Tag: wang qiang

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: 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.

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

Linette cruises to Thailand Open win and second title

POLAND’S Magda Linette has won her second career WTA Tour title in Thailand yesterday after running away with a straight sets win over Switzerland’s Leonie Kung in the final. The 28-year-old Pole came into the final with just one win – Bronx last year – to her name along with a maiden 125K title back in Ningbo, 2014. She came runner-up in Seoul last year as well, and it helped her reach a career-high 41st in the world.

It was equally as a remarkable story for the 19-year-old Swiss talent who reached her first ever WTA Tour final, starting the tournament at 283rd in the world, but making a number of huge upsets, including third seed Wang Qiang to reach the Hua Hin final. Both players now sit at career high rankings with Linette up to 33rd in the world having jumped nine places from her title win, while Kung is all the way up 155th – a whopping 128 spots higher. At 19, she has plenty of years ahead of her to continue to build her career.

Turning purely to the match, it was largely one-way traffic with Linette getting 6-3 6-2, using all of her extra experience to claim the win. The fifth seed was not as powerful on the serve as her younger opponent, but she was consistent, winning 82.8 per cent of her first serve points (compared to a very high 75 per cent), and more importantly winning 59.1 per cent of her second serve points. In total, Linette dropped just 14 points on serve, and recorded an elite 73.9 per cent of Kung’s second serve points as she converted three break point opportunities from six chances, while Kung could not capitalise on her only chance. Overall it might have been a comfortable win, but both players can hold their heads high after superb tournaments.

Thailand Open: Swiss youngster continues run to semis as top four seeds all out in Hua Hin

A STUNNING day of results has seen the remaining top four seeds ousted to blow the Thailand Open draw wide open. Number one seed and tournament favourite, Elina Svitolina was bundled out, as was third seed Wang Qiang and Chinese compatriot fourth seed, Zheng Saisai.

While Svitolina’s exit might be a headline story, it was the work of Swiss teenager, Leonie Kung who defeated Qiang in three sets, 7-5 4-6 6-4. Qiang was remembered this year as the 28-year-old who defeated Serena Williams at the Australian Open, but yesterday cam undone at the hands of the relatively inexperienced 19-year-old talent. Kung is ranked 283rd in the world and is yet to win a singles title. Already her semi-finals appearance here in Hua Hin has seen her bolt up to 180th in the world, with a top 128 spot on offer if she can find a way to win another two matches coming all the way from qualifying. Kung saved seven of a possible 13 break points, while breaking seven times herself, winning a superior 56.4 per cent off her second serve and really applying the pressure to her highly rated opponent, She attacked Qiang’s second serve with a 47.4 per cent success rate, and while the match took two hours and 17 minutes, the Swiss youngster booked a spot in the next round.

Kung will now take on Japan’s eighth seed, Nao Hibino who stunned top five player and number one seed, Svitolina in straight sets. She won 6-4 6-2 to advance through to the last four as the only Asian player to reach the next round. It was a quirk in the quarter finals with a European player facing off against an Asian player in each of the final eight matches. In the other semi-final, Patricia Tig will take on fifth seed from Polan, Magna Linette. Tig bundled out fourth seed Saisai 6-4 6-2, while Linette took three sets to win over Xiyu, 2-6 6-3 6-3.

QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[8] Nao Hibino (JPN) defeated [1] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-4 6-2
[Q] Leonie Kung (SUI) defeated [3] Wang Qiang (CHN) 7-5 4-6 6-4
Patricia Tig (ROU) defeated [4] Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-4 6-2
[5] Magna Linete (POL) defeated Wang Xiyu (CHN) 2-6 6-3 6-3

Thailand Open: Swiss teenager upsets seed as other favourites advance

ALL of the six matches at the Thailand Open in Hua Hin featured seeded players, with five of the winners coming into the tournament as the top eight ranked players. The final two matches of the first round was played, while the first four of eight Round of 16 matches were completed as the quarter finals begin to take shape.

The only upset of the day was 283rd ranked Swiss player, Leonie Kung‘s straight sets win over seventh seed and world number 70, Zhu Lin of China. The 19-year-old was far too strong for her highly fancied and more experienced opponent, downing her in 70 minutes courtesy of a 6-3 6-1 rout. In the match she looked like a top 100 player, recording an impressive 74.1 per cent serving efficiency, as well as 65 and 64.3 per cent points won on her first and second serve. By contrast, Lin only managed 48.3 and 39.1 per cent respectively, breaking just the once on her way to just a total of four games, while Kung broke five times and created 10 opportunities. She won 55.8 per cent of her total return points to go with her 64.8 per cent of her total service points which was a comprehensive victory in the end.

