Tag: francesca jones

2021 Adelaide International: Day 1 of qualifiers sees Americans and Aussies dominate

THE Adelaide International qualifying rounds have begun, with a flurry of American and Australian competitors taking the court in South Australia and at least one player from each of the two nations playing in each match. They combined for eight of the 12 winners on the day, including top seed youngster Coco Gauff and unseeded wildcard Storm Sanders, who disposed of second seed American Bernarda Pera in three sets.

In an interesting stat, the top four seeds all hailed from the United States, with just Pera falling from that group. Gauff was clinical in her encounter with Great Britain’s Francesca Jones, disposing of the Brit in 64 minutes and joined by Madison BrengleChristina McHale and Caty McNally on the winners list. Also hailing from the United States but falling in the first round was Asia Muhammad, who stole the first set from Italian Jasmine Paolini but eventually fell in the lone two-plus hour encounters of the day, going down to the sixth seed 4-6 6-3 7-6.

Heading to the Australian winners, and it was Maddison InglisAstra Sharma and Ellen Perez who joined Sanders in the second round, with Inglis knocking compatriot Belinda Woolcock out of the running. Destanee AiavaArina RodionovaLizette CabreraIvana Popovic and Kimberly Birrell will all remain on the sidelines on home soil, unlucky to all draw seeds. Sanders and Sharma impressed with their three set victories over Pera and Lesia Tsurenko showing plenty of intent ahead of the second round.

The remaining non American or Australian winners included Liudmila SamsonovaMisaki Doi and Kaja Juvan, as all three competitors claimed straight set wins over homegrown talent.

The qualifiers will continue today with the first round beginning on Tuesday.

2021 Yarra Valley Classic WTA preview: Barty returns in star-studded tournament

WORLD number one Ash Barty will make her return to the WTA Tour after 10 months off, coming in as top seed at the brand new 2021 Yarra Valley Classic. The 54-player event will feature four Top 10 players, and 16 inside the Top 50, in what is expected to be an entertaining week of action. The WTA 500 event is running on par with the Gippsland Trophy – another WTA 500 event and 54-player draw – whilst the Grampians Trophy will take place a few days later for all those WTA players stuck in extended quarantine.

Looking at the Yarra Valley Classic, the story of the tournament is the return of Barty, who finished the 2020 year on top despite not playing for the vast majority of it. Breaking her home tournament title drought in Adelaide last year after being a two-time finalist in Sydney, the world number one has had the luxury of an extended warm-up to the Australian summer having been based here all year. Whilst her match fitness will undoubtedly be a huge question mark, she is too good not to be considered a huge contender at the event.

The second seed is Australian Open reigning champion Sofia Kenin, who returns Down Under to try and defend her crown that included defeating Barty in the semi-finals. Kenin is ranked fourth in the world, and has opted to join Barty in the Yarra Valley Classic draw. Also making a Roland Garros final where she suffered defeat to the red-hot Iga Swiatek, Kenin comes into this tournament off a quarter finals effort at Abu Dhabi, and picking the right flight to avoid extended quarantine.

Rounding out the top four players are Czech duo, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova, making it a strong quartet. Pliskova won in Brisbane last year, so has good form in Australia, but had a forgettable year by her standards. Whilst minimal data to go off in 2021, a straight sets loss to Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova in Abu Dhabi might be a cause for concern. Kvitova on the other hand has opted for an extended break, having not played since Roland Garros, where she reached a semi-final and eventually lost out to Kenin. She only played the three tournaments since the COVID-19 break, so is coming in relatively fresh, though also down on match fitness compared to some others.

Among the other players entering the Yarra Valley Classic, Grand Slam winners Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza will be of concern to the top talents. Both are known stars on the Australian hard courts at Melbourne Park, and whilst neither dominated in the back half of the year, they can never be discounted. Looking down the entry list of 49 players, Danielle Collins performed strongly here in Australia 12 months ago, whilst Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska has shot up the rankings thanks to that effort. Petra Martic is the other Top 20 talent named in the draw, while 2019 Roland Garros finalist, Marketa Vondrousova is also competing.

