Tag: karolina muchova

WTA Tour wrap: Barty holds firm as Badosa doubles up on Bencic win

WORLD number one Ash Barty has held firm to win her eleventh three-set contest in 2021 to advance through to the semi-finals of the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open. She has only dropped one three-set match – that coming at the Australian Open against Karolina Muchova in the quarter finals – but has claimed ever other full-distance match. The most recent was her quarter finals victory over another Czech, ninth seed Petra Kvitova, 6-1 3-6 6-3.

“It’s just always staying in the fight,” Barty said post-match. “Always staying in the hunt and never letting it slide away. That certainly doesn’t guarantee results, doesn’t guarantee success. It guarantees you give yourself the best chance to do what you do and to figure it out and to find your way.

“I think it’s important not to panic, but everyone emotionally has different ways that they play on the court. I have always been quite calm on the court. That’s just always been my demeanor. But for me, it’s more about just trusting myself and knowing that we just keep chipping away and trying to find a way – and then give yourself time to do that.”

Barty moved through to the final four with the win in one hour and 48 minutes, serving six aces to five, and winning 63.5 and 62.5 of her first and second serve points. She also saved five of seven break points, and broke her opponent four times from 12 opportunities. The win means Barty is strong favourite to take out another clay tournament, with the opponent she beat in the final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix – Aryna Sabalenka – the only seed remaining in the Madrid Open.

The Belarusian accounted for 13th seed Belgian Elise Mertens who was under clear duress, retiring at 6-1 4-0 down in the second set. Sabaleka had only dropped two points off her first serve by that stage – though was serving at a horrible 44.7 per cent efficiency – and nine points off her second serve. She saved all three break points, and broke Mertens a total of four times, and restricted the Belgian to just 15 points for the match. The pair often combine in doubles, and the fifth seed certainly had concern for her close friend who retired due to a left thigh injury.

“I feel really sorry for this, and I hope that she will get better soon,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Hopefully she will be ready for the next one in Rome.”

Before she could potentially face Barty, the Belarusian will come up against unseeded Spaniard Paula Badosa who is in some great form this year. Badosa accounted for eighth seed Belinda Bencic 6-4 7-5, defeating her for the second time in a fortnight having knocked her off at the Volvo Car Open in three sets. This time it was a lot easier, and with a win over Barty last tournament too, Badosa will be confident going forward, though admitted she was not so much heading into the match.

“I have to be honest, I was very nervous today,” Badosa said post-match. “Because sometimes these matches are a little bit tricky when you played her two, three weeks ago and you think in your head that you have that opportunity to make a semifinals. I was quite nervous, but I’m quite happy that I could control all the nerves and I could play my game quite good.”

In the other quarter final, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced through to the semi-finals to take on Barty for a spot in the final, needing just under two hours to win in a couple of tiebreakers against Muchova. The unseeded Russian won 7-4 in the first tiebreaker and 7-2 in the second one to bring about a stirring victory.

MADRID OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-1 3-6 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [13] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-1 4-0 RET
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated [8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-4 7-5
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Karolina Muchova (CZE) 7-6 7-6

Picture credit: Mutua Madrid Open

WTA Tour wrap: Seeds fail to fire as upsets made in marathon matches

THREE seeds fell in a highly unpredictable second day of Round of 16 proceedings at Madrid, as the competition heats up heading into the quarter finals. It was a huge difference in comparison to the day prior, as just one of the higher ranked opposition retained the mantle in their respective clashes, as just one match was completed in under two hours.

The big upset of the day saw Elise Mertens down Simona Halep, as the 13th seed Belgian claimed a 4-6 7-5 7-5 scalp of the second seed Romanian. Whilst Halep captured the first set with relative ease, Mertens fought back well to take the upper hand and came from a break down in both the second and third sets to deny Halep the win. Whilst Mertens came in as the underdog with zero wins from three clay court encounters with the Romanian, she was relentless in her approach and despite being error-ridden, capitalised off an uncharacteristically messy Halep.

“I want to be on court as long as possible, especially after losing the first set,” said Mertens. “I didn’t think too much about the score, I was just thinking about the way I should play to improve myself.”

