Tag: elise mertens

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 16 wrap: Barty, Muchova, American duo reign supreme on day eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just couldn’t execute my shots.”

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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

Australian Open Women’s Round of 128 wrap: Barty dominates as Sherif first Egyptian woman to make it to grand slam second round

A flurry of exciting players joined the Australian Open fray on Day 2 of proceedings at Melbourne Park, with world number one Ash Barty making her Open return in smashing fashion, while the likes of Sofia KeninElina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all came out flying as the top seeds of the day. In a highly competitive day of action – with nine matches going to three sets and four of those hitting the two-hour and 30-minute mark – just a couple of seeded competitors fell, with 12th seed Victoria Azarenka leading the pack after an excellent outing from American Jessica Pegula, while Johanna Konta retired from her 6-4 0-2 encounter with Slovenian Kaja JuvanPetra Martic struggled to maintain composure after Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic took out the first set tiebreaker, eventually going down 7-5 3-6 6-4, while Maria Sakkari was error-ridden in defeat, and 31st seed Zhang Saisai was exposed by American Ann Li who hit 22 winners to Zhang’s two to come away with a 6-2 6-0 victory in 47 minutes.

But while a 47-minute victory was one thing, Barty’s 6-0 6-0 utter domination of Danka Kovinic was another, with the Australian disposing of the world number 82 in just 44 minutes. Collecting 10 winners for five unforced error’s compared to Kovinic’s three and 28, Barty dismantled her opposition on home soil and proved far too good for the Montenegrin, who spent 20,120 minutes in hotel quarantine in Melbourne for a devastating 44 minutes of play. Barty is joined by a couple of compatriots in the second round, as Daria Gavrilova and Sam Stosur were both successful on their opening day. World number 387 Gavrilova stunned 64th ranked Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo on return with a 6-1 first set setting up a straight sets 6-1 7-5 victory, while Stosur downed compatriot Destanee Aiava 6-4 6-4. Kenin’s outing against fellow Australian Maddison Inglis may not have been quite as dominant, but she still came away with a classy 7-5 6-4 victory over the Australian who is still yet to win an match on the WTA Tour, while a duo of green and gold wildcards in Astra Sharma and Arina Rodionova will join Inglis and Aiava on the sidelines.

Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to make it past the first round at a Grand Slam with her 7-5 7-5 victory over Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet, joined by Danilovic and Liudmila Samsonova as the only qualifiers to make it through the day, while young gun Coco Gauff continued her running grand slam form with a 6-3 6-2 sweep of Jil Teichmann to head into yet another second round at a major tournament. Powerhouses Pliskova and Svitolina may have had supremely different playing times – 47 minutes and two hours, respectively – but both also head into the second round, after disposing of Jasmine Paolini and Marie Bouzkova, while the seeded duo is joined in the second round by a flurry of top talent as 2020 Australian Open runner up Garbine MuguruzaBelinda BencicElise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit all came away with excellent wins, as did Jennifer Brady, Karolina MuchovaYulia PutintsevaDonna Vekic and Ekaterina Alexandrova with all bar five seeds making it out alive on Day 2 of the Open.

The second round of action begins at Melbourne Park today, with the day session headlined by the likes of Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, while the night session will see Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep take the court against unseeded opposition in Caroline Garcia and Ajla TomljanovicVenus Williams will look to continue her run when she takes on Italian qualifier Sara Errani, while Iga Swiatek will take on Errani’s higher ranked compatriot Camila Giorgi.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMEN’S ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Danka Kovinic (MON) 6-0 6-0
[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated [WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 7-5 6-4
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-3 7-6
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-0 6-2
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-5 6-4
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated [13] Johanna Konta (GBR) 4-6 2-0 RET
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [LL] Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Olga Danilovic (SRB) defeated [16] Petra Martic (CRO) 7-5 3-6 6-4
[18] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-1 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [20] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-2 0-6 6-3
[21] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 7-5 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Aliona Bolsova (ESP) 6-1 6-3
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-5 6-2
[26] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[28] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Wang Yifan (CHN) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[29] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated [31] Zhang Saisai (CHN) 6-2 6-0
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3 6-2
[WC] Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-1 7-5
Danielle Collins (USA) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 6-3 6-1
Nao Hibino (JPN) defeated [WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) 2-6 6-3 7-5
Madison Brengle (USA) defeated [WC] Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-1 6-2
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (EST) 6-3 6-1
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 7-6 7-6
[Q] Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-4 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) defeated Barbora Strycova (CZE) 6-2 6-2
Zhu Lin (CHN) defeated [Q] Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-1 6-1
[WC] Sam Stosur (AUS) defeated [WC] Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Mayar Sherif (EGY) defeated [Q] Chloe Paquet (FRA) 7-5 7-5
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) defeated [Q] Clara Burel (FRA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [Q] Francesca Jones (GBR) 6-4 6-1
Mona Barthel (GER) defeated [Q] Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 3-6 6-4 6-4

WTA 500 wraps: Barty and Mertens claim crowns ahead of Aus Open

ASH Barty and Elise Mertens will head into the Australian Open undefeated after claiming WTA Tour 500 crowns yesterday. As part of the new Summer Series at Melbourne Park, Barty took out the Yarra Valley Classic in straight sets over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, while Mertens won the Gippsland Trophy thanks to a 6-4 6-1 victory over Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Barty’s win in particular was made all the more amazing by the fact it was her first tournament in almost 12 months after opting to sit out the 2020 season post-March given the global pandemic. The Australian managed to retain the world number one spot, and then has run all the way to a title leading into her home Grand Slam. She won 7-6 6-4 in a tight contest against last year’s Australian Open runner-up.