The qualifiers who have made it into the main draw include Italian young gun Elisabetta Cocciaretto, US Open quarter finalist Tsvetana Pironkova, and the lowest ranked one in the draw, Great Britain’s Francesca Jones. Picking a winner will be difficult given the layoff for some players, though Kenin is a good shout, with potentially Anastasia Sevastova another one to keep an eye on as a dark horse at the event.

Picture credit: Darren Carroll/USTA

Qualifiers confirmed for Australian Open

ALLOWING enough time to quarantine for 14 days, the Australian Open qualifiers have been confirmed following the completion of the three-round qualification stage over in the UAE. Hosted in Dubai three weeks prior to the Australian Open first round kicking off, 16 men and 16 women earned their places in the respective 128-player draws.

The successful qualifiers had to win three matches to make their way into the Australian Open main draw, and a mix of youth and experience will take to the courts next month.

Looking at the women’s draw, the experience begins with 2012 Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani, as well as two-time Grand Slam doubles winner Timea Babos who have both qualified in the singles draw. Fresh off a starring run to the 2020 US Open quarter finals, Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova has qualified for the main draw to try and replicate her run in Melbourne.

The top ranked qualifier was Slovenian Kaja Juvan, with the 20-year-old ranked 104th in the world, just missing out on an automatic spot in the main draw. Having won through to the second round at both Roland Garros and US Open, Juvan will be eyeing off a win for the first time at Melbourne Park. Third seed in qualifying, Belgian Greet Minnen also booked her spot at Melbourne Park, with the 110th ranked 23-year-old having only made main draws at the three Grand Slams last year, and made a second round at the Australian Open.

Without a doubt the best story was the qualification of 243rd ranked Brit, Francesca Jones, who has overcome Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia (EED) to inspire many around the world. EED is a rare genetic condition where Jones was born with one less finger on each hand, and only seven toes. At only 20-years-old, the Leeds-born talent is appearing in her first Grand Slam main draw.

Among others to earn main draw spots in the women’s draw were top ranked Egyptian Mayar Sherif, Italian teenage young gun Elisabetta Cocciaretto, and Canadian 30-year-old Rebecca Marino who last played at Melbourne Park back in 2013.

Looking at the ATP qualifiers, one of the most talked about players is teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz who lost himself no followers on his smashing of second qualifying seed Hugo Dellien in order to make the main draw. Aslan Karatsev is the highest ranked qualifier heading to Melbourne Park, with the 27-year-old Russian winning a spot. Dellien and top seed Gregoire Barrere – who lost to 182nd ranked Portugese player Frederico Ferreira Silva – were both knocked out of contention.

The player with the highest career ranking is Serbian Viktor Troicki, with the former world number 12 making his way into the singles draw, alongside rising talents, Michael Mmoh and Elias Ymer. Australian Bernard Tomic was the only local hope to book a spot in the main draw out of the qualifying contenders.

Dutch player Botic Van De Zandschulp ensured the Netherlands had a representative in the men’s draw, much like Sergiy Stakhovsky for Ukraine. A young gun to watch is 20-year-old Czech Tomas Machac, while 23-year-old Russian Roman Safiullin had some promising performances last year and is also into the Round of 128.

The full list of qualifiers are below in the table.

WOMEN MEN
Greet Minnen (BEL) Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)
Chloe Paquet (FRA) Michael Mmoh (USA)
Whitney Osuigwe (USA) Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Timea Babos (HUN) Roman Safiullin (RUS)
Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP)
Mayo Hibi (JPN) Henri Laaksonen (SUI)
Kaja Juvan (SLO) Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)
Sara Errani (ITA) Elias Ymer (SWE)
Valeria Savinykh (RUS) Maxime Cressy (USA)
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) Kimmer Coppejans (BEL)
Francesca Jones (GBR) Tomas Machac (CZE)
Clara Burel (FRA) Aslan Karatsev (RUS)
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED)
Rebecca Marino (CAN) Quentin Halys (FRA)
Olga Danilovic (SRB) Bernard Tomic (AUS)
Mayar Sherif (EGY) Frederico Ferreira Silva (POR)

Picture credit: Getty Images