Li and Pennetta win in the wind - UBITENNIS
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Li and Pennetta win in the wind

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Li Na escaped from a very tough match against Dominika Cibulkova to conquer her second Indian Wells semi-final.

 

The Chinese looked in full control in the first set in the rematch of the Australian Open final, but suddenly suffered Cibulkova’s comeback and had to fight from a break down in the third.

The first set started with a show of nerves from both sides of the net: the first three games were three breaks of serve. Li was the first to hold the serve and the advantage gained in the fourth game set the tone of the whole first set.

The Australian Open champion looked solid from the baseline and confident both on defence and offence, causing Cibulkova to miss many balls in the attempt to get her off balance.

With a heavy forehand winner Li closed the first set breaking Cibulkova’s serve once again and everything seemed ready for an easy second set for her.

The Slovak, who had never won against Li in five matches, started the second set with a different attitude and by hitting harder and taking the ball earlier, she started to move Li around and take control of the rallies.

Cibulkova failed to convert a break point in the first game and soon had to save one behind her own serve, but she did it with a stunning backhand down the line, which boosted her moral.

The finalist in Melbourne hold in that game and immediately broke the Chinese’s serve, flipping the momentum all to her side.

Too fast for Li to realise, Cibulkova was hitting winners left and right and went serving for the second set 5-2 up.

The Slovak let the nerves come back in the worst moment and immediately fell 0-40 down. She managed to save the first two break points, but Li broke back and went on easily holding.

At the second chance to close the set, Cibulkova hold with an impressive reaction after a bad challenge.

In the third set the Slovak tried to impose the same rhythm that gave her the lead in the second and it seemed to work at first and with the help of a double fault on the break point, she took the early break.

Cibulkova could not keep the momentum going though, and returned the favour by offering a break chance with a double fault. Li immediately took it to level the score and immediately held.

The fourth game has been the most spectacular of the match, Cibulkova started feeling the pressure and served a few double faults, but played out of her mind to save all the five break points she faced and finally held for two all.

In the seventh game, at three all, Li served two break points and handed Cibulkova two break chances, but immediately made up with two good serves and finally closed with an ace.

The missed chance clearly took his toll on the Slovak, who started to rush and suffered one another break, the decisive this time as Li went on closing easily for an important 6-3 4-6 6-3 win.

 

Her opponent in the semi-final will be Flavia Pennetta, who continues her impressive 2014 after she defeated Sloane Stephens and the win in a mental thriller lasted more than two hours and ended 6-4 5-7 6-4 for the Italian.

In a match rich of twists and sudden turns, Pennetta started very composedly and without shining too bright like she did against Camila Giorgi, still managed to keep Stephens under pressure and take comfortably the first set.

In the second, Stephens tried a reaction and thanks to a bad call, which the Italian did not challenge, captured an early break.

The Italian fought back and despite an erratic serve and a footwork far from the best days, she still obtained an important break and went up 5-4, serving for the match.

At 30-15 the Australian Open quarter-finalist let the tension get to her arm and consequently allowed the young American to break back.

Stephens could not ask for a better chance and exploited the momentum taking the next two games to equalise the set count.

All of a sudden a strong wind started to blow in the court and conditions, which were already difficult, became prohibitive.

Stephens kept the momentum alive and flew easily 3-0 up, but the experienced Italian was not ready to give up.

Pennetta battled against herself, her negative thoughts and a gusty wind to save a break point and then stop the series of games won by the American.

Quite as swiftly as the wind had come, Pennetta started to find more confidence in her shots and despite the wind was making it hardly possible to be aggressive, she started to move Stephens around.

The Italian then found herself a positive streak and tied the score at three all.

Both players managed to hold their serves, but it was clear that every ball could have changed the outcome of this battle.

More than once, Pennetta tried to be the aggressor, but the wind helped Stephens into the rallies, even though she hardly tried to produce any winner in the tempest.

Unexpectedly, the Italian managed to break the serve of Stephens in the ninth game and after the court chance tried to serve once again for the match.