“It was some of the better tennis I played throughout the whole week,” Barty said post-match. “Garbiñe forced me to play at that level. It was a great final.”

The world number one hit 28 winners to Muguruza’s 14, slamming home 11 aces and looking every bit the Grand Slam winner she was prior to the lockdown.

“Today I had to try and neutralise as best I can, then get on the front foot as soon as I could,” said Barty. “It’s not always just about the tennis sometimes, it’s about how you can control the court.

“I felt like I moved great today and was able to squeeze the court a lot of the times, make Garbiñe press a little bit, which was an important part of the match.”

Meanwhile Mertens won her sixth career WTA Tour singles title with her straight sets win over veteran Kanepi. Coming close to another title twice in 2020 – including runner-up in her last tournament for the year at Linz – the Belgian was finally able to taste success with a commanding win.

“The first tournament I played this year, so I’m very happy about the result, the way I played,” Mertens said post-match.

The match was easier than their last encounter at Roland Garros where Mertens had to fight through three sets to get the win, and now her second consecutive win over the 35-year-old meant she moves to 2-1 in the head-to-head battle between the pair.

Mertens hit 19 winners to 14 and was able to break four times in a superb performance ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.

“[Kanepi is] definitely a big hitter,” Mertens said. “When the first serves go in, you have to make the returns to let her play. That’s what I did. I didn’t give a lot of free points, so that’s always good against her. You know, get that one ball back, let her play the game, get the balls back, but also try to, if you have the chance, attack.”

The other WTA Tour tournament which took place was the Grampians Trophy, seeing both semi-finals going to third set tiebreaks. Sixth seed Estonian Anett Kontaveit came from a set down to defeat Maria Sakkari 2-6 6-3 11-9, while unseeded 20-year-old Ann Li knocked off higher rated compatriot Jennifer Brady in an epic three-set three-tiebreaker effort.

Li won 7-6 6-7 10-6 to advance through to what would be her maiden final, except there will not be a final. While it means neither can grab a title, it does mean they head into the Australian Open in form having won against higher ranked opponents.

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Withdrawals reduce matches as finals decided

WITHDRAWALS galore across the three WTA Tour tournaments as players having little niggles opted to take a rest given the short turnaround to the Australian Open, presenting others with chances for their maiden titles.

World number one Ash Barty might have had the walkover when Serena Williams pulled out of the pair’s semi-final at the Yarra Valley Classic, but Garbine Muguruza walked all over her opponent in the other semi-final. Coming up against eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova, the Spanish Grand Slam winner never gave her a look in, dominating 6-1 6-0 in just 53 minutes to blitz her way into the final.

Muguruza won almost 70 per cent of the match points, and only dropped three points off her first serve, and eight in total off her serve, breaking Vondrousova five of a possible six times from 11 chances. It was one-way traffic the entire match, and the experienced Spaniard denied Vondrousova the chance to set up a 2019 Roland Garros final rematch.

The final takes place at 11am today.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [5] Serena Williams (USA) W/O
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-1 6-0

In an eerily simply circumstance to the Yarra Valley Classic, just one semi-final was played after second seed Naomi Osaka pulled out before the match due to injury. The Japanese young star’s withdrawal handed seventh seed Elise Mertens safe passage into the decider, to now face unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Kanepi at least had a match, overcoming ninth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova to continue her ripping form of late, battling to a 6-4 7-6 win, with the second set tiebreaker being 8-6. The victory will give her match fitness ahead of the contest with Mertens, as Kanepi broke three times – from only the three chances, whilst saving two of five break point opportunities from the Russian. She was impressive off her opponents’ second serve, and whilst Alexandrova was more consistent on serve, Kanepi was the stronger one across the court.

In the final tomorrow, Kanepi is gunning for her fifth career title – and a big boost to her 94th world ranking – while the 20th ranked Mertens is eyeing off her sixth career WTA Tour title. It will also be Mertens’ second consecutive final appearance after going down to Aryna Sabalenka in Linz late last year.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[7] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) W/O
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-3 7-6

It would not have been a complete day without a withdrawal in the third WTA Tour tournament, as third seed Victoria Azarenka also withdrew ahead of her quarter final with sixth seed Estonian Anett Kontaveit. The latter will advance through to the semis unscathed, coming up against fifth seed Maria Sakkari.

The Greek talent knocked off Angelique Kerber in straight sets to secure her place in the final four, winning 6-4 6-2. The match lasted an hour and 16 minutes, with Sakkari working hard to save six of eight break points, whilst punishing Kerber five of six off her own serve. Sakkari was not as consistent off her serve – having a 51.6 per cent efficiency – but a far superior winning percentage of 70 and 52 per cent compared to 46 and 47 per cent respectively.

The other semi-final will feature two Americans, with seventh seed Jennifer Brady continuing her great form from 2020 to book a spot in the semis up against young gun compatriot, Ann Li. Brady knocked off Czech Barbora Krejcikova 7-6 6-4, while Li crushed Sonia Cirstea 6-3 6-1. Having only won her maiden title last year, Brady will head into the semi-final as favourite against the 20-year-old Li who post-tournament will record her highest career ranking to-date (previously 97th), and is aiming for her maiden title.

Sakkari and Kontaveit will do battle up first from 11am, before Brady and Li go head-to-head around lunchtime.

GRAMPIANS TROPHY QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[6] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated [3] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) W/O
[5] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [8] Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-4 6-2
[7] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 7-6 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated Sonia Cirstea (ROU) 6-3 6-1

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