Tag: lizette cabrera

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australian Open Women’s Round of 128 wrap: Top seeds skate through to second round as former Australian Open champion Kerber falls

THE Australian Open started with a bang on Monday, with the Grand Slam women’s circuit showcasing a heap of intriguing results in the Round of 128.

A number of the obvious candidates head through to the second round after excellent day one efforts, with top three seeds Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka skating through completely unscathed. While the second and third ranked players in the world produced almost identical wins, it was the ease with which both disposed of their opposition, seeing Halep defeat Australian wildcard Lizette Cabrera 6-2 6-1 in 59 minutes, and Osaka needing just 10 minutes more to down Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-2. Serena Williams proved she is still on track for an equal record 24 singles Grand Slams, outstanding in her 6-1 6-1 sweep of Laura Siegemund in 56 minutes. The quick victory was only beaten by Anastasia Potapova who blew Williams’ compatriot Alison Riske out of the water, obliterating the 24th seed 6-2 6-1 in just 51 minutes to be the quickest victor of the day.

Bianca Andreescu made her triumphant return to the circuit after 15 months away from the court, and while her opposition in lucky loser Mihaela Buzarnescu put her through her paces in a tighter second set, the Canadian eighth seed survived the test to come out with the 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory – something she will be happy about after pulling out of last week’s Grampians Trophy to focus on her Australian Open return. The ever-consistent Petra Kvitova relished being back on Australian soil with a 6-3 6-4 sweep of qualifier Greet Minnen, while Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek both came away with solid victories to head into the second round.

But it was not all fun and games for seeds, as former Australian Open champion and 23rd seed Angelique Kerber was overcome by a fast-starting Bernarda Pera, as the American world number 63 disposed of the German champion in straight sets, 6-0 6-4.  An uncharacteristically down-and-out Qiang Wang could not compete with qualifier Sara Errani, with the 131st ranked Italian far cleaner than last year’s Australian Open giant slayer in the 2-6 6-4 6-4 win.

In other games, Tunisian 27th seed Ons Jabeur and a couple of Kazakhstan representatives head through to the second round with 17th seed Elena Rybakina joined by Zarina Diyas, while Russia boasted four more winners to join Potapova in the next round, but also saw four compatriots fall at the first hurdle. Venus Williams reigned supreme against Kirsten Flipkins, proving once more that age is just a number at 40 years old.

The women’s Round of 128 continues today at Melbourne Park, with world number one Ash Barty hitting the court following her maiden 2021 title on Sunday, while 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin also enters the draw, as does in-form Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and exciting young gun Coco Gauff.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMEN’S ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated [WC] Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 6-2 6-1
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1 6-2
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-0 6-4
[8] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) defeated [LL] Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-2 4-6 6-3
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated [Q] Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-3 6-4
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-1 6-1
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-1 6-3
[17] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 4-6 6-4 6-4
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (RUS) defeated Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 2-6 7-5 7-5
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated [23] Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-0 6-4
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated [24] Alison Riske (USA) 6-2 6-1
[27] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-3 3-6 6-4
[Q] Sara Errani (ITA) defeated [30] Qiang Wang (CHN) 2-6 6-4 6-4
[32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-2 7-6
Venus Williams (USA) defeated Kirsten Flipkens (GER) 7-5 6-2
Ajla Tomljanovich (AUS) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-2 6-1
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-2 7-5
[Q] Rebecca Marino (CAN) defeated [WC] Kimberley Birrell (AUS) 6-0 7-6
[LL] Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) defeated [Q] Mayo Hibi (JPN) 7-6 6-4
Camila Giorgi (ITA) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 6-3 6-3
[Q] Timea Babos (HUN) defeated Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) 7-6 6-4
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated [Q] Valeria Savinykh (RUS) 6-2 4-6 7-6
Hsieh Suwei (TPE) defeated [Q] Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 7-5 6-2
Nina Stojanovic (SRB) defeated Irina Camelia Begu (ROU) 6-3 6-4
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) defeated Ana Blinkova (RUS) 6-1 3-6 7-6
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Katie Boulter (GBR) 6-1 6-4
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-7 6-2 6-4
Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Polona Hercog (SLO) 7-6 6-3
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated Patricia Maria Tig (ROU) 6-2 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

Australian Open: Women’s Day 1 review – Barty fights as others breeze through to next round

IT was a huge opening day of the Australian Open with some simply outstanding individual performances. Plenty of seeds moved through to Round 2, while some matches were delayed due to adverse weather conditions. We recap all the matches that went down on Monday.

World number one, Ash Barty has advanced to the second round after a scare from former top 30 player Lesia Tsurenko to post a 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory. As predicted in the Day 1 must-watch matches piece yesterday, Barty was always going to have a fight on her hands from the Ukrainian. It showed in the first set when Tsurenko just made the most of her break point opportunities with three breaks to Barty’s two, and targeting the Australian’s second serve (77 per cent success). She won 45 per cent of her own second serves in that time, and while she hit less winners (five to 11) she also hit less unforced errors (11 to 19) in what proved to be an uncharacteristic set from Barty. The Australian resettled and got on with it after that, only hitting another 11 unforced errors for the match as her serve picked up, and she began to control proceedings with eight successful approaches at the net. She won 78 per cent of her first serves, losing just four points on her first serve in the last two sets. A total of 10 aces for the match sealed a solid first round win as Tsurenko’s nine double faults did not help the underdog.

