Tag: veronika kudermetova

2021 Adelaide International: Qualifiers share spotlight as main draw takes the court

DAY 2 of the Adelaide International qualifying round saw the WTA 500 tournament’s main draw begin, with plenty of hotly contested matches on centre court during the first day of the official competition, as Anastasija Sevastova, Wang QiangShelby Rogers and Danielle Collins headed into the Round of 16 with relative ease.

Sevastova was the first to win through to the Round of 16, defeating Caroline Garcia in 81 minutes 6-2 6-4. It was a solid first serve efficiency that saw the Latvian take out the victory, winning 65 per cent of first serve points off a 72.7 per cent clip, controlling the match despite the Frenchwoman fighting back in the second. A game-for-game first set between eighth seed Wang and wildcard Olivia Gadecki – who sits barely within the top 400 at 399th in the world – drew plenty of eyes as the Australian challenged Wang, before the Chinese talent ran away with the second set and eventual victory with her ability to win off her first serve paying dividends with an effectiveness of close to 88 per cent.

On the first and second show courts, it was the underdogs that showcased their form as the likes of Storm Sanders and Liudmila Samsonova reigned supreme and headed into the main draw. Sanders had an excellent outing against American Caty McNally, downing the ninth seed in 75 minute 6-2 6-3. Whilst not as huge a scalp as Sanders’ victory – ranking 292nd in the world to McNally’s 118th – 10th seed and 117th ranked Samsonova got the chocolates over Japanese fifth seed and world number 86 Misaki Doi, 7-6 6-3. Meanwhile, an excellent showing from Latvian Kaja Juvan saw the 20-year-old speed away to an early lead, before 16-year-old top seed Coco Gauff clapped back midway through the second to force a deciding set after a huge come from behind effort, eventually winning 3-6 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes.

A mammoth effort from Maddison Inglis saw the Australian join the winners list with an excellent outing against third seed Christina McHale. Whilst the American seemed to have all proceedings going her way early, a stellar comeback across the second and third sets handed Inglis her entry into the main draw and a chance at her maiden WTA Tour win. With a 65.6 per cent win rate on her first serve off a 78 per cent clip, Inglis was far more effective on serve and utilised her service speed to knock off the world number 85, 4-6 6-2 6-1 in just under two hours.

The remaining two Round of 32 encounters saw a fired-up Rogers fly through the first set against Veronika Kudermetova, before the Russian bit back in the second to force a tiebreaker but unable to rein in the American, as Rogers’ compatriot Collins downed Zheng Saisai and Madison Brengle won through to the main draw alongside Italian Jasmine Paolini.

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: Reigning champion Kenin falters

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

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

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

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

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

“I just couldn’t execute my shots.”

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

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

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

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

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

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

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: 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

Stunning Sabalenka collects third straight title in Abu Dhabi

IT rarely looked ever in doubt from the first serve through to the final point in the tournament, with Aryna Sabalenka dropping just one set on her way to her third straight title. The Belarusian fourth seed stormed through to her ninth overall WTA Tour singles title at the brand new Abu Dhabi WTA Tour Women’s Tennis Open, collecting the 500 points and rising three places to a career-high seventh in the world.

She was simply a class above against Russian Veronika Kudermetova, who deserved her place in the final having overcome second seed Elina Svitolina and 10th seed Anett Kontaveit along the way. In the end though, Sabalenka powered her way to a 6-2 6-2 victory, reminiscent of everything she has built in the past three tournaments, and her 15th straight win ahead of heading to the Australian summer.

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning, and I’m really happy to start this season with a title,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Every final is really something special, and I would say, finals are a different competition. “This final was really nice, and I would say a really fast game.”

Having won at smaller events in Ostrava and Linz at the end of 2020, Abu Dhabi was a 500 event, and a much stronger field. Sabalenka’s ability to win it showed that her form could match up against the best, and while a number of Top 5 players were not there, she easily cast aside Maria Sakkari who had accounted for Australian Open reigning champion Sofia Kenin the match before, on Kenin’s preferred hard court.

Sabalenka hit 18 winners for only 13 unforced errors, a ratio that has been common during her winning streak, and something that had always troubled her in the past. Kudermetova hit the 13 winners for 24 unforced errors in what was her first ever WTA Tour final. The Belarusian fourth seed broke her opponent six times from 12 opportunities to really put the pressure on.

