Tag: petra martic

2021 Adelaide International: Collins gatecrashes Barty Party as Storm Sanders becomes the last Aussie standing

DANIELLE Collins has sought revenge on world number one Ash Barty, overturning the result between the pair at last year’s Adelaide International to win in straight sets and book her place in the last eight. The American went down in three sets in last year’s semi-final showdown which saw Barty go on to win the title, but in the Round of 16, it was Collins who got the better of the Australian, stunning her 6-3 6-4 and condemning Barty to her second consecutive loss.

“I think I was really familiar with her game after losing to her three times,” Collins said post-match. “So I certainly got some great tennis lessons out of that and have learned from it.”

The American was the third from her nation to make her way into the quarter finals following Shelby Rogers‘ victory the day before, and young gun Coco Gauff‘s come-from-behind win over sixth seed Croatian Petra Martic. Gauff had to fight back from a set down to win 5-7 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 12 minutes, saving seven of her 10 break points, whilst breaking her opponent four times in a nail-biting encounter. She now takes on Rogers in an all-American affair.

For Collins, having disposed of one Grand Slam winner in Barty, she now has another to overcome. The unseeded American faces Iga Swiatek in the quarter finals after the Pole Roland Garros winner defeated Australian Maddison Inglis in straight sets, 6-1 6-3. On a day that was a disaster for seeds, Swiatek held firm and won through to the final eight, joining second seed Belinda Bencic as the only other seed through to the quarter finals.

The biggest upset of the day – even more so than Collins over Barty – was Storm Sanders‘ triumph over Yulia Putintseva. The 26-year-old world number 292nd had no fears against the seventh seed and world number 28, winning 6-4 5-7 6-1 in a tight affair. In a remarkable second match since they last played nine years ago when they were teenagers, the now 26-year-olds engaged in a two-hour and 18-minute battle which saw Sanders emerge victorious. She saved eight of 10 break points, whilst capitalising on four of nine herself to make her way into the quarter finals to take on Bencic.

In the other results, Latvian Anastasia Sevastova will lock horns with Swiss rising talent Jil Teichmann after both won their respective matches. Sevastova knocked out Christina McHale in straight sets, 6-4 6-3, while Teichmann came from behind to defeat eighth seed Chinese talent, Wang Qiang, 3-6 6-3 6-3.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

Danielle Collins (USA) defeated [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-3 6-4
[2] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-1 6-3
[5] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-1 6-3
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [6] Petra Martic (CRO) 5-7 6-3 6-4
Storm Sanders (AUS) defeated [7] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4 5-7 6-1
Jil Teichmann (SUI) defeated [8] Wang Qiang (CHN) 3-6 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) defeated Christina McHale 6-4 6-3

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/James Elsby

2021 Adelaide International: Rogers downs Konta in day of upsets

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 Adelaide International WTA preview: Barty Party not over down under

THOSE Australians wanting more Ash Barty will get what they wished for after the world number one made a surprise late charge at the 2021 Adelaide International WTA 500 event. The tournament was initially featuring a stacked field, but with many of them reaching deep into the Australian Open, withdrawals had left the tournament without a Top 10 player. Then came Barty.

The Australian reached the quarter finals of her home Grand Slam during the week, and has opted to play another tournament Down Under having missed out on so much tennis in the past 12 months. Unsurprisingly, the tournament committee was more than happy to hand her a wildcard alongside fellow Australians Olivia Gadecki – coming off a stunning win over Grand Slam winner Sofia KeninSam Stosur and Ajla Tomljanovic.

The field for the Adelaide International is not the strongest one, but still features some great young talent alongside some players really hoping to build better form in 2021. Roland Garros reigning champion Iga Swiatek could loom as one of the main threat’s to Barty’s crown, with the 17th ranked Pole coming in as the fifth seed. Fellow young gun, Yulia Putintseva is seventh seed and one of seven Top 30 competitors at the event.

