Tag: elina svitolina

WTA Tour wrap: Carnage in Berlin as top three seeds ousted

IT was almost beyond belief as the bett1Open draw was blown wide open following some massive upsets on a huge day of grass court action. The top three seeds were all ousted for the tournament in upset results to leave the title race at the event up in the air. The only seed to advance through to the quarter finals thus far was fifth seed Belinda Bencic who toppled Croatian Petra Martic in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

In the other matches, American Madison Keys caused a boilover against top seed Aryna Sabalenka, with the Belarusian newly crowned world number four losing in one hour and 56 minutes. Keys served eight aces and won 71.7 per cent of her first serve points off a 67.9 per cent clip, also saving four of six break point opportunities.

By comparison, Sabalenka won 68.3 per cent of her first serve points, and whilst she also won 47.7 per cent of her second serve points, only served at a 57.7 per cent efficiency. She also faced 14 break points, and whilst she saved 10 of them, went down in three sets, 6-4 1-6 7-5.

Keys hit 31 winners to just 17 unforced errors in the match, standing up against the powerful Sabalenka. Most impressively, despite a disappointing second set, Keys bounced back to win the third and deciding set, breaking Sabalenka in he final game of the match off the back of a couple of unforced errors from the Belarusian.

Meanwhile fellow top three seeds, Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu also suffered defeats at the hands of lower ranked opponents. Svitolina went down to Ekaterina Alexandrova, with the Ukrainian second seed unable to overcome her Russian opponent, losing 6-4 7-5. Canadian third seed Andreescu fell to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets 7-6 7-5.

At the Viking Classic, third seed Donna Vekic was the highest ranked player out on court, and she made her way through to the quarter finals with a come-from-behind win over Italian Camila Giorgi. Vekic won 2-6 6-3 6-4 to book her spot in the quarter finals following a huge two hours and 28 minutes on court. The Croatian was one of three winners to advance following two-hour plus victories.

Coco Vandeweghe overcame Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the battle of the unseeded talents, with the American bouncing back in a come-from-behind win, 4-6 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes. Similarly, Kristina Mladenovic also won in a come-from-behind situation, overcoming compatriot and seventh seed Fiona Ferro in an all-French duel, saluting 3-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes. The other Frenchwoman out on court – Caroline Garcia – did not have as much fun, bundled out by eighth seed Czech Marie Bouzkova who won easily 6-3 6-0. In the other match, home nation player Heather Watson won via retirement with a 5-2 triumph over Zhang Shuai.

BETT1OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Madison Keys (USA) defeated [1] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-4 1-6 7-5
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [2] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-4 7-5
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated [3] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 7-6 7-5
[5] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Petra Martic (CRO) 6-3 6-4

VIKING CLASSIC ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[3] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 2-6 6-3 6-4
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 5-2 RET
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [7] Fiona Ferro (FRA) 3-6- 6-3 6-4
[8] Marie Bouzkova (CZE) defeated Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-3 6-0
Coco Vandeweghe (USA) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 4-6 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Krejcikova and Pavlyuchenkova set up maiden slam final

BARBORA Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have set up a huge Roland Garros final this week following victories during the semis, coming in hot during their successful Grand Slam campaigns with a shot at a maiden major title edging ever closer.

Unseeded Czech Krejcikova was forced to battle hard in a huge clash with 17th seed Greek Maria Sakkari, taking out the tight first set before Sakkari broke back to win the second. She was then forced to save a match point to claim the eventual 7-5 4-6 9-7 encounter, requiring a whopping three hours and 18 minutes to do so – the longest ever women’s semi final at the Roland Garros.

“I think the match was really up and down,” Krejcikova said. “I just told myself, ‘Just fight, fight, fight until the last point’. I’m happy that I was really fighting.”

“I cannot believe it’s actually happening,” Krejcikova said. “I cannot believe it.”

Whilst the two competitors had similar winner (31-27 the way of Krejcikova) and unforced error counts (58-53), the stats proved just how closely fought the matchup was with the Czech only marginally leading off her own service games given Sakkari’s quicker serve, and overall winning 126 total points to Sakkari’s 118.