In other Round of 16 results, it was better news for the two top Chinese players as Wang Qiang and Zheng Saisai both made their way into their respective quarter finals. Qiang defeated Katarzyna Kawa of Poland in straight sets, an almost identical scoreline to Saisai’s win over En-Shuo Liang of Chinese Taipei. It was an all-Asian battle between eighth seed Japanese player, Nao Hibino and the sole remaining home nation representative in Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech, though the former showed no signs of giving the crowd what they wanted, smashing the world number 192 6-0 6-1 in just 53 minutes.

In the two first round matches, number one seed and tournament favourite, Elina Svitolina advanced through to the next stage courtesy of a 6-2 6-4 victory over Netherlands’ Bibiane Schoofs. Meanwhile, fifth seed Pole Magna Linette triumphed over Svitolina’s compatriot, Kateryna Bondarenko in straight sets, 6-2 6-2 to move through to the Round of 16.

Round of 16 Results:

[3] Q. Wang (CHN) defaeted K. Kawa (POL) 6-3 6-4
[4] S. Zheng (CHN) defeated E. Liang (TAI) 6-4 6-3
L. Kung (SUI) defeated [7] L. Zhu (CHN) 6-3 6-1
[8] N. Hibino (JPN) defeated P. Plipuech (THA) 6-0 6-1

Round of 32 Results:

[1] E. Svitolina (UKR) defeated B. Schoofs (NED) 6-2 6-4
[5] M. Linette (POL) defeated K. Bondarenko (UKR) 6-2 6-2

Australian Open: Women’s Final preview – Sofia Kenin vs. Garbine Muguruza

IN only her third Australian Open, 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin is through to the last match of the fortnight, taking on Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the women’s final.

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Age: 21 | 26
Height: 170cm | 183cm
Ranking: 15 | 32
Titles: 3 | 7
Grand Slam Titles: 0 | 2
Best Aus Open Result: R2 (19′) | QF (17′)

It is no surprise to see these two players make it through their respective semi-finals given the carnage that has been the women’s draw at Melbourne Park this year. Both underdogs against the top two players in the world – on live rankings – they showed unbelievable spirit and willingness to stand up in big moments to book a spot in the final and try and compete for more than $4 million dollars. Muguruza was always touted as a dark horse in the competition, ranked 32nd but unseeded, she is a Grand Slam winner on both clay and grass, so to complete the three surfaces with a hard court win would be something special.

Having reached the pinnacle of the women’s tour – a Grand Slam winner and world number one – the 26-year-old Spaniard has been to the peak. But she is far from done, given she is entering what many would consider to be the prime of her career. Her first Grand Slam title win was at 22, where she took out the French Open stunning American star, Serena Williams. To show that was not a fluke, she went on to win Wimbledon a year later, this time defeating Serena’s older sister Venus in the decider. The win on grass came two years after Muguruza’s first Grand Slam final – yet another clash with Serena, but ending in defeat, going down 6-4 6-4. At the time, she was just 21-years-old – the same age as Kenin heading into this year’s Grand Slam final.

Since her Wimbledon triumph in 2017, Muguruza has only made the final eight once in nine Grand Slams – a semi-finals appearance at Roland Garros. In the other seven, she has made the Round of 16 twice, but been bundled out in the second round three times, and even had two first round exits – last year at Wimbledon and the US Open. It could be almost unheard of to lose your first set of a Grand Slam 6-0 (as Muguruza did to qualifier, Shelby Rogers) and come back and win the tournament. Since that disastrous first set, she has only dropped one more set – to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in Round 2. From that point on, she dispatched of the fourth, fifth, ninth and 30th seeds in straight sets, two of which were in just over an hour.

Her opponent deserves credit too for making it here. While her stunning straight sets upset over world number one, Ash Barty was her first win against a seed this tournament, she was able to see off giant-killers, Coco Gauff (who defeated reigning champion Naomi Osaka) and Ons Jabeur (who defeated Caroline Wozniacki and Wang Qiang, the latter of whom knocked out Serena Williams). She only dropped the one set on the way to the final, a tiebreaker to Gauff before coming back to win comfortably, 6-7 6-3 6-0 against the 15-year-old. Unlike Muguruza, she does not have Grand Slam history to speak of when it comes to finals. In fact, she has only made it past the first round of the Australian Open this year and last. A fourth round appearance at the French Open was previously’s Kenin’s best effort, but she has far and away gone beyond that. A hard court talent, the youngster has what it takes to match Muguruza whose preferred court surface is clay, though she is a versatile player who can do well on any surface.