“In the first two games of her serve, I was trying to see what she was doing on her serve,” Sabalenka said post-match. “Then, I don’t know, I just felt where she was serving, and I was just following my feelings, and it worked really well. I also put a lot of pressure on her in my service games.”

The match lasted 65 minutes before Sabalenka was declared the winner, having served at a 58.7 per cent clip including five aces and winning 70.4 per cent of her first serve points. Kudermetova struggled off her second serve, winning just four of 25 points off a 53.7 per cent efficiency, opening the door for the powerful Belarusian to beak her. The 46th ranked Russian broke twice from six chances, but could not do enough to challenge the red-hot Sabalenka.

As both players prepare to head to Australia for the extended break, Sabalenka enters inside the Top 8 players in the world, crucial given it means she will not face another Top 8 player until the quarter finals at the Australian Open, something that could finally see her advance beyond the third round at Melbourne Park. In 12 appearances at the four majors, Sabalenka has reached the fourth round once – at the 2018 US Open – but has not made a quarter final yet.

Kudermetova moved up 10 spots by making the final, and now sits at 36th in the world a couple of weeks out of the Australian Open. With a good result in the next WTA Tour tournament, the 23-year-old Russian could find herself seeded at Melbourne Park. She also moved above both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova to be the second highest ranked Russian – Ekaterina Alexandrova is 33rd – with four Russians in seven spots between 33rd and 39th.

Now the WTA Tour has a two week break as players quarantine ahead of the string of Australian tournaments in Melbourne starting January 31.

Picture credit: WTA/Jimmie48

Sabalenka eyes off third straight title as she faces first-time finalist in Abu Dhabi

ARYNA Sabalenka has powered her way past some of the world’s best in the past three tournaments, showing a couple of months off and a change of year has not slowed down her remarkable winning streak. The Belarusian star won the final two WTA Tour tournaments of 2020, and has raced through the 2021 Abu Dhabi Women’s Tennis Open to reach yet another final.

The fourth seed booked her place in the final courtesy of a 6-3 6-2 triumph over Greek ninth seed Maria Sakkari, who herself was fresh off a 10-game winning streak having been 2-6 2-2 against top seed Sofia Kenin in the quarter finals before winning in three sets. The victory brought up Sabalenka’s 14th consecutive win heading into the extended summer Down Under, and if she can triumph in the final, will make it three consecutive titles for the power player.

In the match, Sabalenka produced eight aces to two, and won a whopping 82.8 per cent of her first serve points, and 68.8 per cent of her second serve, only dropping 10 points in total off her serve. Sakkari was not as strong, winning just five of 19 off her second serve and was broken four times to one, as Sabalenka took control.

“I’m just focusing on the right things,” Sabalenka said post-match. “This helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins, and secondly, to keep winning. I think I just need to keep focusing on my game, keep focusing on the movement on the court, and try to do everything I can in the moment. I think this works really well.”

The match lasted just 57 minutes in a one-sided show, as Sabalenka hit 22 winners and only eight unforced errors – an area that prior to the winning streak had let her down – against a quality player.

“I just want to improve everything in my game,” Sabalenka said. “I think there are still so many things to go and to improve. “I would say focusing on the right things helps me have fun on the court, and it makes my life a little bit easier. “I’m just enjoying the process and enjoying the game.”

The one player standing between the fourth seed and a third straight title is Russian Veronika Kudermetova. The world number 46 booked her place in the final having already guaranteed herself a career-high ranking that will surpass her 38th in the world 12 months ago. At 23-years-old she was the more experienced player in her semi-final, defeating 18-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets, 7-6 6-4.

The first tiebreak went 10-8 before Kudermetova could finally claim victory, and there was not much between the players all match. The Russian produced seven aces to six, and won 67.5 per cent of her first serve points to 60.9 per cent, as well as 39.1 to 29.2 per cent of their second serve points. Breaking five times to four – the last being a crucial second serve break, Kudermetova continued her good form of the tournament to bring up her first ever WTA Tour singles final.