With the help of a couple of lousy shots from the American, she found herself three match points up, but she simply could not close it.

After a fourth match point gone, one could sense the tension in the eyes of both players, but Pennetta suddenly found a terrific down the line backhand winner which set her to a fifth and eventually definitive match point.

When the wind blew the desperate drop-shot attempt of Stephens out wide, Pennetta finally could rise her arms to the sky and cheer for her second semi-final of the year, the first ever for an Italian in Indian Wells.

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World No.1 Ash Barty Impresses At Golf Club Championship

The 24-year-old is still winning trophies but this time it isn’t in tennis.

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After deciding to pull the plug on her season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic Ash Barty has once again illustrated that tennis is not the only sport she can excel in.

 

The world No.1 has won the Brookwater Golf Club women’s champion on Sunday with a seven and five triumph in the match play final. Following in the footsteps of her father Robert who once represented Australia as an amateur golfer. Although Barty is playing down the significance of her latest sporting win.

It’s not a big deal,” she told the Australian Associated Press.

It is not the first time Barty’s golfing abilities have impressed. During a promotional event last December ahead of the Presidents Cup she earned praise from Tiger Woods after hitting wedge to a makeshift green on the Yarra River. After that shot Woods commented ‘she’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?’ Barty’s boyfriend, Garry Kissick, is also a PGA trainee professional at Brookwater. The place where they first met back in 2016.

Louis Dobbelaar, who won the men’s competition at Brookwater, believes Barty has what it takes to become a professional in the sport should she wish. The 24-year-old is also an avid cricketer and played professionally between 2014-2015 during a break from tennis. Playing in the Women’s Big Bash League Barty enjoyed stints with teams Brisbane Heat and Queensland Fire.

She’s got all the tools if she wants to pursue it. If she put her mind to it, I’m sure she could,” he told the AAP.
“I’ve seen quite a lot of golfers come from different sports and she’s the one that stands out the most – by far actually. Her ball-striking’s really good. She just gets that naturally from tennis, the hand-eye stuff.”

Barty hasn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since the Qatar Open back in February where she reached the semi-finals. She will not be defending her title at the French Open next week due to concerns related to the pandemic. Besides worldwide travel, she has been unable to train with her coach due to local restrictions.

The Australian has made more than $17.5M in prize money so far in her career.

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Garbine Muguruza Routs Konta In Rome

Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

 

It was a surprisingly comfortable win for the Spaniard, 26, against an opponent she has found troublesome in the past. Muguruza and Konta have each won two of their previous matches, and all four of those encounters were lengthy three-set affairs.

During the first eight games of this match, it looked like it might go a similar way. The opening exchanges were closely-fought and both players produced high-quality tennis and served well for the most part.

On occasion, Muguruza and Konta got themselves into trouble by making errors and falling 0-30 or 0-40 behind on their own serves. However, they always responded well and executed high-quality points to turn those games around.

Eventually, the whole set came down to one game. When Muguruza led 5-4, Konta again slipped 0-40 behind on serve. The Brit managed to save one break point, but the Spaniard took control of the next point and forced an error to seize the first break of the match.

Muguruza storms to victory

After Muguruza confidently held at the start of the second set, Konta missed a tricky high volley that would have secured the second game. Then she gave away the break with a double fault and an unforced error.

The next game turned out to be the most important of the match. The Brit hassled and harried the Spaniard and earned three break points. But the two-time Grand Slam champion held firm. She delivered big first serves when she needed them most to save all three and go on to secure the hold.

After that, the match ended quite quickly. Konta held to reduce the deficit to 3-1. Then Muguruza served and rallied superbly to win three games in a row and clinch an impressively comprehensive victory.

The Spaniard will face Azarenka in the last 16. The Belarussian was locked in a fascinating battle with Daria Kasatkina when the Russian took a nasty fall in the first tie-break and was forced to retire due to an ankle injury. Touchingly, Azarenka helped Kasatkina to her chair and comforted her after the accident.

