Tag: kristina mladenovic

2021 WTA Tour Qatar & Lyon previews

DESPITE losing four Grand Slam winners to-date, the 2021 WTA Tour Qatar Ladies Open still looms as a quality event to take place next week. Top five players, Ash Barty, Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin, as well as US Open winner Bianca Andreescu and Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrosova all withdrew from the 500 tournament, but four Top 10 players still remain.

Elina Svitolina has been upgraded to the top seed with the world number five taking advantage of Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka also not attending the event, while Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka and Petra Kvitova round out the top four seeds. Both Pliskova and Kvitova have been in a funk of late, and need to find a way to get back into form. Sabalenka, on the other hand has had nothing but scintillating form, going on a massive winning streak that included a couple of titles late last year, and will look to pick up that again after again falling short of the target at the Australian Open.

Kiki Bertens returns to the Tour at Doha as the fifth seed, while Belinda Bencic has hit her straps in Adelaide and will look to face a host of reinvigorated talents of late. Jennifer Brady is fresh off an Australian Open final to head into the event, while Victoria Azarenka made a Grand Slam final just last year, has rekindled her career-best form and is back inside the Top 20.

The lower end of the draw is still yet to be determined, but the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Ons Jabeur, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva are all expected to take to the court in the 2021 event. Sabalenka is the reigning champion, but Kvitova (2018) and Pliskova (2017) are both past winners here in Doha. Azarenka is a back-to-back winner, having lifted the trophy in 2012-13.

 

Lyon Open:

A second-time event after last year’s debut, the Lyon Open does not quite have the prestige of the Qatar Ladies Open, with world number 33, Ekaterina Alexandrova the top seed. She loves to beat up on lower ranked tournaments and should really get the job done here against a weakened and predominantly European field in France. Though in saying that, there are some good talents here that will push her all the way.

The top two that jump off the page are Argentinian Nadia Podoroska who reached the semi-final at Roland Garros, while rising American teenager Coco Gauff will cause headaches. French trio, Fiona Ferro, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic are also among the Top 50 players at the event, as is Slovenian Polona Hercog.

Lower down the order, United States’ Shelby Rogers, Romanian Sorana Cirstea, Italian Camila Giorgi and Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich are all among the bigger dark horses that could surpass their lower rankings against Top 50 opponents in France.

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 32 wrap: Upsets galore as Muchova overcomes Pliskova in huge comeback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just couldn’t execute my shots.”

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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

WTA 500 wraps: Seeds stumble in Yarra Valley Classic as Australians fall across the board

ON the opening day of the WTA Tour’s Summer Series in Australia, all bar one of the host nation’s players fell, while a couple of French seeds bowed out in the first round at the Yarra Valley Classic.

Kicking off the 2021 Summer Series in the Yarra Valley Classic, a couple of Americans in Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula both made life difficult for their French opponent’s Australian Open preparations. Rogers defeated 12th seed Fiona Ferro 6-2 7-5, while Pegula was too good for 15th seed Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-1. Only one of the three seeds on day one secured a spot in the second round, as 16th seed Czech Marie Bouzkova smashed local hope Sam Stosur, 6-2 6-0.

It was one of a number of Australians who fell across the day’s play with Kimberley Birrell, Lizette Cabrera and Maddison Inglis all losing out in first round encounters. Birrell and Inglis fell in straight sets to German Mona Barthel and Swede Rebecca Peterson respectively, whilst Cabrera pushed Russian Varvara Gracheva, but went down in three sets, 2-6 6-4 6-2. Other one-sided contests included Australia’s sole winner on day one, Daria Gavrilova, having a 6-2 6-0 smashing of Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova.