Kudermetova reached the final off the back off a massive upset win over second seed Elina Svitolina, having toppled 10th seed and one of the in-form players of the 2020 season in Anett Kontaveit in the first round. Along the way she also claimed victories over Bianca Turati and Paula Badosa.

“I think it was a really tough match today,” Kudermetova said post-match. “I think we were a little bit nervous. “It was really tough, but I tried to be focused until the end.”

“I think I have a little bit more experience than Marta. “She’s really young, she’s 18. “Today, I think it was the key, [that] I really have a little bit more experience than her.”

Kudermetova said she was looking forward to her match against Sabalenka, knowing full well she was going in as underdog and looked to just continue to play the way she had been, without pressure or expectations.

“We’re friendly, and I think it’s a really interesting and fun match tomorrow,” she said. “From my side, I don’t have expectations for tomorrow, because Aryna, she is a Top 10 player, she plays unbelievable, she’s played really good here.”

“I think she’ll have a little bit more pressure than me because she’s supposed to win tomorrow. “She’s stayed Top 10, she’s already won two tournaments in a row. “Tomorrow, I’ll play free, I’ll try to play relaxed and try to enjoy my final.”

Picture: WTA/Jimmie48

Three-set thrillers see come-from-behind victories

ACTION heated up in the quarter finals of the Abu Dhabi WTA 500 event with each of the four matches going the full three sets to determine a winner. In three of those four matches, the winner dropped the first set before coming back to win, including one 6-0 first set loss.

That disastrous first set belonged to Marta Kostyuk, with the 18-year-old Ukrainian winning just nine points in a horrible start to the match, but found a way to turn it around against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. The next set was almost a complete reversal of fortunes as Kostyuk won it 6-1, before a tighter third set resulted in the Ukrainian getting it done, 0-6 6-1 6-4 to advance through to the semi-finals.

“I started to move my legs better, I started to look at the ball better, and I think the whole picture changed,” Kostyuk said post-match of the first set disaster. “I stopped missing, and obviously I know that if I’m in the right spot, if I’m at the ball, it’s really tough to get, especially when I’m hitting close to the line.”

Kostyuk now takes on Russian Veronika Kudermetova who shocked the Ukrainian’s compatriot and second seed, Elina Svitolina. Kudermetova won 5-7 6-3 7-6 in a hard-fought two-hour and 35-minute epic contest. Both players were up for the fight, but the talented Russian stood tall when it counted with a crucial break in the second set, and then winning the third set tiebreaker, 7-3.

“It was a really tough match,” Kudermetova said post-match. “I think we both played very good. I tried to stay focused until the end. In the first set, I also played not bad, but I didn’t have a lot of chances, Elina played unbelievable. She had good serves today. I tried to fight, I tried to stay focused, and do everything for the win.”

Whilst the matches had their ups and downs, none were stranger than Maria Sakkari‘s victory over top seed Sofia Kenin. The Greek ninth seed was outclassed by the Australian Open winner 6-2 in the first set, and at one point, the score was 6-2 2-2 in Kenin’s favour. From there, somehow Sakkari piled on 10 straight games in a complete blitz to win 2-6 6-2 6-0 and power her way into the semi-finals.

“Beating these players this week it means a lot,” Sakkari said post-match. “I’m playing players that I’ve never played, like [Muguruza] yesterday, so I have a better idea if I play them again. “So in general it gives me a lot of confidence starting the year like that and I’m super happy to travel to Australia with some good matches with me.”

Sakkari will need to take that momentum and roll with it in the final four, coming up against the most in-form player on Tour. Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka dropped her first set in 11 matches, but continued her winning streak by bringing up her 13th consecutive win. The Belarusian powerhouse defeated Elena Rybakina 6-4 4-6 6-3 in just under two hours to advance through to the semi-finals.

“I’m really happy that already at the beginning of the season I’ve played against different styles,” Sabalenka said post-match. “That’s really good and I’m really happy. It’s giving me a lot of advantage. It’s perfect to start the season like that after the pre-season. “I will prepare myself, doesn’t matter who I’m playing against. “My coach is preparing me really well and I know I will be ready for each player.”

ABU DHABI QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[9] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated [1] Sofia Kenin (USA) 2-6 6-2 6-0
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated [2] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 5-7 6-3 7-6
[4] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated [6] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-4 4-6 6-3
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 0-6 6-1 6-4

WTA Abu Dhabi Round of 32 wrap: Gasanova shocks Pliskova in debut tournament

RUSSIAN rising star, Anastasia Gasanova has shocked third seed Czech Karolina Pliskova, claiming her first ever Top 100 victory with a 6-2 6-4 triumph in the Round of 32 at the Abu Dhabi WTA 500 event. Gasanova had no troubles knocking off the former world number one, having come through qualifying and then toppling former Top 25 German, Mona Barthel in the first round. Ranked 261st in the world, Gasanova is playing her first ever WTA Tour main draw event, having only reached qualifying in non-ITF events previously.

“It was not me on the court,” Gasanova said post-match. “I was so sure of myself. “I’m really happy right now. “I’m really surprised, but when I woke up today, I thought, ‘Why not? Why can’t I win this match? “Actually, I thought I would lose in qualies or something like that, but I just kept pushing myself, like, I need to win and I want to win.”

Gasanova now advances through to the third round where she takes on unseeded Spaniard, Sara Sorries Tormo who needed three sets to take down unseeded American Bernarda Pera, 5-7 6-3 6-4. The Russian was not the only underdog Russian to advance into the Round of 16, as Daria Kasatkina did not need to take the court with 12th seed Czech Karolina Muchova retiring pre-game, as Veronika Kudermetova knocked off Italian Bianca Turati 6-2 6-1. The fourth Russian through to the third round was Ekaterina Alexandrova, as the 17th seed booked a place following a three-set epic against Great Britain’s Heather Watson, 7-5 6-7 6-3.

Victories to the other unseeded players in Marta Kostyuk and Tamara Zidansek – who defeated 11th seed Jennifer Brady in the first round – meant the third quarter of the Abu Dhabi draw completely seedless with one of Kostyuk, Zidansek, Sorribes Tormo or Gasanova to reach the semi-finals. Similarly, Spaniard Paula Badosa now faces Kudermetova in another unseeded Round of 16 meeting, with the winner to lock horns with either Alexandrova or second seed Elina Svitolina.

The Ukrainian broke the trend of successful Russians, knocking off veteran Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, 6-4 6-1. The winner of the Svitolina-Alexandrova match will be the sole seed in the second half of the draw. It is a much different story in the top half of the draw, with Kasatkina the sole unseeded player, now set to face Kazakhstan rising star, Elena Rybakina. The talented youngsters defeated China’s Wang Xiyu 6-4 6-4 to book her place in the Round of 16, and the winner of the third round match to face an in-form player of 2020.

Aryna Sabalenka has not lost any form from her remarkable end to 2020, rolling well into double-figures with 12 consecutive wins and two titles in her wake. The powerful Belarusian took down a plucky Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-4 to now face Tunisian Ons Jabeur. The 15th seed had a it more to do, defeating Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko in a come-from-behind victory, 5-7 6-3 6-2 to book her spot in the Round of 16.

Meanwhile in other results, top seed Sofia Kenin survived a scare against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, with the latter forced to retire leading 7-5 4-5 in their Round of 32 match. Now Kenin takes on Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva who dispatched Czech Barbora Krejcikova 6-4 7-5. In the last third round matchup, fifth seed Garbine Muguruza will lock horns with ninth seed Maria Sakkari. Muguruza proved too strong for Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1 6-4, while Sakkari held off teen sensation Coco Gauff, 7-5 6-2.

All the Round of 16 matches will be played tomorrow.

ABU DHABI ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 5-7 5-4 RET
[2] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-4 6-1
Anastasia Gasanova (RUS) defeated [3] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 6-2 6-4
[4] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 7-5 6-4
[5] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-1 6-4
[6] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Xiyu Wang (CHN) 6-4 6-4
[9] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 7-5 6-2
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated [12] Karolina Muchova (CZE) 0-0 RET
[13] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-4 7-5
[15] Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 5-7 6-3 6-2
[17] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Heather Watson (GBR) 7-5 6-7 6-3
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) defeated Su-Wei Hsieh (TAI) 6-3 6-7 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP) defeated Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-4 6-4
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) defeated Bernarda Pera (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-4
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-4 6-4
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) defeated Bianca Turati (ITA) 6-2 6-1

Picture credit: Getty Images