Tag: simona halep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUTUA MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADRID OPEN ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Barty birthday treat in come-from-behind win

WORLD number one Ash Barty has produced a sterling come-from-behind win for the best possible birthday present – to book a spot in the 2021 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final. The Australian dynamo won 4-6 7-6 6-2 in two hours and five minutes against fourth seed Ukrainan Elina Svitolina, to set up a decider date with fifth seed Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

On her 25th birthday, Barty weathered the Svitolina serving storm of nine aces, whilst only serving the one ace herself. She won 79 per cent of her first serve points off a 69.7 per cent clip, matching it with her opponent who had a high 75 per cent success rate off a 72.3 per cent clip. Barty did put pressure on the Svitolina second serve however, with the Ukrainian successful just 34.6 per cent of the time, and the Australian broke four times from 10 chances, as Svitolina broke three from five.

“I think you learn from every single match regardless of who the opponent is, but I think the Top 10 players and particularly the WTA Top 10 have, in the last five or six years, been exceptional quality,” Barty said post-match having beaten the Ukrainian for the third straight time after five straight losses to begin their head-to-heads.

“I think you have to bring your best to be able to compete,” she said. “You know when it forces some of your best tennis out of you. So, it’s nice, in the critical moments, to come up with some pretty good stuff yesterday and today again. But obviously you enjoy the challenge of playing against the world’s best as well.”

Barty will now take on Sabalenka, who took care of second seed Simona Halep in straight sets, 6-3 6-2. The win was a huge one for the Belarusian, who hit 28 winners to Halep’s 12, and only had four more unforced errors (21-17), whilst winning 38 of her 50 service points to blow away one of the top clay courters in the world. Sabalenka has been criticised in the past for not winning big tournaments, having claimed nine in total – including Abu Dhabi earlier this year, but a WTA 500 title would be a huge step in the right direction for the talented European.

Meanwhile in Istanbul, Belgian Elise Mertens cruised closer to another title, taking care of her biggest danger, third seed Russian Veronika Kudermetova. Mertens won 6-1 6-4 to book her spot in the final against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, after the latter knocked off Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX SEMI-FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 4-6 7-6 6-2
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 6-3 6-2

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL SEMI-FINAL RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated [3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-4 6-4

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

WTA Tour wrap: Big guns book spots in Stuttgart

FOUR of the top five players at the 2021 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, setting up a blockbuster pair of semi-finals. Top seed Ash Barty came from behind to post a three-set win over sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in an impressive 2-6 6-1 7-5 victory, one of three full-length quarter finals matches.

The match lasted two hours and one minute before Barty could book her spot in the final four, serving seven aces to five and winning 30 of 38 points off her first serve, as she punished Pliskova’s second serve (35.9 per cent success rate). Pliskova did break Barty three times from her only chances, but Barty set up a whopping 19 break point chances. She did only break five times in the end, but the pressure was immense.

“In a sense it was probably a match of two sets,” Barty said post-match. “In the first set I wasn’t able to build any pressure. Kaja was getting in and out of her serving games too quickly, and in turn was then having freedom on my service games. But being able to flip that switch right from the first game of the second set was important. To then make it more of a physical match was what we were after, and over time we were able to get the match back on my terms as much as we expected.”

Fourth seed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina also had to come from behind, fighting off two match points from seventh seed Czech Petra Kvitova to win in three sets, 6-7 7-5 6-2 to secure a semi-finals spot. The match lasted two hours and 37 minutes, and Svitolina dropped the first set tiebreaker 7-4, before managing to win eight of the last 10 games of the match to secure the victory.

“A big battle is always very satisfying, and you know that the hard work pays off,” Svitolina said post-match. “It’s always an unbelievable feeling to go through this kind of match.”

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka also had to battle through in three sets, eventually overcoming Estonian Anett Kontaveit, 7-5 4-6 6-1. The Belarusian won in two hours and 28 minutes in another epic struggle, serving seven aces to four, and winning 70.7 per cent of her first serve points off a 60.5 per cent clip. She broke five times from 10 chances against the Estonian, but more impressively saved 15 of 18 break point opportunities for her opponent.

