature a number of upsets, particularly to top ranked Czechs.

In the Yarra Valley Classic, the two top Czech players in the world – Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova – again have fallen short of the mark, losing out to lower ranked opponents in the Round of 16. Pliskova went down in two tiebreakers (7-5 7-3) during her 7-6 7-6 loss to 13th seed American Danielle Collins, while Kvitova started well against Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska, before losing in three sets to the 14th seed, 5-7 6-1 7-6.

In a repeat of their US Open clash, Serena Williams defeated Tsvetana Pironkova to set up an all-American quarter final with Collins, winning 6-1 6-4 against the Bulgarian. Racing through her match like she had somewhere to be, sixth seed Garbine Muguruza had a point to prove in a 6-1 6-2 rout of 11th seed Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The result meant Muguruza now faces Sofia Kenin in the quarter finals, a repeat of the Australian Open decider 12 months ago.

Kenin took down compatriot Jessica Pegula in three sets 5-7 7-5 6-2, while world number one Ash Barty needed three sets to roll past 16th seed Czech, Marie Bouzkova in a bad day for the Czech Republic. One positive was the success of Marketa Vondrousova, with the eighth seed being the sole winner of the four in action, advancing through to the quarter finals thanks to a hard-fought 7-6 6-7 6-4 triumph over Russian Vera Zvonareva.

The quarter finals see Vondrousova taking on Podoroska for the right to play either Muguruza or Kenin, while the winner in the all-American clash between Collins and Williams will face the winner of the Barty and Shelby Rogers quarter final.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [16] Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-0 4-6 6-3
[2] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 5-7 7-5 6-2
[13] Danielle Collins (USA) defeated [3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-6 7-6
[14] Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated [4] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 5-7 6-1 7-6
[5] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 6-1 6-4
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [11] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1 6-2
[8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 7-6 6-7 6-4

The Gippsland Trophy also went largely to plan, with five of the seven winners being ranked higher than their opponents. It was not completely smooth sailing for anyone, with only top seed Simona Halep, and ninth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova winning without getting into an eleventh game in any set. Halep toppled 16th seed German Laura Siegemund 6-2 6-4, while Alexandrova ended the unbeaten run of sixth seed Pole, Iga Swiatek who was coming off a Roland Garros title last year.

Speaking of Grand Slam titles, second seed Naomi Osaka – fresh off a break following her 2020 US Open triumph – had to come from a set down to put away a determined Katie Boulter, 3-6 6-3 6-1. Also fighting from a set down, third seed Elina Svitolina took out Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 6-3 6-2, while the biggest upset of the day belonged to Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu who knocked off fifth seed Johanna Konta in three hours and 32 minutes, 4-6 7-6 7-6.

In the other two matches, eighth seed Karolina Muchova won in three sets over Jasmine Paolini, while Estonian Kaia Kanepi – who ended the 15-game winning streak of Aryna Sabalenka the day before – won through to the quarter finals in straight sets over Daria Kasatkina, 7-5 6-1. Now Kanepi and Muchova lock horns, with Begu to take on Osaka, and two huge all-seeded clashes between Halep and Alexandrova, and Elise Mertens and Svitolina.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated [16] Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-2 6-4
[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Katie Boulter (GBR) 3-6 6-3 6-1
[3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-7 6-3 6-2
Irina-Camelia Begu ROU) defeated [5] Johanna Konta (GBR) 4-6 7-6 7-6
[9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [6] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4 6-2
[8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-2 4-6 6-4
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 7-5 6-1

Meanwhile the first round of action at the Grampians Trophy was completed over the first couple of days, with the remaining 10 matches adding to the two played on day one. Overall there were not a huge amount of surprises, with perhaps the biggest upset seeing teenage rising star Leylah Fernandez take down former US Open winner Sloane Stephens in straight sets.

The 6-3 6-1 victory was a convincing victory in an hour and 14 minutes, though the quickest fully completed match of the day was Sonia Cirstea‘s rout of Oksana Kalashnikova, 6-1 6-1 in just 48 minutes. To put that in perspective, local talent Ellen Perez – who was a late inclusion into the draw – had to retire eight games in against Ann Li and that match went for 43 minutes.

In other results, the three seeds in action were Estonian Anett Kontaveit (sixth), American Jennifer Brady (seventh) and German Angelique Kerber (eighth) who all won through. Both Kontaveit and Brady breezed through in straight sets, whilst Kerber took almost two hours to dispel Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

In other results, Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk and Veronika Kudermetova both rolled through to the next round without any issues, as did Tunisian Ons Jabeur who continued her great form of the past 12 months. The other winners were United States’ Bethany Mattek-Sands, Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva and Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova who all made it into the Round of 16.

GRAMPIANS TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-1 6-3
[7] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3 6-0
[8] Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-3 4-6 6-3
Bethany Mattek-Sands (USA) defeated Barbora Strycova (CZE) 7-6 6-2
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 6-0 6-3
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 6-3 6-1
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Georgina Garcia Perez (ESP) 7-6 6-4
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Heather Watson (GBR) 6-2 6-2
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-4 4-6 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated Ellen Perez (AUS) 5-3 RET
Sonia Cirstea (ROU) defeated Oksana Kalashnikova (GEO) 6-1 6-1
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Anna Blinkova (RUS) 6-1 6-1

Note: Unfortunately due to a COVID-19 positive test from a hotel worker at the Grand Hyatt where the majority of players are staying, today’s action has been postponed.

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Seeds prevail as top players enter draws while Round of 64 continues

IT was a successful day across the board for the top echelon of international talent at both the Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy, with just one seed falling at each of the two competitions. Both competitions played both the Round of 32 and 64 in a huge day of action, with plenty of tough contests around the grounds.