Whilst Halep was more effective on serve throughout, Mertens was far more efficient winning points off 68.3 per cent of her serve, off a 63.2 per cent clip. Mertens will take on Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter finals, following a zippy 6-1 6-2 victory in the lone two-setter of the day against American Jessica Pegula.

“She (Sabalenka) is on fire, she’s making a lot of angles and winners,” said Mertens. “I’ll just try to put as many balls in the court as I can and try to take over a little bit when there’s a shorter ball. “She played Barty (Ash Barty) last week, and I’m definitely going to watch a little bit of that match, because Barty also likes slice and everything to mix it up.”

Sabalenka hit 25 winners for 13 unforced errors throughout the sub-one hour encounter, requiring just 52 minutes in by far the quickest match of the round.

At the other end of the scale were the remaining two Round of 16 matches, which saw Karolina Muchova narrowly claim the win over 16th seed Maria Sakkari 6-0 6-7 7-5, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova downed 11th seed Jennifer Brady in the longest match of the day, needing two hours and 45 minutes to register a tough 7-5 6-7 6-3 victory. With both winners outlasting in thrillers, it is safe to say neither will back down in their quarter final battle tomorrow.

“I tried to forget actually those [first] two sets, and it was 1-1, so we started with a clear slate,” Muchova said. “I just tried to stay focused and on every ball, to fight till the end. Yeah, it showed me that it was worth it.

“I would actually appreciate to play two sets, but I’m happy I made it,” she said. “It was a very tough match. It’s definitely good for confidence for the next matches.”

“I think it’s a hell of a draw since the first round,” Pavlyuchenkova said post-match. “Any tournament when you beat a Top 10, or I beat Karolina (Karolina Pliskova), she was No.6-seeded here, you think, ‘Okay, it either might be a little easier or open draw.’ But it got even tougher. It gets tougher and tougher and tougher.”

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 4-6 7-5 7-5
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-1 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated [11] Jennifer Brady (USA) 7-5 6-7 6-3
Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-0 6-7 7-5

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Mixed bag at Madrid as Muchova and Pavlyuchenkova claim scalps

DAY 6 at the Mutua Madrid Open saw plenty happen around the courts, as second seed Naomi Osaka was ousted in the lone three-setter of the day, while it was also not sixth seed Karolina Pliskova‘s day as the Czech talent fell in straight sets.

It was an excellent effort from Karolina Muchova that saw her inhibit Osaka in their clash, seeing the Czech claim victory 6-4 3-6 6-1. Whilst Osaka worked her way back into the contest after dropping the first set, Muchova commanded control to run home with a whopping 92.9 per cent winning rate off her first serve in the final set, including two of her five aces.

“It was a tough match today, but we had some preparation,” Muchova said post-match. “I was ready to play with all I had today, and to use all the weapons I could and [do] what I can. I’m definitely happy it worked out today.”

Muchova is the newest member of the WTA world top 20, and in this contest it showed. Overall, she hit 29 winners off a fairly efficient 66.2 per cent first serve, as well as converting four of eight break points.

“I was trying to move [Osaka] as much as possible,” Muchova said. “That was the tactic. It sounds easy like that, but, you know, she’s playing really fast so it’s not that easy on the court.

“In the second set especially, she started to be very aggressive. I got back to what I did in the first set in the third set, and again, tried to move her left, right, dropshots, but still in a fast way. In the third set, it went my way.”

Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to the third round with a clean 6-0 7-5 sweep of Pliskova, credit to her 20 winners for just 14 unforced errors. Whilst Pliskova bit back in the second set, she was undone by her own 28 errors which spelled trouble, before Pavlyuchenkova commanded control once more to run out victor in just under 75 minutes. Third seed Simona Halep and fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka retained control throughout their respective contests to claim respective one hour and 19-minute wins, while a couple of Americans joined the fray as Jennifer Brady downed Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-1, and Jessica Pegula was dealt a walkover from 12th seed Victoria Azarenka.

The remaining two games ended in fairly predictable circumstances as 13th seed Elise Mertens and 16th seed Maria Sakkari proved too good, and while Mertens was challenged in her two hour and 13 minute matchup with Elena Rybakina, Sakkari skated home against Anett Kontaveit with ease.

