Tag: garbine muguruza

WTA Tour wrap: Mixed bag of results across grass court events

IT was a bit of a mixed bag of results across the WTA Tour’s two grass court events yesterday, with two seeds making their way through in each of the Viking Classic and Bett1Open quarter finals, whilst in the other two matches the underdog prevailed. In Berlin, fifth seed Belinda Bencic advanced through to the final four with a hard-fought three-set win over Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4 4-6 7-6, needing two hours and 31 minutes to dismiss her opponent.

The Swiss star will now face Frenchwoman Alize Cornet who stunned Grand Slam winner and sixth seed Garbine Muguruza in an epic contest, winning in a third set tiebreaker, 7-5. The overall match saw Cornet come from behind to post a 4-6 6-3 7-6 win over the Spanish seed in two hours and 40 minutes to claim her spot in the final four. Cornet won 76.6 per cent of his first serve points and broke twice from her two chances, whilst rallied hard against a solid Muguruza who broke twice form four chances, and won 67.9 and 70 per cent of her first and second serve points.

“It was a long match with a lot of emotion, especially in the tiebreak,” Cornet said post-match. “I can’t believe I made it at the end. She’s a champion, she never gives up. I should have gone for a it a bit more, I was waiting for a mistake and I was a bit tight – it’s normal. But I was very resilient too, I was always behind in the score in the third set but I kept grinding, I kept fighting to the end and it’s a really nice victory.

“I had a really tough clay season, I couldn’t play well and I don’t know why – but to play well on grass, it’s unexpected but beautiful.”

VIKING CLASSIC QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-4 3-6 7-6
[4] Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-2 7-5
Tereza Martincova (CZE) defeated [5] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-6 4-6 6-2
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-3 6-3

BETT1OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[5] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-4 4-6 7-6
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated [6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 4-6 6-3 7-6
[7] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-2 5-7 6-4
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Madison Keys (USA) 7-6 2-6 7-6

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Azarenka wins battle of former number ones as Samsonova cracks Top 100

A SEED fell at each of the grass events overnight, with the WTA 500 tournament in Berlin seeing Karolina Pliskova go down in straight sets while at the 250 event in Birmingham Jelena Ostepenko competed hard to go down in three.

It was Jessica Pegula who took down Pliskova, overcoming the former world number one 7-5 6-2 credit to a consistent serve and plenty of hunt to claim a 75-minute victory over the Czech. The unseeded American fought hard throughout and was able to convert six of her nine break point opportunities, whilst also winning 59 per cent of her overall first serve points to steal early momentum out from under Pliskova.

Sixth and seventh seeds Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka had far more luck, with the former dominating against Kazakh Elena Rybakina in the longest clash of the day coming out to one hour and 42 minutes, 6-4 6-3. Whilst Rybakina threw everything she had at the Spaniard, including 11 aces, Muguruza was cleaner and more efficient on serve, also saving six of seven break points and converting four of her own. Azarenka only required 80 minutes to claim the win over fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber, the Belarusian was tested and almost taken to a third set during the 6-3 7-5 matchup.

“I always really enjoy our battles,” Azarenka said. “I always know that it’s going to be a battle, no matter what and I prepare myself for that – there is a certain preparation and motivation going into matches like that.

“[In the second set] I feel like I was coming back to what was working for me – some of the points I was falling off and not playing aggressive. Once I knew that I was stepping up a bit more consistently.”

Meanwhile Liudmila Samsonova has claimed an official maiden Top 100 berth as of next week, upsetting compatriot Veronika Kudermetova, 6-4 6-3. Samsonova did not face a break point, winning 88.5 per cent of her first serve points in a huge effort, with a solid 69.2 per cent second serve effort assisting in her pursuit.

At the Viking Classic in Birmingham, Ostapenko was overthrown by Czech Tereza Martincova in three, 7-6 4-6 6-2, with the Czech firing on all cylinders to register seven aces for zero double faults. In contrast, Ostapenko struggled to control her serve, registering nine double faults for one ace as Martincova controlled proceedings, not allowing Ostapenko to retain her second set momentum as the third loomed. Martincova will take on fourth seed Daria Kasatkina in the quarters, following the Russian’s 6-2 7-5 disposal of Marta Kostyuk. The second quarter final will play out between second seed Ons Jabeur and another unseeded Russian in Anastasia Potapova, after the two both claimed second round wins.