“I always wanted to play matches like this,” Krejcikova said. “I always wanted to play tournaments like this, big tournaments, big opponents, last rounds. It was always something that I wanted to achieve. It was just taking so long.

“It just took me some time, but I think right now it’s actually right moment. Especially mentally I think I’m just there. I really matured. I just really appreciate things a lot, especially after what I’ve gone through.”

While Sakkari is proud of her run to the semi-finals, which included a milestone becoming the first Greek woman to ever reach a grand slam semi, she was disappointed that she “got stressed” when serving for the match on two separate occasions.

“I have to be deadly honest: I got stressed, starting thinking that I’m a point away from being in the final,” Sakkari said. “I guess it’s a rookie mistake. Good thing is that if I give myself a chance again to be in that position, then I know that I don’t have to do it again.”

“I’m proud of my run here, but it hurts,” she said. “Today’s loss hurts a lot because I was so close. I was just one point away. “But what can you do? “There are lots of positives and some negatives, as well. I just have to embrace it and just move forward and see how am I going to do it the next time.”

Krejcikova also defeated Kristyna Pliskova, 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and 24th seed Coco Gauff – in that order – on her way to the semi-final.

Pavlyuchenkova had a similarly tough run to the final, coming up against a couple of top seeds and showcasing just how impressive her last week has been. Christina McHale, Ajla Tomljanovic, third seed Aryna Sabalenka, 15th seed Victoria Azarenka and 21st seed Elena Rybakina, before taking on Slovenian Tamara Zidansek for her first chance at a grand slam major – which came after just one hour and 34 minutes.

“It’s been a long road. It’s been a lot of ups and downs. It’s been a tough one,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I definitely didn’t expect this year being in the final. I guess you can’t expect those things.

“I was just there working hard, doing everything possible. I just said to myself, ‘You know what, this year let’s do whatever it takes, anything you can do to improve your game, your mentality’.”

The Russian raced ahead to an early break 5-3 before her Slovenian opposition bit back, taking the first set to a decider before Pavlyuchenkova claimed the momentum clinching the first set 7-5 and raced away to complete the 6-3 second set.

“Like this something I’ve been thinking about every single time. I think as tennis players, that’s the only goal I think we have in the head. That’s why we playing tennis,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “That’s for us the biggest achievement you can get. That’s what you’re playing for… I think about it all the time. Like been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis… It’s been there in my head forever.”

Zidansek will debut in the top 50 following her excellent run to the semi-finals, and left nothing to chance in what ended up being her final encounter for the week.

“I’ve learned that sometimes when I was younger, I was always looking at big players, ‘Wow, they’re hitting so good’. Maybe I want to have a shot like that or something,” Zidansek said.

“But I think I showed myself and I’ve learned that at this stage it really is, I’m going to say, 90 per cent a mental game, just about going out there and believing in yourself, believing in your game. At the end being able to go out there and show your best game.”

ROLAND GARROS SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 7-5 4-6 9-7
[31] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 7-5 6-3

 

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

WTA Tour wrap: Americans dominate as young talent continues to shine

IT was an intriguing day of Round of 32 action in the Roland Garros women’s draw, as a number of American competitors took the court and upsets aplenty made waves.

Two exciting all-American clashes took place, with the first between fourth seed Sofia Kenin and 28th seed Jessica Pegula going the whole hog, as Kenin claimed victory in one hour and 56 minutes. While the fourth seed has been in shaky form thus far in 2021, Kenin bit back after the first set to

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. Of course it gives me confidence. I’m finally not on a one-match winning streak. Because this whole year, it was like the second time I won two matches in a row,” Kenin explained. “I was obviously really happy. It was a tough match. It was a lot of ups and downs, emotions. I’m just really happy with the way I’m playing.”

“I’ve worked hard on my fitness and my game the past few weeks, so I feel like it’s obviously improving,” Kenin said. “Of course, the more matches that I’m playing, more confidence I’m getting. Of course, I’m happy that it’s clicking during French Open. I’m not going to complain about that.”