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) 6-4 3-6 6-1
[3] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-0 6-4
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated [6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-0 7-5
[11] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-2 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) W/O
[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 7-6 7-5
[16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3 6-1

WTA Tour wrap: Top seeds all survive day two in Madrid

NAOMI Osaka was among all eight seeds to book their spot in the Madrid Open second round, following a straight sets win over compatriot Misaki Doi. In her first clay event in almost two years, Osaka overcame some early resistance from Doi to post a 7-5 6-2 victory and move through to the Round of 32.

“When I was playing on clay that year, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” Osaka said post-match. “The two matches that I lost, it was more mental than it was physical. “Like, I didn’t feel uncomfortable sliding or I didn’t feel that tired. “So I’m actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.”

Osaka was one of four Top 10 seeds to advance through to the second round, with sixth seed Karolina Pliskova coming back from a set down to shake off teenage talent Coco Gauff in three sets. Pliskova won 5-7 6-3 6-2 in a tight contest to eventually finish the stronger of the pair and post a comfortable victory.

“We never played so it was definitely a difficult match. “I think I didn’t start really well, but later in the match, I was finding by game and finding my serve. “This was very important in this match because she can also serve very big,” Pliskova said post-match.

“I’m super happy that I’m through. “I’ve played one semifinal here, so I’ve had a couple of good matches here in the past, but I’m hoping to hopefully improve my game in the next match.”

Third seed Simona Halep started like a house on fire by racing to a 6-0 first set win, before having more of a struggle against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second set, eventually getting up 6-0 7-5. The other Top 10 seed to advance was fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka who destroyed Russian Zera Zvonareva in 66 minutes, 6-1 6-2.

Fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka won in three sets over Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, with 13th seed Elise Mertens and 16th seed Maria Sakkari also advanced into the Round of 32, with Sakkari remarkably going 6-0 down against American Amanda Anisimova before getting up 0-6 6-1 6-4.

In other results, Russian duo Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina both won through to the next stage, with a mixed bag for the Chinese hopefuls. Saisai Zheng defeated Poland’s Magda Linette in three sets, before Wang Qiang went down to Karolina Muchova in a disappointing 6-1 6-3 loss. Also through to the second round were Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, Estonia’ Anett Kontaveit and United States’ Jessica Pegula.

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 7-5 6-2
[3] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-0 7-5
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-1 6-2
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-2
[11] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-2 6-4
[12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-5 3-6 6-1
[13] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-3 6-3
[16] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Amanda Anisimova (USA) 0-6 6-1 6-4
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-4 6-0
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-3 6-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Madison Keys (USA) 7-5 6-2
Saisai Zheng (CHN) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 6-2 3-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 7-6 6-3
Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 7-6 7-5
Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 6-1 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 4-6 6-4 7-6

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Seeds successful in big second day of action at Stuttgart and Istanbul

ANOTHER big day of proceedings were had at both the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart, Germany and the WTA 250 event in Istanbul, Turkey, as majority of the seeds across both competitions reigned supreme.

Six matches played out in Stuttgart on Day 2 of proceedings at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, seeing a couple of seeds get their clay season started successfully as four German talents took the court on home soil. Both seeds reigned supreme in straight sets, with Aryna Sabalenka taking out the quickest result of the day 6-2 6-2 over China’s Zhang Shuai in just 66 minutes. Seventh seed Petra Kvitova encountered a tougher opponent in Jennifer Brady but still claimed a clean 6-4 6-3 win in just over 90 minutes to head to the second round.

Two of the four German competitors reigned supreme, with Laura Siegemund collecting the win over her compatriot in Mona Barthel, 6-4 3-6 6-1, whilst Anna-Lena Friedsam downed Norwegian Ulrikke Eikeri 6-2 6-0 in one hour and 24 minutes. Julia Middendorf was not quite so lucky though, falling to Estonian Anett Kontaveit, while the remaining Round of 16 spot went to Ekaterina Alexandrova, claiming a come-from-behind victory over Karolina Muchova, 4-6 6-2 6-3.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-2 6-2
[7] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated Jennifer Brady (USA) 6-4 6-3
Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Julia Middendorf (GER) 6-2 6-3
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Karolina Muchova (CZE) 4-6 6-2 6-3
Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Mona Barthel (GER) 6-4 3-6 6-1
Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) defeated Ulrikke Eikeri (NOR) 6-2 6-0

 

At Istanbul, Anastasia Potapova bounced back well from a delayed third set against sixth seed compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova yesterday, registering a third set win and only requiring an additional 20 minutes to take out the match 7-6 6-7 6-4. Continuing onto Day 2’s proceedings at the event, and it was a fairly predictable day of action with four of the top five seeds earning wins. Elise Mertens and Daria Kasatkina took out the cleanest wins of the day with the top seed Belgian defeating Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena 6-2 6-0 whilst Kasatkina snagged the quickest result of the day with a 6-1 6-0 sweep of Tereza Mrdeza in just 65 minutes.