Elise Mertens is the one to watch, with the tricky Belgian flying under the radar at times, but has the capacity to push for a Top 10 spot, currently ranked 16th and coming in as the fourth seed. Belinda Bencic and Johanna Konta round out the top four players at the event, with both the Swiss up-and-comer and British talent looking to have better outings than their third and first round exits at Melbourne Park. Sixth seed Petra Martic is in the same boat, exiting the first Grand Slam of the year in the Round of 128 and now the world number 19 is hoping to impress here.

The withdrawals from the tournament include Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady, and young guns Bianca Andreescu, Elena Rybakina, Dayana Yastremska and Marketa Vondrousova. Instead a number of Chinese and French hopes have come into the tournament, with Zhang Shuai, Zheng Saisai and Wang Qiang joining eighth seed Qiang Wang in the draw, as well as Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. American duo Danielle Collins and Shelby Rogers are also among the inclusions following the withdrawals.

While the Australian Open did not go to plan for the world number one, the Barty Party is predicted to roll on in Adelaide, with the Australian star a winner her 12 months ago and is clearly the best player in the draw. Mertens and Swiatek are the biggest threats to her crown based on their form, while one of the other seeds could finally click into gear in 2021 and cause some headaches.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Women’s Round of 128 wrap: Barty dominates as Sherif first Egyptian woman to make it to grand slam second round

A flurry of exciting players joined the Australian Open fray on Day 2 of proceedings at Melbourne Park, with world number one Ash Barty making her Open return in smashing fashion, while the likes of Sofia KeninElina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all came out flying as the top seeds of the day. In a highly competitive day of action – with nine matches going to three sets and four of those hitting the two-hour and 30-minute mark – just a couple of seeded competitors fell, with 12th seed Victoria Azarenka leading the pack after an excellent outing from American Jessica Pegula, while Johanna Konta retired from her 6-4 0-2 encounter with Slovenian Kaja JuvanPetra Martic struggled to maintain composure after Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic took out the first set tiebreaker, eventually going down 7-5 3-6 6-4, while Maria Sakkari was error-ridden in defeat, and 31st seed Zhang Saisai was exposed by American Ann Li who hit 22 winners to Zhang’s two to come away with a 6-2 6-0 victory in 47 minutes.

But while a 47-minute victory was one thing, Barty’s 6-0 6-0 utter domination of Danka Kovinic was another, with the Australian disposing of the world number 82 in just 44 minutes. Collecting 10 winners for five unforced error’s compared to Kovinic’s three and 28, Barty dismantled her opposition on home soil and proved far too good for the Montenegrin, who spent 20,120 minutes in hotel quarantine in Melbourne for a devastating 44 minutes of play. Barty is joined by a couple of compatriots in the second round, as Daria Gavrilova and Sam Stosur were both successful on their opening day. World number 387 Gavrilova stunned 64th ranked Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo on return with a 6-1 first set setting up a straight sets 6-1 7-5 victory, while Stosur downed compatriot Destanee Aiava 6-4 6-4. Kenin’s outing against fellow Australian Maddison Inglis may not have been quite as dominant, but she still came away with a classy 7-5 6-4 victory over the Australian who is still yet to win an match on the WTA Tour, while a duo of green and gold wildcards in Astra Sharma and Arina Rodionova will join Inglis and Aiava on the sidelines.

Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to make it past the first round at a Grand Slam with her 7-5 7-5 victory over Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet, joined by Danilovic and Liudmila Samsonova as the only qualifiers to make it through the day, while young gun Coco Gauff continued her running grand slam form with a 6-3 6-2 sweep of Jil Teichmann to head into yet another second round at a major tournament. Powerhouses Pliskova and Svitolina may have had supremely different playing times – 47 minutes and two hours, respectively – but both also head into the second round, after disposing of Jasmine Paolini and Marie Bouzkova, while the seeded duo is joined in the second round by a flurry of top talent as 2020 Australian Open runner up Garbine MuguruzaBelinda BencicElise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit all came away with excellent wins, as did Jennifer Brady, Karolina MuchovaYulia PutintsevaDonna Vekic and Ekaterina Alexandrova with all bar five seeds making it out alive on Day 2 of the Open.

The second round of action begins at Melbourne Park today, with the day session headlined by the likes of Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, while the night session will see Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep take the court against unseeded opposition in Caroline Garcia and Ajla TomljanovicVenus Williams will look to continue her run when she takes on Italian qualifier Sara Errani, while Iga Swiatek will take on Errani’s higher ranked compatriot Camila Giorgi.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMEN’S ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Danka Kovinic (MON) 6-0 6-0
[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated [WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 7-5 6-4
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-3 7-6
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-0 6-2
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-5 6-4
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated [13] Johanna Konta (GBR) 4-6 2-0 RET
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [LL] Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Olga Danilovic (SRB) defeated [16] Petra Martic (CRO) 7-5 3-6 6-4
[18] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-1 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [20] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-2 0-6 6-3
[21] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 7-5 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Aliona Bolsova (ESP) 6-1 6-3
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-5 6-2
[26] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[28] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Wang Yifan (CHN) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[29] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated [31] Zhang Saisai (CHN) 6-2 6-0
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3 6-2
[WC] Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-1 7-5
Danielle Collins (USA) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 6-3 6-1
Nao Hibino (JPN) defeated [WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) 2-6 6-3 7-5
Madison Brengle (USA) defeated [WC] Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-1 6-2
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (EST) 6-3 6-1
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 7-6 7-6
[Q] Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-4 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) defeated Barbora Strycova (CZE) 6-2 6-2
Zhu Lin (CHN) defeated [Q] Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-1 6-1
[WC] Sam Stosur (AUS) defeated [WC] Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Mayar Sherif (EGY) defeated [Q] Chloe Paquet (FRA) 7-5 7-5
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) defeated [Q] Clara Burel (FRA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [Q] Francesca Jones (GBR) 6-4 6-1
Mona Barthel (GER) defeated [Q] Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 3-6 6-4 6-4

WTA 500 wraps: 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

Is Kazakhstan an underrated tennis nation?

WHEN many think of strong up-and-coming tennis nations, countries such as the United States, Australia, Italy and Russia come to mind, but when it comes to quality over quantity and over both the ATP and WTA Tours, it is hard to discount Kazakhstan as an underrated nation. The country that is best known for the Borat franchise, Kazakhstan has plenty of promise on the tennis court with three players aged 24 and under in the top 60 of the world, whilst a host of teenagers are pushing their case going forward.

On the women’s tour, the two top stars are Elena Rybakina and Yulia Putintseva. Many might not have been too familiar with the 21-year-old Rybakina coming into this year, but the talented youngsters took the world by storm in 2020, becoming the top ranked Kazakh and moving as many as 20 places into the top 20 and leapfrogging Putintseva.

Rybakina could have been in the top 10 had all her finals gone to plan. Coming into 2020, the then 20-year-old had won a title in Bucharest, before coming runners-up in Nanchang. Six finals later, Rybakina would add just the one title in Hobart at the start of the year, but make finals in Shenzhen, St Petersburg, Dubai and Strasbourg, three of that quartet in the first half of the season. She reached 17 in the world and announced herself on the biggest stages.

Her Round of 32 run at the Australian Open was her debut win at a major, having bowed out in the first round at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows last year. A straight sets loss to world number one Ash Barty was hardly a disgrace, and her other finals losses came to Ekaterina Alexandrova, Kiki Bertens, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina, the latter three of whom were all in the top 10. Rybakina became a lot more consistent, and while her year finished off in disappointing fashion – back-to-back losses in the second round at Roland Garros and first round at Ostrava – the youngster showed what she is capable of in the future.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old Putintseva does not quite have the same accolades, having won the one title in 2019 at Nurnberg after runners-up titles in St Petersburg and Guangzhou the years preceding that title. Having played at Grand Slams since she was a teenager, Putintseva has made two quarter finals at Roland Garros and in 2020, cracked through to the quarter finals at the US Open.