The second blockbuster between teen sensation and 24th seed Coco Gauff and 13th seed Jennifer Brady was unfortunately cut short – after just 23 minutes – by an aggravated foot injury to Brady, who explained post-match that she has been suffering from plantar fasciitis and bone bruising following the Rome WTA 1000 event last month.

“I actually was considering not even playing here,” Brady said. “I wasn’t going to step out there unless I could finish the match in the first round. Happy that I was able to get a couple of matches in.

“Then today, I woke up and it was, you know, just worse. I couldn’t really play my game. I was about 20 percent moving. So unfortunate.”

“It’s unfortunate because I have known Jenny very well, and she’s such a nice person,” Gauff said. “If you ask every player on tour, no one is going to say anything bad about her because she’s always laughing and joking around. So I just hope that by the time Wimbledon comes she’ll be healed up and ready to compete at 100 percent again.”

Meanwhile, unseeded duo Barbora Krejcikova and Sloane Stephens executed upsets to set up a huge Round of 16 clash, as Czech talent Krejcikova downed fifth seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets, 6-3 6-2, with last week’s maiden title at Strasbourg clearly crucial for the Czech’s confidence and success.

“I’ve been playing a lot of matches where I actually was leading, and then I just started to play really passive and then I lost,” Krejcikova said. “So I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I was just saying to myself, okay, you go, you’re going to play your shot and you win or you lose. There’s nothing wrong about not really actually closing the match because that’s normal. It happens to so many other players, so many higher players.

“So I just felt, okay, I’m going to go. I’m going to try to play my tennis, my best shots, and let’s see, and if I close it, it’s going to be perfect.”

Krejcikova made more unforced errors but made up for it with her 38 winners to Svitolina’s 20, slamming three winners to complete the match, while Stephens required almost two hours to claim her 6-3 7-5 victory over 18th seed Karolina Muchova.

“My first big fourth round or whatever at a slam was here,” Stephens said. “And obviously consistently making fourth round here has been kind of a staple for me, which has been great. Obviously one of my favourite tournaments of the year, so peaking here has always been really important. The consistency of always doing well here has always brought back good memories.”

Reigning champion Iga Swiatek and Greek talent Maria Sakkari both also got the chocolates in all-seeded encounters, with the former defeating Estonian Anett Kontaveit 7-6 6-0 in 82 minutes, as the latter claimed the longest match of the day, downing 14th seed Elise Mertens 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2 in two hours and 52 minutes. The remaining two winners of the day were Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who continued her excellent run with a one hour and 26-minute victory over Pole Magda Linette, setting up an intriguing clash with Gauff next, as 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk claimed a snappy 61-minute victory over Varvara Gracheva to head into her maiden fourth round appearance at a grand slam, tasked with Swiatek next.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated [28] Jessica Pegula (USA) 4-6 6-1 6-4
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3 6-2
[8] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated [30] Anett Kontaveit (EST) 7-6 6-0
[24] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [13] Jennifer Brady (USA) 6-1 RET
[17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [14] Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-5 6-7 6-2
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated [18] Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-3 7-5
[25] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 3-6 6-0 6-1
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 6-1 6-2

Picture credit: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

WTA Tour wrap: Barty withdraws, teens prevail on Day 5

JUST two unseeded matches played out on a huge Day 5 in the Roland Garros Round of 64 women’s draw, as predominantly seeds reigned supreme to head into a hugely competitive third round of action. The big news of the day saw Ash Barty withdraw with injury, while reigning champion Iga Swiatek was one of five players to execute a speedy hour-long win.

It was a flared-up hip injury that forced Barty to retire from her encounter with Pole Magda Linette, who swept the world number one in the first set before the Australian retired at 6-1 2-2, only managing to play out 48 minutes on court.

“It’s disappointing to end like this,” said Barty. “I’ve had my fair share of tears this week. “It’s all good, everything happens for a reason. “There will be a silver lining in this eventually. “Once I find out what that is, it’ll make me feel a little bit better, but it will be there, I’m sure.”

The Australian leads all-comers for wins on tour this season, with three titles to her name already in 2021.