In the bottom half of the eighth, 18th seed American Alison Riske leads her Chinese opponent, Wang Yafan 7-6 before the match was suspended. If Yafan can mount a comeback, she could set up an all-Chinese battle in the second round after Zhu Lin downed Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, 4-6 6-1 7-6. The match became so tight in the end the super tiebreak had to be enacted, with Lin getting up 10-5 in that tiebreak. Golubic was her own worst enemy in the match, producing eight double faults and winning just 44 per cent of her serving points. Usually this would spell a straight sets defeat, but she broke a remarkable seven times as Lin’s serving was far from perfect either with just over half of her on-serve points going her way. Golubic’s net work was superb with 81 per cent success rate, while Lin broke nine times and hit 13 more winners, though both players were sloppy with a combined 93 unforced errors in the match.

A couple of smashings rounded out the top eighth of the women’s draw with 13th seed Croatian, Petra Martic sending American Christina McHale packing, 6-3 6-0. Martic was solid across the board with 22 winners and as many unforced errors, taking her chances with her serve and volley game. She won 75 per cent of her net points with 27 points to three compared to her opponent upon approach. She broke four times from eight opportunities, while McHale could not capitalise from four of her own break point opportunities. It was one-way traffic for the majority of the match and Martic comfortably ran out the winner to advance through to the next round.

Martic now takes on Germany’s Julia Goerges who will not be an easy task after Goerges down Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-1 6-2 in 56 minutes. Ten years her senior, Goerges showed all her experience and ability on her way to serving nine aces and hitting 21 winners on the day. She also only dropped 10 points on-serve and did not provide a break point opportunity for her 21-year-old opponent, instead breaking four of a possible six times herself. She was sensible with just 10 unforced errors for the match, and was so dominant that she only hit eight less winners than Kuzmova won in total points. It sets up a ripping contest between Goerges and Martic in the second round to be played tomorrow.

[1] A. Barty (AUS) defeated L. Tsurenko (UKR) 5-7 6-1 6-1
P. Hercog (SLO) vs. R. Peterson (SWE)
A. Sasnovich (BLR) vs. [Q] G. Minnen (BEL)
B. Pera (USA) vs. [29] E. Rybakina (KAZ)
[18] A. Riske (USA) leads Y. Wang (CHN) 7-6 SUSPENDED
L. Zhu (CHN) defeated V. Golubic (SUI) 4-6 6-1 7-6
J. Goerges (GER) defeated V. Kuzmova (SVK) 6-1 6-2
[13] P. Martic (CRO) defeated C. McHale (USA) 6-3 6-0

The second eighth of the women’s draw had four completed matches – allowing all the second round matches from that section to be able to go ahead in the coming days if need be. The in-form Ekaterina Alexandrova toppled Switzerland’s up-and-coming 22-year-old in Jil Teichmann 6-4 4-6 6-2 to move clear of their head-to-head battles. It was far from the domination she has showed in recent weeks, but the Russian was able to get the job done, smashing her way to an impressive 36 winners – including five off the return – while claiming 71 per cent of her net points. Teichmann hit 18 winners but was loose with her shotmaking, producing 35 unforced errors at the same time. She also only won 51 per cent of her first serve points, with Alexandrova’s serving game not one the Russian will be fond of. She only recorded a first serve percentage of 49 per cent, and while she was able to win 70 per cent of her first serve points, capitalised mostly off her break point opportunities, where she broke eight times throughout the match.

Alexandrova now takes on Czech qualifier, Barbora Krejcikova who defeated Estonian, Kaia Kanepi in the first round. She only just got there with a narrow tiebreaker win in the first set, then bounced back from a disappointing second set to triumph, 7-6 2-6 6-3 in two and a half hours. Both players served six aces, and Kanepi had more break points, as well as less unforced errors, but was not as consistent on her serve. Krejcikova won 68 per cent of her first serve points, and was stronger at the net with 65 per cent success. She also hit 44 winners from her 99 total points, taking her chances when they came with four breaks from six opportunities. It was not the most clinical performance but she moves through to the Round of 64.

The final two matches in the section were complete blowouts with seventh seed, Petra Kvitova needing just 50 minutes to send 23-year-old Czech, Katerina Siniakova home, 6-1 6-0. It was a complete domination by Kvitova who dusted off the cobwebs at Melbourne park with a ridiculous number of winners (20) and serving percentages that anyone would be proud of. Kvitova won 78 per cent of her first serves and 83 per cent of her second serve points, only losing a total of seven points on serve for the whole match. She saved Siniakova’s only break point opportunity, while pouncing on six of nine for her self in the rout. Her net work was superb with 11 of her 12 approaches successful, while winning a massive 57 per cent of her receiving points.

Despite the domination by Kvitova, her next opponent had just as easy time, with Spain’s Paula Badosa shocking former top 20 player, Johanna Larsson 6-1 6-0. The result was not so much a shock for the 95th ranked Spaniard, but the manner of how it came about was, with Larsson showing great form in qualifying only to be bundled out in just 57 minutes of action. Badosa looked good on serve, winning 81 per cent of her first serves, and saving all three break point opportunities from the Swede. The Spaniard hit 27 winners and only 13 unforced errors, while claiming 71 per cent of her net points. She has a huge task in the next round but comes in with good form.