She will be disappointed she was unable to progress past that final eight after stunning Petra Martic before going down to giant-killer Jennifer Brady. A week later she beat Martic again, as well as Rybakina, before losing to Halep in Rome. Her second round exit at Roland Garros to eventual finalist Nadia Podoroska was disappointing, but she was fairly consistent in the ones she beat below her this year.

On the ATP Tour circuit, Alexander Bublik is still only 23, and has shown moments of absolute brilliance, but inconsistency. A huge server, Bublik won against his first Top 10 player this year at Roland Garros when he downed Gael Monfils. The issue being, it was his only Grand Slam win all year with first round losses at the Australian Open and US Open. He finished with a 14-16 record in 2020 which is hardly glamorous, but he seems to do well in deciding sets, winning five of seven this year, backing up his overall 19-8 record.

Since reaching the quarter finals at Hamburg – notching up wins over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tommy Paul along the way, he has only won two of six matches and finished the year with a less than ideal straight sets loss to Lorenzo Sonego after a straight sets loss to Mackenzie McDonald. That came in Nur-Saltan in his home country after defeating McDonald a fortnight earlier in St Petersburg.

He has the talent – the aforementioned wins and other victories over Benoit Paire, Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the year attest to that – but he just has to put it all together, and in Grand Slams, if he is to step up to the next level. Nonetheless, Bublik is a great white hope for Kazakhstan going forward, and is quickly joining his two female compatriots in the top 50 of the world.

Picture: Getty Images

Top seed bundled out as past Grand Slam winners step up in Ostrava

TOP seed Elina Svitolina is out of the Ostrava Open with her season seemingly now over on a low note, going down to Greek sensation, Maria Sakkari in straight sets. With just one international tournament remaining in the year on the WTA Tour, Svitolina looks to have ended her season with the second round exit as Sakkari booked her spot in the quarter finals, 6-3 6-3.

Sakkari hit six aces to one and dominated her serve, only dropping five of her 29 first serve points at 83 per cent effectiveness. Despite this, the Ukrainian still made the most of her chances, breaking twice from three opportunities, but it was Sakkari who really tightened the screws, breaking five times to ensure she was able to get away with a straights sets win in an hour and 16 minutes.

The result was one of three second round matches on the day, as the other two featured a seed battling a qualifier. The upset of the tournament so far has to go to Spanish up and comer, Sara Sorribes Tormo with the qualifer ending the good form of eighth seed Estonian Anett Kontaveit. The world number 73 downed her 22nd ranked opponent 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 27 minutes to advance to the quarter finals in a shock result. Sorribes Tormo battled away on serve to break four times to one, flying out of the blocks early and taking control and being much more reliable on serve. She won 69 and 57 per cent of her first and second serves off a 67 per cent efficiency, while Kontaveit was just 47 and 53 per cent off 68 per cent.

Sorribes Tormo now awaits the winner of third seed Aryna Sabalenka and United States’ young gun Coco Gauff in quarter finals. The other second round match completed was the in-form and revitalised Victoria Azarenka who toppled Czech qualifier Barbora Krejicova after a slow start. Surprised out of the blocks early, Azarenka managed to peg back her opponent to win in three sets, 2-6 6-2 6-1 in two hours and 13 minutes. She served six aces and was able to magnificently limit the damage on serve, with the only two breaks against her coming in the first set. In total she saved a whopping 14 of 16 break points, whilst capitalising on four of six against Krejicikova who could consider herself unlucky not to win.

Now the fourth seed could face one of seventh seed Elise Mertens or another Czech in Karolina Muchova who face off tomorrow. Whilst Muchova booked her place in the second round yesterday, it was Mertens who easily breezed past United States’ teenager Amanda Anisimova. Mertens showed her extra experience against the world number 30 with the Belgian triumphing 6-2 6-3 in an hour and 13 minutes. Her 2020 year has been sensational with a 28-11 record and that continued with an impressive second round win in Ostrava. She won 76 per cent of her first serve points off a 70 per cent clip, whilst Anisimova struggled by comparison with just 57 per cent won off 73 per cent efficiency.

Mertens also took her chances when they came, breaking four times from nine chances during the match, whilst Anisimova had five chances but could not convert any into breaks. She finishes the season ranked 30th in the world at this point. One player who could be moving into the top 30 with a good run is former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko who smashed fifth seed Croatian Petra Martic 6-3 6-1 in the second round. Ostapenko is known to be a giant-killer in events and she did it again in Ostrava, moving through to the last eighth to defeat Martic for the first time in three attempts. The match lasted just 58 minutes but a 78 per cent efficiency off her first serve – compared to Martic’s 53 per cent – was the difference between the players, as well as five breaks from six opportunities and saving seven of eight of Martic’s chances. Ostapenko now takes on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur for a chance to face Sakkari in the quarter finals.

Picture: Jimmie48/WTA

Qualifers continue to rule as three top 30 players knocked out in Ostrava

THERE were plenty of upsets to pick from on the latest day at the Ostrava Open, though the three-set win by 75th ranked Russian qualifier Daria Kasatkina against top 20 talent Elena Rybakina might have been the pick of the bunch. The 23-year-old Russian has achieved a lot more than many might expect of her in her career, winning two career WTA Tour titles and winning more than $6 million USD. Despite this, not many expected her to topple arguably the most in-form player of 2020 with the Kazakhstan 21-year-old Rybakina having made five finals this year, winning one.

The match lasted an hour and 52 minutes with Kasatkina getting up over the sixth seed in Ostrava, 6-2 3-6 6-3 to book her spot in the next round. Given 14cm stands between them with the 170cm Russian not known for her power, whilst the opposite could be said for Rybakina, Kasatkina had a consistent serving efficiency of 73 per cent, winning 62 per cent off her first serve. Rybakina still broke five times during the match, but it was Kasatkina’s ability to punish her younger opponent off both the first and second serves, winning 51 and 56 per cent respectively against her opponent. That effort culminated in seven breaks from 12 chances in 13 return games and earned the underdog a memorable, hard-fought win.

Coming into the match everyone knew the pair would be counter contrasting styles, but indeed it was the consistent counterpunching of Kasatkina that got the job done. Producing 15 winners and only 14 unforced errors, the conservative talent was happy to weather a barrage of powerful shots from Rybakina, who hit 35 winners, but also a high 49 unforced errors. The Russian said she knew how she could reduce the damage and get the win.

“I can say that I beat her with tactics,” Kasatkina said post-match. “At the beginning I was trying to play a bit more aggressive to move her – but she was the one who started to move me. “During the match I changed the plan of my game and it worked out very well.”

Kasatkina will now face off against another in-form player in American Jennifer Brady who upset Dayana Yastremska. Whilst Brady is technically ranked three places higher – 26th to 29th – the Ukrainian was favourite heading into the match given her talent and overall ability. Brady’s form – which included a run to the US Open semi-finals that propelled her into the top 30 – has been undeniable this year, and she got it done again in just over two hours with a 3-6 7-6 6-1 victory, storming away with the win in the final set.

Powering her way to victory with 12 aces and winning 77 per cent of her first serve points, Brady was dominant after the first set with eight aces and only one double fault coming in the next two. Yastremska was inconsistent off serve, though she did break Brady three times which helped her win the first set and have a chance at the second set before dropping the tiebreak in an agonising 8-6. The American was too strong from there, going on with it and joining fellow American, Coco Gauff in the second round at Ostrava.