These two players have only played the once in their careers, with Kenin winning in three sets against Muguruza at Bejing last year. She triumphed 6-0 2-6 6-2 on her way through to a Round of 16 appearance. The American has won here in Australia, taking home the Hobart International title 12 months ago, before adding Mallorca and Guangzhou to her list of achievements. Muguruza on the other hand just triumphed at Monterrey – going back-to-back at the hard court event. In this match, Muguruza has the experience having been there and won Grand Slams before, while the inexperienced Kenin has the dare and belief she can pull it off. Perhaps she ends up like Muguruza was at her age, going down in her first final to a prior Grand Slam champion, before reversing the result a year later. It is refreshing to see a couple of different names in the final, and it will be a huge boost for the now top-10 Kenin who will rise to seventh in the world if she can win. Muguruza is already up to 16th on the WTA Tour, with a boost up to 12th if she can take out the title. Muguruza in three sets is the tip.

LIVE RANKING | IF SHE WINS:

Sofia Kenin: #9 (+3) | #7
Garbine Muguruza: #16 (+16) | #12

MATCHES:

[14] Sofia Kenin
SF: def. [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 7-6 7-5
QF: def. Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-4 6-4
R4: def. Coco Gauff (USA) 6-7 6-4 6-0
R3: def. Zhang Shuai (CHN) 7-5 7-6
R2: def. [Q] Ann Li (USA) 6-1 6-3
R1: def. [Q] M. Trevisan (ITA) 6-2 6-4

Garbine Muguruza
SF: def. [4] S. Halep (ROU) 7-6 7-5
QF: def. [30] A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-5 6-3
R4: def. [9] K. Bertens (NED) 6-3 6-3
R3: def. [5] E. Svitolina (UKR) 6-1 6-2
R2: def. A. Tomljanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3
R1: def. [Q] S. Rogers 0-6 6-1 6-0

Australian Open: Women’s Day 7 review – Jabeur’s run continues as Barty prepares to party with Kvitova

A GRAND Slam bolter and a couple of Grand Slam winners all booked spots in the quarter finals as the first half of the draw was down to just four competitors remaining in the Australian Open for 2020.

Two days after topping a 23-time Grand Slam winner in Serena Williams, China’s Wang Qiang suffered the same fate, bowing out of the Australian Open after going down to this year’s bolter, Ons Jabeur. The world number 78 had never reached past the first round at Melbourne Park, but with a stunning run at the 2020 edition, has booked a spot in the final eight. The fourth round exit was also the best achievement for Qiang, having reached the third round last year. Jabeur won 7-6 6-1 in 77 minutes, hitting 29 winners and only 31 unforced errors, while winning 71 per cent of her first and 67 per cent of her second serve points. She also broke four times to two, and while Qiang was still solid across the board, she could not match the hitting power and consistency of Jabeur.

The Tunisian now takes on 14th seed American, Sofia Kenin after she got past another bolter in this year’s Open by defeating 15-year-old Coco Gauff. After knocking out last year’s winner, Naomi Osaka, Gauff was on everyone’s lips as a sneaky chance for the title but like Qiang, went out in the very next match to a consistent Kenin. It was not without a fight though, as Gauff claimed the first set in a tiebreaker before her more experienced compatriot took control with a 6-7 6-3 6-0 triumph. The third set would be a bitter pill to swallow for the teenager who only managed six points on-serve and a total of 15 all up in the set. Kenin was completely dominant with 72 per cent winning record on her first serve points, and a 54 per cent record on her second serve points. She also hit 28 winners and 37 per cent of her receiving points in a good day out at Melbourne Park.

Petra Kvitova booked a quarter final spot with a come-from-behind three-set win over 22nd seed, Maria Sakkari. The left-handed Czech went down in the first set tiebreaker before picking up the slack with an impressive last two sets to win 6-7 6-3 6-2 in two hours and 12 minutes. The world number eight hit five aces, won 69 per cent of her first serve points, and hit 33 winners throughout the contest. She also did well upon approaching the net, winning two thirds of her points, compared to Sakkari’s 43 per cent. Both players managed to have their fair share of breaks with the Greek talent breaking four times, but Kvitova managing the feat eight times from 18 opportunities. It will be the fourth time Kvitova has made a quarter final at Melbourne Park, with her final loss last year being her best effort to date. Sakkari went one better than her third round last year by bowing out in the Round of 16.