“It’s just a bridge too far this week,” Barty said. “We had a fantastic lead-up and for my body to let me down is really disheartening, but knowing that we also, we did nothing wrong. It’s something that can’t be explained at this time. “It was just becoming too much. “Right from the first game I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe… it was becoming unsafe.”

“It’s disappointing but not panic stations,” she said. “We know what’s going on. “We just need time to manage it to get back on the court as quickly as we can.”

Linette moves onto the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, and is joined by teen compatriot Swiatek, who needed just 61 minutes to dispose of Swede Rebecca Peterson, hitting 22 winners to seven throughout the 6-1 6-1 encounter.

“I had a good day today since I woke up, so I knew that I’m going to be in the right mood,” Swiatek said. “I just kept that. I did my routines before the match. “Then when I was on the court, I just felt the ball perfectly. I felt like I could do anything with it. So I’m pretty happy that I had this, you know, this attitude right now.”

Despite Barty and Osaka already out of the running and leaving a clear vision to the finish line, Swiatek is not overthinking her chances on the clay and instead looking straight to her third round matchup.

“I’m just focusing on my next round,” she said. “Actually, I’m gonna play against Anett Kontaveit. “She’s, like, super experienced. “I already lost against her two times. “So it’s going to be a tough match.”

Maria SakkariOns Jabeur and Kontaveit also executed quick victories, with the three seeds finding their form quickly to clean up their respective unseeded opposition. Unseeded Czech Barbora Krejickova joined the hour-long winners group, defeating 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, while 14th seed Elise Mertens also claimed victory.

Eight Americans took the court on Day 5, seeing five competitors reign supreme as the four seeds proved too good. Fourth seed Sofia Kenin appears to have found her groove at the perfect time, downing compatriot Hailey Baptiste, as 13th seed Jennifer Brady, teen 24th seed Coco Gauff and 28th seed Jessica Pegula all claimed wins. While Varvara Lapchenko went down in straight sets to 18th seed Czech Karolina Muchova and Ann Li was shaky against fifth seed Elina Svitolina, proceedings went far different for former finalist Sloane Stephens, who stepped up to the tough task of ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, coming away with a 7-5 6-1 victory in 91 minutes.

The remaining two competitors in teen Marta Kostyuk and 20-year-old Varvara Gracheva earn a chance to reach the second week of a grand slam for the first time when they go head to head in the third round.

“I think we are at times where anyone in women’s tennis can win a slam, kind of,” Kostyuk said. “Not like anyone, anyone, but a lot of girls. Let’s call it that way. It’s not that I have this strong feeling inside me that I’m coming into a Grand Slam believing that I can win it, but this time I feel really good. I believe anything is possible.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 64 RESULTS: 

Magda Linette (POL) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-1 2-2 RET
[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Hailey Baptiste (USA) 7-5 6-3
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Ann Li (USA) 6-0 6-4
[8] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 6-1 6-1
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated [9] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-5 6-1
[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4 2-6 7-5
[14] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 6-4
[17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-2 6-3
[18] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-3 6-4
[24] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-3 7-6
[25] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Astra Sharma (AUS) 6-2 6-4
[28] Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-3 6-3
[30] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2 6-0
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [32] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2 6-3
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) defeated Camila Giorgi (FRA) 7-5 1-6 6-2
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-3 6-4

Picture credit: Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

WTA Tour wrap: Suarez Navarro makes return, Kvitova pulls out

DAY 3 of the 2021 Roland Garros women’s draw produced some huge result, as Carla Suarez Navarro made her triumphant return to tennis following cancer treatment, while Ash Barty was tested in her opening round clash and Petra Kvitova pulled out ahead of her second round matchup with an ankle injury.

“Unfortunately, after an MRI and much discussion with my team, I have made the tough decision that it would be unwise to play on it,” Kvitova confirmed on social media. “It’s incredibly bad luck, but I will stay strong and do my best to recover in time for the grass-court season.”

Suarez Navarro put up an impressive fight against Sloane Stephens in her first outing for the year since undergoing treatment, but despite an excellent first set was unable to complete a victory as the American fought hard in the second and third to take out the 3-6 7-6 6-4 win.

