Tag: johanna konta

WTA Tour wrap: Barty and Swiatek set up huge quarter finals clash

THE first day of Round of 32 action is done and dusted at the Madrid Open in Spain, with a couple of intriguing tests making life difficult for seeded competitors.

Ash Barty continued her winning run for the year, still leading all-comers with the most wins to her name in 2021 but was really tested by Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in an intriguing 6-4 1-6 6-3, one hour and 58 minute encounter.

“A really tough match,” Barty said. “I felt my margins were a little bit off today. Made a lot of errors. I think I was missing in the right way, but still just a foot or two here or there makes a big difference. I felt like there were probably too many loose ones for me today.”

Barty was uncharacteristically inefficient off her first serve at just 51 per cent throughout, but still managing to claim the ascendancy with an improved winning rate off said serve. A huge second set from Zidansek – winning her first ever set off a top 10 player – could have spelled trouble for the world number one, however an improved third set saw Barty wrench momentum back in her favour, capitalising off Zidansek’s errors to claim the win.

“I don’t think there was a lot in it by any means,” Barty said. “We had a lot of close games in the first set, early in the second set. In the third, as well, there were a lot of close games. I think the response early in the third was good. I was a bit more aggressive, was able to bring the match back on my terms.”

Meanwhile, a win to Iga Swiatek over German Laura Siegemund has set up a massive quarter final encounter between Swiatek and Barty, with the 2019 and 2020 Roland Garros champions meeting on court for the first time. While Barty was challenged in the second round, Swiatek had a much easier time against Siegemund to claim a 6-3 6-3 victory. Even despite dropping a 3-0 start to the second set as Siegemund recovered to even up the ledger to 3-0, Swiatek won the remaining games to claim the one hour and 40 minute victory.

“It was pretty hard to close that match,” Swiatek said. “Match balls are pretty stressful because you know you’re almost at the end. Sometimes a crazy idea may come up. I tried to just be focused on my basic game, to play safe.

“Anyway, I made a lot of little mistakes. I wasn’t sure where it came from. It was pretty annoying. It just shows that Laura is a great fighter. You could see that also in previous games. In second game of second set, she had amazing rallies, amazing points. She’s fighting till the end and she’s not giving anything for free.”

Both players are looking forward to their encounter, with only a practice hit-out to go off in the past.

“Real exciting,” said Barty. “A match that I look forward to. I’ve hit with her once in Melbourne a few months ago. She’s got a seriously impressive game. Moves very well on the clay court, can slide off both legs, controls her body really well on clay. Likes to use her hopper, gets around, controls the court with her forehand. It’s a challenge that we go into with a really clean slate, a little bit of a period of trying to figure each other out and how our games match up.”

“She has a great slice,” Swiatek said. “I remember it was hard in Melbourne to keep your legs low, just playing back those slices. I think most of the girls have problem with that. I’m going to remember about that.”

“I really respect her,” she said. “Basically I think it’s a good example of dealing with expectations, just having some kind of a distance to the game. I’m also having a hard time finding it. I want to kind of win every match, I want to win right now. Sometimes I’m not giving myself time. She did that.

In other games, Eighth and ninth seeds Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova both reigned supreme, whilst another two seeds fell in intriguing results, with Kiki Bertens and Johanna Konta both disposed of in straight sets by Russian, Veronika Kudermetova and Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova, respectively. Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa were the remaining two winners of the day to head to the quarter finals.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-4 1-6 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [7] Kiki Bertens (NED) 6-4 6-3
[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 3-6 6-1 7-6
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-4 7-5
[14] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3 6-3
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated [15] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-3 6-3
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-1 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 5-7 6-1 6-2

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WTA Tour wrap: Svitolina overcome by Teichmann, Barty and Swiatek skate through at Madrid

THE WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open has begun in Spain, with the opening day of action seeing plenty of fascinating results. Just one seed fell across the board in the lone three-setter of the day, setting up a massive second round already when proceedings have only just begun.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina was the first to fall, despite a stellar start giving her the upper hand against Swiss talent Jil Teichmann. But Svitolina failed to bring the heat in the resulting second set as Teichmann piled on the pressure, as a third set ensued before Teichmann ran out 2-6 6-4 7-6(5) victor in just over two and a half hours.