Meanwhile over in Istanbul, top seed Elise Mertens breezed through in straight sets over Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-4, joining third seed Veronika Kudermetova in the final four after the Russian won in a come-from-behind victory over Romanian Ana Bogdan, 2-6 6-3 6-3. Also through to the semi-finals were Romanian Sorana Cirstea and Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk. Cirstea defeated Fiona Ferro 6-4 0-0 with the Frenchwoman having to retire after the first set, while Kostyuk went the full distance to win 7-5 4-6 6-3 over Croatian Ana Konjuh.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated [6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 2-6 6-1 7-5
[2] Simona Halep (ROU) defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
[4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [7] Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6-7 7-5 6-2
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Anett Kontaveit (EST) 7-5 4-6 6-1

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-4 6-4
[3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 2-6 6-3 6-3
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-4 0-0 RET
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Ana Konjuh (CRO) 7-5 4-6 6-3

Picture credit: Jimmie48/WTA

WTA Tour wrap: Halep cleans up in 56 minutes as seeds control proceedings

TWO seeds fell across a widely predictable day on the WTA Tour, with the two events seeing fairly convincing results across the board.

At the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Gand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, four world top 10s all proceeded to the quarter finals, with world number two and top seed Simona Halep doing it in style with a 6-1 6-3 sweep of Czech Marketa Vondrousova in just 56 minutes. Vondrousova’s sixth seed compatriot Karolina Pliskova was the only player taken to three sets. Pliskova may have been tested early by Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, but retained control following a 7-6(6) first set deficit to claim the 6-7 6-4 6-3 victory.

Elina Svitolina overcame former world number one and German hopeful Angie Kerber to ensure she made the quarters, escaping the first set tiebreaker to speed through the second set and come away with the 7-6 6-3 victory. Things went even easier for fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka, overcoming another German in Anna-Lena Friedsam in 79 minutes, 6-4 6-2, hitting five aces apiece by controlling proceedings much better to command victory. The remaining match saw the only upset of the day in Germany, as Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova claimed entry into her maiden clay court quarter final, ousting eighth seed Belinda Bencic in the process. The Russian required 81 minutes to carve out her third top 20 win for 2021, hitting 12 aces in the final match of the day to seal the deal, 6-1 7-5.

PORSCHE TENNIS GRAND PRIX ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[2] Simona Halep (ROM) defeated Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 6-1 6-3
[4] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-6 6-3
[5] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 6-4 6-2
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-7 6-4 6-3
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [8] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-1 7-5

 

Meanwhile, at the WTA 250 TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship in Istanbul, Turkey, top seed Elise Mertens remains in the hunt for the crown with another win on the board, this time over Swiss talent Viktorija Golubic, although she was certainly forced to fight for the upper hand in the 6-4 4-6 6-1 clash. The second set slip did not appear to worry Mertens though, as she got down to business to lock Golubic away in the third set. Mertens is joined by third seed Veronika Kudermetova in the quarter finals, following the Russian’s clean 6-4 6-3 sweep of Estonian hard-hitter Kaia Kanepi.

Fifth seed Czech Barbora Krejcikova was not quite so lucky though, well and truly overcome by Romanian Ana Bogdan who was relentless in the 6-3 6-3 victory. Whilst Krejcikova served at an excellent 80 per cent efficiency, she failed to really take control or win points off her service games which allowed Bogdan to find a look in and claim the win. The remaining match of the day saw unseeded duo Fiona Ferro and Vera Zvonareva go head-to-head, with the former taking out the win in an inefficient showing from both players. Ferro’s lesser errors paid off however, eventually running away with the 6-3 6-3 win in 89 minutes.

TEB BNP PARIBAS TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP ISTANBUL ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:

[1] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 6-4 4-6 6-1
[3] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-4 6-3
Ana Bogdan (ROM) defeated [5] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-3 6-3
Fiona Ferro (FRA) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-3 6-3

WTA Miami Open 1000: Ana Konjuh’s up some magic to power past Swiatek

CROATIAN former Top 20 talent Ana Konjuh has upset Roland Garros reigning champion Iga Swiatek in the third round of the WTA 1000 Miami Open overnight. The Croatian world number 338th turned 23 in December last year and still has a bright future ahead of her, smashing 40 winners on her way to a three-set win, 6-4 2-6 6-2.

Konjuh served 10 aces to five and only four double faults to six, winning 71.4 per cent of her first serve points to Swiatek’s 62.9 per cent. The Polish player broke her lower ranked opponent three times from seven chances, while the Croatian created 14 break point opportunities, but only converted four of them. The final two were enough to secure the third set victory comfortably and advance through to the next round.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Konjuh said post-match. “I just told myself I need to stay and be offensive and not give her many chances. That second set maybe I screwed up a little bit, but overall, credit to her. You know, she stepped up her game. But I just wanted to stay mentally in it in those key moments just to be able to, you know, produce some great shots. I did that.”