“Was a long time, really tough moments, tough months,” Suárez Navarro said. “But, well, every time I had on my mind that I want to be here, I want to come back. Roland Garros is one of my favourite tournaments, so [it was] really clear that my first tournament will be this one.”

“I tried to prepare myself for my best tennis that I can,” Suárez Navarro said. “Obviously I need more time, but I think I had a good time this week practicing, I have good level in my match. Of course I feel tired at the end. I know that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me. But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.”

“She’s a great player, so she obviously is going to come out and play some really good tennis,” Stephens said. “I thought she played her normal Carla tennis, up on the baseline with that one-handed backhand. I thought she played like she normally does. She brought it to me today, and I thought she played a great match.”

“Obviously she’s been through a lot and we’re all happy that she’s better and healthy and being able to play again, which I think obviously is the most important thing.

“We all love her and love having her around.”

No seeds fell on the day, however it was a close shave for two with world number one Barty taken to three by American Bernarda Pera, and requiring medical attention between the second and third sets, while Karolina Muchova suffered a slump in the first before dominating the remainder of her three setter with Andrea Petkovic.

“It’s so special to be back. I was disappointed not to be able to play last year, but this court is incredible for me, it’s very close to my heart and it’s very nice to be able to play here in front of fans,” Barty said post-match.

“You can’t win a match if you give up, so today was about going out there and not giving up.”

Barty required two hours flat to shake Pera in a 6-4 3-6 6-2 result, with her excellent unforced error count (25-49) paving the way despite Pera dominating the winner count 36-18.

“I think every match that I play in, every different experience, whether it’s an opponent or a physical challenge, I feel like you learn to overcome it and you learn to accept it,” she said.

“That was a massive part of today, was accepting the fact that, yes, I may not be absolutely 100 per cent but I’m certainly good enough to go out there and fight and do the best I can and give myself a chance to win matches.”

All the remaining seeds proceeded to the second round, with Elina SvitolinaKarolina Pliskova, Jennifer Brady and Maria Sakkari leading the pack, while a couple of top 30 talents in young gun Coco Gauff and Tunisian Ons Jabeur trail and 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova downed Venus Williams in 56 minutes.

Plenty of exciting talent also heads into the second round, as two more Americans in Ann Li and qualifier Varvara Lapchenko, as well as a couple of Frenchwomen in Fiona Ferro and Kristina Mladenovic claimed wins, while Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna fell to compatriot Barbora Krejcikova, and a second Australian in Astra Sharma heads to the second round. The remaining winners on the final day of first round action were in-form Pole Magda Linette, Italian Jasmine Paolini and Chinese talent Wang Qiang.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 6-2
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [Q] Oceane Babel (FRA) 6-2 7-5
[9] Karolina Pliskova (UKR) defeated Donna Vekic (CRO) 7-5 6-4
[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-3 6-3
[17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [Q] Katarina Zavatska (UKR) 6-4 6-1
[18] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 1-6 6-3 6-4
[24] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [Q] Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
[25] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 7-5 6-2
[32] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-3 6-1
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated [Q] Liang En-Shuo (TPE) 6-1 1-6 6-4
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [Q] Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-4 6-0
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 3-6 7-6 6-4
Magda Linette (POL) defeated [WC] Chloe Paquet (FRA) 6-3 6-3
Wang Qiang (CHN) defeated Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) 2-6 6-4 7-6
Ann Li (USA) defeated Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-0 6-1
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 5-7 6-4 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated [Q] Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 6-7 7-6 6-0
[WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) defeated [Q] Irina Bara (ROU) 7-6 6-2
[Q] Varvara Lepchenko (USA) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Julien Crosnier/FFT

WTA Tour wrap: Pliskova into third straight Rome final against clay talent, Swiatek

DAY 8 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia saw three matches take place, with one player taking the court twice and reigning supreme on both occasions to head into the Rome final. Expect a huge clash between ninth seed Czech Karolina Pliskova and 15th seed Pole Iga Swiatek in the final, with the former a well-established winner and the latter continuing to build off excellent form this season.