In other results, Ana Bogdan took care of Russian Kamila Rakhimova, Grand Slam winner Venus Williams proved too good for Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, fellow veteran Tsvetana Pironkova won over Liudmila Samsonova, and Anastasia Sevastova defeated American Madison Brengle in straight sets. In only one of two three-set matches, Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto came back from the brink after losing the first set 6-0 to China’s Lin Zhu, to win the second set, but then find herself down in the third, but bounced back to win 0-6 6-3 7-5 and advanced through to the Round of 32.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [12] Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-2 7-5
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [15] Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-4 6-1
[16] Marie Bouzkova (CZE) defeated Sam Stosur (AUS) 6-2 6-0
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) defeated Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-2 6-1
Venus Williams (USA) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-1 6-3
Mona Barthel (GER) defeated Kimberley Birrell (AUS) 7-5 6-3
Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-2 6-0
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) defeated Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 2-6 6-4 6-2
Rebecca Peterson (SWE) defeated Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-2 6-1
Ana Bogdan (ROU) defeated Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS) 6-2 6-2
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) defeated Madison Brengle (USA) 6-4 6-2
Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) defeated Lin Zhu (CHN) 0-6 6-3 7-5

In the Gippsland Trophy which was also held in Melbourne Park, three of the four seeds got up to win their first round matches, but it was more disappointment for the home nation across the board, with the three Australians out on court losing their Round of 64 encounters.

Seeds, Jelena Ostapenko and Polona Hercog both recorded three-set wins over their respective opponents after slow starts, as the 13th seed Latvian toppled former Top 5 player Sara Errani 4-6 6-3 6-1, while Hercog knocked off Russian Margarita Gasparyan 2-6 6-3 6-3. Caroline Garcia became the only Frenchwoman to win across either tournament when she knocked off Australia’s Arina Rodionova 6-3 6-4, whilst Rodionova’s compatriots, Olivia Gadecki and Astra Sharma both went down in three-set losses.

Gadecki was brave against Bernarda Pera before losing 6-7 6-3 6-3 in a tight contest, while Sharma stunned Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the first set 6-1, before ultimately being overrun 1-6 7-5 6-2. In another three-set match, Irina-Camelia Begu came from behind to knock off China’s Saisai Zheng. The 11th seed won the first set 6-3, but Begu managed to get it back on her terms and hold off her Chinese opponent to win 3-6 7-5 6-4 in and impressive victory.

Other three-set winners included Slovenian Kava Juvan who knocked off China’s Yafan Wang, 4-6 6-1 6-4, while German Andrea Petkovic got over Italian Martina Trevisan, 6-1 3-6 7-5. Over to the straight set winners and Hungarian Timea Babos defeated Romania’s Patricia Tig, Anna Schmiedlova toppled Valeria Savinykh 6-1 6-3, Jasmine Paolini won a hard-fought tussle over Canada’s Rebecca Marino 7-6 6-3, while Daria Kasatkina and Danka Kovinic won comfortably against Mihaela Buzarnescu and Tamara Zidansek respectively.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) defeated [11] Saisai Zheng (CHN) 3-6 7-5 6-4
[12] Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-3 6-4
[13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Sara Errani (ITA) 4-6 6-3 6-1
[15] Polona Hercog (SLO) defeated Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 2-6 6-3 6-3
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated Yafan Wang (CHN) 4-6 6-1 6-4
Timea Babos (HUN) defeated Patricia Tig (ROU) 7-6 6-3
Andrea Petkovic (GER) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-1 3-6 7-5
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) defeated Valeria Savinykh (RUS) 6-1 6-3
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated Olivia Gadecki (AUS) 6-7 6-3 6-3
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Astra Sharma (AUS) 1-6 7-5 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated Rebecca Marino (CAN) 7-6 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-1 6-1
Danka Kovinic (MCE) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA Abu Dhabi Round of 64 wrap: Top six through without a hitch, young guns also advance

OF the 16 seeds on show in the brand new WTA Abu Dhabi 500 event, 12 reached the second round. Kicking off 2021 in style, the top six seeds advanced without dropping a set, whilst 2020 in-form players, Anett Kontaveit and Jennifer Brady were amongst the seeds to fall in the opening round of play.