It was an untidy first set from Teichmann that allowed Svitolina to take out the early ascendancy, before an impressive turnaround – including a much more consistent serve and two aces in the third – allowed the Swiss native to switch the momentum and claim victory. Whilst a 1-5 start to the third set may have looked dangerous, Teichmann flipped a switch to save six match points and pulled off a remarkable come-from-behind win.

“I started slow, especially with a lot of unforced errors,” Teichmann said. “Giving her too many free points. So I found a way to be more solid, to hit more balls.”

Where Teichmann’s compatriot and eighth seed Belinda Bencic was also successful in a 6-4 6-2 encounter with Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, Svitolina’s compatriot Kateryna Kozlova was overcome in the same result by German Laura Siegemund.

A number of American names filtered across the courts in Madrid, with results split evenly down the middle. Two of the day’s top United States prospects in Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske were overcome by seeds who came out flying, with top seed Australian Ash Barty in fine form defeated Rogers 6-2 6-1 in one hour flat, whilst Riske struggled against in-form youngster Iga Swiatek on her Madrid debut, downed 6-1 6-1 in 67 minutes.

“I’ve played Shelby many times this year… and it’s always a very big challenge,” Barty said post-match. “I needed to make sure that I was at my very best to be able to compete today.”

“Every time you step out on the court against Shelby, you really need to be switched on, play your very best because she has the ability to take the match away from you very quickly. It was important for me to start well, across the whole match. It was always going to be a big factor.”

Barty hit eight aces and did not face a single break point on her way to victory, also piling on 19 winners for just nine unforced errors in a classy showing. While Barty is fresh off a clay court title last week at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, 14th seed Swiatek took the court for the first time on clay this season and effectively the first time since her breakthrough French Open victory in 2020.

“Today I just wanted to play solid and to use all the tactics, the clues that my coach gave me to implement everything in my game that he told me. I did that pretty well,” Swiatek said.

“I did some unforced errors that I wish they didn’t happen, but they didn’t have much influence on the score. Also I try to come back to the solid game, so I did that pretty well.”

“[It’s] my first time here. For sure the balls are going pretty high because of the air here. Madrid is elevated. It’s totally different. I strung my racquet more tight. I think most of the players are doing that, so it’s not something special.

“You just have to be ready for every shot because I felt that on practices and even today, that when I did something like a small mistake technically, the ball went out two meters. You really have to be careful here and just kind of really, really focus on techniques.”

The remaining two United States competitors of the day both claimed wins in relatively simple circumstances, as Bernarda Pera and Sloane Stephens got wins on the board in 76 and 82 minutes, respectively. Three more seeds reigned supreme, with seventh seed and defending Madrid champion Kiki Bertens, three-time winner and ninth seed Petra Kvitova – by default after compatriot Marie Bouzkova was forced to retire at 6-2 2-3 – and 15th seed Johanna Konta all heading into the second round. Another six competitors will look to hit the ground running in the Round of 32, with Anastasija SevastovaTamara ZidansekVeronika Kudermetova, hometown hope Paula BadosaOns Jabeur and Angelique Kerber all claiming straight set wins.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-2 6-1
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 2-6 6-4 7-6
[7] Kiki Bertens (NED) defeated Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND) 6-4 6-0
[8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-4 6-2
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-2 2-3 RET
[14] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Alison Riske (USA) 6-1 6-1
[15] Johanna Konta (GBR) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 6-2
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated Petra Martic (CRO) 6-3 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROM) 6-0 6-3
Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 6-4 6-2
Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated Danka Kovinic (MNE) 6-4 6-1
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) 6-2 6-4
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Elena Vesnina (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-1 7-5
Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-2 6-3
Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 7-6 6-1

WTA Miami Open 1000: Ana Konjuh’s up some magic to power past Swiatek

CROATIAN former Top 20 talent Ana Konjuh has upset Roland Garros reigning champion Iga Swiatek in the third round of the WTA 1000 Miami Open overnight. The Croatian world number 338th turned 23 in December last year and still has a bright future ahead of her, smashing 40 winners on her way to a three-set win, 6-4 2-6 6-2.

Konjuh served 10 aces to five and only four double faults to six, winning 71.4 per cent of her first serve points to Swiatek’s 62.9 per cent. The Polish player broke her lower ranked opponent three times from seven chances, while the Croatian created 14 break point opportunities, but only converted four of them. The final two were enough to secure the third set victory comfortably and advance through to the next round.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Konjuh said post-match. “I just told myself I need to stay and be offensive and not give her many chances. That second set maybe I screwed up a little bit, but overall, credit to her. You know, she stepped up her game. But I just wanted to stay mentally in it in those key moments just to be able to, you know, produce some great shots. I did that.”