Now Kvitova faces the world number one and home nation representative, Ash Barty. The Australian got past 18th seed Alison Riske despite a minor slip-up in the second set, to post a 6-3 1-6 6-4 victory over the American in an hour and 36 minutes. The deciding set was going down to the wire and at 5-4 up, Barty made her move by breaking Riske in the tenth game to win the match and book a spot in the quarter finals. Barty was strong on serve for the majority of the contest, winning 80 per cent of her first serve points, but was weaker on her second serve, winning just seven of a possible 25 points in the match. Riske was more consistent on her second serve with a 62 per cent success rate, but only won 60 per cent of her first serves. It was not the world number one’s finest match with 20 winners but 34 unforced errors, though she pulled through when challenged and got the job done.

[1] A. Barty (AUS) defeated [18] A. Riske (USA) 6-3 1-6 6-4
[7] P. Kvitova (CZE) defeated [22] M. Sakarri (GRE) 6-7 6-3 6-2
[14] S. Kenin (USA) defeated C. Gauff (USA) 6-7 6-3 6-0
O. Jabeur (TUN) defeated [27] Q. Wang (CHN) 7-6 6-1

Qiang stuns seven-time champion in stunning Aus Open upset

WANG Qiang turned around a complete embarrassment just four months ago to cause the boilover of the tournament today, downing 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in three tight sets. The American champion defeated Qiang in 45 minutes four months ago, just winning one game for the entire match. It was a different story today with Qiang booking a spot in the Round of 16 for the first time, while denying Williams of her seventh Australian Open crown.

Williams started with a double fault but quickly got back into the opening game with a couple of forced errors, a powerful winner and an ace to hold serve. The power coming from Williams’ racquet was already looking like a problem for the lightly-built Qiang, with nearly every early point coming off the American’s forehand. Luckily for the Chinese 27th seed, Williams missed four and helped her crucially hold serve.

Unfazed by a few early faults and over-hits, Williams was keeping her cool telling herself to adjust her action rather than hook it, which she did a couple of times into the net in the third game. Qiang was trying to find a way to match the power of the number eight seed, but her own attempts were falling short or going wide. Against the flow, Qiang hit her first winner at deuce in the game, with a nice backhand winner down the line to bring up an early break point. A couple of winners and a forced error later, and order was restored with Williams holding, but her opponent sending a message that she was willing to weather the storm.

Staring down a break point in the last game clearly motivated the 23-time Grand Slam winner, hitting back-to-back winners off her backhand early in the fourth game. Qiang responded with a backhand cross-court winner of her own and then produced a nice serve down the tee to help her hold in a game where she threw down the gauntlet to Williams with her own strength that could expose Williams – court coverage. A huge backhand winner down the line early in the fifth game from Qiang and it was clear that this was not going to be a walk in the park for the tournament favourite. Williams held serve thanks to some powerful serve placement, but she was having to step up to a level she has not had to go to at Melbourne Park in 2020 thus far.

The entertaining battle was a real battle of brute strength against counter punching court coverage, with Qiang trying to move the 38-year-old around the court, while Williams was trying to blow her 28-year-old opponent off it. The American brought up her first break point of the contest in the sixth game, but it was saved by a well-timed short forehand winner. The American was taking advantage of the slower second serve from her opponent, smashing home a forehand winner down the line to bring up a second break point, but then Williams made the odd decision to produce a drop shot against the speedy 27th seed who not only recovered it with ease, but hit a winner past a flat-footed Williams stuck in the middle of the court. In a twist of fate that was the way that Qiang held the game, as another break point opportunity came and went, but a Williams’ drop shot led to the Chinese number one getting it past her.

Williams was well and truly being tested, even eliciting the odd ‘C’mon’ accompanied by a fist pump when she was able to force her opponent on the back foot as she held again to move to a 4-3 lead. Just as it looked like Qiang would hold easily, Williams produced a couple of big shots, including a massive forehand winner and worked her way from 15-40 down to having a break point. While their playing styles could not be more different, their between-points preparation was a similar story with Qiang almost rushing to get ready for each point, while Williams was taking time to reassess each point as it came.

With the match back level at 4-4, Williams served her second double fault of the match and was starting to err on her forehand that had treated her well in the mid-part of the set. Another mind-boggling decision to play a drop shot against Qiang at 0-30 was costly as the Chinese talent again easily recovered it then powered it past a flat-footed Williams, then took advantage of a lucky net cord on the next point to hit a winner off her forehand to take the break to love.