Top seed Sofia Kenin led the way with a straight sets win over China’s Zhaoxuan Yang who put up a fight before going down, 7-6 6-3. Joining her in the next round was second seed Elina Svitolina, toppling tough American Jessica Pegula, 6-4 6-3. Needing tiebreakers to advance, third and fourth seeds, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka won their way through, defeated Greece’s Despina Papamicail and Slovenia’ Polona Hercog. Having a much easier time, Garbine Muguruza cruised to a surprising easy win over French battler Kristina Mladenovic, while young gun Elena Rybakina continued her great 2020 form with an easy first-up victory in 2021 over Italian Lucrezia Stefanini.

The first big upset saw eighth seed Czech and 2019 Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova out of the Abu Dhabi event, going down to Chinese T’s Hsieh Su-Wei. Also bowing out were Kontaveit and Brady, who went down to Russian Veronika Kudermetova and Slovenian Tamara Zidansek respectively. Brady’s loss was particularly brutal considering the US Open semi-finalist won the first set 6-0 before losing 0-6 6-3 6-4. The only other seed to be eliminated was 16th seed Donna Vekic, who lost to United States’ Bernarda Pera 7-6 2-6 6-4. The four other seeds to secure a Round of 16 place were Karolina Muchova (12th), Yulia Putintseva (13th), Ons Jabeur (15th) and Ekaterina Alexandrova (17th).

In terms of the unseeded players, teenagers Coco Gauff and Leylah Fernandez both shone in their wins, as Gauff destroyed Norwegian Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0 6-1, while Fernandez made light work of respected Italian Jasmine Paolini, 6-4 6-2. Italian Bianca Turati was a fresh face to the winners list with the 23-year-old predominantly an ITF player but moved through to the next round easily. Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich joined compatriot Sabalenka in the Round of 16, while Heather Watson came from behind to defeat her only other compatriot in the draw, Jodie Burrage. Australia Ajla Tomljanovic made a great start to 2021 with a straight sets win, while Sara Sorribes Tormo enjoyed an important victory over Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska.

The full results are below.

ABU DHABI ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Zhaoxuan Yang (CHN) 7-6 6-3
[2] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-4 6-3
[3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Despina Papamicail (GRE) 6-2 7-6
[4] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 7-6 6-2
[5] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2 6-4
[6] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Lucrezia Stefanini (ITA) 6-1 6-3
Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) defeated [8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 3-6 6-3 7-6
[9] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-4 6-2
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [10] Anett Kontaveit (EST) 7-5 6-1
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated [11] Jennifer Brady (USA) 0-6 6-3 6-4
[12] Karolina Muchova defeated Danka Kovinic (MON) 6-4 6-1
[13] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-3 6-3
[15] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-6 6-3
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated [16] Donna Vekic (CRO) 7-6 2-6 6-4
[17] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-4 6-4
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-4 6-2
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated Jamie Loeb (USA) 6-1 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-2 5-7 6-2
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) defeated Lin Zhu (CHN) 6-2 7-6
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 5-7 7-5 6-4
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Qiang Wang (CHN) 6-2 3-6 6-3
Anastasia Gasanova (RUS) defeated Mona Barthel (GER) 6-2 6-4
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated Valentini Grammatikopoulou (GRE) 6-2 6-2
Bianca Turati (ITA) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-1 6-2
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) defeated Anna Bondar (HUN) 6-2 6-2
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Lucie Hradecka (CZE) 6-2 6-4
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) defeated Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-3 6-3
Xiyu Wang (CHN) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-3 3-6 6-4
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) defeated Yafan Wang (CHN) 6-3 2-6 6-3
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Jodie Burrage (GBR) 4-6 6-2 7-5
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Amandine Hesse (FRA) 6-3 6-4
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Ulrikke Eikeri (NOR) 6-0 6-1

Picture: Getty Images

Hopman Cup hypothetical teams: France & Spain

ONE of the most unique tennis tournaments which features both ATP Tour and WTA Tour players is the Hopman Cup. Given the world’s circumstance and the fact it was already skipped on the eve of last year, it looks to be either delayed later in 2021, or perhaps at the turn of the New Year in 2022. However, in this new series we wanted to look at some hypothetical Hopman Cup teams and what they might look like if there was no COVID-19 pandemic, and if the famed mixed tournament did go ahead.