It was a mixed bag for the two Latvians in Miami, with Anastasija Sevastova not even needing to take the court in order to advance to the Round of 16, after third seed Simona Halep pulled out. Top seed Ash Barty won comfortably against the other Latvian in Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-2 in her first match outside Australia in more than 12 months.

Meanwhile both Belarusian’s advanced to the Round of 16, with Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka winning in straight sets against their respective opponents. The seventh seed Sabalenka won 7-6 6-4 defeating 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova, while Azarenka trumped 24th seed Angelique Kerber, 7-5 6-2.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina forced her way past 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in a first set tiebreaker and overall tight match 7-6 6-4, while two Czechs featured in the remaining two matches. Earlier in the day, Marketa Vondrousova toppled 11th seed Belinda Bencic 4-6 6-4 6-4, while Petra Kvitova smashed Great Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes on court.

WTA MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated [3] Simona Halep (ROU) W/O
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [30] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated [17] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-1 6-2
[19] Marketa Vondrousova ( CZE) defeated [11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 4-6 6-4 6-4
[14] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated [24] Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-5 6-2
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated [15] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4 2-6 6-2

Picture credit: WTA Tour

WTA Miami Open 1000: Konjuh shocks Keys as Barty shaky on international return

THE Round of 64 at the 2021 Miami Open has already produced some excellent efforts and intriguing results as the top seeds enter the main draw, with Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka amongst the seeds who were challenged on their opening day.

In a mostly successful day for seeds, just one fell despite hard challenges against the aforementioned top five competitors. It was Madison Keys who was disposed of by Croatian Ana Konjuh, who in the process of completing the 6-4 6-2 clean sweep of the 18th seed, also posted her first top 20 win in four years. It took the 23-year-old and former world number 20 – who now ranks 338th in the world – just one hour and 12 minutes to down the American, cleanly and efficiently outclassing Keys in her first back-to-back win since 2017 following four elbow surgeries.

Barty was forced to overcome a comeback from the Slovak Republic’s Kristina Kucova, taking out the first set but appearing to take the foot off the accelerator as the match went on, dropping the second set 4-6 before Kucova looked to serve for the match at 5-3 in the third. But Barty rallied from there, saving a match point before winning the last five games of the match to run out victor, 6-3 4-6 7-5. Regardless of her shakiness, Barty still registered a solid 78.7 per cent win rate off her first serve credit to a whopping 15 aces on her way to victory, despite only serving off a 50.5 per cent clip. As for Sabalenka, it was her compatriot in Tsvetana Pironkova who provided a real challenge, with her opposition firing from the get-go with a 6-0 start against the seventh seed. But Sabalenka fired from there, still not appearing to be at her best but proving her winning experience was crucial in this encounter to reign supreme 0-6 6-3 7-6(9). The higher ranked Belarusian hit six aces for 11 double faults in an uncharacteristically messy outing, which saw Pironkova intriguingly lead majority of the overall stats but still fall in a huge 7-6(9) final set tiebreaker. The third big test was played out between Elina Svitolina and Shelby Rogers, with the former marginally reigning supreme in the 3-6 7-5 6-3 two hour and 29 minute encounter. While Svitolina lacked consistency in windy conditions and was forced to take a medical timeout for a wrist injury, she clawed her way back with a huge second set to steal momentum and eventual victory.

Angelique Kerber appeared to be back to her best in the quickest match of the day, disposing of Renata Zarazua in just 61 minutes, completing a 6-0 6-0 sweep as Ekaterina AlexandrovaBelinda BencicIga Swiatek and Veronika Kudermetova all followed suit in 70-80 minute respective wins. Also amongst the winners circle on Day 3 at Miami were 17th seed Johanna Konta and unseeded Jelena Ostapenko, whilst three matches are yet to be complete at time of publish.

MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Kristina Kucova (SLO) 6-3 4-6 7-6
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 3-6 7-5 6-3
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (BLR) 0-6 6-3 7-6
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-2 6-1
[16] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-4 6-2
[17] Johanna Konta (GBR) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 6-4 7-5
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated [18] Madison Keys (USA) 6-4 6-2
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-4 6-4
[24] Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Renata Zarazua (MEX) 6-0 6-0
[30] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-0 6-4
[32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Danielle Collins (USA) 6-3 6-2
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-2 5-7 6-3

[3] Simona Halep (ROM) v. Caroline Garcia (FRA)
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) v. Alize Cornet (FRA)
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) v. [31] Coco Gauff (USA)

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 Adelaide International: Rogers downs Konta in day of upsets

DAY 3 at the Adelaide International saw a couple more upsets make their way through to the Round of 16, with one seed disposed of in straight sets and a duo of Aussie qualifiers winning their third straight win to head to the second round.

It was Johanna Konta who fell at the first hurdle, absolutely obliterated by American Shelby Rogers 6-2 6-2 in one hour and 16 minutes. Konta retired early from the Australian Open – during the first round in fact – from injury and looked the goods heading into Adelaide, but struggled to maintain her form and failed to have an impact on serve and more so on return. With just 10 unforced errors to her name throughout the contest, Rogers was clean and clinical, registering her third career Top 10 victory. The results of Rogers’ compatriots Coco Gauff and Madison Brengle went in two different directions though, with Gauff overcoming fellow qualifier Jasmine Paolini in a two-hour and 33-minute 6-4 7-6 6-2 battle, whilst Brengle was unfortunate to draw Polish fifth seed Iga Swiatek, and was disposed of in straight sets.

Maddison Inglis fought off former champion Sam Stosur, coming back from the brink in a tight 6-7 7-5 6-4 marathon, winning in two hours and 46 minutes. Whilst Stosur was marginally more effective on serve, Inglis saved seven of her 10 break points and when it came down to overall points won, just pipped her compatriot at the post. In the other all-Australian battle it was underdog Storm Sanders who got the chocolates over Alja Tomljanovic, as Sanders’ fine recent form continued with another straight sets victory, 6-1 6-2 in 63 minutes.

Looking to seeded contests, and both Yulia Putintseva and Petra Martic head through to the second round relatively unscathed, but were both pushed by their respective opposition in Laura Siegemund and Liudmila Samsonova, coming away with 6-4 6-4 and 4-6 6-0 7-5 margins over their respective foes. The remaining matches saw Misaki Doi and Jil Teichmann also join the second round club.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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 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: Czechs fall as other top seeds advance

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

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

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

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

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

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

GRAMPIANS TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Ash Barty returns to the court as 2020 Grand Slam champions make their mark

ANOTHER huge day at the two WTA 500 tournaments was had as the Round of 32 continued in the lead up to the Australian Open next week. Ash Barty made a triumphant return to the court at the Yarra Vally Classic for the first time since early 2020, while a number of seeds fell at the Gippsland Trophy in a less predictable day on the track.

At the Yarra Valley Classic, Barty led the charge as the top seed and did not disappoint with her 6-3 6-3 sweep of Romanian Ana Bogdan. She will be joined in the Round of 16 with all six other seeds from the day after a successful showing from the top talent on the park, with 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin ultimately having the easiest outing of the day with a one-set victory after Italian Camila Giorgi retired. The second seed American’s Australian Open runner up Garbine Muguruza came away with a classy 6-2 6-0 victory over Belgian Alison van Uytvanck, while Kenin’s compatriot Jessica Pegula joined the Round of 16 after disposing of German Mona Barthel. Meanwhile, Argentinian Nadia Podoroska was also successful downing Greet Minnen.

A couple of Czech Republic and Russian representatives were also successful, seeing Czech seeds Petra Kvitova (fourth) and Marie Bouzkova (16th) dispose of Venus Williams and Aliona Bolsova respectively, while Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (11th seed) and Vera Zvonareva also reigned supreme, albeit in less tighter matches than the Czech duo, who were both taken to two hours before shaking their respective opposition.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROM) 6-3 6-3
[2] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 7-5 RET
[4] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 7-6 7-5
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-2 6-0
[11] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-0 6-3
[14] Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-3 6-4
[16] Marie Bouzkova (CZE) defeated Aliona Bolsova (ESP) 6-3 6-7 6-2
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Caroline Dolehide (USA) 6-2 6-4
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Mona Barthel (GER) 6-4 7-5

At the Gippsland Trophy, results were far less predictable with the big loss of the day coming from fourth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who was upset by 94th ranked Estonian Kaia Kanepi in a blistering 6-1 2-6 6-1 outing. Elsewhere, a couple of 2020 Grand Slam title-holders continued their excellent runs as Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka got their 2021 seasons on track straight away. Roland Garros champion Swiatek had a sloppy first set, before regaining confidence and the upper hand over Slovenian Kaja Juvan to come out victorious, 2-6 6-2 6-1 in one hour and 45 minutes. US Open victor Osaka completed her 6-2 6-2 sweep of Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in just 71 minutes, collecting her 12th straight win and her first since the US Open final last September.