Halep sees off Yastremska

Simona Halep (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Simona Halep advanced to a fourth-round clash with Yulia Putintseva in Rome courtesy of a 7-5 6-4 win over Dayana Yastremska.

The Romanian, 28, looks to be such a calm figure on court these days. And she did not seem bothered at all when the Ukrainian went 3-0 up after a blistering start to the match.

Halep responded by working her way into the match and capitalising whenever Yastremska made errors. The Romanian hit a backhand winner to break back. Then she played a series of intelligent points to claim the crucial break in the eleventh game and secure the set.

The Ukrainian made the worst possible start to the second set. She made a series of errors and dropped serve twice in a row to give herself a mountain to climb. Yastremska managed to get one of the breaks back immediately after that but Halep gave nothing else away and eventually closed out the set.

The Romanian will play Putintseva in the last 16. The Kazakhstani overcame talented young compatriot Elena Rybakina 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2 in a pulsating first-ever meeting.

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Garbine Muguruza Edges Gauff In Exciting Rome Showdown

Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

 

The Spaniard, 26, rediscovered some of her best form to reach the Australian Open final in January. And she produced arguably her strongest performance since the restart to overcome the precocious 16-year-old.

There was very little to separate the two players in the opening set. Both Muguruza and Gauff were sporadically excellent. Each hit superb winners at times. But they balanced this out by making sloppy errors.

Consequently, neither player was able to break away. When the American broke in game four, the Spaniard responded immediately to rein her in.

Even though most of the games were closely-contested in the rest of the set, there were no breaks. Therefore, the only way to decide who would take the lead was a tie-break.

It was Muguruza who rose to the occasion. She produced one of the most impressive six-point sequences you are ever likely to see. First, the Spaniard hit a forehand winner that landed on the baseline. Then she hit a huge unreturnable serve followed by an ace. Next, she forced an error from Gauff with a deep backhand. And at 6-3 up, she clinched the set in style with another ace.

Gauff fights back

Gauff approached the second set with steely determination. She did not give anything away and gradually cranked up the pressure on Muguruza.

In game three, the American’s efforts were rewarded. She earned two break points and seized the second with a precise passing shot back behind the Spaniard.

Unlike in the first set, Gauff then held serve to move 3-1 ahead. And the pressure of being behind had an effect on Muguruza. She made a couple of errors to give the American three chances to gain a double break.

The Spaniard dug in and saved the first two. But she was unable to prevent Gauff from taking the third with a powerful backhand followed by a forehand winner.

Cori Gauff (@ChannelNewsAsia on Twitter)

Muguruza was in no mood to let the second set slip away. She hit a brilliant lob and a stunning forehand winner to earn two break points in game six.

Although the American saved them both, the Spaniard soon earned two more. And she eventually took her fourth break point of the game courtesy of a double fault from Gauff.

Muguruza held comfortably to reduce the deficit to 4-3. However, she did not manage to retrieve the second break, as the American held to move 5-3 ahead. Gauff then profited from a sloppy service game from the Spaniard to clinch the set.

Muguruza stays strong as errors cost Gauff dearly

When Gauff broke to establish a 2-0 lead at the start of the decider, it looked like she was on course for a famous win over the two-time Grand Slam champion.

However, the American wasted her opportunity. She made three consecutive double faults to gift Muguruza three break points. And the Spaniard took the third to break back immediately.

After a steady hold from Muguruza, Gauff made two more double faults in game six. Once again, the Spaniard capitalised. She then held again to open up a 4-2 lead.

The American found her range on serve to reduce the deficit. But the end came quickly for her. Muguruza withstood everything Gauff threw at her during a hold that put her 5-3 up.

The Spaniard then went on the attack. She drove the American back behind the baseline and then hit a forehand winner. Then she forced a couple of errors to make it 0-40. At that stage, Gauff was completely demoralised. She hit a forehand into the net to surrender the match to Muguruza.

In the next round, the World No.17 may get a chance to resume a fascinating rivalry. All four of her meetings with Johanna Konta have gone to three sets. So if the Brit can beat qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu, it could lead to another entertaining encounter.

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