Rain delays during the quarter finals pushed back Swiatek’s clash with fifth seed Elina Svitolina, but that did not stop the 19-year-old Pole from dominating the early stage of their matchup to claim the 6-2 7-5 victory and set up a battle of the teens in the semi finals.

Despite everything 17-year-old Coco Gauff threw at Swiatek – including seven aces – it was not quite enough to steal a win against her fellow teen, just falling short in their 7-6(2) 6-3 matchup.

“I’m still kind of pumped up, so it’s hard to say because adrenaline is still here,” Swiatek said post-match. “I’m still pretty young so hopefully I’m going to be ready for tomorrow. I think so.”

“I felt really good today; it’s a big difference between my previous matches and today,” she said. “I was able to beat Elina, so that shows that my game is here, I’m ready for anyone. It gave me a real confidence boost.”

It was the teen duo’s first WTA clash, and a tough one at that which saw Gauff hit 33 winners to 32 unforced errors, compared to Swiatek’s marginally cleaner 25 and 16. While Gauff claimed the better percentage off her first serve, Swiatek won more points and was more consistent off both her first and second serve, winning 54 per cent of the total points to take out the win.

“It’s always hard to play against a young superstar, especially when I’m not used to that because I was always the youngest one,” Swiatek said. “I just tried to have a high level of energy, even though it was my second match. I was feeling really good [receiving]. I know her biggest weapon is serve, so I tried to use that. Also tactically I did everything really well.”

Swiatek will take on hard-hitting Pliskova, as the Czech ninth seed returns for her third straight Internazionali BNL d’Italia final this week following a 6-1 3-6 6-2 victory over Petra Martic in the semis.

“I think the first and third set, they were super solid for me, playing the game I want to play, not really going for crazy shots, but super solid,” Pliskova said. “Quite good serve today. I think it was a good match.”

Pliskova required one hour and 54 minutes to overcome Martic, with only a shoddy second set getting in the way of victory. The Czech hit a whopping 37 winners but 30 unforced errors to go with it, as Martic’s excellent run of form was cut short by her own 34 unforced errors.

“I hope I will feel better, and maybe more relaxed a bit, to go to the other tournaments in the next couple weeks, months, with this kind of result,” Pliskova said. “With having the matches I had this week, overcoming some situations which I had this week, and beating some players: Martic, for example, I never beat on clay. For sure this gives me some strength.”

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 7-6 6-3
[9] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Petra Martic (CRO) 6-1 3-6 6-2

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated [5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-2 7-5

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Pliskova hangs tough as Gauff books semis spot with Barty retirement

KAROLINA Pliskova has survived an almighty scare against Jelena Ostapenko, needing three sets, two hours and 20 minutes, and a couple of match point saving moments to post a victory over the Latvian. The Czech ninth seed had to save three match points in the 10th game of the the third set, before recovering to win in a deciding tiebreakers, 4-6 7-5 7-6.

“Just proud, I think mostly, how I fought,” Pliskova said post-match. “I’m just happy that I stayed in there and fought till the end.”

The match was clearly the match of the day, with the Czech getting a fair chunk of play in before rain impacted matches across the Rome clay courts. The pair has had quite the battles over the years, with Plisova extending the head-to-head lead out to 5-3 after the victory against the former Top 5 talent. It did not look like it early on as Ostapenko dominated early to go to a 4-0 lead with two breaks before the Czech broke back twice herself to level at 4-4, only for a third break for the Latvian to win the opening set 6-4.

In an equally tight second set, Pliskova failed to serve out the set at first opportunity when 5-4 up, but did so at 6-5 instead after breaking the Latvian in the next game. The third set went down to the wire in a tiebreaker, and after the Czech saved those three match points, strolled to victory with seven of the eight points played in the tiebreaker to win, 7-1.

Now Pliskova will take on the only other opponent to fully complete her match on the day, with Croatian Petra Martic taking care of American Jessica Pegula in straight sets. Martic won 7-5 6-4 in one hour and 40 minutes to advance through to the final four and book her chance of a final spot if she can take out the ninth seed.