We continue the series with France and Spain, who have played 24 and 17 Hopman Cups, coming in at third and fourth respectively.

France: Ugo Humbert & Fiona Ferro

This French combination would be a dream to watch, even if it was not the most stacked it could be. From the men’s perspective, Ugo Humbert is a huge star of the future, and is starting to piece together all of his ability after a big 2020 season. With a big serve and impressive shots across the court, he is France’s next big thing, and soon will be their top ranked player. Gael Monfils would be just as good of a choice in terms of excitement, with the flamboyant top ranked star unfortunately having injury issues this year and is 34-years-old. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is in a similar boat, while Benoit Paire and Adrian Mannarino are other acceptable choices. Humbert would be the pick though for his upside.

The women’s pick would not be as straight forward, but it would be fantastic to see Fiona Ferro put her hand up for the event. The French have won the title twice, and they featured Alize Cornet and Kristina Mladenovic, both of whom could be picked again. The French have no shortage of female talent in the top 100, but Ferro just has that exciting upside about her that would make her a good choice, and provide her with a good lead-up event to the Australian Open. Would this combination win the Hopman Cup? Probably not, but it would be exciting for fans.

Spain: Rafael Nadal & Garbine Muguruza

Going from a team that would probably not win the Hopman Cup to one that would be a high chance of winning the Hopman Cup, Spain always has a ridiculous amount of choices at its disposal. Surprisingly, the Spanish have only won the Hopman Cup four times – in 1990, 2002, 2010 and 2013 – with Fernando Verdasco and Annabel Medina Garrigues lifting the title last. In 2019, Garbine Muguruza competed at the event, and she would be the choice for this hypothetical one. She has the Grand Slam winning experience, is strong on hard courts and it would provide her with great experience in the lead-up to the Australian Open where she has fared so well. The Spanish women often return, with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (seven years) and Medina Garrigues (four), playing 11 of the 17 Hopman Cups.

From the men’s side, it would not happen, but imagine if Rafael Nadal stepped up to the plate to compete in the Hopman Cup? The world number two would be a huge coup for the event, and with the 2019 competitor David Ferrer retiring, the Spanish would need a new entrant. Tommy Robredo did it for four years, and it would be feasible to see Pablo Carreno Busta putting up his hand for the event, or more likely a younger player like Jaume Munar, but Nadal would be the top pick. It would have advantages for the top ranked Spaniard, with the King of Clay able to get valuable minutes on his weakest surface of indoor hard court, in a setting that is not as competitive as other major events.

Picture: Tony McDonough

WTA Teenage Stars – Elsa Jacquemot

SHE may not quite have the same reputation already as some of the WTA Tour players on our list of WTA teenage stars, but while France’s Elsa Jacquemot may lack WTA experience, she has a winning mentality on the ITF Tour that knows no bounds. With seven junior ITF titles to her name dating back to 2017, including a come-from-behind Junior Roland Garros title last month, Jacquemot has proved to be a tough competitor and real fighter on tour. 

Still only 17-years-old and sitting pretty at number one on the ITF Junior Rankings following her Junior Roland Garros win against Russian Alina Charaeva, there is no doubt the youngster’s ability is downplayed by her low ranking on the WTA Tour, currently ranked 534th on the WTA rankings – but purely due to her lack of experience on that circuit, with just four matches under her belt across her career, and three as a wildcard across both the 2019 and 2020 WTA Tour Roland Garros.

While Jacquemot’s focus has mostly been on the ITF Tour, it seems to have worked in her favour with the Junior Roland Garros title propelling her into the spotlight, seeing her become the first French girl to win a Junior Grand Slam since now-27-year-old Kristina Mladenovic in 2009.

“It’s just amazing. I don’t think I have realised what I have achieved yet,” she said. “I am super happy and want to savour this moment.

“This win is a bonus for the future and hopefully winning here will help me, but the road is long and there is a long way to go in my career. For the moment, I will continue to savour it… There are a lot of emotions and stress when playing a Junior Grand Slam final and it goes very quickly. There were times I needed to breathe and work out how to be more aggressive.