Gauff had to come through qualifying in this event, but the 16-year-old booked her place in the Round of 16 with a 7-5 6-4 triumph over Katerina Siniakova. Gauff is ranked 10 places higher than Siniakova – 55th to 65th – but has been a little inconsistent in 2020 which is what to expect from someone having only just been allowed to tour more permanently this year. In 95 minutes, the Delray Beach local won 7-5 6-4, breaking five times from 11 chance to her opponents’ three from five. Gauff had more power off her racquet but again was hit and miss with seven faults to her two aces, and only won 29 per cent of her points off her second serve. She was strong enough off her first though, winning a crucial break in the second set for it to be the different and move through to face third seed Aryna Sabalenka in the next round.

The other three matches completed during the day were very one side, with the closest encounter being a 73-minute victory to Russian qualifier, Veronika Kudermetova who toppled Croatian world number 31, Donna Vekic. Kudermetova won 6-2 6-4 to make her way through to the next round. Meanwhile fellow Czech, Karolina Muchova had somewhere to be finishing off Chinese talent Shuai Zhang in 59 minutes, winning 6-1 6-1, whilst the other Czech involved in a one-sided contest – Barbora Strycova – was on the receiving end, bowing out to Tunisian Ons Jabeur, 6-2 6-2 in 74 minutes.

Tomorrow the final three first round matches take to the court during the day session with Amanda Anisimova taking on seventh seed Elise Mertens and Latvian qualifier Jelena Ostapenko locking horns with Croatian Petra Martic in two classic contests. Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka also meets Czech qualifier Barbora Krejcikova, whilst second round matches begin at night with top seed Elina Svitolina playing her first match against Greek talent Maria Sakkari, whilst eighth seed Anett Kontaveit meets Spanish qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Picture: Jimmie48/WTA

2020 WTA Ostrava Open preview: Elite players return for last Premier event

CZECH Republic will play host to a brand new WTA Tour tournament designed to extend the season after the entire Asian season – including the WTA Finals – was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead what that means is this is arguably the last chance for many players to run out on court in a a top notch WTA Tour event and the world’s best players will descend on the Premier event.

While the top two in the world – Ash Barty and Simona Halep – will be out of the event, as will US Open winner Naomi Osaka, but the overall strength of the field is incredible considering it is not a Grand Slam event. Played on the hard courts of Ostrava, the 2020 J & T Banka Ostrava Open will run from October 19-25 with 28 competitors battling it out for half a million in USD.

In an unusual set of circumstances, the Ostrava Open sought, and received exemption from the nation-wide ban of indoor sports. Transforming a multi-purpose centre – which was most recently an ice hockey centre  – into a fully functioning indoor arena, there will be plenty of atmosphere at the event despite the restrictions. Unfortunately a few more players withdrew just prior to the event including Sofia Kenin, Petra Kvitova, Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Madison Keys, Iga Swiatek and Kiki Bertens.

The home nation will naturally have great representation, led by second seed Karolina Pliskova, as well as Barbora Strycova, Kristyna Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova and Karolina Muchova who are all competing in the event.

Amongst the in-form players at the tournament, Belarussian duo Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka will look to make a statement, as will Ukrainian duo, Elina Svitolina and Dayana Yastremska.

Petra Martic is also there, whilst Elena Rybakina, Elise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit can never be ruled out of contention. Maria Sakkari, Jennifer Brady and Karolina Muchova are the other confirmed entries at this stage.

Second seed Pliskova might start as the favourite in the event, but her form has been inconsistent of late, with only a run to the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia amongst second round losses at both the US Open and Roland Garros. In fact, since her win at Brisbane and excluding Rome, Pliskova has a win-loss record of 6-6 this season which is a far shout from what a world number three should have.

The outside favourite should be Azarenka who has bolted all the way up to world number 14. Forgiving her second round shock loss to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in Paris, the Belarusian dual Grand Slam winner has had eight top 30 wins since August 21, and went 15-1 at one stage on her way to the US Open final. Back on her beloved hard court, Azarenka is always a danger.

One thing is for sure, with only the Austrian Ladies tournament at Linz in mid-November between now and the traditional 125k event in Limoges, France, this is likely to be the last time we see the majority of the elite WTA Tour players out on court this year.

Picture: Getty Images