“The key was to overtake, to not let her play and take control of the points of the rally and just make me run,” Martic said post-match. “So I tried to do that before her. I tried to use my serve. Obviously she didn’t like my kick so much, so I knew I had to really be sharp on those first shots after return of serve and not let her overtake. I think I did that pretty well for the most part.”

In other results, world number one Ash Barty was only on court 29 minutes, racing to a first set win of 6-4 against American teenager Coco Gauff, before having to retire with a right arm injury following the third game of the second set. While many retire being down, Barty was clearly in control of the match, but felt the pain had become too much to risk it with Roland Garros coming up on the horizon.

“It became worse while we were playing,” Barty said of the pain in her arm. “So I think that’s the challenging thing is to make the decision to stop. It’s never nice. It’s the thing that I hate the most is not being able to finish a tennis match.

“But the pain was becoming too severe, so it was important that I listen to my body and of course try and do the right thing, knowing that we have a Grand Slam in two weeks’ time.”

Gauff reached her first WTA 1000 semi-final with the win, and will take on either fifth seed Elina Svitolina or 15th seed Iga Swiatek who face off in the quarter finals after a rain-affected day forced their matches to be postponed.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 4-6 1-2
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs. [15] Iga Swiatek (POL)
[9] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 4-6 7-5 7-6
Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 7-5 6-4

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Teens impress as Rome final eight is revealed

THE final eight has been decided at the the WTA Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, with the draw evenly split for seeded and unseeded competitors following a couple of intriguing results, which saw two teenagers win their way through to the quarter finals.

The big upset of the day saw youngster Coco Gauff down in-form seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka, striking while the iron was hot to clinch the 7-5 6-3 victory over the Belarusian who took home the Madrid trophy just last week.

“It’s one of those matches that for me as a fan, if I were to be able to watch myself play, that would be a match that I would want to watch,” Gauff said. “Because you know we’re going to bring everything we have from the beginning to the end. She brings the intensity on the court from the first point. I have to make sure that I manage that and bring even more intensity. I think you feel it the whole match.”

The 17-year-old American continues to impress on the big stage and this matchup was no different, winning 72 per cent of her first serve points off a 61 per cent clip, also saving four of five break points and converting four of nine chances herself.

“Now I really am trying to enjoy the pressure, enjoy the moment,” she said. “Today I definitely said to myself I’m really having fun out there, even though it was 6-5, 5-all in the first set, which is stressful. I think I have to make sure I enjoy those moments in the matches, because later on in life I’m probably going to wish I could come back to this moment and experience it again. I’m going to enjoy these moments while they’re happening.”

15th seed and 19-year-old Iga Swiatek joins Gauff in the quarters, following a tough encounter with Czech talent Barbora Krejcikova. Whilst it was not pretty, Swiatek was proud of how she battled through her own inconsistency and fluctuating game to come out on top with the 3-6 7-6 7-5 victory in two hours and 50 minutes.

“I just had a tough day mentally,” Swiatek said post-match. “It was hard for me to be positive. I’m really happy I could win that, I could turn the score around. Usually in this situation I was the kind of person that was kind of giving up mentally. Today, even though I wasn’t feeling completely perfect on court, I had some issues as well, I could manage with everything and just win points.”

“I had fun when I played dropshots because today I felt them really good. I asked myself a question, what would annoy me in that situation, so I tried to do that. So, yeah, sometimes it didn’t look pretty, but I’m happy that I could do that. One year ago I wouldn’t even come up with a solution like that. That’s a progress.”

The remaining three seeded victors of the day all skated through with straight sets wins, as top seed Ash Barty continues to bounce back well from her final loss to Sabalenka last week with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Russian Veronika Kudermetova, while both Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova proved too strong for their respective opposition in returnee Garbine Muguruza and Vera Zvonareva. 12th seed Muguruza has looked potent this week but was inefficient on serve, winning just 34.7 per cent of her total service points as fifth seed Svitolina reigned supreme.