[10] M. Keys (USA) vs. D. Kasatkina (RUS)
M. Linette (POL) vs. A. Rus (NED)
[Q] N. Hibino (JPN) vs. S. Peng (CHN)
M. Gasparyan (RUS) vs. [22] M. Sakkari (GRE)
[25] E. Alexandrova (RUS) defeated J. Teichmann (SUI) 6-4 4-6 6-2
[Q] B. Krejcikova (CZE) defeated K. Kanepi (EST) 7-6 2-6 6-3
P. Badosa (ESP) defeated [Q] J. Larsson (SWE) 6-1 6-0
[7] P. Kvitova (CZE) defeated K. Siniakova (CZE) 6-1 6-0

Of the 128 scheduled matches between the men’s and women’s draw, the third eighth of the women’s Day 1 schedule was the only completed section. It helped that seven of the eight games were in straight sets, with only 24th seed Sloane Stephens‘ disappointing loss the exception. The American went down to Zhang Shuai of China after winning the first set 6-2, losing 2-6 7-5 6-2 in a capitulation not overly surprising considering the 26-year-old’s recent form. Shuai was simply better and full credit to the Chinese hitter, producing 41 winners to Stephens’ 28, dialing it back after the first set with 13 unforced errors costing her. Shuai broke six times to Stephens’ five, but ran away with the contest in the last set, serving at 87 per cent, breaking three times from three opportunities, and hitting a massive 14 winners and zero unforced errors in a clean display.

Shuai booked a spot in the second round against American qualifier Christine McNally who had the fortunate luck of drawing Sam Stosur in the first round of the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Stosur, her struggles at Melbourne Park are well documented and often the criticism is unfair of those who only watch her over the Australian summer. She is a US Open winner – defeating Serena Williams no less – and has made a Roland Garros final. Unfortunately for Stosur, this year marks the fifth consecutive year she has bowed out in the first round of her home Grand Slam and it seems unlikely the external, and clearly by now, internal pressure valve will ever be released. That is not to take anything away from McNally who won 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 39 minutes. She hit 22 winners and 22 unforced errors, breaking five times and being more consistent on her first serve than Stosur. The Australian hit one additional winner, but a clumsy 39 unforced errors, breaking just once from the same amount of opportunities as her opponent – 12 – while recording winning serve percentages of just 52 and 43 on her first and second serve.

It was a good section for the Americans and not so much the home nation, as qualifier Ann Li doubled down on the success with a 7-6 7-6 victory over Australian wildcard, Lizette Cabrera. The Australian had a couple of set points in the second set and had a led by as much as 5-2 at one stage in that set, but the Wimbledon Junior runner-up kept coming and twice forced her way back into the second tiebreaker, claiming victory 12-10 in the end to advance through to the next round. Neither player was clean with the match at times resembling more of a whoever missed least would win. A combined 97 unforced errors showed that both players were going for too much, but at least Li hit 32 winners to Cabrera’s nine. In the end though, Li won just six more points in a thriller not for the quality but for the closeness, though the 19-year-old will want to be a lot cleaner in the next round when she faces countrywoman Sofia Kenin.

The 14th seed was strong in her first match downing Italian qualifier, Martina Trevisan 6-2 6-4. Kenin only hit the 13 winners but produced just the 21 unforced errors, breaking her opponent five times to keep her at bay. Trevisan had her share of winners too – 11 – though she struggled on-serve, winning just 52 and 38 per cent of her first and second serve points respectively. She showed good strength at the net, but just lacked the extra class that the American had. It sets up an all-American battle in the Round of 64, with Kenin predicted to use all her experience to see off Li.

The most talked about women’s match of the day was 15-year-old Coco Gauff’s rematch with 39-year-old Grand Slam winner, Venus Williams. Much like the first round of Wimbledon, Gauff came out on top in straight sets, downing Williams 7-6 6-3 to move through to the next round. Both players won 77 per cent of their first serve points, but it was Gauff who was stronger on her second serve, triumphing 61 per cent of the time to Williams’ 40 per cent. She also hit less unforced errors (30 to 41) and while she hit less winners (17 to 24), showed power with her serve and continued to give the expectation that she will be a Rising Star in the tennis world soon enough.

Gauff’s next task is against Romania’s Sonia Cirstea who bundled out 32nd seed, Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. The world number 74 won 6-2 7-6, just getting up in the second set tiebreaker to avoid a deciding set. It was a case of taking her chances, and Cirstea broke four times while hitting 32 winners and winning 43 per cent of her receiving points. Both had a terrific battle when approaching the net, winning more than two thirds of their points, but Strycova could not capitalise on her high 77 per cent first serve ratio, with just over half of her first and second serve points won.

It was no surprise to see world number three and reigning champion Naomi Osaka advance through to the second round without too much trouble. She downed 21-year-old Czech, Marie Bouzkova 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes, seven seven aces and dominating the play off her racket. She hit 29 winners and 28 unforced errors to her opponents’ 12 and 13 respectively, but the up-and-coming Japanese star was impenetrable off her serve with a 74 per cent winning ratio on her first serve and then capitalising with 88 per cent of her net points. She also broke four times to her opponents’ one, and looked in control most of the time. Osaka advanced through to face Zheng Saisai who knocked off Russian qualifier, Anna Kalinskaya.

Saisai is ranked 41st in the world and showed some powerful hitting in her 6-3 6-2 win over Kalinskaya to give Osaka the indication not to underestimate her. She hit 27 winners and only 14 unforced errors as she dominated first serve points (77 to 51 per cent), while breaking four times and controlling the play at the net with a 74 per cent success rate when appraching. Kalinskaya managed to get 77 per cent of her first serves in, but struggled with only half of her service points won.

[3] N. Osaka (JPN) defeated M. Bouzkova (CZE) 6-2 6-4
S. Zheng (CHN) defeated [Q] A. Kalinskaya (RUS) 6-3 6-2
C. Gauff (USA) defeated V. Williams (USA) 7-6 6-3
S. Cirstea (ROU) defeated [32] B. Strycova (CZE) 6-2 7-6
S. Zhang (CHN) defeated [24] S. Stephens (USA) 2-6 7-5 6-2
[Q] C. McNally (USA) defeated S. Stosur (AUS) 6-1 6-4
[Q] A. Li (USA) defeated [WC] L. Cabrera (AUS) 7-6 7-6
[14] S. Kenin (USA) defeated [Q] M. Trevisan (ITA) 6-2 6-4

The last eighth that was started had just three completed matches – all one-sided smashings – which saw two past Australian Open winners advance through to the next round. Eighth seed and tournament favourite, Serena Williams barely broke a sweat winning the first set 6-0 in 19 minutes before completing the 6-0 6-3 rout of Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in just under an hour. In that time, Williams served nine aces and hit 24 winners – including four off the return – as well as breaking five times from six opportunities. Potapova was helpless to stop the up-and-about Williams who was simply clinical, particularly in the first set where she sent a message to her rivals.

The 2018 Australian Open winner, Caroline Wozniacki cruised through in similar circumstances, downing Kristie Ahn 6-1 6-3 in an hour and 25 minutes. Wozniacki does not have the same powerful serving ability that Williams has, but she is a clean shot maker who is able to return well and put pressure on her opponent. She created 15 break point opportunities, seizing five of them, while hitting just 11 unforced errors for the match, despite only seven winners. Wozniacki did what she had to do in the victory, while Ahn tried her best with 19 winners, though hit 34 unforced errors as she tried to find a way to outsmart the former world number one.

In the other match, Tamara Zidansek has the fruitless task of trying to stop Williams following her win over South Korean, Na Lae Han 6-3 6-3. Ranked 64th in the world, the Slovenian had no troubles defeating the world number 177th who earned a spot in the main draw via an Asian wildcard. It was far from clinical however, as Zidansek hit 20 unforced errors to accompany her 15 winners. It was more the case of Han being more error-riddled, producing 31 unforced errors for 11 winners. Zidansek was strong at the net, winning 67 per cent of the time, while breaking six times to her opponents’ three. If she has any chance of upsetting Williams however, she will need to improve substantially.

[12] J. Konta (GBR) vs. O. Jabeur (TUN)
M. Brengle (USA) vs. C. Garcia (FRA)
C. Wozniacki (DEN) defeated K. Ahn (USA) 6-1 6-3
[23] D. Yastremska (UKR) vs. [Q] K. Juvan (SLO)
[27] Q. Wang (CHN) vs. [WC] P. Parmentier (FRA)
F. Ferro (FRA) vs. A. Van Uytvanck (BEL)
T. Zidansek (SLO) defeated [WC] N. Han (KOR) 6-3 6-3
[8] S. Williams (USA) defeated A. Potapova (RUS) 6-0 6-3

Top 10 must-watch matches: Australian Open – Day 1

DESPITE being Round 1 of a long tournament, there is still much intrigue into a number of Australian Open matches, with plenty of upsets potentially brewing on Day 1 which starts tomorrow.

PICK OF THE DAY: Venus Williams (USA) vs. Coco Gauff (USA)

Our pick for Day 1 has to be the battle of the Americans with so many different potential storylines. In what will be a repeat of the Wimbledon Round 1 clash, veteran Venus Williams will take on teenager Coco Gauff. There is a whopping 24 years difference between them and to put it in perspective, Williams had won 29 – yep 29 singles titles before Gauff was even born. This included four Grand Slams and an Olympics Gold Medal. While the former Grand Slam champion is past her prime and well overshadowed by her younger sister Serena, Williams is a champion in her own right and with the end now in sight, she will want to go out with a bang. Gauff’s career is only just beginning and for the 15-year-old she will hope to gain some extra ranking points before she is able to compete regularly once she turns 16 in March. Gauff defeated Williams in straight sets back in Wimbledon to throw her into the limelight, but the wily veteran will not want to go out so easily.

CLOSE SECOND: Reilly Opelka (USA) vs. [12] Fabio Fognini (ITA)

This clash between the world number 12 and the emerging giant American will be a certain must-watch and our pick of the day for the men’s draw. Opelka stands at 211cm and is a powerful unit, ranked 38th in the world. He is one of a number of young Americans looking to renew the strength in the nation’s male dominance it had during the 1990s and early 2000s. He and Fognini played twice last year, with both matches coming on hardcourt and going the distance. In the first round of the US Open, Opelka upset Fognini in four sets, 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-3, before just a month later, Fognini got the better of Opelka in the Davis Cup Finals, winning a similar 6-4 6-7 6-3. Fognini’s start to the year has been slow, winning just one of four games and was beaten by two players outside the top 50. Opelka also had an unlucky start to the season, going down 5-7 7-6 7-6 to Pablo Cuevas in the first round at Adelaide. Now the pair will hope to get their season going in what will be a huge clash given the relative weakness of the eighth of that draw (only Matteo Berrettini is ranked inside the top 25).

PODIUM: Kyle Edmund (GBR) vs. [24] Dusan Lajovic (SRB)

For the Australian tennis public, these two players might not be opponents you are particularly going to tune in to watch, but the history between the pair is interesting based on their relative ranking. Dusan Lajovic is in solid form this year, winning four of six games, while Edmund is yet to triumph in 2020. Most interestingly, these two have played twice on the ATP Tour, with Edmund winning on both occasions. The world number 69 defeated Lajovic 6-3 7-6 in Bejing on hard court, while also knocking him off in the Davis Cup back in 2016 with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 victory. Earlier that year, Edmund won in a round two qualifying match at the ATP Masters 1000 in Shanghai, defeating Lajovic 6-4 2-6 6-3. The Serbian is in better form and higher ranked, but you can never discount the South African-born Brit who currently sits at a 50 per cent win-loss ratio on tour with 107 wins and 107 losses.

TOP 5: [1] Ash Barty (AUS) vs. Lesia Tsurenko (UKR)

There seems to be a common misconception that the world number one and Australia’s sentimental hero, Ash Barty has an easy draw leading up to the quarter finals. This could not be more wrong because when she walks out onto Rod Laver Arena tomorrow, she will face a player who not only beat her last time out, but smashed her in straight sets. The 42nd ranked Lesia Tsurenko was seeded this time last year, and the Ukrainian came up against Barty in the lead-up tournament in Brisbane, knocking her out in the first round, 6-3 6-2. On that day, Tsurenko’s serve was almost unstoppable and while Barty has beaten Tsurenko – all the way back in 2014 before she left the racquet for a cricket bat – it is a different time now. Expect Barty to win, she is the world number one after all, but do not expect it to be a one-sided affair that some people might assume from first glance. Barty’s triumph in the Adelaide International will give her great confidence heading into her home Grand Slam.

TOP 5: John Millman (AUS) vs. Ugo Humbert (FRA)

With Alex de Minaur out of the Australian Open, Millman rolls up to Australia’s second hope behind Nick Kyrgios in the men’s draw. He has come up against stiff opposition in the first round with a match against red-hot Frenchman, Ugo Humbert. The 21-year-old showed what he was capable of in Auckland, claiming his maiden title in the ASB Classic. The 47th ranked Millman is the traditional journeyman who has won over Australia with his ability to never give in and fight to the end. He stunned world number 21, Felix Auger-Aliassime at the ATP Cup with a straight sets win, 6-4 6-2 after a less than impressive three-set victory over 487th Greek player, Michail Pervolarakis. Millman will have his work cut out for him, and with Humbert in terrific form, the Frenchman will start favourite and sadly for the home crowd, will show exactly why he is a star of the future.

OTHERS TO KEEP IN MIND:

[25] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) vs. Jil Teichmann (SUI)

The in-form Ekaterina Alexandrova should continue her winning run here at Melbourne Park with a match against the 22-year-old Swiss talent in Jil Teichmann. Form is crucial heading into a Grand Slam, and Alexandrova has not lost in a few months, but has also not played at the highest level for those tournaments. She has not beaten Teichmann since 2015, and that was in a narrow three-set win in Leipzeg. Teichmann has won the two encounters since in straight sets, defeating the Russian at Braunschweig later in 2015 – to take home that title – before doubling up in Prague last year with a 6-3 6-4 win. You cannot fault Alexandrova’s form in 2020 and at the back-end of 2019, regardless of opponent. She picked up a number of good wins, won her first WTA Tour title and now looks to build on that in the year’s first Grand Slam.

Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs. [9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)

Two Spanish veterans who would know each others’ games like the back of their hand. The 38-year-old Feliciano Lopez is now ranked 61st in the world, but he showed he still has what it takes to grind, winning two matches in a day at Auckland, including knocking off the number one seed in Fabio Fognini. His form heading into the Australian Open is solid and worthy of discussion, though his opponent is in even better form. Roberto Bautista Agut is yet to lose in 2020, going undefeated at the ATP Cup with six wins from as many games, including wins over Lajovic and Kyrgios in the finals. He did not drop an entire set for the whole tournament, and while Rafael Nadal was able to take on the top player in the opposition, Bautista Agut did his bit. The problem is, while he has had the recent form against Lopez – winning the last two occasions, both have been on clay. He is yet to beat Lopez on hard court with the Spanish veteran winning at both Indian Wells and Canada a few years back. Bautista Agut should break through for his first win against Lopez on hard court, but nothing is a given and this will likely involve some tiebreakers.

Bernarda Pera (USA) vs. [29] Elena Rybakina (KAZ)

The 20-year-old Kazakhstan player is in some superb form of late and she will look to roll into Melbourne Park with plenty of confidence. The one problem is she lost to her opponent Bernarda Pera in the pair’s only clash last year. In the second round at Jurmala, Rybakina went down to the world number 70, winning the first set 6-4 before capitulating in a 4-6 6-0 6-2 loss. Pera will be aware of Rybakina’s recent form heading in which includes back-to-back finals appearances at Shenzhen and Hobart, and will not take her lightly.

[14] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs. Lloyd Harris (RSA)

A month ago this matchup would not have raised many eyebrows, but now the 14th seeded Argentinian has some concerns with the South African’s recent form. Harris has knocked off some strong players on his way to the Adelaide International final, coming from qualifying to reach the decider on the back of some sublime serving. The 193cm prospect will be hard to contain for the counter puncher in Schwartzman who stand 23cm smaller than his opponent. With just the one win against Borna Coric and losses to three other seeded players in the ATP Cup, Schwartzman is not in the top echelon of players but can push opponents to the limit. Harris is still only young and could be the next Kevin Anderson for his nation, upsetting top 35 players, Pablo Carreno Busta and Cristian Garin already this year.

[WC] Lizette Cabrera (AUS) vs. [Q] Ann Li (USA)

Cabrera had a good run at the Hobart International and drew a qualifier to start the Australian Open. The only problem? It ended up being former Wimbledon Junior finalists Ann Li from the United States. The pair have never played but Li is an up-and-coming talent currently ranked 142nd in the world, just 13 spots behind Cabrera. They are both solid hitters of the ball and while Cabrera has been journeying more than Li, with a 157-144 win-loss career record, Li has a more efficient 95-57 ratio herself. Playing in the ITF circuit, Li is yet to beat anyone in the top 100, while Cabrera has made two main draw appearances at Melbourne Park but is yet to win one. The winner of this clash will celebrate their first senior women’s Grand Slam victory.

Hobart International: Day 4 – Shocks all round as Mertens bows out and Rybakina survives heart-stopper

AN unbelievable round of action has seen fireworks across the Hobart International with two shock results and a couple of epic clashes as the semi-finalists were decided. The first shock of the day was the announcement the night before that number two seed, Garbine Muguruza was withdrawing from the tournament due to illness and the decision allowed fifth seed Russian, Veronika Kudermetova to book an easy path into the semi-finals.

There were two contenders for the match of the day, but the three-and-a-half-hour epic between number one seed and two-time Hobart International winner Elise Mertens and Britain’s Heather Watson had to be seen to be believed. The match was one of the longest you will see on the WTA Tour, with neither player able to really dominate the contest during Watson’s stunning 6-7 6-4 7-5 come-from-behind upset win. Both were serving at just over 60 per cent for their first serves and under 60 per cent for the first serve points won, as they combined for 36 break point opportunities, as Mertens converted six, but Watson managed eight which was the narrow difference in the end. It was more a battle of attrition than skill with Watson having to face third seed, Elena Rybakina in the semis who had a lengthy match of her own.

Rybakina had plenty of headaches getting past resilient Australian, Lizette Cabrera downing the local hope 6-7 7-6 7-5 in a match where neither player would budge. It took two hours and 37 minutes as Rybakina served up six aces and won two thirds of her points on serve. Though both players had break point opportunities, creating a combined 25, as the Kazakhstan 20-year-old managed to break through six times from 10 chances while saving 10 on-serve with Cabrera managing the five break points. Cabrera was more consistent with getting her first serve in at 71.8 per cent, but could only capitalise 59.5 per cent of the time as the young top 30 player continued her 2020 form to reach the semi-finals.

In the last remaining quarter final of the tournament, Zhang Shuai overcame American Lauren Davis in a practically breezy, 88 minutes with a 6-1 6-4 triumph. The fourth seed has to face Kudermetova in the semi-finals, who has come off a walkover result. Shuai won in every statistical category, dominating her service games and protecting the break point opportunities that did arise with Davis only managing to convert one from 13 opportunities, while Shuai took out four from eight. Her first serve points won was a lowly 59.6 per cent, but the Chinese seed was able to do the same to her opponent, winning 43.9 per cent of the time off her opponent’s first serve, and 56 per cent of the time off her opponent’s second serve.

It is no surprise to see Zhang and Kudermetova’s semi-final up first given the combined 88 minutes on court with that match to begin at 4.30pm today, while Watson and Rybakina – playing a combined six-plus hours between them yesterday – will see who has the better endurance when they face off in the following match. Zhang is also in a doubles clash in the latest games with fellow Chinese player, Peng Shuai against Belgian duo, Kristen Flipkens and Alison Van Uytvanck.

Day 4 Results:

Heather Watson (GBR) defeated [1] Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-7 6-4 7-5
[5] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [2] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) W/O
[3] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 6-7 7-6 7-5
[4] Zhang Shuai (CHN) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-1 6-4

2020 Australian Open draw announced with huge first round clashes

A TANTALISING fourth round match between world number one Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios, and world number one Ash Barty meeting reigning title holder, Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals highlights a bumper Australian Open following the announcement of the 2020 draw tonight. The pair have shown no love lost between Kyrgios and Nadal, and they have the chance to meet in the Round of 16. Fourth seed, Daniil Medvedev has ended up on Nadal’s half, which means rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are poised for a potential semi-final meeting.

There are no easy clashes for some of the Australians with Chris O’Connell coming up against Andrey Rublev, Alexei Popyrin meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andrew Harris takes on Marco Berrettini. Experienced Australian John Millman comes up against emerging Frenchman Ugo Humbert, while Jordan Thompson (Alexander Bublik) and John-Patrick Smith (Guido Pella) are all in the third quarter. James Duckworth takes on Alijaz Bedene, while Alex Bolt has a first round date against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Kyrgios faces Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the first round.

Tournament favourite Djokovic is going for his eighth title and has drawn a tough first round opponent in German, Jan-Lennard Struff. Other huge first round clashes include ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut going up against countryman Feliciano Lopez, 12th seed Fabio Fognini meeting Reilly Opelka, Ivo Karlovic taking on Vasek Pospisil, Frances Tiafoe drawn against Medvedev, and Jeremy Chardy going head-to-head with David Goffin.

In the women’s draw, world number one Australian Barty has drawn a tough quarter of the draw, meeting Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round with a third round clash with in-form 20-year-old Elena Rybakina, while Petra Kvitova (quarter finals) and Naomi Osaka (semi-finals) are on the road to the final. The second quarter of the draw is arguably the most stacked of the lot with the oldest player playing the youngest as Venus Williams (39 years-old) takes on Coco Gauff (15-years-old) in a rematch of their famous Grand Slam encounter from last year. Americans Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin could meet in the third round, while Serena Williams is also in the quarter.

In the second half of the draw, Belinda Bencic and Simona Halep are potential quarter final opponents, with Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in the quarter too. The match of the quarter is by far the first round clash between 19th seed Donna Vekic and former Grand Slam champion, Maria Sharapova. In the bottom quarter, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova is a potential quarter final for the ages, while Kiki Bertens could be in the way for Svitolina in the fourth round. Angelique Kerber and Amanda Anisimova are also in the quarter. Pliskova’s first round match against Kristina Mladenovic is one of the best in the entire draw.

Australians, Sam Stosur and Lizette Cabrera have both drawn qualifiers in the second quarter, and Astro Sharma will meet 28th seed, Annett Kontaveit in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Ajla Tomljanovic has a tough first-up clash with 31st seed, Anastasija Sevastova, while Arina Rodionova (Kateryna Bondarenko) and Priscilla Hon (Kateryna Kozlova) are both in the quarter as well.

ATP Potential Round of 16 clashes:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [27] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
[23] Nick Kyrgios (AUS) v [16] Karen Khachanov (RUS)
[10] Gael Monfils (FRA) v [20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
[29] Taylor Fritz (USA) v [5] Dominic Thiem (AUT)

[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs. [28] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
[19] John Isner (USA) vs. [15] Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
[11] David Goffin (BEL) vs. [17] Andrey Rublev (RUS)
[26] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs. [7] Alexander Zverev (GER)

[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. [25] Borna Coric (CRO)
[22] Guido Pella (ARG) vs. [12] Fabio Fognini (ITA)
[13] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs. [18] Grigor Dimitrov (BLR)
[31] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) vs. [3] Roger Federer (SUI)

[6] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. [32] Milos Raonic (CAN)
[21] Benoit Paire (FRA) vs. [9] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
[14] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs. [24] Dusan Lajovic (SRB)
[30] Daniel Evans (GBR) vs. [2] Novak Djokovic (SRB)

WTA Potential Round of 16 clashes:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) vs. [29] Elena Rybakina (KAZ)
[18] Alison Riske (USA) vs. [13] Petra Martic (CRO)
[10] Madison Keys (USA) vs. [22] Maria Sakkari (GRE)
[25] Ekaterina Alexandrova vs. [7] Petra Kvitova (CZE)

[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs. [32] Barbora Strycova (CZE)
[24] Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. [14] Sofia Kenin (USA)
[12] Johanna Konta vs. [23] Dayana Yastremska (UKR)
[27] Qiang Wang vs. [8] Serena Williams (USA)

[6] Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs. [28] Annett Kontaveit (EST)
[19] Donna Vekic (CRO) vs. [11] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
[16] Elise Mertens (BEL) vs. [20] Karolina Muchova (CZE)
[26] Danielle Collins (USA) vs. [4] Simona Halep (ROU)

[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) vs. [31] Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
[21] Amanda Anisimova (USA) vs. [9] Kiki Bertens (BEL)
[15] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) vs. [17] Angelique Kerber (GER)
[30] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs. [2] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Hobart International: Day 3 – Mertens firms towards another title as top four seeds advance

WORLD number 17, Belgian Elise Mertens is firming towards a third Hobart International title, and continuing her remarkably strong record to start each season. Mertens won in Hobart in 2017 and 2018, then opted for the Sydney International last year, but managed to claim a title in Doha mid-February where she beat three top five players on the way to a title.

Yesterday, Mertens looked sublime, not wasting anytime in running out a 6-1 6-0 winner over Viktoria Kuzmova in just 56 minutes. In that time she broke four times, won 78.1 per cent of her first serves – including producing four aces – and won 52.6 per cent of her second serves, whilst absolutely attacking Kuzmova’s serve. The 56.3 per cent first serve return points won and 73.7 per cent second serve return points won are both phenomenal moving through to the quarter finals without a sweat.

Up the other end of the draw, Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza had to work hard against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, dropping the first set before coming back to win 3-6 6-3 7-6 against the world number 85. The Spanish talent set up a quarter final clash with fifth seed, Veronika Kudermetova after the 22-year-old Russian downed American ninth seed, Catherine Bellis in straight sets, 7-6 6-1. In the same half of the draw, fourth seed Zhang Shuai came back from a set down to post a win against a plucky Kateryna Kozlova. The 91st ranked Ukrainian caused plenty of headaches for the Chinese seed, winning the first set 6-4, before Shuai posted a 4-6 6-1 6-2 win to get it done in just under two hours. Shuai now meets American Lauren Davis who upset sixth seed, Magna Linette, downing the Polish player 6-4 6-4 in what was an epic contest despite the scoreline, taking almost two hours for the 20 games.

Elsewhere, Australian hope Lizette Cabrera continued her run into the quarter finals, beating her previous best finish at Hobart which was the Round of 16. She knocked off Czech, Kristyna Pliskova 4-6 6-4 6-4 in just over two hours, weathering the storm of 14 aces in the match whilst not serving one herself. She now faces third seed Elena Rybakina who made the final in Shenzhen and moved up into the top 30. Rybakina defeated Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet 7-5 6-3 to book that spot in the final eight. In the final Round of 16 match, Brit Heather Watson took just under two hours to fight off the challenge of Fiona Ferro, winning 7-6 6-3 to now size up against the number one seed Mertens.

In the order of play, Davis takes on Zhang up first on centre court from 1.30pm, before Mertens faces Watson. In the evening, it is the only battle of the seeds with Kudermetova and Muguruza going at it, with the prime time night game seeing Rybakina looking to make another semi-final taking on local hope Cabrera.

Day 3 Results:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-1 6-0
[2] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 3-6 6-3 7-6
[3] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 7-6 6-3
[4] Zhang Shuai (CHN) defeated Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 4-6 6-1 6-2
[5] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [9] Catherine Bellis (USA) 7-6 6-1
Lauren Davis (USA) defeated [6] Magna Linette (POL) 6-4 6-4
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 7-6 6-3
Lizette Cabrera (AUS) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 4-6 6-4 6-4

Hobart International: Day 2 – Top seeds smash opponents as Aussie Cabrera upsets Garcia

THE top four seeds at the Hobart International have moved through to the second round with a couple of matches taking just over an hour of game play. Number one seed, Elise Mertens smashed American Christina McHale 6-1 6-1 in just 68 minutes, while third seed Elena Rybakina cruised past Slovenian Tamara Zidansek 6-1 6-4 in just 65 minutes. Meanwhile, second seed Garbine Muguruza advanced with a 6-1 7-5 victory over Yafan Wang, and fourth seed Shuai Zhang advanced though not without a huge challenge. Zhang came from a set down to finally shake off Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens, 4-6 6-3 6-2.

The upset of the day belonged to young Australian, Lizette Cabrera who on home soil took down the eighth seed Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia. While Garcia has been out of sorts the last couple of months – going down to Ash Barty 6-0 6-0 an example – it was a spirited performance from Cabrera who came from a set down to run over the top of Garcia, 4-6 6-4 6-2 in just over two hours. Garcia produced eight aces, but four double faults and the 22-year-old Australian took the opportunity to break. She broke the eighth seed’s serve six times from a massive 16 chances, while was only broken four times herself. She was more consistent on serve, and won 59 per cent of points off Garcia’s second serve which was a key difference in the game.

In other results, it was better news for fellow Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet who won against Alison Van Uytvanck, 7-5 1-6 6-2. American Catherine Bellis defeated Marie Bouzkova in the longest game of the day in two hours and 50 minutes with a final score of 3-6 7-6 6-3, while Peru’s Ons Jabeur knocked off Russian up-and-come Anna Blinkova, 6-4 6-1 in 77 minutes.

First up in matches today, Cabrera hopes to continue her run against Kristyna Pliskova, while Muguruza and Jabeur lock horns after that with Rybakina and Cornet doing battle in the third game on centre court. Over on the west court, fifth seed Veronika Kudermetova will face Bellis, sixth seed Magda Linette will meet Lauren Davis and Zhang takes on Ukrainian qualifier, Kateryna Kozlova. At night, Great Britain’s Heather Watson faces Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro, while top seed Mertens meets Viktoria Kuzmova.

Day 2 Results:

[1] E. Mertens (BEL) defeated C. McHale (USA) 6-1 6-1
[2] G. Muguruza (ESP) defeated Y. Wang (CHN) 6-1 7-5
[3] E. Rybakina (KAZ) T. Zidansek (SLO)
[4] S. Zhang (CHN) defeated K. Flipkens (BEL) 4-6 6-3 6-2
L. Cabrera (AUS) defeated [8] C. Garcia (FRA) 4-6 6-4 6-2
C. Bellis (USA) defeated M. Bouzkova (CZE) 3-6 7-6 6-3
A. Cornet (FRA) defeated A. Van Uytvanck (BEL) 7-5 1-6 6-2
O. Jabeur (TUN) defeated A. Blinkova (RUS) 6-4 6-1

Hobart International: Day 1 – Kuzmova wins thriller as Aussies bow out

VIKTORIA Kuzmova has survived an epic match to down China’s Lin Zhu in the opening round of the Hobart International yesterday. In a match that lasted almost three hours, the 21-year-old Slovakian came from a set down to advance through to the second round with a 5-7 6-2 7-6 victory. It was a powerful statement from the young gun, with a serve that was hit and miss at times, producing eight aces but three double faults. While Kuzmova was broken five times, she broke her opponent six times to eventually grind out the win. The victory set up a potential Round 2 clash with number one seed Belgian and defending champion, Elise Mertens who takes on American Christina McHale today.

Kuzmova was far from the only player to come from a set down to advance through to the next round with Brit, Heather Watson following suit. Watson was rolled in the opening set 6-1, before coming back against Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, 1-6 6-4 6-4 to set up a date with Fiona Ferro who had the least time on court of anyone following a 4-4 win after seventh seed Swedish opponent, Rebecca Peterson had to retire following the eighth game. In an almost identical scoreline to the Watson-Teichmann clash, Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova – whose twin sister Karolina celebrated a title at Brisbane over the weekend – came back from a set down to defeat 84th ranked Serbian, Nina Stojanovic 1-6 6-4 6-3.

In a couple of tight tiebreakers, sixth seed Magda Linette polished off experienced Grand Slam veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 7-6 with the second tiebreaker going to 11-9 before Linette could celebrate. The Polish seed will now take on United State’s Lauren Davis who downed Australian, Astra Sharma 6-3 3-6 7-6 in a thrilling contest that lasted more than two and a half hours. The remaining two matches were not as engaging with local hope, Sam Stosur bowing out in straight sets 6-2 6-2 at the hands of fifth seed Russian, Veronika Kudermetova, while Kateryna Kozlova rolled Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2 6-1 to advance through to the round of 16.

The major seeds are in action today with second seed and Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza taking on China’s Yafan Wang for a spot in the second round against up-and-coming Russian, Anna Blinkova or Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. Likewise, third seed Elena Rybakina will hope to go one better than her runners-up status in Shenzhen when she takes on Tamara Zidansek today, with the winner to face either Belgian, Alison Van Uytvanck or Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet. The other two matches to take place are fourth seed, Shuai Zhang meeting Kirsten Flipkens and eighth seed, Caroline Garcia hoping to finally find some form after a disappointing couple of months, taking on local hope Lizette Cabrera.

Day 1 Results:

[5] V. Kudermetova (RUS) defeated S. Stosur (AUS) 6-2 6-2
[6] M. Linette (POL) defeated S. Kuznetsova (RUS) 7-6 7-6
F. Ferro (FRA) defeated [7] R. Peterson (SWE) 4-4 RET
K. Kozlova (UKR) defeated S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-2 6-1
L. Davis (USA) defeated A. Sharma (AUS) 6-3 3-6 7-6
H. Watson (UK) defeated J. Teichmann (SUI) 1-6 6-4 6-4
V. Kuzmova (SVK) defeated L. Zhu (CHN) 5-7 6-2 7-6
K. Pliskova (CZE) defeated N. Stojanovic (SRB) 1-6 6-4 6-3