BETT1OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [4] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-5 6-2
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-4 6-3
[7] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-3 7-5
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-4 6-3

VIKING CLASSIC BIRMINGHAM ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-4 3-6 7-6
[4] Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-2 7-5
Tereza Martincova (CZE) defeated [5] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-6 4-6 6-2
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Azarenka and Kerber set up second round clash, Tomljanovic outlasts Mertens

THE two grass event continued in Germany and England overnight, with the WTA 500 bett1open in Berlin and WTA 250 Viking Classic in Birmingham both seeing one big seeded upset apiece amongst relatively  predictable results.

In Germany, a huge second round has been set with a couple of former world number ones in Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber both claiming wins in the Round of 32. Whilst Azarenka was somewhat tested by Kerber’s compatriot Andrea Petkovic, Kerber had little to no issue disposing of Japanese left-hander Misaki Doi in one hour flat.

“It was a really solid match,” Kerber said. “It’s never easy to play a first match on grass courts, especially against a lefty as well. So I’m really happy about my performance and how I started the grass-court season.”

“It’s really nice being back on grass, that’s my favourite surface,” Kerber said. “It’s never easy to start a grass-court season because it’s completely different from the clay courts, but it’s great for me to play in Germany, it’s always really special. That gives me a little bit more motivation.”

Whilst Azarenka leads the duo’s head-to-head 9-1 and is seeded seventh here in Berlin, Kerber is on home soil and looking forward to the clash.

“I will try to play my game, and try to take another chance, and play as many matches as I can before I go to Wimbledon,” Kerber said. “It’s another good match at a high level, and this is why I’m here. The draw is really strong, so it’s good to have another good match.”

“I was sometimes dropping my level a bit with not being aggressive enough,” said Azarenka following her clash with Petkovic, which resulted in a 6-4 7-6(2) finish. “I was getting too frustrated in some moments when I had opportunities and didn’t take them, so I want to learn from that for my next round. I think I was putting myself into too much of a dangerous situation when I could have been more disciplined.”

Sixth seed Garbine Muguruza found success against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, 6-3 6-2, and whilst Muguruza and Cirstea hit a similar amount of winners (15-12), Cirstea registered a whopping 35 unforced errors throughout the one hour and 19-minute clash.

“Very pleased,” Muguruza said. “You never know how it’s going to go in the first match, especially on grass after two years, so I’m very excited to win in two sets against Sorana. We’ve played many times, and it’s always difficult.”

Things did not quite go to plan for eighth seed Czech Karolina Muchova, who fell to Russian Veronika Kudermetova in three, 7-6 5-7 6-2. Kudermetova said she drew on her third round loss at the Roland Garros to another Czech in Katerina Siniakova to get over the line in this encounter.

“I don’t know how to explain it but at the French Open I lost a very close match,” Kudermetova said. “I was 5-1 up, 5-2 up in both sets and I lost. Today I was a little bit thinking about it when I was up and serving. Mentally, it’s not really easy because I think and think about my serve. But I am really happy I stayed in the match in the third set.”

Another Russian-Czech matchup played out with the results going the way of the Russian once more with Liudmila Samsonova claiming the victory over Marketa Vondrousova and set to take on Kudermetova in the second round. Just one of four Americans claimed wins, as Jessica Pegula claimed a straightforward win over compatriot Hailey Baptiste who retired at the latter stage of the first set, while Roland Garros quarterfinalist Elena Rybakina and Croatian Petra Martic both took out wins over Shelby Rogers and Asia Muhammad, respectively.

At Birmingham, a huge upset was orchestrated by Australian hard-hitter Ajla Tomljanovic, disposing of top seed Belgian Elise Mertens in a marathon three hour and nine-minute clash, requiring three tiebreakers before the 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-6(4) result was decided. Fourth seed Daria Kasatkina overcame a slow start to steal victory off Polona Hercog, whilst second seed Ons Jabeur, fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko and sixth seed Zhang Shuai all dominated their respective contests to win in two. Meanwhile, Anastasia PotapovaMarta Kostyuk and Leylah Fernandez all found wins on their opening day of action.