All of a sudden the underdog was serving for the opening set 42 minutes in with a 5-4 lead. The frustration was beginning to show for Williams who while remaining calm, was being worked around the court and forced into slicing. Unbelievable court coverage from Qiang saw her bring up two match points with a deep low forehand forcing Williams to mishit, and then a well-placed second serve resulted in an unforced error off the return. Qiang had won the first set 6-4 and was one set away from a Grand Slam Round of 16.

Williams held her opening serve of the second set, and with plenty of advice from one particularly vocal American fan in the crowd, the atmosphere on Rod Laver was electric. Cheers for the number eight seed were matched by the Chinese cheersquad down the Punt Road end. As she had during the first set, Qiang weathered the gauntlet thrown down to her by Williams in rallies, and finished the second game off with her first ace down the tee line.

The danger signs were beginning to show as Qiang got to 0-30 with a couple of timely winners, forcing Williams to go to another gear and power her way back into the game with some blistering flat forehands that resulted in Qiang almost replacing a linesperson at the back of the court. A very fortunate net cord at 30-30 saw a Williams shot drop just marginally over the net and while Qiang made up more ground than any player on the tour deserved to, she could not quite reach it, giving Williams a game point – which she took.

Speaking of confidence, Qiang was up and about on her serve, racing to a comfortable 40-0 lead before holding a couple of points later. The same could not be said for the Australian Open favourite, looking out of sorts the very next game and falling 0-40 behind. There was a sense that she was beginning to feel the effects of her Chinese opponents’ counter punching game, and the worst fears became real when another shorter shot resulted in Qiang hitting a forehand winner down the line to break for the second time in the match and take a 3-2 lead.

The one area where Williams was still capitalising was on Qiang’s second serve, and she hit a powerful return winner to go to 0-30 in the sixth game. Though once again the world number 29 had the answers with a couple of well-placed first serves and an uncharacteristic backhand error from Williams. Sone of the winners coming off Qiang’s racquet had to be seen to be believed, with the 28-year-old hitting a passing forehand winner that Williams challenged, but Hawkeye ticked off. It helped Qiang then hold the next point despite the American throwing everything she could at her opponent.

The seventh game of the set would be Williams’ most important of the tournament so far. If she was broken, then Qiang would be serving for the match. If she held, then she was still a sniff to remain in the Open. Williams was still playing a run-and-gun game with her shots providing some good highlights, but a lot of the time her backhand was causing more harm than good to her chances. Back-to-back misses at 30-15 brought up some rowdiness from the crowd, with everyone aware of the ramifications of the break point. A missed serve and the pressure mounted, but the greatest of all-time stayed cool and delivered a telling forehand winner down the line. A couple of strong serves later and Williams was able to breathe a sigh of relief with a hold and a 3-4 deficit rather than a 2-5 one.

The pressure was over to Qiang who knew she had to hold in order to remain a break clear of Williams and move one game away from a Round of 16 appearance. The seven-time Australian Open winner knew she had to pull something special out and after a couple of massive winners, earned a break point. Yet once again, Qiang found a way through the barrage to hit another passing winner at the net from a Williams shorter ball. A fortunate net cord to the Chinese player saw the ball drop short, force Williams in and what would be a routine forehand winner missed.

Serving at 3-5 down and staring down the barrel of an upset loss, Williams smashed her way to a 40-0 lead in the ninth game of the set. While Qiang managed to win a backcourt rally, Williams held much to the relief of her fans in the crowd. Now a fourth round spot laid on the racquet of the Chinese world number 29 if she could do what she has done in every other service game and hold.

A forehand went awry on the first point for the Chinese player, and then a slow second serve resulted in Williams putting home a backhand winner. A crosscourt shot from Qiang resulted in a net from Williams and settled the nerves. But, like every great champion, Williams stepped up and broke for the first time in the match with an unbelievable cross-court shorter forehand winner.

The score was 5-5 and Williams still had work to be done. She looked like a player possessed, going full throttle with every shot and like early in the match, she hit a lovely winner, but then missed two bringing up a couple of break points. She got back to deuce with a third ace of the contest, then produced a forehand winner down the line to set up a game point which she capitalised on.

Wang’s turn to try and hold, now facing the first deficit since early in the match at 5-6, she knew going into a deciding set would be dangerous given Williams’ form of the past few games. Nonetheless, Wang made a statement after being broken in her last service game, breaking to love and sending the match into a second set tiebreaker.