Third seed Veronika Kudermetova and fifth seed Barbora Krejcikova both also reigned supreme but were forced to overcome deficits, with the former slipping in the second set to give American Bernarda Pera a look in before claiming the three hour victory 6-4 4-6 7-6. Krejcikova overcame a tight 6(8)-7 first set to claim victory over hometown hopeful Cagla Buyukakcay, easily accounting for her in the remainder of the 6-7 6-2 6-0 encounter. Meanwhile, second seed Petra Martic was disposed of by Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro, slipping in the 7-5 6-2 encounter and failing to take back momentum.

Of the five remaining matches for the day, all were resolved in straight sets with the closest of the bunch between Romanian Sorana Cirstea and Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, resulting in a 6-4 7-6 victory the way of the Romanian in just under two hours. On the other end of the spectrum was a one hour and nine minute victory to Marta Kostyuk, who downed Russian Kamilla Rakhimova 6-4 6-3 in an impressively speedy encounter. Ana Bogdan, Vera Zvonareva and Kristina Mladenovic also joined the winners list to head to the Round of 16.

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-2 6-0
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated [2] Petra Martic (CRO) 7-5 6-2
[3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 7-6
[4] Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Tereza Mrdeza (CRO) 6-1 6-0
[5] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Cagla Buyukakcay (TUR) 6-7 6-2 6-0
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-3 6-3
Ana Bogdan (ROM) defeated Nao Hibino (JPN) 6-3 6-3
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS) 6-4 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated Barbara Haas (AUT) 6-4 6-3
Sorana Cirstea (ROM) defeated Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 6-4 7-6
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated [6] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-6 6-7 6-4

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

Australian Open Women’s semi-final wrap: Osaka and Brady to contend for Australian Open crown

NAOMI Osaka and Jennifer Brady will go head-to-head for the 2021 Australian Open Title on Saturday evening after downing their respective foes, Serena Williams and Karolina Muchova in the semi-finals. Whilst Osaka had a relatively straightforward time against the women’s champion in Williams, Brady required the full three sets and almost two hours to dispose of the 25th seed in Muchova, who ranks just three behind the American and was unwilling to relinquish control.

Osaka came out flying in her 6-3 6-4 victory over her idol in Williams, utilising every trick in her arsenal to replicate her past encounters with the champion – who she has faced on four occasions and has now beaten three times, including the famous 2018 US Open final. It was the respective first serve winning rate that won and lost the match, as Osaka’s whopping 85 per cent winning rate off her first serve was clinical, including six aces and matching Williams on the serving speed with ease.

Despite her excellent winning form over the past 18 months, 23-year-old Osaka still had to give herself a stern talking to as Williams almost extended to a 3-0 start to the match before the Japanese talent pulled back the margin to 2-1.

“There was a point when I got broken today, and I was going up to the line to return her serve, in my head I had all these thoughts about how she’s the best server, I’m probably not going to be able to break her,” Osaka said. “But it is what it is.

“Then I told myself to erase those thoughts and just to, like, in a way I was telling myself I don’t care because I can only play one point at a time and I’m going to try my best to play every point as well as I can.

“I think when it was like 2-0, I was just telling myself to control what I can control and try to play within myself instead of thinking about what she would do or anything like that.”

Whilst Osaka will look to raise her service game efficiency in her final encounter with Brady, with eight double faults off a 45 per cent first serve clip, she hit 20 winners to Williams’ 12 and has not lost a single final in her WTA career, making her a huge threat for the 22nd seed American.

Brady’s improved form over the past 12 months has all culminated in her maiden grand slam final appearance, as the 25-year-old looks to upset the Japanese firepower. Whilst her whopping 38 unforced errors and lower service efficiency could have been the American’s downfall, she overcame all odds with her excellent work rate, booming forehand, and speed to come away with a 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory over Czech 24-year-old, Muchova.