BETT1OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 6-3 6-2
[7] Viktoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-4 7-6
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) 7-6 5-7 6-2
Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-2 6-1
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 2-6 6-3 6-4
Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Asia Muhammad (USA) 7-6 4-6 6-3
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Hailey Baptiste (USA) 6-6 RET
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-4 7-6

VIKING CLASSIC BIRMINGHAM ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) defeated [1] Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-6 6-7 7-6
[2] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Caty McNally (USA) 6-4 6-2
[4] Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 4-6 6-3 6-3
[5] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-4 6-1
[6] Zhang Shuai (CHN) defeated Vitalia Diatchenko (RUS) 6-2 7-5
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 5-7 7-6 6-4
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Madison Brengle (USA) 4-6 7-5 6-3
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) defeated Wang Yafan (CHN) 7-5 6-3

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Seeds falter on Day 2 as Osaka withdraws

PLENTY went on across Day 2 of the 2021 Roland Garros, with plenty of huge clashes seeing quality talent disposed of in the opening round, as Naomi Osaka officially withdrew from the event following criticism this week. Of the 12 seeds, five fell on the second day on clay, with the biggest name Bianca Andreescu amongst a number of competitive names.

Andreescu’s questionable lead-up to the Roland Garros saw the Canadian come into her first round match-up with plenty of confidence, even sitting out the remainder of last week’s Internationaux de Strasbourg event but was unfortunate in her draw coming up against fighter Tamara Zidansek, who did not allow Andreescu’s sixth seeding to hand her an early opener. The Slovenian may have dropped the first set in a 7-1 tiebreaker, but forced her way back into the contest to eventually claim the 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 victory in three hours and 20 minutes.

“Obviously, the first Top 10 win is a big one. It shows me that I can play with players like that, and I showed today that I can beat them,” Zidansek said post-match.

“I didn’t start really well, but the conditions out there are tough. It’s windy so you have to get used to it. I just kept getting into the match more and more.”

“I think my serve was a great example of that. I didn’t start well, but in the second set, I was serving better. In the third set, I was serving really well, which helped me save those break points at 7-7. I was serving really well when I was break point down, and I remember she hit a great return crosscourt, very deep, and I managed to get it back.”

Despite serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, Andreescu was unable to take advantage of her momentum. While Zidansek only hit one more winner throughout the contest (41-40), Andreescu made a whopping 63 unforced errors to Zidansek’s 46. Despite leading in service efficiency, Andreescu was not as effective winning off her first serve, also allowing Zidansek to win 64 points off her return.

“From my part, I didn’t feel like I played good tennis today. But at the same time, she played really, really well,” Andreescu said. “She threw me off a lot with her heavy, spinny shots and her variety. But at least thinking on the positive side I’m healthy, and I was able to fight as hard as I could.”

“During these tough moments, like I want to show a good example to a lot of people. It sucks right now for me and I can just right now learn from it, because that’s what life’s all about, you learn from your mistakes.

“I just want to keep my head up, feel what I feel right now. I might cry a lot tonight, but tomorrow is a new day.”

Among the other seeds to fall were former champion Garbine Muguruza, ousted by 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, with 16th seed Kiki Bertens, out of form 19th seed Brit Johanna Konta and 22nd seeded Croatian Petra Martic.

It took a career-best outing against Muguruza for Kostyuk to earn her first career Top 20 win, claiming the 89 minute clash 6-1 6-4. While Muguruza has been managing an ongoing back injury, it still took plenty of grit and determination from the Ukrainian teen, hitting only 24 unforced errors to Muguruza’s 40.

“I was so ready and so prepared,” Kostyuk said post-match. “My aggressive game today, I’m really glad it worked. I want to keep on going with this game.”

“I’m really, really happy with my performance today,” Kostyuk said. “I’m just trying to focus on the next one. I have two days off and I’m going to try and work again. The work doesn’t stop, so let’s go!”