“In the end, all was fine and it’s incredible. Winning here and being the first French girl to do so since 2009, that makes me very happy.”

A proven clay court talent with 11 wins from 11 ITF clay court matches, Jacquemot’s tenacity and fighting mentality make her a tough battle any day, and will be a real force to be reckoned with when she formally joins the WTA Tour circuit.

WTA Teenage Stars – Coco Gauff

Osaka survives Kostyuk scare to book fourth round berth

FOURTH seed Naomi Osaka is through to the Round of 16 at the US Open after knocking off teenage Ukrainian, Marta Kosyuk in three sets. The match lasted two hours and 33 minutes before Osaka could safely advance through to the fourth round. The 18-year-old Ukrainian won a second set tiebreaker and forced Osaka onto the back foot at times, drawing praise from the Japanese star post-match.

“I’m kind of scared of (how) good she’s going to be in the future,” Osaka said. “My biggest takeaway from her game is that she didn’t back down from me or from the speed of my ball, which for someone that young is kind of amazing… The first set went [my] way, and then she could have faded in the second set. Of course in the third set towards the end I feel like physically I was better, and I was, of course, more experienced. “But, yeah, I feel like she’s definitely going to be dangerous.”

Kostyuk actually outhit Osaka in a surprising result, slamming home 36 winners to Osaka’s 30, but also had 13 more unforced errors (51-38). Osaka’s ability to dominate off her first serve, with a 82 per cent record, as well as a 51 per cent efficient off her second serve was quite impressive. Additionally, Osaka broke five times from 21 chances, while Kostyuk only had the one from eight chances.

“I was very displeased with how I was performing towards the end of the second set,” Osaka said. “The thing that made me most displeased was probably the decisions that I was making and the fact that I started becoming way too passive and hoping that she would make an unforced error. “For me, I felt everything was going really well for her during the tiebreak. And I remember she came to the net, and I hit it as hard as I could towards her, and she made it, and for me I was just, like, whoa, this is unbelievable.”

Osaka now takes on 14th seed Anett Kontaveit in the Round of 16. The Estonian defeated Poland’s Magda Linette in straight sets 6-3 6-2 in a convincing victory. Also through to the Round of 16 was eighth seed Petra Martic who defeated Varvara Gracheva 6-3 6-3. Gracheva showed her damaging ability with a come-from-behind Round 2 win over Kristina Mladenovic from 6-1 5-1 down, only to come back and win, 1-6 7-6 6-0. But it was Martic who got on top and made sure she kept on top of the counterpuncher.

“I played her a couple of weeks ago and I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Martic said post-match. “She likes to grind, she’s really quick and she’s a great counterpuncher. “I definitely had to work today and I’m pleased I got the win in straight sets. “I managed to change up the rhythm well. “When she plays at the same rhythm she doesn’t make many mistakes and I was getting pulled into that game. “My serve always helps, this court is a bit slower so my kick works well and I think that was key.”

The Croatian will take on Kazkahstan young gun, Yulia Putintseva who won through in a tight three sets over Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 3-6 6-2 6-1. In that top quarter of the draw, unseeded American Jennifer Brady continued her dream month win a win over Caroline Garcia, 6-3 6-3 to now face Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4 in the quarter finals. Kerber was able to defeat talented American Ann Li 6-3 6-4 to move through to yet another major quarter final.

In the final two matches of the day, Shelby Rogers won the battle of the Americans, defeating compatriot Madison Brengle 6-2 6-4 to advance to the Round of 16 where she will play Petra Kvitova following the sixth’s seed’s win over another United States representative in Jessica Pegula.

Picture: Getty Images

Garcia stuns top seed Pliskova to book third round US Open spot

CAROLINE Garcia has caused the boil-over of the US Open by defeating top seed and world number three, Karolina Pliskova in straight sets today. The unseeded Frenchwoman made her way into the third round at the Grand Slam with a 6-1 7-6 victory, winning the last five points of the match after the Czech seed threatened to level the match.