Williams powered her way to a mini-break early in the tiebreaker, with a hint of luck thanks to a net cord that tipped the ball over to go 2-1 up. An incorrect challenge from Williams on an ace followed by a second fault removed the break, but then another incorrect challenge, this time from Qiang resulted in Williams regaining a 4-2 lead. A point later and a strange decision by Qiang to hit a volley back at Williams resulted in the Grand Slam champion hitting a winner into the open forehand court for a 5-2 advantage.

Some unbelievable rallying from both players saw Qiang take a chance on a forehand shot down the line but it missed, much to the relief of the fans who were challenging the American world number nine to step it up. Williams did just that by taking the second set and now she was back on even terms, and more importantly, with the momentum.

All eyes were on Qiang who would open the set serving having to move past the disappointment of not closing out the match, after having the chance to hold a double break at one point. On the other hand, Williams was hitting cleaner and growing in confidence which is dangerous for any opponent. Her movement was still limited compared to her opponent and she was struggling when forced wide, something Qiang took advantage of to hold in the first game of the decider.

A crosscourt backhand winner on the first point of her service game was a message that the Serena everyone knew was back in action. But an equally impressive backhand crosscourt winner from Qiang on the next point told her that she was not going to be able to stroll through the final set. A hard-fought point won by Serena was followed by a terrific winner from her opponent to bring up the first break point of the set. But back-to-back aces and a huge forehand winner from Serena told a story that the American was up for the challenge and she too held to go one-game all.

Qiang served her second ace of the contest to start the third game, but another low bullet from Williams levelled the score. While both players were making some unforced errors, Qiang did enough to remain composed and hold once again to heap the pressure back on the favourite as the match ticked past two hours. But the favourite stepped up in arguably her best service game in some time, not coughing up a break point and winning it comfortably with some strong serves to level at 2-2.

A huge chance to win a crucial point receiving went begging for Williams who approached the net but missed the standard volley to an exasperated sigh of “oh my God”. It proved costly as Qiang won the game to love in just over a minute, finishing it off with a backhand winner down the line. A confident Williams was not going to stew on it though, producing a textbook serve-volley to open the sixth game of the set with a big winner. Her backhand was still giving her grief, with another wild attempt that went sailing out of court. But now her second serve was starting to trouble her opponent and she was putting more kick into it than earlier in the match against a smaller player. For every missed shot though, Williams managed to find another winner with a great backhand down the line. Yet another ace down the middle helped her hold serve and it was back to 3-3 in the decider.

While Williams was doing enough to hold her serve, Qiang continued to roll on with hers, producing some well-placed serves to go 30-0 up and should have been 40-0 up had it not been for a disappointing volley that missed a wide open look on Williams’ backhand side. The Grand Slam champion then provided one of the shots of the match, hitting a passing winner from the approaching Qiang who had been rock solid at the net all day. Head in hands realising her missed opportunity and then receiving a time violation for her serve, Qiang was being forced to lift herself against the power of a champion. But remarkably, she did it. Back-to-back big serves helped her remain on serve at 4-3 and the match looked set to go the distance based on the form of both players.

Sensing the importance of the eighth game, Williams dug deep with her first couple of serves to quickly raced to 30-0. But then the inconsistent Williams from the first set returned, forced on the back foot to lose the third point, then serving a double fault with the next and all of a sudden it was 30-30. An overhead smash close to the net settled the nerves, though another backend error brought the game to deuce. It was clear this was a defining moment in the match. Another bizarre decision by Williams to slice a ball from the baseline that sailed well out handed Qiang a break point at the worst time. Much to the relief of the American portion of the crowd, she held on with a saving volley. Then good Serena returned and she cruised to win the next two points and it was 4-4.

It would be a task in itself to try and break Qiang, who while not being a powerful server, placed the ball so well and was forcing Williams to take an extra step to the right at times so she was mis-hitting the crosscourt shot. The Chinese seed moved to 5-4 and now it was up to the seven-time champion if she was going to be able to remain in the tournament for at least another couple of games. She answered that question fairly quickly with a powerful service game that raced to 40-0, before Qiang had yet another amazing down the line forehand winner that left Williams as stunned as she was impressed. An ace to close out the game for the American levelled the scores once again, and there was only two full service games remaining in the match.

If Williams was going to make a move prior to the tiebreak, it had to be now. She claimed a big winner and then enjoyed some sort of a rally with Qiang’s down the line shot looking like a winner, only for the American to hit a perfectly weighted backhand to the open court. Another huge shot from Qiang right in the backhand corner was challenged by Williams but it was the correct call and the 27th seed had the all-important game point which she took with a Williams backhand into the net.