Sabalenka was not the only seed to fall during the Round of 32, with young gun Coco Gauff going down to 24-year-old Brit Katie Boulter, who stands a whopping 323 ranks behind the 16-year-old American prodigy. Polona Hercog also fell to a lower ranked opposition in Russian Daria Kasatkina, while turning to successful seeds, and it was go, go, go for the likes of fifth seed Johanna Konta and 16th seed Laura Siegmund who came away with two of the quickest victories of the day over Bernarda Pera and Destanee Aiava, respectively. In other games, Carolina Garcia downed Timea Babos and Irina-Camelia Begu outlasted a hungry Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the only match of the day that went more than two hours, coming away with the 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory in two hours and 35 minutes.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2 6-2
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [4] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-1 2-6 6-1
[5] Johanna Konta (GBR) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-2 6-3
[6] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Kaja Juvan (SLO) 2-6 6-2 6-1
[12] Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Timea Babos (HUN) 6-4 6-4
Katie Boulter (GBR) defeated [14] Coco Gauff (USA) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated [15] Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-4 6-3
[16] Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-2 6-2
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 5-7 6-4 6-4

2021 Gippsland Trophy WTA preview: Grand Slam winners stack draw

IN the other WTA event running parallel to the Yarra Valley Classic, the 2021 Gippsland Trophy features three Grand Slam winners amongst the seven Top 20 players who have entered the event. With Ash Barty headlining the Yarra Valley Classic, the talking point of the Gippsland Trophy will be that the two most recent Grand Slam winners will be competing for a WTA 500 title in this draw.

The 2020 US Open and Roland Garros winners in Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek respectively, will play their first matches since lifting their titles aloft last year. Osaka missed the French Open due to injury, so her last match was the three-set final win over Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. Swiatek’s win on clay was one of the most stunning titles in tennis history, bolstering her all the way up inside the Top 20, having come from nowhere after an okay but not outstanding season. The 19-year-old is the future of tennis, with Osaka still a rising star on Tour, but has three Grand Slams to her name already.

Swiatek is only seeded sixth at this event, and with Osaka the second ranked player (world number three), Simona Halep comes in as top seed and world number two. The Romanian is the other Grand Slam winner in the draw, and she had plenty of rest throughout 2020 to set up for a big 2021. Always strong in Australia, she and Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (third seed) will be eyeing off strong starts to 2021.

Someone who has already had a strong start to 2021, and has remarkably not lost since October, is fourth seed Aryna Sabakenka. Now ranked inside the Top 10 for the first time, the Belarusian power hitter has a chance to prove herself against the world’s best. She won at Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago, and could realistically be considered favourite given her 15-game winning streak. Sabalenka has not really impacted at Grand Slam level yet, but many are hoping the recent scintillating form – which included a win over Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin – will begin her journey to taking the next step.

Great Britain’s Johanna Konta, Belgium’s Elise Mertens and Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova round out the top eight seeds, while traditional fast-starter Ekaterina Alexandrova is the ninth ranked player. Of the quartet, Mertens showed enough at the back-end that she can have a good start, while Alexandrova has not had the chance to collect her annual trophy at Limoges in December, so she will start fresh in Melbourne.

What makes the draw at the Gippsland Trophy so interesting is the depth of it, with Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and Polona Hercog all there and inside the Top 50 ready to jump up. Throw in Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and even the bottom-end has some good talent. Chloe Paquet joins former top ranked players Sara Errani and Lesia Tsurenko as qualifying and lucky loser additions, whilst the lowest ranked player pre-wildcards is Russian Valeria Savinykh who comes in at 225th in the world.

Until she loses, Sabalenka has earned favouritism, but you have to consider both Osaka and Swiatek are coming off undefeated streaks at their respective Grand Slams, which makes this the pick of the tournaments in terms of form an depth.

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA Tour