“It’s top players, so if you wait for the mistake it’s never going to happen,” Garcia said post-match. “If you let Pliskova breeze and take your serve, you’re never going to make a return, and then it’s 6-4, 6-4 and you’re done in one hour. “So you have to make her in trouble – that’s what I liked and it was a great challenge for me. “I did well in this challenge and I can take the happiness for it, and now I’m after another one.”

The former top 10 player who is now ranked 50th in the world will compete in her fourth third round match at Flushing Meadows, bouncing back after a first round loss in 2019. Two consecutive breaks in the opening set resulted in the underdog racing to a 5-0 lead before Pliskova finally got on the board by holding serve. It mattered little to Garcia show served it out herself 6-1.

Breaking her opponent in the opening game of the second set, Garcia led by a break in the seventh game at 4-2, but lost three consecutive games as Pliskova had a couple of set points on Garcia’s serve at 5-4. Garcia recovered to force the match into a tiebreaker, where she won 7-2 after being 2-2 early in the break. She now takes on 28th seed Jennifer Brady who is coming off some great form by winning her first title at the Top Seed Open.

“She (Brady) won her first title and she did good since the last year and a half,” Garcia said. “I think we have pretty much the same weapons, the serve and the forehand. “She moves well on court, and she’s playing in her country even if it’s without fans. “We had a battle in the past and I’m looking forward to it. “Because she’s not ranked maybe as high as Pliskova is today, but she’s definitely going to keep improving, so it’s really a great challenge for me.”

Brady comes into the Round of 16 match off the back of an absolute shellacking of compatriot, CiCi Bellis. While Bellis has shown good form upon return on the tour from injury, Brady showed just what she was capable of, winning 6-1 6-2 in just 51 minutes of matchplay. The more experienced American would not allow Bellis to work into the match, hitting 21 winners to three, while only conceding 13 unforced errors to 20.

Speaking of all-American clashes, the only upset that might have rivalled Garcia’s win over Pliskova, was young gun, Ann Li‘s 6-0 6-3 smashing of 13th seed Alison Riske. The match lasted just 75 minutes with the 20-year-old world number 128 hitting 20 winners to 16, and only 20 unforced errors to 33, whilst capitalising on eight of her nine net points. Her ability to attack Riske’s second serve – winning 74 per cent of the points – whilst breaking even off her compatriot’s first serve, was the key to victory. She made Riske move around the court and force her into uncomfortable shot-making positions during the straight sets thrashing.

The 20-year-old now takes on 17th seed Angelique Kerber in the third round with the winner of that match to face the winner of Garcia and Brady for a spot in the quarter finals. Also in the top quarter of the draw two more seeds joined Pliskova and Riske on the sidelines with Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich smashing 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2, while Russian Varvara Gracheva shook off 30th seed Kristina Mladenovic to win 1-6 7-6 6-0. Gracheva goes head to head with eighth seed Petra Martic in the Round of 16, while Sasnovich now locks horns with Kazakhstan young gun, Yulia Putintseva.

The news was not as good for top rank Kazakh hopeful, Elena Rybakina who was bundled out by Shelby Rogers in straight sets, 7-5 6-1. The American said she was pleased with how her game had gone against a real up and comer on the WTA Tour.

“It definitely felt good to get that one in two sets,” Rogers said post-match. “The first set, I came out playing pretty cleanly, executing the game plan I had very well, and was serving well. Things got dicey when she started playing better, playing more aggressive and making her shots. “I just kept telling myself, ‘One more point, keep making balls,’ and thankfully got through the first set. “I really buckled down in the second because I really didn’t want that to happen again!”

Similarly, it was a mixed bag for Ukrainian fans, with Marta Kostyuk defeating 31st seed Latvian Anastasia Sevastova 6-3 7-6, but Kateryna Kozlova went down to sixth seed Czech Petra Kvitova, 7-6 6-2. Jessica Pegula joined Rogers in the Round of 32 to face Kvitova after defeating Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 7-6 6-2.

Other winners on day three included fourth seed Naomi Osaka, 14th seed Anett Kontaveit and 24th seed Magda Linette, whilst in the last game of the day, 19th seed Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska went down to American Madison Brengle 6-2 6-3.

Picture: USTA