In other games, Jelena Ostapenko ousted former champion Angelique Kerber in a two hour and 11-minute clash, 4-6 6-3 6-4, while Petra Martic won in three against Nadia Podoroska and Jessica Pegula claimed the quickest win of the day, with a one hour and 11-minute victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: 

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-3 6-3
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [12] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-4 6-2
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 7-5 6-3
[9] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 7-5 6-3
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 3-6 7-6 7-5
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Petra Martic (SLO) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 3-6 6-1 6-2
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2 6-4

Picture credit: Paolo Bruno / Getty Images

WTA Tour wrap: No easy wins as seeds struggle in second round

IT was a horror day for the top seeds on Day 5 of the 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, as seven of the top talent fell including three of the top five. It was also a scrappy day for the United States, as just two of eight American competitors proceeded to the third round.

With so many huge outs on the day, it was the fall of Naomi OsakaSimona Halep and Sofia Kenin that had jaws dropping with the second, third and fourth seeds all unable to get wins on the board. While Osaka challenged unseeded American Jessica Pegula early on, she could not arrest back momentum and fell 7-6(2) 6-2 in just 87 minutes. Kenin has been in shaky form this year and has struggled to hit the height of her early 2020 form, something that was evident in her 6-1 6-4 loss to Czech Barbora Krejcikova. Meanwhile, former world number one Angelique Kerber got an easy look into the third round despite dropping the first set 1-6 to Halep, as the Romanian was forced to retire midway through the second set with a left calf injury – now confirmed to be a tear.

“In the first set I think my start was a little bit slow. I was not moving too good. I know that I have to move good against Simona, that the rallies are long. I was not serving actually too good in the first few service games on my serve,” Kerber said after the match.

“In the second set I knew, ‘Okay, now I have to fight for every ball, I have to move better, and maybe not overthink everything.’ Also not looking on the scoreboard. Just playing point by point. I was focusing more on my service game, because I start to play better in the second set. Then suddenly she called the trainer. I know that Simona is not calling trainers just like this.

“I knew, ‘Okay, something happened.’ But I really didn’t see the moment, so I don’t know what exactly happened in the moment. But, of course, I was feeling so bad with her, because this is not the way I would like to finish a tough match against also a friend on the other side.”

Eighth seed champion Serena Williams also had her tournament cut short by a rampaging Nadia Podoroska, who claimed her third career win over a top 10 player. Whilst Williams kept her guessing, Podoroska fought hard for the 7-6(6) 7-5 victory and claimed 52 per cent of the total points to claim the win.

“It’s special win. [To] play against her, it’s an honour for me. I saw her playing when I grew up, so it was a special match for me,” Podoroska said post-match.

“But most of all, I’m happy the way I played. I felt again comfortable on clay, on my game, and that’s most important for me. I think it was a very good match, high level. I knew that I have to play every point, fight for every ball. She didn’t play a tournament for a while, so I knew that maybe she did too many mistakes at the beginning or I have to push her to do them. But I think I played a great match.”

“It’s tough to have a first match on clay. It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better,” Williams said.

“She has a good game, for sure, obviously. She’s very consistent. Overall, it was good for me to play such a clay court player on clay today, but it’s a little frustrating. But it’s all right. It is what it is.”

Petra KvitovaJennifer Brady and Maria Sakkari were the remaining three seeds to fall, with the second failing to take the court confirming a walkover prior, as the latter was downed by teenager Coco Gauff in a seesawing 6-1 1-6 6-1 affair. Meanwhile, top seed Ash Barty was joined by Elina SvitolinaAryna SabalenkaKarolina PliskovaGarbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek in the next round, with three of the aforementioned names claiming wins over American talent.

The remaining winners on the day were Jelena OstapenkoPetra Martic and Veronika Kudermetova.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-4 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) 7-6 6-2
Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated [3] Simona Halep (ROM) 1-6 3-3 RET
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [4] Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-1 6-4
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Amanda Anisimova (USA) 2-6 6-3 6-4
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 7-5 6-1
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated [8] Serena Williams (USA) 7-6 7-5
[9] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-2 6-3
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated [11] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-4 3-6 6-4
[12] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 2-6 6-0 7-5
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [13] Jennifer Brady (USA) W/O
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Madison Keys (USA) 7-5 6-1
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [17] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-1 1-6 6-1
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-2 7-6
Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 7-5 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

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