The pressure was back on the Grand Slam champion for the final service game of the match. Williams took a chance on a forehand flat shot but it missed, and then a backhand crosscourt shot to the same spot received an identical call from the same linesperson. She was 0-30 down and now it was danger time. A strong serve forced an error off the return from Qiang to win one point back, but a wild serve then a forced backhand error and Qiang had the first match points of the day. A fault followed with whispers building around the crowd, but Williams held her nerve with her second point and nerves seemed to be getting to the Chinese player as she hit an uncharacteristic unforced error long off her backhand then hit a standard forehand straight into the net. Williams’s first serve was going missing but Qiang was not capitalising, with Williams missing across court. A let and then a fault for Williams had everyone nervous around the stadium and when her baseline shot went into the net, the crowd roared after a terrific contest.

In the end, Qiang was just more consistent for longer, and while she failed to close out the match on several occasions, it was the inconsistency of Williams, particularly on her backhand, that ultimately cost the Grand Slam champion from moving into the fourth round.

Australian Open: Women’s Day 3 review – Goerges through to Round of 32 as big guns send message

BELGIAN, Julia Goerges is through to the Round of 32 after a commanding three-set win over 13th seed Croatian, Petra Martic. She joined a host of big names from the women’s draw in the third round, with the other half of Round 2 to be completed today, weather permitting.

Goerges once again proved she can be quite the handful for highly ranked players, causing the upset of the day by downing Martic. The world number 39 was not far off receiving her own seeding, but showed why she can compete with the best during a come-from-behind three-set win over the Croatian. The German served up 13 aces and only dropped eight points on her first serve, producing a massive 44 winners and using the court well when approaching the net. She broke three times to Martic’s twice, while Martic could not have the same impact on serve. In the end, Goerges moved into the third round thanks to the 4-6 6-3 7-5 victory.

American 18th seed Alison Riske had an easier path into the final 32, defeating China’s Zhu Lin 6-3 6-1 in 61 minutes. Riske was consistent on-serve without dominating, winning 69 and 68 per cent of her first and second serve points respectively. She also broke five times from eight opportunities and won more than half of her receiving points which put Lin on the back foot. Lin hit just the nine winners and 24 unforced errors in the straight sets loss.

At the top of the draw, world number one Ash Barty rode the home crowd support on her way to a straight sets win over Polona Hercog. The Australian star meets young gun, Elena Rybakina in the third round after the 29th seed posted a 6-3 6-4 victory over Belgian qualifier, Greet Minnen. The match lasted an hour and 14 minutes before the 20-year-old ended the qualifier’s run at the Australian Open, winning an elite 87 per cent of her first serves, and claiming three breaks during the match. While she hit 31 unforced errors, her 28 winners made up for it, claiming the clutch games in the win despite only winning seven more points than her opponent.

[1] A. Barty (AUS) defeated P. Hercog (SLO) 6-1 6-4
[29] E. Rybakina (KAZ) defeated [Q] G. Minnen (BEL) 6-3 6-4
[18] A. Riske (USA) defeated L. Zhu (CHN) 6-3 6-1
J. Goerges (GER) defeated [13] P. Martic (CRO) 4-6 6-3 7-5

First up on Wednesday was seventh seed, Petra Kvitova up against Spaniard, Paula Badosa with both players having dropped just one solitary game in their first round matches. The Grand Slam winner and top 10 Czech proved to be that bit better for longer in the 7-5 7-5 victory, serving seven aces to three and hitting 31 winners to 19. Kvitova also won 40 per cent of her receiving points, while capitalising on 72 per cent of her first serve points compared to her opponents’ 60 per cent. The left handed star moved through to the Round of 32 to play the unbeaten in 2020 Russian, Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The 25th seed has not lost in more than 100 days after back-to-back titles at Limoges and then Shenzhen heading into the Australian Open. Alexandrova easily accounted for Czech qualifier, Barbora Krejcikova 6-1 6-3 in 63 minutes. She broke four times from her four opportunities, while Krejcikova did not manage to break from the same amount of chances. The in-form Russian was more dominant on serve with an 82 per cent winning rate, and attacked her opponent’s second serve, winning 12 of the 14 points off it. Hitting 12 winners and 26 unforced errors, she will need to take her game to another level against Kvitova.

The other top 10 seed to move through to the final 32 is American, Madison Keys who dispatched Russian, Daria Kasatkina in under an hour. Keys posted a 6-3 6-1 victory in 57 minutes, hitting an impressive 29 winners to five, including eight off the return. She was not overly dominant on serve despite the score, but instead took control when her opponent was serving, reducing her to a 43 and 32 per cent winning rate on her first and second serves. She sets up a huge clash with 22nd seed, Maria Sakkari of Greece.