It was a mixed bag for the two Latvians in Miami, with Anastasija Sevastova not even needing to take the court in order to advance to the Round of 16, after third seed Simona Halep pulled out. Top seed Ash Barty won comfortably against the other Latvian in Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-2 in her first match outside Australia in more than 12 months.

Meanwhile both Belarusian’s advanced to the Round of 16, with Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka winning in straight sets against their respective opponents. The seventh seed Sabalenka won 7-6 6-4 defeating 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova, while Azarenka trumped 24th seed Angelique Kerber, 7-5 6-2.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina forced her way past 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in a first set tiebreaker and overall tight match 7-6 6-4, while two Czechs featured in the remaining two matches. Earlier in the day, Marketa Vondrousova toppled 11th seed Belinda Bencic 4-6 6-4 6-4, while Petra Kvitova smashed Great Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes on court.

WTA MIAMI OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) defeated [3] Simona Halep (ROU) W/O
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated [30] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[7] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [32] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 7-6 6-4
[9] Petra Kvitova (CZE) defeated [17] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-1 6-2
[19] Marketa Vondrousova ( CZE) defeated [11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 4-6 6-4 6-4
[14] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) defeated [24] Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-5 6-2
Ana Konjuh (CRO) defeated [15] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4 2-6 6-2

Picture credit: WTA Tour

2021 ATP/WTA 1000 Miami Open preview: Federer and Nadal withdraw as Barty returns

THE 2021 Miami Open is set to begin this week, played from Monday, March 22 through to Sunday, April 4, with the 1000 event expected to showcase some high calibre encounters across both the ATP and WTA Tours. Whilst the men’s list is missing a couple of notable names within the top 20, the women’s draw will boast just about all of the big names in the biz as the season rolls on despite COVID-19 restrictions still impacting proceedings. Both the men’s and women’s reigning Australian Open champions are set to compete, highlighting the strength of the respective events.

On the ATP Tour, the clear omissions from the draw include Rafael NadalDominic Thiem and Roger Federer, with the trio’s absence making for a huge hole in the draw and a real opportunity for the developing players coming through the ranks to make their mark. Looking down the list, it’s safe to say Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are the clear frontrunners in as first and second seeds with one title apiece to start the year, whilst Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are well within their chances here given the glaring absences. 2021 title-winners Andrey Rublev (Rotterdam title, 13-2 in 2021), Diego Schwartzman (Buenos Aires, 8-3) and David Goffin (Montpellier, 9-5) also register high in the draw, with the likes of Matteo Berrettini, Denis ShapovalovGael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut rounding out the top 11 or so players, pending shuffling from this week’s results. Factor in the explosiveness of the likes of Nick Kyrgios, who is still yet to confirm attendance, and the wealth of Spanish talent currently residing within and around the top 50, and there is so much that could go against the grain here.

Given it is an ATP 1000 event, there is no shortage of talent as players flock to Miami. Even heading down the list to lower ranked players, there are plenty of quality names across the board with in-form and young talent looking to add valuable points to their rankings. Two-time Miami champion Andy Murray is the big name wildcard at the event, joined by teen Carlos Alcaraz, Michael Mmoh, Hugo Gaston and Jack Draper in the main draw.

Heading to the women’s draw, and whilst there is more consistent top talent in the draw, that does not make it any easier to predict with the relatively even WTA Tour boasting a number of players who consistently step up at this level. Australian world number one and reigning 2019 Miami champion Ash Barty is reportedly set to compete after spending an unprecedented year way from the international circuit in 2020, joined by the ever formidable Naomi OsakaSimona HalepSofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina to round out the top five seeds. Also featuring are eight-time champion Serena Williams, who can never be overlooked in an event of this calibre, and a number of developing talents with French Open champion Iga Swiatek (2020) and 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu both set to take the court here. Jennifer BradyKarolina Pliskova and Madison Keys are another few who cannot be dismissed, as are the ever exciting teens Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova.

Factor in the evenness and unpredictability of the women’s draw, with realistically any number of the top 20 – or upwards of that – capable of beating anyone on their day, and Miami will have a real battle on its hands. The women’s main draw wildcards include Anna Kalinskaya, Ana Konjuh, Storm Sanders, Katrina Scott, Mayar Sherif, Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang, with qualifiers for both the women’s and men’s events set to play out over March 22-23.

2021 WTA 1000 preview: Dubai Tennis Championships

THE 2021 WTA Tour Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are set to begin on the weekend, with plenty of top talent expected to take the court in the United Arab Emirates. Reigning champion Simona Halep and world number one Ash Barty both withdrew from the tournament during the week citing injuries, whilst Australian Open champions Naomi Osaka (2021) and Sofia Kenin (2020) will also not compete.