“It took a lot longer than I hoped for,” Brady said of the final set, which took 48 minutes to complete. “I was just so nervous. I couldn’t feel my legs. My arms were shaking. I was just hoping she would miss and she didn’t, and she was playing more aggressive. Then I would say I started rambling, mumbling on and on and on and on. It was just point by point, point by point, and eventually I was able to close it out.”

Whilst the closeness of the contest was evident, Brady played more service games and made the most of her chances with her serve speed allowing her to create issues for the Czech talent.

Osaka and Brady will go head-to-head on the evening of February 20. The two have faced each other three times before, with Brady only defeating Osaka once in 2014 at the ITF New Braunfels TX 50K event, well before the Japanese talent hit her ongoing peak. This will be Brady’s maiden grand slam final appearance, while Osaka will look to collect her fourth hard court grand slam trophy, with two US Open titles – including the 2020 title – and an Australian Open title back in 2019.

SEMIFINALS RESULTS

[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated [10] Serena Williams (USA) 6-3 6-4
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated [25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) 6-4 3-6 6-4

Australian Open Quarter Finals wrap: Muchova and Brady book semi-final spots

A FIRST-time Grand Slam finalist will be crowned at the end of the semi-finals after 22nd seed Jennifer Brady and 25th seed Karolina Muchova both came back from a set down to win their respective quarter finals. It is an unlikely semi, though it is Brady’s second career Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the last four at the US Open last year.

The 25-year-old American reached the semis of the US Open after not playing a Top 20 player. To her credit, Brady did not drop a set, before running into eventual winner Naomi Osaka who won in three sets. Ironically, that could be the Australian Open final if both players win their semi-finals. Since the semi-final run at the US Open, Brady has reached two semi-finals.

Against compatriot Jessica Pegula, Brady fought back after dropping the first set to win 4-6 6-2 6-1 in an hour and 40 minutes. Brady served seven aces to zero and dominated her service games, with an 82 per cent winning record off her first serve. Unfortunately for the higher ranked player, she only recorded a 49 per cent serving efficiency, and won 38 per cent of of her second serve points.

Pegula does not have the same power off her serve, but she was more consistent, and it showed in the first set. Breaking four times herself, Pegula hit the same amount of in-court winners (15-15), and only three more unforced errors (32-29) during the loss.

“I think I felt really good out there physically,” Brady said post-match. “I could maybe see on the other side of the net, maybe Jess was a little bit tired there. That definitely helped me mentally.

“It just gave me a little bit more confidence knowing that I’m doing pretty good, maybe she’s a little bit tired, now is my chance to really step up here and take advantage of that.”

The big surprise of the day was giant-killer Muchova’s upset come-from-behind win over top seed and home nation hero Ash Barty. The Czech 25th seed won 1-6 6-3 6-2 in just under two hours of match play, with a lot of the talk centered around a controversial injury timeout for Muchova to clear her head. Barty had no problems with it post-match, though it was a turning point, as Muchova broke back and then took the second and deciding set to win in an hour and 57 minutes.

Barty hit four more winners (21-17) as well as four more unforced errors (37-33) but could not capitalise on break point chances after the first set, breaking just once in the last two sets, as Muchova broke four times in that period. After struggling early, the Czech came good, winning 63 per cent of her second serve, much higher than Barty’s 50 per cent. Both players were fairly even, though Muchova’s higher efficiency at the net, with 13 of 23 points helped her get an upperhand there.

“I actually have one memory from here when I was a kid and got my first notebook,” Muchova said post-match. “I put it as a wallpaper Rod Laver, the stadium. I was just, like, I hope one day it would be nice to play there or to look at the arena or whatever. Now I just won a match and make it to semifinals. It’s amazing.”

Brady said she was looking forward to taking on Muchova, with the Czech holding a 1-0 advantage over the American in their head-to-head battle.

“She’s crafty,” Brady said. “She looks to move forward, has an all-court game. She’s really athletic. I hope it will be a good, competitive match. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 1-6 6-3 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-1

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Women’s Round of 16 wrap: Barty, Muchova, American duo reign supreme on day eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso