Tag: marketa vondrousova

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 16 wrap: Hsieh into maiden Grand Slam quarter final as Osaka comes back from the brink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

Australian Open Women’s Round of 32 wrap: Top ranked players all advance to fourth round

JUST one unseeded player remains in the bottom half of the Australian Open Women’s draw after all of the highest ranked players won through on day five of the Grand Slam event. The final unseeded player remaining is Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh, who took out Italian qualifier and former Top 5 player Sara Errani in three sets, 6-4 2-6 7-5 to book her spot in the Round of 16.

Across the board the favourites all got up with that all-unseeded clash being the only match requiring three sets. The next closest – at least for a set – was Serena Williams needing a tiebreaker against Russian Anastasia Potapova, before clicking into gear with a dominant second set to win, 7-6 6-2 and advance through to the fourth round. Also through in straight sets were fellow Top 10 players, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka. Halep took out 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-3, Osaka brushed aside 27th seed Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-2, while Sabalenka ended the winning streak of Ann Li in 2021 courtesy of a 6-3 6-1 victory.

The wins set up an unbelievable fourth round match between Williams and Sabalenka. The 10th seed American is going for the equal-record 24th Grand Slam title, while the Belarusian – despite yet to secure her first – has an 18-1 record since late last year, triumphing in three consecutive tournaments to close out the season.

“It’s a big challenge, but it’s a tough one, but I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match, like mentally be ready to get this win,” Sabalenka said post-match of Williams after her win against Li. “She’s a great player, and it’s always a big challenge to play against these kind of players. But I’m going to do everything I can to get this win. We’re all here for the wins and I’m going to do everything.”

Williams said she did not like the way she played in the first set against the teenage Potapova, before having more consistent strokes in the second set.

“I just was not striking in that first set. I was making errors, I was slow,” Williams said post-match. “At one point, i just started playing defense because it was the only thing I could do. “It was good to get through that match. The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. “I was able to play a little more free in the second set.”

Williams said she was looking forward to the clash with Sabalenka, in what shapes to be a power spectacular with the two biggest hitters in the game going head-to-head.

“She hits very hard. She has a big, big power game,” Williams said. “She’s a big girl. “Strong like myself. “I think it will be a really good match.”

In the other seeded results, last year’s finalist Garbine Muguruza continued her form at Melbourne Park with a dominant 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, while Marketa Vondrousova toppled giant-killer Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-4, and Iga Swiatek proved too good for Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro, winning in straight sets in the late match.

Aside from the Williams-Sabalenka clash, Halep takes on Swiatek, Osaka faces Muguruza and in the only match not featuring a Grand Slam winner, Vondrousova locks horns with Su-Wei. In today’s action, the three key matches are top seed Ash Barty up against Russian 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, 11th seed Belinda Bencic taking on 18th seed Elise Mertens, and sixth seed Karolina Pliskova facing Czech compatriot and 25th seed, Karolina Muchova.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated [32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-3
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated [27] Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-3 6-2
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Ann Li (USA) 6-3 6-1
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 7-6 6-2
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 6-1 6-1
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4 6-3
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 6-2 6-4
Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) defeated [Q] Sara Errani (ITA) 6-4 2-6 7-5

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso

Australian Open Women’s Round of 64 wrap: Cirstea stuns Kvitova as Halep holds on

A COUPLE of massive upsets and an almost even bigger upset were the talking points on day three of the Australian Open women’s competition. Eighth seed Bianca Andreescu‘s second match back from injury did not go to plan, losing in straight sets to Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh, while ninth seed Petra Kvitova‘s lacklustre form of late continued, losing out to unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

The world’s best doubles player – but ranked 71st in singles – Su-Wei showed no mercy against the Canadian US Open winner, claiming a 6-2 6-3 win in just 83 minutes on court. Su-Wei hit four less winners (16-20), but had 11 less unforced errors (14-25), as she broke six times from nine chances compared to Andreescu’s two from four. It meant that in the past 18 months, the Canadian young gun has played just the two matches – both here at Melbourne Park and back-to-back – for a net result of 1-1.

The more disappointing of the two results was Kvitova’s three-set loss to world number 68 Cirstea. Whilst making it a battle, Kvitova faded out in the deciding set to lose 6-4 1-6 6-1 in two hours and three minutes. One of, if not the best left hander in the world, the Czech has not been herself of late, and needs to rekindle the form soon or she could slip right outside the Top 10. Full credit to Cirstea who broke six times from 16 chances – compared to five from 13 – whilst hitting 14 less unforced errors (30-44) and only four less winners (17-21).

Almost witnessing the biggest upset of the tournament to-date, fans on Margaret Court Arena could hardly believe their eyes when Australian Ajla Tomljanovic was serving for the match against second seed Simona Halep. The home nation support tried to will on their competitor who won the first set, and then was 5-2 up in the third set. Unfortunately for Tomljanovic, that is where it all swung in the world number two’s favour, as Halep won the last five games of the match – crucially breaking in the ninth game of the set and booking her spot in the third round. After losing every singles match in the second half of last year – not an exaggeration – Tomljanovic has shown good form in 2021, winning two from five, with losses to Halep, Aryna Sabalenka and a three-set defeat to Alize Cornet last week.

Speaking of Sabalenka, she continued her great form of the past six months to post a straight sets win over Russian Daria Kasatkina. She joined other Top 10 players, Naomi Osaka, Sabalenka and Serena Williams in the next round without dropping a set. Other seeds to win in two sets were last year’s Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza, reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, and the resurgent Tunisian, Ons Jabeur.

In an all-Russian battle, 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova booked her spot in the Round of 32 courtesy of a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win over Varvara Gracheva. She joined Anastasia Potapova in the next round after the Russian took care of Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos, 6-2 6-4. The only other seed to drop out at the second round stage was Elena Rybakina with the rising Kazakh talent unable to repeat her early form last year, going down to France’s Fiona Ferro, 6-4 6-4.

One could have been forgiven if they thought they had time travelled 10 to 15 years. Italian qualifier and former Top 5 player Sara Errani easily overcame an injured Venus Williams 6-1 6-0, in what was a battle of the veterans. A much younger Ann Li continued her unbeaten run in 2021, defeating Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets, while Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas also made it through to the Round of 32.

The match of the third round has to be third seed Osaka up against 27th seed Jabeur, with the winner likely to play Muguruza in the Round of 16. The stunning upsets of Andreescu and Kvitova has opened the draw wide open for Vondrousova, who could easily make a quarter final if she can play at her best as the only Top 60 player in her section. Sabalenka takes on Li, whilst a potential fourth round clash between the power punchers in Sabalenka and Serena Williams would be a dream, much like a similar clash if Halep and Swiatek win their respective third round matches.

Looking ahead to today, and top seed Ash Barty is back on court up against compatriot Daria Gavrilova in a must-watch for the home nation. Forget not dropping a set, Barty is yet to drop a game after her double-donut performance against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in the first round. Other matches that could provide some highlights include 11th seed Belinda Benci up against Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin take on Danielle Collins and Kaia Kanepi respectively. The match of the day is most likely fifth seed Elina Svitolina clashing with young gun Coco Gauff in a head-to-head not to be missed.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 4-6 6-4 7-5
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-2 6-3
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 7-6 6-3
Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) defeated [8] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 6-3 6-2
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-4 1-6 6-1
[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-3 6-0
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [Q] Liudmilla Samsonova (RUS) 6-3 6-1
[15] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-2 6-4
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated [17] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-4 6-4
[19] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated [Q] Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-1 7-5
[27] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated [LL] Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3 6-2
[32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Ann Li (USA) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2 7-6
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated [Q] Timea Babos (HUN) 6-2 6-4
[Q] Sara Errani (ITA) defeated Venus Williams (USA) 6-1 6-0

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Withdrawals reduce matches as finals decided

WITHDRAWALS galore across the three WTA Tour tournaments as players having little niggles opted to take a rest given the short turnaround to the Australian Open, presenting others with chances for their maiden titles.

World number one Ash Barty might have had the walkover when Serena Williams pulled out of the pair’s semi-final at the Yarra Valley Classic, but Garbine Muguruza walked all over her opponent in the other semi-final. Coming up against eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova, the Spanish Grand Slam winner never gave her a look in, dominating 6-1 6-0 in just 53 minutes to blitz her way into the final.

Muguruza won almost 70 per cent of the match points, and only dropped three points off her first serve, and eight in total off her serve, breaking Vondrousova five of a possible six times from 11 chances. It was one-way traffic the entire match, and the experienced Spaniard denied Vondrousova the chance to set up a 2019 Roland Garros final rematch.

The final takes place at 11am today.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [5] Serena Williams (USA) W/O
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-1 6-0

In an eerily simply circumstance to the Yarra Valley Classic, just one semi-final was played after second seed Naomi Osaka pulled out before the match due to injury. The Japanese young star’s withdrawal handed seventh seed Elise Mertens safe passage into the decider, to now face unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Kanepi at least had a match, overcoming ninth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova to continue her ripping form of late, battling to a 6-4 7-6 win, with the second set tiebreaker being 8-6. The victory will give her match fitness ahead of the contest with Mertens, as Kanepi broke three times – from only the three chances, whilst saving two of five break point opportunities from the Russian. She was impressive off her opponents’ second serve, and whilst Alexandrova was more consistent on serve, Kanepi was the stronger one across the court.

In the final tomorrow, Kanepi is gunning for her fifth career title – and a big boost to her 94th world ranking – while the 20th ranked Mertens is eyeing off her sixth career WTA Tour title. It will also be Mertens’ second consecutive final appearance after going down to Aryna Sabalenka in Linz late last year.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[7] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) W/O
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-3 7-6

It would not have been a complete day without a withdrawal in the third WTA Tour tournament, as third seed Victoria Azarenka also withdrew ahead of her quarter final with sixth seed Estonian Anett Kontaveit. The latter will advance through to the semis unscathed, coming up against fifth seed Maria Sakkari.

The Greek talent knocked off Angelique Kerber in straight sets to secure her place in the final four, winning 6-4 6-2. The match lasted an hour and 16 minutes, with Sakkari working hard to save six of eight break points, whilst punishing Kerber five of six off her own serve. Sakkari was not as consistent off her serve – having a 51.6 per cent efficiency – but a far superior winning percentage of 70 and 52 per cent compared to 46 and 47 per cent respectively.

The other semi-final will feature two Americans, with seventh seed Jennifer Brady continuing her great form from 2020 to book a spot in the semis up against young gun compatriot, Ann Li. Brady knocked off Czech Barbora Krejcikova 7-6 6-4, while Li crushed Sonia Cirstea 6-3 6-1. Having only won her maiden title last year, Brady will head into the semi-final as favourite against the 20-year-old Li who post-tournament will record her highest career ranking to-date (previously 97th), and is aiming for her maiden title.

Sakkari and Kontaveit will do battle up first from 11am, before Brady and Li go head-to-head around lunchtime.

GRAMPIANS TROPHY QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[6] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated [3] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) W/O
[5] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [8] Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-4 6-2
[7] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 7-6 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated Sonia Cirstea (ROU) 6-3 6-1

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Barty Party rolls into final as other semi-finalists decided

IT was a massive day at the WTA 500 events as players squeezed in shortened matches to keep the tournaments on track after no play took place on Thursday. The Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy semi-finals have been determined, whilst the quarter finalists are known in the Gippsland Trophy.

Ash Barty is through to the Yarra Valley Classic final following a shortened quarter final and walkover semi-final. The Australian world number one needed three sets to take care of American Shelby Rogers, but to save time on a day filled with double-ups, the players took part in a third set super tiebreak rather than a full set. Barty won 7-5 2-6 10-4 to book her spot in the semis, before would-be opponent Serena Williams pulled out with a shoulder injury.

The decision for Williams to pull out came not long after she fought off compatriot Danielle Collins in three sets. It meant Barty will have an extra day to rest and come in fresh for the final in her first WTA Tour tournament in almost 12 months. The Australian will play the winner of sixth seed Garbine Muguruza and eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova.

Muguruza sought revenge on Sofia Kenin from last year’s Australian Open final, this time easily dishing out a one-sided result to win 6-2 6-2. It was the only straight sets win of the quarter finals, with Vondrousova defeating Argentinian Nadia Podoroska in three sets. If Vondrousova is able to topple Muguruza, then it will be a rematch against Barty for the 2019 Roland Garros title.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC QUARTER FINALS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 7-5 2-6 1-0
[6] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [2] Sofia Kenin (USA) 6-2 6-2
[5] Serena Williams (USA) defeated [13] Danielle Collins (USA) 6-2 4-6 1-0
[8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated [14] Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 4-6 6-3 1-0

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC SEMI-FINALS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [5] Serena Williams (USA) W/O

The semi-finals of the Gippsland Trophy have been decided with only one of the top six seeds making it through to the final four. Top seed Simona Halep was smashed out of the tournament by Ekaterina Alexandrova, the ninth seed Russian dominating play to win 6-2 6-1 in a one-sided win.

Usually strong at this time of year, Alexandrova will now move through to take on unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi. The sole unseeded player remaining in the draw had a walkover against eighth seed Czech Karolina Muchova to be the freshest of the four players remaining in the tournament.

In the other semi-final, second seed Naomi Osaka will be the favourite to take out the title, having moved past unseeded Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. The Japanese rising star won 7-5 6-1 to book her spot in the last four, taking on seventh seed Belgian Elise Mertens, who won through after an epic contest against third seed Ukrainian, Elina Svitolina.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [1] Simona Halep (ROU) 6-2 6-1
[2] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 7-5 6-1
[7] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3 5-7 10-6
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated [8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) W/O

Looking to the Grampians Trophy in the Round of 16 results, there were a couple of upsets to keep it fresh, in an otherwise predictable day of results. The two biggest surprises were losses to second seed Belinda Bencic and fourth seed Elena Rybakina who both bowed out of the tournament. Sonia Cirstea knocked off Bencic in straight sets, while Barbora Krejcikova won in the super tiebreak against Rybakina in what was a fascinating contest.

The only other unseeded player through to the final eight was Ann Li, with the American defeating Russian Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5 6-3. In terms of the seeds, the top ranked player remaining in the draw now is third seed, Victoria Azarenka with the Grand Slam winner knocking off Yulia Putintseva 11-9 in the super tiebreak following a disappointing second set.

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari, sixth seed Anett Kontaveit, seventh seed Jennifer Brady and eighth seed Angelique Kerber all made it through to the quarter finals having won in straight sets easily over their respective opponents.

GRAMPIANS TROPHY ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Sonia Cirstea (ROU) defeated [2] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 7-5 6-2
[3] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 1-6 11-9
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 4-6 6-2 10-6
[5] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Leylan Fernandez (CAN) 6-2 6-2
[6] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Bethany Mattek-Sands (USA) 7-5 7-5
[7] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-1 6-4
[8] Angelique Kerber (GER) defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-4 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-5 6-3

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Czechs fall as other top seeds advance

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

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

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

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

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

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

GRAMPIANS TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

WTA 500 wraps: Seeds prevail as top players enter draws while Round of 64 continues

IT was a successful day across the board for the top echelon of international talent at both the Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy, with just one seed falling at each of the two competitions. Both competitions played both the Round of 32 and 64 in a huge day of action, with plenty of tough contests around the grounds.

At the Yarra Valley Classic, it was almost a clean sweep from seeds with just Donna Vekic falling to a feisty Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets, 1-6 6-4 6-2. The only remaining Australian in the draw, Daria Gavrilova, was unfortunate to draw Serena Williams in just her second match since her return, and was unable to hold up under pressure from the champion, while Karolina Pliskova disposed of Elisabetta Cocciaretto with ease, as did Danielle Collins with her Serbian opposition, Nina Stojanovic.

The two former world number ones in Williams and Pliskova were unshakeable throughout their contests, hitting 27 and 30 winners respectively. Joining them in the Round of 16 are the likes of Croatian Petra Martic, who was tested by Belarusian Vera Lapko but prevailed, and eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova who defeated Varvara Gracheva in a 6-4 6-0 contest.

In the day’s Round of 16 results, 11th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 14th seed Nadia Podoroska both carved out straight set wins with 6-1 first sets apiece, while Vera Zvonareva battled Kristyna Pliskova in a close-to two hour encounter and Alison van Uytvanck disposed of Suwei Hsieh 6-2 6-0.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-3 6-2
[5] Serena Williams (USA) defeated Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-1 6-4
[7] Petra Martic (CRO) defeated Vera Lapko (BLR) 4-6 6-4 6-2
[8] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 6-4 6-0
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) defeated [9] Donna Vekic (CRO) 1-6 6-4 6-2
[13] Danielle Collins (USA) defeated Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-2 6-1

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[11] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-1 6-4
[14] Nadia Podoroska (KAZ) defeated Francesca Jones (GBR) 6-1 6-3
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 6-4 6-7 6-3
Alison van Uytvanck (BEL) defeated Suwei Hsieh (TPE) 6-2 6-0

At the Gippsland Trophy, things went much the same for the seeds with just Qiang Wang falling at the hands of Italian Jasmine Paolini. The top seeds in Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina joined the draw and were immediately successful, coming away with wins in just over an hour apiece, while Ekaterina Alexandrova and Jelena Ostapenko both reigned supreme in close encounters. Eighth seed Karolina Muchova downed American Caty McNally 6-1 6-1 in just 62 minutes for the shortest match of the day.

The longest match award went to 16-year-old Coco Gauff, though, with the 14th seed playing her Round of 64 match and taken all the way by Jil Teichmann. While Gauff proved she was in it to win it from the very beginning, disposing of Teichmann in the first set 6-3, the Swiss talent came back in the second to steal the win from under Gauff’s nose in the 8-6 tiebreaker. Gauff showcased her tenacity in the third, and while she hit a whopping six  double faults in that set alone, her five aces did the trick to come away with the 6-3 6-7 7-6 victory in two hours and 45 minutes.

Joining Gauff in the Round of 32 are German Laura Siegemund, who defeated Monica Niculescu, while two Australia-France battles waged with Frenchwoman Alize Cornet prevailing over Alja Tomljanovic in one encounter, as Australian Destanee Aiava took out the second over Chloe Paquet.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-4 6-4
[3] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-1 6-4
[8] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Caty McNally (USA) 6-1 6-1
[9] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) 4-6 6-4 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated [10] Qiang Wang (CHN) 3-6 7-5 6-4
[13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Danka Kovinic (MCE) 6-4 7-5

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[14] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3 6-7 7-6
[16] Laura Siegemund (GER) defeated Monica Niculescu (ROM) 7-5 6-4
Destanee Aiava (AUS) defeated Chloe Paquet (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-4
Alize Cornet (FRA) defeated Alja Tomljanovic (AUS) 5-7 6-1 6-3

2021 Yarra Valley Classic WTA preview: Barty returns in star-studded tournament

WORLD number one Ash Barty will make her return to the WTA Tour after 10 months off, coming in as top seed at the brand new 2021 Yarra Valley Classic. The 54-player event will feature four Top 10 players, and 16 inside the Top 50, in what is expected to be an entertaining week of action. The WTA 500 event is running on par with the Gippsland Trophy – another WTA 500 event and 54-player draw – whilst the Grampians Trophy will take place a few days later for all those WTA players stuck in extended quarantine.

Looking at the Yarra Valley Classic, the story of the tournament is the return of Barty, who finished the 2020 year on top despite not playing for the vast majority of it. Breaking her home tournament title drought in Adelaide last year after being a two-time finalist in Sydney, the world number one has had the luxury of an extended warm-up to the Australian summer having been based here all year. Whilst her match fitness will undoubtedly be a huge question mark, she is too good not to be considered a huge contender at the event.

The second seed is Australian Open reigning champion Sofia Kenin, who returns Down Under to try and defend her crown that included defeating Barty in the semi-finals. Kenin is ranked fourth in the world, and has opted to join Barty in the Yarra Valley Classic draw. Also making a Roland Garros final where she suffered defeat to the red-hot Iga Swiatek, Kenin comes into this tournament off a quarter finals effort at Abu Dhabi, and picking the right flight to avoid extended quarantine.

Rounding out the top four players are Czech duo, Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova, making it a strong quartet. Pliskova won in Brisbane last year, so has good form in Australia, but had a forgettable year by her standards. Whilst minimal data to go off in 2021, a straight sets loss to Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova in Abu Dhabi might be a cause for concern. Kvitova on the other hand has opted for an extended break, having not played since Roland Garros, where she reached a semi-final and eventually lost out to Kenin. She only played the three tournaments since the COVID-19 break, so is coming in relatively fresh, though also down on match fitness compared to some others.

Among the other players entering the Yarra Valley Classic, Grand Slam winners Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza will be of concern to the top talents. Both are known stars on the Australian hard courts at Melbourne Park, and whilst neither dominated in the back half of the year, they can never be discounted. Looking down the entry list of 49 players, Danielle Collins performed strongly here in Australia 12 months ago, whilst Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska has shot up the rankings thanks to that effort. Petra Martic is the other Top 20 talent named in the draw, while 2019 Roland Garros finalist, Marketa Vondrousova is also competing.

The qualifiers who have made it into the main draw include Italian young gun Elisabetta Cocciaretto, US Open quarter finalist Tsvetana Pironkova, and the lowest ranked one in the draw, Great Britain’s Francesca Jones. Picking a winner will be difficult given the layoff for some players, though Kenin is a good shout, with potentially Anastasia Sevastova another one to keep an eye on as a dark horse at the event.

Picture credit: Darren Carroll/USTA