Nevertheless, the WTA 1000 event will still boast a draw featuring 12 of the world’s top 20 players, making for a huge week of competition and plenty to play for with such a tight race amongst the WTA world rankings.

Coming in as top seed is Ukrainian and 2017 champion Elina Svitolina, and she is joined by top 10 talents Karolina PliskovaAryna Sabalenka and Petra Kvitova with Kiki Bertens rounding out the top five seeded positions. Czech duo Pliskova and Kvitova – another former champion here in 2013 – are always dangerous, capable of beating anyone on their day whilst Svitolina is more than capable of going far despite her recent form, which has seen her fail to make it past the quarter finals of a tournament since winning the Internationaux de Strasbourg last September. Meanwhile, Sabalenka has already put a title win on the board in 2021, taking out the first tournament of the year – the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open – and Bertens comes in completely fresh, hitting the court for the very first time this year.

There are a number of other top 20 players who are sure to set the competition alight, with the ever consistent Iga Swiatek coming into Dubai off the back of her second major title and current career high ranking of 15th in the world. Still only 19-years-old, she will be joined in the draw by a resurgent Victoria Azarenka whilst American Jessica Pegula will look to back up her excellent Australian Open quarter finals run with another strong effort here. Elena Rybakina will look to back up her 2020 effort, with the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships runner up sure to fly out of the gates this time around.

When it comes to nations well within their chances of going far, the United States has six competitors – with world number 19 Madison Keys leading the charge – whilst Czech Republic is not far behind with five. Russia and France boast four participants apiece, though neither nation features within the top 30. Perhaps one of the most intriguing entrants is Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova, who comes in at world number 1029, and joins compatriot Rybakina in the main draw. Tunisian Ons Jabeur will look to keep climbing up the rankings, whilst a couple of early knockouts from the Australian Open will hope to recapture their form at Dubai.

Australian Open Women’s Quarter finals wrap: Williams and Osaka to face off in semi

A REMATCH of the 2018 US Open final will take place on Saturday for the 2021 Australian Open semi-final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. For the rising Osaka, she will attempt to win her fourth Grand Slam, and second Australian Open – having won in 2019 – while Williams is gunning for a record-equalling 24th major title. While both players will still need two wins to do it, it promises to be a blockbuster semi-final.

In the quarter finals, both players won through in straight sets as Williams took down second seed Simona Halep 6-3 6-3 in convincing fashion. The match lasted just 81 minutes as the greatest player of the modern era left nothing on the court as she powered her way to victory. Slamming home 24 winners to nine, and only the 33 unforced errors to 19, the two differing styles were on show.

“I feel like I needed to have a good performance today, especially after my last match against her,” Williams said post-match. “So it was really important to try to play well today. … I knew I couldn’t play worse [than last time]. So that was a good thing.”

In the end, it was Williams’ six breaks to three that was the difference, as her serving – whilst inconsistent at 55 per cent – was hard to match when in with a 77 per cent success rate off her first serve. Williams also served four aces and hit five return winners in an impressive smashing.

Earlier in the day two-time Grand Slam winner Osaka breezed past giant-killer Hsieh Su-Wei, ending the run of the Chinese Taipei talent. The Japanese star won 6-2 6-2 in a quick 66 minutes to book her spot in the final four. Near unbeatable off her first serve, Osaka only dropped two points (23 of 25) and produced seven aces.

“Today it was really important to have a plan, just because she’s an opponent that I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” Osaka said post-match. “So just having something to structure myself and not get carried away with what she’s going to do was definitely really important.”

Remarkably, it could have been even more clinical, as Osaka only served at 48 per cent efficiency. She was much stronger off her service game though, as Su-Wei won just 13 of 52 points, whilst Osaka was impressive on the return with a 42 per cent success rate. The third seed also capitalised on four of 12 break point opportunities, whilst saving three chances for her opponent. With 10 more winners (24-14) and nine less unforced errors (14-23), Osaka was dominant in her victory.

“I feel like every time I play her, it’s really challenging because I never know exactly what she’s going to do with the ball,” Osaka said. “I think today I just really focused on my game plan. I think it was kind of very clear what I thought I had to do.”

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[10] Serena Williams (USA) defeated [2] Simona Halep (ROU) 6-3 6-3
[3] Naomi Osaka (JPN) defeated Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) 6-2 6-2

Picture credit: Getty Images