At the Yarra Valley Classic, it was almost a clean sweep from seeds with just Donna Vekic falling to a feisty Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets, 1-6 6-4 6-2. The only remaining Australian in the draw, Daria Gavrilova, was unfortunate to draw Serena Williams in just her second match since her return, and was unable to hold up under pressure from the champion, while Karolina Pliskova disposed of Elisabetta Cocciaretto with ease, as did Danielle Collins with her Serbian opposition, Nina Stojanovic.

The two former world number ones in Williams and Pliskova were unshakeable throughout their contests, hitting 27 and 30 winners respectively. Joining them in the Round of 16 are the likes of Croatian Petra Martic, who was tested by Belarusian Vera Lapko but prevailed, and eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova who defeated Varvara Gracheva in a 6-4 6-0 contest.

In the day’s Round of 16 results, 11th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 14th seed Nadia Podoroska both carved out straight set wins with 6-1 first sets apiece, while Vera Zvonareva battled Kristyna Pliskova in a close-to two hour encounter and Alison van Uytvanck disposed of Suwei Hsieh 6-2 6-0.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-3 6-2
[5] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-1 6-4
[7] Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Vera Lapko (BLR) 4-6 6-4 6-2
[8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 6-4 6-0
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) defeated [9] Donna Vekic (CRO) 1-6 6-4 6-2
[13] Danielle Collins (USA) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-2 6-1

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-1 6-4
[14] Nadia Podoroska (KAZ) defeated Francesca Jones (GBR) 6-1 6-3
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 6-4 6-7 6-3
Alison van Uytvanck (BEL) defeated Suwei Hsieh (TPE) 6-2 6-0

At the Gippsland Trophy, things went much the same for the seeds with just Qiang Wang falling at the hands of Italian Jasmine Paolini. The top seeds in Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina joined the draw and were immediately successful, coming away with wins in just over an hour apiece, while Ekaterina Alexandrova and Jelena Ostapenko both reigned supreme in close encounters. Eighth seed Karolina Muchova downed American Caty McNally 6-1 6-1 in just 62 minutes for the shortest match of the day.

The longest match award went to 16-year-old Coco Gauff, though, with the 14th seed playing her Round of 64 match and taken all the way by Jil Teichmann. While Gauff proved she was in it to win it from the very beginning, disposing of Teichmann in the first set 6-3, the Swiss talent came back in the second to steal the win from under Gauff’s nose in the 8-6 tiebreaker. Gauff showcased her tenacity in the third, and while she hit a whopping six  double faults in that set alone, her five aces did the trick to come away with the 6-3 6-7 7-6 victory in two hours and 45 minutes.

Joining Gauff in the Round of 32 are German Laura Siegemund, who defeated Monica Niculescu, while two Australia-France battles waged with Frenchwoman Alize Cornet prevailing over Alja Tomljanovic in one encounter, as Australian Destanee Aiava took out the second over Chloe Paquet.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-4 6-4
[3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-1 6-4
[8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Caty McNally (USA) 6-1 6-1
[9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) 4-6 6-4 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated [10] Qiang Wang (CHN) 3-6 7-5 6-4
[13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Danka Kovinic (MCE) 6-4 7-5

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[14] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3 6-7 7-6
[16] Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Monica Niculescu (ROM) 7-5 6-4
Destanee Aiava (AUS) defeated Chloe Paquet (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-4
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated Alja Tomljanovic (AUS) 5-7 6-1 6-3

WTA Countdown: 2020 Top 5 Improvers – #3 Ons Jabeur

AS the WTA Tour comes to a close for the 2020 season, Draft Central is counting down the top five standout performers across a severely disrupted year who have stepped up to a new level since the Tour’s return. At number three on the countdown is Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who sits at a current career-high ranking after a great start to the year.

The only player on this countdown without a title to her name, there is no doubt the five quarter final berths in 2020 have allowed Jabeur to work her way up the rankings throughout the interrupted season. Currently sitting just outside the top 30 on the WTA Rankings at number 31, Jabeur has gradually worked her way up the leaderboard this year from fighting for entry into tournaments and now negotiating a potential seeding at the 2021 Australian Open after slipping in as the 30th seed at the Roland Garros. 

Currently completing her first Top 50 season, Jabeur’s recent form has seen her reach the quarter finals five times in 2020 – three times since the Tour’s return in August – and while she is yet to make it to the semis it is this consistency that has maintained her gradual rise up the rankings. 

For Jabeur, it seems to be a couple of jinx players who hold a mantle over her on court, taking on both Coco Gauff and Sofia Kenin twice this year and going down on both occasions – with the loss against Kenin seeing their head to head sit at 1-6. While Gauff is one of the outliers upsetting Jabeur given her lower ranking – joined by compatriot Danielle Collins and returnee Victoria Azarenka – Jabeur seems to have the most trouble against the top echelon of players on the Tour, with seven of her 11 losses this season coming against players with higher rankings and three within the top 10.

That being said, there’s still plenty to cheer about for Jabeur whose form has swung from a 46 per cent success rate in 2019 to 69.4 per cent in 2020, registering nine more wins from just one more game compared to last season. She has improved her effectiveness off both her service games (55.6 per cent in 2019 to 59.7 per cent in 2020) and ability to hold serve, sitting at close to 72 per cent this season compared to 62.3 per cent in 2019.

Whilst Jabeur is yet to win her maiden title, there is no doubt the Tunisian 26-year-old is getting close with plenty of exciting form and her improvement evident this season, not just by looking at the stats but also her renewed confidence on court and consistency in the second half of the year paying dividends.