Sakkari had to fight hard against a determined Nao Hibino, but eventually downed the Japanese qualifier 7-6 6-4 in an hour and 43 minutes. Sakkari served up nine aces and 31 winners on her way to victory, not always looking clean with 44 unforced errors and a low serving success rate (63 and 54 per cent on her first and second serve), but she reduced her opponent to 56 and 52 per cent success on her first and second serves. Sakkari also critically broke three times to twice, but will have to lift her game to match it with Keys given Hibino had 10 break point opportunities to seven, and the Greek talent could not afford to give a top 10 player those kind of looks.

[10] M. Keys (USA) defeated A. Rus (NED) 7-6 6-2
[22] M. Sakkari (GRE) defeated [Q] N. Hibino (JPN) 7-6 6-4
[25] E. Alexandrova (RUS) defeated [Q] B. Krejcikova (CZE) 6-1 6-3
[7] P. Kvitova (CZE) defeated P. Badosa (ESP) 7-5 7-5

Third seed Naomi Osaka worked her way into the third round without too much trouble, defeating China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes. Her win sets up an exciting Round of 32 clash with American young gun, Coco Gauff. The 15-year-old American had to fight back from a set down against Romanian, Sonia Cirstea in a 4-6 6-3 7-5 victory. Despite nine double faults, Gauff hit 30 winners and broke three times throughout the clash, stronger with her first serve as well (73 per cent to 66 per cent).

Fellow American Sofia Kenin made a statement against another up-and-coming youngster in Ann Li, defeating the 19-year-old qualifier 6-1 6-3. Kenin won 79 per cent of her first serves compared to Li’s 44 per cent and hit just 19 unforced errors throughout the match. Five breaks to one was a key difference in the clash, but Kenin always looked comfortable and booked a third round spot to face China’s Zhang Shuai.

The world number 35 narrowly missed out on a seeding at this year’s Australian Open, but Shuai worked her way into the Round of 32 with a 6-2 6-4 victory over another American, qualifier Catherine McNally. Shuai hit just 12 winners for the match but won 69 per cent of her first serve points controlling play and breaking five times compared to her opponents’ twice.

[3] N. Osaka (JPN) defeated S. Zheng (CHN) 6-2 6-4
C. Gauff (USA) defeated S. Cirstea (ROU) 4-6 6-3 7-5
S. Zhang (CHN) defeated [Q] C. McNally (USA) 6-2 6-4
[14] A. Kenin (USA) defeated [Q] A. Li (USA) 6-1 6-3

Ons Jabeur‘s dream run at the Australian Open continued with the world number 78 defeating Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia in three sets. After dropping the first set 6-1, Jabeur hit back and ran out the stronger of the pair 1-6 6-2 6-3 to book a spot in the Round of 32. With 24 winners and a 65 per cent first serve winning percentage, it was enough for Jabeur to get the job done, though she will want to improve on her effort that saw her record just 44 per cent efficiency with her first serve and was broken four times. She now faces 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki, which is another step up again.

Wozniacki made her way into the third round after a two-hour tussle with 23rd seed and Adelaide International finalist, Dayana Yastremska. The 19-year-old Ukrainian is a star of the future, but the 29-year-old Dane reminded spectators of what she is capable of, winning 62 per cent of her first serve and nine of 12 points at the net. She only hit the 15 winners, but like in her first round win, Wozniacki was more economical than a hard hitter, while Yastremska threw caution to the wind with 36 winners and 47 unforced errors.

A potential fourth round opponent for the 2018 Open winner is a player who has had no problems going all the way before in Serena Williams. The eighth seed was simply too strong and too good for Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, pouncing out a 6-2 6-3 win. Before she can face Wozniacki, the multiple Grand Slam winner has to face 27th seed, Wang Qiang who defeated France’s Fiona Ferro in straight sets, 6-1 6-2. Qiang won 68 and 74 per cent of her first and second serve points respectively, only dropping a total of 13 points for the entire match. She also claimed 55 per cent of her receiving points in a dominant display, restricting Ferro to just 31 points for the match.

O. Jabeur (TUN) defeated C. Garcia (FRA) 1-6 6-2 6-3
C. Wozniacki (DEN) defeated [23] D. Yastremska (UKR) 7-5 7-5
[27] Q. Wang (CHN) defeated F. Ferro (FRA) 6-1 6-2
[8] S. Williams (USA) defeated T. Zidansek (SLO) 6-2 6-3