Meanwhile, 2020 champion and birthday girl Iga Swiatek was one of the flurry of top 10 seeds to prevail, joined by Sofia KeninSerena Williams and Belinda Bencic. The now-20-year-old Pole in Swiatek overcame close friend Kaja Juvan to head into the second round, while Williams and Bencic both also claimed straight set wins to head into the second round. Kenin was well and truly tested by Jelena Ostapenko in their 6-4 4-6 6-3, two hour contest, as Williams improved her winning rate to 77-1 in the opening round at grand slams in the first ever night session at the Roland Garros.

“It’s never easy to play against your best friend,” Swiatek said. “I have some experience because I played with Kaja for a few times. I played with my other friends on junior level. You just try to block this friendship for two hours, just focus on the game. I think I’m doing that pretty well. It’s nice to have that skill.”

“I feel like my game is better and better,” she said. “My coaches were planning everything for me to have the peak of my shape right now. Hopefully it’s going to be here. But still even though I have big confidence and I’m feeling really good, we still have to remember that every match has a different story and many things can happen on court.”

“I have to say it was pretty cool to be able to play the first night session ever here at Roland Garros,” Williams said. “That was something I thoroughly enjoyed.”

Elise MertensMarketa Vondrousova and Jessica Pegula were the remaining seeds to remain supreme, with Pegula ensuring all three seeded Americans remained in the draw, as qualifier Hailey Baptiste and Madison Brengle rounded out the United States’ winners, with just Shelby Rogers falling at the first hurdle.

In the remaining unseeded clashes, wildcard Harmony Tan overcame compatriot Alize Cornet in straight sets to join fellow Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in the second round, as a couple of Russians in Varvara Gracheva and Daria Kasatkina also claimed wins, with the former all joined by Zhang Saisai, Martina Trevisan, Zarina Diyas, Tereza Martincova and Mihaela Buzarnescu in the Round of 64.

ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-4 4-6 6-3
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated [6] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 7-6 7-6 9-7
[7] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Irina Camelia Begu (ROU) 7-6 6-2
[8] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-0 7-5
[10] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-0 6-3
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated [12] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-1 6-4
[14] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [Q] Storm Sanders (AUS) 6-4 6-1
Polona Hercog (SLO) defeated [16] Kiki Bertens (NED) 6-1 3-6 6-4
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [19] Johanna Konta (GBR) 7-6 6-2
[20] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Kaia Kanepi (EST) 4-6 6-3 6-0
Camila Giorgi (ITA) defeated [22] Petra Martic (CRO) 6-2 6-7 6-4
[28] Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Zhu Lin (CHN) 6-4 4-6 6-4
Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3 6-1
[WC] Harmony Tan (FRA) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Hailey Baptiste (USA) defeated Anna Blinkova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) defeated [Q] Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-2 6-3
Zheng Saisai (CHN) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 4-6 6-4 6-4
Martina Trevian (ITA) defeated Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 7-5 4-6 6-5
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3 5-7 6-3
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) defeated Heather Watson (GBR) 6-4 7-5
Tereza Martincova (CZE) defeated Ivana Jorovic (SRB) 6-3 7-6
Madison Brengle (USA) defeated [Q] Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (COL) 7-5 6-4
Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 7-5 7-5
Rebecca Peterson (SWE) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-7 7-6 6-2

Picture credit: Julien Crosnier/FFT

2021 Roland Garros preview: Nadal eyes off 14th title as Barty returns to Paris

TO the delight of tennis fans all across the globe, the main draw of the much-anticipated Roland Garros is set to commence on Monday. This comes one week later than initially scheduled, as the French Tennis Federation postponed the tournament in the hope that COVID-19 restrictions would ease and more fans would be allowed to attend the event. The tournament will run from May 30 to June 13.

Up until June 8, French Open officials will allow 5,388 fans through the gates, with a maximum of 1,000 spectators on each court (excluding night sessions). From June 9, Roland Garros will make use of the European Union’s COVID-19 health pass and increase its capacity to 13,146 fans. Each stadium will allow either 65 per cent capacity or 5,000 fans, whichever comes first.

This upgrade will fall during the quarter-final stage of the tournament in both the men’s and women’s draws, a huge boost for the local fans and economy. To compare this with last year’s Roland Garros, the 2020 tournament was pushed back four months to September and crowds were limited to 1,000 patrons each day.

Both 2020 champions Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek will be competing in this year’s event, along with a host of big names in the tennis world. Let’s take a look at who is absent, the contenders to watch and some outside chances to keep an eye on.

THE ABSENTEES:

The most notable absentee is world number three Simona Halep, who will miss the tournament with a left calf tear. Halep, who was the 2018 French Open winner, would be one of the favourites to win this year’s title if she were able to compete.

On the men’s side, Canadian world number 14 Denis Shapovalov withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury that reportedly bothered him through the Geneva Open. Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 Roland Garros champion, has also pulled out with a foot injury.

Big names Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray have chosen not to participate so they can focus on the upcoming grass court season. Wimbledon is set to commence just two weeks after the Roland Garros final.

THE LEADING CONTENDERS:

The year’s tournament is headlined once again by Nadal, who is in pursuit of a historic 21st Grand Slam title. His remarkable record at arguably the toughest Grand Slam is well-documented – 13 French Open titles, 100 wins out of 102 matches and four championship trophies without conceding a set during the tournament. One of those flawless championships where he never lost a set came in 2020, proving that Nadal is not showing signs of slowing down on his favourite surface. If the ‘King of Clay’ ends his career with the most men’s Grand Slam titles, it will be difficult for historians not to consider him the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

His major challengers remain the two rivals challenging him for that ‘GOAT’ crown– Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Both players sit in Nadal’s half of the draw and, remarkably, we could be treated to a Federer v Djokovic quarter-final showdown if both champions play their part. If Nadal progresses to the semi-final, the winner of Federer v Djokovic would face him in the final four.

Djokovic is arguably a much tougher threat than Federer in this tournament, as the Serbian remains world number one and has won 16 of his 19 matches in 2021. Meanwhile, Federer has no expectations of winning and seems to have conceded defeat already. “I know I will not win the French Open, and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” Federer said. “Roland Garros is not the goal, the goal is the grass.”

Two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem is the other main contender to consider in the men’s tournament. Despite having a poor start to the season, the Austrian world number four has proven in recent years that he is capable of beating anyone when he plays his best tennis. With no Nadal or Djokovic in his half of the draw, this could be his time.

On the women’s side, defending champion Swiatek is considered the favourite given her strong start to the season. The 19-year-old has already won two titles this year – in Adelaide and Rome – and made an impressive run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open before being knocked off by Halep. With Halep’s absence comes a huge opportunity for Swiatek to go back-to-back.

Australian Ash Barty is her main challenger, and these two women could be forced to face off in a semi-final. After missing last year’s tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world number one and 2019 French Open champion is back with the aim of regaining her crown. Her form has been the most consistent of just about any player in 2021, claiming three titles so far along with runner-up honours in Madrid. Barty’s game is reliable and well-suited to clay, so expect her to make a deep run in Paris.

Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka deserve consideration as contenders too, but for very different reasons. Sabalenka has been brilliant on clay so far this season, having defeated Barty in the Madrid final and losing to her in the Stuttgart final. The 23-year-old has never made past the fourth round of a slam, but she appears ready to fulfil her potential and could make a serious impact over the next two weeks.

On the other hand, fellow 23-year-old Osaka has already lived up to her potential in many ways, winning four Grand Slam titles over the past four years. However, all of these have taken place on hard courts, and her struggles on clay are well-documented. Osaka has never made it past the Round of 32 at Roland Garros, so it will take a major turnaround for her to contend for the championship this year. 

THE ROUGHIES:

World number two Daniil Medvedev‘s record on clay makes for rough reading, as he has fallen in the first round of Roland Garros in each of the past four years. Given Medvedev is one of the most talented players on the circuit, this record is quite difficult for him or any expert to explain. The Russian has added clay court specialist Igor Andeev to his coaching staff in an attempt to reverse these fortunes. If Medvedev gets some comfortable wins under his belt early in the tournament, then he quickly becomes a contender to watch.

Elsewhere, Stefanos Tsisitpas and Alexander Zverev are in strong form, having won recent clay court titles in Monte Carlo and Madrid respectively. They have been drawn in the same half and could meet in a semi-final, especially if Thiem and Medvedev continue their respective struggles. Norwegian 22-year-old Casper Ruud is in impressive form having made the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and Madrid, but he has drawn a difficult first-round matchup in France’s Benoit Paire. Speaking of the draw, it could open right up for Grigor Dimitrov (in Medvedev’s quarter) after he made his debut fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros last year.

If you’re looking for a dark horse to follow on the women’s side, look no further than Garbiñe Muguruza. The 2016 French Open champion has a brilliant record at the slam, making it through to (at least) the Round of 16 in six of the past seven years. The 27-year-old has the ability to beat anyone at her best and could easily make a huge impact at this year’s event. She does have a tough draw however and would likely be forced to face Swiatek in the fourth round.

It would be remiss to rule out Serena Williams, who remains just one championship away from Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Three of Williams’ titles have come at the French Open, but her form on clay in the lead up to this year’s event has been subpar. In contrast, American 17-year-old Coco Gauff‘s form in the lead up has been outstanding, winning a title in Parma and making the semi-finals in Rome. This tournament presents a huge opportunity for Gauff, who has a lethal backhand and appears to have fixed her double faulting issues. 

American Jennifer Brady will look to continue her dominant start to the season after making the 2021 Australian Open final, while experienced stars Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are capable of doing some damage in the bottom half of the draw.

FIVE ROUND 1 MATCHES TO WATCH:

[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)

[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) v Jelana Ostapenko (LAT)

[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

[15] Casper Ruud (NOR) v Benoit Paire (FRA)

[15] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

PREDICTIONS:

Men’s champion: Rafael Nadal

Women’s champion: Ash Barty

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

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: Seeds struggle on clay in drizzly conditions

A RAIN delay was not enough to curb the form of a couple of former champions on Day 2 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, as the Round of 64 continued with just one of the day’s four seeds proceeding to the second round following some huge matchups.

Spaniard Garbine Muguruza was the lone seed to proceed on the day, downing lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig in the second quickest encounter of the drizzly day. Requiring just 66 minutes to sweep the 6-1 6-2 contest over her last minute opposition, Muguruza won 65.5 per cent of the match’s total points on her way to the second round.

“It was a weird day,” Muguruza said post-match. “I woke up sunny, had an opponent. Then it turned out I had another opponent and it was raining the whole match. We had a little bit of everything!

“But, Rome, it’s such a familiar tournament. I played here so many times, I’ve had nice matches. I love this clay, the red clay. It’s familiar to me. Just looking forward to get as many matches as possible.”

Of the other seeds on the day, two in Belinda Bencic (10th seed) and Johanna Konta (16th) were beaten soundly whilst the third in Elise Mertens (14th) put up a fight but could not retain control. Bencic was upset by Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-3 6-4 contest, wherein the Belgian’s error-rate did not hold up in a one hour and 48-minute matchup. Konta’s shaky season continued with another loss to her name,  falling to Latvian Jelena Ostapenko in just one hour and nine minutes, unable to contest in the 6-3 6-1 encounter. For Mertens, it took a momentum swing from her Russian opposition in Veronika Kudermetova to take the win, as the Belgian took the first set before falling behind in the second and third of the 4-6 6-2 6-3 contest, in two hours and 19 minutes.

Muguruza’s swift victory was only beaten by Barbora Krejcikova‘s 63-minute cast off of Zheng Saisai, winning 86 per cent of her first serve points on her way to the 6-2 6-0 win. The Czech’s compatriot Marketa Vondrousova was not so lucky though, falling to Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets 6-4 6-2. A couple of Americans joined the winners list as Bernarda Pera downed Tamara Zidansek to book a second round meeting with Muguruza, while Madison Keys took care of compatriot Sloane Stephens in a 4-6 6-2 7-5 seesawing contest.

In other games, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Garcia both proceeded following straight sets wins, and were joined in the second round by Argentinian Nadia Podoroska.

INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [10] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-3 6-4
[12] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Patricia Maria Tig (ROM) 6-1 6-2
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [14] Elise Mertens (BEL) 4-6 6-2 6-3
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated [16] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3 6-1
Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2 7-5
Ajla Tolmljanovic (AUS) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-4 6-2
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-2 6-0
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-3 6-2
Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-6 6-2
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 2-6 7-6 6-1
Madison Keys (USA) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-2 7-5

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Home hope continues dream run at Bogota as Kvitova and Muguruza fall at Charleston

THE Round of 16 at both Charleston and Bogota are done and dusted, with plenty of intriguing results coming out of both events.

Charleston saw an intriguing day of results as third seed Petra Kvitova fell to Montenegrin Danka Kovinic and Garbine Muguruza retired in her encounter with fellow seed Yulia Putintseva, unfortunately handing over a dominant first game victory and tight second set to the Kazakh.

Kovinic’s 6-4 6-1 victory over Kvitova was completed in just 76 minutes, with her effectiveness on serve the main kicker, winning points off 69.7 per cent of her first serve compared to Kvitova’s 46.7 per cent, and in arguably one of her biggest wins to-date. For Muguruza, it was a lower leg injury and the quick changeover from hard-court to clay which took a toll and forced her retirement mid-match.

“I was already feeling some pain in my first match,” Muguruza said. “The switch of hard courts to clay was tough, and in a very short amount of time. I started very well, and all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain in my leg, and it got worse. I didn’t want to continue without playing my best tennis. It didn’t make sense to me.”

Also successful on Day 6 were 12th and 14th seeds in Ons Jabeur and Coco Gauff, both reigning supreme under pressure. Tunisian, Jabeur was forced into the only three-setter of the day when she encountered Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, eventually overcoming a first set deficit to claim the 5-7 6-3 6-3 victory in two hours and 40 minutes – far and away the longest match of the day. Meanwhile, Gauff took on compatriot Lauren Davis and came away with a 6-2 7-6(2) victory to stop Davis in her tracks.

A third American in Sloane Stephens joined the winners circle with a 6-3 6-4 dismissal of Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-3 6-4, however things did not go quite as well to plan for compatriot Caty McNally, who fell to Spaniard Paula Badosa in a similar result. The final matches saw Veronika Kudermetova claim a 71-minute 6-0 6-3 victory over Kurumi Nara, whilst the remaining matchup between world number one Ash Barty and a fifth American in Shelby Rogers saw Barty take out the first set tiebreaker before Rogers took out the second set, with Barty just holding on for the 7-6 4-6 6-4 victory under pressure.

VOLVO CAR OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Danka Kovinic (MNE) defeated [3] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-4 6-1
[11] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated [6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 0-6 2-2 RET
[12] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 5-7 6-3 6-3
[14] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-2 7-6
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-3 6-4
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Caty McNally (USA) 6-3 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-0 6-3

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) v. Shelby Rogers (USA)

 

Wildcard Maria Camila Osorio Serrano has continued her dream run on home soil in Bogota, as has qualifier Harmony Tan who reigned supreme in her own Round of 16 encounter. The third winner of the day was fifth seed Slovenian – and only remaining seed – Tamara Zidansek. Zidansek and Osorio Serrano came away with relatively simple victories on the sixth day of proceedings, as the fifth seed disposed of Italian Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-2 6-3 in one hour and 11 minutes. The Colombian teenage hope in Osorio Serrano completed her maiden Top 100 victory by downing seventh seed Czech Tereza Martincova to head to the quarter finals, requiring just over 90 minutes to claim the 6-3 6-3 victory, with a marginally better serving efficiency allowing her to get the job done. Tan continued the straight sets trend as she disposed of fellow qualifier, Chilean Daniela Seguel in the last match of the day, however required a bit more to overcome her opposition in the 6-4 7-6(3) matchup. Whilst Tan hit seven double faults to Seguel’s two, she was far more effective off her first serve and consistently so in comparison.

COPA COLSANITAS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[5] Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated Giulia Gatto-Monticone (ITA) 6-2 6-3
Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (COL) defeated [7] Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-3 6-3
Harmony Tan (FRA) defeated Daniela Seguel (CHI) 6-4 7-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOLVO CAR OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

COPA COLSANITAS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith